Category Archives: Random

Drinking from an ocean of inspiration

Sunshine and space by Andrew Gills
Sunshine and space, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

Twice a year, I reassess where I’m at in my life. I consider my health, work, finances, spiritual well-being and the way I spend my time. Those two times are my birthday in September and the start of the new calendar year in January. They’re not quite six months apart, but they are both significant triggers that mark the passing of another spin around the sun.

Since completing The Great North Walk and Cycling for Hope I have felt a little bit lost. I put so much energy and passion into both adventures that I needed to drink again from the well of inspiration. I didn’t know what to do next or where to start looking.

But, as always, inspiration strikes when you stop looking. It started with the arrival of my bikepacking gear and a decision to test it out with a weekend camping trip on 21-22 September.

Then I saw that the 2013/14 Audax Australia online calendar was published (our Audax season runs from November – October). I thought I’d like to try for the Year Round Randonneur award. So I started entering events into a calendar to tally up the necessary 200km brevet every month for 12 months.

At the same time, the XPD adventure race started. And between Geocentric Outdoor and Ridgeline Adventures my Facebook page and Twitter feed were awash with scenes of adventure racers (some of whom I actually know so could relate to) mountain biking and trekking their way through the South Australian outback. This wasn’t just the well of inspiration; I was sitting on the shores of a whole ocean of soul food.

So I went over to TriAdventure’s blog to see what Team Mountain Designs’ Kim Beckinsale and her crew up the Sunshine Coast have been up to (incidentally, Kim and Team Mountain Designs won XPD 2013 just an hour ago after traversing 700km of gruelling Australian outback). The TriAdventure Aunties are always up to something exciting and show that adventure racing is not a sport; it’s a way of life. And I got even more inspired.

I had already been following Richard Bowles’ running adventures through Twitter and Outer Edge Magazine. So the inspiration from the more recent sources was added to the ideas my subconscious had been developing based on seeing Richard complete some epic long-distance running adventures (think running the length of whole countries).

And so it is that I found myself populating the Upcoming Events page on my blog. A page that had become unruly and unkempt with constantly changing priorities. Gone is the Year Round Randonneur goal, being replaced with more personalised goals that reflect my need to explore my boundaries. I’ll still be riding Audax but it will have to fit in with my team Whoops Witch Way adventure racing and a desire to get out on more weekend camping trips, both on my MTB and on foot. I even ditched the Hobart Marathon in favour of some side trips to wild places while I’m enjoying long daylight hours on the Tasmanian Trail.

So now I am off to purchase an OMM Marathon Classic 32L backpack and OMM Trio Map Pouch 4 chest pack so that I can make my dreams of dropping tent, sleeping bag and food into a pack, and running the trails a reality.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Do you regularly reassess your life?
What are your current goals?

My last day before I enter my mid-30s

Today is my final day as a 33yo. Tomorrow I will have to accept that I am going to be in my mid-30s. What? 33 is still early 30s. Haha.

I’m actually not one of those people who are phased by age. But I do like birthdays. Mostly because I am so glad to be alive. And also because I still like getting presents 😉

This year, my partner bought me some bikepacking gear for my birthday (if you are in Australia and haven’t already done so, check out Bike Bag Dude). I got it early so have been using it already. I totally love it. Having my bike carry my gear makes commuting a breeze. I hate arriving at work with sweaty back and underarms from carrying a backpack, so having the seat post bag totally changes everything. I also hate my lunch getting squashed, so having a chaff bag allows me to separate my food from heavy gear or clothes.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I would love to spend it outdoors doing something totally crazy. But instead I am going to indulge in my second love: the movies. My partner and I are going to see a movie in the morning (We’re the Millers), then going to lunch before returning to the cinema to watch a second movie (Paranoia). I once went to the movies 5 times in 7 days and it was one of the best weeks of my life, so this will come close to being one of the best days.

I am sure that a whole day of popcorn and cinematic joy is an important part of my training regime 😉

Total: 30km cycle commute (once I get home)

Body Leader of the Month

As part of their commitment to showing people that they can all live injury-free, my physio has a monthly Body Leader of the Month in which they interview a client. I am honoured to have been chosen as the Body Leader for September and was humbled to be asked for my answers to the ten questions.

If you’re curious about what inspired me to start looking after my body, my top health tip, my greatest physical achievement or my future goals for my body, you can read my answers here.

Thanks to Paul and the team at Body Leadership Australia for supporting and encouraging me no matter how crazy my goals.

Hmmm … What’s going to be next?

I’ve got 519km left in Cycling for Hope. It seems like a lifetime ago that I was walking The Great North Walk but I only returned home from that trip a month ago. But it also feels like a lifetime ago that I set off on day 1 of Cycling for Hope.

