Category Archives: Bike

Your mountain is waiting so get on your way

Road heading up a mountain

About half way up to Falls Creek, November 2017.

Last year I was in a meeting and somehow, towards the end, the conversation angled itself around to the fact that I was going away to Bright with a big group of friends to ride up some mountains which then leads to plenty of eating and drinking. I got asked why would you ride up a mountain?

At the time, all I could come up with was because it’s there?

It’s so hard to explain why I ride up mountains when I most definitely do not have the right body type for it. I’m probably  a good 10 kilos too heavy to ever find climbing easy.

But for some crazy reason, I keep persisting. Since October last year, I’ve ridden up Mt Donna Buang six times. My best time was set way back in 2013, pre-Juno and when I was riding heaps. I’ve been edging closer and closer to it but now I’ll have to wait until after winter to try again.

Donna isn’t by any means an easy climb. It has two incredibly steep sections, one right at the end which averages around a 10% grade and it’s a killer. Every time I get out there, I always end up wondering why I’m doing it. It causes me physical pain but yet I persist.

As I’m doing it I often can’t help but think how stupid I’m being.

Why am I’m willingly hurting myself? Why I am putting myself through it when there’s no obvious reward? I know it puzzles a lot of people, especially because I don’t look like someone who would willingly ride up a mountain.

It’s so hard to explain to someone who doesn’t ride a bike.

I always used to hate riding up mountains, really hated it. I found it so hard and the little voice in my head was always saying negative things to me like you can’t do it, you’re too weak or what made you think you could do this, you idiot. The only reason I persisted was because I really, really, really loved descending. There’s nothing quite like bombing it down a mountain as fast as you can. The rush of the air, the blur of the scenery flying past, the ease. It’s the best thing in the world.

Having a baby has changed my perception of climbing. For one thing, it’s given me far more patience and I understand that I can do whatever I want if I put my mind to it. I mean, I had a baby. I grew a whole new person! It kinda puts everything into perspective. My self talk has essentially boiled down to you had a baby, this is nothing!

If nothing else, it gives me time to think or to simply live in the moment. It’s become a mindfulness activity for me. It’s also time I spend alone which is a luxury these days. For me, it’s turned out to be really important that I have reminders of the person I was before I became a mum and that I’m still that person (just with some added extras these days).

I still don’t love climbing but these days I do have an appreciation for it.

Trees at the edge of the road.

How could you not enjoy climbing when you get to see things like this? About half way up Lake Mountain, March 2018.

To my bike…

Just wanted to say thanks.

Thanks for being there when I was angry, upset or just plain peopled-out. You have always been a safe haven for me, a way for me to get out my aggression and frustration that’s healthy and much much better than taking it out on those I care about.

Thanks for the time to think, the time to be alone, the time to remind myself that I don’t have to be what everyone expects or perceives me to be.

Thanks for being a safety valve, a place to go when everything is getting to be too much and I can feel my emotions bubbling over and going to places I don’t want to go. Thanks for being something that I look forward to, a bright spark when all looked pretty dark around me.

But best of all, thanks for the joy and the pleasure that you bring into my life. I can be in the foulest mood but I know that time spent on my bike will fix all that. It’s so good to be able to reconnect with a younger, less troubled version of myself.

Thanks for the time spent out in the sunshine. And, to a lesser degree, in the rain. Thanks for reminding me that I happen to live in a pretty amazing country and that there is much to appreciate.

Sometimes the riding hurts so much but that’s more than made up by the times it comes so easy and I feel like I’m flying. It’s worth it – the tired heavy legs, the sore butt, aching back – it’s so worth it.

Road to recovery

It feels like it’s been an eternity since my accident but sometimes it feels like hardly any time has passed at all. Life has been a bit busy I guess…

I’m not where I thought I would be. I think I had some idea that my shoulder would just get better and everything would go back to how it was before. I don’t know why I thought this when all the medical people I saw told me it’d never be 100% again. Still, the problem isn’t with my arm per say, it’s with my shoulder. Technically my shoulder wasn’t actually injured but it’s what has been completely and utterly screwed up.

