Friday, 31 August 2007

Winner Legs

Thursday night is race night! Last night, I arrived later than usual, thanks to a scheduled detour to the chiro for my monthly body service. So my warm-up was shortened, and being the other side of the new 30 (tell that to my body – ie it’s STILL 30something, yeah right!) I need a longer, more civilised warm-up. The evening was a classic balmy Spring night, so indoors the air was comfortably, lung conducively warm. The numbers were down by about 30% in D grade, with some having been promoted to C grade, and some playing host to the flu. Reduce numbers had an interesting effect on racing.

Race 1. The Scratch race stared with an explosion on lap 2 with some sandbaggers smashing the field apart. Come on guys, this is D Grade and we have 13 laps to go. The back of the field was scrappy (yeah I know, what the hell was I doing down there??) with some new guys not having total control (or perhaps just lack of simple understanding) of holding a straight line. One guy in particular on his look-what-I-found-in-the-back-of-shed bike (clean and oil your chain at least please!) was a big loose missile looking for a target. I guess one of the benefits of such scrappy racing is to hone racing skills, but I’d much rather concentrate on me and how I feel and how I am going to race the race, than be dodging boogies and feeling anxious about being taken about by big strong blokes with no real idea. Needless to say, with the average speed up, I was shelled with a few others, and retired with 2 laps to go.

Race 2. Pointscore. Usually my least successful race, although I did score a point for 4th last week in the first sprint. Apparently it’s de riguer to back off for the 1st sprint, according to Coach Mini Me, and the aim is to conquer the remaining sprints. Sorry me! A point is a point and I’ll take it thanks :-) This week’s pointscore started off quite sedately, with young Callum from Warragul setting the pace for the first 3-4 laps, happy to sit up the front and drive the bus for us. We were happy to let him do it. When the first sprint was up, I was there, at the back of a small bunch of 5 -6, coming over the line in 5th and leaving the rest of the bunch behind. I rolled up to the front runners and settled in on Chris’s wheel, keeping the girls together, with some encouragement from her (thanks Chris!). I was able to wheel suck my way into 4th place and a point in the second sprint. Cool!!!! 2 points in 2 weeks – I MUST be improving! But highlight of the race was actually finishing, albeit watching the remaining finishers cross the line, but I finally made it to the end of a pointscore, with a bonus tick beside the points box. The pace at the outset helped enormously, letting me get up to speed without blowing up, but I was also able to recover quite well between sprints (which didn’t seem as hard as in previous weeks).

Race 3. The motorpace has been sketchy for me, and results are heavily dependent on whether I can get back into the middle of the bunch after peeling off the derny, or dropping down to the back and falling off the back. Derny pace has also been erratic over the weeks, with last week faster than usual and the first couple of laps this week almost sliding off the track slow. I was down the line off the derny but with some quick counting realised I would be close to being in a good position when the derny pulled off. After a few more laps, I realised I would be on the derny at lap 4, so let a rider in front of me to push me back. Still not a good position but better. When my turn came to pull off the derny, I immediately saw a huge gap behind the rider now on the derny. I smacked down into it without hesitation, giving the poor bugger behind a bit of a fright from the noise he made. Don't leave such a gap or get over it! Perfect position, behind first wheel on lap 2. As the derny came off, first wheel and I were conjoined twins. After a lap there were calls from behind – someone was powering through from behind. Everyone jumped, but I had a minor hesitation, still shy of jumping with every one in case I get collected from behind (don’t ask my why!!). I eventually was dropped with no top end speed to go on with, and came in for 7th, just behind the bunch but not out the back. It was a nice feeling.

