Saturday, December 24, 2011
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
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
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
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
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
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
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
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
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
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
Saturday, November 5, 2011
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
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
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
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Saturday, October 8, 2011
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.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
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
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
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
Friday, September 16, 2011
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!
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
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
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
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
Saturday, September 3, 2011
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
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
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
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
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.
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 was dumbfounded afresh
By my ignorance of the simplest things.
- Fulbright Scholars
Thursday, August 4, 2011
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
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
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
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.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
There was a pause.
Then one of them looked at me disdainfully and said, "Yeah, but you looked stupid."
Thursday, July 21, 2011
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.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Thursday, July 14, 2011
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
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Saturday, July 2, 2011
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
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
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
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
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
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
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Saturday, May 28, 2011
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
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Monday, May 23, 2011
Saturday, May 21, 2011
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.