I have reasonable mobility – no frozen shoulder for me – but it’s not great. When most people lift their arm above their head, their shoulder will stay down and stable. Mine doesn’t do this. When I lift my arm above my head (ignoring the fact that I can’t lift it the whole way), my shoulder rolls forwards and up. When I’m standing, you can see that I hold my shoulder more awkwardly than the other. It rolls forward but I can’t stop myself from doing it.

I’ve been doing clinical pilates twice a week since about June last year. It has helped. I am getting stronger but I know my arm is still so weak in comparison to what it used to be like. It’s so frustrating and so sloooooooooow. My shoulder can make some pretty terrible noises too. I often hear it grinding away and other times it makes a pretty horrible crunching sound. My physio has assured me that the crunchy noises are fixable as it’s just the joint playing up but it can still be pretty alarming.

The real concern is that I still have pain where the break is/was. It’s not constant but according to my physio I shouldn’t be experiencing any pain at all in that area. It could mean that I have bone spurs or calcification. So it looks like I need to see an oesteo surgeon. I, at least, need a scan to see if there’s anything going on with the break. The idea of tiny bits of bone floating around in my arm is more than a little disconcerting.

I guess I shouldn’t be complaining too much. At least my arm works. I can pick Juno up and carrying her around. It is hard though. She gets heavy for me pretty quickly and I have to either sit down or put her down. I wanted to use our carrier a lot but I can’t because it puts too much pressure on my shoulder. But soon we should be able to start putting Juno in it using the back carry (Juno back pack!!) so hopefully that’ll be easier for me.

I guess all I can do is keep moving forward. I feel I’m doing all I can to recover. It’ll take however long it’ll take.

So much for me being all zen about my accident

Time to admit it.

I am really angry about it. As in really, really fucking angry.

Sigh.

I guess it all came to head for me when we went up to Bright for our annual cycling-eating-drinking extended long weekend with a big group of friends and I had to sit by and watch everyone else having a grand old time conquering mountains and spending serious time on the bike.

Me? I barely managed a 40km ride. I had to be pushed up a small rise that was maybe 250m long because I couldn’t get up it on my own. (Don’t get me wrong – I am eternally grateful for that push because otherwise I would’ve had to have gotten off and walked.) Yes, it was awesome being on my bike again but the next day I regretted it. My arm was so painful and it took a few days for me to recover. I don’t believe it set back my overall recovery but it was just so frustrating. I really felt like I should’ve been doing so much more and I couldn’t. All because some stupid woman ran a red light and hit me.

Okay, yes I’m pregnant so there’s no way I was going to be riding up even the smallest mountain. I knew that, accepted it but I had been looking forward to doing what I was capable of – which would’ve been a lot of flat(ish) rides. I should’ve been able to do so much more than a pissy 40km.

I know I should be grateful. My injury really isn’t that serious. When you think about what could’ve happened, I really did get off lightly. I could’ve fracture my pelvis, suffered a serious head injury, internal bleeding or I could’ve miscarried but all I did was break my arm. I should be grateful but I’m not. I feel like I’ve lost so much.

Those weeks should’ve been about me whinging about morning sickness and getting some sympathy for that. I should’ve excited about being pregnant. It should’ve been about me doing what I needed to do to stay fit and still riding my bike. But no, I spent weeks lying in bed because I couldn’t do anything else. I’d wake up in pain and go to sleep in pain. It took weeks for it to get to a tolerable level so I could try to get my life back on track.

I wanted to do what I could to stay fit in the hope that it’d help me have a reasonable birth experience and a faster recovery. I know the shortness of breath I experience these days is because my diaphragm is being squashed but that doesn’t mean I have to like it! I can’t help but think if my accident hadn’t happened, stuff like this would be a bit easier

I was initially quite zen about the whole thing but I realise now that I am really angry about it. I’m angry about being in pain so much of time. I’m irritated about the fact that when I wake up in the morning I have to be careful about how I stretch because if I do it wrong, it’s a whole world of pain. I’m angry that my rehab will take so long and that even when it’s done and I’ve “recovered”, I still won’t have full functionality. My arm is never going to be 100% ever again.

I’m just generally pissed about the whole thing.

