Friday, 20 April 2007

All quiet in Suburbia

It’s been a week since my last post and life has been quietly ticking along as it does …

Highlights of the week:

  1. Stuey O’Grady won Paris- Roubaix – how awesome is that???? He has finally cracked a Big One TM - well done Mr O’ Grady
  2. Apparently revisting your past life gives you precognition (ie Desmond on Lost). I make a point of visiting life only once
  3. My horse won the “Look at me! Look at me!” contest this morning when the fertiliser trucks came to spread some chemical grow magic on the dustbowl paddocks. I should post a pic of her – she is truly a stunner with movement to die for. Why do I race bikes again???
  4. One of the guys I coach has a documentary screening next Thursday night (April 26) on ABC tv at 9.30pm, on Vivian Bullwinkel, military nurse and WW2 POW survivor. An inspiring woman and what will be excellent viewing. Congratulations Nick & Eleanor for getting it up and out there. Please tune in and watch it.
  5. Tomorrow, my Club hosts the annual Baw Baw Classic. This year, thanks to the good work of our Race Director, it’s the final stage of the Pinnacle Series and has excellent entries. Last year it snowed, this year cold and rain forecast. Yippee!!!! Bring your thermals. I am one of the sag wagons (I think!!) and will swan around at the top of the mountain being Club President, shaking hands and thanking/congratulating people along with a bunch of Special Guests from the local Shire, Pinnacle Series sponsors and host Clubs and Shires, series organisers etc. The Pinnacle Series is an exciting one, and has gained much support in its first year.
“The Ararat, Alpine and Warragul cycling clubs each hold an annual road race over mountainous country, with the climb up Mt Baw Baw claimed to be among the toughest in world cycling. CycleSport Victoria and the three clubs will link these three events and promote them as The Provincial Victoria Pinnacle Cycling Series, the first event of its kind in Australia.”

Take a look here: Baw Baw Media Release

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Cycling bones

Some bad and sad newsx 2:

Whilst out riding, Alex Simmons connected with a bollard and broke the top of his tibia. He apparently was operated on Tuesday night. More here from those closer to Alex:

Here's to a speedy and unproblematic recovery Alex.

Meanwhile, another acquaintance of mine was knocked off his bike by another, passing cyclist on the weekend. His fall resulted in a clean break of his collar bone.

Chris, hope your bones heal quickly and without issue and you are on the bike again soon.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Reading Obree

Over the Easter break, I read Graeme Obree’s autobiography Flying Scotsman. It’s an almost austere book, but as you read, you understand why. His tale is amazing (Obree made his first hour world record less than 24 hours after an initial attempt, where he failed by 500m on Moser’s 9 year record), but also very poignant. Sad is too trite a word. He is a man driven, by a very basic core need to be recognised for who he is, and by a variety of execrable demons. In many ways, it’s not an uncommon story amongst those who excel, or those regarded for facilitating different ways of seeing the world and our lives in it.

What sparks of madness (that intense passion and perception that is outside the box) drive those acts that are rare and spectacular? It takes a different insight and perspective to force boundaries (or not even be aware of them) and break “rules” and conventions (eg 4 minute mile, surrealism). The cost of that can be devastating for the individual, leaving the perpetrator outside of acceptable norms and ultimately society, lonely, disillusioned, struggling. I think (generalising here) it’s a failing of our (western white) culture in its refusal to celebrate a meaningful recognition of those who sit on the parameters, who dare to show different ways to do things, think about things.

As a cyclist, I take from Graeme’s story words of meaning about focus, passion, obsession, dedication, motivation, just doing it no matter what, and all those things that sit in antithesis. For Graeme Obree, the antitheses were incredibly debilitating - his costs were high, almost too high.

Survival and success is about being able to walk the line, if you can.

The bunny gets it

10 days off the bike (apart from a stint last week testing the TBike at DISC) and 2 months or so away from serious hills showed in my legs yesterday when I went for a ride in the Dandenongs with one of my cycling buddies, Mr Univac (for his computer brain and predilection for data). Mr Univac lives on one side of a gully, with the main road on the other side, which means straight off, after navigating a steepish downhill section on an interesting gravel road (on skinny slick road tyres and a carbon fibre frame – eeek!!!), you start climbing almost immediately. After 7 km of mostly climbing, I had to take a break. Sad but true. I think Mr Univac was being nice to me when he mentioned that we were going at close to his topform pace for those hills. I just felt plain slow and heavy - the quads and hammies were feeling the effects of too many chocolate rabbits, and choc chip hot cross buns, and red wine (well, it was my post-season break!!!!)

After the breather, I settled into a groove and all was good. At a coffee stop (ok, coffee and cake stop) in Emerald, I got to thinking, how great it would be to be able to do this nearly every day ie whilst the plebs are beavering away at their PCs in their offices, life segmented by alarm clocks and schedules, I could wake when my body wanted to, ride the hills after peak hour, rest and recover. Sweet. All I need to do is sell my house, get rid of the mortgage, sell the horse, and get a part-time job to cover food, bike bling, competition travel etc. Dream on. I smsed Mr Legs my new plan for elite training leading to world domination later in the afternoon. I got him going. He thought I was serious. He still thought I was serious when he got home. He was still unconvinced I was pulling his leg this morning. I finally one upped him in our regular competitions of out doing each other with outrageous but convincing comments and observations. heh

But, it would be nice to have that freedom……..