After the race, I found out who had won: Mr Legs. No way…. he normally doesn’t make it to the end. Has he been doing secret training when he claims to be walking the dogs?? Is there some unknown training effect in walking the dogs?? Mr Legs said he got "annoyed" with the quality of riding down the back, cracked the sads and hit the accelerator. His jump is strong and fast enough that he put enough of a gap into us, combined with our slow reaction times, that he got away and stayed away. Not bad for someone who only rides twice a week: Thurs night racing and Sunday Masters session at DISC. So a win for Mr Legs. If he keeps getting pissed off, he won’t stay in D Grade much longer.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Four on the Floor

It’s been over a week since I commented on my training, basically because I am sure anyone reading this blog must be getting tired of me whinging about how bloody tired and sore I am, and how I am going like a dead dog. Well the dog is rising (with the help of maggots maturing into flies), and changing colour and shape from black lab to brindle (camo-stealth) greyhound. Last Thursday at DISC, I managed to shake a bit of hoodoo and score a 4th in the 1st sprint of the pointscore. Never mind that the 4th in Sprint #1 was my only moment of glory for the night, and I DNFed with 2 laps to go - I DNFed with a smile on my face, and an enticing glint (k-ching!) of improvement sparkling off my teeth. It’s a small indication that the work is beginning to solidify.

Friday nights I now do an ergo thrashfest session with Coach, and managed to feel really unwell and see some new stars last Friday. Coach is seeing how long it will take me to throw up, I am convinced. The best bit is suddenly feeling your legs die mid pedal stroke, and not being able to finish the effort, and not being able to do anything about it. It’s total mental and physical failure to say I can’t, but Coach has heard it a few times now. He has also seen me grit my teeth, screw my nose up in anger and pain and push through the mental and physical monsterdemons to finish the effort, usually on the ugly side, but finished nevertheless.

This morning I did my ergo intervals on the trainer at home, and I finally struck paydirt. All factors (rpm, HR, resistance and time) of each effort were achieved, not with ease or grace, but with relief and massive burning fatigue in the minute immediately after. I wasn’t sure how it would pan out after the warm-up effort, but I followed the set game plan, and worked on negative splitting each minute of each four minute effort. Doing a 4minute pursuit effort on the ergo or trainer isn’t the same as doing it on the boards (hopefully it’s ultimately harder!), but training the body to intrinsically know the designated rpms; to increase pace, speed and HR progressively over the four minutes without blowing, or worse, totally imploding; learning to drive, not push, but totally drive through that moment when the instinctive brain demands termination and starts to shut down your body; and to override what your rational brain is saying, is crucial to peak performance.

So the fat black lazy Labrador is slowly becoming a silent greyhound trotting faithfully along, waiting to chase some rabbits.

And overnight, the American Masters Women did the IP at their Nationals. In the 40 – 44 yr olds, fastest time was 2:50:46 dropping down to 2:51:83 for 4th and 2:55:18 for 6th. Annete Hanson, who ripped home at the 2006 Worlds in 2:35:517 after catching Janet Birkmyre, managed a 2:44:77 in the 45-49 yrs age group yesterday. In a few weeks, the UK Masters get to strut their stuff, and it will be interesting to compare those times.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

campy world in 40 seconds or under

The USA Masters Track Nationals started yesterday, with the women’s 500m TT. The 40 – 49 yr olds seem to be scoring medals in the range of 40-41 seconds. Interestingly enough the 40 second mark seems to be consistently the main medal scoring mark across nearly all the age groups. It makes me feel ok about my own times this year, although with no real testing since Nationals, and the set backs in training over the last 5 months, I don’t really know where I stand (and probably don’t want to know at this stage – ask me in 3-4 weeks, after this block of training!). It seems as though the 40 second mark is like the 4 minute mile – a mental barrier as much as a physical one.

There are three women to watch in my age group: Michelle King (retiring after this year’s Worlds), Julie Barnett and Janet Birkmyre. These women consistently crack 37-38 seconds, and I suspect Michelle and Janet will be going head to head to win gold and crack another World Best time in the very low 37s.

Word was out today that Michelle Ferris will also be racing at World Masters in October. Thankfully she will be racing Young’uns Class, but will be competing in the Women’s Team Sprint with Michelle King, according to the Goldie Blog. That’s gotta be some race to watch. Wonder who else will come out for the week in October – there could well be a bit of “spot-the-former-Australian-elite-champion”.