It really feels like the last three months have been so chaotic. Nothing has been normal. My calendar is full of medical appointments and little else (okay, the baby-related appointments are pretty exciting and make for a nice change). While I am making progress – I’ve gone from being able to not lift my arm at all to to about 130 degrees in front of me – it feels like it’s taking forever and it’s hard to not get frustrated by how slow progress is. I can’t really reach backwards at all and I’m still restricted in how high I can lift my arm to the side. It’s a slow, painful process.

As petulant as this will sound, I always end up thinking that this shouldn’t have happened to me and that is just so unfair (see, petulant – next I’ll be stamping my foot). I guess the problem is that before I didn’t really have time to be angry. I was so focused on dealing with the pain I didn’t have room in my head for anything else. Now I do have time and I’ve pretty much lost my zen attitude. I want for it to be done. I’m so over it and that makes me angry.

Fun times. Or not.

Sooooo… on 17 September I got hit by a car while riding to work. Suffice to say fun times have not been the order of the day since.

I have a spiral fracture in my left humerus (which oddly enough isn’t funny at all). This is where the bone breaks up/down instead of across. They’re known for being extremely painful. I’m still sporting a huge bruise on my arm and there’s a lump which hasn’t gone away after four weeks. I also took a whole lot of skin off my left knee. I have three superb scars now but the bulk of it seems to have been something closer to a friction burn. My knee got insanely itchy after a few days and then the skin started to peel off. It’s still itchy now.

I spent four days in hospital because the pain was so bad I was being given morphine and some other heavy-duty opiate that they don’t seem to want to hand out scripts for.

From what I’ve been told, my broken arm is a bit unusual. It takes a considerable amount of force for this sort of fracture to occur and it normally happens in old people with osteoporosis. I’ve been left wondering if a clean break straight through the bone would’ve been better. But it is healing. It just feels like it’s taking forever.

It’s so frustrating. I haven’t been to work in a month. All I seem to do these days is sleep, drink loads of milk, read, watch tv shows and movies. I’m useless at anything else. I can barely take care of myself. Going out and doing things exhausts me, although that is getting better.

I feel guilty because I’m totally depended on Richard for pretty much everything. He’s doing everything at the moment while I sit on my arse. My poor work colleague has been on her own for three weeks now and I feel so bad about that. I hate the fact that I can only just dress myself. I can’t shower on my own – rather I can but I can’t dry myself off. I can’t cook anything. I can’t drive so Richard has to take me everywhere. I feel helpless and I hate it.

I’m still angry with the woman who hit me. I know it’s all her fault because she’s the one who ran a red light. But there’s a still a part of me that thinks I messed up. That I should’ve been able to avoid the accident. I’ve been riding long enough now to have developed the right sort of skills. I’m angry at myself for something I know consciously I couldn’t control. She hit me. She was the one who ran the red light. It’s all her fault but I still feel like I could’ve done something more than just plough straight into her like I did.

I remember the impact. I remember sliding across the bonnet. I don’t remember separating from my bike but I guess that because I was too caught up in landing on the road and being introduced to a whole new world of pain. I now have a new reference point for pain. I thought my back injury was the worst pain I had experienced in my life but this beats it. I’ve never passed out from pain – vomited, yes – but I got very floaty when the ambos had to splint my arm so they could get me off the road.

So yeah… my life for the last month has been all about my arm. I have a calendar full of medical appointments. I see my GP every week and discuss how my arm is going and when I should return to work.

Yesterday I finally had an appointment at the hospital with an osteo surgeon. After waiting over an hour to be seen, I spent about 10 minutes with him. He was surprised I hadn’t been seen by anyone since I was discharged from the hospital. I should’ve had at least one appointment and he was puzzled as to why I wasn’t seen by a doctor when I had x-rays done two weeks later. So there could’ve been something seriously wrong with my arm and I would’ve never known because the hospital totally dropped the ball on my out-patient treatment. But luckily it looks like my arm is healing just fine. I have another appointment in two weeks with a doctor and more x-rays which will hopefully show the fracture has healed. Then I can start rehab.

The other thing the doctor told me was that I’m looking at about three months for full recovery. Three months!!

Kinda explains why I’m still so angry with the woman who hit me. She caused the accident but I’m the one paying for it and will be for quite awhile to come.

