Thursday, 30 July 2020
Well, not much has happened since I last wrote in my blog.
Actually that's a complete lie...I got a kitten. But more on him later.
I guess there was the slight issue of being bullied by social media and quasi-legally required to #staythefuckathome, just when I was primed to do some more bush walking in the South West. But that's a global pandemic for you.
Back in March, we were planning to hold an orienteering event at Coles Bay. Cathy and I had even been there on a planning visit, where we went for a fantastic 20km jog-a-hike and taped all the control sites of the aforementioned event. Unfortunately, this event coincided with pretty much every COVID-related restriction raining down upon us like a tonne of bricks, and it got cancelled. As did the Australian Championships carnival we were due to run in late September. Sigh.
Way back in March, I'd just come back from Melbourne where I competed in the Melbourne Sprint Weekend, which - as it has turned out - was last national-level competition for the year. So we were very lucky to have had that experience at least.
Anyway, cut to last weekend where the previously-cancelled Coles Bay event was finally able to take place. This included a fun night-o score event organised by Cathy, and a bush event on complex granite, organised by me and another orienteering friend, Bernard. And it was a huge success, in large part assisted by the amazing weather we had over three days.
Yes, three days. Because Cathy and I had snuck up to the coast on Thursday night, so that we could get an early start on our Freycinet-in-a-day plans.
I've walked the Freycinet peninsula circuit a couple of times as a multi-day walk - once with my brother Tom and another friend back in 1992, involving memorable banana muffins and Nutella - and more recently in 2017 with Cathy and her family and Jo and Anabelle. But I've never run it. Both Tom, my dad and Cathy's husband Jon have run it, in times of between 2h45 and just over 3 hours. Pretty fast!
Cathy and I were aiming for a more leisurely pace - more like 7 hours - but we ended up doing it in slightly less, including an 8km side trip to Bryans Beach.
Although we were both limited by my lingering calf injury, we managed to run about 10% of the way and didn't feel too bad at the end. Not that I wanted to turn around and walk another 25km...but more on that later too!
We decided to tackle the walk in a clockwise direction, in keeping with the way it's run in the 29km race. After traversing an empty Wineglass Bay beach - how often does that happen? - we made it to the first compulsory look out spot in about an hour.
Then it was onward and upwards to Mt Graham, with the best views of Wineglass Bay, the Hazards and the rest of the peninsula:
Although it was a sunny day, we still encountered plenty of iced-over puddles - and mud - as we traversed the plateau. Then it was the slightly hairy descent off Mt Graham. I'd only every done this in the opposite direction with a heavy pack - which isn't much fun - but trying to move more quickly in the opposite direction wasn't much more enjoyable. We both agreed if we ever did it in a race we'd want to wear more grippy shoes.
Once we were off the steeper slopes, I thought I could risk a jog, as this section is lovely-but-boring if you're only walking. So we slow jog-hiked the rest of the way to the southern end of Cook's Beach, where we ate our lunch and refilled our water containers.
When Cathy initially suggested the side trip to Bryan's Beach on email (which she claimed was 4.6km), I'd initially poo-poohed it on the basis that it was too far to go on a dodgy calf. But it was such an amazing day and we were both feeling pretty good at this point, so fueled by our Vegemite and cheese sandwiches, we pressed on to yet another deserted beach:
In the end, the extra distance was almost double the alleged 4.6km (including the length of Cook's Beach and back), but as Cathy pointed out, once we were back on the loop track, we only had 12km to go and 'anyone can walk that far'.
Besides, the rest of the track is pretty flat, particularly Hazards Beach. Here's Cathy enjoying having it all to herself:
Oh wait I think that's Cook's Beach. Also deserted.
From the end of Hazards Beach it was a lazy 6.5km back to the Wineglass Bay car park, along my favourite stretch of track. On the way we passed an amazingly green bay which was too perfect to ignore.
In retrospect, we probably should have gone for a swim! But we settled for a selfie before jog-hiking the rest of the way back. As long as they didn't have to run up hill, my legs were pretty obliging.
In the end, we took between 6 and 7 hours 'moving time' for just over 38km (depending on whose Garmin you believe).
Speaking of Garmin, we returned to civilization to discover that their server was down so we couldn't upload our 'longest activity ever' onto Strava right away.
Eventually we managed a work-around, which is lucky because as everyone know: If it didn't happen on Strava, it didn't happen.
As always, for better photos visit Cathy's blog.
Sunday, 23 February 2020
Eventually, the wind - of both kinds - died down and we woke up to another beautiful day. After packing up our gear, Dad and I got away at about 8.45, figuring that the boys and Clive would be traveling a long faster than us (the boys were accompanying Clive back to the top of Moraine A, before heading back past Lake Cygnus where they had left their packs, and on to Lake Oberon).
Thinking that we probably wouldn't take photos on the return journey, I packed my camera deep in my pack, then promptly forgot that I did it (this is because veganism is messing with my memory - but more on that in a later post). This prompted a mad panic at the top of Moraine A, where I accused dad of leaving my camera by the lake the previous evening when he went to take photos. After we'd had a cursory look in both our packs, and not found the camera, the boys and Clive turned up. They hadn't seen the camera either (obviously - since it was in my pack). I was a bit down about this, thinking that I had lost it for good, and had resigned myself to losing all my photos...until I got home and pulled everything out of my pack. And found it.
That drama aside, it was a relatively uneventful walk back to Scott's Peak Dam...at least until about 1.5km to go, when dad trod on a broken bit of duck board which flicked up at one end. And down he went, hitting his nose and forehead on another board. Fortunately he was OK, just a little shaken up!
We arrived back at the car park just before 5pm, having just eaten the last vegan snack ball. Amazingly, it had taken us around about the same time to walk down as it had to walk up onto the range. It just felt a lot easier. We passed so many people as we walked out, many of whom had clearly underestimated the difficulty of the climb up Moraine A. Most people we passed were planning to camp at Lake Cygnus, even though it was getting pretty late in the day and they had a long way to to go. One girl looked as though she had just stepped out of a MacPac catalogue, and was already 50m behind her boyfriend at the very start of the ascent. I hope their relationship survived the trip!
A number of people - mostly young guys - also asked is if we had 'bagged any peaks'. Apparently that's a thing. (The answer, in case you're wondering, is 'Yeah, nah.')
Here are some photos that dad took the previous days, with great views of Lake Peddar (the start of the walk) and the track across the plains.