In other, more important news, Mr Legs did a small service on the L’una on Saturday – brake adjustment, cable cleaning and oiling, shifter cleaning etc The gear shifts are soft, instant and trigger sharp now – very nice, like new! I’d never get that level of detail and fastidiousness from a bike shop service. With 10K km under the campy BB, I’ve ordered a new cassette and chain. The wheel bearings in the rear hub also need attention (I am good for working the bearings hard, having pushed a few track & mtb hubs beyond their comfort zone). Coming from a shimano family, I need to buy a few campag compatible tools to change the cluster, fix the chain and service the hubs. That’s the one downer with campag gear that I can see, having to slot into the total campag world, tools’n’all.

Friday, 24 August 2007

A Morality Cycling Tale or a Cycling Morality Tale

I came across this post on Flashbog via one of the local forums. For me it was a timely tale. Funny how things come to you just when you need them. Here is a snippet of the full post:

She opened her rear pannier and pulled out a tan plastic grocery bag with something big in it. Inside was another plastic bag, and when she peeled that back I could see something incredible and hilarious: a pink painted brick! She handed it to me and I felt all the poundage of a real brick. NO WAY! Yes, her friends had painted up some bricks and gave them to her. I was reeling from this reality- my brain refused to accept this, but here it was. She told me few people had been shown the bricks. I asked if she carried bricks in the front too. She said no, she carries lead ankle weights up front. LEAD! Then there are all the usual items such as tools, extra clothing, food, and who knows what else.

Oh man, this was too much! So I had to ask her if I could lift her bike. I had to-to grasp the ultimate impact of what she was showing me . She readily agreed, and as I straddled my bike I grabbed her top bar and lifted up. Nothing. The wheels did not come off the ground. In disbelief, I gave a harder pull. Nothing! I could not lift her bike! I shook my head and muttered “this thing must weigh 100 pounds!” Pink Lady replied, “no, actually its more like 85 pounds.”

It was then that I had an epiphany. There should have been a golden shaft of light beaming down from heaven upon us. She was suddenly an Apostle, and I had found her- she waiting for me to ride up to her- and she had chosen to impart her Wisdom to me. As I looked on her I knew I admired her more than any other cyclist I know, for she is so outside the box of accepted cycling thought as to almost be a heretic. I knew in that moment that weight no longer matters. A few pounds here, some grams there, thousands spent on fabric and resin parts for a gossamer machine, it is all irrelevant. Weight is irrelevant. What is relevant is that we can create our own cycling realities, no matter how far-out they are, and live in them and prosper. It can be whatever we want it to be, as long as we do not succumb to fashion, fads, and marketing.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Mike Gets Fourth

Well done and a mega CONGRATULATIONS to Mike on achieving 4th at his first Worlds. He smsed last night, saying he was tired before his race, having to back up from the previous day's heat (Masters they give you minimum 2hrs). After his race he was "completely stuffed". I am really stoked for Mike and I know there is more to come for him. He has worked incredibly hard over the last 12 months, and has the ability both mentally and physically to step onto the podium.

Monday, 20 August 2007

News flash: Mike Eaddy rides off for bronze

In an sms just in from Mike, he is riding off for bronze in the IP at Bordeaux in 2 hours (5.45pm our time).


Twitch of the chain

How freaking cold was it this morning??? Even on the trainer, outside with the dogs at 5.30 am, I only lasted 30 minutes before cracking the sads about my frost bitten toes and my cold aching bones. For some reason, over the last week, I am just not tolerating the morning freezer chill.

After recovery week last week, I expected to be jumping by week’s end, but instead had the opposite outcome: flat, heavy, sore deadlegs. Racing on Thursday night, I was secretly glad we were limited to 2 instead of the usual 3 races, due to a seemingly innocuous but ultimately bad crash at the end of the warm up (heal quickly Dino!!). My endurance has improved, and I can roll with the group as pace winds up until the final few laps, where I have no further speed to jump with, and am decisively shelled.