It all seemed so surreal and simple when I decided to cycle 100km every day for 31 days while still working full-time and studying part-time. I knew I would be spending a lot of time cycling in darkness before and after the sun. But I really didn’t quite appreciate how tough this would be: physically, mentally and emotionally.

But the end is in sight. Just like the Little Engine, I thought I could until I know I can. And that is getting my mind wondering what will be next? Well, what’s next after a couple weeks (or maybe even a month) off. What stupid crazy challenge do I want to tackle? I am going to Tasmania at the end of the year for a 600km bikepacking trip. That’s going to be an awesome holiday.

But what is next year’s physical challenge going to be? Hmm … I have some thoughts that aren’t quite fully formed … Watch this space 🙂

Life is worth the fight!

I’ve had a lot of time to myself the last month. Both while walking The Great North Walk and Cycling for Hope, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my life, the world and generally pondering the meaning of life.

One thing that keeps coming to me is the amazing inner journey I’ve been on these past few years. I don’t usually share a lot about the inner struggles that I have and sometimes continue to experience because I don’t like to dwell on them and don’t want to be judged for them. But they’re a part of my story and how I came to be where I am today.

See, for most of my life, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety. I know I’m not alone and that everyone has struggles. But for me, the struggles have been so difficult at times that I wondered whether I’d make it through the minute or hour I was in, let alone the day or week. And I never told anyone about it because I felt too ashamed.

But I kept on going. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I kept turning the pedals one more round until the minute, hour, day or week of anguish slipped away. It wasn’t always easy. There have been times when I’ve sought the help of professional ‘talking doctors’ to have a sounding board against which to bounce ideas. About four years ago, I tried to make an appointment with one and they said there was a two month wait. I told them not to bother because I wouldn’t be around that long. And I meant it. Fortunately, they made an opening and I finally found the courage to tell someone how I was feeling.

I don’t do the whole lengthy counseling and therapy thing. It’s not my style. It’s not what works for me. When I’d start a series of sessions with a new ‘talking doctor’, I’d lay down my ground rules. My key rule was that I wanted to retain my independence and didn’t believe they could “fix” me; that their job was to help me learn new tools to deal with the challenges I was facing. I told them that I would tell them when I was ready to move on – I wouldn’t just keep coming back because they told me to. I would do any homework they gave me but I wouldn’t accept any diagnoses or referrals to ‘prescribing doctors’. Some psychologists and psychiatrists reading this are probably horrified – but hey, the psychologists I went to respected my rules and the experiences were largely positive.

The pre-outdoor athlete Andrew was messed up in a big way. Sure, I looked like I had it all together – job, partner and education. But I had some destructive coping mechanisms, was scared of getting to know new people, couldn’t describe or name my feelings, and was a moody S-O-B.

But I hung in there. I kept chipping away. I kept trying new things. I kept getting up every time I fell down (and boy did I fall a lot). I refused to give in to what was going on inside my head.

It’s taken years. My outdoor adventures and physical training are part of my recovery. They give me an outlet and positive focus in my life. But when I think back to the Andrew I was before I became an outdoor athlete, I am proud of the changes I’ve made. I’m happy with the man who I am becoming. And I’m grateful for the people who’ve stuck by me through all the dramas I inflicted on them (because, like so many depressed and anxious people seem to do, I splattered a lot of innocent people with my dramatic messes).

I don’t usually cycle with music but on some of my rides I just need some company. Why? by Rascal Flatts is in my playlist. It’s a great little song.

To anyone who’s struggling – take it from someone who knows: the words from 3:10 about this world not being such a bad place and life being worth the fight are so true! Take one more breath. Take one more step. Tell someone how you are feeling. Then take another breath and another step. And don’t stop fighting! None of us want your beautiful song to end.

I hope no one minds me interrupting my usual stories of adventure to share these slightly rambling deep and meaningful thoughts.

Guilty rest day pleasure

Mmmm awesome chocolate by Andrew Gills
Mmmm awesome chocolate, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

I went out to the grocery shop at lunch to buy something healthy to eat but saw that they had the new flavours of Cadbury’s Marellous Creations line of chocolates in stock. Well, that was the end of my healthy rest day excursion. So, here I am, resting my body and treating my mind to 290g of delicious naughtiness. For those who live in the imperial world, 290g is just over 10oz; so it’s a lot of chocolate and I’m enjoying it immensely.

The chocolate is melting in my mouth, leaving me with the sweet crunchy chocolate biscuit, crispy clinkers (mmmm … I love clinkers) and kind of chewy gummy bears. The sugar overload is making my afternoon at my desk in front of the computer more enjoyable; it makes me feel like a big kid.

