Sunday, June 28, 2015


3:48am oh my. Some random, possibly drunk, chick is running down our street screaming 'Reece.' But it sounded more like 'Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeece!' ok, thanks I'm awake. Gazza sleeps on peacefully. X-army ready to leap to my protection, pft yeah right. Dream on Princess. Alarm goes off....4:30. I'm still awake so that's one good thing. Up and moving, coffee and stepping into the dark and heading North.
The AP Crew gather in the dark. There are a few missing. But the girls are there. Coach had sent a message from Spain saying I should ride with Group 3. I was a little miffed, but in the end resigned myself that I probably couldn't match Group 2 right now. I had gone to bed with that in my head. But when I woke and read 'give Group 2 a crack,' I cheered up. So when we rolled out I jumped into second wheel behind Juannie and stuck to her like glue. We hit the hills and I worked hard, but was surprised when I climbed comfortably and continued to spin along happily. It was so dark. I looked back through the bunch to see Gaz. He was happy spinning on the back. My ever ready Wingman. But there were only 7 of us instead of 10. Boom! Group 3 had been left behind. Now don't get me wrong, I am not being mean towards Group 3. But what it meant was I was back where I should be. Group 2. BTW Group 1 are the big guys, way out of my league, talking Pro Triathlete's here.

Anyhoooo, we hit the Hill and today I just cruised up with the girls in front and Gaz and Lil Dog behind me. Back where I belong. At the top of the hill we met up with Group 1. Not sure how far we were behind them, but wow, they were still there. We descended into the Park and holly cow my legs froze up. I wasn't wearing my booties. Nuts! What was I thinking. It was about 2-3 degrees in the valley and we were thankful of the climb up again to Garrie. Once at the turn around we met up again with Group 1. But by this stage they had done a repeat on the Garrie climb. Still, pretty happy and still riding with the girls, though finding it hard to get the legs powering, cold and tightening up.

Once again we descended back into the valley. We laughed about just how cold it was and compared numb toes with frozen fingers and wet noses. I was regretting my missing booties, what was I thinking. And the long 14km ascent was painful from every angle. My legs were tight and I found just turning them over excruciating. Finally, as we neared the top I could feel the temperature rising, but my toes couldn't. I couldn't feel anything from my thighs down.

Missing a vital piece of clothing
Finally at Bald Hill again we stopped for a loo break and I wiggled my toes and moved my legs trying desperately to get some feeling and blood pumping again. We headed home. Just at the end of the Sea Cliff bridge there is a nasty pinchy little climb of about 100metres. I was about halfway up when both ITBs sent out a warning shot. Cramps started and the legs tightened. Holly Crap I thought my legs were going to seize at any second. I willed with everything I had for the legs to keep going. I could no longer stand up on the pegs so I just sat and churned the legs over one at a time, only just staying upright and moving. I limped over the top. Gaz was at the top. He had stopped as well. His legs hadn't worked and he was suddenly struggling as well. Lil Dog pulled up behind me as her knee started giving out cranky shots also. We were all in trouble. Time to limp home.

Lil Red done for the day
We finally made it home. With the bikes in the back of the car we headed home, job done. The heater on full ball and the sun toasting me, I was asleep within minutes. Maccas Coffee!

The ITBs were still cranky and the legs were shattered. After a quick chat with Coach he changed the plans for my run today to downgrade to a safer 50 minute elliptical set, and I was off to buy some knee warmers.

I spent the rest of Saturday after the ride sleeping and laying on the lounge. My lower back was really stiff. I think this is where my ITB issues were coming from. A massage today with Linda (thank goodness for Linda, so happy I have her on my side) and the lower back feels much better.

Meanwhile, the sugar free diet continues in a positive direction. I am eating well and the energy is still up. No temptation at any time to venture to the dark side. This week we tried some sugarfree natural GU and electrolyte drink. They worked really well and I am keen to keep trying it over winter and moving further away from the non real food energy alternatives.

Cooking this week has been fun. We have absolutely fallen in love with the Celeriac and Fennel soup. It was an unexpected surprise for both of us and has become a winter favourite that we will definitely do over and over.

