Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Off to France

Leaving tonight for France.

Follow the adventure on

Sunday, 7 February 2010

New Circuit - New Challenges and Revelations

New and different things can challenge you in a variety of ways.

Saturday was one such day.

Before Christmas, bike racing at the famous Lakeside International Motor Racing circuit was effectively discontinued when the re-developer priced the circuit out of the market. Like many cyclists, I was disappointed as the circuit provided some real variety to the standard basically flat criterion options available each week in Brisbane.

However, after a great deal of work including lobbying council to arrange road closures, the 102 year old Hamilton Wheelers Club launched a new circuit on 6 February 2010. The circuit was more of a traditional criterion nature with four 90 degree corners and set on normal roads. It is 800 metres in length and has a slight rise on the back straight. In promoting the new venue, it was described as fast and technical.

To me, the word technical is another way of saying dangerous so I was a little reluctant to race without at least first seeing what it looked like. I was a little wary to say the least.

In addition, for various reasons I had not ridden for a week and was thinking I really should be doing something a little more endurance based on Saturday rather than a 40 minute race.

I therefore had some ‘OK’ reasons for not racing at the new circuit.

However I was also challenged by a couple of reasons to race.

The first reason being the person who introduced me to racing was also the person who had done most of the work negotiating the new circuit. I knew he was a little nervous about how it would be accepted and if a sufficient number of cyclists would turn up to make it all viable. I felt an obligation to support him by racing.

At a more ego centric level was a text message a week earlier from Groover suggesting I was becoming the ‘new king of excuses’.

So I turned up, paid my money and pinned on a number.

I had some other concerns too including the simple nature of the circuit would mean it was boring.

The race was anything but boring. It was hard, fast and fun. I loved the format and was particularly pleased to keep with the main group as nearly half the field was dropped off before 30 minutes had elapsed. So I was pretty pleased even though I at no time put myself in a position to contest the podium. I am however claiming a top 10 finish.

A couple of things were revealed however. I was aware that in comparative terms, I was not all that stable cornering and I am not sure if this is me or my equipment (bike, wheels, tyres etc)

To put it into car terminology, I seemed to be somewhat badly understeering through the corners or at least from the apex of the corner through the exit.

It seemed that no matter how I set up the corner, if I went with any speed at all, I ran wide on the exit from the apex.

I chatted to another competitor after the race about my concerns and he suggested I need to get more weight over the front wheel to stop the understeering effec. I will practice over the next 2 weeks before we return to race there again.

However, maybe, just maybe my bike needs to also accept some responsibility. It may be the old frame geometry or the type of wheels and tyres need to accept some responsibility too. After all, the wheels are basically entry level and ‘meant for training’ rather than racing.

Maybe just maybe, I can talk myself into that new bike after all.

The race was fun and I am glad I turned up and pinned on that number. Thanks to Graze and Groover for motivating me to be there.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

All About the Mind

As reported on various occasions, I became intimate with a couple of cars back in August 2009 and busted a number of bones.

While I am still experiencing some discomfort as a result of the injuries, day to day life is not far from normal including my cycling activities. In fact, I even managed to get back and do some races before the Christmas competition break.

From a physical perspective, getting back on the bike and performing the physical process of riding has been relatively easy. I still cannot throw a ball, carry a suitcase in my right hand and tend to swim more like a one armed person however I can ride and even go up hill now (slowly).

However the mental recovery in respect of cycling has been far more difficult.

Since getting back on the bike, I have been a very reluctant user of roads. I think every car is aiming for me. When looking behind to say change lanes, I look once, twice, a third time and sometimes again just to make sure and as such, my hesitation in making a decision and then executing it has made me dangerous and un-safe.

Virtually all my riding has been alone. I have been nervous when other cyclists are around. I also felt my tendency to be indecisive while riding made me not only dangerous to myself but to others as well.

Given the crash involved a parked car and its door, I tend to pass them leaving a space of about two car widths and on most roads, this puts me into the oncoming traffic. Again, not a good place to be and not a good place to be taking someone who may be on my wheel.

My inability to deal with the psychological recovery from the crash was really annoying me. I thought I should be stronger than that. It has also made me somewhat un sociable.

