Friday, 25 April 2008

Running and PT

It's been a quiet week on the exercise front. I went running with the two Andrews on Sunday morning at Altona Beach, which was fun. They'd forgotten all about it, so I was really tempted to cancel, but I knew I'd skip the run if I didn't go and collect them.

I parked the car near a water fountain, which was convenient. We then headed off towards the pier. The boys jogged along with me for the first section, then I told them they could go off ahead. We turned around at 1.6 km. I explained that they could run to the car without worrying where I was. I thought I'd explained that they could then either run back to me or run on ahead but they'd need to check back with me, but apparently they heard "run as fast as you can back to the car and sprint flat out for the last bit". When I finally got there, the two of them were sitting on the wall waiting for me, looking exhausted. I didn't have the heart to start them running again, although I did take them for a short recovery jog complete with stretches. I ended up covering about 3.5 km all up.

It was a lovely run. The weather was cool, the sun was up, there were other people around, and the beach view was a pleasant change from my usual runs. One Andrew was in his footy gear and the other was wearing his Run For The Kids top, as was I. It felt good, being out in the event t-shirts - as though we were real runners. I know we're real runners, but there's this extra bit of credibility when you're wearing an event t-shirt. Red's my favourite colour too. I scored well that weekend, because the Relay for Life shirt is also red.

During the week I didn't get to the gym much. So much for the costume jewellery I was going to buy if I got TB there three times. I made it to PT on Tuesday night, where I did more of the same with Julia. She increased the weights on me a few times on my second or third set of reps. With the shoulder presses we went from 5 kg to 6 kg on the third set and I was pretty sure I wouldn't manage a whole set, but I did it easily. I thought that was cool. Because of the time we skipped abs and went straight to stretching. I don't like this new Fernwood template for PT - I can stretch myself and the abs work is something I will always skip on my own, so I figure that my PT should make me do it. Unfortunately, it's noticed if they don't do the stretching component.

I had great plans of cycling to work a couple of times during the week, but stuff kept getting in the way, like going to the pub last night for drinks after work. I didn't fancy riding home in the dark after having a few beverages. I'll be riding on Fridays from now on though, as I ride to my PT session with Krissi (no buses that early).

I had my PT session this morning and it rocked, as ever. I simply love those sessions. I was stuck with the 10 mins on the stationary bike. I told Krissi today that I kept hoping she'd skip it, seeing that I'd cycled in. Apparently she thought I was riding to her place from my apartment rather than from TB's, because she would go to the trouble of getting her bike out to ride a couple of blocks. No wonder I wasn't getting brownie points for a 5 km warmup. I don't think she's going to cut back on the bike though.

After stretching we did a few exercises with resistance bands. I was imagining writing the first one up in my blog while I was doing it. Mind you, it didn't occur to me that I'd actually be writing it up today. You've got to love public holidays.

The exercise went like this. Krissi and I were back to back, with interlocked resistance bands. We squatted and then jumped away from each other, landing in a squat. We did this several times. Krissi said it was a good heart rate one. I was surprised to discover she was right. I liked it as I don't do nearly enough plyometric type stuff. I didn't mind this squat-jump thing at all.

In between I was doing a hip abductor exercise, balancing on one leg and moving the other against the band. I was meant to feel it in my butt on the leg I was balancing on and in the side of my thigh in the other leg. It took me a little while, but I eventually got it. The secret was to focus on balancing and not on lifting my leg really high.

I then did chest presses with the bar. Krissi loaded it up with more weight than I've ever pressed before. I asked her for the total so I could mention it here. There was 15kg on the bar, the bar is about 15kg and there were the end pieces holding the weights on the bar. With Krissi spotting for me I managed 9 presses and then 8. Mind you, I can really feel it now, mainly in my upper back. I think I'll feel it in my chest tomorrow.

A couple of sets of shoulder presses followed with 4kg weights. Even though I'd managed 6kg on Tuesday, I don't think I would have been able to lift them today. Planks and cruches to follow. I struggled with the first set of the plank, but it was my left arm that was the problem, not my core. I'm managing two lots of 60 secs quite comfortably now. As for crunches, Krissi introduced me to a mean set last week. 12 basic crunches, 12 with legs raised, then 12 lowering legs. I collapsed in a heap this morning when I started the last lot of 12. My abs were seriously complaining. Krissi wouldn't let me get away with that. She held my toes on the raised leg and I managed them. I was relieved that I only had to do one set of them today.