Another winner was the yellow chicken curry. We opted to have it with mixed rice and poppadums and it was delicious.

Today was all about baking the staples for next week. Quinoa, Savoury Muffins, Protein Balls, Protein and Chia Pods,  Inside Outside Bread and Granola. Looking forward to another great week.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Wakeup Call I Badly Needed.........

I'm not comparing myself here to some poor soul sitting in a doctor's surgery hearing the bad news for the first time. "Mrs Smith you need to stop smoking immediately or you are going to die of lung cancer." No, nothing that severe, thank goodness. However, I do feel a kind of badly needed revelation has happened, not of the biblical kind either. Just a solid wake up call that has provided me with the harsh enough reality to insist on a major change in my lifestyle.
Don't laugh now.... but "Hi, my Name is Sammi B and I am a Sugarholic!" And thanks to Damon Gameau and Sarah Wilson aka the messengers of the Reality Check, I have made a U turn in my life, an about face, a monumental shift, a recalibration of the major kind.
Recently days have been easy, energy has been up, skin has been smooth and clear, head has been clear and focused, mood has been stable (and at a rapidly approaching 50, you'd think the broody Meno would be upon me any sec now) And the best of the best is that I have lost count of how many days, weeks, months, minutes that I have been 'sugar free'.
Yep, sure I am at week 3 of the IQS program. But Gazza and I have been living the white crystal free life now and it has become just that, a life, not a fad diet that I will come crashing down from and fail, as I have done so many times before.
Added bonus is a renewed interest (yes genuine, not forced) in cooking again. Food has become a gastronomical adventure and one that I am loving. Shopping is still a chore though. I just can't come at the Sunday arvo waste of valuable me time spent standing in an aisle with people with screaming children pushing trollies full of junk food and slabs of soft drink about. arghhhhhhh.
Not wanting to flood my Gram with food pics and boring my legions of Gram followers ;) I'm going to dump a few pics here for anyone who gives a crap. But also a few random shots as well. Here goes.
No one can cook in a kitchen successfully without the expert help from this little guy.....Tassie Devil Oven Mit. A must have and he just makes cooking so much fun. Imagine going the grab on a hot tray of muffins with a Tassie Devil, mouth wide open and insert deep throaty yummy Nom Nom sounds as he grabs the tray. Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom, mmmm yummy muffinnnnnnnnnssssssss Woot woot.
Last Sunday was all about the Savoury Muffins, Seedy Bread, Inside Outside Bread, Quinoa, Chia Pods, and Cashew Nut Butter. I also made enough ride bars (3 different types) to last Gazza and I a good 4 months. 3 types, 1 protein based, 1 x based on banana (no refined sugar) and 1 x with rice malt syrup, coconut sugar and dates for our 80km+ rides when you really do need some glucose to get you home.
While I am doing the Sunday cook off and prep for the week, Gazza is in charge of daily meals. So he is all over dinners and he is also in charge of plating up. Having an X-Chef as a husband is veeeeery helpful team. Its definitely the reason I have a little/ok big, belly too. He is also X-Army and he still likes to cook enough to ration in a full platoon.

Lamb chops and pumpkin with crumbly fetta. Holley molley this meal had me licking my fingers at the end.
Egg/bacon muffins along with Thai Pumpkin soup. Oh wow, I don't think plain ol pumpkin soup is ever going to be quite the same again.

Chicken with quinoa salad and Pulled Pork with cauliflower cream. These meals have been perfect for winter in Aus and have been added as meals we will definitely do again and form part of our arsenal in our new sugar free life.
Breakfasts have been great also. I love my staple of Greek yoghurt, raspberries (when I can afford them! Are they ridiculously over priced or what!), home made Granola and Quinoa porridge. Oh yum!

Saturday and Sunday were real treats when Gaz cooked up a bunch of corn fritters with avocado salsa. I sat in my courtyard that is sheltered from the winter and bathed in warm winter sun and indulged in 2 coffees (black no sugar, see how far I have come) and enjoyed every mouthful.

