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.

Rapha Respect??

It started here, with a competition designed to gather a database of email addresses. Harmless, a bit of fun. Hey, I even posted, although I still have my email address intact ;-)

But as I followed over the hours, and then the last day or so, I become agitated, unsettled, out of sorts, more agitated, then peeved, then downright annoyed and angry. Apart from being repetitive, unimaginative and boring, the comment posts also reflected something else: a seemingly universal attitude towards women in cycling, as in women should be left at home, "managed" so that the male commentators could "escape" (funny, as this was a discussion about how to motivate oneself to get out of the house when it's cold and dark) and engage in some "manly" activity aka secret men's business.

The more whinging I read, the more I thought, gees dude, if living with this person is so bad, leave! Then I realised: I was looking at a list of stereotypes of women as perceived by men.  Predominantly as the butt of some male bonding jokery, but also as one to be duped, tricked, managed, placated, to demonstrate a male cleverness as getting away with some kind of behaviour that is not appreciated by a female partner. Her needs and wants seemed to be devalued against a need to go riding. Even sex is described as a night-before chore that will win a man bonus points in the morning (ie she'll be in a better mood). Stereotypes, apart from showing intellectual laziness, work in complex ways to maintain status quo, or enforce particular modes of being, and forms of (self) governance.

Frankly, the stereotypes iterated on the blog above repeatedly showed a lack of regard and respect for women. Women's interests, desires, concerns, requirements. My ruminating on it lead to a double whammy Facebook rant, reproduced here for those of you who are not on FB, or not one of my multitudes on FB:

getting a little tired of the insidious attitudes and comments from male cyclists about women in general and female cyclists in particular. Just because the zeitgeist is reactionary, doesn't mean it's Ok.. Sexism is sexism, racism is racism. Time to get over yourselves and your phobia fellas.

  Immediately followed by 
female cyclists don't deserve equity in prizemoney because they don't race as hard. Female tennis players may get same money, but don't play for as long, so that proves it. Silly old gits. Hope you don't get on the Board.

#2 was a second hand report of an overheard conversation at DISC last night, tidied up to make more sense (even though, of course, it doesn't. It didn't in the first place).

Cycling, can of course be replaced by the word "golf" or "formula 1". These days, it seems that if a woman is not a stay-at-home, income earning (not sure how that works, might have something to do with the next bit) pole-dancing master chef, then she should be. If she is not, she is to be ridiculed, despised, made fun of, abused, attacked, with her sexuality, gender, agendas called upon.

 I've heard stories of women being punched in the thigh in open races, verbally attacked and abused, run into gutters. I'd hate to be a female cycling commissaire for obvious reasons. You get the idea. Of course, I've heard of the same thing happening to guys as well. Which begs the question: where is the respect? You may look stcool in your new rapha kit, but if you don't demonstrate respect while wearing it, while on the bike, then you're still a turd, no matter how wanky trendy cool the kit you are wearing.