Saturday, July 30, 2011

If I'm honest, it was disappointing....

I've been debating with myself whether or not to include this blog but the point is that we're a diverse group and there may be others out there feeling the same way.

Last Saturday I decided that Rach's advice on riding Mt Stromlo and Red Hill in daylight before training on them was an excellent idea and I would head off and give them a go. All keen and feeling confident because I'd had a couple of good commuter rides with a new compact cassette on board I headed off. I also took the advice on board that you should really drive the hills you are attempting for the first time so you have an idea of just what you're in for.

Arriving at Stromlo I started the drive up thinking, yep this looks ok. I figured I could get to 1/4-1/2 way up with a fair bit of effort, remembering of course that I'm coming back from a base level of fitness of zero! But as I progressed up the hill my spirits sank. There are some quite sharp turns further up that made my back ache just looking at them. I continued up to the KOM sign thinking the last 1/4 of the ride just got more intense. :(

I know I have to ride within my current limitations, it just sucks to be impatient.... So rather than waste the morning I went and did a couple of Yarralumla Loops, which I improved on so that was a bit encouraging.

I've wondered since if I should've just gotten on the bike and had a go, but if I'd gotten into trouble I could've wobbled into one of the tourist cars driving up. My core and back strength is still building, but it's slow.

So where to from here? More commuting as I can feel my back and core strengthing as I do it. Back to Yarralumla to test improvement and work from there. My debate on blogging this was that this is really just my issue but I remembered that a couple of the skillez girls were anxious on the downhill run on the Federation Mall circuit, so in comparison Mt Stromlo would seem out of reach for them too.

I want to keep working on this so any interested training companions are welcome and all advice on how to reach my new goal of 'Ride Mt Stromlo!' are welcome.

And I commuted to work yesterday in the ridiculous cold, so feeling a bit hardcore after that!


Friday, July 29, 2011

The coldest Norman in history

The title of this post says it all: -8 on the Norman this morning, with an apprent temp of -11.8 (by the time we got back for coffee). I have never ridden in conditions as cold as this morning, and to be honest (and at the risk of being shouted at by everyone else who was there), it didn't feel anywhere near as cold as it did when Leonie and Eleanora and I headed out to do Mugga Way a few weeks back. It was clear and crisp and completely stunning. The only time I was really cold was out the back of the TGA, when my bum seemed to suddenly freeze over and I had one of those "am I still wearing knicks" moments (fortunately I was!). The pace was not too fast as we were all aiming for an E1 ride, so we tried to take turns on the front so no one froze while sitting on the back. I struggled to get my heartrate into my E1 zone and I'm wondering if that's because of the cold (although it could also be because I've just got a really high E1 zone given my current state of fitness). All in all, it was an awesome ride. Cold, yes, but also epic and I'm really proud of myself for getting out in it. It'll certainly give me something to talk about for years to come, and I've definitely earned by "hard core" status. Woohoo!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mountain Biking across Bali

So I am not 100% sure this counts as training, but yesterday I embarked on a 40km ride from the top of Bali, down to a village called Ubud.

We drove from Kuta for about two hours towards the Volcano, and up into the hills of Bali, and we provided with 'Polycon' mountain bikes, in pretty reasonable working order, including disc brakes which made me mildly nervous considering the added stopping power when compared with calipers on my road bike.

It was downhill from the outset and while it took me a few minutes to get over the totally weird sensation that I was driving a truck rather than riding a bike (giant MTB handlebars, seat way too low, flat pedals and front suspension)  pretty soon I was pushing the pace!

Fortunately there were only two other aussie girls in my group and they were both keen to go at a decent speed - I think it might have been a bit annoying if there had been a bigger, dawdling group but soon we were overtaking the other tours. (Ok i know it wasnt technically a race, but I was still pretty pleased when the guide looked back, grinned and said "you're a strong rider!!").

The tour had been advertised as 40km of downhill and they werent lying. The roads were generally pretty great, with some slightly bumpy bits and we rode through village after village, all decorated for a recent festival. Cute kids lined the road and held out their hands for high fives and in every village people were smiling and waving.

The guide mentioned something about having a big challenge for us - two hills. I was quietly confident, figuring that this being a touristy thing - hill was likely to mean gentle incline at most.

Boy was I mistaken!
Our guide stopped us before the first descent into the first climb to forewarn us and get us into a low gear, then we tore down into a gully and were faced with basically a wall on a 45 degree angle. I think I got maybe five pedal strokes in and then actually had to stop and walk the rest of the way!

Jane would not have been impressed!

The second hill though I was determined and was first to the summit again getting a "wow, strong woman" comment from the guide so I felt like I redeemed myself there!

The kms of downhill, out of the saddle for a fair bit trying to aero tuck and pick up speed actually left me a bit sore today, but the ride was so worth it - it was just fun all the way.

So excited about getting back into proper training, which is exactly what this holiday was about. I'm already planning next year to take two weeks in Bali right after DBR 2012. Except I'll time it better so I can watch the whole TDF from here. In fact - lets make that a squad excursion!!!

See you guys soon!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The lofty heights of Stromlo in Winter

4 hardened Valkyries (me, Deciana, Leonie and Jane J) hit the slopes of Stromlo this morning for an "E2" session (which is basically just above your endurance threshold) training, which was a combined session with the Vikings V-Max squad. It was actually quite warm this morning (I think around 6 degrees!) which was a welcome change, although the first rep in particular was very foggy. I had a few incidents with my lights unplugging themselves on my first rep, but then found a spot on my frame where the battery pack wouldn't slide and rode without "light" incident from then. I did have a near miss with a large kangaroo towards the top of Stromlo on my first rep. It was quite disconcerting to see such a large creature appear almost without warning through the fog, nearly hitting me. Needless to say I took the descent very easy on my way down from that rep!