Ooh, what am I doing typing this? I need to use both hands to pull another piece of chocolate off the block 😉

Back to training tomorrow … but today I’ll just keep eating the brown vitamin.

Total: 0km and 290g chocolate.

Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane – Come along as a volunteer

It’s just 6 weeks until the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane, and the good folks at Oxfam are keen to hear from anyone who is free to volunteer during the event. There are plenty of different roles available, from checkpoint or trail marshal, to logistics or IT, and even trail marking or sweeping. You don’t need to be free for the whole weekend. Most shifts seem to be about 8 hours long and you can nominate any time that is suitable to you.

I was a volunteer for three shifts over two days last year and wrote about my experiences here on my blog:

And here’s some pictures to prove I enjoyed the experience:

Flashing my light sabre while helping park cars at Registration

Flashing my light sabre while helping park cars at Registration

Stirring the Gu with a massive paddle

Stirring the Gu with a massive paddle

Not only was the experience fun, but it was also intensely inspiring to see all those teams out walking 100km to raise money for a worthwhile charity. One that is close to my heart because it is but for the grace of God that my four grandchildren are safely living here in Australia not in war-torn Sudan, the country their mother escaped as a 12yo girl. When I look at my daughter-in-law and grandchildren, it brings home just how important it is to support charities that work to provide the developing world with resources to have the basic things we take for granted: food production, water and shelter.

This year I’ll be volunteering as a course setter all day Thursday 13 June before support crewing for my sister’s team from Friday.

If you are free to give some time and energy to Oxfam for the Trailwalker Brisbane 2013, click here to learn more and register.

Still alive :)

I’m still alive. I had a big weekend of mountain biking, visiting friends and painting walls in my house so haven’t had time to share my stories. I will write about my three MTB rides over the past two days tomorrow. But I fear that if I try to write now, I will simply fall asleep at the keyboard. It’s only 9:10pm but I am totally stuffed and ready for bed.

I hope everyone in blog land had a fantastic weekend. Especially those running the London Marathon 🙂

Life can end at any time – make the most of now

Prayers for Boston

Like many others, I woke this morning to news of the bombs that exploded at the Boston Marathon. As a runner and sportsman, my thoughts today are with all those who have been affected by the cowardly attack.

What do tragedies like this mean for those of us not personally affected? What can we do to honour those who lost their lives today? Here’s my personal list:

  • never let the last thing you said to anyone you love be a harsh word
  • tell your family you love them
  • when you pray for Boston, remember to say a prayer of gratitude that you and yours saw the dawn today
  • and, most importantly … LIVE life like the gift it is.

We can never have those we lost back. But we can honour their memories by being true to ourselves and living our lives. When we get up in the morning, let’s remember to ask ourselves three questions:

  1. If today is my last day, what do I want to be doing?
  2. If today is my last day, what do I want to be remembered for saying?
  3. What one positive action can I take today to make tomorrow better for me, my family and my world?

Our answers don’t have to be big. For me, this morning, after I heard the news of Boston, this is what my answers were:

  1. I want to ride my bicycle. So I rode my bicycle to work and stopped to take a photo along the way, despite it making me arrive at work late.
  2. I want to be remembered for saying something positive. So I am going to watch my words today.
  3. My positive action is to tell my partner I love her, to perform my job to the best of my ability and to be happy because happiness is infectious.
The photo I took on my commute to work

The photo I took on my commute to work

No mileage counter today because the miles don’t seem important today. Today is about honouring those we pray for in Boston.

Pool pony races

Pool Pony Racer by Andrew Gills
Pool Pony Racer, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

My sister and I had scheduled our regular weekly trail running session last night. But she sent me a message during the day to tell me she had bought pool ponies. For those unfamiliar with pool ponies, these are blow-up rubber horses that you ride in the swimming pool.

As soon as she told me about the pool ponies, I suggested a change to our training regime: pool pony races. It proved to be a fun full body workout.

We raced up and down a 25m pool on the pool ponies, which worked out our legs, arms and core. It takes a lot of balance to stay on a pool pony when the person you are racing tries to pull you off. And I’m sure laughing while exercising is tough on your abs too.

We also did a few laps kicking on kick boards and a few laps riding on the pool noodles. It was one a fantastic and fun session.

I’ll be resting for the next two days to prepare for Saturday’s 200km road cycle. It’s expected to be 32’C (89.6’F) so I will need to be well rested and hydrated for it. Today and tomorrow will be long busy days (tonight I have volunteer commitments after work, then tomorrow I leave home at 3:30am and won’t return until 10pm because I have to travel interstate for work). So when my alarm went off at 4am to go cycling this morning, I turned it off and slept in.

Total: 45 minutes pool pony racing and other pool activities.