10 hours sleep in two days isn’t enough to make me feel human. A Friday late shift consisted of carrying people out of their houses in searing 35-degree heat, followed by picking up geriatrics with head injuries and pronouncing people dead. All in a day’s work.
In my line of work we joke about inappropriate things: we say it’s because we have to be half mad to do our job but many of us would be even crazier without it. Sometimes we will go to a resuscitation job, work hard, pronounce time of death, and on the way out in the lift talk about what we are making for dinner. We all know it’s just a coping mechanism to deal with things we are expected to find ‘normal’ in our industry, but are far from it.
After little sleep, children don’t respect you have only had four hours and so Saturday is on autopilot, four hours sleep after a night of adrenaline: even four coffees can’t help me make sense of the world. Too fatigued to ride in the morning, a broody grey weather front came across Brisbane and rendered me exercise free, over-caffeinated and listless for the whole day.
Sunday, the day of rest, is one to make amends in our household. To relax and ride socially after a hard week, or alternatively to ride the week away.
Since I have been working in emergency services, I have had to resign myself to riding with the ebb and flow of the workload; attempting to smash out VO2 efforts and PB’s after a few shifts of hard work—or several 14-hours days with overtime—is pretty pointless. When you can free yourself of your own expectations, however, using riding as an out can be magical.
Our Sunday mini-epic was searching for elevation and remoteness, we headed into Brisbane forest park to do a loop I hadn’t done in over a year.
The ride starts with some undulating climbs up a popular route, before turning down a ball-tearing fireroad. We rode along the low-lying creeks and gullies, through the variable surfaces; grass, sand and rocks; until we turn up to climb to the top of the mountain. It’s a long climb—about 11km—that traverses up a ridgeline to the top of the mountain.
On Sunday the climb was rainy, wet and boggy. Every pedal stroke took effort to push through the wet trail surface; at times claggy with clay, at other times sandy and much of the time just wet, gritty rocks. I felt decidedly Scottish as I climbed up further and further through the rain and low-lying fog; the bright green of freshly sprouted grass visible through the white haze.
I rode solo up the climb; it’s the kind of climb where you find your rhythm and just tap or alternatively bust yourself chasing a solid time. I needed to ride to feel alive again after work and parenting and everything else we do in life. There were no medals on offer for turning myself inside out and there was still a long way to go home so I tapped up comfortably.
Part-way up the climb the weather really headed south as the wind picked up and the rain came down. There wasn’t a dry inch on me. Anyone who has ridden up a large mountain, offroad, in squally weather in search of self will tell you that the rain can indeed wash you clean, inside and out. Pushing-on up the climb, I felt lighter and lighter inside as the elements beat down on the outside while I kept turning circles with my feet; never really worried about how long it was taking or how far I had to go.
Near the top I passed a bloke walking up the mountain in a ragged old hat, both himself and his Akubra had seen better days and I wondered if he was bushwalking for the same catharsis I ride for. How far had this guy tramped in these squally conditions?
A quick coffee stop, and felling pretty good having finally been able to unload much of my weekly baggage, we headed down the road to the way back, my riding partners’ headed down the fire road while I headed down the road then over a mountain to get back home.
After the doppio and the unexpected wash clean, I was feeling suddenly unburdened; the grey fog that had washed over me the week prior (the post holiday fog in addition to feeling really terrible at the end of last week on the bike, ergo ‘I must be a terrible rider’) was gone. Whizzing down the hill I had legs with power for days. There was an incredible lightness that defied my current weight and fitness status. The zen of the mountain, the ardour for life and the accomplishment of grinding up the mountain in sultry, wet weather had solved all of my life problems. At least for this week.