Wednesday, January 11, 2012

One small step forward....

One giant Leap For Cycling!!

Firstly, ive switched clubs.

I thought about switching for quite a while and was going with this crazy idea that i could remain a viking and a siren and just train up here in Sydney and race back home in Canberra, but eventually i realised that the whole reason i started Valkyrie was based on the idea that its much easier to train if you have a group to roll with.

And i couldnt very well keep going up here if i stayed a bit of an outsider, so i took the plunge and transferred. Id like to think though - that its 'once a Valkyrie, always a Valkyrie'.

This morning was my first coached session with the new club Sydney University Velo or SUVelo for short and once again people were friendly. Actually they have a nice process whereby their
Membership officer gives the phone number of all new members to a liaison person who rings you to say welcome and answer any questions which I think is pretty cool.

But despite all we've learned as Valkyries and the millions of times I've said this to new Valkyries I still had the same old nutty ideas that all beginners have:

-I should just ride by myself for six months before turning up to training so I'm not the unfit/overweight/slow one
-It will be really hard and I'll never keep up
-Everyone else will be really good
-I'll be wearing the wrong gear
-People will notice me/think I'm a complete gumby

And of course each of these things as we know turns out to be just stuff in your head.

In reality:

-the best way to get fit is to turn up, it's more fun and WAY more effective
-the session wasnt nearly as hard as I'd envisaged (there's a reason I'm not the one who plans training sessions) and included a warm up, skills, climbin technique and (drumroll) hotdog turns
-being a session on skills, everyone was trying it for the first time
-people were friendly and said hi and I wasnt the only new person or the only one not wearing club kit
-golden rule for cyclists: they're all far too concerned with their own weight/hairlessness/leg definition/euro cool to notice how others look

I even survived the commute to the CBD after coffee - turns out there are bike lanes in parts of the CBD, completely separate from the traffic!

And best of all, I'm finally riding my bike again.
the little red corvette's new weekday home in my office in the CBD!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Learning to ride a bike

I've been missing you Valkyries and thought I might post a bit of an update.

Following some struggles getting to Tour of Bright where my training fell apart and I didnt recover well from cold after cold and the Hartley, I got completely out of the saddle after finishing Bright and didnt ride at all from Dec 3 2011 to 4 Jan 2012 when I fronted up to a track training course.

I had thought that trying out track would be hard, having never ridden fixed gear, no brakes, but I was completely unprepared for how terrifying it felt not to have control where I am used to it being (ie the brakes). It was probably the hardest thing I have pushed myself to keep doing on a bike in the last 12 months in terms of fear (I kid you not) and gave me a real sense of how beginners feel, all over again. Which is pretty funny considering all I was doing was slow laps practicing stopping, starting, and clipping in and out.

I also tried my first bunch ride a few days later, joining the Sydney Uni club SUVelo for their Saturday ride which I knew in advance had options for 60, 90 and 110k. I assumed of course that it would hurt - given my fitness had disappeared but I was sure I'd push on and do the 90 or 110 - after all, big kims are what I'm famous for right?

However I was pretty unprepared for the surgy nature of the ride, the bunch that set off was about 50+ riders, and with A Grade blasting out of the traffic lights every few minutes while the rest of the bunch was still applying brakes - it meant that the pace was a lot like a hard hilly race than a steady training ride. Needless to say - once we hit a few hills I was struggling off the back, and fortunately the local guys were really friendly and made sure I could struggle back to the city with the 60km group.

The roads they took blew my mind also, if you know Sydney at all - think South Dowling St and the highway out of town complete with tunnels passing the airport. Traffic doing 80 with us holding not a bike lane, but a full lane. Pretty scary stuff.

The crew were really friendly though - which is a big help, they have 6 rides per week so hopefully I can get some form back. It's really challenging how much fitness I've lost, and associated kgs that have piled on in the past five weeks. Shocking how fast that happens :(
It's quite hard to imagine getting back to anything resembling race fitness and a bit heartbraking to have left right as the other Valkyries all seem to have peaked and jumped up grades. I doubt I'd keep up with C Grade at the moment.

