Around the bay

About 10 years ago I did my first Around the Bay bike ride…and having done the 210kms swore I would never do it again. But last weekend, in what can only be described as a brazen example of just how little my word is worth, I did it again. If nothing else, it showed me just how much I’ve learnt about cycling and nutrition…and perhaps more importantly, it showed me just how stupid I was 10 years ago. So Now I’m No Expert But, here’s my guide to doing Around the Bay.

What is the Around the Bay bike ride?
Ok, first and foremost all the cool kids call it ‘Round the Bay’…so I’m not going to argue with the cool kids, I’ll call it that for the rest of this post.
The Round the Bay ride is a 210km ride with 2 options, Melbourne-Sorrento-Queenscliff- Melbourne or Melbourne-Queenscliff-Sorrento-Melbourne. The main difference is that when you have done about 180kms and your are in a world of pain and just looking something..anything!…to distract you from just how sore your arse is, you can choose between looking at the seaside and breathing in the sea air…or you can choose Werribee. Not surprisingly the ride home along Beach Rd sells out a lot quicker than the industrial back blocks of Melbourne version. There is a ferry that takes you between Queenscliff and Sorrento, but if you’re really keen you can try to get a good run up and jump your bike over.
There is also a 250km version, but that is just basically the 210km ride with an additional 40kms thrown in to make the people who choose to do this think long and hard about the decisions they’ve made and where that’s left them.
And there are also a range of rides that cater for people of all abilities.
But I did the Melbourne – Queenscliff – Sorrento – Melbourne ride and here’s what I learnt.

It is about the bike
Ever notice the way very few formula 1 racing teams use station wagons for the Grand Prix? This is because a racing car is much better suited to driving at 300km/h, whereas the station wagon is much better suited to picking up the kids after school. Similarly, a long ride like the Round the Bay is best suited to a road bike, due to their light weight, their aero position and the fact that this is exactly what they are designed to do. This would appear to make perfect sense.
So why the Christ I did this ride on a Mountain Bike 10 years ago is beyond me! It was freaking horrible. The bike weighed a tonne, it had big tyres that meant more resistance, it had suspension which meant part of every pedal was absorbed by the suspension rather than making me go faster, little things like your gears and your hubs that only make a few % difference…make a big difference over the course of 10 hours.
In my defence, 10 years ago I’d never ridden a road bike and so had no idea what the differences were…but the fact that every other person was a) on a road bike and b) going past me, probably should have been a subtle hint that I was ‘doing it wrong’. For me the defining moment was when I was riding out of Geelong heading home and just well and truly in the ‘hurt locker’, but convincing myself that I was still looking strong. Two guys rode past me and I heard one say to the other ‘Gees, he’s doing it hard’.
Indeed I was…Indeed I was.

You are what you eat
Which means that the first time I did the ride, I was numerous packs of sugary lollies. My reasoning was sound. Sugar gives you energy, and I was going to need a lot of energy…so every time I got tired I would just eat some lollies. Genius! This of course meant I swung in sporadic bursts of energy and lethargy. I’ve you’ve ever learnt how to drive a manual car and spent an hour in a car park lurching forward and then stalling the car…you’ve pretty much got how I felt…for 12 hours!
This time around I made sure I had plenty of food that would provide longer term, slower release energy (aka the sesame bars from the Preston Market), as well as about 4 gels and some electrolyte drink…and plenty of water…and a hot dog in Geelong…and a coffee in Queenscliff…and…look, I’m not saying it was the perfect nutritional plan, but it worked a treat.

Ride with good people
No matter how good your nutrition is and no matter how much you’ve trained, there will be times when you feel flat or when you you can’t maintain the pace of the group you’re with. A good group can recognise this and make sure you are protected from the wind until your energy levels return. Similarly, there will be times when you feel really good and could travel a lot faster than the group…but surging off into the distance leaves the rest of the group either exhausting themselves by trying to maintain your pace, or dropping off and having one less person to work in the group. Instead, if you have a lot of energy, you can spend some additional time at the front where the wind resistance is the strongest. That way you get to use your surplus energy…and the rest of the group benefits.
The group I was with (and a big shout out to Lach, Regan, Marty and Sam) were sensational like this and made the ride all the more pleasant.

Ideally you would have spent a couple of months training at least once a week and have built up to a ride at least 75% of the total distance. But if you have small children then your sleep patterns are probably similar to that of a night shift nurse, and your ability to just ‘duck’ out for a 150km bike ride is slim at best. So if you have trainer at home, then I can’t recommend the Sufferfest videos highly enough. In the space of an hour you can get a really good workout…and you can train your kids to be domestiques by getting them to refill your water bottles.

