Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Leg Fry Up Parts 2 & 3.

Friday was followed by a Saturday of rushing around being domestic at one house, in preparation for the trip to t’other house, for more domestic duties later in the day = no ride Mr Legs and I have subverted the classic DINKs to DIDMs : dual income, dual mortgage (diddums cos the likes of us miss out on tax breaks – no kids for receiving new to school allowances, health care costs, baby bonuses, family allowances etc). Such is the way of the blended nuclear Gen X couple these days. Fortunately all this busyness allowed me some much needed recovery from the previous night. Sunday was a different story, and not long after we headed out into the Strzleckis, the wind picked up. And pick up it did – at one point coming down the Foster Rd hill (think 1: 20 but more open with drop offs either side, and steeper, in places) I was blown 1 metre into the middle of the road, and felt the wheels begin to ever so slightly lift from the bitumen – shades of the Flying Nun. I turned the front wheel back into the side wind, and rode directly into it, back to the left hand side of the road, and then pottered the remaining 4 or so km down the hill where we headed into the Morwell River valley for some shelter to finish off the ride. The wind knocked us both around so much that the proposed 100km turned into 70. The highlight of the ride was seeing a very newborn Angus calf – the herd was sheltering in a hollow on the hillside close to the road – still wet and not yet on its legs.

Monday was calmer, and we took a more sedate route after warming up along Grand Ridge Rd, visiting Sunday’s new calf curled up asleep under a tree by the fence. Mr Legs and I both were pretty wrecked in the leg department, so the ride was a very slow 80kms. When we got home, I decided to have a little lie down, give my legs a rest before mowing the back yard. Two hours later I woke up… so much for mowing the lawn! Just a rush job cleaning out blocked gutters, doing a hay run, and getting back to Melbourne by 10pm. People comment on how lucky we are to have a house in the country... I certainly didn't feel that way last night, driving back to Melbourne for the working week, knowing there are still jobs to be done, and major maintenance due (new gutters, resealing of roof).

The Great National BBQ weekend: Leg Fry Up

This weekend just past is our “national” weekend of rejoicing over the fact that a little Englishman (and he was little – I’ve seen his house) and his little flotilla landed in a place that would be known as Sydney, home of the convict (colonial and contemporary) and claimed the land for some monarch many hundreds of thousands of kms away. Bugger the fact there were already inhabitants: savage natives by classification and therefore usable or ignorable and eradicatable. So every January, we all gather around our barbecues in our backyards (what’s left of them these days with modern domestic architecture), burn our steaks, prawns, lamb, roo, calamari, vegie burgers and ourselves, drinking beer, wine and bourbon, celebrating our glorious colonialism, as did Cook and his mates over 200 years ago. I must admit, though, that had a Dutch, Spanish or Frenchman landed instead of an Englishman, my grandparents and their children would not have emigrated here 50 years ago. Here endeth the political history lesson.

My weekend was spent recovering from an almost pukefest on the ergo Friday night. I ended up with the Puke Bucket of Champions TM at my feet, head in hands, holding back the tide of bile and nausea from an ergo session from hell. It was tough, bloody tough. My legs were holding resonances of trashings from racing and ergoing earlier in the week, and protested muchly - I'm talking placards, picket lines, union negotiations. I ignored them until, in retaliation, they failed to work any longer, and threatened to take the contents of my guts with them as they exited stage right. It’s the first time in some time I’ve not been able to finish a complete set. I was annoyed, frustrated, tired, sore, seeing double, feeling double, beaten by the yellow fan as it finally found its total revenge.

As I sat in Coach’s shed, bucket at my feet, focusing on not throwing up, Coach looked at the raw data off the PT head. He asked me what my max wattage was from Wednesday, and when I told him, he replied: well you beat that. No way! I say. 746 watts was the reply. Well, that almost makes it (ie the very imminent prospect of throwing up) worthwhile then, I replied, with just a hint of Australian laconic irony. How is it you can feel so bad, so drained and crushed by a training session and yet do the "best" workout so far? Drive and hunger perhaps? Determination and courage, not to let deep nausea and fatigue beat me? Pure guts and a tremendous work ethic?? Can you hear the uplifting violins?? Let’s try: I was trying to make the best of a bad situation. It was my 3rd last session of this kind, and I wasn’t prepared to finally lose to the machine. So pride and the “shame” of failure more than anything got me through it. I went as hard as I could at the time, because I thought it was going to be pretty bad, so I wanted to minimise losses ie I didn't want to look THAT bad! Motto: don’t stop racing until you cross the finish line, because you never know.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Thursday Night Racing

Numbers were down last night, with 7 starters in the D grade scratch race – one junior and the rest of us of the more mature variety. The junior was pinged off into C grade after taking off like horse stung by a bee the second lap into the scratch race. And then we were 6, all over 30 bar one ex Irish dancer who is showing a lot of potential in her early days track racing. Beware the Irish dancers – legs like springs that fire off with 1.5 laps to go.

