The APC Rally officially begins tomorrow from Wisemans Ferry in Australia, but for me it really began on Wednesday.
Frantically packing, checking and rechecking that I had everything I need, then rushing to the airport only to sit for an hour on a gigantic airplane next to a fat guy that reeked of rotting fish while the weight planners for the airline figured out how to make the plane safe to take off.
My suggestion to the illustrious weight planners was to remove Mr. Dead Fish, but that suggestion was ignored. Instead they made the last two rows move forward. And somehow that made the plane safe to take off.
Three days later, we landed, my riding buddy Dan met me at Sydney airport, and we immediately went to pick up my rally bike. I’d been in touch with the rental company oh… I’d say about a billion times… pestering them to make sure the brake pads were new, the tires were new, the tubes were new, the bearings were good, ect. Every response was an enthusiastic “OK! No Problem, Mate!”
When I arrived to pick up my trusty ride, I learned my first bit of Australian slang. “Ok! No Problem, Mate!” actually means, “Fuck off. I ain’t gonna do it, mate.”
After a bunch of haggling, I left with my trusty ride, complete with new tires, new brake pads, and questionable wheel bearings. A few hours of general bullshitting and bike loading followed. My trusty ride, a nice, beat-to-hell-already Suzuki DR650 was transformed from a regular beater bike to an APC Rally worthy beater bike.
Proudly Flying The Flag of the Kingdom of Rhode Island
I learned from the rally organizer that I am the first American to participate in the APC Rally, which is kind of cool. Hopefully I will be the first American to complete the APC Rally as well.
We are off for the ride of a lifetime tomorrow at oh-dark-thirty, which is Australian slang for too fucking early! really looking forward to adding to my Aussie vocabulary.
My personal SPOT Tracker Page: Frenchy’s APC Rally SPOT Page
The Entire Rally SPOT Tracker Page: APC Rally SPOT Page
Updates will be sporadic to non-existent. My plan is to enjoy every minute of this ride, then write up a bunch of lies about how great I rode throughout when I am safely back at Blogger Central.
The Official ‘Follow Frenchy Through the APC Rally’ can be found here:
As of today, my training for the Australian Property Centre Rally has officially ended. Tomorrow at 10 PM I will board United Flight 839 and be magically teleported to the land down under. As soon as I land, things kick into high gear; I have a bike I have never even seen before to pick up and get ready to ride on this 4500 mile odyssey into the back of beyond. My tent, sleeping bag and camping gear is packed, my riding gear is getting the final sort out Wednesday before my flight.
Of course I didn’t write as much about my training as maybe I should have, but one thing I’ve learned on my journey from lard ass to hard ass is there is really nothing more boring than having to hear about what someone did for a workout.
“I did 15 push ups, then deadlifted 195…”
And that, along with riding dunes and deserts as much as possible is what the bulk of my training has been.
I did hit my target running mileage goal today, a number so ridiculously high that it only existed in my head all these months. I never dared to mention it to anyone, because I never believed I’d even come close.
79,925 calories is the equivalent of 522 Guinness Stouts. No wonder I was such a fatass before!
Sleeping Beauty and I spent my last week of training back at Pismo Beach, doing some dune bashing.
The only thing I haven’t trained for is mud riding, because it isn’t mudslide season in California. I’ll just figure that out when I get to it I suppose.
I received the official rally route the other day, and it’s a jaw dropper! I think not really knowing where I would be riding has been a blessing, because when I finally saw the route on the map… well, let’s just say it’s a little bit intimidating.
But I am up for intimidating. And I am ready to rally! I think I’ve prepared myself physically and mentally as much as possible, considering what a busy year this has already been.
Now, all that stands between me and my Tony Kirby completion medal is 4500 miles of dirt, sand, snow, mud, kangaroos and whatever else the devious rally planners have devised for us.
Bring it on!
That and a giant ocean are all that stand between me and the beginning of the Australian Property Centre Rally. I’ve been training nonstop since September for this rally, and I have to say at the tender age of 42, I am in the best shape of my life.
