Calling all Aussie Beach Bums

You’ve just got to love this time of the year in Australia, winter is well and truly past, the warmth of an Australian fast summer approaching…

And some of the best water-ways and beaches in the world…

I’m heading down to one of my favourite spots on Sydney’s northern beaches, Narrabeen Lake, with Janet and TomO.

The lake opens to the ocean at north Narrabeen, which has one of the best surf breaks on the east coast of Australia.

It is a tidal saltwater lake and a haven for all kinds of water birds.

 Hey sleepy-head get out of bed and jump on, I’ll take you around the lake on my Epic V10 – it goes fast just sitting there!

Crikey, how good are lazy Sunday mornings down under!

Baz…

 

Early morning fun (Australian beach culture)

surf skiAnother glorious start to the day on Australia’s eastern seaboard.

A 10,000 metre row on the C2 rowing machine in the pre-dawn darkness before heading to the beach for some fun with TomO, followed a breakfast of hot chips and tomato sauce; all before 8:00am…

Whoops sorry Janet, meant to say healthy muesli and yoghurt 😉

Photo: TomO

Nobby’s Beach (Newcastle, East Coast Australia)

beach pavilion
Nobby’s Beach, Newcastle, Australia

How good is this, a bike ride to the beach and some lap swimming in the ocean pool just as the sun pierced the eastern horizon…

And boy, do I need to get some exercise and fitness back into me, after all there are mountains to climb, eventually!

But for now, two weeks of cycling, swimming and kayaking, strewth, it’s a tough life, but us Aussies’ are used to this tough life 😉

Photo: Baz, The Landy

Parkour for Agility and Fitness (If you’re game enough)

Exercise forms part of the daily routine of a large part of the population and it can take many forms. 

Keeping it interesting, fun, and relevant is the challenge for most of us…

In our household, TomO spends a lot of his waking hours on our Olympic Standard trampoline and I usually get a bounce in most days as it is great for core strength and stability.

TomO - Urban Tramp
TomO – Urban Tramp
TomO -  In full flight
TomO – Just Hanging 

And Janet is out walking the MilO every day in between pilates classes and is our chief gardener, pushing the lawn mower over the yard regularly. This makes for a solid workout, especially given how fast our lawn grows during the warmer months.

Yes, I know lawn mowing is typically a man’s domain, but strewth, if I was to ever touch that lawn mower I’d be in strife, that’s for sure.

And of course, most days I can be found up in The Shed in the pre-dawn hours, or in the mountains and on the lake in my kayak most weekends.

The Shed
The Shed

But we are always on the lookout for new ways to exercise and of course, it has to be enjoyable.

Recently, TomO decided he wanted to give Parkour a go.

Par what I hear you say…

Don’t worry, I said the same thing!

It roughly translates to “the art of displacement” and like many training disciplines it was borne out of a military background.

The idea is that you move, jump, run, and tumble between and over obstacles of various shapes and sizes, even scaling walls.

We did a search to see if anyone was teaching Parkour in Sydney and found a group of young people at Jump Squad HQ teaching it on Sydney’s northern beaches, not too far from Narrabeen Lake where I train on my kayak.

Baz - kayaking Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, Australia
Baz – kayaking Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, Australia

This weekend TomO commenced his basic training and all I can say it was awesome, well TomO said that as well.  I was watching from the sidelines, but wishing I was in amongst it.

This is a discipline that teaches balance, agility, core strength, and judgement.  All the things I need to focus on as I head to the world’s highest mountains…

Balancing on top of a mountain with a severe drop either side with crampons on is quite an art! Self-preservation helps mind you…

Baz, Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz, Southern Alps, New Zealand – All a balancing act

What really took my interest was an old round trampoline frame that they had the kids walking around for balance and agility.  I have been racking my brains as to how I could improve this skill myself, and there it was.

And we have a large trampoline in our backyard.

Now I might just look a little conspicuous and out of place joining TomO’s class, but I’ve already spoken to them about private lessons, and I might even be able to rope my partner in all things outdoors and adventurous, brother-in-law, Ray, into a session.

He’d be up for it no doubting…

So if you are looking for something to liven up your training you could always give Parkour a go…

And remember, if all else fails, just remain out of control and enjoy yourself…

We're always out of control - and loving it!
We’re always out of control – and loving it!
photos: Janet, Baz, and TomO…
YouTube: Jump Squad HQ, Sydney

Going for a Spin (Up in The Shed)

The Shed
The Shed – Font of all knowledge

There is something invigorating about starting the day in the pre-dawn hours with an exercise routine. 

Your body awakens as the world rises to a new day, the golden hue of the sun rising over the eastern horizon, stars fading into an ever brightening sky…

 Just like Linus and his blanket, I find something comforting about this routine.

Most days start with a row on a Concept C2 rower, one of the best value for money pieces of exercise equipment you could invest in. The row might be 10-kilometres at a steady pace, aiming for 39-40 minutes, or it might be 10×500 metre sprints with 20 push-ups between each one, it certainly kick-starts the day into action.