As I was on my way down, I saw the rest of the V-Max squad making their way up for their first rep. It was quite a cool sight to see so many "trails" of headlights in the fog coming towards me, and nice to know that we had such a large crew out there doing similar training.

At the bottom of my first rep I found Leonie who was setting off on her first rep. Talk about hardcore! She's only had her bike for a month or so, and there she was ready to take on Stromlo as one of her first proper rides in the middle of Winter! V impressive! Leonie and I rode up together on that rep and spent pretty much the whole time commenting how stunningly beautiful the scenery was from the lofty heights of Stromlo. The fog around the top of Stromlo had pretty much cleared by this time, but the fog in the valleys below was still thick. Even the Molonglo subdivision / Cotter roadworks looked beautiful from up there! Just stunning.

Leonie and I waited for the rest of the VMax squad at the top and then descended together. We took it pretty easy again, as the roads were a bit damp from the fog and we thought there was not much point pushing the descending boundaries in such conditions. We passed Jane on her way up for another rep while we were on our way down. Jane was practically straight off the skiing slopes and was looking v strong (so much so that she did her last rep with a flat tyre and didn't really even notice the extra resistance!).

We all did one more rep after that to complete the session, before Leonie and I hopped into our cars and the rest of the crew headed back to Deakin for work / coffee. It was a great morning all in all and hopefully we'll see a few more Valkyries at the next combined training session.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

VMaxxing it up

As Rach noted last week, I'm attempting to fly the Valkyrie flag with the new Vikings VMaxx squad. This is the first week of the VMaxx training program and so far so good. But let's take things back a step.

A key part of the VMaxx program is knowing your heart rate zones. To assist with this, Jason Mahoney (Argonaut Cycle Coaching), who wrote the VMaxx training program, offered the squad the opportunity to undertake lactate and power testing. The idea of this is that you'll get a better idea of what heart rate / power zones to train in to maximise your training. So it was with mixed feelings that I emailed Jason and asked if I could undertake a lactate / power test as part of the VMaxx squad. Yes, I want to improve and make sure I'm maximising my training, but I think it hurts everyone to obtain objective evidence of their (lack of) fitness. I was half hoping Jason would say he was booked out for a few weeks so I wouldn't be able to do my testing until I'd actually done some training, but alas, he responded and said he had a vacancy the next day. So I Valkyried up (which is way stronger than manning up) and headed off for my lactate / power session on the Sunday just gone.

For those who haven't done a lactate / power session before, here's brief outline of what they involve. After a bit of a warm-up (and yes, I certainly got puffed during the warm-up!), the computer sets a specific resistance that requires a certain wattage that you have to pedal against. The rider pedals for a time against each resistance before the resistance increases (requiring you to put out more watts) as the time goes on. To obtain the lactate, the tester pricks your finger just before the end of each resistance stage to find out how much lactate you have in your blood (the lactate increases during the test, until you basically get to the point that your body can't process the lactate without diverting energy away from the rest of your body). I apologise to all of the scientists out there from my basic description of this, but that's kind of how I understand it works.

So anyway, I did the test and yes, I did obtain objective evidence that I am unfit. My power output was better than I expected, but my lactate was very high (which Jason noted could be because I am unfit, or because I eat too many carbs based on the level of exercise I have been recently undertaking). Apparently the significance of this is that my body is almost always burning carbs rather than fat, which isn't ideal from an endurance perspective as it effectively means I'm always needing to refuel. Or something... (again, apologies for the lack of scientific explanation here). Jason suggested I come back and re-test in a few weeks after I have a solid training base behind me to make sure my training zones are accurate once I regain some basic fitness (and try and eat less carbs in the meantime!).

The VMaxx program started yesterday and I can honestly say that I 100% nailed the first day, which started with a rest day. My resting practice came into its own and I excelled in my ability to not ride my bike on the first day. (Rach would struggle with this!).

We then had our first real training session this morning, which involved a coached session and some power testing. It was a little brisk this morning, but nothing compared to my ride with Leonie and Eleanora last week (see - the Valkys are way tougher than the VMaxxers!). We headed to Stromlo first to do a maximal effort (ie, as fast as you can) up Stromlo and then back to Red Hill to do the same. It was a little strange riding with a group so big (I think there were maybe 16 - 18 of us?). My proper bunch riding is a bit rusty, and I felt a bit nervous in the group on a few occasions. I was the last wheel and the pace was really surgey from the back of the bunch and I struggled to let go of my nervousness to be able to sit close enough to the wheel in front to get much of a draft. I changed positions in the bunch on the way back from Stromlo to Red Hill and this made me feel heaps better. I guess like all things, I'll need to re-skill in my bunch riding before I'm really comfortable in a big bunch like that again. That said, the hill climbs were pretty good and the guys were really encouraging. I definitely have quite a way to go before I will be proud of my efforts up there, and I learnt an important lesson about pacing myself!

So all in all, I'm feeling fab with a 100% strike rate on my training after day 2 of the new program. I'm totally motivated for more and think I may be turning into Rach a bit at the moment with not wanting to waste a minute and train, train, train some more to regain some of my fitness as quickly as I can. But I'm trying to be good and disciplined and stick to the program as much as I can - it's a long 20 weeks until Bright and I can't afford to burn out now. Stay tuned for more! :-)

Friday, July 15, 2011

When can I ride my bike?

That is the question I have been asking my torture therapist on a weekly basis for a bit over a month now.

I've finally succumbed and have decided to write my first blog; I guess it will explain why I haven't made it to any training sessions. I've managed just one, which as I was tapering had to finish early. I also got to one skills session and that's been about it for me. My plan was to do a triathlon and come back and focus on riding for a while and try and get some confidence bunch riding, descending and generally work on becoming a stronger rider. Unfortunately that plan slowly unravelled as the hours passed on the 5th of June.

