T minus 50 minutes! We’ve waved farewell to the fur child and had brekkie with my parents and we’re on our way. We’re about to board QF7 to Dallas and I thought I’d share one more post before we depart.

While we were in Mansfield a few months ago, Kiwi and I shared some of our preparation with the Aussie IBA attendees and answered a few questions – I can’t remember all of them, but these are some highlights.

What are you doing to prepare?

For the past 6 months or more we’ve been doing personal training together once a week and I’ve upped my fitness regime to get back into jogging, while Kiwi has continued with his rowing and usual level of activity!

What are your objectives?

In order: come home safely, have fun, finish, do better than Kiwi’s finishing status in 2017, not ride any gravel roads.

What are you most worried about?

For me, it’s lack of sleep. I still remember the end of day four of BLIX and it wasn’t pretty. I need to NOT leave my thongs at the hotel and to get more than 3 hours of sleep each night if I’m going to maintain some degree of sanity. A repeat of the Dollar General incident of 2018 is not desirable!

What goes through your head while you’re sitting on the back during a long ride?

All kinds of things up until just after lunch – I watch the scenery, I regularly get ear worms stuck in my head (St Elmo’s Fire is a vivid memory from 2017’s Muster, with some Play School gems like Bananas in Pajamas making occasional appearances!!), I ponder the big questions of life (are we there yet? What do I feel like for lunch? Should we have taken that turn-off back there?). After lunch things tend to go downhill.

It’s always the third quarter of the ride I find the hardest. I’ve already been sitting on the back for 600-800kms but there’s the same distance again still to go and now my butt hurts. A lot. I start to question why I’m doing this? What’s the point? Should I just stop? All the mind games start and it’s not until we hit the last quarter of the ride (‘only 4 more hours’) that I seem to be able to pull myself out of the funk.

Thankfully, having bonus points to focus on helps a lot with this. Though I suspect that if we get to 3pm and still have another 6 bonuses and 600kms to go before bed, I’ll probably still be struggling a bit.

What makes you think you can do better than Kiwi did a couple of years ago?

This is the one that always makes me feel both arrogant and ignorant. To start with, I could not do the IBR at all on my own. I simply don’t have the riding ability to control a bike and concentrate for 16-20 hours a day for 11 days. Left to my own devices, the mind games would also be much harder to win and I would probably struggle just to keep on keeping on.

So how come I think that by adding my weight to the back of the bike we might be able to improve our finisher’s standing? Because I love solving puzzles. Ever since Kiwi did his first rally, I’ve wanted to be able to help with the strategy. Being a bit of a goody two shoes when it comes to following rules, I managed to resist while I wasn’t part of the team but I always had ideas about how I’d do it if it was me.

The rally that Jeff Earls put together for the 2017 IBR would have been right up my alley! Constrained optimisation (maximise points within time and distance constraints) with permutations (order is important) rather than just combinations (any order is fine) is the kind of nerding out I love. I can see patterns and manipulate excel in ways that Kiwi struggles with and so I can (I hope) add value to the team. Could I do better than Kiwi did myself? Hell no! Can we do better as a team than as individuals? I think so. Will it be straightforward? Highly unlikely.

As with anything, the whole will be more than the sum of its parts, both good and bad. We’ll have Kiwi’s riding ability and my problem solving nous and those two things together should give us a leg up. But we’ll also have my hatred of early mornings (which will test Kiwi’s patience) and Kiwi’s need to check and double-check things (which while an excellent discipline will test my patience) so we’ll both have additional stresses to manage compared with doing things alone.

Only time will tell. 8 days until tech inspection and 10 days until the rally starts!

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