Baz - Concept C2 Rower
Baz – Concept C2 Rower

And everyday, without fail, involves some form of resistance training, squatting, and deadlifts, all the big compound exercises. Without a doubt, weight-bearing exercises should be undertaken by all to assist muscle tone as our body’s age.

Baz - A daily dose of weight bearing exercise
Baz – A daily dose of weight bearing exercise

There is plenty of good research available on the topic!

Perhaps it is fair to say I push it to the limits, but that is my thing, always testing the boundaries, I never want to be wondering what I might have achieved, but you know, apart from anything else it is fun.

 The Shed, the font of all knowledge in this modern age, is my training arena and I’ve just added a new piece of training equipment, a reconditioned LeMond spin bike, supplied by Gray’s Fitness Equipment in Melbourne, Australia.

Le Mond Spin Bike
LeMond Spin Bike

Now I’m sure there are many who are very familiar with spin bikes, and anyone who has taken a spin-class will attest to its effectiveness when you push to your limits.

So as I prepare for my mountaineering expedition to Nepal later this year, and the Coast-to Coast Adventure Race in New Zealand not long after, the swoosh of the spin-bike, the clink of the chain on the rowing machine, and the sound of weights being lifted, will be heard heralding in a new day in the world’s greatest harbour city, Sydney, Australia…

Baz - Chancellor Dome in the background
Baz – Southern Alps, New Zealand

 Hey, if you’ve got a favourite spin-bike workout, shout it out to me…

Anyway, the sun is shining, there’s a light breeze, and we’re all heading down to the lake for a paddle…

 Strewth, you wouldn’t be dead for quids, hey!

Ps: Just in case you are wondering and as the picture of The Shed attests, you can never have enough paddling craft…
Baz - Kayaking Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, Australia
Baz – Kayaking Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, Australia

I signed up to do what? (Mates – Out and About)

Baz - Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz – Southern Alps, New Zealand

It is been just over one month since I returned from my mountaineering training in New Zealand and I haven’t so much as touched a rope or any of my climbing gear.

 Mind you I need little encouragement to get “Out and About” in the mountains and with only eight months to go before I head to Nepal I need to be training as much as I can.

Unfortunately, my Achilles tendon remains sore although treatment is progressing. I’m working on the basis that rest is best, but it does test the patience!

I just need to get an adventure under my belt!

This past weekend we had a visit from Janet’s sister Leah, partner, Ray and their beautiful son, Aubrey. We always look forward to the time we spend together and usually it involves signing up for an adventure or two with Ray.

Ray, Leah and Aubrey
Ray, Leah and Aubrey

And we always have a good laugh as we dream up another adventure…

 But strewth, I’ve just been doing a list of the things I’ve agreed to participate in and it starts with a trip on the mountain bike this coming weekend. It will take us along a road built by convicts in the early days of European settlement in Australia.

 It is quite a pretty place, but there are plenty of hills and it won’t be any walk in the park. 

Although, Ray reckons he’s letting me off lightly because of my foot injury. I’ll be on the bike, he’ll be running the 50 kilometres (phew – I won’t complain too much about the Achillies any more!)

And hot on the heels of that we’ll be lining up for the next Tough Mudder Event in Sydney early April.  We completed it in September last year, twenty kilometres of running, tackling obstacles, and of course tons of mud, getting zapped by electric charges, running through fire – all good fun, seemingly!

Baz and Ray "survive" Tough Mudder
Baz and Ray “survive” Tough Mudder

Next, while we were out paddling on the lake early on Sunday morning Ray casually mentioned that I’d better be fit for the Coast-to-Coast Adventure Race across New Zealand’s South Island as he is putting our entries in shortly.

Ray - Beachcomber Kayak
Ray – Beachcomber Kayak
The Boys, Terrigal, Australia
The Boys, Terrigal, Australia

I don’t remember signing up for it, but it looks like I’m going next February. Actually, I’m looking forward to training for it; after all I need to be super fit for the Nepal expedition in November so I say, bring it on…

I made him do a 1-kilometre sprint in his kayak after that pronouncement!

 Whoops, note to self – tell the boss I need more time off!  Better still, with a bit of luck he’ll read this and come and pat me on the back and say, Baz, do you want a week off in February…

Baz crossing Goat's Pass - Coast to Coast Race New Zealand
Baz crossing Goat’s Pass – Coast to Coast Race New Zealand

But not to be outdone I raised the ante with all the finesse of a Mississippi River boat gambler and tossed in that we’ll need to do the 111-kilometre Hawkesbury Classic Kayak Race in October as preparation for the Coast-to-Coast race. After all the Coast-to-Coast has a 70-kilometre paddle down the fast flowing Waimak River.

Baz leads the field out in the Bridge to Bridge - 111 kilometre Hawkesbury Classic Kayak Race
Baz leads the field out in the Bridge to Bridge – 111 kilometre Hawkesbury Classic Kayak Race

You’d think he would have folded by now, but strewth, he’s still got those cards close to his chest, so I’m wondering what is going to get thrown into the pot next…

One thing is for sure; he’ll come up with something as there is plenty of free time on that calendar still, in between rock climbing in the Blue Mountains, of course.