Two days before the event I knew something wasn't right with my foot and I knew exactly what it was but couldn't figure out how it could be possible. How could I possibly have another stress fracture?! I'd been reduced to pool running for the previous 3 weeks due to a different foot injury so tried to convince myself that it wasn't a stress fracture. I got my confirmation on the bike leg though, each time I had to get out of the saddle that familiar and unwanted pain was there. Doubts entered my head, would it survive 180km and a marathon after that? I pushed the doubts aside; I couldn't let them take over otherwise I really wouldn't finish.

Just 200m into the run I realised I could no longer land on my mid foot and I was forced to land on my heel, which was already inflamed by a different injury. Why oh why did I decide to do another Ironman? Some have questioned why I pushed through knowing there was a stress fracture and there was likelihood that the marathon would inevitably make this worse. I think anyone who has invested so much into preparing for something would find that making that call to pull out hard to make. Yep it was painful, but at no point did I think that I wouldn't be able to finish. I finished and now have a fractured 4th metatarsal. So the past 5 weeks have been about recovery, getting treatment to the Pandora's Box of issues with my feet and getting over having such a disappointing race.

It took me 3 weeks to unpack my bike and put it back together as I knew the desire to ride would be hard to resist once it had been reassembled. Even though I'd been told I couldn't ride not even on the wind trainer I set it up anyway and thought I'd give it a go. I mean I had to make sure I'd put it back together ok :-) Besides 3 weeks had passed, surely I was healed enough to sit and have a little spin? How wrong could I be (hate admitting that). I could barely push through a peddle stroke, obviously I hadn't managed to increase my pain threshold quite high enough. So my bike is continuing to gather dust, but remains set up on the wind trainer as the carrot to get better and get back on it.

The fear around the lost fitness is the hardest thing to deal with at the moment. Swimming and deep water pool running is my exercise at the moment. Not just to try and stay fit but also keep some sanity. This is the longest stretch I've had off the bike; foot surgery didn't even keep me off this long! In my opinion there is never a good time to get injured and am pretty scared about re-joining the group once I'm able. I've missed so many skills sessions and since bunch riding and descending were never a strong point for me I feel I'm going to be behind in fitness and skills when I return.

Maybe next week when I ask the question; 'when can I ride my bike' the answer will be more positive and I can get back out there again soon.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Leonie, Eleanora and I toughed out the freezing conditions this morning to take on Mugga Way. The fog was thick, which created a somewhat eerie atmosphere, particularly when heading over Commonwealth Avenue bridge. Unfortunately the fog left us damp which made us all soooo cold. It was -3 when we started riding, and apparently the temp increased while we were out although I didn't feel it at all. I've ridden in colder conditions than this morning, but I can honestly not remember ever being as cold as I was this morning. Just in case anyone was wondering, it's definitely Winter! Brrrrr!!!

We cruised down Adelaide Ave to Hopetoun Circuit, and then up Mugga Way. It was both Leonie and Eleanora's first times up Mugga Way and they both excelled, rolling through the undulations and then getting some climbing practice in when the gradient went up (not to mention some descending practice on the return journey, with Eleanora commenting when we got to the bottom of Mugga that she'd barely touched her brakes and was right down on her drops for most of the descent). We then headed down into Deakin and then up around the embassies before returning to the ANU for well deserved coffees.

Big high 5 to Leonie and Eleanora for not only making it out in the freezing conditions, but for completing their first Mugga Ways. Go team!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Post Race...what next

So this is the first time I've been in a post-race phase - i.e. we built up the training over 8 weeks (well really several months for me as I've been training regularly since February) and we did the tour and no i feel .....flat.

Local racing legend Bec Doolan provided us with some very helpful advice below about what to do post tour which I will be following up with some "Lessons Learned" posts (although I'm sure you can all guess from my tour blogs what those lessons are going to be...): 
  • First up, enjoy the night at the end of the tough. Congratulate yourself on getting through and enjoy the company of those around you.
  • Next up, go for a recovery ride te next day. I am being deadly serious.  You may think having the next day off is the best idea ever, your body will thank you for the rest of the week if you do it the day after the tour.  Take the following day off the bike, but definitely recovery ride right after.  In fact, you should all have a very easy week training wise.  Start again on the next block next week.
  • Now the hard stuff.  There was a lot to learn from this weekend.  Get a notebook and jot a few things down, but be careful not to be too hard on yourself.  For every negative thing, think of something positive that you did, doesn't matter how small.  For the things you did well, replay that in your mind.  Think about why it was good and really enjoy it.  Then pick one thing that didn't go so well.  Think about it.  Then think about it as if you were doing it correctly. Focus on the improvement and only how things would have been if you had done that one thing correctly.
  • Now, pick your next target event. When that event rolls around, go back to your notebook and pick something(s) (but no more than 3) to get right in that event.
In the meantime, revel in the fact that you got through one of the toughest bike races on the calendar :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

DBR Tour Final Stage - 30 min Criterium

V is for Valkyrie Vikings

The apparent temp was minus 2 or something, and it was beginning to rain as we set out on the last stage of the DBR Tour.

Exhausted, the Valkyries lost the main bunch on the first lap, and there was some serious confusion between the pre-race briefing which had said we would get pulled off if we were lapped by other riders so once I got lapped by the main bunch I basically stopped pedalling thinking it was all over. The other two B graders I was riding with continued on and it took me about five more laps to work out that they weren't pulling B grade out and were expecting us to finish.

I'm afraid the confusion and frustration of not knowing what was going on proved really challenging for me, so i had some pretty dirty looks on my face coming past the line - apologies to our team mates, supporters and coach who were standing there, it really was awesome to have you guys cheering us on.