Racing was more civilised (read: sedate), and the pointscore ended up being a sprint derby series rather than a true pointscore. After the 2nd sprint there was a definite cagey lull – a perfect opportunity for an attack if someone had been thinking of it. Seems no one was, including myself. I rode the whole night totally brainless, thinking switched off thanks to tiredness. I just went through the motions, testing my legs out and that’s about all. I had strength in the legs, the engine was gunning effeciently, but no speed to finish it off with. This meant it took longer to be dropped (if you could call it that), and then only in the final lap of each race, finishing no more than 10m off the back of the motorpace (despite the bigger gear) and in the scratch. I actually finished with the bunch in the pointscore and was only pipped at the post for last by a guy who vocalised as I shifted slightly up the track to avoid someone in front of me. So I backed off in surprised (having miscounted and thinking I was the sweeper) allowing him to accelerated over the top of me. Dumb, plain gumby dumb. I probably shouldn’t have raced, but wanted a hit out, and wanted to test my gains in training – see how well they would convert on the track. If had I ridden with some intelligence (and it wouldn’t have taken much!) it would be a very different report. I can hear a lecture coming on tonight from the Mentor Mistress of Tactics, Mrs Coach.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Feel sh!t, grow flowers.

One of the things I love about cycling is that you can been feeling like absolute sh!t and actually be doing ok, or pretty darn good even. Last night’s ergo session was one of those rides. Perhaps it had something to do with worry about the overview graph of the previous session, which was indicating reduced performance.

I struggled through last night’s session, fought against the big yellow fan, the cranks, my legs, my head, the clock. But in the end, my highest wattage was another PB, my cadence was up, and signs of more improvement were there. So was the nausea, but that’s another matter! Last week I felt slightly ill at the end of the final effort. Last night, I felt well and truly nauseous after the very first effort – not a good way to start! 10 efforts later I didn’t sit up to recover, for fear of needing the dreaded barf bucket, which Coach relishes in describing – wide pan to catch the splashes, used by champions (true!).

Mr Legs was over for the session. He’s never seen me do an ergo session before, and I suspect he doesn’t want to see one again. He looked a bit shocked (stunned and horrified??) by it all, but I did explain it was an uglier than usual session. At least he now understands better why I come home, shower, eat, crash!

After downloading the data, the graph looked like the last one ie reduced performance. But after expanding the data points for each effort, I realised the software compresses the data points and the data ranges on the graph so that it doesn’t present a true picture of what actually happened. My max power output was a PB and 80 watts more than 3 weeks ago. Three more sessions of power efforts, then we hit the cranks for some cadence work: set cadence at a set power output. I’m beginning to like this power stuff, hunting after numbers, watching them ebb and flow, trying to control their little flashing figures on the computer head – instant biofeedback, and the reward of a new best number at the end to hang in the trophy cabinet.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Sandown: Windy one day, windy the next

The only thing the same about racing Sandown is the wind, and so it was last night. Each time I race Sandown, it’s different (apart from the wind), with different riders in the bunch, so it makes it difficult to compare performances each time. The bunch yesterday was large, and we were told in the pre race debrief it was one of the largest D grades entries Sandown has had. I estimated 50 riders, this morning’s report says 55.

The first two laps were cruisy with the standard enforced neutrality. Lap 3 saw the pace pick up as usual, but it was no big deal, and having moved myself up the pointy end in lap two, I was comfortable sitting back 5-6 from the front over the next couple of laps. I decided to ride on the Eurus this time, as I am more confident cornering on them- they run on rails, and I don't worry about hitting the pavement. Sweet! The change of wheel seemed to do the trick and I was able to keep my position fairly well each time through the chicanes before the home straight. Lap 3 into the home straight, I was on the ball and ready for the charge into the headwind, but I was left disappointed and hitting the brakes cos the boys in front just sat there and, if anything, sat up rather than hitting the gas. The anticipated charge finally came up the back straight of lap 4 – I was hanging in there, still up the front, beginning to hurt but confident of making it through. The pace kept up through the chicanes, no problem there (which I was pleased about, bless those funky Eurus), until the final corner into the straight: someone changed up gear and my clutch started slipping. The engine was running but I wasn’t going anywhere but backwards out the rear of the bunch. I kept the pressure on myself up the home straight but was off the back and with no real hope of getting back on in that headwind. Bugger! I was hoping to last at least another lap with the bunch. Perhaps the charge up the back straight knocked the top off my battery and left me without enough zap when the crunch came.

I decided then my mission was to work on not getting lapped, instead of sitting up and waiting .. and waiting.. and waiting.. for the bunch to come through, as I did last time. So I kept my pace up, legs hurting, the engine burning oil at a great rate. Another 2 laps saw me through to the 45 minute mark, and a decision to retire at that point with the call of 2 laps to go. Up the back straight of that final lap, B grade came screaming past, closely followed by C grade as we hit the start of the chicanes. To my horror, D grade was right on the tail of C grade and caught me in the final corner. All 3 bunches were almost together, in a giant congo line of racing. Either I had been going much slower than I thought (30kph down the front straight, high 30s up the back straight, don’t think so!!) or D grade was particularly speedier than 2 weeks ago. I was relieved reading Mal’s report this morning that he noted D grade’s pace was up on normal. I didn’t feel so bad!