Lake Peddar from the range:
The track to Moraine A:
The mud. This track has a reputation for being muddy but this was about as bad as it got. We were lucky it was a dry summer!
Overall it was a great experience and I'd happily do it again...as a non-vegan of course!
As I mentioned, it was pretty windy when we woke up on Sunday morning, and the wind continued intermittently all the way to Oberon.
Turns out this wasn't the only kind of extreme wind we experienced that day, if you get my drift. Yes, our vegan diet again reared its ugly head, or rather, breath, all the way to Oberon and back. It got so bad that dad advised me not to walk behind him. Only problem with that plan was, my 'wind' was just as bad. Luckily I was able to walk a bit ahead and spare dad the undigested remains of the previous night's curry. And the previous day's Tom and Luke snack balls. And the morning's almond milk museli...
Unfortunately, the gale warning continued into the night. It was so bad that we had to leave the main tent door open, with just the mesh protecting us from the elements, even though it was quite cold. But even that wasn't enough - when one of us got up to go to the loo, which fortunately happened a couple of times, the windy conditions outside cleared the air, at least temporarily.
It was bad. As for our sleeping bags...let's hope they eventually recover. As Tom says, "They don't call them fart sacks for nothing."
Of course, this is a common problem for vegans. One I went vegan for a month and this was what happened commentator noted: "It's lucky I have my own gym. Because if I was working out at a public gym, I would have been kicked out". Or perhaps asked to relocate to the vegan section...
Speaking of 'I went vegan for a month' YouTube videos...there are tonnes of them. And while the commentators don't remain vegan after a month (and frequently mention their 'intestinal distress'), you'd be hard pressed to find a single negative comment in the comments. This has led me to conclude that an international band of vegans trawls YouTube, in an organised effort, in order to find these videos and gush about how they've been vegan for seven years and never felt better etc. etc.
As far as hiking is concerned...I know I have been subtle in my criticism but just in case you missed it, veganism and bushwalking just don't mix. This is partly because of the no-treat problem, but mainly because vegan food isn't particularly energy dense (OK I guess you could subsist on olive oil, sugar and jars of peanut butter...but that's hardly practical.) And despite what the Game Changers says, you'd need a shitload of lettuce to even come close to meeting your energy - let alone nutritional - needs. In fact you've have to hire a team of porters to carry them all for you.
Which is the problem in a nutshell - when you're bushwalking, you carry all your food on your back. And that food should be energy and nutrient dense, tasty, and as light as possible.
And ideally, not turn your tent into a Hazmat site.
As dad said: "Whoever said 'Every man likes the smell of his own farts' obviously wasn't a vegan".
Saturday, 22 February 2020
After a fairly cold night, we woke up to a windy but clear day. The plan was to hike into Lake Oberon with day packs, have lunch and hike back. I ended up carrying dad's larger pack, emptied of everything but food and water, stove, camera equipment and warm gear, which was barely noticeable compared to the previous day's load.
When dad and I hiked the Western Arthurs, we went from Junction Creek to Lake Oberon in a day. As I mentioned, we both remembered the walk from the top of Moraine A to the saddle before Oberon to be basically easy. So you can imagine our surprise when the section from Lake Cygnus to Oberon turned out to be rocky, steep and exposed. I guess the issue - apart from our relative superior fitness in 2004 - was that after Oberon, it got SO hard that anything prior to that paled into insignificance. Given my hiking amnesia, for me to remember the post-Oberon section as 'difficult' must mean that it is REALLY frickin difficult.
Anyway, after many ups and downs, we finally arrived at Square Lake, a beautiful little spot at the base of the climb up to the Oberon saddle.
From there, it was straight up (again, I don't remember this from 2004 - I just thought we walked along a ridge for a couple of hours), which took us maybe 20 minutes of steady climbing. And then were at our destination - well, almost. Oberon was a long, long way below us - and given that I remember the descent as being 'tough', it probably was. So after taking many photographs, we sensibly decided not to bother trekking all the way down and back up again. For one, I didn't think Dad and Clive would make it. And secondly, the boys were planning to do the ascent with fully laden packs the next day. Understandably, they were enthusiastic about doing it twice in two days. And I was only too happy to go along with the group.
This is me and dad back in 2004:
And in 2020:
As you can see, we haven't changed a bit!
We were really lucky that on both occasions, we had beautiful blue skies and clear views. Note Federation Peak in the background of the first photo. Here is is again in 2020:
After a tasty lunch at Square Lake - where our nascent veganism took another blow when we accepted a fake hot chocolate from Evan - we reluctantly packed up our gear and started heading back to camp.
On the way back we stopped to take photos of the impossible-looking route through the mountains. I do remember that being a common theme from our last walk through the Western Arthurs: contemplating where we were, looking at where we had to go and thinking 'How the fuck...?'
Mt. Hayes. Where the track through the saddle seems to peter out, it actually goes straight up the gully then across the face near the top until you are level with the grassy bit on the upper left.
Dad titled this photo 'No wheelchair access'.
As with most return journeys, it didn't seem as bad on the way back, and we were at Lake Cygnus by later afternoon. It was still pretty windy back at camp, but Dad, Liam, Evan and I and all braved the freezing water and went for a refreshing dip. Fortunately there was only one real way to go under, and that was to dive from the very shallow part to the very deep part, which is clear from the photos of the lake.
The it was back to camp for a delicious TVP bolognese.
Yes, I'm joking.
Thursday, 20 February 2020
Sixteen years ago, dad and I did a famously difficult bushwalk in Tasmania, the Western Arthurs traverse. If I'd know how difficult it was (or more specifically, nerve-wracking) I probably wouldn't have done it. At the end of it, Dad and I both agreed that it was one of those 'Glad I've done it, never doing it again' experiences).
I don't remember much about the walk before Lake Oberon, other than that it 'wasn't too hard', apart from the descent into Lake Oberon itself, which was steep and slow. Beyond Lake Oberon, I remember a lot of pack-hauling and seemingly impossible routes. (My other distinct memory of the walk is that when we emerged from the wilderness, I had a text message from Cathy telling me that she had just given birth to the lovely Zali...who is now 16, still lovely, and a lot taller than both of us!)
Given my selective amnesia about Oberon, I'd always wanted to go back in there, just to hang out, enjoy the scenery and take photographs. So when the opportunity arose recently to tag along with Dad and a friend of his, I jumped at it.