At any rate, we actually finished the whole thing so im pretty proud of myself for completing the whole tour, and of my teammates for their awesome work.

I'd like to thank (in no particular order):

Our coach Simon Dwyer, for getting us here
Deciana for leading me out for 40.1km in the road race earlier today (i owe you many beers)
Anna for her inspirational finish despite a serious bonk that lasted her for about 20kms yesterday
Verity - if you hadn't entered, I wouldn't have had the guts
Andrew for helping me after the 80km RR when I completely lost my shit
Our sponsors; DBR & team fitness
Steven for keeping the bikes slick
Angie & Rosemary for all the efforts in the RR this morning
Cheska for the enthusiasm (and quality sledging - I'm pretty sure you won)
ALL the VIKINGS who were hollering from the course and waving from the lead and spares cars while marshalling - im pretty sure the out of towners knew we were famous
All the V-Mobile and VCC blokes who have supported us and mentored us through our training over the last 8 weeks
All the volunteers and marshalls everywhere and especially Cherrie for making it happen
Nige Huckstep for making us famous over the PA
Ross and Milto for the loan of TT helmets
Lee Sheather for your messages of support
Brad Drew for the loan of awesome Europro shoe socky things and knee warmers
Ian Downing for fixing my headset and putting my bike together so it just rides like a dream...
Simon's dog Watson
Mum, Ramsey, Alexandra & Kieran for coming out to watch
Jane and Sue Powell for the encouragement (and directions when i realised i had messed the course up)
the people who made the Bolognese for the OM NOM NOMs
anyone at all who has helped us over the last few months that i may have inadvertently forgotten in post race fog
the marshall at Coppins Crossing who gave me all his water when i was about to keel over
Bec Doolan for her support
All the Valkyries for cheering us on
Ben Long, for letting me join V-Mobile when id never climbed a hill before
the Vikings Cycling Club, for being Rad

And I'd like to give a very a special extra mention to Chris K for tirelessly turning up to the Valkyrie Skills group for the last 8 weeks so i could concentrate on hills, I really wanted the squad to keep going but I couldn't have trained properly without a trusted mentor to work with the SKillez girls.

And my last very big giant thanks goes to Brad Drew - lets just say we couldn't have done it without you, your enthusiasm, your mentoring, your encouragement and your sprints on the hills are what helped us survive through the tour.

We did it.

DBR Tour Stage 3- 40km Road Race

Big mental challenge for this one being tired plus early Start in the morning.
- great teamwork on the way out, thanks to Angue and Rosemary for pulling turns, the first 10km I thought I might not even make it at all.

Awesome race bunch work out to the first QOM up uriarra, we had those girls working really well.

Race champ award goes to Deciana for leading me the whole way and letting me have the final sprint.

Strong finishes from Verity, Ches, Angie and Rosemary.

One stage to go. Post race beers- 530 at All Bar Nun.

Stage 2 - 80km Road Race

Major points to Anna who finished despite an epic bonk an an absolute world of pain.
My bad luck continued with an almost DQ at the start line, turns out my brand new, warranty replacement helmet has no Aus standards sticker, then I got the course wrong and rode in to SFP and stopped for a good ten minutes - not taking off agai til Angie, Rosemary, Ches and Verity had passed me...sigh. I then set off again with no water Gavin sculler all mine thinking I was done. Oops.

Well done to Dec, verit, Ches and Angie all finishing strong.

Today I am using two good luck charms; one being my lutle fellas dog tag and the other being a plan to hang on to the D Train!

Brrrrr it's cold out there.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

DBR Tour Teammates- Epic Win

Thanks everyone for your support, teammates are awesome - I really dont think i could train or race without the support of the Valkyries, Vmobilers or the Vikings Cycling Club.

The bike is now seriously performance tuned, im a bit tired but you know what? I'm actually just really excited for a good long ride today so im not that worried about the race, im just looking forward to riding my bike.

yay for bike riding.

there was a funny moment yesterday when i was standing near the NZ womens team and there was that usual 'roadie-no-talking-slightly-suspicious-nobody-say-anything' type feeling. I was in a pretty foul mood, but then she looked up and i remembered most of these girls are just kids and for the moments during the ITT when i wasn't swearing like a sailor it was actually just PRETTY FRIGGIN ACE to see so many women on  bikes.

So I said hey you chicks looked friggin awesome out there, well done. She looked shocked, but also pretty pleased and broke into a big smile.

So lets do that for the rest of the tour - just be really FREAKIN excited that there are SO MANY WOMEN ON BIKES THIS WEEKEND!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, July 8, 2011

DBR Tour Stage 1 - Epic Fail

-staying up til midnight with friends helping to put bike together, lack of sleep and an untested bike was a stupid idea. But I could have told me that... Failing to prepare is preparing to fail etc, and I knew it wasn't smart but that's trying to race bikes and also having a career.

-borrowing lOvely white Rapha knee warmers makes you realize what great friends you have, but then getting grease on one of them then adds the stress of spending pre race time handwashing rather than getting to the race to warm up, so not ideal.

-borrowing someones TT Bars and having them put on your bike only to have them confiscated as illegal also not ideal and the time spent removing them really cuts unto a warm up, but live an learn etc.

-lack of proper warm up was just asking for the asthma attack from the beginning of the TT

-shake all that off and TRY to race only to drop the chain on the second hill was probably the last straw though.

-fortunately, managed to book in with the bike whisperer tonight who has also diagnosed faulty brakes, loose headset and incompatible shifters. FFS.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cornering and crit attack practice at Stromlo

Sundays training session was a difficult one for me, the weeks total kms were at a reasonable 250km target and after the race on Saturday I was pretty shattered.

