Monthly Archives: January 2010

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Some days…

…the best thing about cycling is stopping.

Some days there’s no better moment than when you swing your leg over the bar and stand with feet together while waiting for the garage door to rise. Hearing the little snapping noise of the clasp of your helmet as you release it means it’s all over and my, what a relief that is.

Yes, on Thursday evening I suffered on my bike in a way I haven’t done for a while.

After not riding Kew Boulevard for a few weeks, I decided it was time to tackle it once again. I had decided what I was going to do – a single complete circuit to test out my legs. Uh… yeah, it sounded good in my head. The reality was a little different. I was feeling weary before I even managed to get to my starting point so when I hit that first long hill, I wanted to die about two-thirds of the way up. I’m sure my face was screwed up in pain as I struggled my way up the hills. I didn’t even bother to pretend to pedal on the descents. All I could think about was those few moment of blessed relief when I didn’t have to turn the cranks.

I was gasping for air as I completed the first half of the circuit and I wasn’t certain I actually had it in me to complete the circuit. I stopped to rest while I ate my energy bar (I’ve found I can’t eat and ride hills at the same time) and contemplated what I was about to do to myself to get home.

I had to granny-gear it to get up all of the hills on the way home. I was turning those cranks at about 100rpm but still only doing about 14km and feeling like I was going to tip over any second. At one point, I even had to get out off the seat because I simply didn’t have the momentum to stay upright if I remained seated.

It was a war of attrition for me and I suffered. I crested one hill and I know my face was a mask of pain.

And the sad thing? Kew Boulevard isn’t in that hilly. The ascents aren’t that sharp. I shouldn’t have been suffering as I was. But what makes Kew Boulevard a challenge is that it’s about 12 kilometres of hills and corners if you do a full circuit. There is no flat, which means very little time to recover. Actually, wait! There is a flat section for about 200 meters on a bridge over the Easter Freeway. Wooh!

But I made it. I managed to get my sorry arse home and have that moment of sweet, sweet relief when I stopped. Sometimes I wonder what drives me to do this to myself. I know it’s because there’s always some good to be had – even if it is the moment I stop.

Everyone deserves a break right?

I have been lazy. So very lazy.

My last non-commute ride was last Sunday. I haven’t been on my bike for longer than 20 minutes in a whole week. The week before I was sick so no bike riding there either. My riding partner had his tonsils out recently so he isn’t riding anywhere which has left me to my own devices. And apparently those devices are very, very lazy.

In my defence (you knew it was coming!) I did do a group training session last Saturday that included about 80 squats and 60 lunges. That left my legs feeling like jelly. I hurt a little on Saturday but I still got up Sunday morning to bang out 40km on the bike. Perhaps not the best idea because by Sunday afternoon I was struggling to get up or down the stairs. So, according to this experience, my quaddies don’t like doing that many squats and lunges.

I am hoping that doing this sort of physical training will stop me from plateauing on the bike as well as increasing my all over body strength. If my upper body is stronger, it will help me sit better on the bike which in turn means I’ll be able to ride for longer.

Because you know, it’s all about the bike these days.

It has become one of two major focuses in my life (the other still being comic books and everything that goes along with that). It feels like I’ve rediscovered a part of myself that I lost a long time ago. When I was 18 I used to ride 30km every day. I didn’t realise it then but the time I spent on a bike gave shape and purpose to my days and provided me with a sense of discipline that I lost later on. If I’d had any sense at all, I would’ve listened to the few people who told me I should’ve taken my riding more seriously. I had potential at that age but I couldn’t see it. Looking back now, I can see that, maybe just maybe, I could’ve done something with it. But no, I was young and stupid. I wasted a brief moment of opportunity. Still, there’s not much I can do about it now so there’s no point dwelling on what could’ve been. You have to focus on what is.