Thursday, 5 April 2007

First Ride

Last night I took the Teschner for its first “real” ride on the track. After a few initial groans and aches from my legs and feet at the change of bike (and a new seat I am trying out – a fizik vitesse), I settled into the bike without much fuss and bother.

The bike performed without complaint or hiccup. At one point, after commencing an effort off the bank, I had to pull back as I hit the straight due to a meandering colleague still on the track after completing his effort. I hit the gas again after passing him, and the bike responded quickly and efficiently, with no real effort to get it back up to speed and flying along. It’s more direct than the avanti, and whilst I am more confident on the avanti thanks to time spent in the saddle, I felt the Teschner was more willing and able to do what was wanted, when it was wanted. So far – sweet!!!

Thanks to longer dropouts, I can now use a 50 chainring without changing chains – woohoo!!!! (sound trivial, but who wants to be changing chains along with gears all the time??). The chain line sounds different, as it echoes through the frame. One of my training buddies has one and I can always hear him coming up from behind thanks to the echo. So, it’s not stealth machine, but I figure the immediate response to acceleration will compensate for the lack of sneakability. By the time the opposition hears the bike, it will be going past so fast the registering of the noise in their brain will be redundant.

Am I happy with the bike? YES!!! Was it worth the wait? Well, I am glad I didn’t ride it at nationals with only a few days practice on it. If I could have ridden it immediately when I got the frame (early March), then it would have been an awesome ride at nationals. Now the job is to bring the engine up to speed with the machinery.

Monday, 2 April 2007

Teschner Update

Friday before Nationals and there is a parcel waiting for me on the doorstep: a seatpost and a set of forks – HURRAH!!!! Thank you Ari from Teschner!!!!! Now the fun begins! Mr Legs took the BB and crankset off his bike, and put them on the Teschner. Easy bit done. A little bit of fiddling, some logically thinking, a phone call to Gran Prix cycles (from whom I bought the Teschner) and finding a “missing” split ring and the head set is worked out and partially assembled. A quick trip to Mr Leg’s parents’ place to find the right tool to seat the bottom seal of the head stem, then back home (30 minutes each way) to finish assembly. The steerer on the forks was pre - cut, and there was a moment of anguish as we though the steerer would be too short. Fortunately it wasn’t.

The seat post was next – it was too long (for my height) to fit into the frame and needed cutting. The dilemma was: if the offset was not correct, I could return the seatpost to Teschner. But if it were cut, then obviously I would not be able to return it. It was getting late, so I decided to sleep on it, but had pretty much decided it was worth the “risk” of cutting it.

Next morning, off to Bunnings to get a suitable hacksaw blade and some spacers for the steerer (not from Bunnings!). Back home, and after an anxious moment (on my behalf, unlike I –do-this-all-the-time-Mr Legs) we cut off 4 cm from the bottom of the seat post. Finish putting the bike together, then measure it up against the Avanti, and Darryl Perkins’ measurement for my bike set up. I put it on the rollers and ride it, a bit of a fiddle and another ride, and it’s time to go to DISC for Masters’ training.

I pack both bikes, just in case the Teschner doesn’t work out once it’s on the track, the disc wheels etc for a final pre Nationals run through. We get to the track and I expect it to be packed. There is hardly anyone there, which suits me just fine! I suit up, and take the beastie for it’s first real spin. Feels ok, but after a while I notice I am riding on the top of the handlebars, even further up the track, which I rarely do. So I deliberately put myself in the drops and after ¾ of a lap catch myself back on top of the bars. A few more goes, then a lap at speed in the drops and I realise I am reaching too far, and struggling with the bike. Although the distances between the handlebars and the frame, and the seat are correct, the bike doesn’t fit. I abandon it and go back the Avanti to finish my race prep. I decide to ride the Avanti at Nationals.

Yesterday, I took the Teschner over to Darryl’s for his wise counsel and inspection. He very quickly worked out what was wrong – the drop in distance between the seat height and handlebar height was greater than the set up on the Avanti. A quick flip of the headstem and the Teschner is now ready for it’s public debut on Wednesday night at track training. Although I was disappointed it was not ready last week, I was very happy to race a bike I was familiar with and felt comfortable on. It’s also a nice way to retire the little blue bike – to go out having raced nationals on it. It marks the start of a new phase of my training and racing – everything was on hold til the nationals. Now they are over, I start a new training schedule, on a new bike, with renewed motivation and enthusiasm.