I made the mistake of thinking the ride from Dickson to SFP would be a good warmup but i reality by the time I arrived with honorary Valkyrie Paddy for company - I felt shattered.

Sunday was actually the first day in a long time where I've actually really truly had sore legs - as opposed to just feeling a bit soft), and that's a good thing, because I hope it means that the sprinting on Red Hill really translated into something...I guess we will see this weekend.

Verity, Ches, Anna and I were the Valkyries present for this coached session, and helping us out were Coach Simon, World Champion Sue Powell (fyi - having World Champions at your training is pretty friggin ace), Alex, Paddy and maybe others but my memory fails me right at the minute...

We practiced holding form and 'Chase the Rabbit' with Paddy as the rabbit. I bonked on the first lap but Ches and Anna were in fine form.

The session was mercifully short, and finished with some lead out sprints - on each lap it was one of the Valkyries turn to sprint and i drew the card for the last lap. This suited me well as I barely hung on for all the laps prior - but:

A funny thing happens when the end is in sight. Rounding the top corner I suddenly remembered that based on average results in the last 8 weeks of training and racing - I had th potential to put up a pace the other girls couldnt sustain (give or take their ability to follow their lead out riders wheel).

So as we rounded the corner I started yelling to Alex, Up, Go GO GO GO, each time he increased the pace, I called again (which led to a few surprised looking head checks from him - he seemed to be saying "More Speed? For Real??"

I'm pretty sure I even yelled to him "Go, the other girls can't hold on". (sorry ladies).

We  managed to break away with a decent lead, but Paddy (leading out Verity and Ches) was quick to respond and my undoing was Collarbone Corner.

At this much faster pace, I didnt start wide enough and s left a giant gap for Paddy to pull Ches through in front of us.

I wasnt giving up though - I was absolutely determined that the last 8 weeks of training and being ahead of Ches (friendly rivalry in a squad is SO BENEFICIAL), and indeed the months of training since February when Ches was concentragin on Rowing weren't going to be defeated in a crit sprint.

So I hun on and as we rounded the last corner in to the sprint straight, she was a few metres ahead - but this is where I remembered my first (and only other) crit race ever, where someone pipped me in the last two metres and I'd had no idea, so I screamed past Alex (poor use of a lead out guy at this point) and HAMMERED it up the straight.

Paddy, doing a casual headcheck spotted my attack and yelled to Ches to push it which she did - I caught her at the line but she made it across the line first with my wheel in line with about the middle of her bike.

It was an awesome sprint.

Things learned:
  • Always sprint the whole thing, you never know when a surprise attack is coming
  • Ride behind your lead out guy rather than next to him when it really counts (d'oh)
  • When you think you've got nothing, throw down the hammer
  • Having a squad makes training awesome, the encouragement, the friends and the rivalry.
  • Having a really awesome and supportive Club like Vikings RULES because great riders turn up to help us at practice.
  • World Champions go really really fast
Go Valkyrie Vikings

Monday, July 4, 2011

What happened when I didn't keep the rubber side down (Warning: yucky descriptions of injuries)

I wasn't so sure about posting this at first - I didn't want to freak people out who hadn't had a bike crash before, and also wasn't so sure that everyone would want to hear the alternately gory and boring details of the follow on from my bike crash.

Then Maja asked if I would perhaps do a post on it, and I thought, well if she is interested maybe others are too - maybe it will actually be strangely reassuring to know what it might feel like when that dreaded event happens. That one that we hope will never happen to us, but as several-times-a-week cyclists and especially as racers (or potential racers) probably will . I know that the past two and a bit days have already taught me some useful but difficult stuff in terms of pain and injury management, both physical and psychological.

Of course, all crashes are different in many ways, but it seems there are some common themes, so here's a description of my experience (sans photos - if you want to see pictures of the wounds in all their technicolour glory, just ask me!).

I have to say, I didn't expect to come down in the context that I did for my first crash - I don't know why, I guess I imagined it would happen perhaps skidding on some gravel or bumping into someone's tyre during training or a race, or cornering fast. Maybe even a collision with a car (gulp!). It happened, though, during a drill where we placed our hand on a partner's shoulder and practiced leaning into them. As I leant against Simon's shoulder it seems that I probably leant a bit hard, my bike wasn't exactly level with his but a little behind as we went down a slight incline, and my bike just went sliding from under me.

It was a weird experience that moment of hitting the ground and sliding along the tarmac to an eventual halt. Familiar in that I'd seen it many times watching races on TV, yet so foreign not having experienced it myself before. I attempted to move straight away (I was lying face down and my bike was on top of me - I think, although witnesses may have a more accurate description) but it hurt so much I had to just lie there for a minute or so, not caring about anything but the pain. After a couple of minutes I rolled over, assisted by the others in the group, and lay again for a minute or so before I sat up a little.

A woman who was a nurse and happened to be standing there at the crit track had seen the accident and came over and checked me for broken bones, head injury etc. It seemed that there was nothing immediately dramatically wrong, but this didn't help me feel a lot better, and despite my hopes that I would be tougher in this sort of situation, I started to cry with the pain and shock. I have come to the conclusion now that this is SO to be expected for many people when something like this happens, and it is silly to feel embarrassed about crying, because it's a horrible experience and very deserving of tears. And it doesn't mean you're soft, it is just the brain's way of dealing with what has just happened.

When I was ready to move a little and he was sure that nothing was broken, Simon took me over to the side of the track and sat with me for a while, asking me more questions and checking to see what other possible injuries I might have. On inspection, there was some obvious road rash - thank goodness I was wearing layers, or the wounds would most likely have been more extensive - and my upper arm hurt when I moved it, although it didn't feel broken, there wasn't enough tenderness and no swelling. My lovely Vikings jersey which I had just gotten a couple of weeks ago had a big hole in the elbow.

