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Charlie turned FIVE (*a month ago)

First off, sorry Charlie for taking so long to do a blog post !  

I’m writing this while on a plane home from New Zealand – July (and June) have been incredibly busy months.   

Work has been busy – big work days + evenings, and ‘prezzo-prep’ for the SharePoint conference in Sydney (last week) – and then Auckland conference THIS week – and then three days of mountain biking !     

Phew !

In case you’re interested, take a quick look back – Charlie’s blog posts from age ONE, TWO, THREE and FOUR.

Charlie had an awesome 5th birthday (his birthday was on June 28th) – including a party at home, and a McDonalds party with his special friends, and then a family party combined with his cousin Nicholas.   

This year, he received a LOT of Lego, which he has been assembling at a great rate of knots – kits that are for age 7 and up – he has no trouble with !

The last year

Every time I sit down to do a blog post about Charlie or his brothers, I look back at all the photos through out the year – and the crazy & fun things we’ve done together.

The first pic I found was from his ‘passport photo’ – with plans for a trip to Fiji.  

He had to sit still for this photo, and sat bolt upright, rigid, and a stern facial expression – I had to turn away to stifle a laugh (!)

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Amazing personality

Like all our lads, Charlie has an amazing little brain & heart – often making us laugh in delight & pride – as well as frustration at his stubborness (it has to be HIS way !)

When it’s time for a kiss good night & tuck-in, Charlie will often (less recently) want to have a tuck-in from Mum, but not from me (Dad).    Or – he’ll say “no, Mum do it !”

You can’t argue/reason with a tired 4 year old – but it’s silly & annoying sometimes !

And then – he’ll have days when we go to the shops, and he only wants to hold Dad’s hand – and has to sit next to Dad – and sits on Dad’s lap when we watch TV.

Only last week when I had a work trip to Sydney, I got home late and the kids were all in bed.  The following morning, Charlie was the first awake, and he ran to give me a hug and said “Daddy !   I very missed you” (aaawww).

He has some pearls-of-wisdom too – and I love the way his brain works.   On the same Sydney trip recently, I was using FaceTime to show Donna & kids the view from my room, on the 28th floor.   As I was pointing it out the window, I heard Charlie say “Careful Dad, don’t drop your phone !”    (good advice !)

Activities

Charlie has been continuing with his weekly swimming lessons, and he just loooves it.   I’ve been a few times, and it’s like watching a smiling, floating head.   He always has a hug grin on his face, and loves the jump-in-the-deep-end at the end of class.

When we went to Fiji, he spent most of the day (every day) in the pool – jumping in, and getting out – and jumping in again.   He had a float-belt – but otherwise – he was self-sufficient – very strong/confident in the water.

Loving his swim time

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Crazy face OMG !

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Jumping in – this is jump number SIX, Dad.

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He’s also a speed demon on his balance bike, as you can see in these short clips from Instagram.  

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He’s had a ride on a proper pedal bike, and mastered that too – but he can’t go as quickly on that (yet)…!    He actually had his first up/down the driveway on a pedal bike on Father’s Day (September) – that was a nice gift to Dad !

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Charlie has started playing AusKick, he’s just starting to work out what to do – he gets a little frustrated at NOT being able to kick, but he’s learning !

He sees his big brother Cameron, and wants to play like him – we’ve taken him to a few footy games – and he loves “Tigers” (as if he had a choice, eh ?)

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Watching his brothers do AusKick, Charlie found a puddle (can I go in there ?)

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Such a happy kid – and no, he didn’t fall over, just sloshed up / back.

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Big brothers

Charlie adores his two older brothers, they’re always playing XBox, Wii, or a Lego game – or some make believe alien vs robot game.  

Charlie loves the sword play, partly from the Ninjago episodes – and also Star Wars (I think).  He got a lightsaber for his birthday – as he was un-wrapping it, he was saying many “Oh Mi God, Oh Mi God”’s…!

Liam and Charlie are closer in age, but there’s a special bond between Charlie and Cameron – I’m sure Charlie adores his BIG brother, and wants to be just like him.  Similarly, Cameron looks after Charlie, and helps him get dressed, and shoes on, etc.

Next year will be interesting, when Charlie is at school – and I’m sure Cameron’s protective instincts will come alive even more.

Three cheeky lads at the playground

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Hanging out in the car, waiting for Mum in the shops (?)

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Lots of thumbs-up – in fact, often TWO THUMBS UP (#TTU)

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Liam & Cameron off to school concert – proud little brother

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Cameron & Charlie in Fiji – best bud’s

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Christmas fun – love the Santa hats !

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And – playing a video game while the dog wants a pat – so he used his foot !

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Activity Group + Kindergarten

Charlie has been thriving through his first year at “Activity Group” (2013) – and now into Kindergarten/Pre-School (2014).   His confidence & enjoyment has grown tenfold, and he has some great friends – his favourite is Ashy – she is the younger sister of Cameron’s friend Matthew – and we’ve become great friends with the whole family.

Charlie & Ashy talk away to each other, walking to the car after school pick-up (holding hands usually) – and at the footy, or McDonalds after Cameron’s basketball.

When it was time to choose people for his birthday party, his response was “well, Ashy of course, and then ummmm” (and began to think of people).

I hope they continue to be friends at school – they both start prep in 2015.

NH Haynes Activity Group (2013 calendar year)

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Christmas + graduation from NG Haynes 

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Certification of achievemnet from NG Haynes

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Official photographer pics from NH Haynes – having a great time !

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Starting “big boy” kinder – Knox Gardens Pre School (2014)

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With his best friend Ashy – at her birthday party – PRINCESS + SPIDERMAN !

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Photos : thumbs up – or tongues out

Charlie will always be our ‘cheeky monkey’ – no matter what nickname we drop on him – he gets called McGubbins, Chazza, Charz – he usually answers to all of the above – but sometimes he replies “NO, I’m Charlie !”

And so – when a camera is pointed at him – it’s hard to avoid a thumbs-up, or a goofy tongue hanging out – so funny – the twinkle in his eye, and the giggly laugh he makes.

At Australia Zoo – getting a sneaky kiss from Mum

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Waiting for the safari bus – crazy family photo – love it !

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Christmas time at Mark & Mandy’s – tongue out

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Getting a haircut – tongue out !

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One of the MANY photos I found on my phone– kids taking SELFIES !
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Look Dad – marshmallows !

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Family holiday – Bellarine – thumbs up from Charlie !

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Pull a crazy face !    (I think Cameron just got sand in his eye – doh !)

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Hanging out with Dad

Charlie and I have a great friendship – it’s hard with such a busy household to make time for 1-on-1 with each of the lads – but we always have a great time.

When I’m attempting to get the kids to bed, Charlie asks me to do the ‘teeth-and-bed’ dance which is hard to describe, but always hilarious.    It’s a made-up song (of course) with a goofy dance – and me singing “teeth and bed, teeth and bed, teeth and beeeed” (to the tune of “here we go, here we go, here we go”)…

And, when we finally get Charlie into bed, it’s time for a ‘story cuddle’ – which consists of me lying down with Charlie – and his head under my arm – as I read a story to him.   Such a nice way to go off to bed – we BOTH look forward to a ‘story cuddle’ !

When I give him a kiss on the cheek, I expect the usual “you need a shade” (meaning ‘shave’) when I have prickles after a day or two without a shave.   So – he loves to give me a kiss on the cheek after I’ve shaved – a soft little peck – so cute.

Brekky together on a Sunday morning (judging by the hair)

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Tired lad, watching TV – with our lovely dog Chloe as well.

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Another tired Charlie – at a friend’s 40th – this was about 10pm !

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Goofy selfie fun – LOL !    Lovely little smile.

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Happy face out the window, with Dad working at home.

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Dad’s birthday – having out with the lads

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More awesome photos

I’m sure I could overload the internet with the many MANY awesome photos of Charlie – I’ll close out with a few great pics, from the last year with Charlie.

He’s become such an amazing little dude – I can’t wait to see what NEXT year brings – when he starts school (!!)