I rode my bike there and back. It was a lovely morning. Being Anzac Day, there was next to no traffic either, so I rode back on the bike lane down Northbourne Avenue. I'm getting so much braver now. Oh, and I caught up with a cyclist at one set of lights and cruised along behind him. I thought about passing him, but I was in no hurry. What I didn't realise was that he'd know I was there. He started looking over his shoulder to see where I was. I'm not sure what the etiquette is in that situation. I guess I should have gone around him. Luckily he turned off so I didn't have to worry about it any more.

I've sorted myself out a coffee on Sunday that I have to ride to. I'm trying to make sure I keep up the bike riding so that I'm fit for the GVBR in November. My bro-in-law is keen to train with me when I'm in Melbourne, so that part is sorted.

We've signed up for the Global Corporate Challenge again this year. Last year I did it with people I used to work with, and I just didn't get into it. This year I'm doing it with my family members. Some of them did it last year and so we decided to put our own team in this year. (Being a contractor, I have my own company so we figure we're corporate enough!) Jim, Debbie, Pat, Janet, Trish, Dad and I are going to start walking in May. We've made Deb team captain and she's already practising her nagging. I knew it was the right choice!

Sunday, 20 April 2008

General fitness stuff

It's been so long since I did any consistent blogging that I don't know where to start. I've been keeping a manual fitness diary - the pen and paper kind. I bought myself an exercise book because it's easy to carry around. Mind you, I find that if I don't write down what I did in a PT session straight away I have absolutely no idea what it was a few days later.

Personal Training
My Friday sessions with Krissi are fantastic. Working out for the hour is so much better than a half hour session. We always start with the dreaded 10 minute warmup on the stationary bike. As I now ride to Krissi's from TB's I keep hoping that she'll drop the warmup on the grounds that it's already happened but I'm disappointed every week. One morning it was 0 degrees out there. I froze my poor calves. That day I bought myself full length cycle knicks. I also froze my poor throat but, even though I'm willing to wear lycra in public, I just can't see myself in a polo neck. Fortunately it hasn't been that cold since. I'll have to come up with a solution before winter though.

We go through a regular routine, with changes thrown in every once in a while. I love seeing the improvements. I managed some 10kg chest presses the other day. Not a lot, but I'm doing more and more on my own. When I'm at the gym on my own I use the 8kg weights. Last Wednesday I managed two full sets of 15 and a set of 10. I was sore for the next few days, but I was really pleased with myself. I'm back doing lunges and squats, although I don't go down too deep. The doctor said 30 degrees, which I stuck to for quite a while, but with Krissi there to keep an eye on my form I feel confident to go a bit lower. One thing I have learned over the past few months is that I was overcompensating for my dodgy knee so much that my good leg was becoming my bad leg. Weird, huh? Mind you, fixing my form up has put a stop to that (I hope). One benefit is that I finally "get" lunges. I now "drop" the back leg down and I "feel" the effort in what I think are the right places now.

I've had to reschedule a few sessions with Julia due to work commitments so I've ended up with Amber, the girl who is our team leader in the WOW challenge. We stick to the program Julia gave me though, so I don't really know what training with Amber would be like. This week I managed to reschedule a session to another time with Julia (easier said than done - she's very popular at the gym) and ended up doing two PT sessions on Friday. I would have cancelled the session with Julia, except that it was worth 50 points for my WOW team. I was a very reluctant trainee as I had quite a tough session with Krissi that morning and I was a little out of sorts because I've been packing up my apartment. Luckily Julia knew exactly how to get me out of the doldrums. Boxing!

I love boxing. We had a fantastic time and "only here because I feel like I have to be here" Kathy turned into "let me hit something else" Kathy in no time. It was great fun.

Speaking of boxing, my brother and his family came to visit me over the Easter weekend, and I lined up a boxing session for Jim, his wife Debbie and myself with Krissi. Jim and Deb are thinking about buying some boxing gear for their home gym, and I knew that they'd get good advice from Krissi about how to use it. Well, the session was great fun. Krissi brought her partner, Brad, along so she was able to concentrate on what we were doing while the rest of us boxed. Jim and Deb loved it.

I've signed up to play "grass" this season. I explained the "I'm hardly ever here" arrangement to the team organiser, and she told me that would be fine. I've managed to play one week in the first four. I had a blast, although I was quite stiff and sore for a few days afterwards. I did a lot of running. It's great being fit but I didn't expect to be fitter than so many of the others. I think I'll be having a season at half back rather than full back. I'm really pleased I've managed to get myself into a team. All I have to do now is get myself along to training.

Unfortunately my squash partner has injured himself. We've been waiting for him to recover but we finally bit the bullet this week and accepted that squash was off the agenda for the near future. It's a blow, but it does make it easier for me to get along to hockey training.