But hey, you’ve got to love this stuff and doing it with mates is what it is all about!

Just go easy on me Ray…!

And remember, if all else fails, just remain out of control and see what develops…

Baz and Ray, Tough Mudder, Sydney
Mates…Baz and Ray, Tough Mudder, Sydney
Ps: Oddly enough no alcohol was consumed in the planning of these adventures…

What, someone has described me as Bob Parr (from The Incredibles)

Recently, I was approached by Christina from a Scribeslife asking if she could write a story about me, The Landy!

Of course I was rather flattered and Christina has put this story together and it appears in her blog.

But strewth, being described as Bob Parr from the Incredibles?

Just wait till “Bluey and the boys” down at the local footy club get a hold of this.

I mean, they’ve only just forgotten about the time I tripped on my shoelaces going down the aisle with Janet (it’s a long story, but I can’t tie my shoelaces properly!) and that was about a quarter-of-a-century ago.

Anyway, I guess it will be my shout again.

And while we are grabbing a drink, here’s a toast to Christina, be sure to check her blog out!

Bob Parr, hey? Umm, might get used to that…

And remember, if all else fails, there’ll always be “Bluey and the boys” to bring you back to earth!

Pre-dawn Fun (Out and About, Northern Beaches, Sydney)

Wow, what a great morning down on the lake, on the water before the dawn and watching the sun rise was awesome!

How good are Saturday mornings!

Anyway, the sun is up now, so jump in and I’ll take you for a paddle around the lake…

Out and About on the Lake (Talk about having fun)

Heron Class Sailboats - Narrabeen Lake, Sydney
Heron Class Sailboats – Narrabeen Lake, Sydney

It has been quite a week “Down under”.  

TomO was settling into his second week at high school, I was getting back into the swing of things at work and Janet was working on upcoming school functions and of course, looking after “her boys”…

 So when the weekend hit it was time to unwind and relax and we kicked it off with TomO’s first game of basketball, and after only two training sessions he was playing like a pro, well almost…

TomO's first basketball match
TomO’s first basketball match

 And with blue skies and perfect weather we headed to Narrabeen Lake on both Saturday and Sunday as it is our favoured weekend haunt when we are not in the mountains…

Baz - Narrabeen Lake, Northern Beaches, Sydney
Baz – Narrabeen Lake, Northern Beaches, Sydney

And what a day down on the lake, it was literally a sea of colour with plenty of paddle boards, kayaks, and with the wind getting up later, the wind surfers, and the delightful Heron Class sailboats that race most Sunday’s.

Windsurfing, Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, Australia
Windsurfing, Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, Australia

It was great to get reacquainted with my Epic Kayak, TomO was back on his stand up paddleboard, and Janet was catching up on all the gossip with friends who joined us.

Looks like mischief in the making
Looks like mischief in the making

 Life… you’ve got to love it, truly, no ordinary moments, no ordinary people, no ordinary moments, ever!

Strewth – You wouldn’t be dead for quids (Out on the Lake)

Baz - Narrabeen Lake, Sydney
Baz – Narrabeen Lake, Sydney

With less than one week to go before I head off to climb in New Zealand I spent Saturday morning preparing my gear and getting it all packed away.

 It is hard to imagine that most of it will find its way into a 65-litre backpack.

Snow shoes, crampons, my best pair of Italian Leather boots, climbing hardware in the form of carabineers, devices and ropes, and plenty of thermals to keep warm up on the glacier and in the mountains…

Climbing gear
Climbing gear

But once that was out of the way we headed straight for Narrabeen Lake on Sydney’s northern beach’s, our second home, for a paddle with long-time paddling partner, Bob.

Bob, Narrabeen Lake, Sydney
Bob, Narrabeen Lake, Sydney

Janet, Annette, Bob’s partner, and Debbie, my sister chatted on the lake’s edge, while the younger “boys” were out on the lake in various watercraft.

TomO even had a paddle in one of the bigger boats, which resulted in a couple of “swims” for him!

TomO paddling "The Fenn"
TomO paddling “The Fenn”
TomO "Swims"
TomO “Swims”

And crikey, how good is the sun setting over the lake – you wouldn’t want to be dead for quids!

Dope on a Rope (Strewth – I’m getting very excited)

I feel like I’ve eaten far too much over the festive season, although I do need to have a little extra body fat as I head to climb Mt Aspiring in New Zealand’s Southern Alps for a couple of weeks.

Well, it is a great theory and the one I will be running in any case.

Mt Aspiring
Mt Aspiring

However, training is back on in earnest,  and I was lucky enough to get out for a couple of paddles on the lake over the past few days, despite the weather being less favourable.