After a couple of weeks of some heavy training, and reviewing the power readout on my last ergo effort this morning over breakfast, I think accumulate fatigue is settling in, which is to be expected. I don't feel as confident in my newly gained strength as I did week before last, also thanks to the couple of health hiccups last week, which were timely reminders of my age and capacity for training and working full time. I am not overly concerned though. With a freshen up and ongoing work, it will come together when I need it. And I don't necessarily need it at a club crit. Yesterday I rode technically well, was pleased with my positioning, even elbowing out a couple of old guys for wheels. I cornered more confidently (faster) and kept up with the guys as they accelerated across the back of the course. Last night there were quite a few new riders who probably are at a level above D grade, and losing them will make a difference to the racing.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

New powerTap!

I have a new powertap on my trainer. This neat little mod was engineered by Mr Legs, and was a result of the original and essential piece of the trainer jumping ship at Maryborough and running off into the shrubbery, never to be seen again. Thanks to the age of the trainer, the mechanism that lifts the flywheel/roller to the rear wheel has changed(an update, it's called) and therefore not available in the format required for my trainer. So Mr Legs came to the rescue and produced this! Complete with tap handle for ease of use when dialling in the roller.

Monday, 21 January 2008

A rare commute

Friday, in order to get close to the 85km in my training schedule (after a rejig of this week’s training due to Coach’s, well, coaching commitments) I decided the best way to get the kms done was ride the bike to work. The bike being the Fatbastard mtb aka ~5 yr old Avanti Hammer = weighs a ton. Add several kg of back pack, mixed riding surfaces – bitumen, and bike paths of concrete, packed gravel, loose gravel, loose, thick chunky gravel, sand - and one mother of a steep climb at Sunnybrook Dr Wheeler’s Hill, it makes for an interesting ride. It’s been many months since I did this ride in full, so was looking forward to how it would pan out. Usually I start to hit the wall on the return trip, around Heathmont, and have to hit the jubes hard at this point.

Apart from fatigue from lack of sleep and hard training on the ergo during the week (got the powertap readouts to prove it!), I felt good. The ride was actually easy (not withstanding on the home trip, a sore lower back and shoulders from the back pack, and a sore butt from the saddle, sore quads and knees from ergo the day before) and I never did hit that flat spot on the way home – no desperate stop for demolishment of a packet of jelly dinosaurs! I wasn’t even hungry when I got home (maybe a sign of the lurking visitor that arrived the next day in all its glory?). My current training seems to be doing me some good. And now I seem to have the mtb almost in full working order (new cones and bearings needed) I'll be looking for more places in my training where I can ride to work to fill in a smidge under 80kms towards the weekly tally, weather permitting.

Goal has Legs

Mr Legs' finally has a new cycling goal. Well, it's one he has done before, but it's come up on the radar for this year, and very close on the radar. Two years ago we did the Murray to Moyne as part of the Tech-Rentals team. It was my first (and only at this stage) M2M and Mr Legs' Nth.

He has a spot on the team again this year for April, and as of the weekend, is keen and revved up. I s'pose this may mean he will ride more than twice a week... at least this morning he put his mtb in the car to ride the Warby rail trail after work. Hopefully this will give him something to do, some motivation to ride, some understanding, once again, of my own training tiredness and unwillingness to spend more than 40 minutes a week vacuuming, and no time at all dusting. It also means we will be fighting over whose turn it is to cook dinner (as in, no it's not my turn!!), as we will both be as time-limited as the other. Looks like the freezer will be kept stocked with cook ups over the weekend. I am pleased that he has decided to do M2M again. I won't join him as it's 3 weeks out from nationals and I'll be getting very precious about my health and well-being by then. But I hope it gives him the goal he has been looking for with his riding.

Who punched me in the head?

A non-event of a weekend: Saturday was meant to be a 90km ride, part of which was to be 1:20fied with Mr Legs and a couple of his mates. Well, his mates sms at 6.45am calling the ride off because of some dark clouds overhead, moisture on the road and a bit of drizzle. Pessweak. But I was glad of the sleep in. I sent off a quick sms to Madam Hour, then back to sleep, with a bit of a heavy head that I put down to not enough sleep during the week (averaging 6 hrs a night this week – o yay!). When I finally woke up my head was thick and heavy, and I felt crap. This is not unusual for a Saturday morning, and in the past I’ve put it down to lack of sleep, and/or hayfever, and just ignored it. An hour or so later, my ability to read/see was not just its normal weekend “can’t focus” but was blurring and , at times, warping. Took some aspro, which did nothing, and spent the morning lounging around until motivated enough to go out shopping for a couple of hrs with Mr Legs.

By the afternoon, there was no improvement, so instead of doing a rescheduled ride, I slept some, and kept it low key. Sunday saw a mild improvement in the state of my head, but basically it was a repeat of Saturday ie 90km of training gone, dealing with this persistent, annoying, deadening feeling in my head, nausea etc. Late in the afternoon I went out to feed the mare, and was talking to one of the girls there, after she mentioned I looked “not good”. She said: “Sounds like a migraine. I get them all the time from extreme fatigue.” Then the penny dropped. I’ve never had a migraine before (not that I’d recognised) and believed them to be lock-yourself-away-in-a-dark-room-for-a-few-days affairs. The solution for me was pretty obvious – I need to be absolutely rigourous, and totally non-compromising on getting enough sleep, recovery and de-stress time. Particularly if this (ie migraine) is a consequence of flogging myself training, working, living on small hours of sleep for days and weeks on end. Bugger that for a joke!