I expected that getting back on the bike after the Yass trip would be really difficult, but it was easier than I expected. I haven't done a lot of riding, but that's been due to other circumstances. I'm hoping that once my life settles into a new routine that I will be riding to work a couple of days a week. It's 10 km each way, which is a good distance. I'm so much more confident on the roads, which is just as well now that daylight saving has ended. I cycled home the other night along a busy road in a bike lane because it was well lit and I felt perfectly safe.

I haven't managed to get out there very much. After the Yass ride I was in Melbourne on Monday and Wednesday morning, so I went for a walk on Monday (I didn't trust my legs to work) and I ran on the Wednesday (it was easier than I expected). I didn't run far but I was pleased I managed to get myself out there. I haven't run outside since, but I did manage a treadmill run at Club Lime one day as well. I have a running date with two of my nephews tomorrow morning. I like making these commitments as I feel that I have to keep them.

I mentioned the whole Club Lime arrangement. I wasn't able to convince TB that exercise was a good idea last week. As chief motivator I feel as though I've got some improving to do. I decided that I'd reward myself next week if I manage to get him to the gym three times. There's a piece of costume jewellery on the line if I succeed! Yes, shopping is a great incentive. Mind you, after packing all my belongings over the past week or so I'm a little appalled at how much stuff I have. Time to declutter I think.

Anyway, what I'm planning to do at Club Lime is cardio and swimming. I'm going to do my weights at Fernwood or with my trainers. I'll be a lot happier in that environment. I'm delighted about the pool though. That triathlon early next year is looking more and more likely.

Revised goals
At the start of the year all my goals were focussed on running, but I've not managed to do the necessary work to achieve them. I also had plans of repeating a number of runs I did the previous year, but I haven't been able to work them into my schedule. The Yass ride clashed with the Women and Girls fun run (my first fun run) and the one hockey match I've managed to play clashed with the Canberra Marathon Eve fun run (my first 10k). I haven't done the training to do the Canberra Half Marathon (new relationship didn't mix with early morning starts on top of everything else I was doing).

I've one long term goal at the moment and it's not at all running related. I'd like to do the Great Victorian Bike ride. My short term goals are to (a) get to Club Lime a minimum of three times a week, (b) get a long cycle in on the weeks I'm in Canberra, (c) ride to work a couple of days a week, (d) do weights at least three times a week and (e) keep up the PT and the hockey.

Other stuff
My weight is going nowhere. At least it's not still going up.

I've found the WOW program at Fernwood really boring this time. I don't know how much that's down to me and my interest in outdoor exercise and how much it's due to them. It's nowhere near as engaging this time though.

Work's good.

Homelife's better. Thanks for the positive comments. As you can probably tell, apart from being incredibly busy I'm also really happy.

I've got to get rid of some of the stuff I seem to have. But how can I possibly get part with sports gear (I'll use that Reebok step one day, really I will), workout dvd's (some of which I haven't tried yet) or my running magazines (faithfully read cover to cover more than once)? I did manage to give away a pair of cycling knicks that are now too big for me - surely that counts!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Fitness assessment

I had the funniest experience last week at Club Lime, the gym I've just joined with my boyfriend. Hey, as a total aside, how hardcore am I? I'm a member of, count them, not one but two gyms. My Fernwood membership runs out in May however I have a zillion and one personal training sessions to go (ok, about 20) so at renewal time I'm going to drop my membership level down to basics and finish off the PT sessions. In the meantime, TB (the boyfriend) asked me if I'd go to the gym with him. I'm meant to be his motivator. I'd been a little concerned that my new lifestyle (I've recently moved in with TB) would mean that I'd end up cutting back on my activity level. As you can imagine, I was absolutely delighted by his suggestion. I had him down the gym and signing up before he could change his mind!

Anyway, back on topic. Gyms like to do 'fitness assessments' on new members, so I dutifully signed up for one at 6:30 am on Monday morning. I then had to promptly cancel it, as I had to go to Melbourne for work. Fortunately, this gym seems to be open all hours, so I rescheduled for lunchtime on the following Sunday. I was keen to go, however a dinner invitation on Saturday night resulted in some missing brain cells and a minor headache the following day. I wasn't at my most energetic when I showed up for my 12:30 appointment. On top of that, a particularly energetic game of hockey on Saturday afternoon had me feeling rather stiff and sore.

A young gentleman, Brent, showed up to assess me. He was unfailingly polite. He also looked perfect for his job - tanned, fit, muscular, cheerful and goodlooking. As for the initial impression I was giving - let's not go there.

