Saturday, December 24, 2011

Soon Enough, Work And Love Will Make A Man Out Of You.

Two hours ago I finished the last road hours of the only hard week I've been able to complete in months. I'd forgotten how hard it was, to be lying on the couch, totally slammed by your efforts the day before (or even that morning), and having to convince yourself to get up, put on the lycra, pump up your tyres, get back on the bike and start hurting yourself even more. The efforts on the program aren't impossible, of course, but from that comfortable position they sure as how feel like it. Added to the physical suffering is the all encompassing grumpy moodiness that accompanies a hard week on the bike - a side effect of any stressful situation, even the ones you choose to inflict on yourself - which only adds to the unwillingness to get the hell off the couch.

But still, this week I did every effort on the list. I got up off the freaking super-comfortable couch, which is the best place to lay in the entire universe, and did them. Training is like money in the bank, and it's the first time in months I've been able to make a decent deposit.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Story Of My Life.

There's a party going on a couple of streets over, and the dull bass thud coupled with the heat is keeping me from sleeping. Interestingly enough, I'm not appalled by the taste in music - they seem to be giving the Wu-Tang a good thumping, with some Cypress Hill mixed in, and I'm ok with that. I wonder, though, if there are a bunch of kids lurking in the corner of that party, with strange haircuts, annoyed expressions and Millencolin tapes in their pockets. Because if that DJ steps away from the stereo for more than five minutes, that tape is going straight into the deck and some kids are going to skank their asses off - until, of course, the DJ comes back, says "What the fuck is this shit?", hits the eject button and flips it back to Beyonce.

I mean, does this still happen? This still happens, right? I'd go look, but I'm not wearing any pants.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Lighting's Bad.

As I mentioned here, I went up and raced in Bendigo a couple of weeks back. I was mostly heading up there for the club Madison, but was pretty psyched to be racing up there in general. First up was a twelve lap scratch race. The pace was, as per usual, pretty hot from the outset. A couple of laps in the pace went up another notch and someone in front of me dropped the wheel. I put the power down and spun my way back up to the bunch. It felt pretty good. We rolled around some more.

When the bell went I was at the front, which isn't the best place to be when a lap is more than 400 metres long. I wasn't too keen just to lead out Sean Finning, who was somewhere behind me, or Jarrod Maroni, who was probably immediately behind him. So I hit it. The wind was up and I figured they'd look at each other a bit, daring each other to do spend their bikkies chasing me down.

It seems that this was exactly how it panned out. I gapped the field, and held the gap until the final straight. Once they got to me I hit it again, and held off until the final breath, when Finning took the win by a wheel.

I wasn't disappointed. I threw all I had into the race and was only beaten by a Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist. It'd been a long time since I'd shown that kind of form, and I was relieved that finally it was beginning to come back.

For training today my coach had scheduled a Madison Skills session with Leigh Howard and Scott McGrory. After the session was done I got chatting to Scott. Apparently he had been in Bendigo that night, and had seen me taking it up to Finning. "It was a good ride," he said, "You made the right move."

I don't know if you've noticed - I may have mentioned it once or twice - but this year I've been pretty sick. After a while being sick starts to get into your head. You start to wonder if you're ever going to reach that same level of performance that you once had. Your confidence starts to be shaken, and you start to doubt. But right now, with some wins under my belt and a compliment from an Olympic Gold Medalist in my head, I feel like I'm ready to take on the world.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Deep In The Country. Deep In The Country.

Like everybody's memory, mine sometimes is unreliable. I can't help but wonder, therefore, if some of my totally rad memories haven't been blown out of proportion, if they become more and more awesome as the days go by. Was that Nine Inch Nails show in 1996 really as mind-blowing as I remember? Were Milko bars really that delicious? Was that Alison girl I made out with in year 8 really such an amazing kisser, or am I just saying that to excuse the fact that I was making out with someone who looked a bit like my friend Evan?

When I haven't raced up in Bendigo for a while the same doubt appears. I always remember the speed, the big wide track, the space and the aggression. But after a few months of just racing at DISC, with the roll-around-and-sprint, bring-back-the-break-immediately mentality that seems to be its defining characteristic, I start to forget that track racing can be any other way.

But it can, and it is. For once my memory was perfect, if not a little understated. Nath and I drove up there on Thursday. They were doing a club Madison and I wanted in. It's a long drive - even longer on the way home - and I gotta say, I was pretty wrecked on Friday. But the racing is hard, damn hard, and those country boys know how to ride their bikes. I reckon I was the biggest muppet in the lineup - certainly the accidental hook I threw at Sean Finning in the scratch race did nothing to dispel this notion. In the Madison I got lumped with some young kid I didn't know. After talking to him before the race I casually mentioned to my brother that we were fucked. I was totally, totally wrong. The kid was a gun. I only contested two sprints (of seven, I think), and he took points in each of the others. Sure, I chased down attacks, stopped gaps from opening up, and did my bit, but he was the one who eventually won the bike race for us.

But it wasn't just that we were winning that made the racing so rad. On that big open track you can really play hard, especially when the wind is up, and you know that your hard work is going to be rewarded. There's the typical Madison mess, with riders everywhere, but the track is wide and flat enough for it never to feel unsafe. I've said it once, and I'll say it again: it just feels fast.

Plus, afterwards, if you've won something, they have presentations, and you get to make a speech. I like making speeches.

Friday, December 2, 2011

23 Million Miles.

About a week ago I promised myself that I wouldn't write any more blog entries about my health, partially because I feel like each time I write that I'm getting healthier I jinx myself, but mostly because I'm finally - probably a good three weeks after everyone else - starting to find it a little boring. Six months of feeling like crap and obsessively searching for reasons why I'm feeling like crap may be interesting to me, but this ain't no secret journal, and occasionally I have to give some kind of consideration to you guys - my "audience", as the creative writing teachers call you. This being said, I'm the kind of guy who loves it when movies have that "where they are now" bit at the end; closure is important to me. So here it is. I'm not promising anything, but this will probably be the last blog entry on my health.

Dr Vic has been really good for me. Apparently a couple of days after our first visit he woke at three in the morning, dug my food journal out of his file, did some quick maths and figured I wasn't getting enough protein. I did some similar maths and agreed - some days I was only getting around 30 grams. So I started boosting it up to a minimum of 100 grams a day. Each time I went back to Dr Vic he asked me about it, and seemed really concerned. Eventually it came out - he once had a patient who was protein deficient, and who had ignored his advice, and eventually died.

While I get the impression that the Doctor still isn't convinced about a vegan diet, and that this death in his past has something to do with it. To his credit he isn't questioning me about it, but rather giving me homework. As such, as well as eating more protein, I have to make sure I'm getting a full spectrum of amino acids each day. There are twenty-one of the little fuckers, and it ain't easy, but being a vegan athlete wasn't ever going to be. Like Dr Garnham he has recommended that I go see a sports dietician, in the home of letting someone else figure out the complicated stuff, and I reckon that's probably going to be the next thing on my list.

The big question is, of course, how I'm feeling. Well, I'm feeling pretty damn good. When I told Dr Vic this he smiled and shook my hand. "You just wait, though," he replied, "In six months your brain will be firing and you'll think you couldn't feel any better. And then in a year you'll wonder how you ever survived feeling like you did six months ago. And then in two years, when you're back at your peak, you won't believe you ever felt so bad. You'll be flying."

Friday, November 25, 2011

You Can Call Me Joe.

Some days I like recent Bruce as much as I like classic Bruce.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Situation Gets Rough Then I Start To Panic.

Of course, there are also a few convincing reasons why I don't have Chronic Fatigue, the first and foremost of which are that when I don't train for a few days, I'm back to my normal levels of energy. Wikipedia diagnosis only gets you so far, you know.

Chiropractors, however, don't even seem to believe in Chronic Fatigue, which I guess is part of the reason I finally agreed to go see one. Purely by coincdence I ended up working with the mother of another cyclist who had been burdened by mystery illnesses. That mother suggested I go see Dr Vic. So I did. I took the morning off yesterday and drove all the way over to Keilor, only to walk into his office and be confronted by a picture of Brunswick's own Stuey Grimsey, and a bunch of his mates. Seems Dr Vic isn't confined to just the odd cyclist, but rather that he works with Drapac pretty regularly - I was even introduced to him by his receptionist as "He's a cyclist, but not from Drapac." Which kinda twisted the knife, just a little.

He poked and prodded me, I squirmed and giggled, and after half an hour or so he nonchalantly shrugged his shoulders and said, in a brisk, matter-of-fact tone, "It seems like a nervous system problem. It shouldn't be too complicated. We should be able to sort it out pretty easily."