The one slight hitch to this plan was that Dad and I were temporary vegans. No matter, I thought, by default you are pretty much vegetarian when you bushwalk. I'll just switch out the powdered milk for almond milk, the jelly snakes for vegan snack balls, and Bob will be my Aunty*.
BIG FUCKING MISTAKE.
But more on that later. We headed off at around 6am, in order to get an early start on what we knew would be a fairly tough day. At around 9.15 we met Dad's friend Clive, Clive's son Evan and his friend Liam at the Scott's Peak Dam car park. After a brief run-in with the ranger involving a poorly sign-posted toilet and an over-zealous tourist (who dobbed us into the ranger for not using the loo we couldn't find), we were on our way at about 9.45 am.
When dad and I did the Western Arthur's traverse, we spend the first night camped at Junction Creek, an easy 9km walk from Scott's Peak. That left us reasonably fresh when we tackled the infamous Moraine A, a further 3km up the road. I didn't think much about this, as at the time (in 2004), Moraine A hadn't seemed that difficult. Perhaps because I was a lot younger, a lot fitter and a non-vegan...and dad was carrying all the heavy stuff!
While it's far from the hardest thing I've ever done, it was pretty grueling. I'm not sure exactly how long it took, but it was 2.5km of relentless climb. About a third of the way up, I was avoiding as many step-ups as possible on the eroded main track by taking side-paths wherever possible. About two thirds of the way up, I stopped to wait the rest of the rest of the party, checking my mobile phone for reception while I was there. (This turned out to be a bad move, as I then put it in the top of my back, which tumbled from a rock, smashing my phone screen to smithereens).
When Dad, Clive and the boys arrived, I took a look at Dad's map and confidently assured them that, although the rest of the climb was significantly steeper, the top wasn't very far away.
This turned out to be a complete lie. We still had a long way to go, compounded by the fact that we couldn't see where we were headed due to thick fog. I kept hoping that the ghostly peaks I could see in the far distance were in fact clouds. But they weren't...they were ghostly peaks.
Eventually I made it to the top, where I force fed myself half a vegan roll. It was gross, but I knew from experience that I can hit the wall suddenly if I'm not careful. Thus far I'd only had two vegan snack balls and a lot of water since about 8am. And it was now after 3.30pm.
After waiting for a while, I finally heard some voices so headed back down the Moraine a few metres to see where they were coming from. There I found Dad, Evan and Liam huddled under an overhang to avoid the drizzle. 'You realize you're about 30 metres from the top?' I said.
Turns out they had no idea. 'Is it flat?' asked Evan.
'Completely,' I said. He breathed a sigh of relief.
Once everyone had moved up to the saddle, I gave Dad the other half of my vegan roll and ordered him to eat. He took one bite and said 'I can't eat this'. It was so dry and he was so tired that he couldn't even face a couple of mouthfuls. So I gave him a handful of nuts with a few cranberries thrown in and we set off again. I was getting pretty cold by this stage, so may have been a bit too eager to move on!
The track from the saddle was a fairly gentle gradient, so we set off at a good pace towards Lake Cygnus, our destination for the night. Because it was really foggy, I didn't want anyone walking by themselves so I turned around to see where dad had got to. What I saw was a bit alarming - he had already dropped back 100m, and was having trouble stepping up even shoe-box height steps.
So I dumped my pack and went back to help him, force feeding him as many vegan snack balls as I could get my hands on. It was getting pretty cold at this point so we stopped again not far down the road so Dad could get his gloves on and I could transfer a bit of his gear to my pack. Fortunately the 2.7km from the saddle to Lake Cygnus isn't that hard, and we eventually made it to our campsite at about 5.30pm. I quickly got the Jetboil going and made us a cup of tea. Unfortunately I had forgotten sugar - in fact had nothing sweet of any kind - so the boys donated me some sweetened condensed milk, which they assured me was vegan**. All I had to offer dad in the way of food before dinner was some Ryvitas and peanut butter, which were at least salty. But not salty enough - within quarter of an hour he was in agony with thigh cramps. Fortunately - again - the boys came to the rescue when Liam produced some Gastrolyte. And by dinner time - vegan Marakesh curry, admittedly delicious - dad was feeling better.
While I can't blame Dad's woes entirely on a vegan diet - he's always been bad at eating early and consistently on hikes - the entire lack of easily digested, high-energy snacks such as jelly snakes and chocolate didn't help. Nor did the totally inedible falafel roll (to make matters worse, I had to carry out the remaining roll and a half, as I couldn't chuck them in the bin!)
We also had nothing delicious to look forward to - no chocolate or hot chocolate, no custard desserts, no cup-a-soups, no honey for our tea, no lollies. I'd simply forgotten how important these things are to your enjoyment of multi-day hikes. More than almost any other time in your life, you have absolutely earned them. And they taste beyond amazing, surround by the clearest air imaginable, stunning mountains and a deep brown lake.
Talk about rookie-vegan error.
*I really did have an Aunty Bob. When she died, she left my mum a small inheritance, with which she bought the Aunty Bob Memorial Coffee Maker.
**Yes, I know it's not vegan. But by this stage I had rescinded my veganism on the basis that it's stupid. This exchange also prompted a discussion about the Game Changers, which Liam amusingly described 'an infomercial'.
Tuesday, 11 February 2020
Today I made bolognese sauce with Italian-flavoured TVP.
This was the almost instantaneous result for both Dani and me.
Aardvark was not impressed.
Monday, 10 February 2020
Today is the 10th day of my temporary veganism.
Actually I probably should stop saying 'vegan'. The more I read about veganism, the more I realise that it is much more of a dogma than a diet. I guess I always suspected that - after all, there seems to be to be no reason why, for example, vegans can't eat genuine free range eggs, or honey (more on that in a future post).
So I guess I will stick to the slightly misleading term 'plant-based diet'.
So. The biggest problems for me on my plant-based diet continues to be constipation. And the Vinternet continues to insist that this is because my gut is adapting to the 'healthier' diet, but I am fairly certain it's because I am eating highly processed plant proteins. The only reference to this phenomenon I could find was on the website of a company that sold plant-based protein supplements. Their solution was, naturally, to buy their products, not the inferior products of their competitors, which often contain milk-based proteins - the real source of the problem.
Except I haven't been eating milk-based proteins...