But let's discuss winter. If you have read some of my posts you will know how much I struggle with sleep. Getting to sleep, staying asleep and then waking up from sleep. Winter makes waking up even harder. Dark, buried in my covers, smothered in my white fleecy blanket which I affectionately call the Polar Bear, I am dug in deeper than an Alabama Tick. Nothing including bedside delivery of morning coffee, iPad and light flicking on and off is going to prize me out of a deep wintery sleep. Poor Gazza can be on the end of a very grumpy bear some mornings. I love that man! He keeps on coming back for more. Duty bound, he tip toes in, hits the lights, drops the coffee on the side table and then runs like hell. Yes, save yourself Gazza, it's your only chance. So, now lets throw in the training program and you gotta know how hard I find it getting out of that dream location where there is warmth and blissful sleep to step into some gym gear, or worse, swim gear (insert scream... arghhhhhhhh) and I am officially the Mayor of Struggle Town. It takes me a good half hour to get fully awake and operational.

And at the end of the day, its time to drag on the training gear again and head out for the second session of the day. Monday nights is Group Squad at the pool with Coach. I rolled in late on Monday, no excuses left. I think I have used them all up already and its only June. It was teaming down rain and freezing cold. We all piled in the water and knocked out a few quick laps to warm up. The rain was cold on our shoulders, but the water was warm while we kept moving. The run across the side of the pool to the change rooms is always a painful but hilarious performance. Trying to run while in the foetal position without anything wobbling. I'll let you go visual for a minute. And then three/four to a shower trying to grab a sprinkling of hot water to warm up with. I love my training. 

Good news though, and a nice reminder that I am not alone in this plight to endure winter, is this little lady. Abbigail Rose. Booohoo its cold mum. Let me just spend the whole of winter cuddled up on my cushion in front of the fire. I know I don't have to work, pay taxes, train, go shopping, make dinner and do Sunday bake offs. But I do struggle so.

It's a tough life team. Just ask her Royal Highness Princess Babbs.

Occasionally though, there are moments of beautiful in our winter weather. We do really live in a lovely part of the world. The Gong is mild in comparison to some places, I have to be honest. And Sunday before last, Gazza and I headed South for a coffee and a spot of whale watching (another bonus of winter) The Whales were a fair way off shore though and we needed the binoculars to see them properly, but it was a cracker of a day and an obligatory Gram shot here to prove it. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Time to Face the Demon......

4:30am.....always so bloody hard to get my head around. But , surprise, I was awake and getting out of bed. Dragging my cycle kit on under heat lamps in the bathroom (not nearly cold enough to warrant the excessive drain of electricity) before trudging into the kitchen to scramble up some breaky. Always a fav, oats, raspberries, Greek yoghurt and homemade Granola. Sugar free!

Yes, today was the day. It was time to face the demon! My nemesis, the one that kicked me and left me beaten... Bald Hill and Garrie. SOOO DRAMATIC SAMMI! Yeah, just a little over the top. But last time I was up North it was a very different story. Negative thoughts, self imposed pressure, anxiety attack, sore limbs and a list of excuses a mile long. NONE of which was REAL! Well it felt bloody real at the time, mind.

Big Gazza was coming along as Wingman. I love that man. So patient and always ready to slap me when the dramatics start. 

My main Wingman and #1 fan

The gathering at Coach's place was kept to a whisper with Ava and Megs still yet to wake up. A quick chat about sticking to the program provided by Coach which would prevent an awkward conversation, or rather confession, as one of our own had just discovered when they had gone on an 'off program' ride and fell off during the ride. Not only having to confess that they had fallen but having to book physio treatment with him as well.

The Crew headed off into the dark. I felt ok, but I didn't want to blow up and get caught up in the head game of keeping up with the other girls. When we hit the hills I told them to go ahead and then Gaz and I stopped to give them some distance. I needed my own space and not be pressured. I took advantage of the break with a strip down of the winter gloves and a quick Gram shot. With the girls some way down the road, I relaxed heaps and found my own pace and rhythm. I cruised along, Gaz chatting away behind me. It would have been such a slow speed for him. It was a gorgeous morning, warm and the sea was smooth and flat. Perfect for whale watching. But no chance today. Bike ride first. Riding along the Sea Cliff Bridge was just amazing. There is never a time that the road along the bridge doesn't take your breath away.