According to the Nike+ running app I use, I’ve run 510 miles since September, and I even started swimming (I like swimming slightly less than running, which I hate.) I’ve attended hundreds of Crossfit classes, lifted lots of heavy things up over my head, and completed four half marathons and two Warrior Dashes.
I’ve strained and sprained and bruised and broken body parts, but on the upside, I’ve dropped 30 pounds, and managed to keep it off. I don’t huff and puff going up stairs anymore, I can think much more clearly (that’s actually debatable) and overall, I’m in better spirits than I have been in years.
I’m at the point now where if I don’t work out, I feel bad, a statement that one year ago I never would have believed I would make. Now I am one of those guys I used to detest… which isn’t really a bad thing.
So, the rally may be forty-one days away, but it’s already benefited me in more ways than I could’ve imagined when I started preparing for it.
Part of the reason for the large gap between updates is a personal one. After a six year courtship where I’ve dragged her all over the planet; on motorcycles, planes, trains, boats and sometimes on foot, I married Fiona – my best friend in the entire world – on May 11th. The month leading up to the wedding was probably the most stressful time in my life; with ridiculous… err, I mean important decisions about flowers, cakes, and a whole host of other details happening on a day-by-day, even minute-by-minute basis.
The Happy Couple
You’re Damn Right I Do!!
Me and My Best Men
Newly anointed by the Universal Life Church (dot com) Fiona’s brother Conor married us, my two sons Alex and Camden were my best men, my parents and a host of friends and family celebrated the day with us. Without a doubt, for me, May 11th was indeed the Best Day Ever.
After surviving the royal wedding and subsequent honeymoon more or less intact, getting through 4500 miles of dirt riding should be a piece of cake!
Every chance I get between now and my departure date (July 25th… because it takes THREE DAYS to fly from Los Angeles to Australia!) will be spent in the desert, riding Mid-Wife Crisis, my trusty Honda 450X.
I’ve logged quite a few miles on this bike, not enough to say I am actually the shit at off road riding, but enough to say I’m not shit. I still have a LOT to learn, but at this point, much of that learning will have to be on-the-job training. For the actual Rally I’ll be riding a DR650, a machine which is a bit heavier than a CRF 450x and not nearly as dirt bikey. At least with all the time I’ve put in on Mid-Wife Crisis I will have some idea how to ride in the dirt with getting all dirty.
In February, I became a bona-fide ‘racer’ joining the US Desert Racing Series as a Senior One Beginner. The first two rounds I finished last and… last, but boy were those two rounds fun. Having never raced a motorcycle before, just being out on the trails pushing my admittedly small limits was a huge blast.
I can honestly say I love racing like a fat kid loves cake.
Marred by tragedy, USDR round three was a lot less fun than the first two.
On race day, I showed up to the site early, and was warmly greeted by my new racing family. The USDR racing series is like a family, it’s the only way I can describe it. If I have a question, five people answer it, no matter how dumb the question is. If I have a problem, someone will show me how to fix it, without making me feel dumb. For a brand new racer, this series is the perfect place to start.
There was no way to know how tight this day would draw the bonds of the US Desert Racing family.
I lined up in row seven with the other Senior One Beginners, listened to the pre-race rider briefing, shook hands with all my fellow S1B competitors, wished them luck, then waited for the green flag to fly.
When that flag flew, I got off to my customary awful start. I managed to stall the bike, and watched as the entire line charged ahead, leaving behind a huge dust cloud.
AAAnnnd They’re Off!! (Except Me Of Course)
Getting Mid-Wife Crisis re-fired, I sped into the cloud of dust to try and catch the tail end of the line.
Angry at stalling the stupid bike, I pushed myself hard, harder than ever before. Within a few minutes, I started closing the gap. I could see two riders, and I felt like if I really tried, pushed as hard as I could, I might be able to catch them. I was on a mission, taking risks I’d never taken before. With two crappy finishes under my belt, I’ve learned that a bad start equals a bad finish, and I was out for any place but last.