Which, as you could probably imagine, was pretty good to hear.

Now, I'm a pretty cynical individual at the best of times, and I'm not entirely certain that a few adjustments of my spine is going to fix this fatigue problem forever. But I am willing to entertain the idea that it might. And that alone is enough to give me some hope.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This'll Never End This'll Never Ever End This'll Never Stop.

The fatigue has reared its ugly head again. I've got a couple more appointments with specialists lined up. I'm starting to think it's Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, which is a fun way of saying Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

If one of these specialists tells me that it is Chronic Fatigue, well, that will be the end of competitive cycling for me. I know that sounds a bit sad and all, but really, I'm not that sad about it. At the moment all I want is a definitive answer. If they tell me that it's something that can be solved with a course of antibiotics and a couple of weeks off work, I'll do that, then get back on the bike. If they tell me I need an operation, I'll do that, then get back on the bike. But if they tell me that it's a debilitating illness from which there is no recovery, well, I'll just have to do something else. That's ok, you know. I've got lots of plans and ideas that I've been holding off on because of cycling, and if I have an illness that forces me out of racing for good, well, I'll just start on them a little earlier.

Like The Boss says, "You get used to anything. Sooner or later it just becomes your life."



Sunday, November 20, 2011

This Is A Story You Won't Tell The Kids We'll Never Have.

After so long off cycling, I'm kinda surprised to come back and discover some things haven't changed at all. St Kilda crits, while they seem much safer, smoother, and altogether better than last year, are still riven with teams racing and shenanigans, and - perhaps more importantly - are still really, really hard. That shouldn't be too much of a surprise, I guess. A bigger surprise occurred at the state omnium champs, which I swung by on my way to pick up Casey from work. A year had gone by and I thought that Brent Nelson may have moved on to bigger and better things, but it seems after a lighter year on the bike he's keen to take the smaller steps back to greatness. He did this by winning each event, and doing a 10.8 flying 200. That's freaking fast, especially given he's not a sprinter. So yep, surprised to see that nothing has changed there. And all of a sudden a little more nervous about the State Points Race Championships in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Just Like A River.

I got some bad news the other day. My brother is getting married. Which isn't bad news in itself, I guess - his fiancee is pretty rad, and I suppose it's nice for them to have the ceremony and all of that jazz. The bad news was the date. March 11. Labour day long weekend. Or, as I like to think of it, Madison weekend.

Ever since I got sick and realized I probably wouldn't be firing on all cylinders by the Christmas Carnivals, I'd been thinking about the Bendigo Madison. I knew that I wouldn't be able to win the damn thing, but I also knew that every year they invite a bunch of locals and other likely suspects to ride it. And I figured I could be one of those blokes. So I set it as my target and asked my coach to build me up to it.

So perhaps you won't be so incredulous when I tell you I asked my brother to consider changing the date. He said no, telling me to wait til next year (and also suggesting I could probably do with the extra 12 months training, indicating that the competitive spirit that drove us both through our childhood years still exists). I then asked my parents to ask him, but they wouldn't, probably because they realized - a good hour before I did - that I was probably a little out of line.

My old man, however, loves a good metaphor, and asked me if, now that I've been forced to miss the Olympics, I could instead aim for the World Championships. I like metaphors too, so I got to thinking. The Austral is the week after the Madison, but I've never been too stoked on the Austral, so didn't want to consider it. However, if the tradition continues, the last race of the evening will be the Victorian 15k Scratch Race Championships - the race I wrote about here. Given the standard of the folks who turn out for the Austral Carnival I probably won't win it, but this year I'd like to finish in the bunch, and at least give some future Olympians a good run for their money.

So consider me refocused. My brother's nuptials may be a blessing in disguise.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Saw Her Standing On Her Front Lawn.

Last night I couldn't sleep because I had too much energy. This morning I got up and did an ergo session in the end room. Tonight I raced at the track. I'm pretty tired. In fact, I'm really tired. But I'm not fatigued. There's a big difference, and right now that difference means the fucking world to me. I didn't win any races tonight, not a single one. But hot damn I'm feeling good.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pants Of Denim.

I was laying in bed yesterday morning, using a popular online encyclopaedia to come up with new and entertaining theories about why my body continues to let me down, when a text came through from Ollie, asking if I was racing Coburg. Against all better judgement, and the advice of Wikipedia, I said yes. We met up at Bell Street and rolled up Sydney Road to National Boulevard. Half an hour later we were racing, and I was feeling alright. I didn't contest the sprint, but was happy just to have stayed at the front for the whole time.

Things were looking up, so I decided to back up the morning's racing with some track in the afternoon. The first Evening Enduro was starting at 2 (irony!), so I shoveled in some food and headed down to the Harrison Street Velodrome. I wasn't the freshest of daisies, but still managed to bring home some silverware, and - more importantly - team Bundy managed to snare the top two steps on the podium in two out of the three events. That's a solid victory for Columbus Max, Peter Bundy's framebuilding prowess and anti-carbon Luddites everywhere.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Walking!

Also, you should download this, and only keep the Tight Bros From Way Back side. Apparently the guy who organized these records ripped a whole bunch of people off, so you shouldn't feel too bad about downloading it instead of buying it. The song is a contender for best cover ever, and also best song to play when you're leaving the house on your way to a party.

The Big Time, Baby.

I've had my ranty pants on quite a bit lately, but for some reason I've woken up in a decent mood, and as such will spare you the vein-popping details. Instead I'll write about my new track bike. I've only ridden it up and down my street so far, so this won't be a particularly well informed review. Mostly it'll be about my new bike angst.

My former bike - a Teschner Track Pro - didn't ever fit me quite right. It was a 57cm square, and I really need a 58 or even a 59. It also, like most modern track bikes, had a really short head tube, which meant that I needed a stack of spacers and a stem with a heap of rise. This in turn meant more flex through the stem. So I went looking for a bigger track bike with a bit more head tube. Eventually I settled on one of these and started saving.

I'm a notoriously bad saver, however, and it took a fair bit of time. In that time Sean the Man got in my ear, suggesting that the Pinarello wasn't so great, and that instead I should think outside the square. Better to get a bike that fits you, rather than get you to fit a bike, he reckoned.
"Plus," he continued, "Pete Bundy has just got in some Columbus Max."
"Steel?" I replied, "I'm sorry, did I fall asleep and wake up in the 90s?"
"Nah, listen. When BT first started making their bikes, their #1 specification was that they be as stiff as a bike made with Max. And Max isn't that heavy. Besides, weight doesn't matter so much on the track. You ever lifted a BT? They're fucking heavy."

I knew he was right. So I spoke to Pete, who told me he could make a bike a stiff as my Teschner, if not stiffer, and as a bonus it would fit me better. I was convinced, and put some money down.

A good two months later the bike arrived at the office. Carrying over to my car I was surprised by how light the box felt. Arriving home and unpacking the frame this surprise didn't fade - it was a lot lighter than I expected. The colour, which Dan Shifter later referred to as "Australian Flag" blue, fairly popped out of the box. It looked hot, and it felt hot.

Dan built it up for me, made it work. I was supposed to have track training at Coburg yesterday, and thus have a chance to ride around on it before racing, but the rolled in and cancelled the session. I haven't taken it out yet, and so my concerns about having a steel frame are yet to be put to rest. It is stiff, sure - true to his word, Pete probably has made it stiffer than the Teschner. But is it going to be as fast? Surely a fast track bike is stiff, light and aerodynamic - the Bundy scores a 5/5 for stiff, but what about light and aerodynamic? Furthermore, I'm not as fit right now as I was this time last season - am I going to blame my shitty performances on the bike? How will I know if it's the bike or me?

Of course, I can only really answer these questions by getting out and riding on the bloody thing, which I'll do on Tuesday night. Until then it'll just sit in the end room, asking questions.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sleepwalking.

Facebook has just informed me that racing in Bendigo has started early this year, in the light of coming repairs to their track. This is most excellent news indeed. I'm a big fan of racing in Bendigo, for a number of reasons. First of all, the track is really big - 412 metres, I'm unreliably informed. This lends itself to harder racing, a leaning that is pushed further by the locals, who are reliably strong and capable cyclists. With little banking and some resistance in the track surface, it's a track suited to endurance track riders, especially when the wind is up.

Furthermore, there's the crowd. That's right, a crowd. At Bendigo on a Thursday night people go to watch track racing - people who don't even know the racers! That's unheard of down here, where entertainment options are plentiful. Throw in a coffee cart and occasionally a baked potato van and you're sorted for atmosphere.