On a sadder note, in the time between starting this post and finishing it…some unsavoury person has stolen my bike. So if you see or hear about someone selling an Argon 18 Plutonium with Mavic Aksium wheels and Speedplay pedals, Taser them in the genitals and let me know. Then I also will Taser them in the genitals…and then take back the bike that has got me through a half Ironman, the Alpine Classic, numerous triathlons, the Murray to Moyne and the ride to and from work for the last 6 years!

My night at the roller derby

On Saturday night I headed to my first ever roller derby bout, armed with a media pass from The Victorian Roller Derby League and got some of the best photos I’ve ever taken. So I thought I’d spend this blog talking about some of the things that worked…and of course a few of the things that didn’t.

Get good talent
I’m a great believer that you can take a great photo of anyone, it’s just that some people need a little more coaxing and effort before you can get a good shot. Of course the flipside to this is that some people are just naturally outgoing, naturally engaging and generally up for anything…a number of these people play Roller Derby.
I was pretty keen on getting some shots that actually reflected their personalities, so I literally just gave them the chalkboard prop, told them to write their name and then just let them do whatever they wanted. Sometimes this sort of lack of direction drives people back into their shell ‘But what do you want me to do?’…I was blown away at how quickly the players adopted a range of poses I would never have thought to have asked them to strike.


Skate Bush

6ft Hussy

Have a plan
I knew that I wanted to have a consistent background for the photos, but not knowing what the venue was like I didn’t want to be reliant on finding something that would work. So I decided I would use a big roll of white paper I had used a couple of times as a background. I also knew that the players all had awesome roller derby names (‘Pony Slaystation’, ‘Mon U Mental’, ‘Calamity Maim’ etc) so I thought it would be cool to have them write their name on a small blackboard and then have them hold it so that the photo was somewhere between a mugshot and a school photo. The final part of my plan was to shoot a wide shot and a close up and convert them all to black and white.
I think that going in with a vision was great as there are basically hundreds of ways I could have shot them, but when you only have a person for a minute or two, you need to know exactly what you are after. To once again quote General George S Patton ‘A good plan executed violently now is better than a perfect plan executed next week’.
Of course you also need some leeway, and when I started working on the shots in Lightroom I realised that a lot of them looked a lot better in colour.

Scarlett O'Hurta

Alice in Chains

Alex in Chains


Take a risk
A couple of years ago Veeral Patel quit his comfortable IT job and decided to go and photograph the Tour de France. It was a massive risk and I really admired his dedication. Since then he has won awards and his photography has gone from strength to strength. Clearly going to take photos of roller derby players isn’t in the same league as throwing in your job to follow your dream, but this was the first time I had decided to call myself a photographer and put all the focus on just my photos (rather than having them as an incidental part of a video).
The risk certainly wasn’t huge. If the photos had been appalling, there probably would have been a few people who were annoyed that I had wasted their time, and the person who helped organise everything (Monica Campo) would probably have been annoyed that she’d wasted her efforts.
But it was still a big step up on the previous level of risk, which was ‘Nan doesn’t like the photos’.

You can see all of the photos here

But what didn’t work?

Action shots
Without a flash it was always going to be difficult getting good action shots at the speeds they were travelling. This was one of the best action shots I got, and that’s just because someone else’s flash went off just as I took the photo.

Also, not knowing anything about the sport meant that I was always just off with my timing or I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I tried to make up for this by taking a number of photos of things that weren’t moving. But this lead to my second problem.

I had no idea when I would get access to the players, so I just headed around taking photos of the games and the audience…for 4 hours. So suddenly after the second game when a whole lot of players came over to have their photo taken, the battery light on the camera was flashing furiously. Which meant I rushed the photos of the last few players, which meant I didn’t get the shots I was after.

Dead Ringer Rosies



The viewfinder
I know this is going to make any real photographers reading this throw their hands up in the air, but I find the LCD screen on the back of the camera a lot better to use than the actual viewfinder. But the LCD screen also chews through the batteries a lot quicker. So when I switched to just using the viewfinder for the last couple of shots to preserve the batteries…I ended up with shots that were at best ‘soft’ and at worst, out of focus.

But ultimately if you can come away from an experience like this with some photos that you are really happy with and a few lessons learnt…then you can chalk it up as a success!
So a big thanks to my Dad for coming along and being my camera assistant. An even bigger thanks to Monica for giving me the opportunity. And my biggest thanks to the players from the Dolls of Hazzard, the Toxic Avengers, the Rock Mobsters and my team the Dead Ringer Rosies for taking the time, and being so damned photogenic on and off the track.
The VRDL Grand final is coming up on Nov. 24, I suggest you be there!