I confess to considering putting the bike in the rack for a few months and doing something else. E.g. Outrigger rowing has definite appeal and I have made some enquiries.

However, at the back of my mind were several thoughts including that if I do rack up the bike, I will do so only after I have dealt with my psychological demons.

As a competitive sportsman over many, many years, I guess I have endured my fair share of injuries. A double break to the fibula, a few occasions where I busted a finger, perforated medial meniscus, calf and hamstring injuries too many to mention and some ankle reconstructive surgery all come to mind.

On each occasion, there is the physical recovery and there is a mental recovery and on each previous occasion I dealt with both reasonably easily.

So why the problem now with the psychological recovery?

When you pull or strain a hamstring, the rehabilitation process is intense, persistent and painful. Competition pressure cannot be simulated in training so it is not until actually getting back into a pressure situation in competition that you know if the recovery is complete.

Until tested under full competition pressure, and this might take several games, there is a tendency to nurse the muscle. It is only when fully extended under pressure without the injury recurring do you fully regain confidence. That is, the psychological recovery is complete.

The same with a broken finger. My breaks have been playing cricket. You tend to subconsciously protect the area broken even after it is healed and it is only after you are struck on the same place without it breaking that you realise it is all ok and you regain your confidence.

So what does that mean when the injuries are the result of a cycling accident?

How was I to get over my psychological post crash cycling demons?

Does it mean I have to have a crash or a fall without injury to complete my recovery?

But how do you manufacture a crash and if you can, how do you do so while ensuring no injuries?

Something significant happened on Tuesday’s River Loop. First of all, I accepted a request from someone I have known for nearly 20 to go and ride with him. He is getting back into cycling so it was hard to refuse, even if it meant my plans to go to Mt Coot-tha were put on hold.

Just over half way through the ride we went into single file and I let him go through and took his wheel. As I did, it occurred to me that if I am ever going to get used to taking a wheel again (other than in a race) there is no wheel safer than his.

About 500 metres on, he hit a pothole and popped a water bottle form his cage. I not only hit the same pothole, but my front wheel went over the water bottle before also hitting my rear wheel.

Somehow I unclipped prevented a fall, and stopped.

To say I was badly shaken is an understatement. It was a very, very near thing.

My colleague stopped and apologised for the pothole. I took a few minutes to gain my composure before mounting again and riding very slowly to the start of Cemetery Hill.

My thoughts while riding slowly were many including giving up cycling. I had trouble getting my August crash out of my head and what I went through then and am still going through now.

However, it also occurred to me that I survived an incident successfully and this was the equivalent to stretching while at full pace for the hamstring injury

The rest of the ride I did as usual.

I also made the decision to join the regular Wednesday bunch the following morning. My bunch is usually the B grade group however as there were so few of us we joined the A grade bunch and went on to average nearly 36 kph before being dropped along with a few others on Highgate Hill.

I almost had a set back this morning though. When I arrived at the start of the ride, one of the cyclists (Ern) informed me the son of one of our regulars was hit by a car the previous afternoon. It was not what I needed to hear and momentarily I thought ‘what the hell am I doing here’.

I completed my first real bunch ride and enjoyed the coffee shop chat more than I have since before 19 August 2009.

I am not yet ‘fully back’ but I have made some significant progress.

Lets go biking

Sunday, 11 October 2009


It is nearly eight weeks since I did my impersonation of a pinball by bouncing between two cars and busting up a bunch of bones and puncturing a lung.

I first rode again after four weeks but it was more of a token gesture ride and perhaps a need to get back on the bike sooner rather than later in case I decided not to get back on the bike at all.

My riding efforts have largely been restricted to the 1.2 kilometre cycling circuit in northern Brisbane suburb of Nundah coupled with a few ventures out to Nudgee beach and the path to Boondall entertainment centre. The Doctor has forbidden me to ride on the road, not that I have been particularly keen to ride on roads anyway.

Given my bike was damaged and any repairs were waiting on an insurance assessment and claim payment, I spent most of the following 4 weeks riding the old Steel frame, super heavy, 7 speed down tube shifter bike circa 1985. It was perfect for what I was doing. It also perhaps kept my ambitions under control.

As my lung recovered, so did my aerobic fitness and I discovered that I have really lost little if any fitness, at least on the flat anyway. It may be different when the road turns upward.