But there's something more to it. I don't know if it's because I'm a bit country myself, but it's pretty satisfying to be out there in the open, the coolness of the evening coming in after a long day's heat, riding your bike and talking shit with the other blokes, sticking around for the presentations afterwards, then that long drive home, the car stinking of sweat and bikes and tired. Yep. It's a good feeling.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

We Can Live Much Better Than This.

My former coach used to say that when you took some time off the bike, it takes about twice as much time to come back to your former fitness. This sets me up to be in some good form at around the time I'm aiming for, but that knowledge doesn't make the journey any easier. Man, bike racing is hard! I reckon last night at DISC I DNFed my first club race. It wasn't pretty, but it was exactly the fast, constant racing that I need in order to get fit again. I was stoked, but I was broken, which is kind of a weird combination, if you think about it too much. Fortunately I don't.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

No, You Can't Have It Back, Silly Rabbit!

Since I quit the cyclocross it has been sunny. While part of me is certain the two are not related, part of me is convinced that my decisions have the ability to change the weather, the turning of the globe, and the universe in general. I've also been training my ass off, and I gotta say, it's feeling pretty damn good. This afternoon the schedule was kinda fun - 2 hours at easy pace, but including two sets of five 150 meter sprints. James and I went out through Epping, but quickly got bored, and ended up sprinting on gravel roads, up and down ridiculously steep hills, in the midst of dubious traffic. Getting fitter again after so long off the bike is generally pretty hard work, but tonight it was pretty damn fun to boot.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Quitters Never Win.

Like I said here, I needed to make a decision about how I was going to spend my time next year. So I did. I quit the DDCX organizing committee. And it felt damn good. Immediately I felt more relaxed, less burdened, and like I had more time. And, while we're being honest, I gotta say, lately I've felt about as emotionally attached to cyclocross as I do to Kunstradfahren, so the decision to leave hasn't been too painful.

Nath said to me a while back, as I progressed through the cycling ranks, that at some point it's going to get a whole lot less fun. This hasn't exactly happened - I had more fun racing last Tuesday night than I've ever had before, I reckon - but I am definitely doing less other fun stuff outside cycling. If there is a balance there, if less non-cycling fun means more cycling fun, I'm not sure. But I got about three more years of this in me, and I'm itching to see how much further I can go.

Get Behind The Mule In The Morning And Plow.

I'll probably have to train next Saturday morning, or maybe even race. I'm still waiting on my program for next month, and I'm not exactly sure of what I'll be doing. But afterwards I'll definitely be heading down to this. I'm no fan of protests, but sometimes you adding your voice to the choir is more important than the choice of song. The important thing is that people are singing. Follow me? Good. I'll see you down there.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rise Above! Rise Above!

"Rest," they say, but fucking hell, it ain't easy. It's the last day of the holidays and I'm bored bored bored. I know it's important to rest the legs and all that, but I can think of nothing more I want to do right now than go for a long, easy bike ride. I suppose this is a good sign, but right now, it's driving me crazy.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Moral ABCs.

In light of the sunny weather and marked increase in bicycle traffic, perhaps now is a good time to re-direct your attention to this post. Just sayin', folks.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sure Fire Disappointment.



On the ergo this morning I spent some time staring at the logo on my new tubular Shamals. It more or less looks like this:


The rims are a bit scuffed up though, and could do with a polish. Polishing, however, means that I'd need new labels. I got to thinking, however, that the word Shamal doesn't really mean anything to me, and that it would be cooler if they said something else. Like Straight Edge.

So I got on a well-known internet forum that a number of designer-types are understood to frequent and asked that someone redesign the Shamal logo to say Straight Edge. To sweeten the deal, I offered $10 to the best effort, in the belief that $10 is about a week's pay for these people.

The designs are still coming in, but here's what has appeared so far:



It's a pretty tough competition so far, hey? If you're interested in adding to the hilarity, or would like to earn $10, feel free to also send your effort to brendanrocks at hot mail dot com.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

All The Familiar Things Undone.

Any day now I'm going to be announcing a cupcake sponsor. No, not the cupcakes you make when you catch a fart then throw it at someone. The cupcakes you eat. Although that could also apply to the former scenario. But you know what I mean.

Anyways, take that, pro-cycling teams! I'm breaking new sponsorship grounds right here. You don't see freaking BMC racing with a nice little outline of a cupcake on their shoulders, do you? I wonder if there's a reason for that. Who knows, cupcakes may have saved HTC. Sure, they may not have won as many races, due to the additional weight of copious cupcake consumption, but they still would have been a team.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Plain Gold Ring.

Here's today's public service announcement, which I made in an interview with some community TV show a while back, but which failed to make the cut.

Bike lanes don't make cycling safer. They do, however, provide the illusion of safety - a white line on the ground is no more than that. And, given that one of the barriers to cycling is the misconception that it is unsafe, an illusion of safety is perhaps enough to encourage more people to ride their bikes. More people on bikes makes cycling safer, through an increased awareness, shared responsibility, and sheer weight of numbers. So I guess bike lanes do make cycling safer.

Incidentally, the comment that did make the cut was, "People like riding fixies for the same reason they like skateboarding: because it's bad ass."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Without Love.

Sure, it's a TAC ad. But it's a freaking amazing cover, and definitely worthy of a mention.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Straight Out The Jungle.

Teachers inevitably get sick on the first day of the school holidays, and I'm no exception. When I finally start to relax after ten weeks of dealing with young delinquents, so does my immune system Stupid immune system! Now you have to work harder than ever!

It's not the first day of the school holidays, however - not for another week, in fact. But I'm still battling this cold. I think something similar occurred. My immune system, dealing all winter with severely reduced capacity due to the mystery sickness, finally got the boost it needed when I started finding my way out of it. For a couple of weeks there I was fucking invincible. But eventually that same boosted immune system decided it could relax and a cold snuck in. Now I'm ingesting weird and horrible herbal concoctions and mainlining Vitamin C, in the hope of convincing the stupid system to get back to work. I'll let you know how it goes.

As I stated earlier, when this cold first cropped up I figured I'd just train through it. This was, of course, a bad idea, and probably stretched out the cold's residency. But I kinda felt like I needed to - I'm starting this season so far behind the 8-ball, I was worried that another week off would ruin the entire summer for me. Worried? Scared, perhaps. Scared that this summer won't see the same improvements I've been able to make every year that I've been doing this. Scared that people who I'd previously been able to beat without breaking a sweat will make a mockery of me this time around. And scared that I won't be able to achieve the aims I've set out for myself.

Fear is a funny thing, though. For me, generally speaking, I'll be all worried about something, scared mostly about the uncertainty. But then something will click, and I'll figure out a way to deal with the issue, and then the fear will disappear. In this instance I figured out that the cold is the boss of me right now, and that I just have to listen to my body, regardless of what it is saying. At least for a little bit.

And as for the results? They'll come. I just gotta have a little more faith in myself. I know that I can work hard and get back to where I was last year - and perhaps even further. But it'll take time. I know it's hard, but I have to stop myself from rushing back into things. Again!

On The Cut.

Urban Riding Tips is my new favourite blog. Thanks to the good people at Treadlie for the link, and their ongoing radness.

Pictures Of You.

"You must always have a secret plan. Everything depends on this; it is the only question. So as not to be conquered by the conquered territory in which you lead your life, so as not to feel the horrible weight of inertia wrecking your will and bending you to the ground, so as not to spend a single night more wondering what there is to do or how to connect with your neighbors and countrymen, you must make secret plans without respite. Plan for adventure, plan for pleasure, plan for pandemonium, as you wish; but plan, lay plans constantly."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wanted.


The things that used to fuel my old zine – coffee, late nights, travel, punk rock and romantic bungling – are things that, for the most part, I don’t do any more. When I see people from those days they inevitably ask me what I’ve been doing since the time I last appeared on their radar. “Not much,” I tend to shrug. And then, with a slight questioning tone, as if it’s totally no big deal, “Riding my bike?” You know, just like people say when they go and roll along the bike paths with their girlfriends, or pedal down to Williamstown for a picnic. That’s totally the image I’m trying to project, even if it isn’t true.


The truth, of course, is much more difficult to comprehend – that I’m spending twenty hours a week training to ride my bike, that I go to the gym and lift things heavier than me; that I wake up early to stink up the end room with my sweat and exertion; that I measure my heart rate every morning to monitor my recovery from the previous day’s training; that I have a coach, a gym trainer, a masseuse, a dietician; that I now know more about my body than I ever have before, and that this knowledge has enabled me to overcome the false separation of body and brain, and finally think about myself as one whole big truth. That’s kind of a big deal, and hard to tell someone who you haven’t seen for four or five years.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Married! Buried!