Gotta love his awesome sunnies – we got these for our family trip to Fiji

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 Charlie made a car for his buddy MR MURPHY

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Playing Lego – making a new Ninjago kit

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Sparkers on New Years Eve

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Playing video games with Liam – I don’t think he realised there’s a whole COUCH !

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Cool dude on Australia Day

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Dressed up as a pirate for a birthday party

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Happy boy, with a happy smile

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Happy Birthday Charlie

Congratulations little guy on becoming a big boy – and for giving up the dummy in bed – that was a great achievement !    (yes – he got a Lego reward, for the dummies being thrown in the bin).

Charlie – you make me laugh so much, and I adore your little cuddles – you’re too awesome for words – and we love you very much !

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On the beach in Fiji – one of my favourite photos of Charlie

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Happy Birthday Charlie

Dear Chazza, thanks for being such an incredible

– we love you (so much !)

Bike adventure – trois peaks de la wookie

It’s just over a month ago now – I’ve finally gotten some time to blog about another BIG bike adventure – before I forgot about it all !

This was a set of ‘hill climb’ rides, for the 7 Peaks challenge within Victoria.   The website promotes SEVEN hills to climb, over the summer period – and I’d ridden my first one in February – Lake Mountain.

The origin of the plan was in the concept of ‘Everesting’ – in which cyclists have been attempting to cycle the vertical metres equivalent of Mt.Everest – 8848m…!

Some buddies of mine in Albury had made plans to use the Mt.Buffalo hillclimb as the repeat-of-choice – needing close to TEN ascents.   The term ‘deci-buff’ was bandied about – ten buffalo’s…!

I decided to join up with my pals, with the thinking that I might ride TWO ascents – and just have a fun weekend with friends – and some nice riding in the high country.

As the days got nearer, I figured I could either drive up to Porepunkah (near Bright) after work – and then ride on the Saturday – OR – take the Friday off, and go for another ride on the Friday before.

So – my plan was simple – I’d drive on Friday to Mt.Beauty, and cycle up Falls Creek – before meeting my buddies afterwards on Friday night.

And THEN – I checked the maps for the drive – and noticed that I was driving through Mansfield – not far from Mt.Buller – and so, the mega-plan was hatched.

Bite-off-more-than-you-can-chew-plan :

Get up super-early in the morning – drive to the base of Mt.Buller, and cycle up/down. 

Then drive to Mt.Beauty – and cycle Falls Creek.  

Stay overnight, and be part of the ride for the lads doing ‘deci-buff’ – and ride Mt.Buffalo as well.    Phew !

And – to cut a long story short – or if you’re a TL;DR sort of person – that’s EXACTLY what I did…!

Mt.Buller

Early on a Friday morning – 4.15am to be exact – my alarm blasted me outta bed, and I dressed & loaded up, had some toast – and drove off – check the time !

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Quick stop to pick up some Red Bull cans, and then a nice cruisey drive into the dawn-of-the-day.   Lots of fog, and some rain (doh !) – and incredible light peeking over the horizon from about 6.30am.

I parked the car at a place called “Sawmill Settlement”, only 3-4km from the base of Mt.Buller – the alpine park gate, and the Mirimbah cafe stop.

It was 7.30am, or there abouts – 2.5 hours drive from Melbourne – I got ready to ride, and shook-my-head at myself for the craziness I was embarking upon.  

Bear in mind, I was doing this solo – just my own soul/spirit dragging me out to do silly-middle-age-man-pipe-dreams.

There was barely any traffic around, and so it was a nice easy roll for 10 mins, and then the UPHILL began.   I’ve driven up/down Mt.Buller about 10-15 times, and so I knew the road fairly well.

The climb itself is steady, but not severe – about 16km, ascending 900m or so.   Compared to my local 1-in-20 rides, it’s about three-of-them, back-to-back.

I just settled into a rhythm, with some music running through my head – I don’t use headphones, but prefer to listen to the silence, and wind in the trees – and chirping of birds. 

Was some great views over the valley, and the fog below, and flora and fauna waking up.    I didn’t stop to take any photos – but instead, was planning to (aiming to) ride the whole distance without a break (!).

The roads were a little wet, so it was slow going – uphill, of course – making sure to not slip/slide on wet leaves.

After close to an hour of riding, I passed the billboard hairpins (with a big Troy Brosnan downhill photo – Specialized advert) – and then rounded a corner and saw the summit (buildings) and the chairlifts, with the views off the right.

I knew of one tough section, know as ‘hells corner’ with a tight UP hairpin, this was about 3/4 of the way up, so I knew I needed to save some energy.   This was after the bus carpark, which seemed eerily quiet & empty.

It was end-of-March, and a Friday – I’d only seen a few cars !

Up-and-around Hells Corner – phew !     The last stretch was ~12% and gradually the welcome gates to Mt.Buller came in sight – I’d made it !

My bike computer was showing about 1hr 20mins – which I was pretty happy with !

I stopped into the visitor centre for my 7 peaks passport stamp, and rang my wife to let her know I was A-OK.   And, made my way over to the corner shop for a coffee.

After a nice long-black, and a chat to some folk at Jess Douglas’ Corner Store shop, I grabbed my bike for the ride back downhill to the car.   It started to sprinkle with rain, and so it was a very easy & steady descent – COLD too – and slippery.

The rain got heavier, and I was pretty drenched by 1/2 half down.   I stopped to chat to some other cyclists riding UP hill – glad to see I wasn’t the only crazy person.

I had squelchy socks by the time I got back to the car, and stripped off, and got into dry clothes, and loaded the bike – and was glad to get into the car !

Drive to Mt.Beauty

Now that Buller was done (!), the next phase was a looong drive to Mt.Beauty.  I’d arranged to meet some buddies (Scott+Matt), and so I had a schedule, but a fair amount of time.

Driving through Mansfield, I stopped into ALL-TERRAIN-CYCLES, and said a 5 min hello to Shannon Rademaker – he’d been our MTB bike tour guide at Buller a few years prior – that Buller ride was one of the key influences on re-igniting my love of mountain biking – honest !

I drove on, and aimed to stop at Wangaratta for a McLunch.   While I stuffed my hungry face, I grabbed my Windows Surface tablet, so that I could load up the bike ride stats from my Garmin – using the WiFi at McDonalds – LOL !

It looks like the rain messed up some of the descent – but a good set of numbers – with 37.5km, and over 1000m of climbing.   Click here to see my Buller ride.

I drove on, up and over the Tawonga Gap area – and had to stop a few times to soak in the scenery.   Photos don’t do it justice – it’s just an amazing area – I love the high country !

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I made it to Mt.Beauty on schedule – and had a coffee waiting for me !  

Was great to see my Albury buddies (Scott+Matt) – and we got prepped for a ride, while chatting & bullshitting about all manner of topics.

Falls Creek

The climb out of Mt.Beauty is a little up-and-down – literally – or so it seemed.   We talked and plugged along, and a little drizzle started and then a massive downpour…!

We all stopped, and wondered if we should go on or not.   The consensus was “well, we’re already wet – and we’re HERE” – so we rode on.

Scott & Matt had both ridden the climb before, and so they knew where the ‘real’ ascent began, with a change in the road lines – and the ‘gate’ entrance, after crossing the river.   

I was getting a little tired, and it was becoming hard work by now – especially after a ride in the morning – so I was doing my own (slow) pace.

Was foggy & hard to see the road winding ahead – Scott commented that it was a lovely ride during warmer months, and no rain/cloud.

When we spied the top of the mountain, we were all pretty cold & knackered – wasn’t a grand-arrival at the top – I even had a bit of a cramp in one leg, less than 100m from the finish !    

But – I’d made it, and got a stamp in the passport – yay !

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We fuelled up – coke, gel, muesli bar – and zipped up warmer jackets – it was going to be COLD heading downhill.

With wet clothes, the windchill happened as soon as we began downhill, and the road was wet, and so it was slow going.  

