Sunday, April 23, 2017

Mont 24hr Bike Race

This weekend was epic. I just took part in my first ever Mountain Bike race and it was so much fun. My butt now hurts so bad that sitting, standing, walking everything feels weird but wow it was worth it.

The start line

Since I first met Jez he's talked about 'the Mont'. An annual 24hr hour bike race that he has done for several years with his work mates. This year was the first year I was around and could make the dates and it lived up to its reputation fully. A super fun, cruisey but challenging 17km mostly single track mountain bike run.

Corporate Commitment 2017
Oh the boys!!!
This is pretty much how Jez arrived.
His bike breaking two weeks before the race.

At the startline ready to go
The event is a 24hr team event so I was part of a team of 6 (including Jez) and we each took it in turn to race the loop before high fiving the next racer in the tea to take their run.

The 2017 Course

The pros raced it in 42-45mins. I pushed hard. So so hard (check out my fitness belt reading below) in my first lap and got round in 1hr 21mins!!! I got lapped by so many riders. It was insane to see them ride and race so fast. But I was super stoked with my lap and to finish the course as I had no idea how far round it I was during the race and at one stage after about 1hr 10mins thought I was only half way and wasn't sure I would be able to finish it off. Jez raced just before me and got a 1hr 17min lap. So as we prepared for lap 2 I had a goal to try knock 4 minutes of my lap time.

Lap 1 my first time on the trail

Racing was so much fun and pretty tiring

Lap 1 of 3 of equal effort = best workout in years

Only thing was the race started at midday so second run was a night run. Now if you know me you'll know I'm scared of the dark, especially if i'm on my own and I'm really not a big fan of the Australian wilderness so the idea of a night cycling solo run through the Australian bush was terrifying. Luckily the team was there to help me out, to lend me lights and help me fit them onto my helmet and bike, remind me that I wouldn't be on my own as I would be regularly lapped and to tell me that kids would be racing it and that I should generally just toughen up. So sure enough at 10.30pm I jumped on my bike, turned on 8 or my 9 lights. I looked like a Xmas tree / search beacon and set of on my lap.

So many lights

Such a nice trail to ride

It was awesome. Riding at night is so much fun. I absolutely loved it. The lights made the trail ahead pop and it felt amazing blasting round the lap. I pushed hard for as long as I could and it felt like I was riding super fast. About half way through I could feel the burn but this time knew how far was left and what was still to come. As I came through the finish line I clocked the time. 1hr 22mins. Not faster but still pretty awesome especially for a night lap. I got back to the tent and Jez was already passed out hard. He was up again at 6am for his next lap.

Jez flys through the trees

Pushing hard to try beat Jezs lap time
The forest is alive with riders

9.30am and it was my turn one last loop. I took it easy for the first half and then raced out the last 45 mins. I think this could be the start of some new adventures for me and Jez. As a team we didn't win. I fact we were no where close I think we might have been in the bottom 3rd of the pack but wow it was so much fun to take part. The set myself personal challenges and goals against Jez and to compete and complete a challenge in a new sport one I love but don't do too much.


The last lap. Ready for a rest but excited to come back

I look forward to my next Mountain Bike race unfortunately this was the last Mont 24hr race but we will look whatever challenge the team decides to take on next summer instead.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tekapo Competiton

Lake Tekapo Stunning
After the Academy finished we all jumped in cars and headed to Tekapo for 2 days of guaranteed water releases and non stop freestyle. Stopping on route for a quick hike up Mount Cooke. I had heard that a lot of work had been put into the course and that the features were pretty good but I never for one minute expected it to be as good as it was.

The crew hit up Mount Cooke with Hank the Hedgehog
We arrived to perfect sunshine and a super fun course with two awesome freestyle features. The top a fun wave/hole a little shallow but with the rght technique all sorts of tricks would go. But the feature that excite me the most was the main hole half way down the course. Sarge (the developer and super man behind the course) had manged to create an incredible hole. Every hole trick went. It was bliss after several months of terrible features or awkward water levels. It was such a massive releases to tear up this feature and actually be able to properly throw down. I paddled so hard all day that for the first time in a long time when I finally got off, everything... absolutely everything hurt.