Today I’ve googled, read wikipedia, read some medical sites on migraines and realised that I’ve actually been suffering with these blighters on a very mild but regular basis, usually on the weekends, for many years. The mystery of the nasty hangover I get on Saturday morning from not drinking, or from a glass of wine/bourbon on a Friday night is revealed. I’ve learnt a bit about migraines, serotonin levels, triggers, auras and other symptoms, their vagueness and illusiveness in diagnosis and treatment. I wouldn’t normally blog on about an “illness” but it’s been a revelatory weekend for me, which has resulted in recognition of an annoyance that has pestered me for a long time, and recognition of what pushing envelopes, and pretending to be indestructible, can do.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Full Noise

I am daydreaming about ergo while at work, as you do. Those little 10 sec/20 sec/30 second intervals of leg deadening burn, with cranks that get heavier, bottom brackets that seize up with each pedal stroke, each tick of the stopwatch in Coach’s hand. Seated start, fly wheel and chain still and anticipating, cranks cocked and ready to churn on the press of a button and a “when you’re ready”.

Each interval is full noise: ergos are noisy, and full noise is as hard as you can go, getting the most noise from the big yellow flywheel behind you. Ergo noise hides no secrets – any change of cadence, rhythm, torque is immediately spoken of by the fly wheel. Coach’s eye monitors your suffering via your body position and stillness (or lack of it), but it’s his ear that knows how well you are coping, how much power you’re putting out, when the cadence drops or you start chopping down on the pedals, using quads and hip flexors instead of glutes, hammies and abs. Full noise is rowdy but also smooth and rhythmic. I don’t hear it as I usually have my eyes screwed tight with effort and concentration, and my hearing tuned in to the little inner coach growling, demanding more from my legs, ignoring pleas from the physiological monitor to stop, imagining the light at the top of the climb only 30 or 40 or 50 metres away, hanging the memory of relief in finally dropping the chain from big ring to small out there, carrot-like, to be had once again when time is up. Full noise ridicules your weaknesses, torments when you lose it, an absolute grind against body and brain, a constant, demanding challenge with no release, an illusive reward, and a complement of achievement and candid, bone-sweating work.

And now for something completely off-topic

I received an email today from UMRG, which included this snippet that caught my eye and my media studies/critical theory mind:


The Mars Volta have just announced that they will be releasing an exclusive USB Flash drive that contains their new album, The Bedlam In Goliath, along with album artwork and the video for Wax Simulacra! Each USB flash drive has a 1GB capacity and is Windows and Mac compatible. And for added value - on the 29th of every month, plug in your flash drive and you can get new content from The Mars Volta all year long directly on your computer. Content includes B-sides, webisodes, limited edition wallpaper, exclusive tracks, and much more. All at no extra cost!

Pre-order the USB Version of The Bedlam In Goliath today on Amazon!


Radiohead decided at the end of last year to prerelease their latest offering (why do we still call them albums??) via the web, purchasable for a cost nominated by the downloader. Now Mars Volta are providing an alternate form of music publishing, which still includes storage (as does a CD) but it’s updatable on a regular basis, circumventing traditional music publishing avenues. Control is retained by the artist, a connection is forged between the artist and audience in a way not available by simply purchasing a cd, the method engages new technologies and new ways of interacting with and utilising that technology. The whole process takes both the producer an consumer back to the era of cottage industries (or bespoke as it’s now called, which has different connotations, mainly around luxury and exclusivity), releasing them in some ways from our current capitalist regimes, and providing an artefact that is unique (the consumer controls the content as much as the producer/artist) yet “cool” in the universal recognition of it’s functionality and use. That’s just a quick gloss of a a deeper conversation that could and should be had regarding the way the music industry is changing, and the way it brings attention to alternate ways of being a consumer/producer in the current economic and political climates.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Why Border cyclists are so tough.. or triathletes

Coach, MiniMe Coach and I headed off to Echuca for a weekend of junior track racing fun, including the Junior State Track Scratch Titles. The racing was excellent and the Echuca-Moama Club did an excellent job over the 2 days of running a well-scheduled slick operation. It’s a pity it was juniors only, as it would have been a great carnival to race. Shannon McCurly and Gavin Sittampalam won the respective Scratch Titles. Dale Parker took out the men’s race, with he and Sittampalam lapping the field in a gutsy effort to stamp the race as theirs. Parker, as a “foreigner” (Sth Aust) was not awarded the state title, but his brilliant racing was recognised at the presentation. McCurly’s race was equally impressive, but I unfortunately missed it, as I squeezed in a 75km ride in the morning, which saw me missing out on a couple of races. There were some really excellent performances: I won’t name names, but I was impressed with the tenacity with which some riders raced, even if they didn’t make the final placings.

The weather over the weekend was hot, and it was even hotter in the middle of the velodrome. I’ve only overnighted once before in Echuca, for the start of the Murray-to-Moyne a few years back. So it was good to be able to wander around, have a few coffees, and second breakfast on Sunday after my ride, watching the tourists stroll by.

