Monday, 27 December 2010

Logged on

I have in front of me a laptop, smart phone (it can connect to the internet..that's normal these days, not smart) and an iPad. Overkill??

I am experimenting with the iPad ie this post is being written using it. I can't upload images or video to my blogs though, so I need my laptop to do that. And I am smsing a friend using my phone, bitching about how limited the iPad is for some things (mainly adobe products),yet awesome for others.

Seasons greetings everyone!!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Bugs in my Belly

Or rather, a lack thereof.

You are, as they say, what you eat.

I take a bunch of supplements on a daily basis, under the guidance of my doc, and regular bloods. One of those supps is an industrial strength, practitioner-only probiotic. I've been taking it for about 6 months, apart from a short stint in preparation for some gastro testing.

I ran out of them on the weekend. My training has been going well to the point where I am about to step it up, I've been feeling good, and thought yeah, let's see how it goes. It's only a probiotic, so ditching it now when I am going well is probably a reasonable thing to do.

Come Tuesday I had a bunch of symptoms, kind of like chronic fatigue, or a nasty flu virus (without the head cold symptoms), enough to stop my in tracks. Wednesday no improvement and I was getting a bit worried. I hadn't made the connection yet. Then after dinner, after a nap before dinner (yep, I don't do naps unless I am sick) a little memory twanged, and for some reason I decided to throw a bunch of the just out of date regular, health food shop variety of probiotic I had in the fridge, down the hatch. I really don't know why I did it, I just thought it was the thing to do.

Next day (yesterday) I was marginally better, in that the heavy brain fog was lessened, and the aching joints were no longer, but I was exhausted, could barely get out of bed. About mid-morning it clicked: the industrial strength probiotic and the symptoms I had when I last stopped taking them. So I downed another handful of regular probiotics (I even thought of taking the horse's probiotic that is currently in the fridge!) and within an hour or so was feeling more energised. Fortunately we have a friendly health food supplier that will sell the superdooper probiotics without a doctor's "script" and I now have a bottle to keep me going.

It was an interesting "experiment":

1. it showed how much health relies on good gut function
2. it shows that these particular probiotics are actually doing something. What I am not really sure ie helping me digest nutrients better? Mopping up toxins from bad food/bad bugs (yes I have those) in my gut??
3. The mental angst I went through when I realised that I was getting sick all over again
4. The mental angst I went through when I couldn't train, particularly at a point where I was about to step it up because I am/was feeling stronger.

So the moral of the story is you are what you eat!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Fix My Pony

You can now follow my pony adventures here. That makes blog # 4! Although Eat My Dragster has kinda gone off the boil..

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Time to rethink the Bute and Neurofen?

First there was this.

And then today, this.

And I am not surprised.  Inflammation may actually assist in the healing process? And those anti inflams you have been pumping into yourself and your horse may actually be hindering bone damage recovery? Something is afoot....

Commonsense, well my commonsense, says the body responds to trauma in particular ways for a reason. Sure, some of those response mechanisms may be medically assisted, but think about the inflammatory response for a moment. Swelling is often caused by fluids leaking out of tissue, or from the circulatory system "leaking" interstitially as it should. Both lots of fluid will have a role in mopping up the nasties that can occur with trauma, and delivering them to the waste disposal mechanisms within the body. However, there is a "fact" that exists within the horse community that prolonged inflammation is damaging, and that's when the Bute sachets come out and become a regular additive (I could say supplement, as that is frequently the way Bute ends up) in the feed bin.

But what happens when Bute and other NSAIDs do become a daily additive, rather than simply an aid to get the patient through a short but critical point in the healing process? I have a gut feeling that Bute doesn't simply delay or hinder bone healing, for example, but may interfer with the mineralisation processes in bone tissue, which is something more sinister than just "hindering" healing. And if it is doing that to bone, how does it affect other body tissues? We know already what it does to the gut, as do human form NSAIDs  in people.

Horse people are quick to poultice, ice, bute, devils claw and white willow their horses to alleviate pain and swelling so that their horses return to comfort quickly, but in doing so are also then hiding a normal response which tells the animal (and therefore the owner) that the horse needs further recovery and avoidance of hard work. It becomes too easy to put the horse back into work, because the animal appears to have recovered, when in fact, it is functioning under the mask of NSAID.The useof Bute etc in such cases becomes a double whammy: the drug is impacting on healing efficacy, and on the rider's perception of the horse's capacity for work whilst still injured, or incompletely healed (thanks to the NSAIDs impedance of the healing process).

So it's time to really stop and think about how and why you are using NSAIDs on yourself, and your horse, and how you are monitoring the use of these drugs during the healing process.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Because it sums it up:

From here:

Sinead Halpin


From Sinead: "I remember growing up and anytime something did not go as I had planned I would go to my Mom, looking for an explanation or sympathy. Pretty much, like clockwork, her response was, "Come on Sinead, this will build character!" Later in the tough times she would joke "Come on Sinead, you have enough character, don't you want to become a librarian!" Not a chance, most of these "character building" experiences have been with a horse, about a horse, or in the quest of a horse.

As a rider by profession, I have experienced frustration and desperation in trying to survive financially in the horse sports, let alone succeed in competition. As a person I have made mistakes and learned lessons the hard way. As an athlete I have broken my body in more ways than I can count. I am so thankful for all of these experiences because they have given me the opportunity to learn, as one can only do through experience and fighting for something that you really want badly. I have had the best moments of my life so far with horses. I wake up every morning and get to share my life with animals that mirror who I am. From each tear cried, each lesson learned, and each victory achieved the picture gets clearer to me. I am a horse trainer by trade but they have taught me far more than I could ever teach them.

I am so thankful for my horses, and for the people and friends they have brought into my life. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to learn lessons from these animals that are more valuable than anything that can be bought, or any ribbon that can be won. Happy Thanksgiving and thanks EN for making me take a few minutes and appreciate how lucky I am!"

I think the same can be said of anyone with a driving passion for anything, whether it be horses, bikes, painting, writing, advocating for others, saving the environment. Some people never acknowledge or recognise their passion. I wonder how life must be for them.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

When a yam just won't do....

And in other news, paleo track cyclist discovers the consequence of inadequate starchy carb intake.

I’ve never really had an issue with grappling to the keep the weight scales on the upside of a particular number, but at the moment I am. Even eating a heap of dark chocolate isn’t working that well. So after  two weeks of feeling like crap, being down, depressed, cranky, unmotivated, and with complete mojo loss while training, I decided to do something radical, and have a bowl of riceflake and buckwheat porridge for breakfast. What a difference timely starchy carb makes. I am sorry strict paleo Ironperson Lady, but sometimes sweet potato/yams just don’t crack it for me. 

After 9  months, I am still finetuning this paleo business, but overall, I currently feel the best physically I have felt in a very long time. It does make me wonder though, how much is also due to a radically reduced, incredibly specific training load, as well as diet. It's about whole body, whole life.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Equitana 2010

The last couple of weekends I have been well entrenched in horseland, not bikeland. (and I am not talking shops either). Around 10 days ago, I sat my final exams for the Equine Myofunctional Therapy (EMT) certificate part of the Diploma of Equine Naturopathy. I am assuming I passed, despite one or two stupid answers provided during exam-mode brain fades. Now I have 30 hrs of log book to complete and I am a qualified EMT, ready for business.