Saturday my legs were SORE… no idea why – there was no reason for it. Sunday I rode over to DISC, felt like a limp heavy blob with all the zap sucked out of me, but was still able to take the bike path hills at record speed (although it felt slow and ugly). Go figure. Mr Legs drove the track bikes over, so I met him there. I have started to have an issue recently with the Teschner, in that it’s handlability has in some way changed. It’s twitcher and it feels unstable underneath me whenever I stand in the pedals. I nearly pulled it right over on Thursday night (although it’s rock solid and wouldn’t have gone over, it just felt that way). So I am no longer confident in throwing it around, and in dong standing accelerations on it. Makes for insipid standing starts.

After a bit of discussion with, and observation by Mr Legs and Hour of Power Woman, we came to 2 conclusions: 1) my core is not as strong nor as stable as it was, thanks to not doing any weights of note over the last 2 mths whilst I have been studying the Cert IV for work 2) the rear wheel is a distance out from the down tube. This is significant, as a few weeks ago, I finally swapped my usual length chain for my longer chain, so I didn’t have to change chains when I use a bigger chainring (which is not that often!). This means that on the gears I usually run for training and racing, the rear wheel is now further back, which makes the bike more twitchy. So before Thursday, I’ll put the shorter chain back on and see if it really does make a difference. I hope so, because I don’t like my loss of confidence in being able to handle the bike aggressively. The bike is a weapon (with the right ammunition behind it!) and needs to be ridden that way, not like a Sunday cruisemobile.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

The cost of hobby horses

Reading a potted history of the bicyle, and note that at the turn of the 19th century, bikes were limited in ownership to the wealthy, as they cost as much as a horse. Funny thing is, they still do!

Image borrowed from linked article

AWD World Champs

Start in 3 days - Sunday 19 August. The Champs kick off with the mens IP (LC1-4) qualifiers, from 1.30 pm Bordeaux time.

I heard on the grapevine that Martin Vcelka is out, staying at home with a back injury - late injuries are always a horribly frustrating thing to deal with. So close yet... and there always hangs in the uncomfortable space that crap sentence: "There's always next year." It's a patronising gloss over, designed to make the speaker feel as though they have added something to making you feel better, when all you want to do is scream in frustration, weep in anger, despair and despondency. You wonder why the hell you did all that hard work, and what it was really for. Then you get it together, reschedule, reconfigure goals and plans, refocus energies and start again.

Mike Eaddy landed in France earlier this week, keeping Hilton Clarke company on the trip over. Having been an observer over the last year of his journey to this point, battling it out with him during training sessions, feeling his kid-in-a-lollyshop excitement at achieving dreams, it's a real buzz to know Mike's moments of glory start on Sunday. Kick arse SkinnyLegs!

Monday, 13 August 2007

Breathe Air - it's good for you.

From Engagdet and Colin Griffith's Bicycling Bits blog, a revolution for asthmatic cyclists. Perhaps the AIS should take note when kitting the cycling team out for next year's Smoglympics. I wonder if it comes in an aerodynamic model?

From Gizmodo:

Apparently, hay fever sufferers make dangerous cyclists, as if they sneeze they oftentimes send themselves careening into ongoing traffic. Solving that problem and also making cyclists look totally badass is this Breathe Air helmet. It's got a filter over the nose and mouth that's designed to filter out particles that will cause problems for people with allergies and asthma. Oh, and you'll look like you just biked out of a sci-fi movie, but I guess that's just a bonus. There's no manufacturer as of yet, but when one is found expect for the Breathe Air helmet to retail for around $220. [Lancashire Evening Post via CrunchGear]

At The Movies

A busy week at work leaves not much to report on the cycling front – just the usual work, train, eat, sleep. I raced on Thursday night at DISC, and whilst I once again did nothing memorable, (apart from having the Teschner named the slowest bike around!! Pfft, the Avanti was much slower!) I rode more comfortably and strongly than I have previously done, despite the lingering chest lurgy. At last I am beginning to see the small telltale signs of life in the training saltmine paying off eg taking longer to fatigue, quicker recovery, more endurance, less post race stress, better recovery the next day, able to back up hard training sessions more easily.