Internet shot of the Sea Cliff Bridge
The road continued up some short pinchy climbs before the big one loomed ahead. Bald Hill, always a struggle. It used to be at least doable once. Riding weekly up North with the Crew was great for strength and hill climbing and so Bald Hill was once 'easy.' I was also fitter and stronger. But when you haven't climbed it for a while, it takes a lot of out of you. I felt better when on our way home we ran into our friend Chris who also said how long it had been since he had been so far North and how hard the climb had been.

The entire way up the hill I focused on my breathing and not on how far I still had to climb. I counted 10 pedal circles on my right foot standing, 10 pedal circles sitting. Repeat. I kept my mind calm and Gaz was happy toodaling along behind me. Normally he would overtake me and go up in twice the time I would take. He knew it would add pressure if he did, so he sat patiently behind me and occasionally gave encouraging comments. Pft, ya have to ask. What was all the bloody drama about Sammi? You have done this ride and climb so many times. Its a mental game and today I played a smart game, staying calm, focused and unpressured.

Top of the Hill. And undefeated

So we made it to the top. No demons, no anxiety attack, funny that. The girls were at the top. I was surprised. We hadn't let them get as far ahead as I had thought. They headed on down the road towards Garrie and Gaz and I stopped to admire the view, catch our breath and take a quick comfort stop. Oh and of course another Gram shot to act as evidence that I had made it and also to remind myself of a good time when we climbed the hill.

The rest of the ride went fairly uneventful. I continued past the spot where I had turned back the previous ride and continued on to Garrie. Again we found the girls having a break at Garrie and the turn around point. Again, not too far ahead of us. I was still happy that I hadn't ridden with them though. No pressure!

Gazza and I had a quick break, fuelled up on a banana and an energy bar. A whopping 5 teaspoons of sugar in that bad boy! yikes. I think I would have burned it off during the ride though, but my gallbladder later in  the ride, right up under my diaphragm was giving out a strong cramping feeling. We headed home. Descended into the valley at a wicked speed and then climbed slowly back up out of the Park, returning to Bald Hill where we stumbled upon Chris doing a solo ride. He joined us for the 22kms back home and I tucked in behind him as he set the pace. He rode at my usual speed and I was worked hard again. Back in my normal pace and with every mile away from the hill and closer to home the legs got stronger and stronger. Funny that!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Little Off Road Adventure............

The plan was to grab an extra day on the back of the long weekend and hit the road. With RAV packed and Sammi, as usual flying in sideways after a huge week at work, landed in the passenger seat and we started the 6:48hr drive North West to Coonabarabran.

Shellharbour to Coonabarabran
We stopped for lunch in the Blue Mountains at Common called the Yellow Deli and had a wonderful healthy soup before heading on. Further North and West than any Sammi has ever been before. It was exciting and new. The land was beautiful. I love to see new mountain ranges. Never bored of my own escarpment, but equally enthralled by new scenes and places where people live.

We arrived to find a neat and tidy motel room and a couple who ran the place who were 'Jack of all Trades' from receptionist to cleaner to chef. They were warm, gracious and welcoming.

I slept deeply and woke refreshed and ready to go. With morning came the plan to hit the trails in the Warrumbungles. It was freezing and I dressed ready for sub artic weather. We parked and started the 14.5km 'Grand High Tops' walk and before long the trail lead us up and up. We stopped several times and like a game of Strip Sammi Naked, I peeled back the layers one by one. Finally I was comfortable in just a light weight sleeved top and hiking pants.

Breadknife behind me, now warm and having to carry all my layers. Following the red brick path.
The trail was just a little disappointing in a way. Council/National Parks had obviously paid a lot of money to have a paved path put through the park. It seemed to take the adventure out of the walk somehow. But I balanced this with the happy thought that many more people would be able to take advantage of the walk as it was smooth and straight. Not wheelchair friendly though, as at times it was quite steep. We reached the bottom of the Bolougery Spire and from there we mounted the steel stairs and started a steep climb to the base of the Breadknife.