Mere weeks after finally shaking this unusual, out-of-the-ordinary, undetectable illness and I end up with a usual, ordinary, obvious, garden-variety cold. I'm not heaps surprised - everyone else around me was dropping like flies two weeks ago, and I work with kids, who we all know are mobile germ factories. It's only a slight cold, so I'm currently training through it, but if it gets any worse I'm going to have to miss another couple of days, then spend a few more days easing back into it. For crying out loud! In the meantime, I'm full to the gills with garlic and vitamin C tablets, spending as much time in bed as possible, and only riding when the program tells me to do so. It's supposed to be warm on the weekend though. That'll help.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Progress Overdue.

The new program arrived in my inbox early last night. It's my first real program since being sick, and - while it's still not full tilt - it certainly has the appearance of a normal, healthy person program. A lot of road miles, two ergos a week and, most excitingly, a return to track racing. Man, I'm nervous about this. It's been a bloody long time since I've raced on the track - since last year's Austral, I think. I know I'm currently a long way from being in form, and know that this means I'll spend a lot of time suffering at the back of the bunch over the next few weeks. My ego will no doubt take a few hits, but I think it's gigantic enough to withstand it. After all, I'm not aiming to be fast in September. I'm aiming to be fast in March.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I Wanna Know About You.

At some point I'm going to have to decide whether I want to run races or win them.

Like I've said below, my plan is to race my bike until I'm thirtyfive, at which point I'll give competitive cycling away and settle down. After that point I'd be happy to dedicate a heap of time and energy to putting on races for others. But, because I get big ideas and like to see them come to fruition, I've ended up at that point before the golden age. And therein lies the problem.

Like it says here, I'm trying to cut back on the number of things I do, in order to do one thing better. This year I spent a lot of time - and emotional energy - on this. It was rad, but it was a lot of fucking hard work. In a weird way I was lucky this year, because I was sick, which meant that I couldn't train and had a heap more free time than I would've otherwise. But now that the sickness has worked its way out of my system, all I want to do is train. Right now there's no way in hell I'd voluntarily go off the program for three Sundays a year, let alone spend all that extra time sending emails and going to meetings. Everything I do right now is geared towards getting me back on track - no pun intended.

Where that leaves the series I don't know. I probably don't have to think about it until next year. But I know that decision time is looming, and unmade decisions drive me nuts.

Monday, September 5, 2011

We Got An Amplifier.

Ok, seriously, for the past few weeks I've felt like my muscles are ready to burst out of my skin. I'm having the hardest freaking time restraining myself, trying to stick to the program - and my coach's steadfast belief that I should ease myself back into training. I feel like all the energy that I lost over the past few months has come back to me with interest. I was worried that that significant period off the bike would mean that I wouldn't be able to reach the same targets that I hit last year. But now, with whatever virus it was totally gone, I'm starting to think differently. I'm starting to think that I could be even better. The goals I was worried about losing altogether suddenly seem within reach.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Reap This Righteous Riff.

I Had A Dream I Always Had Five Dollars In My Pocket.


When I was a runner it was safe to say I didn't take it all that seriously. Sure, I trained five days a week, and raced on the weekend, but I wasn't all that committed to it. One day in particular I remember calling up my coach and telling her it was raining.

"Uh, no it's not Brendan," she replied.
"Yeah, it's totally raining over here. And I'm way closer to the track than you are."

I should add that we lived in Stawell, and that Stawell's a pretty small town - if it was raining on one person's house, it was raining on everybody's. She must've figured I just wasn't up for it, however, and didn't push the issue. God knows what I was doing - probably talking on the phone to my girlfriend, or watching M*A*S*H with my little brother.

This attitude also spilled over into racing. I don't remember much about the state-level races I did at Olympic Park, but I certain remember the shenanigans. On one trip I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by two good friends, Richie and Nat. Somehow we'd managed, with one other kid, to qualify as a school team for the 4 x 100 relay. It was kind of a big deal, but we were fifteen year old kids with a burgeoning interest in girls and punk rock, so the chances of us treating the event with the respect it deserved were slim. After an hour or so warming up - by rolling down the hills of the Botanical Gardens - we were eventually allowed out on the track to figure out our strategy. I have no idea how we made it this far without figuring any of this out beforehand.

In a 4 x 100 relay you are allowed to put marks on the ground, so you know when to start running, in order to receive the baton without losing too much speed. Most teams use a particular colour chalk, but we only had white. Most teams wrote their school initials in neat letters next to a line on the ground, but we drew a gigantic pair of Nana Mouskouri glasses. Most teams had their runners say the name of the receiving runner as they drew near, but we all agreed to yell the lyrics of some Nirvana song or something.

We didn't win, of course. And no one really cared. But later in the evening I was also running in the 100m, and I won that.

I guess it was kind of a big deal, but no one - and I mean no one - treated it that way. I rocked up to school the next day and wagged Maths class. Richie and Nat didn't turn up at all. My parents were probably proud, but I certainly don't remember being showered with gifts or taken out for a special dinner. I'm pretty sure I wasn't singled out for attention in any way whatsoever.

While these two things may seem kind of unprofessional, and in a way kind of sad - you know, unfulfilled potential and all of that - I don't see it that way. I see it as tacit acknowledgement of two important things. The first is that competing is fun, and athletes who have fun competing will be more successful. But the second is perhaps more important. The lesson that I learned when I returned home triumphant and no one batted an eye is that winning is just something you do. It's not a big deal, not something fantastic, not anything out of the ordinary. It's expected. Not in a pressuring way - as the above conversation with my coach attests, I was never placed under any pressure whatsoever - but rather as a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders, as if to say, "Yeah, that's just what we do."

Yeah. We win. That's just what we do.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Reminded Him Of BeBop.



Surely, in the story of the prodigal son, the son in question felt some kind of pride on his return. Sure, he was penniless, and had some sincere sucking up to do, but I bet the dude felt just that little bit cooler than everyone else around for having taken that walk on the wild side. And his dad even put on a party for him, just so the kid could regale all comers with his new stories about gambling and prostitutes.

I don't have stories about gambling and prostitutes, but over the past few years I've developed some skills on the bike, and you know what? When I return home, I think about showing them off. Which is why this intrigues me:


Further information can be found here and on facebook here. Don't laugh at how quaint the website is, jerks. I'm seriously thinking about heading back home for this event, despite it taking place just as I'm supposed to be gearing up for track season. Despite my mum's best efforts, the folks around those parts who still remember me mostly do so due to the outlandish haircuts and/or fashion sense I rocked throughout my teenage years. That's not really who I am any more, and I'd like to distribute an update. Anyone keen for a road trip? I'd imagine the long road ride would take in some climbing, so it could be good prep for the Tour of Bright. Plus, there's a free barbecue!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Caledonia.



New gym program today, focused on track season. This means pylometrics. I reckon I've been looking forward to this all winter. Pylometrics are fun. Like, little kids competing with their friends fun. Jumping off things, bouncing high in the air, making funny shapes with your body. Today I kept getting distracted by my own giggling. Wednesdays at the gym are going to be ridiculous.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Julia.


Oh man, I tried to write another issue of my zine. I really, really did. I reread all the old issues formatted the pages, picked out a couple of lines of someone else's poetry, launched into some stories. But everything I wrote down was coming out wrong - the tone was too steady, the stories not funny. No matter what I did, I couldn't nail it. So I'm throwing in the towel.

In the name of not letting a commitment drop, however, I'm going to kick in some money, so that the zine store that supported me all of those years - Sticky - can continue to exist. And I'd encourage you to do the same. Zines may seem quaint these days, antiquated even, but that's perhaps when they come into their own. Like riding a fixie on the streets, the sheer stubborn difficulty of making and distributing a zine makes it worth doing, and we should all encourage it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Little Wing.

So, how'd you spend your winter? I spent mine being sick. Some kind of weird virus got in to my system around April. I tried to ignore it, but in late July I finally cracked them and started seeing doctors. Lots of doctors. Who ordered tests. Lots of tests. It wasn't heaps of fun.

I went and saw lots of specialists, and gave blood for an ever increasing number of esoteric screenings, but it was my local GP who, while not solving the problem, outlined the likely situation. "There are lots of viruses out there that we just don't have a name for," He told me. "Someone will be going fine, then they'll be sick and really fatigued for three or four months, and then, one day, out of the blue, they'll just start feeling better."

I must've looked hopeful, because he continued. "Like Glandular fever. No-one knew what that was for a really long time. These seemingly healthy kids just got sick all of a sudden. And it's amazing how they developed the test for that."

