Rain, rain, not so bad…

[Monday 21st August]

It’s always a good day out with birds.

Even when the day is one of the worst this winter.

It’s raining lightly but steadily, the temperature is heading from a freezing 4 degrees to a frosty maximum of 6 degrees for a chilly winter’s day, it’s slippery and slushy underfoot, I missed my bird watching group meet time by a few minutes but saw them crossing the road as I parked, then they disappeared on me while I was getting my stuff together!!

But with some of my new resilience I decide to power on. It sucks that I missed them, but I can’t find any fault with them at all. It was a typical Danika move.

Looking at the forecast the night before I wondered if I was up for the task of wandering around for 5 hours in not only the cold, which you can dress against, but the wet. I’ve gotten wet and cold on one bird watching outing recently, feet and legs mostly, and it wasn’t fun. But I can dress warmer this time and be prepared. About that wet though, do I really want to be walking around in it through thick undergrowth for 3 of the 5 hours, according to the forecast? I couldn’t decide. Originally I definitely wanted to go because this birding outing was one that I haven’t seen come up before, a walk through the Sherbrooke Forest and…ding ding ding…lyrebirds! I’ve glimpsed a couple in the wild, and seen one at Healesville Sanctuary in their awesome recent lyrebird exhibit, but I’d love a better look!

But that wet…and so I dithered all night, didn’t make a decision, looked up what time I’d need to leave by, couldn’t decide when I woke up in the morning, called the leader to confirm it was on, slept a bit more, thought I wouldn’t go, thought I would go, left it too late and took too much time putting on my two pairs of socks, three tops, packing my 3 jackets and so I had no time for breakfast before I had to jump in the car post-haste.

This is a big flaw for me that I’m trying to work on: skipping breakfast. Actually not skipping breakfast as such, because I can’t make it to 10am if I don’t eat in the morning. I’ve always felt nauseous and faint if I don’t eat breakfast. And taking a handful of tablets on an empty stomach doesn’t go well. But I’ve also never been a morning person since I was a baby. So it’s a tussle between getting up in time for a proper breakfast and getting up, full stop! Lately this has taken the form of skipping a sustaining breakfast like my standard 2 pieces of toast with spreads for getting out the door on time, then making a 2 minute stop at the local Coles Express for something less sustaining but at least food and drink. I reserve the right to tell you what kind of food or drink I would usually pick up!

Google maps told me when I left that I was going to be 3 minutes late, as in arrival time 10.03am. This is okay, most times you can make up this difference along the way and arrive on time. Although not properly on time, which is 5 minutes early as my husband will say. In this case probably 10 or 15 minutes early would be ideal for putting on jackets, unfolding umbrellas, getting the camera ready etc. So really I’m  way behind, but I’m telling myself that 10am is okay. But still, no breakfast yet and I can’t walk around in the forest for hours without breakfast, let alone without lunch that I haven’t accounted for, and the Dandenongs aren’t really ideal for ready to go food. But luckily I did find a quick mart type general store at Tremont just before Sherbrooke forest and got some Twisties and drinks; not ideal but it’ll keep me going. Forgot to get lunch but at least this is a start. Except…

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This doesn’t even show how deep the colour blue was on my tongue, fingers and lips!! What the heck?? Apparently although these Twisties look like Twisties, smell like Twisties, taste like Twisties, they are Blue Tongue Twisties! Well that’s new, and not necessarily great for me. Busted about eating Twisties though; hubby will be happy. Luckily after my afternoon nap the blue on my tongue had been digested by my mouth enzymes, but I had to scrub the life out of my lips to clear them up, and I’ve still got blue around my nails 2 days later!! Argh!

But I got myself going, and I got these:

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The charming Eastern Yellow Robin

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They are so skilled at gravity-defying grip onto trees

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A clearer shot finally: the rain really messes with clarity

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Murdering the “snake” by whipping it and mashing it and tearing it into bite sized pieces

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Nearly got its head off, now to…

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“Bang”!

 

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“Is it dead yet?”

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Another flick through the air and whack! against the root

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See how far around it can rotate its head? Somehow with such a large prey compared to its body it manages to get the right amount of acceleration then bang it against something hard

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See how its eye looks weird? Its called a nicitating membrane. It like a second eyelid but its see-through. Birds use it to protect their eye when they still need to see but are at risk of, for instance, having half a worm flick them in the eye

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Finally a bite sized piece! Yum yum, down the hatch

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“Get away from my snake!!”

 

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Uh oh. An invader. Territory wars over a juicy worm!

