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Wed, 26 Sep 2007

No more Polaris Challenge - 14:52
In the latest news from Wild Horizons that arrived in the email today Huw announced that they will no longer be running Australian Polaris events after the Urban Polaris in Canberra in December.

The Australian Polaris Challenge was the first mass participation endurance mountain biking event in Australia, pre dating the Canberra based Australian 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race by two years. By first I am not ignoring events such as the Simpson Desert cycle classic, simply saying mass participation in that the logistics of competing in earlier events such as the Simpson were often as daunting, as the riding component of the event.

I can understand why the Paddle Polaris did not make sense to run, it never had a huge number of entrants and yet would still have had a lot of logistic issues behind putting it on. The Urban Polaris though fun is not an overly challenging event and is only on one day. Also now it has been held in the same city for so long it is no longer as interesting as it may have been the first time or two in one location.

The original event was still the best. The Polaris Challenge, 2 days out there with a friend navigating around the place on your mountain bike. Carrying all your camping gear for an overnight camp somewhere on a 25km by 25km map of some new and interesting location in the Australian bush. The event is modelled on the UK Polaris Challenge (now there are a few other events in other countries also), this started back in 1991 and has run over in the UK since. Huw, being from the UK had competed in the event there and when he arrived in Australia found the lack of a Polaris style event something that needed fixing, thus he started running one here.

There is no other event on the Australia mtb calendar quite like it, cyclegaines (rogaines on bikes) only tend to be one day events, Adventure races have other disciplines than just mountain biking. Mountain bike races do not have much in the way of mental challenges, without the route planning and navigation while out there you can simply head out and push your body with out any thoughts of where you are or how to get around entering your head. The added challenge of packing gear and being able to handle the extra weight and the consequent slow down in your route choices just adds to the fun and challenge.

I had heard for a few years now Huw had been attempting to interest some event organiser in purchasing the rights of all the Polaris events, it appears no one has bitten. I am unsure of what branding issues there are between the UK Polaris and any of the others (they all use the same logo), however I do hope there is another event that comes along in the coming years (and soon) to fill the hole left by this. The effort involved in running an event like this is considerable though as you have to spend a great deal of time in the area the event will run in, get the community on side, get permissions from all land owners involved. Create the maps and arrange all the other logistics. The fact that there has been a drop in numbers attending the event in the past few years probably did not help. It may not need to be branded "Polaris" but the format of camping, teams, navigation, all in one discipline, new and interesting location each year are necessary I think.

Anyway thanks to Huw and the rest of Wild Horizons for all your efforts over the years, I know I had fun (2003 Burraga, 2004 Murramarang, 2005 Comboyne, 2006 Delegate, 2007 Black Springs (have not yet written my report or uploaded the photos)). The fun of the event will be missed.

[/mtb/events] link

Tue, 25 Sep 2007

Stardust, the wow post - 00:18
So I just got back a few minutes ago from seeing the movie Stardust movie at Dendy (Canberra). I am a long time Neil Gaiman fan so suspected I would like the movie, and after waiting for over a year an a half, for a movie that was originally to be released here in March (though having heard about it much earlier I was already keen) I have to say it did not disappoint at all.

This I can already see will be one of my favourite movies, after one screening I already adore it. What an absolutely brilliant movie. Go and see it.

[/leisure/screen] link

Mon, 24 Sep 2007

Fun courses - 10:51
The Scott Australian 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race (this is the race run by CORC that used to be The Mont Australian 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race) is on soon, the 13th and 14th of October. We moved the race back to the Mt Stromlo area for the first time since 2002, this is because we have the amazing new Stromlo Forest Park recreational facility with a huge amount of single track built for riding and racing.

It probably comes as little surprise to hear that I have raced and ridden a lot of different tracks all over the place, and I have to say the course we have put together for this up coming race is one of the most fun and interesting to ride I have seen in a long time. Back in April 2005 I had a bit of a comment on mountain bike race course design, though the Kowen course did improve, last year it was a really interesting course for a lot of people. I still do not think it lived up to enough of the need for an incredible mountain bike course that a race like our large 24 hour needs.

I am happy to say this has completely changed with the move back to Stromlo. We have two loops in the course this year which you or you team alternate laps around. One loop (the red loop) has some climbing and is not technically very challenging at low speeds. The other loop (blue loop) has less climbing, however it has more rock sections and twisty technical bits though out the single track of that loop.

Friday morning I rode the red loop and I must say it still has me grinning a lot 3 days later. Sure there is some bumpy flatter track early in the lap (bumpy because it is only a month or two old and not ridden in solidly yet) and then we have a climb up the trunk trail to the summit of Mt Stromlo. However all that can be forgiven, it is a fairly easy climb after all, and at this point we get the pay back for all that climbing effort. Descending non stop to transition for between 5 and 20 minutes (depends how fast you can ride down) on some of the most amazing sections of single track I have seen in a long time. Wheeeeeeeeee.