The weekend just passed was the long awaited Equitana. I went with my superpass in hand, allowing me access to EVERYTHING!!!!. Frankly, it was huge. Last time I went was about 8 yrs ago, when it was small enough to be contained by Jeff’s Shed. Now it sprawls across 3 pavilions and an outdoor arena at the Showgrounds. It was a great way to get back up to speed with products, some old acquaintances, and who’s doing what in the dressage scene, after a 5 year hiatus.

The highlight for me was Steffen Peters, who in the flesh is an even better rider than the youtube footage of his bronze medal WEG ride a month ago shows. Sensitive, diplomatic, thoughtful and allowing (“That’s ok, he is entitled to his opinion” as Shiraz Black shies yet again at the boogieman corner). His humour, tact and considered approach in teaching both rider and horse in his masterclass were absolutely delightful. He is now a new addition to my short list of dressage heroes. Later when I rode Mr Moon, I was channelling Steffen,  as in What Would Steffen Do?. I just wish some of our “top” riders did, in particular Lawnmower Lady who absolutely refused to STOP leaning backwards like the proverbial Pisa Tower no matter how many times Steffen politely reminded her that it was preferable to not to stay in that position after applying an aid. In the end, he kept repeating: stop leaning back, stop leaning back. She still didn’t get it. And later that night in the dressage freestyle, it was obvious none of Steffen’s advice had connected with her, as she rode a heavy test, which for some reason, the judges thought was worthy of third place.

One rider who did impress me greatly was young man from Qld: Jayden Brown, riding Furst Freidrich in the Masterclass. Quiet, sympathetic and absolutely responsive to his horse and Steffan's instruction. More like him please, and Australian Dressage is well on it's way to international recognition. With the likes of Jayden as the New Skool, I have strong hopes for horsepersonship and riding in Australia.

The Way of the Horse Competition was the antithesis of this however, with three trainers selected to take a young stockhorse each, from unhandled paddock condition to a display of riding through an obstacle course with 2 or so hours of work only. Way of the Horse is a major misnomer, and the competition lends itself to be called The Way of the Ego. Chad Brady managed to beat his baby steed into submission on Day 1, using a swimming pool noodle and some blue tarp. Apparently that kind of work looks impressive. He  managed to stress his horse out majorly, and no wonder the baby humped his way around the pen with Chad on board,  whilst Steve Halfpenny and Adam Sutton quietly went about introducing their babies to the halter. In the end, Adam Sutton "won" for which I am relieved and pleased. I didn't see the second half of this comp on the final day, the entertainment of the first round was bad enough.  I don't see any value in this event, particularly not for the horses involved, not for the trainers involved, and it should be dropped from the program. It cannot showcase the good work that all three trainers are very capable of. How can it with such time constraints? Horse training is not formulaic. I am yet to hear or read any favourable comments about it, so why the Equitana programmers continue with it I have no idea. It's rather ironic when there were many posters around stating "Cruelty to horses will not be tolerated". Unless of course, you include a competition in the program that sanctions it.

I came away from Equitana with 6 pages of notes from Steffen’s masterclass, some new clothes, some goodies for the ponies, and a whole lot of motivation, ideas, opinions, thoughts and impressions about our local horse industry. Will I go again in two years time? It depends on who is the Masterclass presenter....

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Horses can have Metabolic Syndrome Too

It’s funny how the world collides in on itself, when you go looking hard enough. Or else it’s just self- projection, but I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Alongside my no gluten no wheat no lactose low sugars journey this year, I have also been studying the latest in horse management, including, of course, nutrition. This has been further sparked by ongoing intermittent lameness in my mare, and obvious insulin resistance/cushings symptoms in my loaner schoolmaster gelding.

Whilst on the surface, the two horses are very different, and have very different issues, I believe they are actually marks on a spectrum of insulin resistance, with Moonie being obvious to the point of clinical, thanks in part to his age, and Maz being at the opposite end of the spectrum, with her symptoms so vague and very specific (abscesses).

Both animals are good doers, and don’t need mountains of feed to keep condition on, and sometimes need restrictions on their dietary intakes. Moonie has classic insulin resistant fat deposits over his body and neck, Maz is simply in very good condition. Moonie doesn’t have feet issues, although his feet are not in prime condition with flat soles and contracted heels due to a lifetime of shoeing. Maz has been barefoot all her life, apart from a 2month period just after breaking in, when she had front shoes only.

One of the prime “symptoms”/repercussions of insulin resistance is laminitis or founder, where the bonds between the laminae (layers of horn) in the hoof, and the hoof and the horse,  are destroyed, usually by an overproduction of MMP, a remodelling enzyme. This enzyme is overproduced as a direct outcome of leaky gut, cause by over ingestion of sugars, fructans and starches, or non-structural carbohydrates. This is of course an oversimplified explanation. Sounding familiar???

Traditionally, this overload of carbs was thought to occur on lush spring pastures, and from a horse raiding the grain bin in the feed shed. Whilst this is often the case, the situation is far more complex than that.  And when one gets one’s brain around the complexity, it follows that most surburban and semi-rurally kept horses in Australia (ie in high density situations) have some grade of insulin resistance and therefore are quietly experiencing undiagnosed levels of hoof wall damage that is called laminitis.

Most recreational horses are kept in paddocks of less than acre, and are hand fed, supplemented by improved pasture (think of improved pasture as fortified white bread. It’s great for growing meat and milk, compromised for growing healthy, living beings). Hand feeding consists of prepackaged, cooked (yes, cooked) grains and other feeds, fortified with vitamins and minerals, and sold by a number of feedmills, nicely packaged like bags of dog kibble. Each brand has its own special mix of nutrients, so no two brands are quite the same. This makes it difficult to compare prices, and results, because the ingredients are not quite the same. This bagged feed is mixed with chaff, and supplemented with hay (often from specialised farms, so heavily beefed up in the sugars department thanks to superphosphates and other fertilizers).

It’s the equivalent of packaged processed foods and take aways for humans, with the same result: metabolic syndromes and diseases.

My mare is the first horse I raised fully on a premixed, cooked (extruded) grain based feed, plus chaff and hay. She had her first abscess within 6 weeks of arriving at my place, as a yearling. I’d never encountered an abscess before, and now, 9 years later, I’ve seen so many, if the mare was to have fractured a leg, or blown a tendon, I’d fob it off as an abscess. This year I have changed the way her feet are trimmed, to a barefoot style that allows the hoof to function correctly, which then facilitates better blood flow through the hoof capsule, and results in a heathier hoof. She’s had more abscesses continuously since doing this. But now I am not so sure we are dealing with traditional abscesses.

Abscesses are, I believe, on the same continuum as laminitis. An abscess is an inflammatory reaction to necrotic tissue or introduced pathogens. Laminitis is inflammatory of the same hoof area. They are absolutely related. Once I released this, I also realised I had to stop looking at abscesses like pimples: painful and problematic but that’s about it. Now I think of them as a warning bell, a bit like IBS, acne and unexplained joint pain and muscle fatigue in humans. Something is going wrong inside, metabolically. It’s time for my ponies to go paleo again!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Babe on Board

I love the logic of safety and risk management in high risk sports at times. Today's news is that the Equestrian Federation Australia has implemented new rules for making stallions more "visible" (and in some kind of bent logic, therefore making them "safer") in public ie at shows. Official plastic discs, attached to both sides of their head wear, magnetic signs for trucks and floats, stickers for stables, indicating that yes, this horse is an entire male.

