Tag Archives: Ramblings

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?

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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)

A new way to travel

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I discovered bike packing and Bike Bag Dude through some blogs I follow. So when my partner asked me what I want for my birthday it was easy: bike packing gear.

This is the kit that I have ordered from Bike Bag Dude. A seat post bag, half frame bag, handlebar bag and sling. I chose storm trooper white because I have a thing for white gear. It looks fast.

I can’t wait for it to arrive so I can start cycle touring. The frame and seat post bags will fit both my bikes while the handlebar bag and sling will probably only work on my MTB.

I have felt a bit lost this week without a goal or project. But that’s an important part of the process. And knowing I have a new mode of travel arriving soon is exciting.

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.

Exercising restraint

Restraint is not my forte. When I tell people that I back impulse control, they laugh. Perhaps they think I am joking.

Two days ago, I heard of an Oxfam Trailwaker team who are desperate for two people to join them walking 100km in 24-30 hours in 10 days time. Having walked the event twice before, I know it’s not an easy undertaking. In fact, it’s pretty epic.

I said “hi, we’ve never met before but I’ll join you”. Impulsive? Much?

Yesterday mentioned this to my physio while he was digging his elbows into my back and legs. He laughed. I think he thought I was joking. Besides, he knows better than to tell me “no” because that’d be like waving a red flag to a bull.

After my session, he came out to tell me it concerned him to think I might try this major undertaking on a whim without specific training. He’s never expressed concern about my crazy ideas before.

So I am doing through one thing that comes most unnaturally to me: I am exercising restraint and have told the team “sorry, I have been advised not to walk and am taking the advice on this one occasion”.

The real clincher was the risk of injury so close to my Great North Walk adventure. And the fun I will have as support crew foy sister’s team. 

Published

My article in Outer Edge Magazine

My article in Outer Edge Magazine

I had a super-exciting surprise waiting on my desk this morning: the latest edition of Outer Edge Magazine was sitting on my desk. Now, I am always excited when the magazine arrives every two months. But this month was even more exciting because I found an article I submitted taking up the whole back page of this full colour glossy outdoor mag.

I’m also getting a Tatonka Rhino EXP alpine day pack for my efforts, so it’s a double win for me.

Well, in a way a triple win because Outer Edge is my source of adventure inspiration. I leave it lying each edition lying around my house and flip through it most days extracting every bit of inspiration I can from it.