I was handed the obligatory forms to fill out - had I ever had any of a zillion things (muscle strain .. what sort of stupid question is that? broken bones .. yeah, when I was four I broke my collarbone, I'm sure that's important .. flesh-eating virus .. ok, they didn't ask that one .. just as well really as I probably would have ticked yes). Along with the "are you too unhealthy to be here" questions there was the "what are you hoping to get out of this" question and the "what physical activity do you currently do" question.

I circled a few goals - being fit, losing weight, social fun, strength training - and I listed my current activities - gym 2-3 times a week, running 1-3 times a week, cycling 2-3 times a week (just to work), hockey once a week, squash once a week. Brent was clearly able to read, as he picked up the social goal and promptly suggested classes to me. I told him I wasn't really into classes, but he enthused about body pump and body attack, got the timetable out, and circled all the suitable times for me. In conversation I'd mentioned that I'd joined the gym with my partner so he quickly dobbed TB in for pump classes too. I had a quiet internal chuckle, imagining TB's face when I dragged him along to pump.

Brent then got into designing a program for me. This is where it got really amusing. Now, remember that I was feeling slightly hungover, so I was in the sort of mood where I just wanted the fitness assessment over and done with. I could see that Brent had decided that I'd misinterpreted the question about my current activity level. He was sure that I'd put down what I'd LIKE to be able to do, rather than what I was doing. I had mentioned that I was currently a gym member but he skipped over that. I never got a chance to tell him that I did PT twice a week, or that I considered myself a runner.

Having established, through his careful attention to our conversation along with his keen understanding of the information I provided on the form, that I was a complete novice, Brent patiently explained each item to me as he added it to my card. He also kindly wrote extra notes to help me out later and gave me pictures of the stretches he wanted me to do.

Here's the program, along with snippets of conversation.

B: "Have you ever used a rowing machine?"
K: "Yes. I don't like them."
B: "Why not?"
K: "They are hard work."
B: "Ok, we'll put you down for 5 minutes - just take it really slowly - they are a great warm up."
B: "Now it's important to stretch after you've warmed up." Brent draws circles around a number of stretches and promises to show me how to do them later. Kathy wishes her headache would go away. All the stretches are basic.
B: "Have you seen the cardio equipment in the gym?"
K: "Yes."
B: "Well, I think we'll start you off on the manual program so that you get used to the equipment. We'll pick a few different machines so you can work out what you like. Don't put yourself at a level you find too hard. You want to be able to exercise for the full ten minutes. Have a two minute break between each machine. When you get used to them you can start on some of the other programs." Brent writes down treadmill, crosstrainer and bicycle. Kathy thinks it's a shame Brent didn't pay attention to her earlier. Kathy also thinks it's a shame that Brent didn't ask her if she'd used the cardio equipment before. Kathy contemplates telling Brent that she can run for an hour at a time. Kathy also thinks about mentioning that she's not a novice but the brain cells that survived Saturday night decide that it's all incredibly amusing.
B: "We'll give you some strength work to do too. Now, you only have to do this once a week, along with your two pump classes. We'll start you off on the machines as you need to have really good balance to use free weights. Once you get used to the machines we can do you another fitness assessment and show you how to use the free weights." Brent writes down shoulder press, leg press and overhead lateral pulldown.
B: "We'll do three sets of reps, 12/12/10. You won't get too muscly with this program." Kathy thinks about telling him that she already does two free weight sessions a week with her personal trainers. Kathy remembers that the leg press machines in the gym looked different to the ones she's used to, so decides to get shown how to use the machines. Kathy realises that she's going to have a lot of fun telling Krissi and Julia that she needs to work up to using free weights.
B: "Now for your abs work." Brent writes down crunches and back extensions, 4 - 5 sets of 20 - 25 reps. Kathy thinks that sounds like a lot for a beginner, then remembers she isn't a beginner, even if she's being treated like one. Kathy still thinks it sounds like a lot. After a moment of panic, Kathy remembers that she will probably run out of time before she gets to the 3rd set.
B: "You'll need to do a warm down. 5 minutes on your favourite piece of cardio equipment." Kathy thinks "ha, bloody ha, as if that's likely".
B: "Then you'll have to stretch again." Kathy thinks "ok, stretching I can manage".
B: "Let's weigh you." Kathy jumps on the scale. Weight pretty much as expected, with shoes on. Kathy expects to be measured because TB was measured. Obviously Brent is of the "don't measure fat people" school of training. Kathy is a little peeved, as TB didn't do the flexibility test because he expected to fail. Kathy was looking forward to telling him her result. (Ok, I'm a little competitive!)
B: "Let's show you how to do these exercises." Kathy levers herself out of the chair, adding to the overall impression of unfit person that Brent already has. The moving slowly to avoid rattling brain cells doesn't help.
B: "Here's the cardio machine. Here's how to push the buttons. Got that. Ok." Kathy's sore legs are glad that she doesn't have to demonstrate that she won't fall off the crosstrainer. Kathy also notes that the rowing machine was skipped entirely. Kathy doesn't complain as she doesn't think she'll be able to get up again if she gets down onto the rower.
B: "Here's the shoulder press. Here's how you do it. Here, have a go." Kathy suggests that 30 kg might be too heavy for her. (Doh!) Brent adjusts it to 10 kg. Kathy starts to do the shoulder press and Brent immediately starts spotting her.
B: "Your partner will be able to help you with this." Kathy isn't sure whether to be insulted (at least let me try the 10 kg before you help me) or amused (imagining TB being asked to help her with 10 kg). Kathy does three shoulder presses then stops. Brent looks around the area, isn't able to find a leg press, so demonstrates leg curls and leg extensions. Kathy thinks about calling him on it, then decides she really wants to know how to set the incremental weights just in case she ever does use any of the machines at Club Lime (remember the Fernwood membership people) and does a few assisted leg curls and leg extensions.
B: "Here's the lat pull down machine." Brent demonstrates. Kathy reaches up forever, just manages to grab the bar, does a few pull downs (assisted of course - but why assist her with reaching the bar?) then just manages to let the bar up without letting it go. Maybe TB will help her with this one - clearly the machine is meant for tall people.
B: "Here's how you do a crunch. Here, you try." Kathy does eight crunches. Brent makes sure that she thinks she'll be able to do them. Kathy wonders Brent doesn't notice that it's the first time she's done more than three of anything. Oh well.
B: "Here's how you do a back extension." Kathy does them, remembering that Krissi would tell her about hyperextending her back. Kathy makes a mental note to check the technique with Krissi. (Lock your abs on and you can't lift up as high. Thanks Krissi.)
B: "Here's how you do the basic stretches."
At least now I have a program. Apart from making an assumption about me based on my age and size, and not listening to me when we were talking, Brent actually didn't do too bad a job. Mind you, if I really was a novice, I'd think leg curls/extensions were leg presses.
Oh, and I'm feeling much better now than I did last Sunday. :-)