The logic behind this intrigues me. The display of the stallion indicators is for competition purposes. Most stallions at competitions are well trained and behaved enough to be able to compete and perform in the midst of distractions such as silly mares in season, bored geldings wanting to pick a fight, the horse illiterate general public who are attracted to your hunk of a horse, who is a hunk of a horse by the very nature of his testicles, wanting to feed him half their gluten laden lunch. The stallion identifiers won't change a stallion's behaviour. If a stallion is so ill-mannered as to be a danger to all and sundry, then he quite simply should be banned from the competiton and sent packing home, with his negligent owner in tow. Most likely, such a naughty boy didn't make it onto the float to get to the competition in the first place, to be able to wear his markers of ballsiness.

Most horse people don't need a plastic disc to tell them the horse in the queue in front of them, or the stall next to them, or the float beside them is a stallion (nope that huge crest is not an implant!). One would hope that most horse people would be aware of their own actions in handling themselves and their own horses around stallions. And if not, one would hope they would ask the stallion owner for advice and guidance if they find themselves based beside an entire. But as I said, most competition stallions are very well behaved, and need little special consideration from others. This regulation suggests to me how much "commonsense" knowledge has been lost in horse management in the last 20 years or so, and how risk management policies and procedures are currently perceived.

 from here

Two rides, one arse.

It's hard work being a track princess AND a dressage princess. But that's the way I like it.

This week I was voted off Schoolboy BikeIsland, and it is with much glee that I am enjoying the thought of less stress in my life; no more worrying about who said what to whom and why someone else got upset about it. Or something like that ;-) Frankly I also feel like ditching the whole bag of CSV/bike responsibilities I have, but I'll recover and get back into it.

The Hon.Schoolmaster Mr Moonie has settled in well, smooching and caroosing and increasing membership to his fanclub on a daily basis. He'd kiss babies if it would help. Dressage Queen Mazarella is not impressed, and now I find I am in high demand from two horses both wanting attention NOW!!!! Thank god they are not in the same paddock, or I'd be in traction in hospital, being squished in a horsecake love sandwich.

So I am juggling my time between the bike and the horses. It's been challenging, particularly with the recent heavy rains and a body that really didn't want any more of that hurtie stuff on the bike please. I decided that the best laid plans do not go astray when they are documented, so today I've written myself out a weekly schedule of which beast gets my arse on it, when. Now I am officially un-enduro, scheduling in ponyrides is a lot easier. Anything more than 2 hours at a time on the bike is really just not do-able, and no longer in my body's vocabulary.

And in other news, it looks like the 2011 World Masters Track Champs will be in Manchester, birth place of both my grandmothers. That's my goal for next year, so getting up for my first pre-dawn training session this morning, a first for many many months, was not as hard as it has been in the last week (so hard it didn't happen). One goal, one race (done three times, in three locations) and 3 PBs. Ka-ching!

My first pony ride in >3yrs. His first ride being a dressage pony in about 5 yrs!
I just realised: I am literally double his age!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Attitude problem. Who, me?

What goes around, comes around. I guess that’s why it’s called cycling. And because I have been in a crap mood all week, I make no excuses for the bad pun. O, wait. I just did.

Whilst last week was great for training (I felt good, did good) this week was the opposite. Hopefully next week will be a compromise and have a show of balance about it.

On the weekend, I had a hard lesson in watch what you eat, don’t compromise what you eat, and get some long sleep. It set me off for the week.Or maybe it was just the hail and snow the fell that got me going? Good quality sleep for a short time doesn’t quite have the same gains as good quality sleep for a longer time. And adequate hydration is crucial. Don’t forget to drink your water!

I spent the weekend away massaging working Clydesdales and Percheron crosses. It should have been centring and good for my soul, and on some level it was. But on another level, my sugar and hormone levels got in the way and I have been cranky ever since. Perhaps it has something to do with being at a decision point with cycling, racing, horses. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just because there’s a bucket load of shit going down at work, I have final exams in four weeks (oops 3 now), have two horses to look after for the next few weeks instead of one, am still having “health issues”, and I am over the politics of cycling and need a break from the freight train I have put myself on.

I have a long weekend coming up, and on Monday, all things going to plan, I am going to have incredibly stiff, sore legs from riding Moonie on Sunday. Needless to say, I am really hanging out for go home time today, and some extra time over the next few days for riding my bike in the sun, more sleep and chilling with my ponies (and text books).

Monday, 11 October 2010

Little progressions

Today marks Day 4 of a block of fairly intense training. Four days in a row of pushing myself into the hurt box, sometimes fartlek style, but hey a good peak power reading* is still valid!

I am pretty stoked, because it's been well over a month, nearly 2 months since I felt this "good". And what's the difference?? Industrial strength probiotics.  When I first started taking them (I am talking prescription variety here, not the healthfood shop version) within a week I felt an energy I had not felt in many many years. Then, with the testing period, I had to stop taking them, and I fell back to being heavily fatigued, foggy, achey. Now I am taking them again, with last week being week 2 of ingesting these horsesized capsules. I soaked up the last week of training without the usual crash and burn fatigue, and whilst I am looking forward to a day off tomorrow, I am also looking forward to the next four days of training I have planned out for myself.

Happy happy! :-D

*I scored a hit in the powerprincess wattage output stakes.Hammering up a hill always helps though ;-)

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Ride like a cavetrackie

As well as now being a one trick pony, I am going to out myself as a paleo fuelled trackie. You may have noticed the new byline on the blog header. Okay, fine. So what does that mean?

Paleo means no grain, no starchy carbs, no processed foods, no sugar, no dairy, no industrial seed oils (eg canola). This provides a good definition and outline.

But as an athlete, I need to fuel. So the grains and starchy carbs will be in, in a very specific manner, at a very specific time. The proviso on the grain is to prefer other starchy carb options such as sweet potato etc, and to totally avoid wheat and gluten loaded grains. For example, after training last night I had porridge of rice flakes and buckwheat groats, nuts, coconut flakes, LSA, 2 eggs scrambled in, berries, banana and some lactose free yoghurt.  Mostly organic of course. Okay, so I compromised with the yoghurt (maybe I should call myself primal instead?).

I have progressed to this point over the last 6months, modifying my diet to overcome gut related issues. It wasn't a massive change, just some small progressive tweeks. Gluten and lactose were the first to go, and probably the biggest change I made. In doing so, I’ve had some excellent side effects, such as an almost immediate disappearance of joint pain and flu-like muscle fatigue and pain, and brain fog, with an increase in overall energy. Whodda thunk??? I’m liking those kind of side effects. Combine that with becoming an anti-wheat convert after reading about the nastiness of this beasty on the human gut, my ideas about what constitutes healthy, healthful eating have changed.

Why is this here, and not in my eatmydragster blog? Because it’s actually about training and racing bikes. As in, how do you fuel quality performance and recovery in training and racing when you don’t eat the regular stuff such as pasta and bread etc? There are some excellent books (see Cordain and Friels Paleo Diet for Athletes for one) and an abundance of great blogs (check out the blogroll on eatmydragster) as to the hows and whys of the paleo eating regime. But there aren’t too many blogs or books on paleo eating for track racers, let alone sprinter types. Most training for racing literature focuses on endurance, because, as we all know, anything done on a bike is an endurance event, even if it takes 10seconds to do. Uhuh.. mkay.. riiiiiiiiiight. (I actually suspect it's easier to do research on endurance cycling, quite simply). You’ll hear that sprinters need endurance because they’ll have several sprint rounds to the final, and need to be able to cope with that. Sure thing, but it’s not the same as racing 40km, 90 km, 160km, or an IP on the track. And to find anything about fuelling for a 500m -1000m TT, forgedditabout. That kind of event is frequently dismissed as it’s so short you don’t need to worry about it, so long as you are plenty hydrated.