I picked up some freebie tickets to The Flying Scotsman on the way out the door on Thursday night, courtesy of CSV. So Mr Legs, HourofPowerWoman and I trooped off into the innerburbs Saturday morning to spend some time in front of the big screen. Surprisingly, the cinema was rather empty, despite the free seats on offer (via CSV and Beyond Blue).

The movie itself was enjoyable as light entertainment, but this is not a light story. I am not sure how easy it would have been for someone with no or limited prior knowledge to follow what was going on, particularly in the opening scenes. Obree’s character was not fully delineated, particularly in reference to his very bleak, demanding inner struggles – these were mainly glossed over, as if too offensive/difficult to discuss. For example, Obree’s drinking binges punctuated his state of mind. A cursory reference was made in a scene where Obree is lying on a couch, sucking on a tube, with (only) one empty on the coffee table in front of him. Hardly an indication of Obree’s condition as reported in his autobiography. Similarly, Obree’s ongoing battle with the UCI (or World Cycling Federation, as per the movie) was difficult for those not in the know to follow, let alone comprehend. Many of the depressive lows in the autobiography were omitted or clumsily placed and dealt with, which left the movie shallow, inchoate, as I believe Obree’s battles with himself underpin the real humanity and genius in his achievements.

The best scenes were those of Obree racing, particularly the hour record. The narrowing of scope of vision from the rider’s perspective brought back strong memories for me of State titles this year in the IP, where peripheral vision collapsed under the strain of the effort. Close up shots of the velodrome boards, the blurring of the infield, the references to inner struggles spurring on the outer struggles were poignant in the full capacity of the word. The incredible effort of Obree’s successful hour record, backed up after his unsuccessful attempt less than 24 hours earlier, was not made clear, which was very disappointing. An excited, cheering cluster of supporters and observers doesn’t show the real strain and cost of achieving the record in such a manner. Rather than seeing the movie again, I’d prefer to revisit the book.

The movie was enjoyable, but could have been so much more on many levels. I’d score it 6.5/10, and would rate it in entertainment value with Nacho Libre which I saw on DVD Saturday night.

Monday, 6 August 2007

A quiet weekend

With incapacitated lungs, riding was non-existent on the weekend, so I decided it was about time I put my aerobars together and set them up on the track bike. They have only been sitting on the dining room table for 4 1/2 months (which says a lot about how much use the dining room table gets). I took myself off to DISC on Sunday morning, did a brief warm up until the cough really started up, then went to work on swapping handlebars over. Stuart Vaughan was on hand to provide sound advice and much appreciated assistance. With the aerobars on, and in a bare state (without arm rests), I rolled around the concrete for a couple of laps, and pretty quickly determined what changes to the bars were needed. A quick shortening of the bars, and setting the arm rest bases wider, then a few more test laps on the concrete for verification. Some more fiddling, more laps, then finally I put the arm rests and padding on, a few more laps and I am happy. These handlebars are really comfortable and I like the way my hands fit into the drops, with the corner of the drop fitting neatly across my thumb joint and palm. I can just hang my hands into the drops without having to hold on to them. So, with the job done, it was time for (some medicinally therapeutic) coffee and cake at Degani’s in Station Street. They do a mean berry cheescake...

Friday, 3 August 2007

Escaping lungs

This week I have been plagued by a cough – a gut twisting, lung inverting, training stopper, productive cough. Finally I took myself off to the medical practice at work yesterday, to check it out with one of the GPs. Very early on in the week I thought it was asthma, but none of my asthma drugs worked. So then I figured it was a chest infection, particularly in light of the productivity of the cough….hmmm…. no further information needed on what that means!