(Another vegan website suggested I should eat more 'good' fats in order to 'lubricate' my poo. Which is interesting because I always thought fat was morally neutral. And excess fat in the faeces is actually a medical condition...)
Still on the subject of plant protein, I had a veggie burger last night which tasted pretty much exactly like a beef burger, except nicer:
Full disclosure: my burger didn't look as good as the one on the packet, but it was still pretty nice. And it didn't have that slightly greasy aftertaste that beef burgers often do. The only slight quibble I have with this burger is that one of the ingredients is listed as 'vegan egg replacement', without further elucidation. Given how nice the burger tasted, it's probably code for 'egg'.
Less successful was the 'dairy free pizza topper' I bought (at great expense) from my local IGA:
I first tried it out on my roast potato, along with various toppings. While this has been my favourite vegan meal so far (possibly due to the large amounts of garlic fake-butter I added to it), the vegan cheese added very little (if anything) to the taste. The only way I could get it to melt was to microwave my whole meal, and even then it was a bit clumpy.
I guess that should have tipped me off that my plant-based pizza I made on Friday night wasn't going to be a total winner. As I generally prefer vegetarian pizza, the only difference to my usual pizza topping was - of course - the cheese.
It went crunchy (so much for its 'superior melting results'!) As you can see from the photo, it looks like I have sprinkled the pizza with shredded coconut. Which I may as well have done, given that the main ingredient was - as with so many vegan products - coconut oil (presumably a 'good' fat, even though it is mainly saturated).
Despite the crunchiness, the pizza was still edible. So I ate it. Well half of it anyway. In future I think I will avoid fake cheese, as it will only disappoint.
At the other end of spectrum was this delicious vegan chocolate tart that Dani had left over from her yoga retreat* on the weekend:
Again, it was heavily coconut dependent, but it was sensational. It didn't even need the dollop of cream Dani claimed would really set it off.
To summarize, I have written a little poem about my experiences thus far:
Being a vegan
Is dull but easy
Except for the cheese
Which isn't cheesy.
*Dani's yoga retreats are a gold mine of fad
dietary requirements. On any given retreat, she has to cater for
everything from low sugar, low carb to non-dairy low fructose to gluten
free vegans (I believe that tart was also gluten free!) And she does an
amazing job. So amazing in fact that we are often left with a fridge
full of faddish treats for a week or so afterwards.
Wednesday, 5 February 2020
I've been following a vegan - sorry, plant based - diet for four days now. I still haven't found the dietary part of this even vaguely difficult, possibly because - besides removing dairy products and eggs - my diet hasn't changed a great deal. Although I wasn't a vegetarian before vegan month, my household had recently stopped eating all meat other than fish. Prior to that, we ate chicken maybe once or twice a week, and red meat maybe once a month. As I don't particularly like chicken, I couldn't have cared less about the change, especially as I could go to my parents' house for dinner when I felt like spaghetti bolognese.
As any rate, becoming vegan hasn't really meant adding anything to my diet, it has simply meant taking some things away - namely milk, cheese, eggs and the occasional tin of tuna. So it's quite interesting that the biggest dietary issue I have noticed in the last four days is gas, bloating and constipation.
I consulted vegans of the internet about this (who, for simplicity I will call the vinternet), and they claimed that because I have switched from three meals of KFC a day to a plant based diet*, my gut is simply ill-equipped to process all the vegetable fibre I am now eating, and I simply have to wait until it is repopulated with good bacteria.
Wait, what? All the extra fibre is making me constipated?
I'm calling bullshit on this. I ate a lot of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains on my non-vegan diet. The only thing that I have added to my diet is a few 'vegan friendly' protein products and snacks, such as vegan sausages and fake prawns.
One of the vegan snacks I have been eating comes from a company called 'Tom and Luke'. As my two brothers' names are Tom and Luke, I thought this would be a fun product to try.
And they are quite tasty. But I suspect they are a prime culprit in causing my gassy constipation.
It's interesting that one of the claims about veganism is that it's a 'whole foods' (and therefore healthier) diet. But since becoming vegan I have eaten a lot more processed foods that I did as a non-vegan. My dairy substitutes - almond milk and soy milk - are heavily processed, as is my vegan margarine (which is actually very tasty). Any any concentrated protein source I am eating is highly processed - and, I suspect, playing havoc which my digestive system.
One of the claims of The Game Changers is that we don't need as much protein as we think we do. While I am sure that's true for a lot of people, we still need some - more, I suspect, than you can get just by eating vegetables in their whole-food form. You would have to eat a LOT of chick peas to get enough protein for your requirements as a power athlete. Which is one of the many things that the Game Changers glosses over - how many supplements are these profiled athletes taking to meet their protein and other nutritional needs? Oh that's right, they're just eating lettuce...
Anyway, I have regrettably given up Tom and Luke snack balls, and resigned myself to just having a protein deficient month**. It will interesting to see how I go with my weight training, which I am currently doing twice a week, along with regular running training and yoga. I suspect - although I am not sure - that my diet has been a bit lower in fat than it was before, due to lack of delicious cheese. But it has definitely been higher in sugar, which I have been adding to my tea and coffee in order to make it taste half-decent with soy milk. Oh and I've been eating a couple of pieces of vegan chocolate after dinner. And putting jam on my toast. At this stage, weight loss seems unlikely...
*of course I haven't done this, but in The Game Changers model, everyone who switches to a plant-based diet does so from heavy junk food diet, i.e. 'the standard American diet.' In this way, the 'healthy user bias' is exacerbated, and all health benefits are attributed to a vegan diet, rather than a generally health diet.
**In the interests of 'science' I will take a careful food diary next week and get a dietitian friend to analyse it.
Monday, 3 February 2020
One of the (many) problems with being vegan is that most bread isn't. At least according to my 'research', which admittedly was limited to reading the list of ingredients on supermarket bread (most contain some kind of milk product).
No matter - I figured that for vegan month, I would make my own bread. I grew up on homemade bread - my mum used to bake our own bread for many years (roughly coinciding with the years my father went through his food Nazi/Pritikin phase). Bread making techniques must have improved since then, or maybe commercially available yeast is of a better quality, because the thing I remember about my childhood sandwiches is that they were very hard to chew*. In fact my sister and I referred to it as 'brick bread'. This didn't bother my friend Louise, who lived up the road on a diet of white bread and belgium sandwiches (with tomato sauce, naturally). She also got to eat Sao biscuits with margarine and Vegemite after school, which explains why I was such a frequent after-school visitor. I was SO jealous of her sandwiches - but in a wonderful piece of serendipity, she was jealous of MY sandwiches. So we often swapped (sorry Mum).