#Womens100

There was a terrible moment when I realised I was going to be about 3kms short for the Rapha Women’s 100.

I had been so sure when I set out that I would get it. I was so certain I’d gotten it right and that adding a lap of the boulie before meeting up with the other women I would be riding with would give me the extra 20 or so kms I needed. Well, I was wrong! I realised that I’d miscalculated when I was still about 6kms out from home. D’oh!

Riding anywhere near 100kms is a big ask for me at the moment. I’m on the way to restoring my fitness – on and off the bike – but I still have a long, long way to go. I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to achieve the 100kms. But I did. I did it. Admittedly I had to ride around my suburb for about 20 minute to get the extra but I did. It seems like such a crazy thing to do but I guess I really am a cyclist because come hell or high water, I was getting that 100kms.

I so often struggle to find motivation. It’s been really hard to get back on the bike but I think I’m falling in love with it again. It’s such a huge part of me and my relationship with my husband. Without my cycling, I would’ve never meet him and I would’ve missed out on what’s turning out to be a pretty awesome adventure with him.

But this day was about my female friends and that’s fantastic too. I have so many wonderful, strong, fun women in my life now because of my bike.

It was a great day. Thanks to Bek, Marta, Louisa and Helen for making it so.

A question of fitness

I kinda had an huh moment a few weeks ago. I was out on a ride with friends. My friend H (one of the many Hs I know!) and I were paired up and both of us whinging out how unfit we are.

Which seems kinda weird when we’d just ridden 50kms.

Yup, we’d just knocked over a 50km ride at a not too shabby pace and we were both whinging out how unfit we were. That’s weird. But I’m guessing that there are plenty of people our age would struggle to ride 10kms, let alone 50. Hell, there are plenty of people out there who’d be out of breath after a short stroll.

I guess it’s a case of what “fit” means to the individual. My definition of fitness is probably quite different from the average person’s.

For me being fit means that I can smash out 28 minute boulie laps a couple of times a week. Right now I’m struggle to get under 31 minutes – which means I’ve slowed down a lot. (However, I must say that boulie lap times are hugely influenced by strength as well as fitness. I feel very weak on the bike at the moment.) That says to me that I’m unfit and I need to work a good deal harder if I want to returning to my former ways.

Returning to the gym seemed like such a good idea but I seem to be suffering from perpetually heavy legs. Getting on the bike is really hard work. It feels like it’s taking a huge amount of effort to get going. I’m pretty much okay once I’m rolling but ack… the effort to get there kinda sucks. On the flip side, it is nice to feel some muscle firmness in my shoulders and chest. The rest of me might suck but at least that bit is sorting itself out.

Anyhoo… fitness. How you define it. What it actually means to a person.

Uh… yeah.

So, there’s that mountain again

Okay… So, apparently my Garmin lost its little electronic mind and decided my ride was 22 hours long.

It did freak out about half way down Mt Buller and decided it couldn’t find any satellites. Kinda ruins a ride when you lose the second half of your descent. It wasn’t a great descent any way. Actually it was probably the worst one I’ve ever had. I was just bad at it – no confidence in what I was doing and speeds I’m normally happy at felt way too fast.

This was probably cause by the fact that I had a watch a guy nearly go careering off a ridge at the top of the climb onto the road below – a drop of about 10 metres. (For those who know the climb – right near Hell Corner so the really steep bit.) Two riders went flying past us and then the next thing we knew, one was off the road, on the grass and heading towards the edge. I have no idea how he managed to get back onto the road but he did. Not a good thing to see and I’m sure brown trouser time for the guy on the bike.

However! I did a PB up the mountain – 1:26:33. And as a friend said: all PBs are feel goods 🙂

I’m on the quest for a new saddle. Again. I’ve already tried outtwo Specialized test saddles: a Romin and an Oura. The Romin seemed okay which lead me to try the Oura. I’ve tried an Oura before and it didn’t work out well but I thought that might’ve been caused by me having a displaced hip (one was lower than the other). Turns out it’s the Oura and not me at all. Sigh. I’m getting a bit jack trying to find the right saddle. I simply can’t find it. I think I’m up to saddle no. six. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s how I sit on the bike. Maybe I wasted a huge amount of money on a bike I’m never going be 100% comfortable on. Ack… that’s a pretty awful thought.