Last Thursday I decided to meet the participants in Brisbane’s famous Thursday morning friendship ride for post ride coffee at the Garage. I should add, that occasionally, but only very occasionally, the friendship ride becomes the 'F You' ride.

I parked over near Garage and rode across the Goodwill Bridge and out the Coronation Drive bike path before continuing to the University of Queensland via the domiciled bike route. After a few loops of the University, I headed back the way I had come.

On reaching Southbank I had one of those “lets get it out of the way now” moments. I rode along the path to the big wheel, turned left and left again on to Grey street and along the bike lane where I was hit by the car.

I was nervous and uncomfortable and my heart rate jumped 20 beats for no physical reason. There was a car parked precisely where the car that ‘doored’ me was parked and as I was approaching it, another car came along the road to my right.

I successfully negotiated the piece of road where the crash occurred and while I doubt I will ever ride that road without thinking about the accident, I have now got it at least a little bit out of my system. It had to be done.

As for my future cycling plans, I just don’t know. I expect I will return to the routine I used to have but I do need the Doctors clearance first. I also think it will be a gradual thing.

It is a pity the club is in a racing halt at the moment as we pass from the winter to the summer season because although the accident was not race related, I feel I need to get used to riding in a race situation as soon as possible. I could race at another venue I guess but feel waiting for a Hamilton event at either Nundah or Lakeside would be the better option.

I expect to be given the all clear tomorrow by my Doctor including a return to full time work and I also expect I will only have a few more weeks of Physiotherapy to endure.

Next will then have a professional bike fit and measure up before I set about choosing my new bike. This will be fun.

I have experienced unbelievable support from cyclists – some who I know well, many who I know in passing and many more I have never met before via whose support has come via Road Grime.

All the support and best wishes have been much appreciated.

See you soon - on the bike.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009


It has been a very, very long week.

And it is feeling even longer as I sit here typing away using only the fingers on my left hand.

But I am here typing so that is huge.

Last Wednesday morning I had an accident courtesy of a lady opening her car door into the bike lane on Grey Street on Brisbane Southbank.

Why didn't I give the car more room so that the opening of a car door would have still missed me. Well, there was the not insignificant issue of a second car beside me in the normal car lane.

Doing 35 kph or so at the front of a group of 5 in single file, I hit the point of her door with my left shoulder resulting in a wound down to the muscle.

The impact of the collision catapulted me against the front fender and wheel of the car to my right and in turn onto the road.

An ambulance ride later had me at the emergency department of the Royal Brisbane Hospital and over the coarse of the next 12 hours in Emergency I was x-rayed, stitched, poked, prodded and x-rayed some more.

Result - 4 ribs broken in 6 places, broken shoulder blade and broken vertebrae. I also managed a punctured lung, be it a minor puncture as far as punctures go.

Several days in Hospital followed and I assure you, being a guest of Queensland Health is an interesting experience of fluctuating emotions. But more on that another time.

The major initial concern was the break in the vertebrae. It was some 24 hours before it was officially confirmed as a stable break and I was allowed to move from being flat on my back. In fact, I still had my cycling shorts on all this time (less the bibs which had been cut off along with the jersey and base layer). I say officially because I had been cleared 12 hours before it was deemed official it is just the necessary piece if paper signed by the specialist could not be located.

Let me assure you, much morphine is needed when you are confined to being flat on your back for over 24 hours while also having a break in your shoulder blade. And with nothing to eat and only a wet piece of paper towel allowed to moisten the lips.

The next concern was the threat of infection of the collapsed lung. There was fluid on the lung and it had to be cleared before I could be considered for discharge. They were suggesting this would take 5 or so days.

Fortunately, the exercises for clearing the lungs were similar to those required post heart surgery and with a concentrated effort, I managed to clear the lungs inside 24 hours and was allowed to go.

It is tough and the constant pain from the shoulder (in particular) and the ribs is very wearing. Sleep is close to impossible.

I am lucky as it could have been much worse. I am not lucky in that the incident should never have happened and the chances of the door opening half a metre in front of me when a car was beside me must be very high indeed.