Saturday I went for a spin after we arrived, heading out south of the river. All the roads are laid out grid-style, so while some of my planned route turned into gravel roads, I was able to take other roads and not get lost. It was hot by mid-morning when I left, and a slight breeze was up, which on the flat, straight roads become a bit tedious and wearying. The road surface wasn’t bad, but after 20 kms of going in a straight line I was wishing I had my ipod with me – boredom was setting in at a fast rate. Flat, brown paddocks, flat, straight roads with head or side wind = character building tedium ie good mental training for time trialling! At least the traffic was minimal and very cyclist aware. By the afternoon, after racing, I was pretty stuffed, so didn’t go out for another ride, but headed to the local bar with my bodyguards for a cool drink and review of the day.

Sunday morning I headed out early, with the aim of 80km before racing started. A flat just over the border stole about 20 mins of precious time, as I changed the inner, and headed back to the accommodation for another tube, much to the amusement of the Flowerpot men. The road conditions in my state of birth are much worse than Victorian roads. Harsh is a good word to use, very harsh. And just as boring, but at least there were bends early on in the road I took, as it followed some of the river. I had some company for a short part of the ride, which broke up the monotony. After 5km of heading out on a straightish road, even my young companion had had enough and she asked if we could turn around to stop the boredom! After dropping her back home, I headed out again on the same boring road, and into the same boring headwind. Once clear of the river, the landscape opened out in the same flat brown expanse. The road surface was dead, rough, harsh. I was mind-numbingly bored. I dreamed of a dually to save the pounding my poor body was suffering. By the end of it, my arms, shoulders, upper and middle back, glutes and quads were sore. My butt didn’t want to know about the saddle any longer. I felt like I’d been pummelled by Big Helga of the savage Swedish massage, or hit by one of the sheep transport trucks that passed me. Flat means you don’t change your position too much, which means if you’re not used to it, it HURTS! after 3 hours of it. No wonder there are so many triathletes around Echuca-Moama.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Playing with C Graders Again

Last night was my first track meet for the year, and at 7.30 pm it was still high 30’s outside and a similar temperature inside the shed. The numbers were down, probably due to the date as much as the heat, and so the grades were combined; D & C , B & A. This made for some fun, very fast racing.

First up: scratch race. This is the first time the women outnumbered the men, well boys in this case, 5:3. MiniMe Commissiare advised C grade to play nice, and be gentle with us D graders. But my impish mind had other ideas about playing nicely with the C graders, knowing full well what kind of damage Laine Hammond and visiting junior Michael Docker (whose BT is one of the most colourful I’ve seen – it’s pretty cool) could and would inflict. The pace was comfortable for the first half of the race. About lap 7, the tall guy in front of me rolled off his turn and I hit the accelerator. I was pleasantly surprised when my legs responded better than expected, so I kept the pace up for my lap. I knew I had Laine on my tail, but didn’t realise until I rolled off that only two had managed to stick my wheel: Laine and Tyler Spurrell. I was pretty happy with the hole I managed to create in the bunch, but made a fatal error as I went to fill the gap, realising I had run out of legs to go with Laine and Tyler, and pulled back up, losing power to keep going with the rest of the bunch as I waited for another gap to appear to slot into. O well, thems the breaks. I’ll know better next time. A silly mistake.

Points Score: I didn’t last long in this race, with those nasty C graders pouring on the pace from the opening laps (revenge for a naughty D grade upping the ante in the previous race??). I retired hot, bothered and with rising asthma after the first sprint, with some finger wagging and berating coming from the Commissaire. Michael Docker did some hard work in all the sprints, and I think won the race. He also won a love fest with gastric dissonance afterwards, having turned himself inside out, literally as it turns out, to score points. The poor bugger revisited his pre-race snacks, and that was his night over, with exertion and heat getting to him. I saw Michael in action at Maryborough, where he backed up the U15 A and B races, winning both, and then continuing to race hard only a short time after those races in the teams pursuit, from memory. He is one tough, gutsy and strong rider, and a name not to forget (with a bike that won’t be forgotten either!)

Motor pace: Just before the start of the motorpace, I realised I hadn’t changed my gear up. O well, a bit of cadence work is probably what I need in amongst all the strength work I’ve been doing. Craig kept the pace nice and easy on the motorbike, and the breathing and HR didn’t start to really lift until about 6 laps out. Lap 4 saw me behind the motorbike again, with that tall guy, who has a bit of speed so I discovered in race 1, directly behind me. Instead of doing a “proper” exit, covering my gap until the rider behind filled it, I let the motorbike slide away from me a little, then launched myself up and out of my spot, leaving a good gap for the tall guy to bridge. I wanted him to use some energy before the bike pulled off. I hung around the middle of the pack along with Tyler, and rolled up to the front, accelerating with the bunch once the motorbike came off. I hung in for a bit, but nerves got the better of me as riders behind me started to really sprint through. Instead of going with them, I hesitated until it was clear, then wound it up. I finished off the bunch again, but overall rode a pretty good race, setting myself up for a good finish, just making a small error as the pace picked up once the motor bike pulled off.