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Standing on it should keep it safe

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“Are you done yet?”

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Oops, spotted me!

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This is a fully zoomed out view of the little birdy. It was probably 3 metres away by my judgement, which isn’t the best. I love zoom!

A good day that came out of a shaky start; I love these days. Now home for a lovely nap.

 

 

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Bike learning

Last Wednesday I drove out to the Yarra Ranges for a bike ride with Wheel Women.

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You remember Wheel Women? They are the awesome group of women who have teamed up with Cycling Australia to run the empowering She Rides programs for women around Melbourne.

I’ve finished the course and now I’m in that tricky phase after completing any kind of training or education; implementing the knowledge and making changes in my life. But with the great Wheel Women She Rides version it isn’t really a difficulty at all! Each and every week there are several rides posted by Wheel Women for us graduates and other female riders (and occasionally males), and the majority of them suit the level I am at now.

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Not the level I want to get to, or that my husband or friends are at, or that I have been told or feel that I should be at; just the level that I am at. Which is very encouraging to keep on keeping on with regular bike riding.

There are a variety of rides from different starting points with different groups. I participated in the first ever Hawthorn She Rides program, but there have also been programs in Docklands and Knox and Geelong, and I think one in Bayside…don’t quote me on that one. I know the Hawthorn girls pretty well after eight weeks of classes and practice rides and coffees and tech nights together. So I’m always happy to go riding with them. But I’ve also been on a Docklands ride and a Knox ride and one of the all-in rides out at Warburton. And so far I haven’t found a single lady/girl/woman/chick that wasn’t lovely and helpful and kind and considerate. Also encouraging!

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Take the Warburton ride last Saturday. The large majority of the riders started at Lilydale for a 70km round trip to Warburton for lunch and back. In the classes and in my first ride after with the Docklands group (group being an optimistic term as there were two of us plus the instructor!) I’d only done up to 20km; not sure that we’d actually hit twenty. We’d done a 2km round trip to practice starting and stopping and turning, and about the same to practice signalling.

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I’d been terrified of doing really any riding at all before the class because I was, and still am a bit, scared of the effort involved in riding up hills, and that I couldn’t do the distance, being so much less fit than when I last rode. The only ride I’d done in the last two years was an excruciating 5km on the Eastern Freeway trail with my hubby. I wasn’t ready, I wasn’t fit, there were hills and it was just a struggle! It hurt and I wanted to get off and not get back on.

But those first two rides were fine. Then we did a 6km ride into Richmond to the Total Rush store to learn how to fix a flat tyre including taking the wheels off and putting them back on, adjusting the chain and derailleur, taking out the tube and patching or replacing it and putting it back in. That was a great and very empowering session!

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The ride was pretty good but I got too hot going into town from Hawthorn. I always get hot, it’s just a fact of life now that I’m on the antidepressant venlafaxine. I overheat, I sweat, I wipe off the sweat and repeat! I’m so excited for winter! Well outdoors winter, not indoors winter…heaters are the bane of my life!

Anyway, I got hot and that reduces my tolerance for pushing myself. I get exasperated and just want to do anything to get cooler. It’s such an unpleasant feeling, and I hate that people can see all the sweat on my face, and its still my number one side effect to get rid of on my dreamboat wishlist. I’d followed the clothing choices of everyone else with lots of layers including gloves and neck warmer. But I’ve learnt since that in most situations I’m better off in Tshirt and pants. I get hot riding but the breeze goes through my shirt to keep me cool and I’m happy; it works. I take extra just in case, but don’t put it on until I need it.

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Anyway, the ride from Hawthorn to Richmond is a pretty flat ride with a couple of little rises but we’d only learnt gears the week before and I’d had a chest infection and hadn’t practiced. Of course I’d used gears before this course, but not correctly it turns out. Gears makes so much difference when you know how to use them! So being hot and exasperated and still coughing from my chest infection I ditched the 6km ride home and caught the train instead. With a flat phone and scant knowledge of the Glen Waverley train line I somehow got off at the right station and found my way by bike the 2km back to the car. I wasn’t that far behind the others.

But the idea that I couldn’t keep up, and riding was hard had received a boost!

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Luckily the next week we tackled a 14km ride to Herring Island and back that I found easy! From can’t do more than 6km to easy 14km! I don’t know how or why but it happened!

I was worried beforehand, but I ended up chatting to another girl all the way in (the distraction really works!) and at the end I felt like I could have ridden further; I had effort still in the tank waiting to be used! That was a nice feeling.