Monday, 7 April 2008

Cycle course graduation - 130 km road trip

I did it! I rode from Canberra to Yass and back again on the weekend. Not only that, I wasn't nearly as tired and sore as I expected to be. I didn't have to walk up any hills. I didn't get any punctures. I didn't fall off the bike. Nobody ran me over. It was a roaring success.

The New Horizons course for women that I've been doing has been wonderful. I feel so much more confident on the bike. Because of that I'm riding more often and I'm enjoying myself while I'm out there. There was even a moment when I thought about trying the cleats again. (Note to self: Relax Kathy. Breathe. Breathe again. It was only a moment.)

When we started the course and I heard that the last ride was a weekend trip to Yass I was sure that there was no way that I could do it. However, if there's one thing I've learned during this fitness journey of mine it's that I can do a lot more than I think I can. Mind you, this weekend I surprised myself by being able to do even more than I expected.

The weekend started on Tuesday night, at the info session. I arrived late, doing my usual mad dash from the gym. Over the nine weeks of the course I've managed to get faster on my bike, so I didn't miss much. Once I settled in and caught up with the program, I realised that I'd pretty much forgotten to think about the logistics of the weekend. I'd signed up for the Yass ride, saying that I was happy to share but I hadn't thought about what that meant - a night in a room with people I didn't know. I discovered that many of the women had booked themselves hotel rooms, but I decided to stick with the cabin option. After all, I was already so far out of my comfort zone that a night spent with strangers didn't seem like an insurmountable challenge.

After saying that I was going to be in a cabin I realised that it meant I'd have to bring my own bed linen and towel. I really had to struggle with my customary laziness - spending money on a hotel room would save me the trouble but it would also mean wimping out on the cabin sharing arrangement. The deciding factor was realising that I could put a bag in one of the support vehicles. I had thought we'd be carrying all our stuff ourselves, but I realised that the organisers, quite rightly, realised that some of us weren't up to that level of effort. A major advantage of taking a bag was that I could fit in an extra warm jacket! I really feel the cold so that was a major incentive for me.

The next thing that caused me concern was discovering that the Yass Soldiers Club, where we were having dinner, had a 'no athletic clothes' rule. Now, nearly all my casual clothes are gym clothes, the only jeans that fit me are in Melbourne, and I didn't feel like having to iron my trousers at the other end. I was saved by sudden inspiration, and tossed a dress and sandals in my bag. Needless to say, I was the only person who wore a dress. Not only that, but I discovered that I could have worn a polo shirt and runners (aren't they athletic?) without being tossed out of the club.