I’m happy with the way I am riding at the moment, with it now obvious that my skills and experience (courage!) rather than fitness are holding me up from better finishes.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Blown in the wind, Sandown racing

I raced Sandown last night, for the first time since last year. And I mean last year ie last Summer. It was my first Sandown in about 10 mths and probably my first crit in about as long. The wind was well and truly out and about for the evening, hunting its way down the home straight making for a tough finish. Madam Hour had mentioned the surface on the home straight – it’s very rough, and so dead it smells. I don’t remember it being so hard and bumpy under the wheels. Combine that with the delicious head wind and you have a fun ride for a couple of hundred metres battling it out to the first corner on the track: a test of strength, endurance and tenacity. It was interesting to watch the home straight take its toll on all riders last night, as speed and endurance were sucked up by the road and wind each lap.

I rode D grade, for most of the race (more later). Speed wise, I had no difficulty keeping up with the bunch, endurance was good, but technical skills (aka cornering) were crap. After 4 or so laps, I lost wheels coming out of the final corner (as I did on every corner in the final bends) onto the home straight and couldn’t get back on with the wind blasting me backwards. 33kph into the headwind was not enough to breach the gap to the bunch that opened up off the final corner. I sat with a young guy for a lap, maybe 30metres off the bunch, then he charged away as we once more came through the chicanes onto the home straight. I rode another lap and a bit at around 30kph, watching the bunch slide way, then realised I should sit up (and I mean, really sit up) and wait for them to come through and pick me up. At that point they were 1/3rd of a lap in front of me. Seems several other riders from A and B grade had the same idea – we were like recalcitrant dairy cows waiting for the farmer to take us home. It took another lap and a half for the bunch to get to me, and as they came through I hooked on, and sat comfortably with them for another lap and a half. A lot of them looked unfamiliar, apart from one woman with a very funky floral pattern on her bike, but D grade was a sizeable field, so I wasn’t so worried. Once again, I was dropped on that final corner into the home straight. Knowing we had 2 laps to go, and a case of CBFs chasing into that wind, I pulled off into the pits. As I rolled past the garages, another bunch rolled slowly through below me, and the call for 2 laps was given – D grade. Seems I’d been riding with C grade! Oops! I should have ridden through the pit lane and jumped onto the back of D grade to finish off the race, but figuring that may get me DQed, I opted to sit and watch the end of the race. Turns out, on advice of one of the race organisers, it would have been ok for me to do just that, seeing as I would gain no real advantage from it.

Conclusions: I am fitter than last year, but still can’t ride at speed through some corners (ie the final corner into the home straight!); I am fitter than last year - I can stay with C grade, even when they surge up the back straight (well, for a lap and a half at least!); I am fitter than last year – didn’t feel tired afterwards (2 laps sitting up will do that); I am fitter than last year – wouldn’t have been lapped if I didn’t sit up for 2 laps, and I may have been able to grovel my way back onto the pack if I kept TTing, as the pace of D grade slowed significantly in the final laps. But then again, maybe not. The best bit – I had fun!

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Precious sleep

Sleep. It’s 9.30 am and all I want to do is sleep. Being back at work for 4 days is taking it’s toll. I need more sleep! During the 2 weeks off work, I was able to get up when my body wanted to get up, sleep in the afternoon if I wanted/needed, not stress about being totally organised for the next day’s, and the day after’s, work, training, food, domestics. That’s the difference between a full-time athlete and an amateur/part-timer – the ability to sleep when you like, as much as you need, and not worry about running everything to a very tightly configured schedule so that nothing is forgotten, with everything done so you can make it to work on time, properly dressed and fed every day.

It’s been a while since I felt like crawling under the desk to have a couple of hours sleep. Apart from last Friday: after 2 efforts on the ergo and with one to go, I suddenly felt a desperate need to lay my head down on the handlebars and sleep. When I told Coach he gave me a funny look, then grinned and waved his fingers at the ergo – get on with it!

Monday, 7 January 2008

I'm a lumberjack...

A few years ago, up at Bright supporting some friends doing the Alpine Classic, I was out riding with a female acquaintance and a couple of male friends (one of whom was Mr Legs, soon to be my partner, as a matter of fact. Poor bugger). Ms Gottabefaster commented that whilst we were JUST keeping up with the guys, we were on our little chain wheels, the guys cruising along on their big plates. Her punchline: “What hope do I have stuck on this little chain ring? When they hit the hammer we are gone.” I didn’t really get what she meant, thinking well, dontchya just flick it up onto the big chain ring and pedal some more? But after Saturday’s post SE ergo ride, I think I get it.

On the ride out, down Maroondah to Bridge Road, I rode predominantly on the big chain ring, whether the road went up or down, and didn’t notice it too much, feeling pretty comfortable pushing the bigger gear out (although it is mostly downhill, despite the uphills trying to make up for that). A couple of weeks ago, I would have been predominantly on the little chain ring, “resting” my leg after a nasty ergo workout. On Saturday, riding the big chain ring felt pretty much the same as riding the little one had a few weeks back. It wasn’t until we were nearly home, after 60km of riding, that heat and fatigue (from the previous night’s ergo efforts) hit me and I began to rapidly stack the bricks up in front of my front wheel. Despite the rapid decline towards the end of the ride, I am pretty happy with the way I am shaping up from the latest block of training. It's a nice change from working hard and wondering why the hell I was bothering. But that's training - it's never a smooth upward continuum. You just have to keep planting the seeds, and watering and fertilising the little sprouts that emerge.