Also, I must mention Laser Helmets. This helmet is exceptional and proves yet again that we should never economise on our protective gear. What I think separates the Laser from the pack is the fit system which really means it is always properly on your head.

The bike looks like being a write off so I have the fun of selecting a new bike to look forward too.

One thing that has indeed been moving is the support and contact from the cycling community, be it the calls from the Hamilton Wheelers Club Secretary or SMS messages from people I hardly know.

For now, focus is on mending the bones and hoping as each day passes the pain eases a little. It is also to hope that I don't lose all my fitness before I can again climb aboard a bike and go cycling.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Time Trials? Guily

Driving back from Closeburn today, I found my mind wandering back to September 1982 and a game of hockey I played.

It was the State League Grand Final and my club Kew, was up against Yarra Valley for the title.

A game of hockey goes for 70 minutes and at the end of time, scores were level meaning extra time was called for to achieve a result.

After several periods of extra time for a combined game total of 105 minutes, scores were still level and a stroke off was required. (Hockey's version of a soccer's penalty shoot out)

After the mandatory best of five strokes it was 3 all and we moved to sudden death. The deadlock was finally broken at 17 to 16 and unfortunately we lost.

I am a midfield player and played all but about 7 minutes of the final. I also took 5 of the strokes, (successfully). This day represented what I have always considered my toughest physical sporting challenge.

However, today, I have matched if not exceeded this day in 1982.
Today was the Hamilton Pine Rivers Wheelers Time Trail Club Championships, and my first ever time trial. May as well have a go I thought. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Time Trials are tough. It is a test of a cyclist against the clock with lowest time winning.

Sure, you go as hard or as easy as you want. What you do on the road impacts no one else other than you. It is unlike any other cycling event.

I do not have any time trial equipment. I have no fancy aerodynamic wheels, bars, helmet or clothing. I just have me and my old bike.

I also had a plan.

The TT course is an out and back layout totalling 33.5 kilometres. It is conducted on dead, largely rough roads starting at Closeburn just outside Brisbane to the north.

My plan was to ride to the half way or turn around point keeping my cadence at around 95 but without spending all my matches while also being attentive to my heart rate (boring restrictions and all).

At the half way mark, I was to flick the bike computer to show average speed and then achieve incremental increases in the average speed on the way home.

And that is what I did (basically). Average speed at the turning point was 32.7 kph.

It had occurred to me on the way out there was more road going up than down i.e. in nett terms we gained elevation. We also were at times seemingly going into a head wind be it not a strong one. Therefore, the run home should make for more speed.

So things were looking good.

I progressively built my average speed up and reached a high of 35.2 kph with the last two uphill sections to go. And Bang - I suddenly just had about nothing left.

On the first of the last two rises I was out of the saddle very early and eventually dropped back to the 39 chain ring. In the saddle, out of the saddle, up a gear, down a gear, concentrate of pedal stroke, relax but it was still a struggle, suddenly.

A funny thing about average speed; it goes down way quicker than it goes up. Half way up the last rise the average was back to 33.0 kph and I flicked the computer on to distance to avoid the depression. (And then stupidly did not check the average speed until into my warm down).

My time was a few seconds over 1 hour 1 minute.

Happy? I guess. I managed third in my category however to put that in perspective, the second place getter finished in 56 minutes and some seconds so it was not at all close. (but he did have a full Time Trial rig plus helmet etc).

I also learnt a great deal.

Firstly, when training or simply out for ride, if it starts to hurt or get hard, you just back off a little. In a Time Trial you do not do this. You push through because it is a race and it hurts and keeps hurting but you feel compelled to keep pushing and keep hurting. I don't think I have ever been muscle sore straight after a race before. It felt like the next day usually feels when you go running and have done no running for ages. And it felt like this straight away and still does now.

But how do you train for this. I doubt if I have ever ridden as hard as I can for 60 minutes. Is this what needs to be done in training to prepare for time trials?

Secondly, when do you drink during a time trial? Is it on the downhill when you are going full bore in top gear, on the uphill when you are going flat to maintain reasonable momentum or on the flats when you are working at full tilt? I realised at the half way mark that I had not taken a single mouthful of liquid. I did get through most of my bottle by the end of the race but it was perhaps a case of too much, too late.