Dead Ringer Rosies

Why you should never have photos taken of you when you’re fit

A few weeks ago as part of an Olympics based office bonding activity, each of the teams in our office was asked to adorn their work areas with something suitably Olympic. As is my want, I was out filming for the big presentation and so missed the whole thing. But when I returned to my cubicle the following Monday, there was roughly 80% more sniggering from my work mates. I eventually discovered (and this is really good opportunity to say that you should never piss off a graphic designer…they have long memories and highly functional image archives) that someone had resurrected a photo of me competing in a triathlon about 6 years ago.

While I pretended that I was hurt that this sodding photo had resurfaced…I was actually quite chuffed, because this is hands down the most flattering photo of me ever taken. For starters this was when I was in full training, and was doing weights three times a week. I had also just strolled out of the cold water after swimming 750m, so if ever I was going to look buff..this was it. And best of all, the digital watermark was over my stomach…so any trace of fat was gone.
But what I soon came to realise was that everyone had assumed that this was a photoshop job…that the graphic designer had simply put my head on the body of an athlete. The thought that I may have actually been that athlete was as absurd to them…and it wasn’t until I saw a recent photo of myself that I realised why. They see me everyday as I actually am…whereas in my mind, I’m still that muscly guy strutting up the beach in the budgie smugglers.

Who is that old/ugly person in the photo?
For work I take a lot of photos of people. Even when I have taken a photo that I think looks really good, the reaction from the person whose photo I’ve taken is invariably ‘Is that really me?’ If I take a photo of two people, both people will say ‘Oh you look great, but I look terrible’ It’s not that they look terrible, it’s just that they don’t match up with how they think they look. I can remember talking to lady in her 60s once who said she often saw herself in the mirror and thought ‘Who is that old woman?!’ She still felt like she did when she was in her 20’s, but reality wasn’t backing that up. Just as our social media profiles have photos that do not belie our actual appearance…it would appear that even on a subconscious level we are prone to bending the truth a little.
So I’ve decided the best way to ‘unbend the truth’ (this will either be the name of my first band…or at least the message on a t-shirt ) is to go through the reasons there is such a big disconnect between my body and my body image.

Kids and effort
I know that pretty much every blog I write seems to bang on about the myriad ways kids have made my life difficult. So I should state now that I love my kids and I love being a parent, and I have no doubt I have grown a great deal as a person because I have them in my life. However, no one wants to read about someone else’s happiness…they want to feel happy about themselves by reading about someone else’s misery. So I’m really only doing this for you.
I can still remember that when that  photo above was taken, I was spending pretty much all my spare time exercising. The result was that I was fit and healthy. Now that I have three kids, I still feel that I’m using pretty much all my spare time exercising…so logically I should still look fit and healthy. But the reality is that with 1 child I probably had 6 hours a week of spare time…but now I probably only have…well let’s see…does the run to work count as spare time? So the effort level is the same, it’s just that it equates to a lot less actual exercise…and accordingly, much smaller pecs.
For the visual learners out there, you can equate the top photo as being what you can achieve when you have one child. This next photo is what you can achieve when you have two children.

You will note the significant loss of upper body muscle due to your training suddenly involving a lot less weights and a lot more running…as you can get a good run done in half an hour, but you’re going to need at least an hour for a gym session…and that’s not going to happen all that often.
Finally, when you have 3 kids, this is what you look like.

As you can see, your arms have reached Andy Schleck like levels of bulk, and you could really do with a hug.

The little 1%ers
OK, so that’s one reason why there is a physical change…but why don’t you notice it? I think it’s because you see yourself everyday, so every day you get to incorporate this new version of yourself into the ideal you have in your head. It’s not until someone who you haven’t seen in a couple of years says ‘Wow, you’ve really lost weight!’ that you realise the death by a thousand cuts. I should stress here that as a man I’m worried about losing weight, not gaining it. If you are woman and you are worried about gaining weight, then no-one in their right mind is going to comment on the fact that you have gained weight…so you’re pretty much doomed on this one.

Being the photographer
As I said earlier, it wasn’t until I saw a photo of myself recently and thought ‘Holy crap, my head looks huge compared to my chest and shoulders! My head hasn’t grown, so my chest and shoulders must have shrunk…a lot!’ but if you are the dedicated photographer for your family and friends, you very rarely actually appear in photos. So if you want the occasional reality check, make sure someone takes a candid photo of you when you haven’t had a chance to suck in your stomach, or furiously flex every muscle in your body. Alternatively, if you think you may have reached your physical peak and no longer want anyone creating evidence to the contrary…I highly recommend buying a camera, the more expensive and confusing it looks, the less likely anyone else will offer to use it to take a photo of you.

So I’ve identified that I have been deluding myself, I’ve blamed the kids for everything, there is only one thing left to do, and that is to make a promise on this here blog that by the time my birthday rolls around in December, I will have at least got my head, chest and shoulders into some sort of proportions that no longer resemble Mr. Mackey. From there I will begin the long road of getting back to my former budgie- smuggler glory…but in the short term, no photos…please.