Sunday was a bit of a wipe out for training. Mr Legs and I did some “gardening”, tidying up a very large peppermint gum in my back yard in Boolarra, which had split in two, one side of which had fallen over the back fence into the paddock behind, and was clinging to the tree about 5 foot up from the base. It took a large part of Sunday to chainsaw it up and stack the wood, then do some extra tidying and major weed extermination (blackberries – gotta love having a country garden). Unfortunately the tree needs to come down before the other half falls into my back yard and onto my little shed. So we have a neighbourly tree feller booked for the Australia Day weekend to help us with the deed. The tree must be at least 6 metres high, so it’s going to take some serious, pro work to make it safe.

It was also incredibly windy on Sunday, so any riding would have also meant dodging vegetation and branches being flung from great heights by the local tree population. The warning signs about trees being close to the road are to be heeded at such times. The local trees are incredibly stealthy and cunning, and have been slowly working their way up to the road side (hence the road warning signs), in preparation for days like yesterday; to protest against, and mourn the loss of their fellow natives, which are cleared for pine plantations. Can’t say I blame them, but I am not one to get in the way of an irate tree.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Youngsters prove their stuff

Browsing the race reports and results for the Tassie Xmas Carnivals, and the Jayco Bay Crits that are currently on, one of the things that is really standing out is the number of teenagers who are really performing well (top 5, and podiums) in these races. Shannon McCurley won the Burnie Crit, Emma Smith won the Burnie Wheelrace; Michaela Smith won the Burnie women’s scratch; Sara Cure won the Ladies’ Invitation at Launceston; younger sister Amy Cure placed 2nd in the 2000m Latrobe Wheelrace and the Women’s wheelrace at Devenport; Lauren Kitchen won yesterday’s edition of the Jayco Bay Crit and Megan Dunn came 3rd in the previous day’s edition (sorry if I missed anyone!) All of these girls are 15-17, racing open events. And of course, there is a solid list of 18-19 year olds blowing away the elite women on a regular basis.

For me it says two things: the depth of Australia’s female junior racing is strong and promising, and how old do I feel when I line up at an open track meet? Nonetheless, seeing such young talent shining already (they really are babies!) makes me a happy, inspired, old(er) girl of cycling. The key is in nurturing and retaining these girls, so they stay with the sport well into their adults lives.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Big Chain Ring Effort

Yesterday Madam Hour and I headed for the hills. After a bit of goading and daring (and being sent a mission from Coach), we both decided it was the day to ride the 1:20 in the big chain ring. Before we hit the hill, I was concerned I wasn’t going to make the distance on the 53, but set myself 2 km incremental goals and rolled the chain up onto the big ring as we swung through the roundabout at The Basin, setting my mind for cruise control, telling myself the first and last km would be the hardest. Well, I surprised myself. Admittedly I was only on the 19 rear cog, but it wasn’t that bad. We had been passed by a guy very early on in the ride (Mt Dandy Rd) and we began to gain on him up the big hill, until he realised we were doing just that, and lifted his game a little. It hurt, but didn’t kill me, keeping it smooth, relaxed and consistent. The last 2 km were the hardest, where the road kicks up slightly. Madam Hour dropped me in the last couple of km as she picked up a little speed and I dropped 1kph. Next time I’ll do it on the 17, until I work my way down the rear stack. We rolled around the hills for another hour or so, but I found that my strength effort left me empty for the rest of the ride, with no grunt for the remaining elevations. It was a really enjoyable ride, overcoming a mental and physical barrier, and enjoying the nearly empty roads on New Year’s Day. Fully recommended!

Day 3 - Bendigo

The heat didn’t let up on the Sunday for Bendigo, but fortunately racing didn’t start for the seniors until 7pm, by which time it was significantly cooler. Mr Legs and I spent a couple of hours at the nearby pool before racing. I ran into a couple of others with the same idea, it was just so bloody hot. I didn’t race as well on Sunday, being tired and wary of the track, or dare I say, others’ ability to hold a line through corners 1 and 4. It’s along track ( 416m) and flattish with 2 oddly shaped corners (corner 1 you have to actually steer). In both wheelraces, my fellow front markers swung up through corner 1, while I stayed on the black line. Although this saved me metres, it also cost me wheels and energy trying to get back on as the girls came back down onto the bottom of the track a little ahead of me. No way was I going to sit in a pack with girls not able to take Corner 1 and hold their line. So I stayed out in the breeze, wasting precious energy, already sapped by 2 days racing in heat. For most of the 4 races, I was able to stay with the bunch until the final lap when the major jumps occurred. The final scratch race, there were plenty of surges, and I went with them all, until the final one for the line. I found the longer track more challenging, as once you lose a wheel, it’s that much harder to get it back on the bigger, flatter track.

