Life sometimes just happens. You do the daily tasks and go into a state of living one day at a time because planning and plotting is not a priority. And that's ok. But sometimes you realise that the time for that existence has come to an end.
And this was the case as I sat in a room at 4:45am watching the Olympics. To be totally clear here, I didn't get up early to watch any particular sport (and I would rather have been asleep to be frank), and I sat there having accepted that my body clock was for the time being tuned into another time zone. The Olympics therefore were merely something to fill the time. The sun was almost up, so the day would soon begin.
And then it happened. First one, then several, and finally a flock. The sound of birds I had NEVER heard in my entire life. 'Surreal' is a word that doesn't even begin to describe the feeling of sitting in the darkened room, alone at this point, realising that this world I was living in had animals just outside my window that I hadn't heard (in any form) in my 40 years of life. Then the flock would fly away. And several minutes later a differing sound would accompany a new set of birds.
This was Queensland. I had arrived the day before. And I was now realising (in a very good way) how different this part of the world is from the Kapiti Coast in New Zealand. Or anywhere I had ever been. Or had seen on TV.
It was about now that an Australian sprinter won gold in the 110 meter hurdles. The media attention went into overdrive, I checked the weather ("clear skies with a high of 28 degrees" - midwinter), and turned the TV off. I probably watched another 30 minutes of TV in the next week. The birds though - They were seen and heard all of the time.
"A nice holiday then". And it was. Swimming in the sea mid-winter. Travelling around. Doing bugger all really, and wondering what the kids were up to.
Several days later we were looking through postcards in one of the 1,000 postcard stands in the main shopping centre, (Queensland has more postcards per head of population than any other place on earth), and I picked up one in particular that had caught my attention. "Pass your cell phone please", I asked. Some quick sums were done on the calculator. And my mind began to comprehend what was before me.
The postcard was of Europe (excluding Russia), and all of the countries in Europe were place into the outline of Australia. All of them. Now I had known that Australia was big. Really big. But I had assumed it was maybe 7,500 kms to 9,000 kms around the outside. This postcard told me something else. It suggested a figure closer to 13,500 km. And there it was. Right before me. A big pie indeed. And I was buzzing. Within 10 minutes I had purchased a map of Australia, and I now thought about this possible adventure that awaited. (I would later learn that the distance around Australia was between 16,000 kms and 17,500 kms - This just got even better). A new goal indeed.
My talk then changed. The last few months now gone. The daily recovery. The tens machines on my numb (and later tingly) feet. The urge to cycle smashed out of me for the time being. The chat about "what's next??" being seen as an attack of sorts, and not the friendly query that it was. With all of this put right I had returned to the occasional ride. Oddly, my initial thought after each of these outings would be, "Well I got that out of my system". At which point the bike would go back into the garage - Not remain in the hallway where it belongs. But not now.
Not after Queensland.
Not after Queensland.
The weeks that followed saw me focused again. Planning and thinking and talking about this goal. And the smaller goals to get there. And I was riding too. Commutes to work and LOVING it. The $400 mountain bike was now my favourite bike, and it didn't matter if it took longer. Time, wattage, heart rate, exact distances - Who cares. Really. Get from A to B and when you finish you do other stuff with what remains of the day.
I even started to cycle home from work via the Aka's on Fridays. (Anyone for an 80km ride home starting at 4:30pm??). Who would have thought I'd ride the Aka's and would truly admire the view. These were special days. As they tend to be when any journey starts.
And here it is then. This new goal. The start lines and tactical race strategy chats with my 'Brothers' will need to wait. As will winning. As will losing too I suppose. This is something new and fresh, and who would have thought that cycling would give that to me again. How cool is that?? Nick Dunne said that Australia has too many long straights, so he politely declined any inclusion, but that is something I am after. 'Corners' in all their glorious forms seem to have been a big part of my life for a wee while, and it would be good to contrast that with something else. The same goes for the lifestyle.
Training periods throughout the year that see you perform 'Base Miles', 'Speed Work', 'Build', 'Peak', and 'Race' phases. Yep. I get it. If I sit on my bike for 12 to 15 hours averaging 32kph I get faster on longer rides. My body enjoyed that experience. My mind wanted more. So more it is. And I say that with a smile on my face.
Where this journey goes exactly is unknown, but soon enough we will all be gone and looking back in our old age I imagine any regrets will come in two forms. Firstly, the "Why didn't I do...???" questions. And secondly, the "Why did I let ... effect me like that??" questions. Everything passes. Good and bad. Pleasant and difficult. Planned and unexpected. (Or should the order be 'unexpected and planned').
This too will pass. And if embraced will be a chapter worth recalling later on.
That gold for Australia in the 110 meter hurdles signalled the end to their medal drought, and they surpassed New Zealand's medal tally pretty comfortably. Everything seems to be bigger in Australia. On some level we Kiwi's seem to resent it, but I suppose we can also see it as a contrast to our own intimate corner of the world. I'm not sure if bigger is better, but it'll be interesting finding out.
I look forward to the journey ahead. The miles, the people, and the places. The Taupo's, and Graperides, and laps will wait. They will still be there.