My teeth were chattering in the cold – and I had to stop a few times to shake my hands/arms to get warm.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold – it was REALLY hard work – but, no option, except to keep going.   Scott and I cruised along, Matt had taken off to get down the mountain, and get warm – but we stopped a few times.

It actually got a little warmer after about 1/3 of the way down, a little lower altitude perhaps ?   

We finally got back to the lower section, and anticipating a few minor uphills – which didn’t seem anywhere near as tough as I’d assumed – phew !

We got back to the car, and heard Matt clap & cheer – he was already dressed, packed – and had bought beers – nice…!

We relaxed, warmed up, chatted – and bade farewell to Scott, heading back to Albury – and I drove off, following Matt, on the way to meet our other buddies at the Bright brewery.

It was getting dark quickly – we’d taken a LONG time on the up/down of Falls Creek – a nice sunny day woulda made it much nicer…!

Bright / Porepunkah

Our other friends had already eaten dinner by the time we arrived – I devoured a big steak sandwich & chips – in about 4.5 minutes.    Hungry !

We followed the line of cars to the caravan park in Porepunkah, and showered up – we had a nice self-contained cabin – and I squeezed myself into the bunk, expecting to crash out asleep.

I had my Garmin data upload for the Falls Creek ride – when looking at Strava, it’s a fairly decent ride on it’s own – 60km / 1270m and almost 3.5 hours.

So, it was a big day of riding – I’d ridden almost 100km and nearly 2300m of climbing – as well as a big drive !

It took a while to unwind, and get to sleep – I can now understand how my kids can get ‘over-tired’ and not be able to sleep – c’mon, go to sleep !

The plan for the following morning – for the other Deci-Buff folk – was a 5am start, and to aim for 10x Mt.Buffalo – but I was going to “see how I feel”.

The next morning was fine & sunny – and so I didn’t want to skip a NICE mountain climb – after Mt.Buller and Falls Creek in the rain….!

It was about 7am, and so we devoured some toast & a cup-o-tea, and loaded up, and headed for the base of Mt.Buffalo…     Third climb in two days – eek !

Mt.Buffalo

It was just Matt and I for this climb, we pretty much started at the gatehouse, and so it was riding UP from the first pedal stroke.   It was cold & crisp, amazing fresh cold air, but a big blue sky above, and some cloud/fog through the trees.

As we rode up higher, we could see out into the valley below, with some incredible cloud patches – this was more like it !

We had to take off the warmer layers, it was getting hot with the sun beating down.

After the up-and-down of Falls Creek, this was a much nicer, steady climb, with no major surprises, and breath taking views.

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There were a few cars, being a Saturday – and lots of other cyclists.   We saw the DeciBuff guys zooming downhill, on their 3rd run (?!) – and pushed on.

The landscape at the top of the climb is a little eerie – lots of big rocks – with a winding road up to the derelict Mt.Buffalo chalet.

We stopped to check the view from the top platform – with some amazed on-lookers – old grey nomads who were surprised it only took 1.5 hours to cycle…

This view was well worth the effort !

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We didn’t delay, and headed back.  There was a ranger station near the turn-off, and so I got another stamp in the 7 peaks passport – I now had FOUR in total for the season – and THREE of them within 1.5 days…!

We turned to ride downhill – it’s always amazing to ride down, thinking “wow – did I really ride UP all this way !?”

I had to stop a few times, with tingling fingers from gripping on – I’m not a great descender, too cautious perhaps ?

When I got back to the car, I loaded up, and said goodbye to Matt – thanks dude !

And – then it was a tough drive home – feeling tired and “heavy eyes”.

Home at last

When I finally made it home – I was amazed at what a BIG adventure I’d had – over just two days !

The details on Strava (from Mt.Buffalo) showed over 42km, and 1125m – decent !     

I had been invited to a friend’s 40th birthday – but I ended up cancelling on plans, I was just too knackered – and was in bed about 7.30pm (on a Saturday night)….

Check these ‘totals’ :

  • 825km driving
  • 142 km cycling
  • 3300m climbing

My biggest bike adventure yet !  

In case you’re wondering, my buddies ended up doing 6x repeats of Mt.Buffalo – not quite the ‘everesting’ quota – but over 6000m of climbing in one day – amazing !

Cameron has turned 9

It seems like we have ANOTHER birthday in our house every few months – this time, it’s Cameron’s turn to go +1…    

Amazing that he’s now NINE !

You can see Cameron’s previous blog posts : 8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, and 3rd birthdays (none for 1st or 2nd – doh !).

Cameron is an awesome little guy, determined and energetic – which often causes some clashes – mainly with his Mum – and often with his brothers.

But – at the core of his heart & soul, is a very thoughtful and caring “big boy” – he just wants to test the boundaries – and do what he wants (who doesn’t, eh ?)

He’s grown just over SIX centimetres this year…!

School

Last year (2013), he started off with Grade 2, he’s just recently started Grade 3.   We’ll have to start looking at high schools before long – eek…

His best friends at school are (still) Jett, Matthew, Liam (Ishy) – and Luke & Josh Smith.  

They had a great time at his recent 9th birthday party – playing MineCraft, and basketball – they’re all good kids – he’s got some great mates.

Official school photo

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Dressed up for the school concert – Aussie Sports

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One of the songs was “Up there Cazaly !”

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Face painted, for the Father/Son evening – lots of cool games + jumping castle

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Sleep over at school – in the grade 2 class room – cool !

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Multi-Sport

Through the last year, Cameron has been involved in AusKick on Saturday mornings – and Karate on Tuesday and Thursday evenings – AND – plays Tennis on Sunday mornings, with his Grandpa coaching all the grandkids.

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He’s actually ‘graduated’ from AusKick now – after a fun season in the ‘senior’ group – after three years, he also got his own (named) sports bag !

The other big (AMAZING) thing was getting to play *ON* the MCG – as part of a pre-game match. 

His group from Knox Gardens split into RED’s and BLACK’s – and had a game on the hallowed turf – proud Mum & Dad that day…

Cold mornings, but lovely blue skies – was great Father/Son time.

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Charlie will get to start at AusKick this year (2014)

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Liam has been doing AusKick too – this was ‘team jumper’ day

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Finished up at AusKick – and has a “Cameron” bag – nice !

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Geared up for playing on the ‘G

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There he is !    Playing footy on the MCG !

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And, with a greater interest in footy, we’ve been to see a few games – Cameron is a keen ‘Richmond Tigers’ supporter now !

Awesome view of the ground for a night match

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Great to hang out with Dad – love the face stripes !

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Richmond just scored a goal – screaming in delight – YEAH !!

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Karate

Cameron has completed a number of gradings, and progressed to new coloured belts.   He was having a great time of the various movements and sequences – but has lost interest a little.

He’s actually completing the term – and will then finish up – and go off to try BASKETBALL for a change.  

A bit of a shame, but he might come back to Karate one day – he was just getting a bit bored with it I think, and would enjoy playing a ‘team’ sport, methinks.

With his favourite teacher, Sensei Lindal

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Ready for action, another grading day

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Tennis

Cameron’s Grandpa is a professional tennis coach, and has been teaching Cameron, and his brothers and cousins – but it’s actually Donna who has been more involved in tennis – and Cameron just has a ‘hit’.  

He often wants to play on the playground with his cousins instead !

Grandpa says “this kid could be good at any sport !” (he’s biased, admittedly)…

Taken his class teddy bear Clyde for tennis lessons with Grandpa

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Action shot, Cameron is getting pretty darn good

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Video Games

Of course, Cameron STILL loves his video games – his obsession these days are in two flavours – MINECRAFT, and SKYLANDERS.

He plays MineCraft on the iPad, PC and XBox 360 – and would do so *ALL* day if we let him.   He often watches YouTube clips (StampyLongNose) – and then heads back to the couch with a new idea, or plan of something to create.

His recent birthday was a MineCraft themed party – including the cake – and lolly bags and so forth – nice work Donna !

His favourite Stampy Cat – made in MineCraft !

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Playing another favourite – Plants vs Zombies

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Some SkyLanders fun with Clyde

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Lego

One of Cameron’s most enduring passions (STILL a favourite) is LEGO.  