Fortunately, the Tuesday session included a reminder about nutrition and hydration. Yes, I was able to plan snacks - dark chocolate (no justification for that one but I like it), some protein bars, sultanas, bananas and jellybeans. I also took three bottles of water with me, which I was extremely glad about on the Sunday. It also meant that I had a lovely smoked salmon pasta for dinner on Friday night. Thank you to TNB who read the information sheet more closely than I did and paid attention to the "before you ride" suggestions.

I had planned to ride to the meeting place, out at the George Harcourt Inn, but after looking at my bike map I realised that maybe I was being a little ambitious. Fortunately TNB offered to drive me out there. Of course, we didn't rehearse the whole 'take the bike apart and get it into the car' activity, but we only broke my rear light holder so it wasn't too catastrophic. Oh, and we managed to discover why the brake light in the rear window wasn't working after one of my pedals caught on the wiring.

It was terrific to drive up to the inn and see so many people with their bikes. It was like going on a school excursion, only better. We even had to line up for the obligatory photos. I'm looking forward to getting the cd with all the photos from the various rides. There were 20 women from the course doing the ride, along with the helpers and various partners and family members. I didn't actually count them, but I think we had at least 40 cyclists. We split into two groups, with 10 women in each group. The plan was for us to ride in single file, to stop to regroup at various times, to meet up with the other group for lunch in Murrumbatemen and afternoon tea just outside Yass, and arrive in Yass by 4 pm.

We eventually headed off - 9 km down the Barton Highway and then turned off onto a back road. I'd list the route here, but it's really only interesting to people who know the area. Suffice it to say that I had no idea how close some of the places I'd been in the past were to Canberra. (If I can ride there, they are close!) I found myself thinking things like "Hey, I could ride to Hall Markets next time they are on" and "a bike tour of the wineries would be fun". I wonder if I'd get done for cycling under the influence. I'm also working out who I can talk into doing these things with me. I'm sure there'll be someone.

Riding on the highway was much safer than I'd expected it to be but riding on the back roads was much more fun. Not having to be so alert about staying to the left meant that it was possible to look around and enjoy the views. We went through some lovely countryside. I have a new appreciation for why people live out that way and drive into Canberra for work each day. I wouldn't do it myself, but I can see why they make that choice.

As for the ride, I settled myself into the middle of my group. Even though I wasn't talking to the man in front of me while we were riding, I grew quite attached to him. I'd fall behind going downhill (still some work to do on being afraid of going too fast) and then catch him up again on an uphill. He was riding with his wife, so we were really going at her pace. I gradually got more confident going down the hills and realised that it's quite fun to ride fast when you don't think you're going to come crashing down into a heap at the bottom of the hill.

We'd been warned about a rickety bridge during the info session. You should have seen this bridge in my imagination. Think Indiana Jones and swinging suspension bridges with huge gaps between wooden boards and a deep chasm beneath and you'll be somewhere close. Maybe I exaggerate slightly, but I certainly had it up there with bridges I'd be scared to walk across. When we finally got to the bridge it was about 3 metres long and wasn't at all difficult to ride across. Well, not compared to what I'd been anticipating.

There were roadworks as well. Not a problem, you'd think, on a Saturday in the country, however the water truck had just watered the road. Yes, we were splattered with mud. I never actually checked my knicks to see if I got the dreaded road stripe because I was wearing them back again the next day and I didn't want to feel obliged to wash them.

Oh, this is a too much information section for the guys - so skip ahead a paragraph or two. The guys are gone? Good. On the Tuesday night we debated the "do you take two pairs of knicks or not" question. I'd never realised until I did the triathlon training that you were supposed to wear your knicks without underwear. Once I got over the ewww factor and tried it, I realised that it's a lot more comfy that way. We were advised that we could manage with one pair of knicks, particularly if we took the sanitary pad option. I tried that and I'm not going to bother again. I got away without chafing because I also tried the nappy rash cream option but I reckon two pairs is the way to go in future.

Guys, this part of the knicks discussion is safe. The best advice I got about this trip was from Krissi. She suggested that I go out and buy myself a really good pair of knicks. Apparently, with the chamois, you really do get what you pay for. I didn't get myself organised on the knicks front until Friday evening. I'm glad of that, as I froze my poor legs on Friday morning, riding to my PT session in 3/4 knicks when the temperature was 0 degrees. I walked into the local bike shop (LBS) and told the young guy who served me that I wanted long knicks. Amusingly, he was embarrassed to be helping me with knicks. Not that long ago I would have been embarrassed asking for them, but I've hardened up. Fortunately they only had two styles, one with a decent chamois, so my decision was made for me. Poor LBS guy was a little confused when I didn't bother to try them on. I had heard that when you have a choice of chamois that you really should try the knicks on as you may be better suited by one brand than another, however that's not relevant when you have left your purchase to the last minute. I paid $140 for the knicks, which is nearly three times the cost of my other knicks, and I was completely glad I spent the money on them.