Although, being out on the lake is more than just training or exercise, it is great for the soul watching the pelicans glide over the water, and other people out and about with family and friends, just having fun, the kite-surfers, the wind-surfers, and paddle-boarders…

Narrabeen Lake, Australia
Narrabeen Lake, Australia

But as time is ticking away I will be doing a full gear check over the next few days, and that will raise the excitement level in our household – it will be reaching fever pitch in another few days!

And of course, Janet and TomO are very excited, as they will be following me to New Zealand a few days after I depart.

Janet and TomO
Janet and TomO

You just wouldn’t want to be dead for quids…

And of course, if all else fails, remember, just remain out of control and see what develops!

Jump on board – I’ll take you for a paddle (Narrabeen Lake)

Baz - Terrigal Beach, Australia
Baz – Terrigal Beach, Australia

Narrabeen Lake, situated on the northern beaches of Sydney, Australia, is a beautiful sun-drenched oasis situated right on the ocean.

 It is a mecca for kayakers, windsurfers, and paddle board riders alike, a place where you can spend a lazy afternoon with family and friends under a shady tree just wiling away time…

Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, Australia
Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, Australia

 The lake, which is 10-kilometres in circumference, is my choice for kayaking as it has very few power boats on it and it makes for a great change from the daily rows on my static C2 rowing machine.

 Without fail, a pelican will glide by whilst out on the lake and how majestic are they to watch, something you don’t get to see on the rowing machine up in “The Shed“.

Rowing in the Shed
Baz on the C2 Rower

 Crikey, as much as I love climbing and mountaineering, and let’s face it you’d have to if you intend to climb Mt Everest, the other past-time I enjoy equally is just being out in one of my kayaks. Whether it is a training session, or just more of a laid-back paddle with friends…

 These days, I mostly find myself paddling my 6.5 metre long Epic kayak, a beautifully crafted and sleek boat which is quite fast, well in the right set of hands it is – but I’m working on that!

Baz - kayaking Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, Australia
Baz – kayaking Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, Australia
Epic Kayak, Narrabeen Lake, Australia
Epic Kayak, Narrabeen Lake, Australia

Next year this will be my choice of racing boat in the winter marathon series, a series of 20-kilmetre races run monthly for about nine-months.

And no, our winter doesn’t go for nine-months, so I’m not sure how that works out!

 Over the Christmas break I’ll be hanging up my climbing gear and heading for the lake with family, friends and the kayaks, to get some training in, and to simply enjoy the smell of the fresh sea air…

Baz - Boar's Head, Blue Mountains, Australia
Baz – Boar’s Head, Blue Mountains, Australia

 Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret, so don’t tell TomO, but he’s got a paddle-board coming for Christmas, so maybe he’ll get it a day or two early, just so he can get Out and About on it this weekend coming. After all, it’s pretty hard to hide it up in “The Shed” with him seeing it…

TomO, The Haven, Terrigal, Australia
TomO, The Haven, Terrigal, Australia

 And after a lap or two of the lake there is nothing better than kicking back and watching the sun cast a golden hue over the water as it sinks into the western horizon…

Anyway, jump on board, I’ll take you for a spin around the Lake!

Strewth – Talk about an Aussie Icon (The Shed)

The Shed

You’ve got to love the Aussie Shed, a beacon in a sea of green grass, usually found near the back fence on any Australian suburban house block.

I love my shed and even though it was designed to house a couple of cars and all that other stuff that you accumulate over the years, you know, the Christmas presents that you couldn’t stand but didn’t have the heart to send to the refuse tip, they all invariably end up hidden away in a dark corner of the shed.

As a long-term fitness junkie, my shed houses surfboards, more kayaks than you can poke a stick at, a Concept C2 rower and my weight-lifting racks and associated equipment, as well as numerous bikes collected over the years.

Weight lifting in "The Shed"

Mind you, not all Aussie sheds house exercise equipment, unless of course you count the bar fridge in the corner, which is standard equipment in any shed. Often you’ll see the men-folk doing some elbow bending as they drink a toast to the day passed, usually just around the time the sun is going down over the yard-arm.

DSC_1157

Crikey, like a bunch of Cockatoos, high on the fermenting nectar of fruit consumed under a hot Aussie sun, the squawking tends to increase as the amber fluid flows.

And you can be sure a fair amount of advice is passed around, an exchange of ideas, thoughts, happenings, and the odd joke or two. A  bit like Speakers Corner where everyone is given a chance to say their bit, to tell their yarn in a not too serious way.

But I’m digressing…

Each morning around 4.30am, or silly-o’clock, as Janet suggests, I make the journey out the back door and up the driveway to the shed. Even the dogs, Milo and Jack, can’t be bothered to get out of their beds, preferring to wave me through. Although, usually after about 30 minutes or so one of them will wander up to see what is going on, but I suspect if they could speak they’d actually be asking for a feed, seemingly oblivious to anything else.

Such is a dog’s life.

Rowing in "The Shed"

Depending on the day I’ll either pursue my strength training, or use the rower for my daily cardio fix and although I would prefer to be out on the water kayaking it isn’t always convenient during the week, so the rowing machine is a great substitute.