So I am turning myself into an experiment of N=1. Heaven forbid, I am not even in the usual cohort range of experiment guinea pigs: wrong gender, wrong age, wrong total training hours per week to qualify for most ex phys cycling trials. But this is my blog, it’s about me. So you’ll now get the occasion menu for racing and training, as well as how I feed myself while away from home. And you'll get the odd research article. And the occasional link to an interesting blog post. And maybe some motivation/incentive to give it a crack yourself.

One mind

Message to self:

One goal, one race, one time.

No distractions. No detractors. No digressions.

This track season my goal is to have one goal.

To be singleminded, single focused and specialise in one event.

Everything I do will be for that one race. It will be a challenge for me. I like diversity, stimulation. I get bored easily. So it’s as much a test in my self belief, my capacity for obsessing, my tenacity to stay on track and not wander off chasing butterflies.

One goal, one race, one time.

It's Time....

It’s time. Yes, Gough, it is. Normally by now, I know what I will (or rather, plan to) be racing over the coming track season. This year not so. I have no idea of my real race fitness (limited is my estimation), and as per usual, being incredibly endowed with an overabundance of shutzpah and selfbelief as I am, I’m telling myself that I won’t be ready to race until January at least.

Country Track Champs are out this year, as I have theory and prac exams to sit/stand for my Equine Myotherapy certificate. Xmas Carnivals are a serious probably not at the moment. That needs qualifying by some real world racing in a few Thursdays’ time. Yeah yeah been saying that for a few months now!! Oh next week I’ll be there. Ha! ie Probably not.

I need to plug some racing gaps from January to March and I think club racing will be it. Women’s Omnium in January; well I organise that one. Perhaps a couple of the country opens, then it’s onto the Champs.

State Masters are in February and Nationals in March. I am very happy that Nationals have been brought back a month, as most of us are completely trashed by April. But in reality the timing totally sucks for me. I am on the State Junior team, and Junior Nationals ends 3 days before Masters Nationals start. Both are in Sydney. Juniors will trash my energy and legs with 12 hour plus days standing, getting dehydrated, less than ideal eating, fitful sleep etc. Then I fly back to Melbourne on the Sunday, only to get back in a car on Tuesday for the return trip. I could stay in Sydney but the additional expense, and not going home to wash, pack, regroup etc is as bad as the turn around going home and back. Damned either way.

Somehow I think it’s going to be a quiet season.

Friday, 1 October 2010

The verdict....

So, it’s official. There is “nothing” wrong* with me….

I don’t have cancer, crohns, colitis and am not celiac. My breath tests came back negative, but because I had post test symptoms (which is not meant to happen, go figure) then the tests are probably “false”. My change in diet is working in terms of improving my gastric health (which by the way, is very healthy according to the GI. Ha! Well, I guess he did actually LOOK at it), so the verdict is: keep doing what you are doing.

So what does this mean for me? It means I now keep monitoring my post training recovery, have bloods done twice yearly to check my status to stay on top of any deficiencies that crop up, and maintain a gluten free, lactose free, low grain diet to manage gut health.

It’s been a challenging 6 months but it’s been “revolutionary” in that I have had time to think about this thing called cycling, and what it means to me, particularly when it sits alongside another deeper passion called dressage, which has had an opportunity to bloom after a very long dormancy.

I’ve done a stack of research on gut health, and how a thing called leaky gut can do all sorts of weirdarse things to the body, from achy joints and muscle fatigue, to cancer. I’ve been lucky enough to find a blog by a cycling coach that supports some ideas I have around track sprint/short course training. I am about to take some ideas that I worked on last year with one of my very good mentors, and extend them further. My preparation for the coming season has been nil, so it’s a great opportunity to put into practice those ideas, combining time efficient training with what would be considered a radical diet for athletic endeavour.

And alongside training for one event only this season ie Nationals 500m, I am getting back onto my Stubben, with the help of a horse whom is very dear to me. It’s kind of ironic that the horse I trained and competed on for many years, so that he now carries the honourable title of Schoolmaster, is about to become my schoolmaster. I am borrowing Moon from his current owner, to get my dressage muscles back into a state where I can get on my mare and stay put when she leaps about expressively in her early stages of training. So after spending years training my lovely little stockhorse, he gets to return the “favour” and train me!

And, in other news… I scored an autograph from the current World Champion, who obliged my request to sign his magazine cover photo last night at the World Road Champs Gala Dinner. Shweeeeeeeeeeeeet! I got to tell ya, he is SHORT!!!! LOL

Friday, 17 September 2010

Going fast....

My week of fasting (15-18hrs at a time) followed by 8hr windows of "normal" eating, followed by a day of "you can only eat off this list" is nearly over. I lost 1.5kg in the first three days and gained a flu-like cold within the first 24 hrs (thanks to a training session I threw in that wasn't fueled properly). It's been tough. By midweek I was thinking, what day is it today? As in  what am I allowed to eat (or not) today? ie When is my next test? Fortunately I managed to keep it together at work on test days, with some much appreciated understanding (ie letting me eat lunch in post lunch meetings!) from my workmates.

So I have had an enforced break from the bike, weights and training. I haven't wanted to think about it until today. Reading Jamie Scott's blog post (see below) made me realise I've been given a great opportunity to rethink my training plan leading up to track season  (2.5 mths away) and how to be efficient as possible, allowing my body maximum recovery between sessions. It's too easy when you think about it. I am mean, seriously. My focus is track, to go as fast as possible for 2 laps (even in a scratch race - always a sprint finish). I never need to ride longer than 7.5 km in a race. My races take less than 15 minutes. A criterium is my long road race. It's not rocket science, but it's easy to get distracted and loose the trees for the forest, and the forest for the trees.

Steady State? Only when sleeping

"...riders have between 20 (hilly), 40 (flat) and 70 (criterium) efforts above their maximal aerobic power (MAP/Vo2max), with a typical duration of 6-10 seconds.." during a stage race.

Pay attention. This is important! Read it here.....  write that down....

Friday, 10 September 2010

A quick update

on the last fortnight. My capacity for training, or rather my recovery from training, has slipped again, thanks to minor dietary changes in preparation for the GI testing I am in the midst of. Next week will be a complete write off with restricted foods, periods of fasting (15hr spans) etc. It's easy to get paranoid when you are either not on the bike, or when you are, you are riding like a newborn.

As a dear friend said to me a few days ago, it's as much a mental test as a physical one. So true...

from here

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Friday, 27 August 2010

8 Glasses a Day??

We all know dehydration in any percentage is BAD mkay for athletes. The body doesn't function properly when not fully hydrated. That's common knowledge. The blood thickens, metabolic function is impaired, the body slows down. Nasty things happen when the body seriously dehydrates, culminating in cognitive dysfunction, physical collapse, muscular damage, and ultimately death. But what is actually going on?