I got to see leg and arm warmers in operation on the trip. I didn't try these myself as I wasn't convinced that the leg warmers would stay up for me. Now that I've seen how easy they are to put on and take off I'm going to give them a go over winter. They'll be really useful when I ride to PT or to boot camp, as I'll already be in my running gear and I won't have to take my shoes off when it's freezing out there. Oh, unless I go the cleats option. (Breathe Kathy!)

Another thing I learned on the course (this is obvious but sometimes it takes me a while to catch on) is that it's ok to stop every now and then and take a layer off. I've had this whole "get on the bike and get to where you're going without stopping" attitude. This touring approach is a lot more relaxed.

Back to the trip. We arrived at Murrumbateman two hours after we set off, which was earlier than expected, and stopped for a break at the recreation grounds. I didn't realise it was our lunch break until I'd eaten (inhaled really) my morning snacks, by which time I was at the back of the queue at the local shop. On the basis that it would be a while until we had afternoon tea I wandered over to the service station and bought myself a powerade and a bag of s&v chips. I rationalised the treat on the grounds that I'd already burned over 1000 calories but I regretted it later. It was a real effort to start riding again after the break, and my body was telling me that it didn't appreciate being loaded up with fat just before I asked it to work hard again.

We rode through Murrumbatemen, which didn't take long, and then we were on some back roads. Eventually we hit a long section of gravel road, complete with corrugations. That was exhausting. I was riding along thinking "I've had enough. I want to go home now." If I could have magicked myself home by wrinkling my nose like Samantha I would have. When we finally stopped I discovered we'd travelled 46 km, which is further than I'd ever ridden before. I know some people were talking me during the break but I was answering them on autopilot, telling them I was fine when really I wasn't. I'm not 100% sure of the sequence of events, but I remember telling myself as I went up a hill "Guts and determination, Kathy, that's what you need, guts and determination". It was like I had Krissi on my shoulder encouraging me to get there. The ride helpers were encouraging. They were riding up and down the line, chatting to us as we went along, making sure we were okay. All of a sudden I was fine. I was riding along, looking around, enjoying the view, enjoying the ride and really glad that I was there. I don't know what made the difference - Krissi says that maybe some food I'd eaten finally kicked in. Whatever it was, I'm glad it happened.

We rode up quite a few hills during this stage of the ride. I was coping with them really well and passed a few people, but they kept going past me again on the downhill. Not that I minded as the downhills were the best part of the ride. At one stage we were on top of a ridge with a great view on one side and a hazy view on the other due to some burning off. I'd love to go back there on a clear day.

We arrived at Cooma Cottages for afternoon tea. There was a bridal party there, and for some strange reason, they didn't seem to want a whole lot of brightly hued cyclists in their wedding photos. The organisers had arranged for our group to arrive, and we were served pikelets and fruit along with coffee, tea and lots of water. The cottage owners had gone to a lot of trouble to look after us. The pikelets were delicious and the fruit and water were much appreciated.

From the cottages to Yass was 5 km along a busy road. We headed off after a decent rest and arrived at our accommodation at about 3 pm, an hour ahead of schedule. The cabin was really clean, with a double bed and bunks. I organised us into the beds. Valetta is tall and it didn't look to me as though she'd be comfortable with a bunk bed, so I put Karen in the top bunk on the basis she was the youngest, and took the bottom bunk for myself. It worked out really well for us all. There was room for all our bikes inside, which meant that we didn't have to find something to lock them up to or worry about them when we were out to dinner.

The three of us enjoyed chatting for a while, then wandered off to the supermarket, which was across town. We bought some healthy food for lunch the next day, which I thought might be a good choice compared to the s&v chips. The walk stretched our legs and we all felt better for it.

The ride organisers had booked us in for a lasagne dinner at the Yass Soldiers Club. It was delicious and the room was abuzz with the happy sound of achievement. There was a blue light disco on next door, but I think we were well able to talk over the music. After dinner my group headed home for an early night. I'd skipped drinking any alcohol, on the grounds that I figured the ride would be hard enough with sore muscles the next day. I don't know if it mattered, but it was one less thing for me to worry about.