Luckily this early experience of home baked bread didn't put me off for life, and I have frequently made my own ever since. In fact I used to make it all the time when I first moved into this house, because Dani had a bread maker (and I am lazy). Unfortunately, the bread maker bounced itself off the bench one day and broke; however I am quite capable of making bread without it.
In another happy coincidence, my friend Rob - who was recently visiting from Japan - is adept at making sourdough bread. Inspired by his delicious loaves, Cathy also took it upon herself to start baking her own sourdough - and because she is a consummate semi-professional, she ordered a bunch of sourdough making accessories online. It also turns out my brother Tom is making his own sourdough, so in keeping with the faddish theme of the month, I figured I should start too.
For those unfamiliar with how to make sourdough, check out Cathy's blog for an entertaining description of her efforts.
For some reason I decided that I would make a rye sourdough starter - partly because I had some rye flour in the cupboard I wanted to use up. It smelled a little funky, but I figured that would only help the process, as the sourdough needs to ferment on naturally occurring yeasts and bacteria (I think).
Turns out I was wrong. The starter - whom I named Ken - stank so badly that I had to put him outside during the day, as I could smell him from one end of the house to the other.
'Surely it's not supposed to smell that bad', said Dani, who claimed that Ken smelled like off Christmas ham.
I consulted Google, and sure enough, Ken was not just dead - he was decomposing. I blame the flour, which according to my mum had probably gone 'rancid' (i.e. off).
So I started again, this time with a nice clean glass jar and some new organic rye flout. I renamed my starter Kenny, at Rob's suggestion (so that no matter how many times I killed him, he would always come back to life).
After almost a week, Kenny smells quite pleasant, but he isn't really bubbling the way he is supposed to. In fact he was bubbling more on day 2 than he is now. We have had a couple of really hot days in the interim, so maybe I inadvertently killed Kenny. Again.
At any rate, I will give him another couple of days before I turf him out then bring him back to life. And in the meantime, I will resort to good old fashioned yeast.
*My mum makes delicious bread these days, so I don't think it was her technique. Or perhaps she was just making some Pritikin oil-and-yeast free bread at the time!
Sunday, 2 February 2020
A couple of weeks ago, my mum, dad and I watched a movie called The Game Changers on Netflix, after it was recommended to us by a couple of different people.
Well. After watching about two minutes it became immediately apparent that this was a vegan propaganda film. Only they don't call it veganism in the film, they call it 'plant based eating'.
The guy who made this film is a former UFC fighter (we're supposed to know what that is) who, after thousands of undocumented hours of 'research', concluded that a 'plant based diet' was the optimum diet for athletic performance. Yep, for EVERYONE. In fact, that's the tag line of the film.
And here's another one:
"A UFC fighter's world is turned upside down when he discovers an elite group of world-renowned athletes* and scientists who prove that
everything he had been taught about protein was a lie."
Anyway, this 'UFC fighter' goes on to 'prove' that all the world's health problems and environmental ills will be cured if everyone adopts a vegan - sorry, plant based - diet. He does this using a series of one trial generalisations, cherry-picked data, flashy graphics and meaningless comparisons. My absolute favourite was where some guy in a white coat got three (3) meat eaters to eat a burrito, took their blood, put it through a centrifuge then showed them the resulting separated plasma. "Look!" said white coat. "When you eat meat, your blood is cloudy!"
"SO FUCKING WHAT!" I screamed at the TV, much to the annoyance of my mum and dad; and probably my brother who was trying to sleep in the room next door the night before his first marathon. (Sorry Tom, but you should have known better than to recommend I watch a movie about veganism ;)
Another favourite moment was when they flashed a picture of a lettuce leaf on screen, and proudly proclaimed that it has more anti-oxidants than the sad-looking piece of salmon next to it. The point being, presumably, that we could all survive on a diet of lettuce alone. Well that's what I concluded...
Naturally, they never compare a vegetarian (as opposed to vegan) diet to an omnivorous diet - presumably because dairy products give you cancer (according to their world-renowned scientists).
(Incidentally, I asked Cathy, who is a vegetarian, whether she had seen the movie and she said that she hadn't...but that she had heard her husband heaping scorn on it as he watched, while she was cooking their cancer-causing vegetarian dinner.)
After that glowing review, it may come as a surprise to my regular reader(s) that I have become a vegan.
For one month.
Let me explain:
Periodically, I like to prove to myself that I am not an alcoholic by not drinking for the month of February. I refer to this as 'FebFast', even though I don't do any of fundraising for charity that is usually associated with the name. Mum and dad do it too.
After watching The Game Changers, dad and I decided that we would do a week long experiment, during which we would become vegan, then see if our Park Run times improved. Only we couldn't agree on a particular week; and even by the low standards of 'The Game Changers', seven days didn't really seem like long enough to extract a meaningful result. So we decided that we would do it as part of FebFast.
Unfortunately, the non-drinking part still applies, which means I am currently a teetotalling vegan.
Vegan month also fits in well with a concept for a book that I've had for a while. Called 'The Year of Living Faddishly', the idea is that each month for 12 months, I take on a new fad - not necessarily dietary, although some months will undoubtedly be - and write about it. I have a few ideas for subsequent months, but I'm not committing to anything until I see how February goes.
After two days, my assessment is that being a vegan is really easy, but also expensive (confirming my suspicion that its a first world novelty). And boring - although that may be the compounding factor of no alcohol.
Adding to the questionable 'accuracy' of this experiment is that it was really muggy at the Park Run yesterday - the culmination of a really hot, sweaty week - which meant that both dad and I ran personal worst times for 5km. So any 'improvement' is probably going to be due to better weather conditions, not diet.
But hey, that's entirely in keeping with The Game Changers, which failed to account for any individual factors or other variables when making its sweeping claims.
I'll try to post updates every couple of days, or for as long as I can stand it.
*consisting of an incredibly short-limbed 'world's strongest man', and some female track athlete I'd never heard of. They also quote Jackie Chan, who isn't a vegan (or even a vegetarian).