We found the saddle between the Breadknife and Crater Bluff for lunch and shared our view with a handful of other friendly, respectfully quiet hikers and a pair of pesky and extremely over friendly Currajongs. Just a little disconcerting as they demanded our attention with their yellow beady eyes.

Lunch view facing South East and home somewhere in that direction
After lunch we continued on and made our way slowly downhill (much to the disgust of my two big toes) between Bluff Pyramid and Balor Peak finally landing some 4:30hours later back in the car park. But not before I had taken off my hiking boots, lost the thick winter socks that were cramming my feet into the toe box at each downward step and ripped off the top of my big toe nails on each foot to make room for my aching toes. Sweet relief and mental note to Sammi. Cut your toenails before you hike and wear thin socks. Yeah I know, gross. Thanks for sharing Sammi. You're WELCOME!

Map of our hike
We drove back towards town but took a quick detour up a steep road to do a whirlwind tour of Siding Springs Observatory. Literally! It closed at 4pm and we had 10mins there.
Internet pic as I couldn't get the whole observatory captured in my photo.
But the view was impressive and we could clearly see where our walk had taken us.

Happy with our efforts we relaxed and had dinner in the motel restaurant before heading out to the Warrumbungle Observatory with Peter Starr (yep, that's his real name) and a wonderful night of star gazing. There were two guys facilitating, 6 telescopes and one huge telescope that was housed in a white dome. One fellow had a laser pointer which was a thrill as he clearly pointed out the stars and reference points before we stared through the telescopes at various stars and the moon when it came up. A definite highlight was being able to see Saturn and the rings and 5 moons. What a thrill.
 The Sombrero and The Hamburger Galaxies and a Spiral Galaxy and also a Comet
The following morning we headed further North West and into the Pilliga National Park where we encountered the most lovely woman who was the Artist in Residence at Pilliga Pottery. We had Devonshire Tea in the CafĂ© that was a hidden treasure that could only be found by following a long red dirt road. We bought a piece of pottery, a vase with a Blue Fairy Wren and Flannelette wild flowers on it. Two of my favourite Aussie Flora and Fauna.
An amazingly generous woman with a gentle soul and a genuine appreciation of her country and its people
Our travels took us further along the red dirt rack to a truly special place. Sculptures in the Scrub. We both have to admit we were a little sceptical when we read the blurb about the area. We imagined some ol' mate claiming he was an artist standing there with a bunch of bottles strung together and held with blutak and wire or something. Boy, were we wrong. We took a 1.8km wander through the scrub, followed an exposed ridge line and stumbled across a collection of art works that were commissioned by local indigenous artists and long time residents. It was so tactile. Each piece inspired thought or made you want to interact with it/them. And we did. Running our hands along edges of smooth granite to feeling the smooth shiny tiles in the mosaics. As the sun will still rising, each piece soaked up its heat and we found them warm and comforting on one side and cold and hard on the other. It was another unexpected, delightful, hidden treasure once again. 

Our trip back to the motel lead us through more back country and farm lands and, believe it or not.... I spotted my first wild Emu. After 49yrs 8months, I finally spy my first wild Emu. No photo proof though, buh!  One last tick to get now is to spot a wild Platypus. I maybe 100 though by these odds. A final look cast back over the Warrumbungles and it was time to bunk in for the night.
The edge of the stunning Warrumbungles
We spent our last afternoon in the area lazing and chatting and revisiting our photos and retelling our new memories. And all things must pass and so an early start in the morning was the plan. We were on the road by 6am and heading home via Kez and Jess' place. A 1hr diversion but a chance to catch up with the girls. We dodged Eastern Grey kangaroo's along the road and we marvelled at the stunning landscape that we have the amazing fortune to live in.
About an 1:30hrs out from Richmond we stopped for our last photo opportunity of the weekend. Our next adventure stood majestically rising out of the valley floor nestled deeply in the 'Gardens of Stone' National Park. Huge high rock cliffs whispered of possibilities and the surrounding walls of the valley echoed a resounding note in our hearts. We will return to this place. We will climb the rock cliffs and camp atop of Panatoney's Crown. Its only a matter of time til we return to this space and create more wonderful memories together.
The Crown is a long ridged plateau

Internet pic of Panatoney's Crown