I wore my skins to bed. I've never done that before. I'm sure they helped because I was a lot less sore in the morning than I expected to be. I slept quite well, considering, and was awake bright and early the next morning. Thank goodness for daylight saving, as we got an extra hour in bed. I think we all needed it.

The ride organisers who stayed at the caravan park cooked breakfast - pancakes, eggs and bacon. It was much appreciated the next morning as it was one less thing for us to concern ourselves with. The plan had been for us to make our own way back to Cooma Cottages and assemble there, but many of the group wanted to assemble at the caravan park. I went with the flow and joined the larger group. One of the helpers was offering to check tyres. I overcame my reluctance to put him out, and asked him to do mine. The tyre pressure was down a bit so I was glad I asked him. I'm sure he was regretting his offer by the time the tenth person got their tyres checked but he was unfailingly kind. The helpers did a great job over the weekend and over the course. I've decided that I'd like to do the trip as a helper next year as a thank you. I think I'll volunteer to help for the whole course.

On the way out of town there was a monster hill. Because we were riding in single file it seemed harder, as one of the people in front of me was really struggling. I didn't feel that it would be kind to go past her, so I dropped a gear and stayed behind. Eventually she got off her bike and walked, so it was ok to pass her then. Quite a few people walked up that hill so I was really pleased to find that I was able to ride the whole thing.

There was a bit of a water crisis. People didn't like the taste of the Yass water. I thought it was ok luckily. Di, the main organiser and driver of the sag wagon (no idea why it's called sag - something for me to investigate later), went and bought some water at the supermarket so the crisis was averted. I figured I'd drink the Yass water before refilling, which was probably a good idea as the decent water ran out at Murrambateman, which apparently also has awful tasting water. It was interesting to watch how people behaved about the water. With limited supplies clearly evident at Murrumbateman, some people brought up multiple bottles to fill. Yes, it was all about them. Fortunately I was able to manage with the water I'd brought with me and a top up of one bottle earlier in the day from Di.

On the Sunday we went back a hillier route. According to my Garmin it was about 70m more elevation. I really came into my own on Sunday. I mentioned earlier that I'd managed to achieve even more than I expected. Well, on Saturday I realised that I was a lot stronger physically than many of the women in my group. On Sunday it became even clearer. I was powering up hills that other people were walking. I was enjoying the ride when other people were struggling. I became more confident going down hill and people stopped passing me.

The day before, whenever we had a break, the helpers were offering lollies. I hadn't bothered to take any as I wasn't hungry. On Sunday I got smarter and made sure I ate something at every break, even if it was just a handful of sultanas. It really helped. I also rode closer to the front of the group, as I realised that I'd get a longer break every time the group reformed if I was near the front. The extra rest made a big difference. By the time my group got to Murrumbateman, three hours after we started, I ended up leading us into town. Our ride leader got off her bike to encourage people along the last part of the ride and told me to go on ahead. I was thrilled to be the first person back in my group. The other group had arrived before us and I was actually applauded as I rode into town. It was the best feeling. My own personal Tour De France leader's moment!

The rest of the ride was simply fun. My backside was a little sore at times, but that was just a matter of settling into the seat comfortably and stretching. At various times on both days my hands and feet had pins and needles. I learned to shake my hands out while I was riding. As an indication of how much more confident I was by the end of the ride, I was able to do that when we were on the corrugated sections of the road and when I was riding up or down hill. I also learned to stamp my feet a few times on the breaks to get the feeling back, and I did a few stretches on the bike to get the feeling back in my toes.

We rode along the highway towards the George Harcourt Inn. Our ride leader was going to take us through Gold Creek Village as there's a bit of a hill on the way into the Inn, but one of the helpers convinced her that we'd have more fun if we got to ride the whole way down the big hill we'd had to start on the previous day. I think he was right. It was a great feeling, and we'd earned it!

It was fantastic to get back. The group were planning to head to the inn for a few beers, but all I wanted to do was get home and have a nice relaxing bath. TNB picked me up. It was such a relief to see him arrive.

I'm sure I nearly fell asleep in the bath. I had to travel to Melbourne for work that evening and I was sure I was going to sleep on the plane, but I managed to stay awake. I slept in my skins again, and went for a walk along the Yarra the next morning. I felt fine. I was delighted that I recovered so well from the ride and I was bubbling with the excitement of having achieved it.

I'm inspired to do more touring cycling. It's so much fun!

Placeholder - Relay for Life and Run For the Kids

Sorry to those of you with readers - I'm saving a place for my write up of my charity weekend however I want to write up my cycling adventures while it's all fresh in my mind.
I promise to come back and fill in the details. :-)
PS Wasn't R4TK great fun?