As the group continued their training - they were all really concerned when the accident happened, but somebody (Rach?) figured that it might be better for me to have some space to recover - I actually enjoyed watching as I started to recover a little and the shock subsided - it was a nice distraction and they looked really cool sprinting around the track!

As I had my car, Simon drove me home with Anna following in her car, as I couldn't fit his bike in my car as well. Anna stuck around with me at my place, waiting while I showered and gingerly peeled off clothing, dreading what goriness was underneath. A large patch of skin on my knee was sheared off and I had a smaller patch of road rash on my elbow. There was some major bruising, stiffness and swelling happening already on my knee and elbow around the wounds. And my upper arm muscle - it LOOKED absolutely fine, didn't feel at all tender to the touch, but certain movements, sometimes just tiny ones in a certain direction, were enough to make me gasp with pain.

I showered and cleaned up the road rash as best I could, wincing with the stinging and the pain in my arm. I'm glad Anna was there, because I really needed someone there after I got out of the shower and awkwardly and painfully dressed myself. As I came out to the lounge room, she asked how I was and I burst into tears again, I think just looking properly at the damage, and the pain from showering and dressing was too much, it just got to me a bit. I was a bit worried that my arm hurt so much, and Anna rang her mum to ask about medical centre/emergency options. She also spoke to her brother who had broken a bone (his arm?) recently and after discussing his experience with me, we concluded that it was unlikely it was broken. I decided to just do the RICE thing (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) as I couldn't face trying to sort out after hours medical care or waiting hours in Emergency at the hospital.

Anna helped me pack a few things into a bag and drove me to my sister and brother-in-law's place (I decided to delay telling my mum as I knew she'd freak out) so that I wouldn't be by myself if the pain did get worse. I spent the night there, tended to carefully by Annie and Pierre who made me some tasty healing soup and pasta and helped with dressing my wounds.

After an uncomfortable night of broken sleep, I got up the next morning and again assessed my injuries. It didn't feel any worse than last night, but not much better either. On the way home from Annie and Pierre's place, we stopped by the chemists for some special dressings which had been recommended to me by several cycling people. They are sort of like a thickened piece of glad wrap - you can see through them to check the healing of the wound, and they don't absorb any fluid or gunk but create a very moist environment which is supposed to be the new standard for healing rather than letting things dry out. Now, apologies to any squeamish people out there, but this is the grossest part - it means that all the yellowy ooze from the wound just pools in there, and you have to loosen the dressing a little at the edge to let the fluid out if a lot collects in there. It's pretty disgusting and I felt a little ill just looking at it!

The rest of Sunday afternoon and evening and this morning passed pretty uneventfully - I watched the Tour de France 2nd stage on Sun night until I fell asleep, which was an enjoyable distraction. I found though that my arm was still pinging with pain when I attempted to do so many simple things like pull jumpers on and off, put my hair up, even just moving in a certain way when sitting or lying down. The pain would actually make me feel a bit sick, it's a sort of deep muscle type pain.

I had been taking Panadol only, as my stomach is sensitive to painkillers like Nurofen. It became clear though when I saw the doctor this afternoon that I needed something stronger to deal with the pain, as it was starting to wear me down. She prescribed Panadeine Forte, and gave me a referral for an ultrasound and X-ray of my shoulder and arm if the pain wasn't improved by Thursday. The nurse at the medical clinic also re-dressed the wounds, explaining that the 'Tegaderm' clear dressings are really supposed to be used in sterile environments such as hospitals and more for regular observation of the wound where regular dressings would obscure the view. She said that in other circumstances such as mine, it is better to use Bepanthen cream to keep the wound moist, then a regular non-stick dressing to absorb the ooze, so that there wasn't so much moisture that it encouraged bacterial growth. It seems that there are many differing opinions on this sort of wound management depending on who you talk to, but she seemed to be experienced and knowledgeable in this area, and it didn't seem that her recommendation would cause harm, so I decided to go with it.

She seemed a bit surprised as well that I hadn't gone to Emergency or at least a medical clinic straight after it happened. Thinking about it now, it probably would have been a good idea. I really wasn't keen on it at the time, but I guess there's always the chance that something important could get missed that needs immediate treatment.

So that brings me to now, feeling sore and stiff, a bit guilty for choosing a sport with a high risk of accident and injury, a bit worried about how this might affect both my bike riding/racing and my other non-bike life stuff (work and such) in the immediate future.

I hope this post is helpful in some way rather than detrimental - I don't want to put anyone off riding or racing, but I guess it's a reality of what we're doing that injuries will happen.

If any of you have a perspective on this aspect of cycling that you would like to share, I'd be really keen to hear it. To know how you've dealt with past accidents/injuries or any concerns or fears you have around this and whether it affects what you decide to do or not to do on the bike.

Saturday's Crit training session

Look out, we are doing Science
Following Saturday's ITT we headed back to SFP for some crit training. After the ITT and the ride back to SFP I really felt like I had nothing left in the tank, but knowing I would get a lot out of it just tried to keep going.

We started with some skills drills, and were split into pairs with the great guys who volunteered to help us out. We rode next to our partner with one hand on their shoulder, shoved them a bit, and practiced leaning into them. Unfortunately that's where Linda came off her bike, but thankfully she was okish, and is hopefully on the mend.

From there we moved onto some laps of the crit track, practicing cornering and taking good lines, stealing wheels, keeping on the wheel in front (which I struggled with as my legs were telling me to its too hard, just take a break) and just getting used to people riding around us and gradually taking corners faster and faster. I think that by the end we were all much more confident on the track...and had made some good attacks.

Thanks Simon for the great coaching and to all the guys that came and gave us tips, encouraged and motivated us.