Here is something to think about: I came across it in another blog post on reasonings behind why drinking water helps weight loss. Dr Briffa notes: "It has been found that cells that are dehydrated do not take up glucose very efficiently [1] – something that could cause the metabolism to stall. Also, studies show that when the blood is made more dilute, fatty breakdown in the body (lipolysis) is enhanced [2,3]." He is making this case in reference to weight loss, but think about the energy sources the body uses during sub-max endurance efforts: fats.Glucose is also required as a metabolic process. Quite simply, the body's metabolism cannot work, because glucose is not taken up, when the body is dehydrated.

Here are the citations Dr Briffa uses:

1. Thornton SN, et al. Hydration increases cell metabolism. International Journal of Obesity [epub ahead of print publication 20 January 2009] Int J Obes (Lond) 2009;33(3):385
2. Mathai ML, et al. Selective reduction in body fat mass and plasma leptin induced by angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition in rats. Int J Obes (Lond) 2008;32:1576″1584.
3. Schliess F, et al. Cell hydration and mTOR-dependent signalling. Acta Physiol (Oxf) 2006;187: 223-229.


I lasted 6 days. Not even a week. It's not worth it. It's taken 3 months to get back to being able to train hard, recover, get up at 5am to do some more, feel good, feel fit, vibrant and energised, as a fit and healthy person should.

Six days of a small amount of daily wheat and I feel wrung out, flat, tired, flu-like, hungover, can barely drag my sorry arse out of bed in time to get to work. Fark that. It's just not worth blowing a season of racing for an hour of the doc looking at my insides, to be honest. I know what makes me well, and what doesn't. I just ain't going there.

from here

Monday, 23 August 2010

Mud under the fingernails

Another weekend of GOOD training, feeling GOOD whilst training, and being able to knock out some GOOD kilometres of the roundy roundy kind.

That's two weekends in a row where I've been able to train at last season's level, in terms of effort and volume. And to be feeling GOOD this morning at my desk is a sure sign that's something GOOD is happening. Unfortunately I don't think it's gunna last, as I'm adding gluten, and wheat, back into the diet for the next 4 weeks leading up to Dr Gastro putting his camera where cameras really shouldn't go. To be honest, it's been a real mental struggle to actually return, albeit partially, to a former way of eating. It took a lot of energy and effort to train myself to eat the way I do now, and it seems to be (finally) paying off. Why on earth would I really want to risk losing that? All in the name of health....

Anyway, I am feeling stronger, and fitter, and am faster than I was a month ago, two months ago. I can back up two days in a row with mileage and a hard workout. I can do a hard 3hours of track training in the morning (and not puke any more) and follow it up with a steady 1 hour plus ride on the trainer in the evening. I'm not going to make the Masters  Nationals crit, I may or may not make the Sam Miranda Snow Road crit mid October, I may or may not have the endurance for Tour of Bright in December, but I am feeling a little more confident of some solid racing this coming track season. For the first time since early May I actually feel like getting my hands dirty racing!

In the meantime I've been dealing with one of the nastiest hoof abscesses in my mare I've had to nurse. It's punched a hole through the sole of her hoof, which means regular cleaning and bandaging to prevent contamination and further infection. Simple. Well it should be. Because 1) the paddocks are so wet/muddy with recent rains and 2) she is toe walking to take the pressure off her foot, bandages that should last 2 days easily are barely making it through one day. So this morning, we were out cleaning, disinfecting, bandaging yet again, just after dawn. When I got to work, despite having washed my hands thoroughly several times, I looked down at my hands and realised: I have horse owners hands once more. Horse grime embedded around the nails! And yes, it's GOOD.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The other ride

Stuff related to that, for my own reference more than anything:

One of my favourite riders: Nicole Uphoff. The very great Reiner Klimke. Compare this to the early stages of rolkur with Isabelle Werth.

Not talking track cycling punters. Sorry about that!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Looking forward to Spring

At training on Saturday morning 9am, it was colder inside than out. I wore: bib nix, long sleeved merino thermal under, regular short sleeved jersey, 2 x long sleeved, roubaix lined winter jerseys, leg warmers (should have had my leggings on) 2 prs of socks, long fingered heavy weight gloves, ear warmers. Between efforts, I put over the top my track pants and fleecy top.

Yesterday I went to a meeting in another building at work. It was cold at 10am, but by the time I walked out of the meeting into the open air 90minutes later, the temperature had dropped 5 degrees, I swear. It was bitterly cold. My outbreath was solidifying as icicles mid air.

The way it's looking for the rest of the week, I'll be need two thermal unders plus all that kit next Saturday. And I think we'll need some fish (or rum) to feed these guys when they come visiting:

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Track is....

tracks are the people who love it enough to raise the flag up at every event....
or organize the dingy storage container....
or show up a race they aren't doing just to cheer...
or teach beginner classes, promote races, and run training sessions....
or spend a saturday making a concrete podium....
or spend four hours sweeping the apron...
or make sure all the rental bikes are in working order...
or make a run during a blistering hot sunday to get ice for everyone...
or check all the waivers to make sure they are signed....
or tell people about races on facebook...
or give someone a ride to a race...
or make a new person feel welcome....
or lend someone a wheel or chainring...
or give someone help at a race...

Not my words. I stole them from here. But these words sum up a part of what track is about, what racing bikes is about, what any sporting community is about: engagement, passion, and a splash of selflessness.

bethbikes! words need sharing...

Monday, 9 August 2010

Burton Brained by Inception

Yesterday, on my way to the Tim Burton exhibition,after seeing Inception the night before, I wondered what a Burton version of Inception would be like. The movie was brain rattling enough, so add in Burton's eye, and take on the world, and you'd have something truly brilliant.

So I had a pretty good weekend, although I missed out on training yesterday, giving my body a rest I think it needed (and somehow managed to sidestep any associated guilt trips: bonus!). Gratuitously Perkoed on Saturday (with some help from a massive withdrawal of probiotics two days earlier), I was seeing speeds I've not seen for nearly two months. How that happened I have no idea, considering I was running on empty (literally) but it was pretty good for the ego to see some slightly faster speeds happening again. I got a ways to go before I'm cracking March figures again, but I'll be right by track season. So long as I make it through September.

I have two weeks solid of hydrogen breath tests next month, followed by a double scoping to complete the fortnight. Then we should absolutely know what is going on with my guts. Perhaps. To be honest, the GI specialist was so allopathic, I think you could encapsulate him and take him as an antibiotic. Next time I speak with him, I'll be going under, so our conversation will be about the same as it was with the initial 10 minute consult: incredibly limited, one way and expensive!

from here

Friday, 6 August 2010

Wear your kit and drink it too.

I was talking to my sponsor's rep this morning, having a discussion about sponsorship, amongst other things. Apart from negotiating a deal for the Women's Omnium in January, we talked about why riders are sponsored, or should be sponsored, what's in it for them, and importantly, what's in it for the sponsor.

My deal with Sam Miranda is pretty simple. I wear their kit, and get rewarded for making the podium (in their kit - this is important) in product. Fortunately I am a fan of their product. I don't think I could wear a sponsor's kit if I wasn't into what the sponsor was on about, or their ethos, their product, their way of being in the world. Fortunately I have a good fit with mine, and their kit looks pretty good too!