I must confess upfront to being an early morning person, I guess you’d have to be to manage a 4.30am start each day, but it does have its advantages. In between the clanging of weight plates being moved, or interval sets on the rower, I can stand outside in the pre-dawn silence and marvel at the stars in the sky, the wondrous universe with you at its centre.

Or once a month watch a full moon setting in the western sky, and if I’m lucky even a shooting star to ponder a thought on.

DSC_1105

Strewth, what of the neighbours I hear you ask, what if they don’t share my love of the early morning?

I must say it is hard not to be tempted into playing some heavy metal, AC/DC or Led Zeppelin to help the mood and give that much needed pump for the session. But alas, it is mostly done in silence, apart from a moan or groan under the weight of a squat bar, or the last 500 metres on the rower.

DSC_1197

Hey, but it is fair to say, if I head up for an afternoon session, which is more often than not, it is always accompanied by some loud rock or heavy metal music. I’ve always said that Theo, our next door neighbour, is a closet heavy metal fan, so the relationship has never been strained, he doesn’t always say much mind you, but smiles a lot, so maybe he’s actually deaf.

And I’m frequently visited by Janet and TomO during these sessions, which is always welcome, mind you there would never be any chance of that happening in the morning, in fact I don’t think they know what 4.30am actually looks like.

Janet & TomO

There was a suggestion not too long ago that maybe the shed could be converted and upgraded to have a loft, an upstairs area where TomO and his mates could hang out, maybe even move into as he advances in his teenage years.

You know, a brand new building without the cracks that have accumulated over the years, possibly from too much heavy metal music resonating through the walls, or perhaps just cracking up from the tall stories that have echoed from within – but it just wouldn’t be cricket, and besides where would I put the bar fridge?

No thanks, I like my shed just the way it is, and as the sun slowly breaks the eastern horizon I’m heading to the shed for a row…

And as I do, I’ll leave you with a thought for today, one of my all-time favourites…

Those that don’t think it can be done, shouldn’t bother the person doing it!”

Hey, and if you get around to it, don’t forget to  Like The Landy on Facebook and check out some of the photos…

No ordinary moments (Crikey – that’s for sure!)

Baz - Kayaking Terrigal Beach, Australia
Baz – Kayaking Terrigal Beach, Australia

There are no ordinary moments, no ordinary people, no ordinary lives.

That has to be my all-time favourite mantra that I like to chant to myself, it energisers my mind, body, and spirit whenever I do. 

Strewth, I’m probably sounding like one of those weirdos’, but in any case, as I headed to the shed for my first row since falling ill with a viral infection just over one week ago, that little ditty was revolving through my mind.

I didn’t push myself on the 10,000-metre row, preferring to simply let me body find and regulate its own pace.  Consequently, this wasn’t my fastest or strongest row, in fact it would more resemble something I would do as a warm-up, or warm-down.

Baz - Kayaking off Terrigal Beach, Australia
Baz – Kayaking off Terrigal Beach, Australia

But you know, it didn’t matter, this was one of my best rows ever, after all it signalled my body was getting stronger once again, back to normal.

And yes, as I headed back down to the usual spa bath and cold shower I had a beaming smile on my face.

Truly, even in the face of adversity, there are no ordinary moments, no ordinary people, no ordinary lives…

 Chant that mantra a few times to yourself today and you might find that the world takes on a whole new and wonderful dimension!

Crikey, I guarantee that strangers will smile at you, you’ll feel better inside, and you’ll feel empowered to tackle anything that life throws at you…

But of course, if all else fails, simply remain out of control and see what develops…

Baz - Out of control on the Waimak River, New Zealand
Baz – Out of control on the Waimak River, New Zealand

Hey – Whatever Floats Your Boat (Just as long as you’re happy)

Concept2 Rowing Machine in “The Shed”

One way I keep fit and healthy is through rowing, something I do up in “The Shed” on my Concept2 rowing machine  most days.

Mind you, I would much rather be out on the water in one of my kayaks, which is a regular feature of our weekend when we aren’t Out and About in the mountains, but time constraints can make this more difficult during the week.

Baz on his Epic V10 – Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, Australia

And whilst it is a solitary pursuit in the predawn darkness up in the shed, I’m never alone when I row thanks to my fellow team-mates in our virtual rowing team.

I belong to a global team of about 80 rowers, a great bunch of people mostly based in North America and we go by the name of The Lun-atics

The team was set up many years ago by a group of NASA employees with the intention of collectively rowing to the moon and back. Yes that’s right something like 384,000 kilometres, or as those in the rowing community tend to express distance in metres, a whopping 384 billion metres.

Crikey, let’s just settle on – it’s a long way there and back.

Well that is something we achieved in 2011 and we are now on the return voyage back to earth!

As a matter of interest, over the past four years I have covered the equivalent distance from Sydney to New York on my rowing machine, some 16,000 kilometres of rowing!