I was well and truly done at the end of the session.

My first cycling tick – an ITT

Saturday’s time trial was over the same course as last weekend’s club time trial (see Rach’s post from last week). The women’s elite course started at the top of Urriara Crossing, headed straight down Uriarra road, past the homestead with a hotdog turn at 7.5kms near Condor Creek. This made for a 15km lap which we completed twice.

I was sooo nervous as I parked my car at Uriarra Crossing but was greeted very quickly by Pat from the V-Mobile crew and he helped put me at ease and helped me find my way up the hill to the registration desk. One by one the rest of the Valkyrie’s arrived – I was really pleased when I saw Linda as I knew this was her first ITT as well. In keeping with their excellent form Verity and Ches rode out to the start and Rach arrived a little later.

I was a little bummed we didn’t start until 1030 (the juniors started first), especially as I had to be showered and at work by 1pm, but it was really good to have a group of Valkyries and V-mobile guys to wait with. The guys were called up pretty quick and before I knew it we were on. It was my first ever held start (hadn’t even practiced one!) but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

I had read Rach’s post from last week so I was in the know about the “soul destroying” false flat at the start, so I didn’t find that as too much of a shock... I also may have driven the course during the week to see what was in store for me ;) haha. What I found really surprising, however, was that most of the ride out to the turnaround point was really hard! I don’t know if there was a wind or if it was up hill but I was about ?500m away from the turnaround point when I started to think I would not be able to make two laps of the course. I was feeling pretty disappointed but I think that only lasted about a minute as I saw Pat and Brad coming towards me on their way back from the turnaround point and, with the loudest booming voices, they both yelled “GO MAJA GO GO GO!” It was so encouraging!! So I had a bit more heart pumped into me and once I turned around I was surprised at how easy the return ride was. I held a good speed, not quick enough, however, as Ches and Verity managed to catch and over take me, always in fine form these girls!! I also saw Rach heading out on her first lap after starting late – she was so focused!!!!

By the time I got back I felt strong enough to do it again. I couldn’t remember seeing Linda (she started a fair bit after me) however I found out later she missed the turnaround point at the end of the first loop and nearly rode down to Uriarra crossing. It wasn’t until the final turnaround point at the Condor Creek end when I again heard Pat and Brad’s booming encouragement for both me and Linda that I realised Linda was right on my tail. She passed me at some point on the way back but this just gave me something to target, and for the last k or so I got down into the drops and gave it everything I had and managed to just pass her near the end. She obviously still got a better time but I wouldn’t have pushed that hard if she wasn’t in front of me – thanks Linda, you were my rabbit to chase!!

Things I learned:

1) Just because there are signs everywhere on the road indicating a cycling race is on and the speed has been changed to 60kph doesn’t mean a crazy 4WD with a trailer wont race through the marshalling area at 100kph and knock out a witch’s hat. In short - stay off the road if you’re not riding.

2) I can ride at 30kph and drink at the same time

3) I can do both a held start and a hotdog turn

4) It is so good to be part of a squad and have the V-mobile guys to mentor us

5) Linda – missed the first turn around point and still got an awesome time for her first ITT; she may be quiet and sweet but she’s a tough little gem on the bike!! (Though this is becoming more and more apparent)

6) I need more ks in my legs!!!

Valkyrie results - ACT Time Trial Championships

30km course, two laps along the false flat and back. Conditions were a bit better than the week before - not as windy and no fog which was nicer to race in.

I was having a rough morning and actually missed the start, I think not having Ches in front of me meant it was hard to keep the pace up - certainly having a target really helps in an ITT.

Big well done to Linda H and Maja in their first ITTs - great results girls!

7th Rachel 675 01:01.35
8th Francesca 671 01:07.05
9th Verity 676 01:07.35
10th Linda 715 01:09.02
11th Maia 290 01:12.29

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Cycling mummy

I know I'm not the only mummy in the Valkyries at the moment, and I'm sure there are a few other cycling mummies / potential cycling mummies, so thought I'd share a few thoughts about the fun / challenges of being a cycling mummy.

I first got on a road bike 3 months before I got pregnant with my daughter, who is nearly 4. I loved it. I loved the early mornings, the freedom, the exhilaration, the friendships, the fitness and yes, even the cold mornings. And then I was pregnant. I felt rotten, and despite a few friends encouraging me to keep riding in the early stages as there are very few risks to the baby, I couldn't stop throwing up so there was no riding. I then entered an 18 month "period of confinement" from my bike, which, given I only had a 3 month base was, to say the least, a very long time.

To be honest, I found it really hard getting back on the bike after having my daughter. I wasn't fit anymore and I didn't know who I could ride with as I didn't expect I'd be able to keep up with anyone. And I could no longer spend all weekend out riding as, not only did I miss my baby, but my husband also had commitments and we were working together / around each other as best we could. But I love riding my bike, and my husband realised what a difference this made to how I was feeling about adapting to the new mummy version of me, so encouraged me to keep getting back out there. I started riding more regularly with the Bilbys from then, and even ended up doing their novice program that year (which is surprising given that, at the time, I couldn't swim 50m and my run was more of a hobble!). I had a ball with the Bilbys, but quickly realised that I'm really not a triathlete and my heart really is on the bike.

Enter a few crits and road races and I was hooked. Well, that is until I was pregnant with my now 19 months old son. I didn't get sick at all with my son, so kept riding in the early stages of pregnancy. That is until I came down in a bunch crash and I decided that, for me, it just wasn't worth the risk to continue to ride while pregnant. And then came my next "period of cycling confinement" - this time for only 9 months or so. I was very fortunate to have some good girlfriends who were also into triathlon / cycling have babies at much the same time I had my son. It made such a difference to have friends going through the same thing to encourage us all to get back out there again. And they all understood the 2-hour cycling limit that I had in the early days thanks to my little boy who really did not want to be bottle fed.