He does some amazing creations – and there’s always the themes of NINJAGO and CHIMA at play – and there’s a whole bunch of TV shows now too.  

Charlie is the main CHIMA crazy dude – but Cameron loves NINJAGO.

An afternoon of Lego, including “CAM” for his bedroom door

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Awesome house on stilts

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Great space ship – symmetrical design – always the same left/right

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Racing car, every super hero needs one, right !?

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Making up the BIG plane he got for Christmas

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Brothers in arms

Of course, Cameron has two brothers to play with – and fight with – and so on.

The three lads are (usually) good together – playing basketball, trampoline, or MineCraft – or Lego – but often doing their own thing.

Cameron is now in a bedroom on his own, and can have a place of his own – he’s been needing a space for himself – to play a game, or listen to music.

Charlie & Cameron have a great bond – I’m sure Charlie looks up to his BIG brother, and thinks “I wanna be just like Cameron”.

Cameron is definitely the ‘ring leader’ and the one to organise activities – often with a dose of ‘my way or the highway’ – ha ha !

Playing footy at the park

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Playground after tennis

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Liam’s birthday party – goofy fun with Charlie

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Heading over to the MCG for the AusKick game (happy + proud Liam)

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Cousins in arms ?

Cameron has a great bond with his cousin Millie – they’re always playing together, along with Micheal (similar age also).

When Cameron lost a tooth, his first reaction was “I have to tell Millie !”

We often swap kids for a sleep-over, so Cameron & Millie get to stay together, and have brekky together – as well as Liam/Jasmine.

Awesome face/reaction – Millie dresses up as a pirate (aaarrrr !)

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Talking on the phone to Millie – lying on BOTH office chairs

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Some people have asked if they’re brother & sister – you can see why !

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Fun with Dad

I’m more than happy to take the kids out bike riding, Cameron has graduated to a big size BMX – and we’ve been out for a few bike path rides together.

Bike ride over to Jells Park

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Happy bloke, out for some fun with Dad

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Cafe for an ice cream – well deserved

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Thumbs up for Dad !

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Fiji !

We had an awesome family holiday to Fiji in late October.  

Cameron had a blast, with swimming in the pool every day – and jumping into the deep end – as well as some kayakking and bike riding.

Cameron was keen to take a kayak on his own, and copped a wave wash – and was knocked overboard !   It was low-tide, and he was able to just stand up – and he also had a life-jacket – but it gave Donna a big fright – and Cameron too !

Cameron and I found some hermit crabs on the beach – very cool little guys.

He loved the buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner – and would take off and go serve himself whichever he wanted.  

Hopefully we go back to Fiji one day – was a great holiday !

First day on the beach, and already looking relaxed….

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Cool hair beads !

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 Enjoying the buffet breakfast

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Goofy face – what d’ya mean I can’t go swimming !??!    (LOL !)

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Exhausted after a big day of action

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Cameron had to get a passport to go to Fiji – nice pic !

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Hospital trip !

Just after Christmas, Cameron had a free ride in an ambulance after falling out of a tree.  He’d been playing at his cousin Micheal’s house, climbing a tree, and a branch snapped – and he fell down.

He was dazed & confused, and was suspected of a concussion, so an ambulance was called, just in case. The ambo’s noticed that his pupils were dilated, and he couldn’t remember having dinner – or what had happened.

So – off to hospital for a check – and strapped into a board.   He was X-rayed, and checked by doctors, and kept for observation – and was all OK by midnight – and came home.

He was sore for a few days – and had to be kept quiet / rest – it was quite an adventure – for all concerned !

Hopefully, it’s the last hospital trip for him (but I’m not counting on that, just yet).

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More fun

Cameron had a great time at NEW YEARS EVE – staying up to 12.30am – with a great party at home.  

He was pretty knackered the next day though !

Sparklers on New Years Eve

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Tired monkey on 1st Jan, lazing on the couch with (hungover) Dad

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And – always lots of goofy faces.  

Cameron has worked out that the iPhone can take photos even if it’s LOCKED.   We’ve had many MANY wierd face photos !   

And a recent video of his brother Liam doing a FART while kneeling on the bed.   Much laughter & giggles from all of the lads.

Ninja boy – amazing blue eyes

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Out for coffee, and a pirate activity book – LOL !

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Dear Cameron,

You’re growing into an amazing “big” boy – with some great friends – and doing amazing at school.  

We’re very proud of who you’ve become – and love to see your likes & dislikes – and the crazy sense of humour you have.

Thanks for making us laugh till it hurts – we love you, buddy !

Mum & Dad    x

Thumb up, good buddy !

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What a great year in 2013

It’s now the morning of Jan 1st, 2014 – Happy New Year !

As I’ve done in the past (as many other bloggers do), here is my annual year-in-review blogpost – to look back on the highs, lows and whatever else.

Compared to last year’s blog (written during the evening of NYE – spent home alone), we had a great party with four other families (last night), and a total of 15 kids – including our three.   

Suffice to say, the morning of 01/01/2014 has been very slow & lazy.

:-)

This time around, I thought I’d break up my look-back into three categories of life : Work, Family & Personal.

WORK

Another great year at OBS, with some changes coming during the year – firstly the greater Nintex Group being acquired by a venture capital group in America, and then, OBS were sold to a company based in Perth (Empired).   It’s still early days, but changes are inevitable, we’ll have to wait and see how it transpires.  

I worked on a bunch of projects with clients such as Transurban, Cricket Australia, Toyota, Port of Melbourne Corp and Yarra Trams – as well as developing learnings & planning for Forms & Workflow team within the OBS.   

I’ve also been putting the “L” plates on for the next step in my career, to become an “architect” – I have the basis in place, time to put flesh on the bones in the first few months of 2014.

Other work-related stuff, lots of great activities with the Melbourne SharePoint User Group (MSPUG) – some weakening of enthusiasm, but still some great meetings.

I was lucky enough to be chosen to present at the Australian SharePoint Conference (AUSPC) in Sydney back in April – speaking about HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery+JSON+REST.   (This was my only work trip for the year btw – phew !)

The OBS team is ever changing and growing – I have some great work colleagues, and new people to learn from, as well as socialise (cycling) – at the same time, I’ve seen less of some people – but mainly through busy workloads, and proximity (work locations).

Plans for 2014 – more of the same, lots more Office 365, develop leadership style further, move into architect role, present session/s at AUSPC and (hopefully) NZSPC.

FAMILY

I’m constantly amazed with how lucky I am, with three amazing young lads, and a darling wife – I have such a great family – and really love the ‘home’ we’ve built together.

This year has been more growth in each of the kids – with Cameron into grade 2 and turning 8, Liam starting school, and turning 6, and Charlie developing in leaps & bounds, and turning 4.   Cameron & Liam have been loving Karate – and both did great at AusKick this year – with Cameron playing in a game *ON* the MCG !

The boys are so great together, playing Minecraft or Lego – or writing each other notes & stories – or wrestling on the trampoline.   They’re very close as “brothers” – and friends, to boot.

We enjoy some fun ‘Dad’ time – with kicking a footy, or riding bikes, and always reading stories in bed at night – great memories every day.

Donna has been the glue of the household, with amazing energy & dedication to getting the kids sorted out for school/kinder – as well as a busy schedule of her own with kinder committee, and reading 10,000 books through the year (or so it seems !)

She charged through the Divergent series – as well as her ‘escape’ to watch TV shows in bed – tired at the end of the day – I would often find her ‘nodded off’ and have to turn out her light.   Burning the candle at both ends….

We have a wonderful time as the “FIVE of us” – especially when we had an overseas holiday to FIJI !    For 8 days, we lived in each others pockets, and went swimming and kayaking – and great meals together – it did us the world of good – we’d love to go back there some day.   (And Donna + I celebrated TEN years of marriage while there)

Our extended family is changing too – my sister in Castlemaine is the happiest I’ve ever known her – with two dogs, a cat, and chickens in the ‘run’.   She’s enjoying handy-man jobs, and built a shed with Dad, and loves the country life.