About two miles in, through the red mist of my determination I saw a few bikes stopped on the course. Paying more attention, I noticed there was also a rider down. Race mode off, I pulled over to see if I could help.
He was down, and not moving. This looked pretty bad. After directing race traffic around the downed rider, one rider sped ahead and I decided to head back (parallel to, but not on the course) to find a sweep rider or anyone with a radio to summons help.
When I didn’t find anyone and started getting lost, I turned around and rode ahead to the next checkpoint, to at the very least describe as best I could where the downed rider was. After being assured help was on scene, I followed the rest of the race course, silently hoping that the guy, a fellow Senior One Beginner was OK. My heart just wasn’t into it anymore.
When I finally made my way to the start/finish line, the yellow flag was being displayed, and everyone was being waved off the course. I hoped for the best but feared the worst.
I soon learned the downed rider had suffered a heart attack on the course and despite heroic efforts by the medical staff, he passed away.
Yeah. That’s pretty heavy.
The Entire USDR Family Paying Tribute
If there is a positive lesson to come from all that, it is that part of my APC Rally training has to include at the very least some basic first-aid training and CPR certification. Fiona and I are going to take the NOLS two day Wilderness First Aid class together, hopefully before the Rally (if scheduling allows.) The life she saves could end up being mine…
Of course, I am a little more hesitant than I was in September when I started to tackle this challenge, but I am certain, after some soul searching that I am up for the adventure ahead. And so, with forty-one days until the Rally starts, I’m ready. Plane tickets are purchased, new tent has been tested, GPS is on its way Down Under to get the Rally route loaded.
July 28th can not get here soon enough!
With two last place finish USDR races under my belt, and only 124 days until the APC Rally kicks off in Australia, one thing is obvious – while my overall fitness level is coming along nicely, I still need work on my dirt riding.
Lots of work.
My good friend and former band mate Josh valiantly offered to let me ride one of his race bikes and give me some pointers at The Central Cycle Club, his local motocross track in Connecticut.
Josh – Lower Right / Me – Upper Left / Both of Us – More Hair Back Then
Josh had his work cut out for him that day.
Professor Josh Says, “Class Is In Session!”
Josh started out with the basics, watching me ride his insanely light and fast two stroke, working on my body and hand positioning. Professor Josh has a very interesting teaching method, no doubt derived from knuckle cracking nuns.This method of teaching, while probably frowned upon by modern educational establishments is nonetheless a very simple and effective way to learn.
As I would ride by, Josh would correct my form by whacking me with a stick.
WHACK! “Get your ass up on that seat more!”
WHACK! “Keep those elbows up!”
“What was that for?”
“To keep you on your toes!”
I practiced cornering for hours, sliding my ass up on the seat more and more until it felt like I was sitting on the steering stem, keeping my elbows so high it must have looked like I was a puppet on strings. As the day progressed, I got faster, and by the end of the drills I was able to turn that motorcycle faster and with more confidence than ever before.
Anything to stop the whipping!
Class continued. I followed Josh through a series of turns, picking up the pace each time. The speed did come, and while I eventually couldn’t keep up with him, I did get the bike cornering faster and better than ever before.
We progressed to small jumps, something I’m still not very good at. I did manage to not stuff the bike into a tree or wad it up in a heap of smouldering metal, so there was some progress on that front as well.
Towards the end of the day Josh and his son Ezra took the bikes out on the big track for some good ol’ fashion family fun time.
Ezra Taking It To The Track
The Family That Flies Together Stays Together
All too soon, the day ended, and I went home full of new techniques to work on.
As a post script, I ran another half marathon this week, finishing in 1:50:26 averaging 8:25/ mile.
All the Crossfit and running and other fitness routines are definitely paying off, I’m not too worried about being fit enough to finish the APC Rally. The riding is getting there too.