As a sponsored rider, I take my role as a promoter for that sponsor pretty seriously. I wear my kit when racing at big events, major events, such as State Opens, and championship events. By agreement, I don't usually wear it at club track racing on a Thursday night, which we both consider training events. Thursday nights I wear my fun stuff, which is usually generic, or sometimes my own club kit. When I wear my sponsored kit, I try to behave responsibly, behave decently, and always ride to the best of my ability (sounds corny, but if you are seen making the effort, even if you come last, it gives a good impression of commitment, dedication and honesty/integrity. Besides, the punters like to see drama in a race, and puking after adds to the drama!).If I want to slap someone, I wait til after the event and when I am out of kit (or at least not recognisably in kit). But most people who know me, know I rarely slap people, and when I do, I blog about it as well ;-p

So as a rider, I have agreed to the terms of the sponsorship, and stuck to that agreement. If I didn't agree to the terms, it wouldn't be an agreement and I wouldn't be wearing the kit. Pretty simple really. Some people don't seem to get this point however, and you'll see riders who ride for Sponsor A, rock up in another business's clothing for events. It looks bad for Sponsor A, makes people question the arrangement, reflects badly on the rider in terms of future potential sponsorship arrangements (lack of commitment and loyalty to a sponsor don't go down too well). All round, just not a good look. If you can't wear your sponsor's kit on the day (it's in the wash or the dog ate it) get more kit, or wear club/plain gear, not someone else's branded kit.

I am lucky in that my sponsor, whilst liking runs on the board, or medals on the podium, also appreciates good sporting values, fairness, enthusiasm, commitment to people and the sport, likes people who put in and give back.  It's not just about winning, or being a winner, but a bunch of other attributes that adds value to the sponsored arrangement. I've heard riders say that they are not "good enough" to gain sponsorship, but simply it's that they haven't asked, haven't asked the right potential sponsor in the right way. And at the end of the day, it's still about racing, how you race and who you are on and off the track, not whose kit is on your back.

image stolen from Sam Miranda Winery

Friday, 30 July 2010

On a cloud/In a storm

from here

I love this image. It describes perfectly my current cycling life: dynamic, to say the least. One day on a cloud, next falling asleep on the cloud, another day, in the middle of a storm, but always riding the wave of health, life and cycling.

Thursday, 29 July 2010


Currently I am finding myself blog-genre challenged, and the fallout is nothing. I am not writing, have no groundswell of creativity bubbling up like flaked rice and quinoa porridge on the flame.

And it's all because of food. The vast array of Melbourne based foodie blogs (well, Melbourne is a foodie mecca, as well as a fashionista mecca, as well as a St Fixter mecca, cultchural mecca), Melbourne based bike blogs, Melbourne based food by bike on a bike for bikes by bikes blogs is, well vast and arraysome. And in my own small way, I am contributing to this mess, across two blogs (well three if you count the other one). Most common-sensedly persons do it in one blog. So I am torn. Torn like an artisanally hand torn rocket and spinach salad, artisanally drizzled in handspun  bespoke olive oil and biogeothermal balsamic vinaigrette between Eat and Suck my Dragsters. I could combine them (Eat my Sucker Dragster) but my blogroll (wheat, dairy and fructose free of course) would be tiresomely long, sending one from an early breakfast to a late lunch in 4 St Ali machiattos. Maybe I could swap to wordpress (even the name is bespoke and artisanal) and have pages for my blog.

Let me think about it, and I'll get back to you. I'll have a long black while I decide thanks.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The devil's in the food

Perhaps I could eat an almond croissant tomorrow??

from here

Or, maybe not.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Junior Track Nationals: What, already??!!

Already??!! Yep, already.

I am part of Team Management for Junior Track Nationals again next year, and planning is underway already. It's a big job organising the team, where we stay, how we get there, when we train, when we come together to develop a team out of a group of individuals.

Next year, we'll be at Dunc Grey in March, for a bit under a week. We fly home on a Sunday, and then on Wednesday of that week, I drive back to Sydney for Masters Track Nationals. So I am deciding: do I just stay up there? Do I take a bike when I fly up with the juniors and leave it there? How much leave should I take, considering I am saving my days for a possible trip to France later that year.

It's an interesting role, being a Team Coach for the Junior State Team. I am lucky in that I have no direct "professional" interest in any of the kids in that I don't coach any of them, so can be objective, and deal with each without that baggage. Lately there has been some (implied) commentary on other blogs about what we do, and don't do as Team Coaches. It's been interesting to read, and has given me a bit of a laugh in regards to other people's perception of what's involved.

By the time a junior makes the team, they have already trained, been coached etc and come up with the goods to make it on the team. Once or twice, as a State Selector, we have taken a punt on a junior who shows excellent potential, and included them on the team. Fortunately those punts have paid off, and those kids are still shining, even more strongly than when we initially laid our bets.

So, the team coach's role is not to "improve" fitness etc. By the time we get them, it's too late for that. Our role is to shape up a team: get a bunch of young personalities, with all their hopes, egos and fears, to work with each other, support each other,while remaining focused on their own role and job within that team, and for themselves. They also need to learn to work with the Team Management, which means developing mutual trust and respect. That takes time, real investment, care and consideration for, and from each member of the team.

The team coach looks after the needs of a bunch of kids away from home, in a high-stress, high-pressure environment (for them, as much as us). We make sure they are properly fed, watered, rested and kept safe, 24/7. Trackside, we make sure they have their equipment ready, are dressed properly, have their numbers on, know what time they have to be on the rollers, in the pre-race holding pen, in the gate. We make sure they are focused, try to keep them emotionally stable, physically relaxed and prepared, mentally prepared with race plans sorted, make them laugh and chill out as best they can under the circumstances. We don't interfere with their own coach's instructions, but support their normal race routines as much as possible.

It's a very different kind of coaching role, and is as much about mentoring. It's a role that needs a complete and total understanding of high-performance racing situations, and one that helps guide a youngster, to whom this may be all very new, or totally overwhelming, through the business of elite racing, to give their very best on the day. You gotta keep your cool, be level-headed, not take things personally, be incredibly organised and proactive without being distant, over the top in or in people's faces.You must know how each individual in the team operates and reacts under pressure, be fully aware of everything that is going on around you and them, from commissaire's requests, to the day's race schedule, to what wheels are being swapped off one bike onto which other bike directly after X's race (and the gear to be used), to keeping an eye on how much Y has had to drink, and how long they have or have not been warming up, to any interpersonal conflicts that may be brewing.

It's high stress, not just because of the time pressures of getting people ready to race by a specific time, but also because you are dealing with teenaged emotions and personalities, their parents, their private coaches.

That being said, we volunteer to do this job, because we enjoy it, and believe we have something to offer the team, and the kids involved. All on the current Junior Team Management have raced at an elite level, from national to world championships. We all know that feeling of deep paralysing anxiety, the nausea of expectation and associated fear. We get it, when you are sitting in the gate shitting yourself in those five final moments before the brake releases and you jump out to totally hammer yourself against the clock. We get it when your legs are literally shaking with nerves, your breathing is non-existent from adrenalin and panic, and your quads are like lead as you line up for the start of a scratch race, not knowing how its really going to pan out. We are the first ones to see the utter joy, or utter devastation, and the complete exhaustion, as we catch them when the kids roll off the track. We get it, because we have been there, and we know what it means and what it does to you. We are the final part of a journey these kids take, to race at nationals, and one piece of a greater project for these kids.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

More counting

Wow, it’s been over two weeks since I last blogged. To be honest, I haven’t wanted to blog , because I haven’t had that much to say, and what I have to say, was better delivered via twitter or facebook.

I could have blerked on about how crap my training has been, because my body just won’t behave, or how frustrated I am with having to read food labels, research diets, keep an eye on what goes into my mouth and what comes out the other end, including performance on the bike. But I think that all gets a bit tedious and mundane, for me at least, if not for you.

