Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Meet me on the sunny road

I love my Bianchi Luna. Well, I loved it when I first got it, four or so years ago. And I loved it until quite recently. I was delighted to give it some time off when I started riding 4B, as I worried over race and training fatigue setting into to its luminous carboned body. But I have taken to riding it again, my embattled quads enjoying some quiet respite from the repeated monstering only a fixed wheel can give.

But now, my love is waning, is totally conditional. The chain grates and grinds along the rear cassette, although cassette and chain are relatively new. La Luna, your jockey wheel wobbles indelicately, and changing gears is painful, excrutiating to the hand, leg and ear. To hear the rattle and clatter of chain de-cogged in flagrante delicato, is an abomination of the once beautiful, luscious campagly purr . So currently I refuse to ride La Luna, fretting over its debauched state, and instead relish in the soft buttery delight of 4B, as the thick chain cinches smoothly over the single cog, and glides solidly forward onto and over the chainring, crank positive and deliberate in its forward stroke.

So my little Luna, you are relegated to the bike room until a shiny, colourful piece of bike bling arrives in the letter box, and I can repair your mechanical indiscretion and we can once again be united on the sunny road.

Sharing the bike love

I came across this blog with some slick, glossy pics of some slick glossy bikes. I am glad they are in the States, otherwise I'd be working on ways to blow my retirement funds on some new steeds. Eye candy is also good when the work day is tedious and repetitive.

Thanks Hampsten Cycles!!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Don't run red lights

A little gem, brought to my attention by TreadlyandMe on twitter:

Friday, 25 September 2009

Bike-ability or more cyclists on the road

“A woman cyclist became head of the Dept Of Transport, and wonderful things started happening.


Or women are the barometer for indicating how bike-friendly a city may be.

Thanks to TreadlyandMe for the twitter alert.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

A little ride on the weekend....

I currently live with an Audaxer. Where I like to ride 500m fast, he likes to ride 500km fast. When he cooks, he cooks enough for a feed station on that 500km ride. Then he eats it, wondering why I am full after one huge plate (he is learning – I can’t eat that much in one go!). He is superskinny. My quads are bigger than his. In fact my quads are bigger than his waist, come to think of it. I beat him off the mark every time, every set of traffic lights. He beats me up long hills, and I cannot catch him, or stick with him, once he winds up on the flat.

Like me, he is involved, at some level, in the organisation of his sport. This weekend, he is organising a the Mallee Roots, er sorry, Routes ride, with distances of between 50 – 600km. It’s been a bit of an eye opener watching how the organisation has unfolded. Currently the lounge room is covered in maps, documents, cue sheets etc. Outside on the verandah are ride signs, plastic boxes full of ride/admin stuff (eg the very important brevet card), gas bottles etc. The phone keeps ringing with people who refuse to believe what they read, and want someone to confirm: yes, it’s compulsory to start with lights; yes, it’s compulsory to wear a reflective vest after dark. Despite what we non-Audaxers think, some Audaxers really don’t want to actually be a part of the fluro set, even when it really does matter, like, at night, in the dark, on unlit country roads.

Personally, I think organising a track event is much easier! At least people know the rules and are happy to follow them, and I have a commissaire to refer people to when there is a query! And my event is undercover! Who said trackies are dumb??

So, good luck for this weekend Mr Flowerpants. I hope the weather is not as bad as it’s meant to be (sorry for reminding you) and all ride safely, lights and all, and enjoy the experience. Me, I’ll be eating pizza, doing some speed work, and staying warm and dry 

Monday, 21 September 2009

Embracing My Inner Track Princess

Three good days of training, three days of good training.

Riding up the long hill at the start of the Warragul Club handicap, a course I started my racing career on, I was thoroughly happy with the thought: this proves it! I am truly a trackie, cos I've just been dropped on a hill!