Whether it's true or not, this is what I'm telling myself. That my sickness was just some weird virus that is, as we come into spring, finally working its way out of my system. Because I'm starting to feel better. I'm starting the track season a bit behind the eight ball, but I'm back on the bike and getting ready. It feels good.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Working On A Building.



Ok, ok, I'm not going to become a runner. Here's why. Last weekend I ran this event that was pretty well supported by a number of awesome companies. One of these companies donated a mag trainer, with the explicit orders that it go to the person who came last in A Grade. I worded up Dylan McDylan about this. He's an ok B-Grader at best, but with this prize up for grabs, he entered A-Grade, and consequently took home the goodies. Later in the week I received these messages:

DMcD: Are these trainers as effective if I sit up playing with my phone?
BJB: I usually do just that. Or read, or watch a movie. I'll send you some efforts if you like.
DMcD: You are sending me effort? Thanks! I need more of that. I'll send you some of my sweat in return. Cos there is so fucking much of it.
BJB: Yeah, that happens. Drink lots!
DMcD: I usually do?
BJB: Water, Dylan.

Five minutes later I received another message.

DMcD: I just threw up my pizza.

I remember feeling like that. I want to feel like that again.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Here's What's Striking Me.



About a week ago, for reasons I'm not quite sure of, I ordered a book about running. It arrived yesterday, and by this morning I had finished it. Safe to say I quite enjoyed it. Man, as I read, the memories came rushing back.

I used to be a runner. Or, more specifically, a sprinter. As an under 15 sprinter I was the fastest kid around, covering one hundred metres in a hair's breadth over 11 seconds (a PB of 11.03, if you're interested), winning a bunch of gold medals and even a state championship. I trained most nights and kept getting faster. It was pretty sweet.

But then the teenage years intervened, and the twin corrupting influences of punk rock and romance loomed larger than running really, really fast. I stopped training and stopped competing. I threw out a bunch of my medals, and used old athletics ribbons for wrapping paper. I was pretty much done with sprinting, and sport in general.

The weird thing was, I kept running. I'd go out to Pete's place, five ks out of town and probably ten ks from my house, to watch videos and listen to records til the early hours, then run all the way home. I'd go to parties at Gibbo's house in Concongella and, when the night was fizzing out, settle into a jog all the way home - a distance Google tells me is about eight ks. And one particular night, when my adolescent angst got the better of me, I started running out to my friend's place in Hall's Gap, making it about twenty ks before someone I knew stopped and offered me a lift.

I didn't ever prepare for these runs. I wasn't ever wearing running shoes, I never had a drink of water with me, I definitely didn't have an iPod in my ears, and I was probably wearing grossly inappropriate clothes. I never really thought about it. I guess I was just running for transport, in a way not dissimilar to Forrest Gump.

When I think about running now, it's with fear. Fear of the injuries that I sustained when I was a sprinter coming back to haunt me, mostly, but also fear for the welfare of my old bones and joints. But reading Born to Run last night reminded me that when I was running around the streets of Stawell I didn't get injured. Despite running in Chuck Taylors and baggy Yakka shorts, for kilometre after kilometre on shitty country roads and firetracks, I never got hurt.

There's something about the simplicity of it that appeals to me now. I'm nervous, of course, scared like I was that first time on the velodrome. But the idea that I could just get off the couch and run, just run until I was healthy again... well, you see where I'm going with this.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Give It All Away.

Starting tomorrow I'm back on the program. Sure, it's a dramatically reduced program, but it's a program nonetheless. I've stuck it on the wall in the end room. I've written the hours into my diary. I've cancelled some of my appointments. I got an hour on the road here, two hours on the road there, and a bunch more time in the gym. I've started stretching in the mornings again, doing whatever little I can to ensure that when I start smashing my body in the hills and velodromes, my body holds up this time. I've had a long time off the bike, and it's going to be hard to get back to where I was. But this is where it starts.

I hope.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

No Justice, No Peace! No Peace, No Justice!


Ever since this post I've been making an effort to streamline things, in order to better concentrate on the things that matter. It's been pretty good. I mean, I'm still not training, which has meant I've got lot of spare time, but instead of concocting plans that will, at some point, inevitably clash with training, I've been doing more prosaic things, like reading, or writing this blog. That's pretty nice and all, but I'm still on the lookout for other things that I'm wasting time on. Which brings me to social networking.

I'm ok with Facebook. Sure, I have a minor addiction, but I never get all that worked up about it. I'm not addicted in the slightest to Twitter, but occasionally enjoy the links to articles, blogs and photos. I've also been known to use it to publicize certain events. If it was just those ingredients, with a sprinkling of email here and there, I'd be happy with the salad my internet experience has prepared. But instead, I end up wasting way too much of my time and energy arguing with randoms on messageboards. It's like eating that salad, then smoking an entire pack of cigarettes.

Sure, there's a lot of good to be had anywhere a bunch of people congregate in order to share ideas. But it's easy to forget that on a messageboard Sturgeon's Law applies more precisely than anywhere else. I'll be cruising along, looking for sweet deals on Dura-Ace high flange track hubs, and then someone will suggest that Q and A is a really really great show and I'll be involved in some stupid flame war that keeps me tossing and turning at night, thinking of better and sharper rebuttals. On top of the time I'm wasting, that's a lot of emotional energy, spent building something out of nothing.

So I try to quit. And for the most part it's alright. But when there's five minutes to spare at work - when I have a bite sized chunk of free time, not quite enough to read a whole article on cyclingnews, but enough time to sit down at the computer and sink into the my own world for a while, there's not much more suited. In my moment of need I'm turning to you folks. I don't do Sudoku, can't stand crosswords, have already read the comics in the Herald-Sun. So when I have a tiny window of time, what should I do? What do you do?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Like A Wrecking Ball.



I've seen Cadel before, at this dinner I went to once. He beat me in a stupid competition I still to this day believe was rigged in his favour. After the dinner and speeches were done I wandered over to have a chat, but there was a lineup to speak to him, and I couldn't be bothered waiting around. I wasn't a fan of his then, but in the ensuing years the little bugger has grown on me. So while I won't be wearing yellow - because next to no-one looks good in yellow - I will be making my way down to Fed Square on Friday, to pay tribute to this bloke from Eltham High who achieved one of the most difficult things in sport. Mostly I'd like to shake his hand and tell him how downright rad it was to see him, with the weight of twenty years of expectation on his shoulders, with millions of people watching and the entire Tour de France at stake, pop a bunny hop in the final time trial. Yeah, I'd definitely stand in line for that.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

It Was My First Time. I Think She Could Tell.

I did an hour on the bike this morning, and it felt like crap. That's pretty much par for the course at the moment, so it didn't upset me too much. On the way home I noticed that Coffee Ben's Genovese Van was parked outside DISC. I'd bumped into Ben on Friday night and he'd mentioned that he had bought a new bike - the exact bike that I was all set to buy until Sean the Man got in my ear and talked me out of it. I was keen to check this bike out. So in I went.

This blog isn't about bike reviews, so I'll spare you the details, just saying that the bike looked hot and I had a twinge of regret. It was quickly forgotten though. Sunday morning sessions at DISC are mostly for track noobs, and there were a bunch around, looking a little excited. Jessie Jean was there and was totally psyched on her first time. Her enthusiasm rubbed off on me. I remembered my first time on the track, following Nath's wheel higher and higher until I was at the top of the banks, giggling my ass off. We were supposed to be practicing flying 200s, following a more experienced rider. I didn't know him at the time, but I was following Sam McGregor. "Check it," I told my friends, "I'm going to go around him."

I threw it all at him, but couldn't quite go the distance. Sam was riding B grade at the time, and I'd never been on the track before. It was the first inkling I had that I could be pretty good at this. I was hooked.

And I reckon, after today, Jess might be too.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Up Early In The Morning.

I've posted this before, and I'll post it again:


Kiss You When You Start The Day.

My history of traveling reads a bit like a history of temporarily empty bedrooms, bedrooms that were vacated by sharehouse residents then claimed by me through some often-tenuous relationship with the other housemates. In Glasgow, for example, I claimed Dougie's room when he was off at space camp, sitting at his desk overlooking the street, writing in my journal the stories that would eventually become my zine. There was something about being in a near-empty space, with only a bed, a desk and a chair, that brought out all the stories I'd forgotten or repressed.