One thing I do want to talk about though, is keeping a food diary as a way to measure how much carbohydrate and protein is actually going into your body. I have kept diaries before, to monitor this, and more recently, to monitor the kinds of food I actually do eat over a few weeks. After yet another crap training session on Saturday (ok, I had a bad week last week), where I could barely hang on to the warm up (somewhat humiliating) I realised that perhaps that niggling half-thought I’d been having about protein levels may have some truth to it.

So I drafted myself up a diary in excel, to count carbs, protein, calories etc, with a spreadsheet of foods I commonly eat, with those details noted against a measured amount of whatever food it is. Even after a couple of days of monitoring, I realise that I am way behind in total amounts of carb and protein I need to train well, recover well and do it again. So here is something I can control, being the control-freak that I am, and take back at least a part of my response to training; from you gotta be kidding me, to get out of my way, you’re blocking my view ahead.

Friday, 2 July 2010

A vision of the future for Ozlanders????

ah to dream perchance..

Stuff that, let's make it happen!

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Motivation takes on ego and goes to another place

Finally, a few days of solid training with good outputs. And I don't feel wrecked. Yaaaaaaaay, just as I give up the last donated specimens for medical inspection and diagnosis (until August when I see the gastro specialist guy).

There is nothing worse than training hard (but not too hard, because that might be what kicks you back over into pathetic racer fatigueland) with that angsty niggle in the back of your mind, worrying, stressing about whether you are going to make it through to the end of this interval, let alone the next three to come. And when you do nail them (the first time in weeks) your ego then says, pfft shoulda gone harder softy! while you flex your muscles and say "grrrrr" in the face of the past.

But nail them I did, without nailing myself back onto the wooden crucifying planks. So now my enthusiasm and motivation are carrying my ego into places where my body probably shouldn't go, namely up a hill, or two alongside 20 other women, racing style. Ok, yes a road race. Maybe two. But that's all, no more I promise!

Because, as we all know, I am a trackie.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Jeannie does it again!

Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli does it again! Overnight she won her 10th French National Time Trial title, her 57th national title, at a rocking age of 51.

The woman is a legend, and truly inspirational, sticking it to everyone who says women are soft, and age is a barrier. When I grow up, I want to be just like her. Hmmm, 7 years to train to win a national road time trial. Who said impossible? Certainly not the White Queen, Alice

Image from here, taken at the 2009 World Road Titles.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Being just a bit high maintenance

My friends know I like food, good quality, fresh, tasty food. I am a bit of a food princess, but these days I am feeling high maintenance, way  beyond princess. I eat well. Well as in fresh, unprocessed as possible, seasonal, organic preferably (and reasonably), local, varied, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, carb controlled, quality proteins, timed well. An honorably healthy diet.

I've been in two minds about this post, but it came to the crunch a few minutes ago. I was googling flour combinations as alternatives to regular, every day wheat flour. You see, even though I am a bit precious about stuff that I ingest, and pretend to digest (more on that later) I do like a carby, bakery good for morning tea. Occassionally homemade, occassionally a muffin from my work local. Last week I whipped up a gluten free pumpkin thing. It was not bad, and now I want to experiment. After half an hour of googling I am over it. I am feeling high maintenance, and probably a little in denial.

Ok, so after having half a litre of blood taken for tests a few weeks ago, I finally got to see my new GP. She is one awesome woman. In the first five minutes she asked: So, how much time do we have? I asked: what do you mean? She wanted to know when my next major event was, and how much time we had to get whatever is going on inside of this machine of body, sorted. This one is going to take as long as it takes. I am allowing myself that much this time.

So bloods done, resulted checked. The outcome is that Dr T has no idea why what is going on is going on. Amongst other things, we do know that 1) my blood cells are being released by my bone marrow too young ie too immature to do their job properly. Think about that after 4 smashfest 1 lap reps ..... and 2) my guts are not absorbing all the nutrients from my food (see  end point 1). My system is not feeding itself well enough for me to train and compete at the level I want to.  And to top it off, Dr T also threw in:  "I think something you are eating is poisoning you. We just need to work out what." Great.My healthy diet is making me sick.

Next step: a stack more freaking bloods! plus ultrasounds, a visit to a specialist for a viewing of my bowels (oo fun).. and.. more testing. This will take another 6-8wks, mainly due to the popularity of the people I need to see for diagnostics.

In the meantime, once the bloods are done this week, Dr T wants me on a gluten free, dairy and fruit free diet. Ok. Cool. My first thought: What the hell am I going to eat for breakfast? I eat bircher muesli every morning, except on the weekends when I have porridge with a bunch of goodies thrown in, fruit and yoghurt. I LOVE my usual breakfast. This is a major problem. A massively HUGE problem!! Life changing. And what about my twice a week protein shake? And my fruit snacks, my pre-training snack, my pre-gym and post-gym snacks? And the fruit juice I use to down all my supps? Straight veg juice isn't that easy to find on a Sunday in the local supermarket!

So, I am planning, reading labels, googling alternatives and being just a bit high maintenance. Just so I can race a bike and make the end of the race in the bunch. Guess I love my bike racing :-)

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The Long Wineing Weekend

As a university worker, we do not get many of the public holidays offered to other Victorian workers, in lieu of time off between Christmas and New Year. If we do want to take the public holiday, we need to dip into annual leave to do so.

This year, my birthday coincided with this month's public holiday, a long weekend, and an invite to Raid Pop's Cellar, an annual event at Sam Miranda Winery as part of the Fit for a King  wine festival weekend in the King Valley. So what's a girl to do, but take annual leave and go!

We got to Milawa early Saturday afternoon, in time for a quick 40km hit out (I'd forgotten how boring road riding can be: flat, straight country roads), before heading to Sam's for some of this:

A fantastic night of beautiful food, wine, and an eclectic mix of people. Brilliant! Thank you Pop for sharing your wines, and for the opportunity to learn a few things.

Sunday was meant to be another morning on the bikes, then head out to a few wineries to check out what else King Valley has to offer. Somehow, the bikes ended up here for the day

while we went here

I became very proficient at sniffing, swirling, sipping and spitting. But honestly, there is only so much alcohol the mouth can take! So when it came to a glass of red with a scrummy dinner of slow cooked pork belly, I really did think twice. Then I had one. My first glass of swallowed wine all day. Believe it or not.

Next morning, we had even more of this (yep, that's frost at 10 am, from a -4 degree overnight temp)

So I rugged up in my winter euro bike gear (first time ever I didn't get too hot in it!) and we rode to Sam's for a morning coffee (best coffee in Oxley and Milawa), and to cut a few laps of the crit circuit,  before heading out to Whitfield, to ride up what had been reconned the day before.

It's been 6 months since I climbed a serious hill and it's been even longer since riding up one that was more than 7km long. Of course, I had to stop a couple of times to admire the view ;-) but I did it. And I also did the climb the hard way ie in reverse, although, driving home via Mansfield, I did note that that side of the hill has about 30km of uphill to the KOM. There's something to be said for being a support vehicle sometimes.

The reward for making it up and over the top was a late lunch at Whitty's Cafe

Note also the table number. Very appropriate. The guy serving had no idea of its significance.

A huge thank you to Nancy for a brilliant weekend. You're the best!

Friday, 11 June 2010

For Friday

Running on Empty from Ross Ching on Vimeo.