What I miss the most though, are all my Valkyrie mates. Its pretty social, riding and training and racing with a great bunch of guys and gals 6 days a week and that's completely disappeared for me. Moving cities is hard enough and it feels a lot like square one again for fitness, friends, everything.

I don't even look like a bike racer anymore - I went into Clarence St Cyclery this morning and the girl behind the counter asked if I'd just started learning to ride to work. :-/

Riding here is really different so its a lot like being a beginner again. The traffic is terrifying, the bunch calls are all completely different, and the bunch behaves differently - there's no sense of easing up out of the lights to wait for everyone to be on - its just go go go. I guess its how rides like the Bakery Bunch in Canberra must be - all or nothing.

And one of the most challenging things is that I dont have any of my tried and true easy fixes. There's no black mtn, mt stromlo or red hill and I cant just jump on at 6am and do a 1.5hr Fed Hwy to clear out the cobwebs....When this blog was first started it was intended to be a resource for new women to read about what its like to be a first timer - turns out it's useful for me now that I'm kinda back at square one again.

Hopefully, though project DBR will get me back on track, I really want to race it again and although I'm not sure 6 months is enough to get to a level where I can do better than last year, I think its worth a shot.

At any rate, I'm so proud of all of your achievements girls, it blows my mind to think how much all of you have improved and I'm really glad to read about it on FB and here on the blog.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Great riding adventures around country NSW

December was a funny time for me on the bike. I'd been training hard leading up to my key race target (ToB) in early December and, other than the Eurobodalla interclub (which was on the second weekend of December) I had nothing planned. Some of my training buddies enjoyed the freedom from the set training program. Others (like me) struggled to back off. I ended up feeling a little lost and not sure what on earth I was doing with my cycling coming up to Christmas and then between Christmas and New Years. So I kept going, perhaps a little aimlessly, not wanting to lose my cycle fitness or what cycling had come to represent in my life.

But the advantage of not training but continuing to ride is that you do get some freedom for the types of rides you can do. No longer was I trying to squeeze in hill reps or interval sessions before work, but rather I was doing shorter and more leisurely rides with longer coffee reps. But I was also doing more "adventure" riding, going places I wouldn't normally go, just because I could.

I did one of these adventure rides yesterday. I joined in with a few people I used to ride with when I first got into cycling when we were riding with one of the local triathlon groups (Bilbys). The group was planning to ride 350km in a day and, while this was strangely appealing to me, I ended up taking the "soft" option and finishing the ride at the 220km mark as I just couldn't justify spending 15-16 hours out riding to my husband and kids.

The ride started at 4am(!), and we waited a short while for all the latecomers who universally used the excuse of "sorry I was just putting on my sunscreen", which was even more amusing given that it was only 9 degrees at 4am (despite the forecast of 30 for later in the day). We set off at a reasonable pace through the 'burbs of Canberra before heading west down Coppins Crossing and Uriarra Crossing, at which point I was really grateful for the extra layers that I'd brought with me as it felt like it was practically freezing out there.

From Uriarra Crossing we headed up Fairlight Road, which starts with a small climb before hitting a dirt section. A lot of road cyclists avoid this stretch of road because of the dirt, but it's inherently manageable on a road bike (if I can do it, particularly in the dark, then anyone can!). The sun started to come up as we were just finishing up on the dirt section and turning onto Mountain Creek Road. Seeing the light start to fill the sky and the shapes around start to form really did set the tone for the rest of the day.

Once we were onto Mountain Creek Road the ride was really smooth and quite fast (although with another 2 dirt sections), although we kept an eager eye out for rogue kangaroos who were very much not expecting a bunch of cyclists to be going past at 5:30am. It didn't take long until we hit a slight descent down towards Lake Burrinjuck, and then came across one of the most beautiful old bridges I have ever seen, just as the light was started to creep over the hills on our right hand side illuminating Lake Burrinjuck on our left. It was some of the most amazing scenery I've ever seen, let alone had the privilege of riding through: the 3:25am pre-ride alarm was suddenly all worthwhile.