When I stayed in Kit's room in Leeds, however, most of her stuff was still there. She'd just gone away with her family or something, and her room was only free for two or three weeks. I have vague memories of her being an English student or something, because her bookshelf was full of the usual suspects - a Norton Anthology, a Works of Shakespeare, a Pocket Oxford. But in between all of those thick, heavy-bound, thin-leafed works of enormity I picked out some blazing red poppies - the cover of Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters. It was the same edition my parents, on my subtle insistence, had presented to me on my birthday, a month before I'd flown out.



The edition of Birthday Letters in question.



Kit's House on Hessel Mount, Leeds, thanks to the glory of Google Street View.

When I started reading those poems again I knew what I was getting myself into, but it didn't help. The poems are restrained and desperate, burdened and impossible, like trying to communicate something vitally important, but having to do it underwater. A kid wandering aimlessly around a foreign country shouldn't subject themself to that kind of oppression, that kind of frustrated, useless helplessness. When I eventually left Leeds I also left Kit's copy of the book behind, but took with me these two lines, from 'Sam':

How did you hang on? You couldn't have done it.
Something in you not you did it for itself.


I no longer have that edition of Birthday Letters. I don't know what happened to it. Somewhere along the line I must've given it to some girl, or lost it in a trans-continental move, or left it on a train. In its place I have the newer edition, with the thick cardstock cover and the minimalist typeface, which I found in my own bookshelf earlier this evening. Perhaps an adult shouldn't subject themself either. I'm not sure. Mind you, I'm not sure of much these days. That's probably why I'm reaching for the book in the first place.

...I was dumbfounded afresh
By my ignorance of the simplest things.
- Fulbright Scholars

My Heart.



Complete record available here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Your Hair! Your Hair Knows!

For a while now I've been thinking about Davey von Bohlen. More specifically, I've been thinking about the way he dealt with his own sickness. I saw The Promise Ring in Toronto sometime in 2001, at this rad Exclaim! Magazine anniversary show that also featured The Constantines and a bunch of other bands who I was stoked on at the time but can't remember now. The show occurred about a year after von Bohlen had had removed a brain tumour the size of a fist. Up on the stage he looked skinnier than normal, uncertain at the microphone, more introspective than usual. The moment that stood out more than others - and is perhaps the only true moment that still exists in my memory - is of him standing on the stage solo, belting at his guitar and singing a song that I later discovered was "Stop Playing Guitar."




At the end of the song he locked onto the final riff, repeating it over and over, changing the lyrics slightly, so instead of "Stop Playing Guitar" he was singing, "I can't play guitar." Everyone in the audience must've known the context, and everyone in the audience's heart must've broken a little bit.

Now that I've figured out the song and read through the lyrics a bit, however, my heart is nicely pieced back together. It's not at all a song about not being able to play guitar. It's a song about what would happen if he'd stopped playing guitar - voluntarily, I guess. He talks about reading more books and going outside more often. It's a pretty positive song, befitting someone who had just escaped a terminal illness.

While my own - as yet undetermined - illness isn't terminal, it is changing the way I think about things. Not being able to ride my bike means that I have time to focus on other things, and I'm guessing that when I have time to ride my bike again, some of these things will linger. Like Davey von Bohlen reading more books and going outside more often, perhaps when I'm back on the bike I'll be more interested in aesthetics, or have a better pedaling action. Who knows.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

More Than Words.

Given that I can't really ride my bike at the moment, all the exercise I'm doing is going to the gym twice a week. That's about four hours all up. The last few weeks I've tried to go for a ride on the weekends, but it generally ends in tears, so I probably won't be trying again next time Saturday rolls around. This isn't as bad as it sounds - I'm happy to still be able to do something, and my work in the gym is going from strength to strength. However, going from twenty hours of training a week to four does have its drawbacks.

All of a sudden I have a lot of time for making plans. Despite sounding like a good thing, this is a very, very bad thing. I tend to make a lot of rad plans for excellent adventures and projects when I have a lot of spare time. It is one of life's great unfairnesses, however, that this spare time eventually comes to an end. Then I'm forced to once again juggle work, a relationship, training, and whatever new excellent project I've imagined in my time off. Which brings us back to where we were a couple of days ago.

It seems the toughest thing about this sickness is not the occasionally debilitating tiredness, but rather resisting the temptation to clutter this rehabilitation time (and future training time) with new projects. If I call you up in the next couple of months with propositions in mind, please tell me to go back to bed.

Friday, July 29, 2011

We Will Not Be Diplomatic.

I've never known a spring like the springs I spent in Canada. All day I've been blasting these two Canadian bands in anticipation of the warmth to come.



Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Nothing But The Best For You.


It will come as no surprise to some of you to hear that when I was in Year 12 I studied Drama. The subject at school, not the other kind. Drama being Drama, there was a final group performance instead of a final exam. Coming up to the spring school holidays our group was a bit behind schedule, so our teacher gave us the keys to the theaterette and let us practice over the two week break.

Around that time I was spending a lot of nights out at a friend's place in Hall's Gap, mostly because they had a spare room and I liked it out there in the Grampians. In the evenings I'd get the fire going, have dinner with their family, then head into that spare room and write out the performance. In the crisp spring mornings I'd start walking into town, my thumb pointed in towards Stawell. I was pretty well known back then, so it never took me long to score a lift. I'd meet the rest of my group at school, we'd rehearse the scenes I'd written the night before, and then, when the day was done, I'd hitch back out to the mountains.

When I think back to 1997 I remember a lot of angst, a lot of bad poetry and a lot of disasterous attempts to figure stuff out. Most of the memories, if not horrible, aren't particularly pleasant, a highlights reel of blunders and awkwardness. But I also remember this one moment: Walking past the Grampians Motel, waiting for a car to come past and pick me up. The sun was out, and for the first time in a while there was a bit of heat to it. I had my backpack on my back, and inside it were the scenes that were gradually turning into a play. I was probably singing, possibly to myself, but more likely out loud. I remember thinking to myself that other than this performance I had nothing else in the world to worry about. That I was completely free to pour everything I had into what we were creating. It was a pretty good feeling.

I don't know if you've noticed, but over the past few months this blog has been a bit of a bummer. I've been sick, unable to ride my bike, and more than a bit depressed about it. I've had a mountain of bloodtests, specialist visits and medical bills. It ain't been a great time. But today I've been feeling a bit better. My resting heart rate is back down and my weight is back up. I've had consistent energy throughout the day, and more importantly, the thought of riding my bike doesn't fill me with dread. I've seen enough false dawns since April to not get too excited, but it's always nice to have a decent day.

And then, out of the blue, I receive an email from a bloke whose opinions I respect more than most. This email outlines his theory about peak performance: that if you want to be really fucking good at something, there's only enough room in life for that thing, plus one other thing. No more.

"It's not just about time," he writes, "It's about all the other energies you have to expend as well.

"Cyclist, partner, teacher, friend, mentor, race promoter, vegan... that's a lot of things to channel your energy towards...

"And I'd wager that in all of those pursuits, you do a damn sight better than pretty much anyone. Sure, you might get dropped every now and then, or have guys beat you that you used to be able to smash - but how important is that in the grand scheme of things?"

The email hits me in a way that I'm not sure it was supposed to. I read through it a bunch of times before replying.

"I've said for a while now that I'm going to concentrate on riding my bike until I'm 35 - only three years away now - and then after that start doing other stuff, like getting involved with the club and starting a family. I guess, though, that I need to rethink what "concentrating on riding my bike" means. I got a short attention span, and it's easy for me to get distracted by plans that could probably wait until after I've hung it up. You're right, though - each of those plans means a little less energy for riding.

"Maybe, in the grand scheme of things, getting dropped in a club race doesn't matter. But you know how the first time you heard Minor Threat you knew that everything was just a little bit different? All of a sudden you knew that there was more out there than just the little world you knew before, and you wanted to move out into that bigger world, explore that bigger world until you just couldn't any more. That's what riding a bike is like for me. I'm late to the game, so I know that I won't be able to take it all the way. But there's nothing I want more than to see how much further I can go.

"Fuck man, it's been a long time since I've been this earnest, or spoken this openly about it. Thanks for making me."

It was a pretty good day.

Loss Could Weigh.

The Devil's Taking Names.

I can barely stand to look at my bike at the moment. I can't imagine a time when I'll be as fit and as fast as I was this summer. It's denting my pride as much as my health - I see dudes I used to relish beating and doubt that I'll ever be able to even compete on their level again. Right now, whenever I think about turning the pedals the same fatigue creeps into my legs. I've had mental angst before, by the truckload, and know that it only takes one significant change to knock that world off it's self-obsessing axis. So I'm starting to make deals with my body, speculating that doing something different will trick them into shaking off the lethargy that has plagued me since Eastertime. It doesn't work. Nothing works. I'm going back to bed.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It Hurts Instead.