So, I’ve finally decided I should try a Selle SMP saddle. I’m not that enamoured with how they look but if it’s comfy I’m going to learn to love it. I’m off to Kaos Custom Bikes on Saturday morning to get one fitted. Wish me luck!

Bikes are better with Belgiums

new wheels

Indeed they are! (Techy bit: colour coded KingR45/HED Belgium/Sapim CX-Ray.)

My bike now makes a “RRRRRrrrrrrrrrRRRRRrrrrrrrrrRRRRRrrrrrrrrr” sound when I’m free-wheeling which is kinda awesome.

Dan at Shifter Bikes did a brilliant job. He’s some sort of magician. He must be because he knew exactly what I needed and wanted.

I blathered on about what was happening when I was descending (speed wobbles which scared the bejesus out of me when I was coming down Lake Mountain and the bike started to shake almost uncontrollably) and he knew my Easton wheels were flexing when I got over a certain speed. Funny thing is, I’d started notice something odd going on with my back wheel without realising it was my back wheel. It felt like my seat was wobbling a little bit and I couldn’t work out why. But this wasn’t happening at really high speed either. This was going on when I was doing boulie laps! And I’d noticed it tootling around town as well.

Turns out I needed stiffer wheels. And an overlapping spoke pattern.

Shifter Dan – genius!

These are not cheap wheels. But I don’t for a second regret letting him work his magic and following his advice about what hubs to buy. My only request was a pair of red spokes. I love finding and working with people who really know what they’re doing. I love the whole idea of being able to just let him do his thing and the end result being brilliant.

The experience of riding my bike now is simply awesome. We went out to the Dandenongs yesterday to try them out (Richard also got new wheels but hey – this is my blog!). There’s nothing to say except they were awesome and had me wishing I’d done this when I first bought the BMC back in February. Now I want to head out to Donna Buang. When I did the climb in March this year on the BMC, I managed the descent in just under 20 minutes (19:43) so I’m curious now to see if I can beat that time.

The bike definitely rolls faster with these new wheels. Coming down from Skyhigh I actually ran out of gears and ended up free-wheeling most of the way down. But it’s not that steep…

Going up?

Scan of my 7 Peaks passport with its four stamps

For someone who proclaims loudly that they hate climbing, I sure do seem to do a lot of it.

In the last six months, I have ridden up five mountains. I know, only four stamps above but I did Donna Buang as well (a week before tackling Mt Buller again – which went way better this year than last year). That’s real progress considering that until the middle of 2010, I had never ridden up anything steeper than Yarra Boulevard in Kew. Now I’ve conquered some of the bigger climbs in Victoria – some of of them, twice!

It’s taken me a long time to get in the right head space for climbing. I’ve accepted the fact that I will never be as quick as other, stronger riders but I can do it if I’m willing to plod along. Because of my prolapsed disc, I climb slowly – which can be incredibly frustrating when you’re always the last person to reach the summit. But I figure it’s better to reach the summit ages after everyone else has than be parked on the couch doing nothing at all. At least I’m trying.

I suppose I have been very slowly seduced by climbing. I get why we do it. It is really satisfying to reach the summit. The new bike helps too. I didn’t think I’d notice any difference but the stiffness of the carbon frame does make it easier to settle into a rhythm. I never really noticed any flex in my Cannondale but I have noticed that I seem to be more efficient with my BMC so the flex must be there somewhere. Both of them have Ultegra so it’s not a gearing issues (the only difference being that my BMC has electronic shifting). I dunno… it just seems a tiny bit easier. Maybe it’s a mental thing and I’m trying harder because I think the bike deserves a better rider. *lol*

There are thoughts brewing this year of tackling Mt Hotham. I have a real mental block when it comes to Hotham. It seem impossible to me. It’s such a long climb, sections of it are incredibly steep and everyone I know who’s climbed it all say how hard it is. Not exactly encouraging me to do it. But I’ve decided it must be done at some point. So maybe this is the year I’ll shove all my concerns to one side and just do it.

However! There is an upside of course. It’s a hell of lot more fun coming down the mountain than it is going up!