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
About a year and a half ago, an orienteering friend got in contact with me to ask if I would design a logo for the Australasian Rogaining Championships, to be held in at the end of 2019. I reluctantly agreed, knowing that this would inevitably involve not only designing the logo but flyers, posters and various other graphic elements that go along with it. (Much as I like designing things, I'm not a graphic designer and know how time consuming this can be.) We negotiated my usual fee - an entry to the competition for me and my rogaining partner - and I set to work designing this:
The event was to be held around St Helens and the Bay of Fires (including Binalong Bay). The logo is supposed to represent Eddystone Point lighthouse, the easternmost point in Tasmania, while the dark-to-light is supposed to represent the all-night aspect of 24-hour rogaining. (The logo is actually supposed to read 'Binalong Day and Night' but for some reason I can't find that version).
After designing the logo and various other bits and pieces I promptly forgot about it for a year, at which point I did a shorter (6 hour) rogaine with my usual rogaining partner and landlord/housemate Paul. It was pretty fun and we started discussing the 24 hour championship event and how we might approach it. Unfortunately our views diverged on whether or not to stay out all night - hardcore rogainers all do this, however a) I am definitely not hardcore and b) I really like sleep! So eventually Paul and I decided we would try to find more compatible partners.
By the beginning of October, I still didn't have a partner but I happened to mention the event to my good friend Tracy at the Oceania Orienteering Championships. I told Tracy I was thinking of asking another friend of ours, Belinda, who lives in Canberra and is an orienteering and uni friend of mine from way back. Tracy (foolishly) decided that it sounded like such a great adventure that she wanted to be a part of it, so if Belinda agreed, she was in!
Of course Belinda agreed. Who could resist a girls' weekend where the more traditional cocktails and pedicures are replaced by sports gels and black toenails? No sane woman that's for sure.
Luckily the nice folk at Rogaining Tasmania extended my free entry to include a third partner, and we were away. Here we are at the start of the event:
As you can see it was quite cold early in the morning, but it warmed up enough to make for pleasant running and walking. However it got extremely cold overnight - but more on that later.
Unlike a traditional orienteering event, where you do a set sequence of controls in a particular order, rogaining allows you to plan a route and get as many or as few controls as you desire. Obviously the more controls you get, the more points you acquire. However not all controls are worth equal points - generally the more remote and navigationally challenging controls are worth more points - up to a maximum of 100.
As the girls and I are all confident navigators, we decided to go for big point controls, before heading to the All Night Cafe (a food and rest stop set up by the organisers) somewhere in the middle of the map. We hoped to get there just after dark, which is in fact what happened (after dropping a few planned controls from our route as we got more and more tired - this always happens in a rogaine and part of your strategy is to plan for cut-off points).
By total coincidence - or perhaps not, as we are such similar orienteers - Cathy and I planned an almost identical route with our partners (which we didn't discover until after the event). The pink line represents where we ended up going - the map scale is 1:25 000.
Cathy was competing with her husband Jon, while also keeping an eye out for her kids Zali and Jett, who were also competing as a team in the Under 23 category. Cathy and Jon caught up with Zali and Jett at the ANC, leaving about 10 minutes before we arrived. It was still quite a long way back to the Hash House (where we would sleep before heading out again the next day) so Zali and Jett planned to head more or less directly back, while Cathy and Jon bravely planned to get some controls in the forest.
Tracy, Belinda and I also planned to get some more controls in the dark on the way back, our way illuminated by three Ayup head torches. However the controls we had chosen were either in paddocks or close to roads, with minimal bush navigation required.
After successfully finding our four paddock controls, we started heading back along a fairly major gravel road towards the HH. Just as we were approaching the turn-off for what we had planned to be our final control for the night, we spotted some lights by the side of the road. On closer inspection, it turned out to be Zali and Jett.
It was 11pm at this point and we still had another three quarters of an hour to go* to get back to the hash house, so it was no wonder that the kids were in a bit of a slump (they are only 14 and 16). So I suggested they come with us to get the next control (worth 60 points) and possibly a 30 pointer closer to the HH. They readily agreed, quickly perked up, and in the manner of fit young people were quickly moving at a much more sprightly pace than the rest of us.
We got the 60 pointer with no dramas and discussed the possibility of the 30 pointer. Belinda was against it - she was feeling pretty weary and he knee was giving her grief. But I was convinced it would quicker to get the 30 pointer and cut through the bush, rather than go the long way around the track.
BIG FUCKING MISTAKE.
It was a nightmare. Although I managed to get us down a steep descent from the control to a creek as planned, the broad gully beyond that - shown as open forest on the map - was thick as pig shit. It seemed to take us hours to get through this area of forest to the main road, to the extent that I was convinced I had somehow gotten us lost, despite there being nowhere else to go. Eventually, after many contributions to the swear jar, I came across a power pole which Jett recognised as one he had seen that morning leading down to the road. I sent the kids off towards the HH, confident they would be fine from there on in, and waited for Belinda, who was in a world of pain with her knee.
In the end we got into the Hash Hash house at about 12.30 - thirteen and half hours after we started. As it turned out, Cathy had Jon had reached control 39 fifteen minutes after us and arrived back at the HH 15 minutes ahead, as they'd chosen a slightly better - though still steep and crappy - route.
After a very late dinner of pasta, fake cake and hot chocolate, the girls and I snuggled into our sleeping bags at about 1.15 am.
Six restless hours later it was time to get up and do it all again. Just as we were leaving - at around 7.15 - my father Greg and his partner David wandered into camp. 'Morning workers,' said Dad. Although I didn't have time to get the full story, it seemed that they'd gotten lost after dark and had to stay out all night - 'shivering for four hours', as David put it - until another team came by and pointed them in the right direction. Talk about hardcore!
Although we'd planned on covering about 15km on Sunday, Belinda's knee was still pretty sore, particularly going down hill, so after covering 50+ kilometres the previous day, we only managed a little over 10km. But it was a beautiful day and we had saved the nicest part of the map until last - an area known as Humbug Point, which stretches from Binalong to Georges Bay. Once we realised we weren't going to be able to cover a lot of ground we relaxed, chatted and took it easy, making it back to the HH with half an hour to spare - just behind Cathy and Jono, who'd had a similarly leisurely morning.