Lest occasional visitors think it's all doom and gloom over here, I'll again throw in another anecdote that reassures both the reader and me. A lot of the notes on this blog are about how much I suck, because, well, it's funnier that way. But sometimes I don't suck. Like the other day, when I took a bunch of kids up to the Latrobe Uni Gym for a sports class. The kids were on the bikes, and were mucking around a bit, seeing what cadences they could hit. That's the kind of mucking around I can really get behind, so I let them at it. "130!" one of them yelled. "142!" came the call from across the room. Now, I knew I couldn't let this stand. So, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, I sat down on one of the exercise bikes. Two minutes warm-up and I hit it. With no speed training whatsoever in the last three months, no track racing, nothing at all to ensure the legs could still move quick, the numbers still came up in my favour. "Check it, children!" I yelled, "216!"

There was a pause.

Then one of them looked at me disdainfully and said, "Yeah, but you looked stupid."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

That's The Way The Whole Thing Ends.

On one hand I'm happy to report that the lump in my neck is a weird enlarged gland, rather than a lymphoma. This continues my long history of having strange and occasionally-worrying deformed organs which are thankfully, if adverb heavy, non-cancerous. This is, of course, good news. But on the other hand, it leaves a number of questions unanswered.

I went and saw a fatigue specialist the other day, and talked to him about pinball. Apparently it's not normal for two games of pinball to result in four days of crippling DOMS, no matter how hard you press the buttons. He's put me on a pretty severe data collection regime, one that will no doubt necessitate me getting some Excel lessons from this guy. He also mentioned that my diet may not contain enough fat. In an attempt to counter this, I went to La Panella afterwards and ate the hell out of a fucking pie. It was pretty good.

Other than eating pies, I'm not really sure what to do right now. My next appointment with the specialist is in four weeks. I got a heap of esoteric blood tests to have before then, some of which will take three weeks to come back. Every time I train hard it seems to set my health back another couple of weeks. I've been off the bike for the last six days, and have had no inclination to hit the road again in that time. I still have a program - it's stuck up there on the wall in the end room, mocking me - but I'm ignoring it for the time being. It ain't easy. My mood ain't great, and my motivation is even worse.

So, in an attempt to deal with the issue in a way that doesn't involve copious amounts of pastry consumption, I'm doing what I usually do - going back to basics. Sean the Man and I are going to head out to Kinglake tomorrow, up the back way, via Yarra Glen. It's a loop I used to do all the time back in 2008, when I was an E-Grade rookie trying to get my fitness up. We're going to stop and eat whenever we feel like it, enjoy the scenery, and not push ourselves too hard at any point. It's not really a plan, but it's something.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Down Along The Dixie Line.

My entire cycling life I've struggled with back pain. I've been to chiropractors, osteopaths, massage therapists, bike fit specialists, everyone imaginable. And yet there it is, always flaring up just as I start to put the pressure down. It doesn't stop me from doing so, but it's pretty uncomfortable.

On Monday I mentioned it to my trainer at the gym, Peter. He asked me a few questions about when it occurs, and then suggested the problem wasn't in my back itself, but rather in my pedaling technique. In his typically disdainful tone he told me, "Pedaling isn't about pushing down, Brendan. It's a circular motion. Drag your feet and it will engage your glutes and hamstrings, taking the pressure off your hips and back."

Tuesday and Thursday of this week I had big ring hill repeats to do - or, as I like to call them, Grinders. In the past I've had to lay down for an hour or so afterwards, just to get my back right again. But on neither day was this the case. The low cadence work gave me the chance to really concentrate on my action, and with each revolution I reminded myself to drag the ball of my foot across the bottom of the pedal stroke. And while my back still flared up a little bit, the pain was dramatically lessened. As an added bonus, Pete's way seemed a little more efficient - certainly the numbers seemed better when I was doing things his way.

I get a bit excited sometimes, and start thinking that this new thing I've discovered is going to make me a much better cyclist. Sometimes my natural cynicism gets overwhelmed by my desire to succeed at this ridiculous pastime. I'm pretty sure that pedalling better isn't going to win me any races, but if it can stop my back from hurting while I'm out climbing hills, well, that's a win in itself.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Two Charlies: Manson And Bronson.

Sweet baby Jesus, I've been sucking so much lately that I'd almost forgotten what it feels like to come into a finishing straight thinking, "Hey, I could win this motherfucker!" I mean, I'm out of practice, so of course I didn't win out at Footscray yesterday, but to finish a race at the pointy end - and, further to that, to be in with a chance of winning - does a lot to banish any doubts. Coming home fifth is like someone whispering in your ear, and those sweet nothings all sound like: Keep at it son. You're on the right track.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Two Kinds Of Love.

Yesterday was my birthday. I celebrated by doing six laps of Humevale in the big ring. Welcome to strength endurance training, Mr 32-year-old! Today I woke up and did an hour on the ergo. That felt ok, but when I rolled out this evening nothing else did. I guess that's how long it takes muscle fatigue to really set in. In a couple of minutes I'm going to call my coach and confess something - it has taken him ten months, but today I was not able to complete one of his sessions. Like most coaches, he's a little sadistic. He'll be happy to hear it.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

This Great Old Game.

You know, I probably pulled out of today's race earlier than I needed to. But at 23ks I had a little vom in my mouth. At 30ks my back started to hurt. At 35ks we rounded a corner and I figured there was no point sprinting to get back in the working bunch. I sat up for a while until the three minute group came through. They weren't working at all. A couple of minutes later I learned why - the scratch group were on us, and they were hammering. That this occurred just as we hit the lumpy part of the course didn't help. At 50ks I was off the back, and prepared myself to ride the final 40ks home all by myself.

But then I started seeing riders standing on the side of the road. Eventually I saw one that I knew. "Everything ok?" I asked her, "Yeah," she replied, "I'm just waiting for the sag wagon"
"Whoa! There's a sag wagon?"
"Yeah, of course!"

I kept riding, but didn't put quite so much pressure on the pedals. Eventually the van pulled up behind me. It was pretty full in there. The driver seemed a bit concerned. "Hey, you guys wanna head straight back to the finish?" He asked. There was a silence. Everyone knew it was the wrong thing to do, but the lack of response told me everyone wanted it. And I'm not ashamed to say I was the one to crack first. "Yeah, that sounds pretty good," I said, and the others mumbled agreement. The driver gunned it through the backroads and I was changed and packed up before the winner crossed the line.

Friday, July 1, 2011

We Dance To All The Wrong Songs.

I like long songs. I'm a fan of the slow burn, the gradual build, the tension and release, the repetition. And there, in a nutshell, is road racing. I'm going to pour some sugar on my bars this morning, because if I'm going to spend the day chewing them, they may as well be palatable. I'll let you know how it goes.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Little Relief.

As I was leaving school today, to start two weeks holidays, my boss told me not to think too much. "I never do," I replied, which we both know is untrue. Well, usually untrue. What I was trying to write in this post is that when I'm training and racing a lot, I stop thinking so much, mostly due to exhaustion. Despite the side effects - poor conversational skills, annoyingly singular focus, egocentricism - it feels fucking good.

We Can Ride It Together.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

It's People Who've Been Through What You've Been Through.

I went down to the start of the Roobaix at the Hawthorn Velodrome yesterday, and it was totally, totally rad. Eight hundred people on all manner of bikes, all psyched to be spending a day riding around the city. The vibe was pretty damn positive. I checked in for myself and Casey, chatted to a few folks, then fucked off out to the Dandenongs for the next four hours, telling everyone I'd meet them at the end.

But I didn't go. Down in Hawthorn everyone was in a good mood, but I was kinda tetchy. With the four hours of thinking time that immediately followed, I had some time to figure out why. It was because I should've been training. Now that I'm no longer sick I'm getting fitter weekly, and my focus is beginning to sharpen in harmony with that. I'm looking forward to training sessions rather than dreading them, I'm slimming down, I'm feeling better and better. But within this I'm getting worse and worse at conversing, have less hours to hang out with people, and am tired most of the time. It's a trade-off that I do enjoy making, because I enjoy the way that I start thinking about cycling, but it's not without its downsides.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Here Comes The Tiger Versus Crane.

Hey Chaz, I'm not always sick. It's only that when I'm sick I can't train, so have a lot more time to write in this here blog. And I tend to complain about being sick a lot. Eitherway, everybody knows about it. When I'm training I just quietly go about my business, and nobody knows about it. Ah, well.