I like this on two counts: 1: a bike tribute and  2: radiohead.

Thanks to Bikejuju for posting a great find. Such is the way of the interwebs.

Friday, 4 June 2010

What's wrong with equality anyway?

Last night, a trio of old cycling men was overheard disparaging the call for equality in prizemoney for women. The logic that was used goes something like this:
Anyway, men are discriminated against because women in tennis get paid the same as men to play less games so they are paid more then men so that proves it so there anyway it's all just political correctness gone mad

It’s been paraphrased, but reportedly not far from being verbatim, and captures the spirit of the discussion.

Equality in prizemoney has come up rather a few times in my life lately, the most recent being from a male friend who read my blog last week and said: “This business about equality for women; it’ll never happen you know “ , or words to that effect. Hmmm not sure I actually used the word “equality”. I think it was “equity” and the two are different. As is parity, which is what I am lobbying for. Because, frankly, as my male friend illustrated, as did the three muscateers last night, equality is too hard, too tough a concept for these guys to get their brains around, let alone chew over and reason out. I’ll leave the question of why, for the same reason.

Equity and parity in respect, which includes prizemoney (or recompense for racing, and doing well, as some put it) is more palatable. It doesn’t mean equality. Equality is not a battle female cyclists are going to win upfront. That requires numbers, and money, neither of which are forthcoming in women’s racing. Yet.

Before I go further, so some people don’t have to refer to their local Professor of  Linguistics for  meaning and etymologies (I prefer a dictionary myself), here are some to clarify what I am talking about:

Equity: the quality of being fair or impartial; fairness;

Parity: 1. equality, as in amount, status, or character.
2.equivalence; correspondence; similarity; analogy.

Interestingly parity also refers to pregnancy, and the pregnant woman herself, so in many ways a very relevant term to use here.

So what I am seeking, as an agitator, squeaky wheel and lobbyist, is equity and parity in women’s racing, in terms of quality of event, numbers of events, and in recompense for successfully racing (ie winning). In other words, fairness and equivalence in those.

The equality argument is always always countered with

1. Women don’t race like men. A: no, because they are not men. It doesn’t mean women’s racing is less deserving though;
2.  There are less women racing, so therefore women should have a lesser share of any total prizemoney. Now this one is a hard one to counter. Promoters do have limited financial resources, which includes funding for prizemoney. As a promoter myself, I understand this, and understand the need to support those individual races that carry prestige, from history, myth and legend, cultural standing, and.. prizemoney (funny about that one!). Mostly those races are men’s races, because racing is a male-dominated sport, historically. There is baggage there that can’t be countered, although it can be moderated now.

The second argument has some kind of logic in its legs, which is why the equity and parity case will be a stronger platform from which to push the big rock up the even bigger and steeper hill.

So let’s go for on par with, and fairness, based on facts, numbers and real percentages that are meaningful and add value for people racing. It will take support from promoters and organisers, sponsors, sports administrators. It’s about an attitude shift and a cultural shift (always hard, always painful, often rewarding). It’s about breaking down barriers for men and women, to race. It’s about opening up the sport to more competitors, more opportunities to race.

There is a deep-seated fear that equality means control. It’s a very common counter to feminist argument about glass ceilings and equal pay in the work place. Women don’t really want equality, they want to be in charge. That argument is based in fear of loss of position, and status. Glass ceilings prevent dead wood from being pruned, and protect many positions that would be better off with change, either total change of the position itself, or of the incumbent who may be tired, jaded, bitter, uncaring or simply incompetent for that role. From what I’ve heard and read over the last 30 odd years of my awareness of the feminist movement, women really just want fair and equitable recognition of their work, their time, their competencies, abilities and capacities, and to feel valued in those areas, and justly recompensed for those. It’s the same with racing. There is no difference.

Fix my St Funkster in Venus on a Cloud

I make fun of the hipster crowd, on their flat bar, thumbs abutting, skinny lycra-jeaned, fixed wheel St Shop coffee and beer bikes.

But in truth I also admire them, as well as mocking their perceived ubercool counter-ness.

Because they buck norms. Although in doing so, via the de riguer uniform of the St Hipster, they create new norms, in dress codes, modes of transport and behaviours. Same as goths, punks, bondageurs, preppies, bankers and lawyers etc. Bucking norms and conventions is an activity I am prone to support, if it makes people think, has positive outcomes,  and doesn't harm small animals, or non-consensual others.

Unfortunately, I suspect that Fix St Hipster is still a male chauvenist, retrograding women into aprons and heels, adorning shiny oldskool bikes (rather than shiny cars). But like all cultural groupings, there are subversions. Women who won't be counted in heels and aprons in the form of visual wanking pleasure for some pimply youf, or greased up adult male in his shed. Or his toilet.

Uniformity vs diversity. Where is the diversity? Diversity has become counter-cultural, subversive. Maybe it always has been (I suspect so) but in our current ultraconservative times, diversity is anathema, publicly decried and ridiculed as a form of marking otherness. There is no diversity in bike racing. Predominantly it is white, male, middle-aged, monied. As are the representations of Fix St Funkster I see around the place.

During tennis season I am offended by, and despair at the criticism of Venus and Serena  Williams, as much by women as men: they are too black, too muscular, too big (yep, I heard that one from a fat woman), too offending with their fashion. Good reasons to celebrate them.

In 2006, Venus wrote in The Times:

I believe that athletes — especially female athletes in the world's leading sport for women — should serve as role models. The message I like to convey to women and girls across the globe is that there is no glass ceiling. My fear is that Wimbledon is loudly and clearly sending the opposite message....
Wimbledon has argued that women's tennis is worth less for a variety of reasons; it says, for example, that because men play a best of five sets game they work harder for their prize money.
This argument just doesn’t make sense; first of all, women players would be happy to play five sets matches in grand slam tournaments....
Secondly, tennis is unique in the world of professional sports. No other sport has men and women competing for a grand slam championship on the same stage, at the same time. So in the eyes of the general public the men's and women's games have the same value.
Third, ... we enjoy huge and equal celebrity and are paid for the value we deliver to broadcasters and spectators, not the amount of time we spend on the stage. And, for the record, the ladies’ final at Wimbledon in 2005 lasted 45 minutes longer than the men's....
 from here

Now I know cycling falls short in many of these areas. This is the 21st century, and it has taken 40plus years of hard work by the likes of Billy Jean King, Martina Navratilova etc to get to this point. And cycling is not tennis, but it could be.

These women of tennis achieved what they did by being outspoken, bucking norms, making a stand and sticking to it, and sticking it where it would be seen, and maybe cause a bit of angst and pain even. Change is difficult, but very rewarding if it achieves good outcomes for all.

So the St Funkster attitude of Fuck You Dude, I Just Wanna Ride My Bike, is one I believe in. Mine has an additional clause: Respect us for what we do, and demonstrate that respect. We train as hard, race as hard, we pay our money (the SAME amount of money), we travel as far to race. That needs to be acknowledged, recognised and celebrated, as it is in male cycling. Sometimes I wonder how women succeed in cycling. It's a tough gig, without many role models, limited support at home and in the field. I think those who stay, or make it (whatever that means) do have that support: unconditional, uncompromised. They feel valued in some way, or they are just so freaking hard nosed, obsessive compulsive it wouldn't matter any way. A bit like supermodels: freakish and incredibly determined.

We need more Venuses on wheels. No need to apply, just a matter of doing it.