The last few years have taught me that only you can be responsible for your happiness. Right now, cycling makes me happy. Some people think I’m childish and reckless for doing it but I don’t care. Being on the bike is when I’m at my happiest. The last few months have been a huge struggle for me. I once again fell into the enormous pit that is depression and I sincerely believe the only reason I’m still here is my cycling. Being on my bike, achieving small goals, feeling a sense of freedom that I can’t get any other way has saved me.

I found it very hard to acknowledge what was happening to me. I couldn’t tell anyone that I needed help, that I was slowly drowning. Every day was an uphill battle to keep going. I’m certain the only reason I managed to get out of bed each day was so I could ride my bike to work. I must’ve gotten very good at hiding how lost I was because no one really seemed to notice. And to be honest, I was hiding it from myself. I refused to acknowledge how I felt.

When you’re down in the dark places, it’s the little things that end up saving you. All you need is one little glimmer of happiness and hope, something that can cast a light in the darkness. For me, it ended up being cycling. It reminds me of that 18 year old girl who had her whole life in front of her. Sure, she was stupid and naive but she had everything to look forward to. Because of it, I have purpose and shape to my life. Cycling is good for the soul. There’s no other sport quite like it. I feel like I’m part of this rather weird tribe and it’s nice to have a sense of belonging.

I know I look stupid in my cycling gear. There’s no hiding your flab when you’re in it but my love of cycling has actually managed to override my normal self consciousness about my appearance. If I can be comfortable dressed in lyrca, I should feel more comfortable in my normal clothing. Yeah, still working on that…

There are so many things I feel are wrong with me but somehow cycling cuts through it all. Put me on my bike and I’m a different person. I have direction, control, ambitions, desires, goals, fulfillment, success – so many of the things that I feel are missing in my life. The trick is working out how to translate how I am on the bike into the rest of my life. And that’s proving to be a little problematic. But what’s life without challenges?

Anyhoo… that’s enough of the long dark teatime of the soul.

Is it that time again?

Time for me to head overseas again? Yup, it is!!

I have an itinerary and everything

The original plan was to head over in July in time for San Diego Comic Con. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided the point of my trip is to spend time with my friends. Not many of them go to SDCC which meant I’d be there on my own. A con on my own didn’t sound like that much fun at all. So I changed my mind and now I’m heading over for Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle again. It’s my plan at the moment to spend a few days in Los Angeles, head up to San Fransisco and the onto Seattle. Repeating last year’s trip but there’s so many things to see and do.

It’s only six weeks until I go and I still have so much to plan.

What you missed this afternoon

The Jayco Bay Cycling Classic in Williamstown.

It was my first taste of professional level cycling and it was amazing. I’ve decided the hum of carbon tyres on the road is one of my favourite sounds in the world. I had my camera with me so here’s a few shots I thought were quite good.

Robbie McEwen was one of the many big names at the race but he’s the only one I got a photo of.






Amy’s Ride

Geared up ready to go.

So, 5.15am on Sunday does exist. At least I don’t have to get up that early again any time soon. It was totally worth it though. Amy’s Ride was fantastic.

We arrived with plenty of time and in time to see Phil Liggett being interviewed. It’s so amazing that someone who is considered the voice of cycling was there. For me, he’s the voice of the Tour de France and it was exciting to see him. I think it’s great that someone who is held in such high opinion came to the ride. He was fully kitted out to ride which was cool. Had a really nice bike too.

A tiny, tiny snippet of the people who turned up to ride.

I don’t think I’ve been surrounded by so many people dressed in lyrca in my life. Around 3000 people had signed up for the ride which must have been a logistical nightmare. It took ages to sent off all the 120km riders. They were lead out by Cadel Evans and a huge group of pros, a lot of who were in Geelong for the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic. It’s great so many of the pros came to the ride, especially the current road world champion. His presence guaranteed news coverage for the ride, which helps get across the message of the ride – that all road users need to have more respect for each other.