Somehow we managed to get into a regular training cycle, and then started to think about training goals, something I can pretty much guarantee I would not have thought about had it not been for the encouragement of these friends. We'd have great "mummy" rides on Saturday mornings and the dads would bring the kids down to post-ride coffee, where the older kids could run around in a way that only a toddler / preschooler can, and the babies would sleep peacefully (or not, depending on how they were feeling on the day). Time away from the kids on our rides was priceless, even if we only talked about what the kids were up to and other mummy-related topics. I'm sure we alienated non-mummy cycling friends during this period, which I'm sorry for, but I loved, and to some extent needed, my mums-group-on-wheels.

One of my mum-friends and I decided we were going to train up for the Tour of Bright 2010. We hit the training hard. I found it really challenging with two kids to get up and do morning bunches, as inevitably, I'd be home late and it put too much pressure on us getting out the door for daycare / preschool / work. So I improvised a proportion of my training during this time, by spending a fair part of it on the windtrainer. I found this to be so convenient, as I could hop on / off as needed (and I didn't need to kit up for a Canberra Winter!), but also a fantastic workout (thanks to Coach Troy and the Spinervals DVDs!). Coach Troy would have been proud of the puddles of sweat that collected under my bike during each of these sessions. ;-)

Despite the windtrainer being great for fitness and working around my busy mummy schedule, it wasn't great for on-the-road skill and the social side of cycling. I was trying to get some more on-the-road skill in a fortnight or so before the Tour of Bright when I unfortunately came a cropper with a car. Nothing too serious, but it was enough to rule me out of the ToB and to put months of training to waste. I felt pretty awful for a period after that, mostly because of the extra pressure that the whole episode put on my family and the constant thought that it could have been so much worse and what that would have done to my kids (and husband!). But that's probably a topic for a separate blog post...

But I'm back on the bike, albeit currently sporadically (but that's more because of my currently ridiculous workload than anything else). So what are my current challenges of being a cycling mummy:
(a) my 3-year-old always needs an extra kiss before I ride off, which means I am NEVER on time to start a ride (although this means I get great ITT practice in!);
(b) when my husband and kids come to post-ride coffee, instead of sitting down I hang up my Sidis and run around with a sheep on my head while my husband has a break from a hectic morning looking after two kids under 4 (on the plus side, this means that I generally don't get too much lactic accumulating while sitting at the cafe, which makes a difference in terms of soreness / stiffness!);
(c) my 3-year-old borrows my kit and pretends to be me while she rides up and down the street on her bike, and then when I ask her whether she has seen my [helmet / knicks / jersey / raincoat] she swears that she never had / has never seen it / has no idea how it ended up under her bed;
(d) on a related note, my 3-year-old takes pride in telling everyone that "she fell off like mummy" if she bins it on her bike. I'm concerned on this note, as coordination is not my strong point...;
(e) I do feel guilty when my rides take longer than I expect and my husband is being Mr Mum at home while I'm swanning about on my bike. But as Sir Callahan said to me on the way back from the Wagga Handicap, guilt is stupid and it's healthy for kids to see two parents with happy lives that don't necessarily revolve around them. At least, that's what I think he said in my post-race high / been up since 4:45am exhaustion...
(f) my son was a really refluxy baby, which meant that for the first 12 months of his life, I was completely incapable of getting out for a ride without getting baby spew on me. Baby spew and sweat does not make for a match made in heaven. In fact, I'm now wondering if that's why everyone started to give me a wide berth in the bunch. That, or, see reference to my coordination noted at para (d) above;
(g) it's really awesome when you race to hear "go mummy" from the sidelines during a race, and then when you're watching cycling on TV and your kids are convinced that that's you in the peloton (yep, in case you're wondering, I've now ridden twice in the Tour de France); and
(h) my sanity NEEDS me to get out on the bike. Cycling is my "me" time, where I'm not being pulled in a million different directions.

I often talk with other mums who say that they wish they could get into cycling, but they can't because of the kids. Yes, cycling with kids is more challenging than cycling without them. But with a bit of extra organisation / willingness to be flexible / improvise some training (not to mention a very supportive partner), it's infinitely achievable. Not all mums want to get out there and train and race, and that's fine too - cycling isn't all about training hard and racing, there's a lot of quality friendships to be made, money to be spent on bikes and associated paraphernalia and coffee to be drunk as well. ;-)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A great morning at OPH (and the new one!)

Ok, ok, so it's a bit late..... :)

We had a great ride Thursday morning, with Gribbles, Maja and Leonie it was a nice small group. We started with a couple of warm up laps around OPH. Then Gribbles introduced us to "Skin the Rabbit?", or was it "Chase the Rabbit?", well lets just say there were rabbits involved and not the Hungry Jacks kind!

As it turns out I really like skinning (or chasing) rabbits. Okay so you know when to make the jump but the competition with each other is fun and it'd been a while since I'd gotten out of the saddle for a sprint.....

After warming our legs up on this Chris then kindly showed us where the hell Federation Mall is! I personally was clueless that it was the circuit between Old and New Parliament House. I now have a love hate relationship with it. Again I enjoyed getting out of the saddle and sprinting (for me!) up towards NPH, meeting Chris and Maja at the top for a recovery then cruising down the easy side. The next time up I pushed to see if I could beat my last effort and was happy to just sneak past it. This was hard, but fun!

I think by the time we were finished everyone had gotten something out of the morning. It catered to all abilities but also covered the social part of riding together. We had a good debrief at the Purple Pickle where we all decided we would repeat that session again in a heart beat, it was great fun. So much so that I'm proposing we repeat it Tuesday morning!