Kids sit ready and waiting for the water to turn on

Just loving paddling
Max and Lotte tear it up

All the kids put everything they had learnt all week at the camp into practice and threw down hard. It was so exciting. New Zealand has another amazing freestyle kayaking play ground.
Big kids
Little kids all having fun
The second day we held a competition and used the last of our energy. The kids loved every minute of it and showed so much development and potential. They were looping, cartwheeling, split wheeling, space godzillering, mcnastying and even phoneixing it was insane. Me, Den, Josh and Bruno all took our turn as the kids cheered on and judged us from the side.

Role reversal
As the day came to an end and Aussie the kids packed up to fly home we all sat and reflected on what an amazing two weeks it had been.

What an epic road trip

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Red Bell Black Snakes, Red Back spiders and Gale Force winds Myall Lakes

For the last few years I have wondered what the outdoor industry in Australia is like and this year I got the chance to find out. My good friend Josh Singleton put me in touch with the Outdoor Education Group and I quickly got signed up for some canoe instruction roles.

The Australian Outdoor Instructor Life

Australia is stunning and has so many different types of landscapes and areas to explore. Over the course of a month I spend almost everyday away as I taught canoeing to kids all over NSW. We did multi day expeditions in Kangeroo Valley, Duke of Edinburgh trips along the Hawksbury and an insanely stunning multi day expedition on Myall Lakes.

Myall Lakes, NSW

Myall Lakes is north of Sydney and is absolutely beautiful. We drove in convey from Moss Vale with a fleet of over 80 canoes. I was actually scheduled to work two Myall Lakes trip but the first one our drive up was on the same day as a huge bush fire and after holding out for over 5 hours in a service station on route waiting for the main highway to reopen we got re diverted back to Kangeroo Valley for the week.

Whilst I waited, Jez worked the bush fires and sent us photos of the main highway

So second time lucky, we arrived early at our staging site and got to spend some time chilling out by the lake. The next morning we were up early and went to meet the group again. Again we were set up early and I had time to go for a quick explore through the bush trails and found a trail through to the beach. The beach was pristine and empty the fresh white sand just went on for miles and miles and miles. The surf rolled in and the sun shone so bright scorching everything it touched. It was crazy to think this would be the site we would work for the week.

Deserted coastline

Bit of a change from the bustling city beaches

The kids soon arrived and we set about helping them pack there bags and barrels for a 5 day remote paddling expedition trip. Then we set off into the lakes in search of our first camp spot. A short 5km paddle saw us at our home for the night a stunning remote small sandy beach right on the side of the lake. The views from the campsite were out of this world. I set up my tent right on the shoreline and hammock in the trees on the beach.

Hammock Life
An Aussie Duck!!!

Stunning sunsets

All week we paddled and camped at some stunning spots. Every morning the lakes would be perfect calm and every afternoon the winds would pick up. The kids all knuckled down and got into the paddling well. For the first few days the wind helped push us along and then the last few days we had serious battles on as we fought into a strong head wind. But the kids never gave up. They worked in pairs and battled together to make it through the wind to each camp spot. It was really fun to be part of these kind of expeditions. Very typical of the traditions of the Australian school outdoor experiences. A lot of schools run annual expeditions for their kids increasing each year in difficulty and remoteness. Designed to challenge and push the kids and also introduce them to the wonders of their home country wilderness.

Not a bad view from bed

In that week alone I got truly introduced to the Australian wilderness and wildlife, In just 5 days I saw a red belly black snake, hundreds of huntsman spiders and ants, a red back spider, guanas, jelly fish, so many different types of birds and of course kangeroos, wallabys and on the very last day right where we all took out a massive tiger snake!