It was funny seeing the teams that day. We passed quite a few, and almost all of them had one partner who still seemed relatively fresh, while the second (or third) lagged some distance behind, totally stuffed - quite a contrast from the previous day where everyone was walking or running together. Indeed, Dad later told me he had become totally separated from David at one point when he lost his headlight in the scrub, only to be reunited 15 minutes later when David found him walking in totally the wrong direction up a track. Similarly, I saw my brother Tom for the first time on Sunday morning at a control on Humbug Point, calling out to his partner Nikita, who was nowhere to be seen (luckily she wasn't far behind). Rogaines are tough!
It was hard to tell the exact distance we covered, as GPS-enabled devices aren't allowed. Personally I think this is stupid, as they're only a navigational aid if you can't really navigate in the first place - and therefore aren't likely to do well. But those are the (dumb) rules. Tom managed to operate his GPS watch through the sealed black plastic bag, and Paul set Strava going on his iPhone before he sealed the bag (and still had 41% battery left at the end!) Next time I will do the same - however it will involve upgrading my phone as the current battery lasts about five minutes.
Here we are at the end of the race:
The dream team.
Cathy and Jon.
Jett and Zali winning the under 23 category.
Tom and Nikita looking happy to finish.
Greg and David, still managing a smile.
Paul and his partner Alan. So what of their all night effort? Well, they only ended up getting a few more points than Cathy and Jon, who had a good five hours sleep. Paul told me he started seeing other teams on the road at about 8am...only when they suddenly disappeared, he realised they were hallucinations. So I think I made the right call!
Overall it was a really fantastic experience and I think the girls have forgiven me now. It was great to have so many friends and family compete in the same event. I guess it's hard for some people to understand why you would want to put yourself through something like this, but it's the memories - including the memories of the crappy, freezing and painful bits - that make it all worth it. So despite swearing (literally) at midnight that I would never do it again, I have no doubt that I will.
*or so we thought. Turned out to be an hour and a half.
Sunday, 28 April 2019
When I was a youngster, many decades ago, I used to travel to 'the mainland' every year with my family to compete in the Australian 3-days Orienteering carnival. Back then it was a three day event, with an optional 'family relay' on Good Friday before the competition proper commenced. Then somewhere along the way it morphed into a four day competition (for elite competitors) and a 3-day-plus sprint event for everyone else.
Turns out that this is a bit of an organisational nightmare, as I discovered while one of the organisers of the Easter 3-day carnival last year in Tasmania. So it was refreshing to see this year's organisers revert to a traditional three day format for all competitors, with an optional relay on Good Friday (including a mixed elite sprint relay, which I took part in*).
When I was a junior I had a pretty good record in Easter 3-day carnivals - I won or placed in most of the years in which I competed. Not so for the Australian championships, a one-day race held six months after the Easter carnival. After winning my first Aus champs aged 12, it took me another 6 years to win another one! Sadly, this trend seems to have continued - after a terrible run at last year's Australian champs in South Australia (in which I didn't even place), I managed to hold off some fierce competition from Cathy and another competitor from NSW to win this year's 3-day overall. Yay. As an added bonus, I didn't even snap my Achilles tendon, which had flared up a couple of weeks before the carnival. Double yay.
What did I win for my impressive effort, I hear you ask? Money...cars...or even a brand new fridge-freezer? Well, no, but I won something almost as good....a fridge magnet!
Here I am with my 3rd place magnet from the Australian sprint championships, held the following weekend:
As usual with orienteering trips, the peripheral activities proved to be just as much fun as the orienteering. The first such activity was a trip to Rottnest Island last Tuesday, with a large contingent of Tasmanian orienteers. I'd never been before, and was happy to discover that it was well worth the wait.
After catching an early ferry, we picked up our super crappy-but-functional bikes and headed off for a circumnavigation of the island. We certainly didn't set any Strava segment records, but that was OK as we were all pretty weary from the 3-days. It was a pretty warm day, so even our leisurely riding pace proved to be sweaty work. After entertaining an audience of quokkas (and freaky large black skinks, which weren't quite so cute) at lunch time, we rolled on back towards the main town, stopping off for a swim on the way. It was lovely.
Photos to come!
*I ran in an elite mixed relay team (two men, two women) for the Tasmanian Foresters national league team. Thanks to solid runs from our first runner Zoe, and exceptional runs from our 2nd and 3rd leg runners Brodie and Karl, and entirely no thanks to me, we finished a creditable 4th.
Friday, 25 January 2019
I am staying in St Helens at the moment, having a bit of a writer's retreat before an orienteering training camp on the weekend.
I've also been checking out orienteering terrain for the 2020 Australian Orienteering Championships, where I am 'controller' (aka event advisor) for the long distance championships. My dad is the course setter, so we've been looking at a few areas, trying to decide exactly where we'd like to hold the race (not that it's entirely up to us!)
There are a lot of logistics involved: not only do we have to identify suitable terrain, we need to figure out a place to park 400 cars (and ensure that they can drive in on the access road), create an 'assembly area' - basically a big open space near the finish chute where everyone hangs out before and after they run. And figure out a way to set easy courses for young kids/novice orienteers, which ideally involves plenty of tracks and/or fences. Not always easy!
It has also been really hot, so wandering around the bush in 30+ degree heat has been quite exhausting. Especially as some of the terrain we have been looking at is quite steep.
Despite this, we think we might have found the right area.
Here are some photos of the local terrain, provided by my friend Rob who is making a couple of maps around St Helens at the moment, including the map for the Australian middle distance championships and (maybe) the long champs area.
Wednesday, 2 January 2019
In an unprecedented second-adventure-in-a-week fun fest, I've just returned from the Falls Festival in Marion Bay. It was my second outing to the Falls Festival - my first was three years ago - and this time I was lucky enough to be able to go along with my niece and nephew and their mum (Jo W) and my wonderful long-time orienteering friend Jo M, plus her sister Sara and nephew Tom. Last time it was bone-chillingly windy on the first day, but this time we had fantastic weather. In fact my highlight of the festival was the gorgeous swim in Marion Bay. But more on that later.
Jo W is currently babysitting her mum's campervan, which - combined with her two kids and Jesus Loves You stickers - provided the perfect foil for smuggling in a whole lot of drugs and alcohol.
OK not really, but it could have. As it was we had to put up with $11 beers, but at least we didn't end up sunburned to a crisp and puking up our fish and chips in the dirt like so many of our fellow festival-goers.