Rowing in “The Shed”

Anyway, a couple of days ago I was having a chat with one of my rowing mates and it got around to best times rowed, typically over 10,000 metres, a distance I train for. The 10,000 metre distance requires a good balance between speed and endurance and my best time is just under 38 minutes.

Our inclination as mere human beings is to want to compare ourselves, to see how we shape up against our peers.  It might be in the gym, comparing how much you can lift versus someone else, or how fast you can cover 50 metres in the pool.

Weight Training – In “The Shed”

But I always question, is this the right comparison to make?

Sure, if you’re in a competition, where time taken or weight lifted, determines who wins the gong and who goes home empty handed, it is important. But for those of us who exercise mostly for health and fitness it is almost pointless, and might even be demotivating.

There will always be someone doing more, or going faster, depending on where you are and who you are with.

The true comparison is at what level you are pushing yourself and this might be measured by what zone you are training in determined by your heart-rate, or how much you are lifting versus your one-repetition maximum.

If you are training to the maximum of your ability, it doesn’t matter how fast, or how much, you are as equal to anyone else doing the same.

Anyone giving 100 percent is giving 100 percent, right?

Baz – Coast to Coast Adventure Race, New Zealand

Life is much the same, it doesn’t matter what you are doing that counts as much as whether you are getting satisfaction and happiness from it.

Strewth, my sister does quilting, and at the risk of upsetting all those quilters out there, all three of them, I don’t get it myself, but then she doesn’t quite understand the need for me to stand on top of big mountains. She’s not the only one mind you!

Mt Aspiring, Southern Alps, New Zealand

But you know what – we both love pursuing our individual interests and we’re equals because of the happiness it brings to our lives…

That is what truly counts, it isn’t the what, or how much – unless of course you’re going for gold, but that’s another story altogether – those Quilters’ are a competitive bunch!

We’ve been cloned – Cookie Cut-outs (Fair Dinkum)

Baz & Ray

One of the wonderful things about participating in outdoor activities with your mates, whether it is recreational or in competition, is the camaraderie it engenders. The struggle, the hardship, the good, and the bad, it is there to be shared, enjoyed as a team.

I am fortunate to have spent many years pursuing outdoor pursuits and activities with brother-in-law, Ray Tong.

Let’s just call him my partner in crime.

And just so there isn’t any misunderstanding, we aren’t fugitives from the law, it’s just a figurative saying us “down under” tend to use to describe a good mate…

Okay, Ray is a Kiwi, but hey, he’s still a good mate none-the-less…

Now we’ve participated in many things together, mostly recreational,  with a smattering of competitive events here and there.  And yes, there is always an underlying competitive streak between us, but that’s just good old fashioned Aussie versus Kiwi rivalry

You couldn’t expect anything less!

Ray overlooking Hunter Valley, Australia

Anyway, we tend to spend a lot of time out in the bush, walking and trekking and many of these have taken on mammoth proportions.  We’ve walked from Sydney to Newcastle together, bush-whacking it 240 kilometres through the “scrub” – mind you if you drive, it is only 140-kilometres along the freeway.

We’ve spent countless hours on the water together…

Baz & Ray, Terrigal Beach, Australia

I chased him from the West Coast of New Zealand to the East Coast, a journey that saw us cycling, running, and white-water kayaking the 240 kilometres over two-days.

We’ve run rapids in our kayaks together, and even struggled through the mud in Tough Mudder helping each other to the finish.

We’ve pursued paragliding and skydiving…

Baz and friends over Picton

And then there is the most dangerous of them all, the notorious Newcastle Bike Ride.

The “NBR” as it is known colloquially…

It isn’t for the faint-hearted.

This is an invitation only event open to those who can demonstrate superior time-trial qualities on a bike.

It covers a two kilometre sprint on a racing bike from Ray’s home in Newcastle to the Albion Hotel, followed by an endurance test of being able to drink at least half-a-dozen schooners of beer with lots of bellowing laughter, the city and back home.

The ride home is always used as a warm-down and should be done at a leisurely pace, unless of course you’ve stayed for one too many had a few flat tyres out on the road and your arrival is long overdue. In which case, the every man man for himself rule applies.

The Sprint

Many have tried, few ever rise to the occasion…

On the many trips to the pub time-trials we’ve done in Newcastle we’ve had plenty of time to solve the problems of the world.

 As one does!

Nothing is sacred, all topics covered.

Okay, we don’t touch Rugby ‘cause it always upsets the Kiwi’s when they lose the Bledisloe Cup, and there was one time when Ray wanted to discuss a problem he had after a “real” bike ride where we spent a long time in the saddle – haemorrhoids.

I told him I couldn’t touch that one and best to take it up with Leah, his partner, the sister of my partner, Janet.

Did I get that right?

 Confused myself there for a ‘sec.

What I tried to say is we married two sisters, Leah & Janet…The “Fawthrop Girls”.