My Mum is getting older every week, with a recent hospital stay that made me realise how old & fragile she’s getting.   She gets worn out easily, and sore back & some depression – life is getting harder for her – I have to make sure to keep close & make sure she’s OK.   She also lost her sister in Denmark to cancer in late 2012, and then her cousin in New York in November – she’s admitted she’s “tired from a tough year”.

My Dad had been a great support for her, and he is the ‘model’ of a father & husband – and I’m becoming more like him all the time (when I stop to think).   He’s great with our kids – as “GrandDad” – he did a great treasure hunt for Christmas – and I took him to the Boxing Day Test for a special treat – surprise tickets on XMas Day.

Our dog Chloe is getting on in years – she’s 11.5 now – I’m not thinking of what may come in the next year or two – that’s gonna ruin me for a month or more.   For now, I make sure to give her lots of cuddles & pats – I need to take her for more walks – she’s a great part of our family – and she’s had many photos on Instagram !

Plans for 2014 – keep being the “best dad ever” (so they tell me !), make them laugh & groan, support Cameron as he grows through middle primary school, help Liam with more reading & writing, delight in Charlie’s wonder as he prepares for school (in 2015), support Donna and have time for “us”, play more with Chloe, and keep an eye on Mum+Dad.

PERSONAL

This year has been a truckload of fun for me, with some personal goals & achievements, and a lot of self-development.

Earlier in the year, I had an awesome day at SoundWave, with a bunch of fantastic bands, with the favourites being Orange Goblin, Cancer Bats, Slayer – and METALLICA !   

I also saw a few other bands during the year – Tool, Black Sabbath – and Helmet.   Not as many as previous years – but no-one I’ve been keen to see, or haven’t seen before.

I decided to up-the-ante with my mountain biking for the year, and set myself a BHAG for the year, with the Victorian Enduro Series (VES) :

To finish in the “Top 20” for the 40+ age group.  

There were seven rounds in the VES, of which I rode SIX of them.  

This meant a lot of driving – to Albury, Mt.Beauty, Traralgon, Buxton – and also had a race event at Bright, and some fun riding at Mt.Buller – and “Rad Crew” weekend in Albury.   I even camped overnight for a few of the weekends away – great outdoors fun.

(Thanks Donna for indulging me in my crazy dreams – especially with so many weekends away through the year).

And I succeeded in my goal – in 16th place – out of almost 90 riders.

It was fun to go driving on long trips in my NEW CAR !   Well, a 2009 model car (Ford Focus) – after seven years with a crappy old Ford Festiva, it was time for an upgrade.   I had some roof racks fitted, which makes it so much easier when taking my bike.

I’m unsure if I’ll do the Vic Enduro Series again in 2014 – I was a bit sore & sorry after the final race.   I’m yet to decide – but there are a few other MTB races that look/sound interesting !

When looking at bike stats, I actually rode LESS this year – mainly due to less road biking – I didn’t riding the 230km Around The Bay – and less ‘training’ rides.   MTB kilometres are often less than road riding – but usually tougher.  

It worked out to be 1,000 less km’s – but the same metres (hill climbing) – which tells the tale that I’ve done “MORE” in some respects.

During the winter months, I tried to make time to play some XBox – with the highlight being the new TOMB RAIDER game.   This was a fantastic adventure game, and I often lost track of time (!)  

One Friday night I played from ~9pm, and stopped at 11.30pm for a drink/toilet-break – and sat down to play another 1/2 hour.   When I finally finished up, it was 1.45am – two hours had gone in a flash !    (The sign of a great game, eh ?)

During 2013, my all-time favourite TV series BREAKING BAD finished up (season 5b), which was an amazing 8 weeks, awaiting each episode.   The show screened on a Monday night, and re-watched the previous week’s episode on Sunday nights.

I’d also re-watched series 1-5a before it commenced (July).    I was very pleased with the ending, but felt a little flat afterwards – and the next shows I watched had a back-of-mind thought of “it’s not as good as Breaking Bad” (LOL !)

The other great show that I watched was HOMELAND – gritty & raw espionage and character driven drama – very good show.   And of course, the very disappointing and utterly forgettable final series of DEXTER.   ‘Nuff said there.    *hhrrrmmmm*

My other great fun/joy this year was Instagram – I often wandered the streets of Melbourne, taking artsy photos & using filters, and hashtags.  

Or, bike+trail photos – or short videos of the kids.    Some people don’t quite ‘get it’, but I really enjoy finding fun or quirky camera angles – and using the filters, etc.

For me, it’s a moment to stop and enjoy some peace & solitude – I look around and have a think, or mediate – something like that.

The other excitement for 2014 was the return of NINE INCH NAILS.   They started with some festival shows, debuting new songs – and then a new album release – which I had on rotation for a few weeks – the kids even love it !   

And there’s a concert in Melbourne in March – my darling Donna is coming along !

And lastly, has been some to/fro with friends through the year – seeing less of older friends, and enjoying the company of some new friends.   I still get a little head-muddled and over-analyse – that’s just me – I try every year to be the duck, and let the water wash off my back.   Here’s to more self-strength in that department.

Oh yes – and I cycled to work (on the last day) DRESSED AS SANTA – ha ha !

Plans for 2014 – more MTB’ing, do a weekend overnight’er ride (bike-packing), more road riding, lose some weight (if only to increase power/weight), work on ‘core strength’ to avoid back pain+problems, enjoy new friends, re-connect with old friends, let some friends ‘go’ and not worry about it, play some more XBox, perhaps an XBoxOne for Christmas 2014.

So – that’s a quick brain-dump for 2013 – nice to look back and think about what happened during the year – I’m sure I’ve forgotten LOTS of stuff !

Happy 2014 !    Hope you have a great year – MAKE it great…!

Let’s meet up for lunch, coffee, beer, bike ride – or ALL of the above.

:-)

Buxton Bootcamp VES Finale

** This is the final entry in the set of blog posts about the “Victorian Enduro Series” :

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Last weekend, I competed in the final round of the Victorian Enduro Series, with the Big Hill Events gang hosting the race at Buxton, not far from Marysville.

I have fond memories of Buxton, from a high school friend who’s family owned a bush property near Buxton – and we had many awesome ‘gone bush’ weekends all through high-school and early 20’s days…

The trails in Buxton are well-regarded and highly recommended – I’d ridden there once a few years ago – and remember some great flowing sections.  This was only my first mountain bike (Giant Alias) – so I’ve come a long way since then.

The VES series has been a great intro to 6-hour racing (for me) – I’ve competed in all but ONE event, with the “Beaconsfield Rockhop” being held while we were on our family holiday in Fiji – gee, damn !

It’s been fun to track the results through the year – and I’ve seen a few familiar names on the list, and chatted to lots of people.

Race Day

The forecast for Sunday was looking a little rainy, Saturday was certainly very damp – and I’d been struggling a little with some Post-Holiday-Blues (back to work after 2.5 weeks off) – AND – I’d struggled on a road ride hill climb ride a few days earlier.

So my confidence + state of mind, and ‘form’ was a little OFF before I began – not good.

:-(

Anyways, I loaded up the car and headed up early on Sunday morning – and arrived around 8am – and set myself up – and had some time to sit & relax – and chat to other racers.   And – I took a few Instagram videos – check them out here…

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And – it was an amazing blue sky day – no rain !

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Somehow, I twinged my lower back getting setup, or had slept awkwardly – and it was a bit sore – which wouldn’t bode well for the race ahead – sigh…

I made sure to eat a few things (PB sandwich) and some hydration – and a quick disprin to help dull the sore back.

The race setup was brilliant, with a coffee truck (in an old horse float trailer !) – and a great P.A. and music setup – and lots of friendly banter from the Big Hill Events crew.

I chatted to a few buddies – Corey, and Tom – who was my rival for the race – he’d leap-frogged me in the standings, after the ‘Rock Hop’ race.