Yesterday afternoon I headed out with some friends and we rode a lap of the blue loop, I can definitely see that it is a bit harder technically, however I loved it, the extra challenge by some of the twisty or rocky sections. The grin worthy section on the back side of the mountain below Slick Rock, the flowing and swoopy tracks coming back toward the event centre. Sure it is not 10 minutes of non stop descending but it definitely gets a grin. I almost wish I was racing in the event rather than helping to run it. At least I can go ride these trails any time. Bring it on. :)

[/mtb/events] link

Tue, 18 Sep 2007

Keyboard training - 15:04
I have noticed my wrists getting sore when typing on my computer at work for long periods form time to time. I decided I should put more of an effort into trying out a Natural shape keyboard for a while. When Mikal was here for a month recently he recommended the Microsoft Natural Keyboard 4000 model. This is a mostly black keyboard with a usb cable to the computer (none of this silly wireless stuff) and appears to be the most recommended keyboard on most RSI and similar topic websites and blogs.

I finally convinced Bob to purchase three of these (one for me, one for the head of department and another in case Mikal^Wanyone requests one). Of course I am writing this diary entry on my laptop which sort of defeats the purpose, however I will be making an effort to get used to the new keyboard. It is quite a change as I had previously been using an old ps2 keyboard that I liked the feel of. One of 5 or so I found a cache of at work and had snarfed up and connected to my home computer, work computer and any other deskbound computer I had to type much on.

My typing is a little slower on the new keyboard, only having used it for an hour two now, however it feels nice and the shape is not strange or keys in the wrong places it seems. I had wondered about using the non standard keys and the strange zoom switch (though as a scroll wheel) however most of the extra keys do not show up as having an event in X (using xev). Searching for information on this I find a few Microsoft Natural Keyboard 4000 howtos or forum discussions, however the methods to get the extra keys all seem to require a kernel patch, one which is not integrated into the distribution kernels. Thus unless anyone can suggest some other mechanism to get the events to user space I guess I will leave it be for now, after all I need it to type, not to press weird buttons on.

I also have to train my fingers to hit q rather than tab in mutt to get out of an email all the time.

[/comp/hardware] link

Mon, 17 Sep 2007

Wading into a room full of angry possums - 11:07
Looking at my shins today it seems possible I spent the weekend wading around in a room full of angry possums or cats. Instead I was participating in the ACTRA navigation workshop, the reason for the scratches is I did not bother wearing my gaiters at all this weekend. Of course it is still fortunate I do not wear a skirt.

The workshop was fun, especially the stuff yesterday out in some bush on the edge of Lake George, including a 3 hour rogaine to finish of the weekend. Though Judi and I went a bit big in our course plan for that and were late back (not collecting controls on the way back), it was good to get more practice and be able to utilise the experience of the coaches out on real terrain to practice our skills.

[/mtb] link

Wed, 12 Sep 2007

Google maps API is kind of neat. - 11:31
I purchased a Garmin Forerunner 305 a few weeks ago, this is a combined HRM and GPS device. Pretty much aimed at sports people as a training tool. Mikey and Tony from ozlabs have been working on some code (gpsruns) that easily grabs the data and uploads it to your website to interface with the Google Maps API.

For example here is the API and Maps link from an 18 KM run I did last night. I wear it cycling, paddling and running and it is interesting to see the data. However I have been thinking there are ways to represent some of the data in the graphs in more interesting ways over time. I had a look at the Google Maps API documentation yesterday and am impressed with how much you can actually do.

I was thinking it would be cool to be able to display information such as distance, HR, speed, direction and other things in the line plotted on the map. Looking at the PolyLine documentation I am happy to see it can be done. I will need to divide the plot into sections over whatever range of change I want to display. However I can for example put a key for what colour is what heart rate on the page then display the map changing colour for different heart rates over time during the exercise. I can also put up more plot points for displaying distance covered or speed or gradient changes in different colours. I guess it is time I got hacking on this code along with Mikey and Tony.

[/comp/software] link

Mon, 03 Sep 2007

Those freaky couriers - 16:06
Yesterday I moseyed around the Angry Doctor 100 KM mountain bike race that Tom and Alina of AROC put on. Fun was had, my lack of riding in the last year made itself evident once more, and I definitely want to go back next year.

Of course on of the most amazing things to see out there was a cycle courier who passed me at the aid station point at 70 KM who was riding a fixed wheel (ie could not stop peddling) cyclocross (narrow tyres on 700c road wheels) bike with flat bars. I never saw him again until after the finish, thus I was beaten by a guy riding this rather awkward seeming bike, damn incredible effort on his part considering the course was not gentle, there were a lot of undulations out there. Apparently this guy lit up a ciggie at the finish too, freaky.

Sure cycle couriers are a kind of professional rider (in that their job is being paid to ride bikes fast 8 hours a day every day) and they have a rather full on single speed and fixed wheel culture going, it was however still amazing to see this out there on the course. And here I was thinking the nutters on single speed bikes were doing it hard up until that point.

[/mtb] link

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