Yes, “The Fawthrop Girls”…

So anyway, perched atop the bar-stools down at the fountain of all knowledge; The Albion Hotel, our bikes during these training sessions we’ve covered many time favoured topics.

Albion Hotel, Newcastle
The Boozer

On our last NBR only a week ago sometime back we started comparing notes on what we share in common.

As you could imagine there was plenty of back-slapping and congratulations going on as we reviewed the impressive list, after all we were on our 3rd 6th schooner of beer each…

  • Good looking – tick
  • A physique many would give a left-arm for – tick
  • Modest – TICK
  • Have a sister named Debbie – tick
  • Adventurous – tick
  • Competed in the Coast to Coast Race in New Zealand – tick
  • Kayakers – tick
  • Extreme endurance hikers and adventure racers– tick
  • Almost fallen off the same ledge on a mountain – tick (True story! Mt Tibrogargan in Queensland before we even met each other)
  • Climb Mountains – tick and half-tick (Ray was too traumatised to climb again sissy)
  • Both have flown under skydiving canopies – tick
  • We’re both cookie cut-outs – WHAT?

Strewth, we’ve been cloned, we chorused together in unison as we considered the similarities. 

Kneaded expertly and pressed with a cookie cutter; a cutter passed sister-to-sister, a cutter revered like one’s very first training bra.

Okay, yes, somehow I came out the better looking of the two of us, you know, a bit like pulling freshly baked cookies out of the oven, some are perfect, others possibly a little overdone and a touch rough around the edges...

Anyway here we were, seemingly virtual twins…

To be honest, I took some comfort in this as I was a little worried that Ray might have been thinking he should have married me given we had so much in common.

I mean, he gazed looked at me just a bit too longingly for my liking as we waited for our next beer to be poured. But I just put it down to the beer haze fogging his mind a tad…yeah, that’s what it was, a beer haze, yeah…

And as we rode sprinted home on our bikes, the wind gusting so hard that it’d blow your dog off its chain, the most favourite Fawthrop Family saying resonated loudly…

You don’t know how lucky you are!

Yep, there is no doubting it, we are both partnered to Angels, and we’ll put that to the top of the list,  for sure…

And while you’re here hang around and take a squiz at this You tube video…a little bit of that “cookie cut-out” adventure!

It is some footage of Ray flying a sky-diving canopy on the East-Coast of New Zealand in the early 1990s. It was quite out there at the time, for a Kiwi anyway!

And following is what us Aussies do, jump first, then fly…

Just pulling Ray’s leg…what they were doing was ground breaking at the time. He is wearing the white helmet!

Adventure, comes in many forms, and you’ve just gotta love it!

Roll-over and give me a laugh (Eskimo Style)…

It was a weekend of birthday celebrations for Janet, my partner, with family and friends. Janet is a party type of girl and loved the attention and the Chanel perfume!

 And with near perfect weather in Sydney we also took the opportunity to be out on the kayaks at Narrabeen Lake on Saturday, and The Haven at Terrigal on Sunday.

My usual training partner, brother-in-law Ray Tong, and I have been practicing our Eskimo roll in his kayak, the same type of boat we used in this year’s Speight’s Coast-to-Coast adventure race across New Zealand. The race involves a 67-kilometre kayak leg, and includes around 35-kilometres of white water to be negotiated.

We both had an unintentional swim in the cold Waimakariri River during the race…

And whilst we are not intending to line up for next February’s event we are keeping our options open and want to perfect our technique before heading back down the Waimak River.

Did I say perfect?

We’d settle for being able to roll up a little more consistently without half-drowning each time!

Anyway, we have been having a lot of laughs as we go about this training, and hats off to Ray, he spun the boat around so fast at one stage that he went around twice, the look on his face was priceless and the source of much laughter.

We’re almost ready to hit Penrith white-water stadium once again. This is a purpose built white-water course covering around four-hundred metres of grade three rapids. It is fair to say both Ray and I have spent plenty of time upside down through the rapids on this course…

And while we were at The Haven, TomO, my son, was expertly catching waves on his rescue paddle board, in between riding his skateboard down “The Skillion” a large grassy slope that features prominently in the local landscape. Laying down on his skateboard he rode it down the hill like a Luge.

He had the Go-Pro camera on the helmet to capture his daredevil exploits and is already working on  a short video, coupled together with background music he has composed. We can’t wait to see the result as he was travelling quite fast and it looked fun!

Speaking of training, I’m back into the mountains this weekend to further my rock climbing and abseiling skills, along with general rope handling.  My intention over the next few weeks is to do multi-pitch abseils off Boar’s Head in the Blue Mountains.

Boar’s Head is one of the most recognisable rock formations in the Blue Mountains, situated not too far from downtown Katoomba. It is a popular place to do multi-pitch abseils and involves around five pitches, the second and third into a large chasm, with a relatively easy rock climb back out at the end.

Janet said she is looking forward to another weekend in the mountains and as much as she loves the outdoors and seeing me advance in my training, she can’t wait to get back into the small boutiques after all it has been a couple of months.

