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.
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.
I am a life time competitive sportsmen with a keen interest in politics, current affairs, history, financial markets, health and fitness and writing and reading and am currently studying Journalism at Griffith University.
I am a Father of 2 adult sons and having grown up and lived my early adult years in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, I now live in Brisbane, Queensland.
Cycling has taken me on several European Adventures and a love of France has subsequently evolved, particularly the Pyrenees, Alps and Loire Valley.
My European adventures are funded by way of my employment in Financial Services.
I am passionate about promoting the health benefits of good eating and exercise particularly as we age.