We’re both on the ‘having a go’ end of things – nice bloke – and we chatted at the starting line – waiting for 10am to roll around.

After a fun & informative pre-race briefing, we were off !

Race Start

I had a “thought in mind” to be a little more ‘race’ thinking for the day – rather than just a cruise ride – and so I took off at a quicker pace – not flat-out – but didn’t want to dawdle along.

The riders first headed up the fireroad – and then into the singletrack at the main entrance – and the field spread out and re-bunched-up again.

The singletrack at Buxton is just great – I was pushing along nicely – with a little bit of a sore back – but not too bad.

I remember having an annoying song in my head – the new DaftPunk song “Get Funky” must have been playing on the PA – and so I kept hearing “we’re up all night to get funky”…    Gggrrr…!    (LOL !)

I made sure to change the words in my head to be “we came out here to go racing” – and gave myself a mental push-along if the song came into my head.

First Lap

The first lap was a combined route for teams+solo’s – with subsequent laps splitting the solo riders onto a longer course.  For now, it was a 12 km first loop back to transition.

Did I mention that the trails are awesome ?!   There are some great flowing sections – and I could feel myself grinning – and talking to other riders.

“This is just magic” – and “how good is this !?”

And the Big Hill guys had some fun in store – with a sign mentioning “ducks ahead” – and “whale spotting” – before a creek with a few inflatable pool toys – ha ha !

There was a bit of climbing – but nothing too massive – perhaps 4-5 short pinchy sections – but then big sections of flowing downhill – fairly steep in parts – and lots of berms.

And then we came to ‘Spider Gully’ – this has to be one of THE best segments of trail I’ve ever ridden – by far.

With a flowdown through some fern trees – and then swooping down a gully – and a berm at the top again – and swoop down again.

I actually said out loud “waahoo !!” like I was on a roller coaster – yep, this was great !

I lost count of the number of BERMS along the trail – there has been a lot of work done with the local clubs and forest group – kudos !

Towards the end of the loop, there was a DH style section of MASSIVE berms, reminding me of some segments of the CopperHead trail at Mt.Buller.

Swooping & flowing down – and into transition – ONE lap done…!

The timing table was via a ride through the marquee/tent – watch your head !   I said to the guys at the desk “these trails are fvcken awesome !”   They LOL’ed and said “we know !!”

Lap Two

I pit-stopped quickly – just a few orange 1/4’s – and then rolled out – keen to keep up the momentum of riding – and have a blast on the awesome trails.

This time, there was a marshall waiting to split the field into the solo loop – and so I was off riding a section that I hadn’t done yet.   This was fairly slow and windy – not much chance to build up any momentum, and a lot more climbing.

The solo lap was 15km in length – with ~300m of climbing – not easy, but not too tough, I guess…

I was enjoying pushing myself – and the great sections of trails, when I went to grind up a short incline – and had a little cramp in one leg.    Dammit !

I scoffed some of my drink bottle – and stretched it out – and it eased off – and I kept riding.  My back was still a little sore – but just “there” – nothing too bad.

The extra few KM’s felt a fair bit longer, and so it was almost 12pm (two hour mark) when I got back to the transition area.

I ate a few pieces of cake – and a gel – and a quick Red Bull – and changed out my drink bottle.   I was feeling full & refreshed (to some degree).

Lap Three

This is where things started to go pear shaped – and my race turned from “these trails are awesome” – to – “I don’t like MTB’ing anymore”.

For a start, my cramping leg returned – in both legs – and I actually had to jump off the bike and stretch out – cursing myself…

I’ve had cramping in the past, but had figured out the cause for the most part – with some additional fluid and hydration in the days prior – as well as some longer training rides and practice.

I’d had neither of these before the race – and carrying a few extra kg’s from the buffet in Fiji – and a laissez-faire attitude – AND – I’d been pushing hard.

FAIL, Wookie, FAIL.

The rest of my 3rd lap was tough – had to stop 3-4 times to stretch out my leg when climbing, but great fun when zooming down the flowing sections of the trail.

Pit Stop –> Rest Stop

When I got back to transition, it was about 1.30pm – over half way through the race – and I’d missed the start of the 3 hour race – they were out on track somewhere.

I was suffering from a fairly sore back – and some cramping memories – and I almost pulled the pin then-and-there.

Feeling rather demoralised, and berating myself – I figured I’d take an extended break – and eased down into my deck chair – and my body gave a big sigh as I sat down.

I even made a quick call to my wife, needing some words of encouragement – body & mind were both lacking.

After about 15 mins, I decided I’d ride on – hopefully another two laps – but certainly one more lap.   I’d only done 45km by then – just ticked over 1000m of climbing.

In hindsight, my body was saying to stop – but my brain (ego ?) was saying to keep going – and suffer out the last few hours.

So – I headed out for one more lap.

4th Lap

This was a real struggle, with back pain meaning it was hurting to stand up fully straight – and frequent leg cramps, meaning that I was pretty much in granny-gear for all the hills – and had to stop a bunch of times.

I was getting a little irate & frustrated – at myself – just having to ‘will’ myself onwards to get to the finish.

I’ve never been happier to cross the finish line !

There was no way I was going out for another lap – was 5hr 30mins – and another 15km lap would take me another 1.5 hrs I reckon.

I was done – sore & irritable – and very disappointed.

I checked the race results board – as I tucked into a burger (thanks to Buxton Primary for the BBQ) – and saw that my buddy Tom must have passed me along the way.

Perhaps when I was in a rest stop – or stopped for a cramp break…?

He’d done 4 laps about 10 mins ahead of me – and I assumed he was out for a 5th lap – nice work – but I was a bit miffed that I couldn’t give a bigger fight.

What’s the big deal ?

As I was packing up my table & loading the car, I was thinking to myself “why are you being such an idiot” – and to stop beating myself over the head.

Did I go on the attack too early ?   Maybe I was charging ahead too quickly, rather than pace myself for a longer ride.

I’m pretty certain my lack-of-hydration caused a fair amount of the cramping – next time, make sure to drink lots in the DAYS before the race.   I’d been back at work – and wasn’t in the mode of ‘pre-race’ drinking.

Anyways, I’d completed 60km – even with being fairly out-of-practice – and pushed myself waaay beyond the pain barrier – I should be a little bit pleased with myself…(!)

And – I’d gotten to ride some awesome trails – and a good day out – and amazing sunny weather.

Oh well – I guess it’s the first time I’ve felt a “low” after a race – maybe I had assumed I would do better – rather than just go for a ride day – like I’ve done in the past.

Have I become too self-competitive ?    And set a ‘bar’ for myself ?

Final Results

After all is said and done – the numbers speak fairly highly of my efforts.

63.5 km – with an average speed of 13.1 km/h.

It looks like I’d only been held up for 40mins while having a break – and/or stopping while out on the trail – and I’d ridden for 4hrs 50mins – and a suffer score of 331 !

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OK – that’s kinda good !

AND – even though my buddy Tom had beaten me on the day – I still finished the race in 14th place – out of 18 riders.    (Poor ol’ David – took 7 hours to do 4 laps !)

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You can see the lap times – with the flying 1st lap – and then a slower 2nd lap – with the extended solo loop.

And then the tougher 3rd lap was a fair bit slower – and then almost two hours for the 4th lap (included the rest stop for 15-20 mins).

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Oh well – live and learn – some good days, some bad days.

It was still probably a 6/10 as far as races go – and it was the finale too…!

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On to the series standing…

Unfortunately, I’d missed the 6th event – which was worth 1.5x points – I probably could have placed higher.

In the end – I scored 78 points for the series – which is less than a single WIN – as you can see from a few lads in front of me.

If I’d done the 6th race (if only !) – then I might have finished in the top ten (!!).   There had only been 11 riders – so a last place would’ve been 30 points !

Aaaah – stop it, wookie !

Thinking back to the end of last year, I had a thought in mind that it would be amazing to “finish in the top 20 for 40+ men” – and I did it !