Guanas in a tree this guys 4-5ft
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Josh, OEG and Sheree for giving me the opportunity to experience and have a great introduction to the Australian Outdoor Industry and the opportunity to share an expedition with a bunch of super kids on Myall Lakes.

One of my other highlights of working for OEG was having to attend a driver training day where we got to drive big Utes loaded with trailers off road through the Australian bush. It gave me a real good insight into the real Australia outside of the city. I'm super excited to go drive off road some more soon.

Flying with 3 kayaks, a paraglider and a drone in search of Kiwi easter eggs

There is something very magical about NZ

Always up for a last minute epic adventure me and Jez jumped on a plane on Friday to spend Easter in New Zealand. All year Jez has talked about how much he wanted to go to NZ so with a rare 5 days off over Easter all plans went to trying to get us both to NZ. So its turns out with less than a weeks notice its actually cheaper to fly to America from Sydney than it is to fly to Queenstown or Christchurch. I searched every single option and just as I was about to call it quits I saw an opportunity. Not cheap but not crazy and definitely not the quickest or most direct route but it was an option. So sure enough in true Jez and Claire style we found it Wednesday day, booked it Wednesday night and flew Friday.

NZ South Island in the sun
Our bargin!!!! route saw us take a quick flight to Brisbane followed by a flight to NZ. Landing at midnight in Dunedin (not) traveling light with all gear (3 boats, 2 paddles, a ton of camera gear, a paraglider and 2 sleeping bags) we set up camp in the car hire lounge and slept for the night. Turns out no car hire companies meet the international flight or at least not any of the companies who still had cars left two days before the long Easter break.

Settling in to our luxury accommodation for the night

The car rental guy super smiley meet us as we woke and looked in shock at the amount of kit we had with us whilst explaining we had only booked and he only had available a tiny Toyota Swift. No worries! Somehow we managed to just fit into the car and onto the roof. The little go cart the perfect boating and paragliding truck.

Loads of room

In the planning stages (all 24hrs of it) I had spoken alot to the dam and we were in luck. Recent low water levels meant we had water everyday at the Hawea White Water Park. Only a couple of hours a day over the Easter weekend but water sure enough. So we jumped in the car and rallied straight to the park. We arrived, changed and jumped on not wasting a minute. The levels were a little low but after surfing Penrith all summer it felt amazing to be back on a natural river with proper features. We paddled hard until the water went off and then went for and explore. Checking out the sites. Jez had only 3 days out here and had a new toy to play with. So out came the drone and the filming commenced.

Introducing the Blanchards
Jez's new toy

That night we got some awesome news that we could stay in Wanaka right by the waves and that the weather was going to be perfect the next day for a flight. So early Easter Sunday Jez set off to Coronet Peak to go paragliding and I headed back to the White Water Park.

Waking up some muscles that have not been used for months

Monday quickly came and with less than 24hrs left we both spent the morning using up every last ounce of energy at the park. I worked on lunar orbits, tricky wus, clean blunts and air screws and Jez threw down mcanstys, clean blunts, airscrews and back pan ams. I was sweet this was the first time Jez has paddled decent flows at the park. It had gone up from 65 to 90 which was perfect. That afternoon we rallied around in the go kart and checked out loads more sites.

Clean Blunts for the camera

Jez throws his first clean blunts
Trying to get that airscrew feeling back

Jez mcnastys as the locals watch on
Then Tuesday a quick stop a skippers canyon before checking in Jez's bags at the airport before rallying to Queenstown to grab a Ferg Burger and then rallying back for Jez to catch his flight.

From dawn till dusk the natural beauty is insane

I wondered Thursday night before we flew if we had made the right decision, spending so much and having to fly such a random route for just 3 days, 4 nights. The awesome was. Yes. It was a perfect, amazing Easter Adventure. And the Chocolate Easter Bunnies. The icing on a pretty incredible Kiwi cake.

We don't get chance to literally surf together much
Signing out from NZ... Easter Kiwi Style

Check out the incredible footage Jez shot of some of the amazing views we saw during our trip.