From the bridge there was a long but not particularly steep climb, which I didn't pay much attention to as I was too inspired by the scenery. We regrouped at the top of the hill and pushed on and got to Yass by 7am (approx 90km in). We didn't make it into Yass proper, but did stop at a little burger shop on the corner to have a quick bite to eat and apply a little more sunscreen (now that the sun was actually in the sky!). I realised at Yass that I'd only seen 2 cars in total since leaving Canberra 3 hours earlier.

From Yass we pushed on to Gunning, which involved a rather boring section on the Hume Hwy (which seemed all the more boring after riding on such a lovely road as Mountain Creek Road), and then back onto country roads going via Jerrawa and Dalton. Jerrawa is quite a small town, as is Dalton, but Dalton had a lovely church, townhall and school, which made riding through the main street quite enjoyable. It was at this point of the ride that I really appreciated being out on the bike and the ride in general: if I wasn't on my bike, the chances were that I would never have been to Dalton and wouldn't have had the opportunity see these parts of the world. Bike riders really are lucky. :-)

It didn't take long until we reached Gunning, and the coffee there was superb and more than made up for the lack of coffee at Yass. From Gunning we headed up Gunning Road towards Crookwell (via Grabben Gullen). Gunning Road involved a few long slow-ish climbs, nothing steep but just a constant uphill. It was along this stretch that one member of our group started to suffer a little and kept dropping off the back. But the group was excellent in this regard, with stronger members not just going back to bring the struggling member back to the group, but then riding either side of him pushing him up the hills until he recovered sufficiently to sit in on his own.

Before too long we hit Crookwell, which is a surprisingly bustling metropolis. I'm not sure what Crookwell is renowned for, but I was pleased to see a busy main street and lots of friendly people who were more than willing to help us in our quest to find toilets and refill water bottles. We didn't stop for long at Crookwell (which was 183km into the ride) before heading down Crookwell Road towards Goulburn.

Crookwell Road is basically a slight descent for the 45km down into Goulburn, which meant that this was a very fast stretch of road. Some of the guys got on the front and really pushed the speed, and I was working to stay in the bunch at this point, which was not really ideal with 183km already behind me. It was also very windy down this road, and I copped most of the wind head on due to its direction and my position in the bunch. I kept reminding myself that I only had to get to Goulburn (whereas quite a few of the group had another 130km to go after Goulburn though). For the first time since I started cycling, I experienced the "burning feet" sensation (at about the 215km mark). I felt like the ball of my right foot was initially freezing cold and then on fire. I wriggled, stretched, changed positions, pedalled harder with my left foot and lighter with my right foot, but I could not get rid of the sensation. Fortunately by that point my ride was nearly over so I just soldiered through it and tried as best as I could to ignore the discomfort.

And then we were in Goulburn and we'd somehow managed to do 227km (with 2700m+ of climbing) by 1pm. Ok, that did involve starting riding at 4am, but it was still nice to get such a long ride done and dusted by lunchtime. My husband and the kids met us at Goulburn and we all enjoyed a nice lunch before hopping in the car and heading back to Canberra (while quite a few of the others continued on to Tarago, then Bungendore and then Sutton before getting back to Canberra with 350+km under their belts at 7:15pm).

I'm really pleased that I had the opportunity to do this ride. If I was "in training" I may not have done it as it would not necessarily have fitted in with whatever my training needs were at the time. So while my time "off the bike" may not have been as restful as it could have been, I have seen parts of Australia that I may not necessarily have otherwise. And I'm sure for years to come, I'll boringly regale all who will listen with stories of the day that I rode 227km before lunch as it's rides like these that stick in your memory and leave a smile on your face.