GP listened to my chest – no infective rattles, wheezes, pops, gurgles, therefore it MUST be asthma. So to check, I did a peak flow meter reading. It was significantly less than one I did in February, but significantly greater than the estimated average for my age and height. GP is stumped – how does she read this, not really knowing what is normal for an asthmatic masters athlete? Then she took my blood pressure – low as usual, and a bit low for the doctor’s liking, but I reassured her ;-). Then my pulse, which again was low for the population average, and lower than my resting heart rate had been that morning. She was still stumped, not really knowing how to interpret all the figures she was collecting. So she stuck by her diagnosis of asthma, though I’d like to think you don’t have asthma 24 hrs a day for 5 days in a row without the medication working. When she started on wanting to change my medication regime, I politely declined, citing ASADA/WADA, paperwork, and my regular sports med doctor. Thanks but no thanks!

In the evening I had my usual monthly bodywork job with my chiro. She did some work on my upper back and chest area, which instantly opened up my lungs and gave me some relief breathing. She gave me a few suggestions for symptom relief, namely mashing a whole bulb (not a clove) of garlic up and putting it into a cup of honey to macerate. Dosage: 1 teaspoon of this mix 4-6 times a day, with a little hot water and lemon if desired. No bourbon – I did check. So with this little tasty treat and a lathering of vicks at bedtime, I actually had a full night’s sleep last night, and wasn’t woken by a lung trying to escape from my ribcage.

Moral 1: if you are an athlete, go to a sports med doctor! At least they have a better understanding of how relevant the numbers are. Don't dick around with GPs.

Moral 2: those funny cold-killing concoctions your grandmother used to make really are good for you!

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Women's Come n Try Track - it's official

Dates have been released for the 2 upcoming CSV Women's Come N Try Track programs.

I am really excited about these programs, particularly the seven week program, not just because I'll be involved coaching, but also to have the opportunity watch the women participating grow their skills and confidence. Hopefully the end result will be those women racing on the boards, either at club or open level. That will be a real buzz :) But even if racing is not an outcome, then if the program helps build the confidence and skills of those participating, and enriches their experience of cycling in some way, then we have done our job. One happy little trackie hoping to spread the love!

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

A speedy recovery CJ

Cut 'n' paste from CCCC website:

Number 1 women's cycling journo crashed out of Thüringen!

Just days after providing us with her exclusive update on Emma Rickard's day in Yellow, CJ Farquharson was involved in a nasty accident between race motos. Our best wishes for a full and speedy recovery go to CJ. Full details below.

A chance accident on Sunday during the final stage of the Thüringen Rundfarht has ended the road racing season prematurely for photographer, CJ Farquharson.

Farquharson, who photographs mainly women's professional road race events, was riding pillion on a motorcycle at the German event on Sunday. "We were just slowing to stop at a point on a hill for some photos when we were hit from behind by another race motorbike," explained Farquharson.

The freak accident on rolling closed roads resulted in a broken ankle for Faquharson's ‘pilot' and minor injuries to the other rider. In fact, she came off worst, with an open compound fracture to both bones in her lower left leg. She was airlifted to hospital and underwent surgery to stabilise the leg with eternal fixtures. These will be replaced in a week or so, via further surgery, with internal pins which will remain in place for an unspecified time.

"I could be in hospital here in Germany for up to four weeks. It depends on how quickly things settle and when the plates are inserted. The medical staff have been excellent and they have huge experience in this type of injury. I have even done some work with the physiotherapist today [Monday]," Farquharson commented. "I guess my season is over and that's a huge disappointment; I love my job. I'll be working hard to get back on start and finish lines as soon as possible", she added.

As news of the accident spread around the race hotel after the stage, riders, team managers and officials contacted Farquharson via sms and email to extend their best wishes for her recovery. Some riders even visited today [Monday] for a short while on their way from the race. "I would like to thank everyone for their kind thoughts and wishes, it means a great deal to me", said Farquharson.

Wishing you a speedy, uncomplicated recovery CJ. We all look forward to seeing your photos and reports again in the near future.