So I look forward to updating the ongoing saga of a “Dope on a Rope” over the coming weeks!


Put away the beer glasses (The holiday’s are over)

It is fair to say I have just had a great break by any measure. Climbing in New Zealand, holidaying on a South Pacific Island. Oh to be shipwrecked!

And the last few days have been spent kayaking with a bit of running thrown in for good measure.

 My usual exercise routine has been thrown out slightly, and exercise in Fiji was limited to walking to the dining area, and cocktail hour! And we loved it…for a change. I sat back and relaxed in Fiji, on that near deserted island, and must say I have enjoyed a few beers here and there. Okay most days since Fiji!

But the whistle has been blown and it is time to knuckle back down into training for my next climbing expedition to New Zealand in January. I have a good feel for what I need to focus on over the next three months and with summer time and longer days ahead I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Mt Aspiring, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Lots of high intensity cardio, and hill climbs with a 30-kilogram backpack.  And the kettle bells will get a solid workout along with the C2 rowing machine.  I’ve just finished a 10,000-metre row and must say it was refreshing after a three-week hiatus!

And January seems a long way off, but the weeks will speed by and Mt Aspiring beckons!

Cheers, Um with a mineral water today!

A Kayaking encounter with a Crocodile – (I survived the deadly Puk-Puk)

It isn’t too often that you get to have one up on a crocodile and live to recount the experience, let’s face it, they are one of nature’s most efficient hunters.

And it will always be the one that you didn’t see that will get you…

 A few years ago, Janet, my partner, and I lived in Papua New Guinea, an independent Nation just to the north of Australia. During our time there we tried to experience much that the country has to offer, and we travelled as much as we could.

Each day I paddled the coastline on my surf ski, a sit-on-top kayak measuring around 6 metres in length.  At the time there were no other craft like mine in this area, if not the country, and it always caught the interest of the villagers’. It was sleek and glided effortlessly through the water…

There was much to explore and the local villages I passed were always friendly and welcoming.

The tropical waters of the Papuan Coast are full of marine life, large stingrays, and majestic turtles, some of the most colourful reef fish you will ever see and of course sharks of many varieties.

I’m pleased to be able to say that the most common sharks I encountered where the black tip reef sharks which are mostly harmless if left alone. And I was often told they are well fed… Just on what and how often seemingly was an unanswered question.

Of course, the tropical waters are also home to the more menacing and much larger tiger shark.

From a hill top vantage point near Port Moresby, the capital city, I once observed the largest tiger shark I have ever seen.

It was following a pod of dolphins heading towards Local Island, which is situated about 3-kilometres offshore from the local beach, Ela beach.

We lived within a stone’s throw of this beach and it was a paddle I did regularly and after this encounter I was left wondering how many times I may have been stalked as I crossed to the island.

Papua New Guinea is also home to the saltwater crocodile, or Puk-Puk as it is known in the local language. I was always alert for the possibility of one of these creatures being present in the waterways I paddled. Realistically, I’m not sure what I would have done if I encountered one, and it is unlikely there would ever have been any forewarning before encountering the “death roll”.

The sight of local villagers’ fishing in the water from the shore was always a comforting sign, as they are also alert for the Puk-Puk’s presence. And normally there are telltale signs they may be present.

Recently, a friend and I were discussing paddling in Papua New Guinea and an encounter I did have with one of these creatures.

It was in the mountains about 40 kilometres from Port Moresby at a place not to far from the start of the Kokoda Trail, a place immortalised in Australian Military history.

I had decided to take my kayak into the mountains for a paddle down one of the rivers just for a change to the coastal paddling I was more accustomed to. During a two-hour paddle I was rewarded with magnificent scenery and a couple of friendly villages along the way.

I had Janet drop me off and I was to meet her at the Kokoda Trail Motel, a small pub, after negotiating my way along the river. I was a little nervous at first and any bump underneath the kayak left me wondering if these were to be my final moments before the jaws of one of these pre-historic creatures crushed the kayak, or worse!

There was an element of excitement about it…

As I made my way with the flow of the river I was observing the muddy banks for any telltale signs of a slide. Places where a crocodile may have slipped into the water from its resting point.

Crikey, in an instant my heart skipped a beat…

There was no doubting what I saw heading my way.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes every thing around you can go into slow motion?

Strewth, this was a moment suspended in time.

Was it to be my one and only encounter with a crocodile?

The final scorecard reading, Puk-Puk, one; Baz, nil…

I’m pleased to say it wasn’t…

Upon sighting my arrival on the banks of the river beside the motel, Janet ordered me a Puk-Puk steak for lunch and it was heading my way, suitably seasoned, and on a plate…

And to this day, the sight of Janet always makes my heart skip a beat!

I had many more visits to the mountains where I enjoyed a paddle, a Puk-Puk steak, and a couple of ice-cold beers with Janet…

And if you have never tried Puk-Puk, do yourself a favour, it is delicious; just make sure it is on a plate…

Here’s a recipe, just in case you’re tempted…