We arrived fairly early on the first day, but still too late to get into the family camping area. However the 'overflow' family area was still pretty good, and relatively quiet if you didn't count the wafting doof-doof from late night DJs (which is infinitely preferable to drunk idiots). After setting up our tents, we headed to the main village area to get our wrist bands and check out the sights. Most of the bands we were looking forward to seeing were on the next day, but we discovered some unexpected gems in DMA's, Bishop Briggs and Chvrches.
Festival fashion has moved on in the last three years. This year's uniform (for girls anyway) was short shorts (usually denim), a tank top or boob tube, Doc Martins or Blundstones, and sunburn. For older (but not as old as me!) ladies there was the option of tight fitting see-through tights (usually lacy and/or flared) and a g-string. On top, a revealing top and plenty of boob/side boob. Bum hanging out the bottom of shorts was also popular.
For guys, a kooky shirt involving flamingos or themed (particularly 80s) look seemed to be the go.
(I wore none of these. However, at about 6pm on New Year's Eve I changed into a green jumper that was slightly see-through, under which I wore a sports bra. And got sunburned!)
After long day in the sun, I headed to bed about 11.30. Jo M took one for the team and stayed up with Leo to see Anderson .Paak, heading home about 1am.
The next I got up reasonably early and went to a free yoga class in the Village - which was another one of my Falls highlights. There were around 50 people at the class, most on whom only had towels to practice on (unlike me, as I keep a yoga mat in my car ;) and the teacher was great - a perfect way to start New Year's Eve.
Then it was down to the beach for a swim at Marion Bay with the rest of the gang. The walk was reasonably long but more than worth it - the sea was amazingly warm and after swimming out for a while we could stand up on a sandbar 50m from the shore and catch wave after wave. We would have stayed longer but the afternoon was packed with great bands, including Leo's highlight, Ziggy Alberts, who was kicking off the afternoon.
I was particularly looking forward to seeing First Aid Kit, a Swedish sister duo that I've been following for a while. I last saw them in LA, so it was great to catch them in Australia, even though they don't really seem to have the following here that you'd expect (at least among the younger Falls demographic). Apart from a small misstep, where they sang a fairly angry 'anti-rape culture' song (which always makes me uncomfortable with its divisive victim-y and blame-y stance), they were great, particularly when they sang Emmy Lou, one of my favourites.
Following on from First Aid Kit was Amy Shark (meh...however Anabelle loved her), after which we took a break back at the tents and got ready for the evening performance. Jo M brought out the wigs, transforming Anabelle (and briefly, Leo) into L'il Lilac Perry and her nephew Tom into See You Jimmy.
We then headed back to the main stage for Vance Joy, who played the evening-to-night set. His music is so positive and he's such a great performer, it was a real highlight to get up close to the front with Anabelle and Jo M. Midway through that set, Jo W (again, taking one for the team) took Leo to the smaller stage to see a US rapper called Juice Wrld (artist of the year on numerous online platforms, according to Leo). After Vance had finished, Anabelle and I headed over there too, in order to experience pretty much the worst live act I have ever seen. (Evidently rappers are contractually obliged to include the lyric 'I don't give a fuck' in every live performance, ad infinitum). Couple that with a whole lot of gunfire sound effects and Juice Wrld's random friend constantly telling the lighting guys to turn on the audience light so Juice could see all his mothafucking fans...you get the idea.
After that ordeal, we headed back the main arena for some overpriced drinks and hot chips, while waiting for Flight Facilities (double meh) to finish and Hilltop Hoods to come on.
I've always really like Hilltop Hoods, even though it turned out I didn't know many of their songs! But they were full of energy and fantastic live performers, making it a perfect way to bring in the New Year.
Saturday, 29 December 2018
Well it has been a long time between blogs - from my birthday to Christmas in fact. Let's hope that next year isn't quite so thin on the ground vis-a-vis blog-worthy adventures.
To kick of my not-quite-new-year's-resolution to blog more often, here are some photos of the post-Christmas camping trip to Cockle Creek I did with mum, dad, my brother and his girlfriend and my niece and nephew.
I've been to Cockle Creek once before, and my memories of it are of a lovely idyllic bay with quiet, peaceful campsites. So you can imagine my surprise as we approached the National Park and passed through row after row of crowded, noisy and jetski infested campsites. Hmm, I thought to myself. Fortunately, once we had passed through the throngs of generators and power boats, we arrived at the National Park entrance and a relatively quieter camping area.
After setting up our tents (more on that later) we headed to the beach to do some ineffectual fishing, followed by a wander up to the whale sculpture on the point.
The next day we woke up to find mum and dad's tent looking a little worse for wear. Unfortunately they had forgotten one of the three poles required to erect their tent, and the temporary repair job (attaching a stick to to the shorter annex pole so that it could be used as a cross pole) was no longer functioning. Their tent looked like the sorry result of completely incompetent campers and a night on the goon bag.
Since it was a nice day, we left mum to deal with the embarrassment of the tent (i.e. ignore it) while the rest of us walked into South Cape Bay. Having done the walk four times already, mum decided that her time would be better spent reading and relaxing by the beach.
The walk to South Cape Bay was fairly easy, and we were there in around an hour and a half. We passed a lot of people on the way carrying surfboards, which seemed fairly game, particularly given the wildness of the beach. Then many bluebottle jellyfish was a further disincentive to swim.
It was pretty hot by the time we headed back to camp, so Leo, Anabelle and I stopped off at a lovely swimming spot we had seen on the way in. After the initial cold water shock, it was actually pretty nice in the water, and we splashed around for a while under the bridge, where a strong tidal pull carried us out into the bay.
After out swim, it was time to take the inflatable out into the bay for some less ineffectual fishing. The boat was pretty small, so there was really only room for me, dad, Anabelle and Leo - particularly as it had a slow leak that necessitated a regular top up.
Anabelle quickly established herself as a pro - much to her brother's annoyance - hauling in a cockey salmon that was too small to keep. But there were plenty more fish in the sea and soon both Anabelle and Leo had caught enough fish each for a decent feed. Unfortunately - perhaps lacking confidence? - we had neglected to bring a bucket with us for the fish, so they were left to swim around in the shallow water in the bottom of the boat, which freak Leo out more than a little.
The landlubbers were very impressed with our haul, and fortunately took care of all the gross stuff like gutting and scaling the fish.
After delicious dinner of fish curry, we still had some time for frisbee on the beach before calling it a night.
Despite the windy night and repeat tent collapse, it was a great trip.
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