16th place – out of 88 riders – that’s the top 20%…

That’s kinda awesome !    (yep – I’m trying to tell “myself” – not you)…

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Break-down of Results

Interesting to look at the season “as a whole” – at the different events – and a link to the blog post for each race.    NB.  I’d missed round #6…

Event Placing Points Distance Climbing
1 – You Yangs 30th / 39 5 96.1km 833m
2 – Mt Beauty 10th / 11 33 56.0km 1601m
3 – Albury 26th / 31 5 70.9km 1594m
4 – Blores Hill 23rd / 35 8 94.3km 1331m
5 – Ballarat 16th / 20 15 76.0km 1947m
6 – Beaconsfield
7 – Buxton 14th / 19 17 63.5km 1371m
FINAL RESULTS 16th / 88 78
(top 5 results)
456.8km 8677m

I guess it’s ‘consistency’ in the end – as I was in the lower end of the field for most events – but did SIX races – and the points add up.

And – to have ridden 450km – and over 8500m of climbing is kinda amazing !

Only a little more, and it would be the equivalent of Mt.Everest (8848m).

Highlights + Memories

I have some key thoughts about each event :

  • You Yangs – technical troubles with brake handle, and then a puncture
  • Mt.Beauty – awesome weekend away – camping, new car, great scenery, and big hills.
  • Albury – was great to be with good riding buddies, and NailCan is just brutal.
  • Blores Hill – some great sections – I think this was my best result/performance for the season
  • Ballarat – felt like a golf cart loop – not much fun – good to have Dad to watch
  • Buxton – awesome trails, good fun riding, but not for 60km !

And – I’ve made lots of great friends along the way – with Kelvin, Corey, Steve, Tom, Will – and the Albury gang of Scott, Matt x 2, Tim, Anthony, Jen.

It’s been a great experience – good challenges and personal achievements.

Where to next ?

Well, I haven’t been out riding since the race – I’m actually needing some physio treatment – even 4 days after the race, I still have a very sore lower back.

I’m acknowledging that I need to change a few things :

  • Core strength – to assist with “preventing” back pain.
  • Do stretching exercises – and maybe a foam roller.
  • Train more on the bike, for longer periods – not just ‘get up and go’
  • Hydrate for days before a race ride – as well as during
  • Enjoy riding !    It’s supposed to be for fun, you idiot…!

As for next year, part of me is excited to ‘better’ my results – and I really *DID* enjoy some of the events through the year.

Another part of me is thinking “nah, been there, done that” – and to quit out of XC racing – and go back to ‘trail riding’ – ie. just for fun.   Maybe even sell my Specialized Epic – and go for a more ‘trail’ oriented bike…..

HHHmmmm.

I gotta think it over – no hurry – and gotta get my back sorted out and pain-free before that – and I’m not really in a positive frame of mind.

That could be part of the problem – I’m a grumpy old wookie – who’s sore from getting bitten by the bike he loves – that’s what hurts the most…     (LOL !)

All good – hopefully YOU are enjoying some great riding – as long as we get some decent weather, I’m looking forward to getting out again…

:-)

Liam has turned SIX !

It’s a few weeks ago now – nearly three weeks (sorry Liam) – and time for my annual blog post to mark another birthday.

Our awesome little guy has now turned SIX years old….!

Here’s the posts from his 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th birthdays.

Such a huuuge year for Liam – where to begin ?

Starting School

Obviously, the biggest milestone in a child’s life is starting school.  Liam began prep at the start of 2013, at Knox Gardens – same school as Cameron (who started grade 2).

In the weeks before starting, Liam was saying that he was looking forward to learning how to read – he wanted to be just like Cameron !

I remember thinking how little he looked, when he was all loaded up with a big school bag – with a big smile – excited to go to school with his big brother…

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Liam’s teacher is Mrs.Marletta – she’s an amazing prep teacher – we couldn’t have asked for a better start to school for him.

You can see the growth and change, in only a few months – these next photos are from the “Parent-Teacher” night – which was in late-June…

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School has meant a great number of activities – not just learning to read and write – which he’s doing amazing with – but also days like “crazy hair day” and the school “disco” – and participating in the school concert.  

They sang “Crocodile Rock” – and “Old Man Emu” – and “Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree” (and different verses with “Kookaburra Sits On The Electric Wire !”).

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And – you gotta love the official school photo…

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Riding His Bike

Another great development has been moving onto a proper bike – without training wheels.  Liam actually learnt to ride on a ‘balance bike’ – which he could sit on, and zoom around everywhere. 

He was so confident that we tried him on a normal bike (with training wheels) – he actually did WORSE.     So – we took off the training wheels – and showed him how to pedal – and he was away…

** This is the only time he rode with training wheels (!)

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** Five minutes after these photos, I was putting the camera away, and heard a cry out from the driveway – and he’d face-planted in the driveway – ouch !

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AusKick

Along with Cameron, Liam participated in AusKick this year – he’s 1/2 interested, but says that he has a good time.  He enjoys kicking – and getting much better at it – but happy to just run around with his friends. 

Next year, *HE* will be the big one at AusKick – as Cameron has graduated – and Charlie might also come along too.

One of Liam’s greatest memories of AusKick was getting an ‘award’ – once for the AMF Bowling – and another for a Pancake Parlour treat.  I took him as a “Dad+son date” – and had an awesome time – yummy dessert, and colouring in for aaages.

** Liam’s coach Scottie + trophy – AND – an ice cream treat (happy boy !)

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Karate

Again, following along with Cameron, Liam started to do Karate during term 2 this year.  He’s now done TWO gradings – and just graduated to a ‘red/white’ belt.

We’ve very proud of him – he’s getting great at his technique – and really DOES enjoy it – he’s in a separate class to Cameron – along with a buddy Ryan.

** Just before his first grading – and then congrats !

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Friends

Despite the fact that he’s following along with Cameron for school & other activities, he’s no longer in Cameron’s shadow – and really has an identity of his own.

He has a great number of friends at school – with Alex Lowe being his best buddy.  When Donna picks up Liam from school, he & Alex walk along to the car, chatting away – they just love hanging out together.

Liam has been invited to MANY birthday parties – he’s a hit with the girls too – sometimes being the only boy that was invited !    He’s been to a build-a-bear party, and dance-party, and gymnastics – and even a tae-kwon-do party…

Recently, when it was Liam’s birthday, we had fun at the playground at “Daisey’s” in Ringwood.  Liam invited a bunch of his friends from school – Alex, Tammy, Eliza, Adam, Micheal and Alex P.

Favourite Things

By far, Liam’s favourite thing is “Peppa Pig”.  He had a themed birthday party, including invitations, and cake – and his presents included a stuffed beanie toy Peppa Pig – and Peppa Pig beach towel.   Of course, he loves watching the TV show whenever he catches it on ABC2.

He’s also greatly into playing video games – Mario Brothers, Minecraft, Lego Batman, SkyLanders – he’s mastered them all.   He usually plays along with his brothers, but sometimes on his own – and of course, the iPad games get a workout.

He even plays video games with his teddy !

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The kids have worked out the camera on the iPhone too – so we often find photos of their silly faces – or little video’s of poking tongues accompanied by a Liam-giggle…

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Another treat for his birthday was a ‘membership’ for Club Penguin (www.clubpenguin.com).  He can now create his own “puffle” and decorate his igloo – LOL !  

He also loves the educational games, like Reading Eggs and CoolMaths4Kids.

Family

Liam is an awesome brother – he has a BIG brother and a LITTLE brother – one of each !   They all play so well together (usually) – often with wrestles & goofing around – or some Lego fiddling & creating new machines.

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He loves his cousins too – especially Jasmine – they’re always playing together if/when we have a family get together.

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And of course, lots of fun with Dad – including stories, and piggy back rides – and always lots of hugs & kisses at bedtime – and of course, “can I have a drink of water” (his habitual question before lights-out).

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And of course, with our lovely dog Chloe.

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Birthday in Fiji

Liam’s birthday happens to coincide with our wedding anniversary – the doctor laughed and said that we’d be spending the next 10 anniversaries at Macca’s…!

