Playing tour guide

I love the trails in the bush near my home. They are one of Brisbane’s best kept trail running secrets. I think you can run about 20km of single trails, maybe more. There’s also about 15km of fire trails and six different entry points, making for plenty of running options.

Today I took a group of three runners on a tour of my neck of the woods. We met about 500m from my home and had an easy trot. It was fantastic to have company and to introduce Bayview to other trail runners.

We twisted our way along winding single track. Had a laugh as one of the guys jumped over an MTB jump, ambled up some hills and scooted down a steep loose gravely fire trail.

Total: 10km trail run

Running the single trails

Vegemite Trail by Andrew Gills
Vegemite Trail, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

Spring is for trail running. It’s getting light earlier and the air is not yet heavy with humidity. My run today wasn’t earth-shatteringly fast. In fact, it was quite the opposite. But that just means I got to spend more time enjoying the bush.

I ran a 5km loop from the Days Road end of Bayview Conservation Park. All but about 500m was single trail. There were plenty of wallabies and the bush is alive with flowers.

Here’s a video of the Fluffer trail:

What’s not to like about starting the day like this?

Total: 5km trail run

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?

Lost in the Bird Cage

Choices choices by Andrew Gills
Choices choices, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

A kookooburra swoops across the track hunting breakfast. It’s big strong beak and brown wings making it recognisable, even though it wasn’t laughing. Wallabies hop away quickly as I disturb their eating grass. Horses in a paddock come to visit me as I ride by; naturally I stop to pat and talk to them.

I cruise down to the lower end of Bayview Conservation Park, keen to ride some flat sandy single track. It’s been dry and all the creeks are dried up. It’s nice to cruise Sharks Tail, The Maze and Scorpion without having to worry about getting my feet wet. I even manage to negotiate the beach sand-like dust bowls that threaten to unseat me. I am feeling good.

Then I discover that I’m lost. Well, not so much lost as riding in circles knowing full-well where I am but not quite sure how to get out of the loop. I’ve taken Bird Cage out to Kidd Road and thought I had ducked back into the bush on the new single track I found the other evening. But instead I find myself passing familiar logs and jumps.

I don’t usually mind being geographically embarrassed. But I have to be home by 7am to get ready for work and it’s already 6:55am by the time I find my way back to Kidd Road. I still have at least 8km left to ride home, even when I take the quick route along the sealed road.

Oh well … these things happen. 🙂

Total: 15-20km MTB (I broke the cycle computer on my MTB and haven’t yet replaced it)

Mt Cootha trail run

Mt Cootha trails by Andrew Gills
Mt Cootha trails, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

I have been following Brisbane Trail Runners through WordPress and Facebook since they were established a year ago. But today was the first time I’ve been able to join them for a run. It certainly won’t be the last.

We met at the Gordon Street entrance to the Mt Cootha bush. This massive bushland area is just 5km (3 miles) from the Brisbane CBD but you could be way out bush; it’s that peaceful and rugged. Our run followed rocky single trails, first up to a ridge and then back down again. There’s been some fuel reduction burns up here in recent months so the bush looks charred in places. This just means it’s going to be stunning after we get some rain because our bush needs fire to regenerate.

It was a fun group run. Everyone could run their own pace knowing that we would regroup at each intersection. Running with a group pushed me to run a little further than I have been on my own and, at times, to run slightly faster. But I could still also walk up the steeper uphill sections when I needed to.

Total: 9.5km trail run

A little birthday ride

Oh I tried. Really I did. I tried to have a day where I just lazed around and didn’t do any riding or running. But I just couldn’t. I had to get out into the bush for a ride. I managed to laze around until 5pm but then the call of the bush got too strong.

And what a delightful ride it was. I only went out for an hour and a half at the end of the day. It’s dry out there on the trails so I had to drop my tyre pressure to about 30psi to compensate for the soft dust patches.

The trail faeries have been busily working in their secret mysterious way. They’re building a new trail. I didn’t see anyone out working but there was a whole new single track with jumps, bomb holes and berms. Some sections were still just flattened grass. In others it was obvious someone had recently used a rake or spade to push the grass and leaves off what will become the track. Two years ago, there were no single trails here in Bayview. Today, there are new trails appearing all the time and no one is admitting they are building them.

By the time I got home it was dark. And I felt content. And my partner was happy because she hates it when I start to crawl the walls 😉

Total: 15km MTB

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.

Morning trail run

Benson & Blinkey Trail by Andrew Gills
Benson & Blinkey Trail, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

It’s only 6am but already the world is quietly anticipating the warm day ahead. The birds are quiet and the leaves on the tree branches are still. All I can hear are my footsteps trotting rhythmically along the dry dusty single trail. It’s just glorious.

I made a video of the Grass Trees trail as I ran down it. The quality is not so great (I’ll use my phone camera next time because it’s better than my photo camera’s video) but it should still give a good idea of just how lovely my morning was.

Total: 7-8km trail run

What’s you commute look like?

My commute isn’t long. It’s only about 15km, which is just under 10 miles. I used to find the commute to work boring because the main roads are so heavily trafficked during peak hour. But, since Cycling for Hope, I have realised that I don’t have to be restricted to taking the most direct route to work. Actually, I don’t have to be restricted to anything anymore when it comes to cycling.

Add to that the inspiration I am drawing from bikepacking blogs, and particularly those of people who were training to ride the Big HURT, and I have found a mix for spicing up my commute. Besides, I’m training to ride the Tasmanian Trail later this year so I need to get some off-road practice.

Instead of heading directly to work, I swing around the block and hike-a-bike through a short section of bush to ride the gravel road in this photo. Then, I ride down the verge alongside the road, battling long grass, holes, rocks and small jumps. I round the ride out with about 5km of footpath riding because it makes me feel like I am on holidays.

What’s your commute look like?

Total: About 30km commute by the time I get home.