And for the very first time in years, I felt that exhilaration, euphoria, sense of everything being well and life being exciting that they tell you comes from endorphins! Which was a real revelation! 18 months after my diagnosis of depression/bipolar I finally felt that benefit of exercise that everyone’s been yackedy yacking about! I can see now why they say exercise is good for your mood…but I just couldn’t get anything like that with walking. It was sometimes pleasant but not euphoric. Going to the gym sometimes gave me a taste. Playing squash had gotten me part of the way, but my fitness can’t manage that now. But bike riding really nailed it!

After that ride we rode a longer distance into Fed Square which I managed well, then my Docklands crew ride was 16km, dead flat and along the beach on a glorious day! Perfect!

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So the Warburton ride. I’d made up my mind that I would tackle the 35km loop on the trail from Woori Yallock to Warburton and return. I could have chosen the 20km loop from Launching Place but I wanted to see how I went extending myself. I was reallly enjoying my riding by now, and had proved myself to myself a bit, and was aptly a fitting graduate from the She Rides Confidence program!

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I’d wanted to ride the Warburton to Lilydale rail trail for YEARS but never felt fit enough. And herein lies the beauty of the Wheel Women community. A ride that my husband would do, but which wouldn’t really be as valuable to him as his 100km+ weekend road loop. He would enjoy exploring and the scenery, but I’d feel a bit babysat. I don’t have any other friends who ride right now. And going out there by myself is something I’d never think of! But here is a ready made group of women who also want to ride the trail, don’t have anyone to ride with and we all turn up and do it together! Brilliant!

We were told beforehand what speed range we should be able to hold to keep up with the group. I knew that I could maintain that speed based on previous rides, however I failed to consider the difference between riding on asphalt/concrete and fine gravel; the latter is quite a bit slower! But the leaders put me at the front of the group so that my speed would dictate the speed of the group and I wouldn’t get dropped (a cycling term for being less fit/skilled/able than other riders and getting spat out of the back of the group as they gradually pass you by virtue of their better skills/fitness/abilities!). This still happened to me, twice! But I was never left behind.

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The combination of a slight incline, gravel, starting with no warm up, the group being warmed up and ticking along at a good pace meant the first few kilometres were a struggle! I was maintaining a speed about 4km/hr slower than intended but the first time I was dropped I caught up with the group at a road crossing. I got put at the front but still got inevitably passed one by one as the incline and my quads fought each other! That time I stayed behind for a few kilometres with a very patient partner-of-a-coach tagging me all the way.

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That’s what I love about Wheel Women; they leave no man behind…or whatever the modern expression is. You are noticed, you are part of the group, you are looked out for, you are helped and supported along the way, and if things go bad thay’ve got your back. Although we’ve been taught how to fix our own mechanical issues its nice to know you’re riding with experienced women who can back you up with technical assitance and spare parts.

Speaking of mechanical issues. I went back out to tackle the Warburton trail on Wednesday with the Knox group, also lovely ladies. I rode two easy kilometres to where I was meeting them for the Launching Place 20km loop. My mum and grandma were driving out to meet us for lunch. And lucky they were! As I was waiting I heard the unmistakeable gush of air passing out of the tube valve, and my back tyre went dead flat! Not good, but the group were coming and they could help. Here was a steep learning curve that I needed and won’t forget. The group leader: Where’s your spare tube? Don’t have one. Okay I’ll see if mine fits, no it doesn’t. That’s okay we’ll patch it, where are your patches? Don’t have any. Okay I’ll use mine, start taking off the tyre, where are your tyre levers? Don’t have any…spoken very quietly!

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Oh dear!

And the reason I didn’t have them? So silly! The week before I went in to Total Rush to get all the bits and pieces, but I forgot the $100 Specialized voucher that comes with Wheel Women membership. So I postponed buying until the next week when I would be passing by for my GP appointment. Sadly this ride came the day before that appointment! Missed it by that much!

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Suffice to say I now have all of the above and more! Because the outcome of the day was no one had the right sized tube to lend me, the patch didn’t hold and the valve got damaged and wouldn’t hold any air. The one bike shop didn’t stock my tube size, so they day ended with an emergency pick up from the family, lunch, and a drive home! Very disappointing but I won’t repeat it! 2km total on a lovely mild day with fair weather all round! Dulp!
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But stay tuned for photos of me doing all the mechanical work with my two bare hands while my hubby commentates from the sidelines. You haven’t seen the last of me!

*Much of the photo credit must go to Tina, possessor of the genius behind all that is Wheel Women. Your talent at taking photos while riding knows no bounds! Thanks for documenting my progress in pictures 🙂