For our 10 year wedding anniversary, we had a family holiday to Fiji – which meant that Liam had a birthday party *IN* Fiji !

He was pretty excited, and was telling customs officials that he was going to Fiji for his birthday – LOL !

On the day, we had some present-opening with the family – and he played some Lego – and was sung to by the roving guitarist in the lunch buffet restaurant.

And at night, we went to a fire-dancing display, and they called his name, and he was on stage with the Fiji warriors who also sang him Happy Birthday – and THEN – he received a birthday card from Nanna+GrandDad – all the way from Glen Waverley.

Suffice to say, he had a GREAT birthday.

** New Peppa Pig + Happy 6th Birthday Cupcake !

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** And the resort (Shangri-La) even brought him a cake to our room – nice !

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** Doing some drawing with Mum

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Goofy faces + laughter

Whenever the camera is pointed at Liam, he seems to either look away – or do a goofy face – he’s just hilarious (and frustrating at the same time – LOL !)

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Such a great kid

And then – you get the photos that show him for the amazing little kid that he is – he REALLY is just awesome…

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Happy Birthday

So – after all that – we want to wish you an amazing birthday – to our darling little Liam – we love you very much !!

X

Round 5 – Victorian Enduro Series – Creswick (Ballarat)

It’s a little over two weeks ago now (almost three ?) – has been a bit craazy in Wookieland lately – AFL Grand Final, and a 160km road ride – kids on school holidays – and I finished off Tomb Raider (XBox 360) – as well as the awesome ending of Breaking Bad – such a great show.

Anyways – I’ve completed another round of the Victorian Enduro Series – round 5 !

It was an early Saturday morning as I headed off for Ballarat – with the next MTB race being held at the Creswick Forest Resort – a Novotel hotel about 20km from Ballarat.

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When I arrived, the carpark was full – I guess lots of people stayed overnight – but the tranisition area was only just waking up.  

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I said hello to a few people – and helped a guy setup his marquee – and asked if I could grab a corner, and be his “race-neighbour”.   We chatted lots – and turns out he’d been to most of the other races – I’d seen his name on the leaderboard.

I setup my table + food – and got my race number.   I was #53 for the day – that’s the same as our house number – which we joke is “5” for the total count of people in our family – and “3” is for the number of kids.   So – 53 was a great omen/vibe for me.

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Was an awesome blue sky day too – check out the start/finish area here.

With the race HQ being the Novotel, the MTB race loop had a start/finish just next to the carpark – with the riders heading along the walkway on the outer edge of the hotel.

I chatted more to other race buddies & race regulars (Kelvin, Reece, Steve, Ian & his son Ben) – and so 10am arrived fairly quickly !

Ready to race – with everyone bunched at the end of the gravel road approach to the venue – and then we’re off – six hours to go !

First lap – traffic + discovery

As always, it’s the first lap that spreads out the field – while also checking out the trails, and seeing what the singletrack will be like, and the hills & climbing.

I’d checked the loop/map on the website – saying it was about 100m of climbing – which isn’t too much – going to be a fast & hectic race – much like You Yangs….(?)

The initial section was on the concrete “walking path” past the Novotel – and down towards the golf course – with some muddy water-logged parts and a bit of singletrack – before shooting out onto a golf buggy track.

This was the first climbing part – short but pinchy up – and then a loooong flowing gravel road down hill.    This was the access path for golfers – between holes – it was literally the “buggy road”.

When we got to the top, we turned past the tee-off point – and along the spine to the right of the fairway – in between some trees – I guess you could call it SingleTrack – but nothing too memorable.

After another buggy track – and some tree-lined SingleTrack, we hit a blue gravel uphill segment – along side the tennis courts – which was really steep.   My Garmin showed 18-20% – only 200-300m long – but pretty hard.

More downhill buggy track – and then through some scrub (which was nice) – and then back to the top of another golf tee-off point.

This then lead into the flowline along the outer perimeter of the venue – overlooking some pine trees.   This section was actually kinda nice – with a little drop-off/jump half way along.   At the end – it was a singletrack climb – and back onto ANOTHER golf buggy track.

Is this a golf course – or a mountain bike course ??    

And so it went – with short+pinch up, and flow down – half buggy / half singletrack – some of it was even carved out of the back wall of a golfing green.  

No golfers on course thankfully !

The last little segment was a big climb up and over the hill (buggy track) – with a fast flowdown on the buggy track – back to transition.

Second lap

Despite my initial impressions of the course, I was still keen to give it a proper go as a MTB race – even though it was more akin to a CX course created around a golf course.  

Mark Twain once said that “golf is a nice walk in the country – spoiled”.   

+1 to that – I frickin haaate golf !

I scooted through transition – was only 12km done – and onto the second lap.

With a little less traffic (bunched up riders) – it was easier to get some speed up in sections – it still felt like the trail was either UP, or DOWN – and that damn gravel road buggy track.

My Garmin was showing 500m of climbing by this stage – so I figured the initial estimates of 100m per lap shoulda been closer to 300m.   (Triple !)

I was feeling OK in my legs – but had been battling a damn cold/flu for the past fortnight – so not 100% full-o-beans – and was just riding at about 80% of normal attack.

I kept on rolling, enjoying some of the singletrack parts – nothing too challenging or enjoyable – and tough uphill gravel road sections – and then a zoom downhill to transition again.

More Laps

I stopped for a bite to eat – scoffed some cake – and changed out my water bottle – and rode on again.   It seemed like there wasn’t many other riders – compared to other events in the past – so I was riding on my own for fair portions of the circuit.

I’d completed 4 laps – and it was just over 3 hours done – 1pm – and clocked up ~45km – doing OK.

The sky was an amazing rich blue – and it was nice to be out riding – but that was as good as it got.

When I got into the pit area the next time, my DAD was waiting for me – he’d been up to his holiday house in Avoca – and came to see me in action (this was about 2pm by now).

As I was chatting, I saw my race pal Kelvin – already dressed in jeans/shirt – oh no !

I asked if he’d crashed or anything – and he just said “no, I was kinda bored – not into it – this trail is a bit odd, eh ?”  

I’m glad it wasn’t just me – his friend Reece had pulled out too.   And Steve too – in the 3 hour race – he said “just not feeling it today – not into it”.

I guess I was there for six hours – so I didn’t think about ditching.

Some orange quarters – and then Dad cheered me off as I started my 6th lap.

Last Stretch

After 6 laps, there was still an hour remaining in the event, and so I figured I’d slog it out for a 7th and final lap – I was feeling a little like the other guys – it wasn’t a great circuit, but I kept at it.

Only 10km more, but took me the best part of the hour – and I finished up just after the clocked ticked over the 6 hour mark.

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Dad gave me a pat on the back as I caught my breath, and sat down to rest my aching back – and tired legs.  I was a little muddy – the bike was filthy – but I was done.

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Finished Up

Dad headed off, and I started to pack up and load the car – and get away before the crowds – so I didn’t hang around for presentation.   I had a 2.5 hour drive – feeling kinda knackered – and feeling lucky that I’d booked a day off work the following day (Monday) !

Results

My Garmin showed that I’d ridden 76km – and 1950m of climbing – phew !  

Average speed of 13.8km/h – which is OK – nothing like the top riders, but alright.

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And I finished in 16th place for the 40+ event :

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Average lap time of ~50mins – top riders were doing 35mins per lap :

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The better news is that I’m now into 13th place for the season – out of 78 riders !

Of course, that’s mainly due to ‘participation’ – I’ve done every event so far.   In fact – I’m one of FOUR people who has – see the results in 1st, 2nd and 5th.

The guy in 9th has only done ONE race…!

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What’s Next ?

The next event is on October 20th – same day as the annual “Around The Bay” – and also – the same day as we leave on our family holiday to *FIJI* !!

So – I’ll be skipping that race – with only one more event to come.

The Buxton Bootcamp on November 10th – I’ve ridden there once before – it’s an awesome trail – couldn’t ask for better to close out the season.

And – it’s looking like I might meet my goal of “top 20 in 40+ for the year”…

:-)

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