My riding partner and I were going to join in the with last of the 120km groups going out but we ended up leading out the first 60km group instead. We were joined by a pack of pros so I can now say I’ve ridden with professional cyclists. We didn’t even manage to get out of Eastern Park without getting lost. The van leading us out went the wrong way which caused mass confusion in the group, including the pros! I got separated from my riding partner in the mess and ended up riding with a guy I was friends with when I was 18. Weird that I could end up finding someone I knew amongst all those people. He’s working as a mechanic for one of the teams in Bay Classic, so riding with him meant I was tagging along after two pros.

I had spent so much time stressing about a hill on route (4.3% incline for 750 metres) but when it came to it, I climbed it way more easily than a lot of other people. I won’t say I cruised up it like the pros did but I kept a constant speed and used my gears properly. I managed to stick with the pros for about half of the hill but the inevitable happened and I got dropped. Still, I didn’t struggle as much as some people did and I managed to catch my friend on the descent.

There was another hill and this was the one that had me say goodbye to my friend. I got dropped and that was it. I probably could’ve caught them but I took a wrong turn and ended up on the 120km ride. But my wrong turn meant I caught up with my riding partner who’d done exactly the same thing. Back together, we hooked along as a decent pace towards Ocean Grove.

The Bellarine Peninsula is really beautiful. The ride from Ocean Grove to Barwon Heads and back to Geelong follows the coast. The sun had finally broken through the clouds and it looked amazing. I think I slowed down quite a bit because I couldn’t stop looking at the view. It was so pretty.

Not sure where but there was the most awesome descent on the course. I’m certain I achieved my maximum speed – 52km – on this hill. I’m fairly certain I was over the speed limit. The thing is, there was this wonderful curve about half way down. It was exciting and totally terrifying at the same time. I have to admit I love cornering at speed and I seem to be reasonably good at it but this is the fastest I’ve ever done it. I suppose it’s an application of “don’t think, just do”. I think I have my dad to thank for teaching me to corner properly in a car. It’s not exactly the same on a bike but I know where to look and I seem to be able to work out where I need to be on the road to not come to grief. So, thanks Dad!

It was a bit of a slog on the way back to Geelong as we got hit with a head and then crosswind. We also managed to take a wrong turn at a five point roundabout. We took the hard left instead of the soft left. The funny thing was that we knew we’d done the wrong thing just after we’d done it. Luckily for us, there was a group of guys out for a ride who put us back on the course.

We headed back into Eastern Park to discover some evil person had put a small hill in the way. The hill just killed me. It was so hard to get up it. But I did. I completed the ride (62.35km) in 2 hours, 19 minutes and 47 seconds. I rewarded myself by drinking an entire bottle of blue Gatorade. It wasn’t even cold.

All smiles at the finish.

One thing that did disappoint me a little was how some people behaved on the ride. The point of the ride and the Amy Gillett Foundation is to promote a better understanding and more respect between car drivers and cyclists. But there were some cyclists who did stupid stuff, like taking up the entire lane when we’d been told before heading out that we had to follow the road rules. Cyclists can’t expect car drivers to be more tolerant when we act like idiots. However, it has to work both ways. Car drivers have to learn to share the road. Car drivers are too ready to blame cyclists and automatically assume all cyclist are going to behave like the minority who are idiots. Car drivers do plenty of illegal and stupid stuff and refuse to accept responsibility for their actions. It always seems to be “It wasn’t my fault” or “I didn’t see…”.

Having said all this though, I was shocked at the stupidity of a girl on a bike. I was driving my riding partner home after we returned the hire car and was coming up to intersection where I had a green light. She rode out in front of me – on a very, very red light. I honked my horn and she looked at me like I was evil incarnate. The irony is that I was still in my riding gear, including my Amy Gillett Foundation jersey has the slogan “Safe together” printed on the front. I suppose there’s stupid people every where and there’s not a lot anyone can do about it.