Today I went to train on some of the sweet stationary bikes that they have in the gym, and I was all ready to go, but neither Heavy Metal James nor I could get the pedals off the fucking things. I was pretty pissed for a while, but then let it go. One more missed session won't ruin my entire winter. Especially because during the coming school holidays shit is going to get very real. Five four hour sessions a week, three of them in the hills, with a few extra, smaller sessions thrown in for good measure. I gotta say, I'm a little nervous, but also pretty damn excited. I'm healthy, I'm in good order, I'm raring to go. Casey and I are going to head up into the home country for the first week of the break, and I'm going to do those hills sessions in my old stamping ground, the Grampians. It'll be just like when I was fifteen, and I'd borrow a mountainbike from somebody and roll around those firetrails and switchbacks for hours at a time. Perhaps I'll get a walkman and a Nine Inch Nails tape, just to make the picture complete.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tear The Whole Fucking Thing Down.

Today I got dropped. Again. Out at Footscray this time, which was a nice change. By guys who I've previously soundly beaten. And it wasn't what I'd been eating (or not eating), it wasn't my bike fit, it wasn't a lack of sleep, it wasn't the rain, it wasn't the wind, it wasn't god. It was just me, not being fit enough.

I came home a little bit bummed out. But when I walked in the door Casey was all excited. It seems the good people at OPSM had arranged Anna Meares to come hang out at their feature store in Hawthorn all day, and Casey and Nath were pretty much the only people to turn up. They sat there and chatted for a good 45 minutes. In that time Anna mentioned that her hard training cycle starts about now, 13 months away from London 2012. And in that time she'll go from a size 10 dress to a size 14 (I'm guessing mostly around her legs...). A thirteen month training cycle. And I'm bummed out because one month after being sick and unable to train, I can't finish A grade races. Van Dammit. What's the name of that virtue again?

Friday, June 17, 2011

All The Flowers That You Planted, Mama.

Luke from Sticky Zine Store wrote me the other day. Like most independently-run spaces, Sticky is in a bit of financial trouble. Instead of merely asking for money, however, Sticky is asking a bunch of zinesters to put out a benefit issue of their zines, with the proceeds going to the store. Despite the fact that the last issue of my zine came out about five years ago now, I was one of the writers they hit up. My initial reaction was to ask if I could just donate money instead. Luke, in his infinitely cheeky manner, suggested I could do both.

Funnily enough, I was thinking about the zine just the other day. Strange combinations trigger strange memories, and for me the mixture of wearing my old Doc Marten shoes, walking home through the drizzly winter twilight, and Modest Mouse in the headphones did the trick. All of a sudden I remembered wearing those same shoes one night in Glasgow, listening to the same record, walking alone back to Kirsty-Anne's flat after some dinner, because I didn't want to go out to some nightclub with the rest of the folks. I didn't quite know my way home, but knew enough to figure it out. I was thinking about how I'd been pretty funny at dinner that night, and that perhaps I was a pretty funny guy in general, and that if I wrote down some of my funny stories for people to read it could work out pretty cool. It kinda did.

As much as I like to think I'm pretty much the same as when I was six years old - another Modest Mouse reference for you - I'm barely even the same guy I was when I started writing those dumb stories of dumb kids doing dumb things ten years ago. Sure, some of the patterns are the same, but the inherent motivations are pretty different. When I look back at those old zines I see a twentytwo year old kid trying his best to grasp some kind of understanding of the world using the only tools he knows how, with vague pop-philosophical ramblings about "narrative" and "identity" as an instruction booklet. But now, while I still believe that our stories are our identity, I'm no longer fool enough to think that identity is something that can be grasped, or understood using tools, no matter how vague the instruction booklet. And, let's be honest, I'm too old to care.

Modest Mouse fans will tell you that the old stuff is better than the new stuff, and they'll be right. When the motivations change so too does the output, and when the reasons for sitting down to the computer become less about trying to figure out who the fuck we are and what the fuck we're doing in a far flung country in the middle of another shitty rainy night staring out into the street when everyone else is sleeping, and more about wondering if we can still do it, if we can pull it together for one more time, the output becomes less like Building Nothing Out Of Something and more like Good News For People Who Love Bad News. This is part of the reason why I stopped writing the zine. I don't know if I can pick it back up again. Even for a good cause. I just no longer have the angst.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tell Me This.

So, I finished the three day tour. 16 minutes down, dropped on the last day with thirty kilometres to go, definitely the last person to cross the line on Monday afternoon, boogers and spit and squashed dates and dried sweat all over my face. But I went there to finish, to ride myself into fitness, no matter how much it hurt. And that's what I did. Eat a dick, three day tour.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Terminator.


From here.

It Appears To Me.

Hey, so I know I haven't been blogging much, but that's because I've been flat out busy over here. Instead of reading my blog posts, you should totally come down to HSV on Friday night and talk to me in person.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I Just Sit And Watch The Boxcars.

This ain't no pro cycling blog, but I am going to to briefly mention some results from the US Pro Cycling Championships. Well, one in particular. Men's Time Trial - 1st Place - Dave Zabriskie.

Why is this a big deal? Well, partially just because Zabriskie is kind of an oddball, and in the world of pro cycling any kind of personality doing well should be celebrated.

But Zabriskie is also known for being a tad, well, mercurial. On the Tour of California coverage the other day Phil Liggett suggested that on any given day you never quite know which DZ is going to turn up - the one who destroys all comers, or the one whose head isn't quite in the game.

Lately it's been the former of these two options turning up, and I can't help but speculate about it having something to do with his decision to follow a plant based diet. Sure, a correlation doesn't always mean causation, but the timing is about right, and there is some evidence out there to support the claim that a diet high in plant based carbohydrates does boost endurance (link coming when Casey finds it for me...). And in a superstitious bunch like the pro pelaton, it only takes a couple of vastly improved results for everyone else to wonder about the new training methods / new bike / new diet. With DZ, it's the latter they should be paying atttention to - especially now that everyone is a bit more wary of steak.

Another article on DZ going vegan here.

Friday, May 27, 2011

If The Rabble Heard The Truth.

I'm pretty over photo blogs - and tumblr in general - for the most part, but this rules.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I'm Telling Everyone.

Outside of my personal life, I really only do three things. Firstly, I have a job that I go to each weekday, that I don't hate and that I'm ok at. Secondly, I race my bike, train for racing, go to the gym for racing and write about racing. And thirdly, I organize races, advertise races, and write about races. This year past I've scaled back on the third, due mostly to the impact it has on the second, and have only really had a hand in organizing the cyclocross series through winter. I was a bit worried about how I'd juggle all three things as June approached, but by accident that has been both fortunate and totally devastating, I've fallen ill just as the CX season is kicking off. Time off work, time off bike, time for CX. I should probably stop everything at some point, and finally give my body some time to recover properly, but that's really not how I roll. And besides, I can do most of the things I need to do for CX from my bed.

Monday, May 23, 2011

C'est Pour.

Another brilliantly analytical meandering from Cycling Inquisition. Maybe I'm overstating this, but when punks turn to cycling, this is what you get.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Free Of The Postures Of Politics.

I was at the gym the other day, and must've said something about it being hard. "It's not hard, Brendan," started my trainer, "This is fun! You do this for recreation!"

It was a nice reminder. It's easy to get caught up in the macho bullshit of cycling - suffering will lead us to glory, HTFU, shut up legs, blah blah blah - and forget that we're doing this because we like it. Even when we're trying to get up that hill faster than our friends, the lactic burning in our legs and our lungs fit to burst, we're doing it because we like it. Even when we're racing in the rain, dirt and shit and road grime spraying up into our faces, the cold freezing our toes and fingers and other, more important appendages, we're doing it because we like it. And even when our commitment to cycling stops us from attending to our relationships, our jobs, our household chores, we're doing it because we like it. It's fun. If it stops being fun, we should stop doing it.

I've been sick for a while now, which has meant that I've had to stop doing it. I've found it difficult to stay off the bike, and have made numerous aborted attempts to get back into training, but in the end I hid the bike in the end room and didn't open the door. I went and got some blood tests done and waited for the diagnosis. Eventually it came, and I'm feeling a lot better now, so I'm consequently tempted to go out and tell myself those macho lies again today. But the thing about those lies is that they're not just untrue, but that for punters like us they're dangerous. If I went out today and did the two hours at 85% that was on my original program, I'd end up back where I was two weeks ago, lying in bed, unable to get up. So I'll do the less intense session that's on my revised program, and I'll do it inside, in front of the TV and out of the rain.

Sometimes you just have to ignore the bullshit, and wait until all your ducks are in a row.