Highlight women: a standout across the 3 days was SA's Annette Edmonston. She has speed to burn, and when she fires up her rocket launchers, there are very few who can go with her. It was also great to see a few women who attended the CSV Women's Track Skills program racing, one of whom won the 2000m wheelrace at Bendigo.

Spot the road champion

Sunday morning, Mr Legs and I rolled out of Maryborough for a pre-race leg spinner. Very early in the ride sitting behind Mr Legs, I heard a weird noise, looking around, wondering what the hell was about to fall off my bike. Then I looked up to the left and a lanky young man rolled by, in an Italian national jersey and Australian team short,with his bike making all the whirring racket. He slid away from us fairly quickly but once he was about 50metres in front, stayed there. So we spent the next 2km slowly hunting him down, me off the front driving our little 6cylinder against his V8. Finally we hooked onto him, and as I went to pass him, he started chatting. Being the social person I am (more like: who is this person in national team clothing??) I started chatting back. We spent the next 10 km swapping turns, humming along at a good clip with Lachlan Stewart, U19 2007 Oceania Road Champ. Eventually we turned around and left him to continue his recovery ride (average speed 36kph – that’s recovery??? Guess it’s all relative). He was cruising along at that speed, breathing as though he was window shopping in Chaddy. Me, I was huffing like an asthmatic 40 year old, but cruising back into town I said to Mr Legs, I have a new ambition for 2008: to hold a ride at over 35kph and hold a normal walking pace conversation. Good luck for U23 nationals Lachlan!

Women’s Madison - Maryborough

After much discussion, planning, hand-wringing, nay-saying, spreading the word and support, the inaugral (world wide???? Definitely in Victoria, if not nationally) women’s madison was held. 6-7 teams (can’t quite remember!) lined up at the start line of the 35 lap race. Exchanges were either by hip taps or simply crossing over wheels. The first part of the race was neutral to allow the girls to find their way, amongst themselves, and swapping partners on the track in a bunch. There was a crash between 2 girls early on, which was more about not paying attention and touching wheels than getting tangled up in an exchange. A suspected broken wrist for one of the girls – I hope you both heal quickly! After this small upset, the teams settled in, and as the race progressed, the teams began to find their rhythm and started to work on tactics. It was hot racing, the final race at the end of a long day, and by the end the girls were exhausted, but full of praise for the race – no negatives, lots of smiles and expressions to do it again. Jeff Hoober and Laurie Norris are to be thanked, and congratulated, for putting up the idea in the first place, and for championing the event. This race created quite a storm of opinion, and controversy when it was originally mooted about 6 months ago. Even I was sceptical about whether we’d get numbers to race. Thanks should also go to the girls who actually raced it, for having the balls to get up and give it a go. These pioneers will now make it easier for more women to race not only this event, but will encourage other promoters to put forward different events for women to race.

Xmas Carnivals – Maryborough

Hot. Bloody hot. So hot eggs were fried on bonnets, bacon on the concrete velodrome and track riders hid like flies under any skerrick of shade between races. Dusty. Asthma and hayfever inducing powdered shale clay, gusted over the track by a hot wind whilst racing. Gutsy rides – riders kept going out there, busting themselves each race, and doing it over and over across the two days. Character building I think it’s called. And also, the number of women racing: around 24 at Maryborough and 29 entered at Bendigo. It’s one of the few opportunities you get to race against so many women, from top elite riders to D grade club riders at a meet.

I was happy enough with my own performance, considering the heat and lung coating dust. I certainly performed better than last year, and made it through to the final of the major wheelrace for the meet. I didn’t come last in the final, with a couple of girls not making it to the finish line with early retirements, and a couple of others sitting up, instead of riding the race out. Moral of this story: don’t stop riding until you cross that line.

I didn’t cope with the heat that well on Day 1 of racing, and after some discussion and suggestions from Coach, made sure I had plenty of chilled drinks and a bag of ice for the next day. On the Friday, it didn’t seem to matter how much I drank, I remained hot and thirsty. Coach suggested that cold drinks only may cool me enough to overcome that problem; that warm drinks may not be enough to overcome the heat. So I semi-froze my endura and water bottles, and turned up the car fridge a few degrees. That combined with literally laying the bag of ice on my chest, back and legs after each race meant I was recovering better than the previous day. I also chose accommodation with a swimming pool: it took over half an hour of sitting neck deep in the pool on Day 1 to start to feel normal.

Merry Xmas

Xmas day ride up the 1:20 with Madam Hour and Mr Legs. Mdm Hour and I waited up at Olinda for Mr Legs, and as we waited, we watched a guy hammering up the other side, off the saddle pounding the pedals, wrenching as much speed as possible out of the frame, racing some invisible demon.. or Lance. At one stage, he paused, looked over his shoulder then started his demon race again. Once he got to the top, Mdm Hour called out: Did you win? He replied with a chuckle, saying I’ve got a bit left yet. I’m sure he did cos he sure as hell wasn’t out of breath. He looked vaguely familiar – Matty White kind of familiar, but before I could ask him, Mr Legs rolled through with no intention of stopping. So we hooked onto his downhill train and left the Matty White look-alike behind to contemplate giving that extra 20% to achieve mortal puffing.