Yesterday, on tired legs, I rode 4b over to Coburg track for a bit of a session with Coach. I couldn't hold 40kph behind the bike. It wasn't looking good. So we opted for some starts: getting the technique down pat and levelling out my crooked body out of the gate. I had the speedo on, and began looking at the kphs at particular points on the track. The warm-up lied, and I am feeling confident for a PB at Worlds.

The inability to stand up without wanting to puke or faint after an effort is totally worth knowing there is a PB festering away in it. I felt like a sprinter between efforts, hobbling over to a blanket to lie down, because even sitting was too much for my glycogen depleted body. It's hard to comprehend that a one lap effort can drain the body so deeply. Pursuiting five or six or seven, yes, but not ripping up one.. But the slow realisation of what I was doing in terms of numbers on the speedo, on a windy concrete track, was worth every shaking muscle and every quiver of nausea. I love track. You can be an enduro or a sprinter or something in between. It's just a matter of finding what gives you the thrill, and brings out your mojo.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Salad Days

Baby spinach, rocket, grated carrot, whole baby beets, fetta, protein in some format (summer, usually tuna), celery. Salad. Time to start living off it again. A variation on the standard of meat and several veg. An attempt to shed body fat, drop a few kilos to gain a few watts.

My salad lunches are noted at work. I have a reputation for eating rabbit and cat food. Today's comment was: that's very healthy (hmm I could be rich for every time I hear that). Standard reply: too healthy. I really want fish and chips. Then I get: no wonder you're so skinny (hmm debatable, there are much much skinnier in the office). If I didn't race bikes, I would be skinnier!

Therein, for me, lies the joke. The joke that makes me think about cycling, racing bikes, the things we do to ourselves to have some kind of success (truly only measurable by ourselves). Today, over my salad with tuna, rabbit and cat food, I came across some writings by a guy called Nathaniel Ward. Nathaniel writes for Embrocation Cycling Journal. But his articles today, he wrote for me. Timely. His words even reminded me of my dressage days, and the beauty in that sport; the years of study, training and learning I undertook to become a "natural" with talent and feel. Those memories reminded me of how long I have been in cycling, and where I was at half a life time ago, with the same number of serious horse years in my riding boots.

It was timely because I have been sitting here wondering why the hell I am in this sport, mainly because of the barriers that present repeatedly. Dressage would be easier in many ways, but only because I realise that I have done the hard yards already. I understand the professionalism required of that sport, intrinsically. I am still learning in this one. By professionalism, I don't mean being paid to ride, but behaving and acting with professionalism. There is a difference between just racing, and being a racer. I am finding my way through that gap. Often I get lost, or scared, or frustrated, or tired, plain bone-tired, or unbelieving, mainly unbelieving. Just as I did learning the way of dressage, over many hard years, to the point where I can feel dressage in my bones, my muscles and nerves, my blood, even right now as I write of it.

Funny how things come to you, when you need them. Nathaniel's words did that today whilst I was munching my salad. And I finally made a connection that I have been looking for, but didn't know what it was or where to find it. Guess it was there all the time, just waiting for me, under the baby spinach.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Passionate Creatives

"Many of us have suppressed our passions in an attempt to fit in and integrate ourselves into a world that expected stability, predictability and safety. But they remain in the margins of our lives or in the daydreams that distract us from our daily tasks. Our challenge is to re-discover and cultivate them, moving them from the margins into the center of our lives. We must all make our passions our professions – they will help to focus us and energize us in a world where those without passion will be increasingly marginalized and overwhelmed by mounting pressures...

Passionate people do not follow standardized scripts well, they are constantly seeking to improvise, challenge conventional wisdom and strike out on new and unexpected paths. Passionate people are not predictable and, as a result, undermine determined efforts to ensure predictability. These individuals also detest the organizational politics that pervade these institutions as many in the hierarchy begin to focus on hoarding and protecting limited resources.