And what do you eat? I foolishly put a Gu in my pocket. Like I was going to be able to have this during the race. I also took along 6 or so glucose jelly beans and resorted to some of these on the second last rise a few kilometres from the end.

Finally, I also realised my pre race preparation was anything but ideal. I actually had some meat for dinner last night. It is not only an extremely rare event for me to have red meat, it is almost unheard of the night before a sporting event. Perhaps the three or four of glasses of red wine last night were also not ideal. And maybe a little thought could have gone into breakfast. The usual weetbix could probably have been either substituted or enhanced.

However, I am hooked. TT's are a great event and I certainly want to do more of them and want to improve.

Which bring me to another matter. Fundamentally, I just ride. It is time I put a little planning and structure around what I am doing with my cycling? I think so.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Competing Parties

There is a battle raging between three parties. I am one of the parties but wear two hats so does that actually make it four parties?

The parties are:

1. The Cardiologist

Who will not give me the ok to race a higher grade. He apparently thinks I tend to be competitive and does not trust me to keep generally to my heart rate restrictions in a race situation. He is ok for me to exceed the limits for 10 or 15 seconds at a time but not for any extended period. Not sure where he has gleaned the idea I am competitive from, even if it is true.

2. The Handicapper

This is the person who determines what grade a cyclist should be contesting. He is of the opinion that I should be racing higher than I am.

3. Me (the cyclist)

I agree with the handicapper and also think I should be racing a higher grade. I also agree with his reasons and rationale. I think I am certainly fit enough and strong enough to race a higher level and do not think I will overly blow by heart rate limits in doing so.

4. Me (the patient)

It doesn’t really matter what I think because ultimately, to ignore the expert advice of my treating cardiologist would be stupid and foolish.

The Dilemma

I managed to win a race on Saturday. It is the first race I have won in 5 or so months While I have been regularly racing, I have been doing so in such a way to pretty much ensure I finish fourth. I have been soft pedaling at the end of races to ensure I meet the requirements of both the handicapper and the cardiologist.

Because it had been some time since my last win and because the event was at the more challenging Lakeside Motor Racing circuit, I decided to work hard during Saturdays race and to then have a crack at a win.

During the race, I set the pace or did the work on the front for perhaps 50 to 60% of the time. I am happy to do this partly for the workout effect and partly because I tend to think the others appreciate it. However the field split quite early on.

I went on to win reasonably comfortably and was rather thrilled when a number of very experienced cyclists congratulated me on the ride and commented that I deserved to win. I was pretty happy with myself.

Looking back though, I am not quite sure about it all.

I am racing at a level below where I think I should be, so of course I should win.

But I am also doing most of the pace making so surely that is effectively a self imposed handicap?

During the race, I was aware of many others competitors breathing very heavily, struggling for oxygen. Up until the last 200 or so metres I was not even slightly out of breath.

I set the pace but in doing so, destroyed the field or half of it anyway.

So, I am racing at a level below my capabilities, winning the money and ruining the race for most others.

I am not sure this is something I can be in any way happy with or can allow to continue.

Everyone going around in the lower grades of club racing is doing so for fun.

All racers have the right to believe they have a even shot at winning or at least being ‘thereabouts’ towards the end of a race. It is not their fault my cardiologist refuses to ok me racing higher. However, for me, simply following wheels would not be much fun at all.

There are three simple solutions:

1. Ignore the recommendations of the cardiologist and go up a grade anyway
2. Attain a level of fitness such that I can prove to my cardiologist I can race higher and within his required heart rate restrictions
3. Stop criterion racing and concentrate on time trials and road races.

The handicapper is a survivor of open heart surgery himself and is very supportive of my situation. However, he has a responsibility to all cyclists to have properly balanced fields.

The cardiologist is the expert and knows what I should and should not be doing. He is also a cyclist and former racer and has an understanding of the different grades of racing. His recommendations are therefore fully informed.

I enjoy the racing and the people involved in cycling and want to continue. I cannot however to totally oblivious to their enjoyment or right to a fair go.

It is a catch 22.

Although here is another solution. If I stop training, lose fitness and put on weight, I can attain the fitness required to justify to all racing at the level I am currently competing at.

I suggest however this would have other negative implications.

Better go; I have a training session to make up for having missed this morning.