National Masters Track Wrap Up

Monday IP Day: the air in the velodrome was heavy, and although I had no classic asthma symptoms, I found I had to think about breathing to get decent lungfuls of the stuff. I was aiming to ride a 2’ 55’ schedule and was confident of hitting target. I had an excellent start – out of the gate neatly, straight and not to hard. Lap 1 and I get the “on schedule” signal from Mr Legs. Cool! Keep it at that pace I tell myself. Lap 2 – on target. Awesome! Lap 3 – on target. Lap 4 – on target. Halfway through, feeling good, breathing deeply, only 4 more laps like this and I will have done it. Lap 5 – on target. Lap 6 down by 1. That’s ok, just lift slightly. Lap 7 - down by something but can’t quite make out how many fingers Mr Legs has by his side. Just keep it rolling, lift it slightly, feeling dunno, not heavy, not fatigued but not going as fast as I should, but can’t seem to get the accelerator working properly – it’s sticking. I am working harder but not yet redlining. Final lap – and I see Judy Cahill’s coach giving me signals. Crap! She must be right behind me. I lift as hard as I can, and hammer it home but it’s too late and not enough. I PB, taking 9 seconds of my Vic States time from 11 weeks earlier, get my sub 3 minutes, but not my 2’ 55”. I rode a technically correct race, kept the bike on line and paced the first 5 laps very well, but the times didn’t come through. Not happy.

Judy C did an awesome ride in her first ever IP – 10 seconds faster than me and she went on to win silver. Fantastic work Judy. Keep it up and you’ll be firing for worlds.

Tuesday Sprint Day: no racing for me, but I didn’t realise that once you get past masters 2 all sprints are run derby style, which makes the flying 200m qualifiers a bit of a joke. I rode 10km into DISC to roll the legs over and watch the women. I crawled all the way in, on the small chain ring, thinking that my week is cooked with legs like this! Fortunately my legs had perked up on the way home, although not even 80%. Tried not to stress to much over it, and my massage guru did his magic on me that night. The sprints were excellent to watch, although I still am not sure why Julie B was relegated in the Women’s Div 2 derby. Maybe she crossed into the sprinter’s line coming home? They were packed in tight those girls!

Wednesday TT and Scratch Race Day: after a stressful start, arriving later than I would have liked, forgetting my race numbers (!!!) and no (borrowed) disc wheels in sight, I settled into warming up while Mr Legs did his mech stuff on the Avanti. A quick call to my coach, who made a phone call to someone else, who made another phone call and the disc wheels arrived with 30 minutes to go before show time. I had no preconceived thoughts about the TT, apart from having decided ages ago that if I cracked 41 seconds at Nationals, I would enter the TT at Worlds. I came out of the gate like a drunken pigeon, and never got the front end of the bike under control. Heading towards the end of Lap 1, I decided to ignore what the bike wanted to do, not to fight it, and just keep it going forward with brute force. The Track Godmother said to me as I came back into the pit “You go faster if you don’t ride the blue line”. She was spot on. It was a terrible ride with the bike wandering all over the place. But as I crossed the finish line and looked up at the board I couldn’t have cared less – I had just PBed, taking 1.5 seconds of my Vic States time, and made the 41 second zone. Although I had ridden double disc wheels twice before with no issues, in hindsight I should have kept the campy pista on the front and changed only the rear wheel to disc. Next time!

Rolling into the start of the Scratch race, I was nervous, and stayed that way for the whole race. Normally I settle down once racing starts, but not this time. I kept repeating words of advice from Coach and Track Godmother, both keeping me in the pack (sometimes a little too close and snug in the pack, being boxed in tightly at one point welded to 1st wheel with the lid shut by Julie B – I think – on top. In the end I stuck out on elbow, and then the bunch separated out slightly to a more acceptable spacing) for 19 out of the 20 laps. Lynette C from SA kept wanting to lift the pace each time she hit the front, and being next wheel, I wasn’t worried about letting her slide out the front a bit. I was ready to jump if she got too far away, but each time, she waited to come back to the group as she rolled off the front. On the bell, the pace lifted, and when the deciding jump happened I stood to go with them, but the legs protested too much. I missed the jump and was dropped, and fought to not lose too much ground coming over the line in 5th. I was happy with the ride, knowing I wouldn’t have the speed at the end to match the likes of Julie B, Michelle C and Donna M.

So 1 x 4th, 2 x 5ths, 2 PBs. Mr Legs was suffering my horrible virus from 2 weeks back during the week, and I think it was touch and go if he would make it standing through the 8 laps of the IP. So I baked him a special chocolate cake over the weekend as a thank you. His support during the week was fantastic, and he made the whole show that much easier to deal with. His meching, swapping cranksets and BB out for me between bikes (more than once!!), lending me his crankset & BB so I could use longer cranks, changing gears, pumping tyres, double checking tyre pressures, equipment, cogs, axle nuts, making sure everything was clean and running smooth and true. I am truly blessed to have such a supportive partner.

With time to reflect, I am happy overall with my results, although still disappointed by my IP. It was great to see Julie Coller also improved her IP time from Vic States, coming 4th. I was stoked with my TT time (not the way I rode it!). It got me to thinking that the 40 second mark in the TT is a little like the 4 min mile - a mental barrier that once you crack it, the sky is the limit. I know I am on target for Worlds, and am not too far off the mark when it comes to mixing it nationally at Masters.