As a result, we often tend to be deeply unhappy in our current institutions. We are profoundly frustrated by the daily obstacles that we encounter at every turn. We see all the possibilities, but experience firsthand the barriers that keep these possibilities far out on the horizon rather than within our grasp. Well-meaning mentors advise us to get with the program and embrace the institutional agenda even if it means leaving our passion at the door every morning as we report for work. We quickly learn that our passions are viewed as deeply subversive, rather than as treasured assets. As a consequence, many of us have fled these institutions and learned to build independent platforms that are more suitable for pursuing the work that we love. Others remain in our institutional homes, struggling to make a difference against enormous pressure."

Strike a chord??? The whole article is here.

Some observations from Junior Nationals

  • Every bike was carbon. Except mine
  • Every state had the state institute of sport involved. Except Victoria
  • Head counting kids in a bus is much harder than it looks.
  • Bananas are more popular than apples as fruit of choice for cyclists
  • Sitting in a hire bus for 8 hours really is character building
  • When dressed in the same gear as teenagers, I still get mistaken for being a kid. Until I take my sunglasses off and smile ;-)
  • Mecca Bah in Manuka has great food. Especially the icecream
  • Stromlo Park is an awesome facility. Except for its lack of velodrome
  • Yes, I CAN yell loud enough for kids to hear me when they are racing!
  • Mobile phone reception is dodgy in Canberra. Easy to forget you really are in the country when in the nation’s capital.
  • I heard a rumour Calvin Watson is moving to NSW
  • It IS possible to wear a pair of jeans for more than three days in a row, and get away with it
  • Being Team Manager is a shit of a job. I think Luke probably got three hours sleep a night.
  • The food at the roadhouse in Holbrook is overpriced and badly done. Don’t go there
  • Being a team coach is hard emotional and physical work, and very rewarding.

Learning from kids

Back in the 9-5 desk jockey stables, contemplating the week that was, and that is now just a jumble of memories, of playing support to a bunch of elite junior cyclists at national titles. The two jobs couldn’t be further removed. Both have their rewards, but not being chained to a desk, and helping support and grow dreams is an awesome kind of day job, if you can get it.

The week at Junior Nationals was a blur of planning, organising, riding, training, race prep, mental prep, mentoring kids, doing 11pm patrols to make sure everyone is where they are meant to be, making sure fluids and food are going in, nerves are not totally overwhelming, warm ups happen on time, last minute mechanicals didn’t stress out athletes too much, crash nerves steadied and riders remounted, instructional words and encouragement shouted every lap, sitting in the back of spares vans doing some extreme van surfing whilst getting incredibly emotionally involved with your riders slogging it out to the bitter end.

By Friday, I had no idea what day it was, what time it was. My perspective was the race we were focussing on for that day (ie Friday: must be TT day), how long before race start, warm up for the current rider, where my next rider was, last minute check ins with riders pre-race, post race check ins to make sure they were eating and drinking and feeling ok. Days revolved around head counts, loading bikes, bags, kids on to and off the bus and trailer, setting up in the stands, getting race order/start times implanted in my head, listing rider numbers on the back of my hand, helping sort out race spares, constantly checking in with the kids individually with simple words of encouragement or a quiet question: How are you feeling? Can I get you anything? How’s it going? The answers provided a gauge to nerve levels, which then fed into how much support the rider needed to get organised for racing. It was a learning experience, that’s for sure.

Every day, the team continually surprised and inspired me with their determination and gutsy racing. No one gave up; many kept giving more when there seemed nothing left to give. Some quietly circulated after their own races, helping support their team members during their warm ups and encouraging them during their races. Kids who were challenging and distracted off the bike, became focussed racing machines on the bike. Kids who were quiet and reserved made brave bold moves that demanded attention, and deserved admiration and praise for their audacity. For some, it was their first time competing at that level, let alone travelling interstate. It was a daunting, overwhelming prospect for those kids, but they rallied and stepped up. They gave it what they had, and then some.

I was fortunate to get to meet some talented, dynamic, interesting people, and a little sad now to simply walk away from the team, as it disperses into a group of individuals who have a shared experience of competing. I know I’ll encounter them over the coming track season, and I’ll enjoy watching them all progress now that they are no longer names on race programs and results lists, but personalities whose company I have enjoyed, and who have reminded me why we race, and, more simply, ride a bike.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Sometimes you just need a little shelter


Whittlesea Challenge 09
Photo stolen from cyclesportphotos.com

Junior National Road Titles

Tomorrow morning we head off to Canberra for the Junior National Road Titles.

I am sure I have packed too much, but am prepared for the Canberra morning chill!!! Bike clothes, normal clothes, food, bike gear. Even for training only, it adds up.

I'll be posting via Twitter and Facebook on team results, and what it's like to be a team coach. I am nervous, as a first timer on Team Management, but also really looking forward to providing some final support and encouragement to the team as they lay their best on the line.

Monday, 7 September 2009

What a strange little weekend that was...

Saturday morning was meant to be a 5am start to make it for the inaugural Warragul CC Bikeland Handicap series. Here’s a tip a for those of us who need more than 8 hours sleep per night, but only manage 7 or so Monday – Friday. 6 hours sleep is even worse, and for this little tracky, it wasn’t enough to see me get out of bed in time to go race in Warragul. In fact, it took until after lunch before I felt awake and alive, and it wasn’t until later it was almost time to think of dinner that I actually got on the bike, and worked on some speed endurance. But I got a lot of “other” stuff done that needed doing. I think my mare was appreciative! And the garden looks better without so many weeds.

Sunday was track day, that wasn’t. I started the day with an upset digestive tract, and only rode part of the way to the track on 4B, into a lovely headwind which seems to be the norm in Melbourne at the moment. Track work was thrown out the window, due to my washed out state (haha), and Coach and I headed to the local deli for a coffee. When the group for some scheduled track training, run by Coach and myself, didn’t show, we headed out for lunch at Pentridge Goal. It’s a weird place to experience: notorious goal turned into a residential estate. Terrible atmosphere, like some kind of historical theme park that’s been Tim Burtoned.

Once home, I climbed onto the trainer, which has had the fixed wheel strapped into it for the last few months. This time, I had my road bike plugged in, and the feel was much easier on my beleaguered quads. I’ve been trying to work out why I have been struggling a bit on the trainer: now I know why. Same as riding the fixie on the road, makes a freewheel feel like sponge puff with passionfruit icing. As I was feeling bad about not doing any track efforts, and was feeling ok after a good warm up, I had a crack at a 500m TT effort. I set up the gear and trainer resistance as I normally do for these efforts, to make them as track like as possible. 200m into the effort and I see a whopping figure on the powertap for kph. Like, a ridiculous figure that I’ve never seen before. So I figure the powertap is playing up, although the watts are consistent with what I’ve experienced before under that load, and, well, they were pretty good watts but not extra-ordinary for me. I have a rest and do it again. Same thing. I try for a third time, but this time try to see if I can wring more speed out of the thing, whilst trying to keep the trainer on the floor. Well, that worked, so at least the PT is responsive, if a bit outrageous (though consistently so) in its estimates of my speed. Another two efforts of the same outputs, plus a gut full of nausea and I call it quits, with the knowledge that there is some improvement in my ability to do those mock 500m TT efforts, but what exactly, I’m not really sure apart from higher rpm held for longer. Woohoo!! And to do it with a body totally underwhelmed by a morning of gastric distress, is, well, plain odd. But kind of pleasing. In a surreal, scratch your head, how did that happen kind of way.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

What a World Championship Event Takes

As taken from Cyclingnews today:

  • 430 volunteers helping out
  • 2,000 square meters of signage
  • 48 exhibitors
  • 150 toilets
  • 4 big screen TVs
  • 21 grandstands
  • 13 site sheds
  • 51 heaters
  • 1 purpose-built stage for entertainment
  • 1 purpose-built IT system
  • 23 camera scaffolding decks for TV broadcasters
  • 2.6km of event fencing
  • 23 lighting towers
I wonder if they will leave us some toilets for next week's Junior Nationals Road titles??