January 3, 2016 § 2 Comments
I was raised Roman Catholic and attended church more or less weekly throughout my childhood and adolescence, attended Catholic schools and took all the Catholic rites on schedule.
Like most adults, I stopped practising once I was independent, not through any violent opposition but just because going to church seemed not relevant. Whenever I returned from uni at Christmas or Easter, I felt uncomfortable being one of those ‘special occasions’ Catholics that fill the church at major anniversaries.
I will always be Catholic though.
My children are not baptised, a slightly uncomfortable decision for me but an honest one. I’m not practising religion so why collect an emblem if you aren’t planning to be a member of the community?
We did, however, sign our kids up for (optional) christian education in their state school, and they like it. A few days ago, 9yo asked if he could ‘get some of that religion thing’ I have so I said I’d take him to church.
It was…nice. We sang songs, recited time-worn phrases, sat, kneeled and stood at the appropriate times. I took Communion, showed the kid how to get a blessing. I remembered most of the words of the prayers, though strangely the language has become more, not less, flowery and brimstoney. Like the penitential rite, which I learned as
I confess to almighty God,
and to you here present,
that I have sinned through my own fault,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done,
and in what I have failed to do;
…and I ask the blessed Mary, ever virgin,
all the angels and saints,
and you here present,
to pray for me to the Lord, our God.
I’ve always quite enjoyed its rhythms. Except now instead of “I have sinned” it’s “I have greatly sinned”. And before the second paragraph they’ve added “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault” with the instruction “[striking breast]”. Pshhhh.
The priest was kind but, as is mostly the case nowadays, very old and rather fragile and weary, and so was the Brother. Church music has not, I’m afraid to say, improved. There are still prayers set to illogical, unmusical tunes; such vaguely melodic chanting has never inspired me.
This artwork made an impression on me, as an example of the church’s rather depressing mixed messages. The Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel gives Mary her big assignment (being the mother of Jesus), is a major deal. But did you ever see a more downbeat messenger? Rejoice Mary!
Mary receives this news with an equally rapt demeanour. Bugger.
I feel like Alain de Botton now.
To be fair, the Annunciation has almost always been depicted with similar severity and even a sense of grief, perhaps at the gravity of all that is to come. (You’ll be homeless, on the run, and eventually your misfit son will die nailed to a cross.) It weighs on the mood in church though.
Anyway, I’m sure there are better masses and more eloquent priests and more inspiring places of worship to take a child to, but 9yo seemed pretty damn satisfied. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, comes of it.
November 25, 2015 § 1 Comment
It’s time I confessed my borderline-unhealthy interest in Sarah Wilson, of the I Quit Sugar empire.
Sarah Wilson, Shedder of Sugar, Queen of the Quit, first monarch of the kingdom of sweet-free heaven.
I first noticed Sarah Wilson in the Sunday paper years ago, writing about her gentle journey into living. Life, as the first world knows, isn’t just something that happens automatically. You have to do it consciously. And Sarah Wilson is the most conscious living creature there is. She can spend hours each day just thinking about how to live.
The thing is, I like Sarah Wilson. She wears shorts. I wear shorts! She likes bushwalking. I like bushwalking! She rides her bike. I ride my bike! She eats healthy. I eat healthy! She has the face and body of a catwalk model. I–
Anyway, I follow her on Instagram. In its normal state it’s a pleasant enough account featuring food she has appreciated (one of the nicest breakfasts I’ve ever had was a tip-off of hers – the green bowl at Blue Door in Newcastle), idyllic moments spent at bush and beach, and the sort of benevolent philosophy-lite that comes from someone who lives a life of comfort and privilege and wants to share that. She’s an inspiration for anyone who seeks enrichment and authenticity. People looooove her.
But ever since her latest book Simplicious appeared on this sunny, sunny horizon, her Insta has become excruciating. It is the Brand Power of book marketing, every single post gunning for a sale. It was bad enough when they were still writing the goddam book. Now that it is actually on the shelves the account is out of control. I click on Instagram with dread and fear, knowing that the newest post will be Sarah’s, and the one a few below that, and the one a bit further down (I need to follow more accounts). Every one of them will be here’s-one-we-made-earlier photographs of recipes accompanied by the promise of miracles for your skin and gut, followed by enthusiastic hordes of followers tripping over themselves in excitement. I gotta have this book now!
If there was variety to this never ending stream of self-help it wouldn’t be so bad, but I started to notice an undeniable skew towards, well, dessert.
Here are the names of recipes that have landed in the past two weeks:
- Chocolate peanut butter crackles
- Pumpkin pie custard ice cream
- Coconut marshmallow gummies
- Lamington ice cream
- Turkish delightfuls
- Choc ginger and pear muggins
- Berry, coconut and marshmallow gummies
- Strawberry cheesecake muggin
- Chocolate cake batter smoothie bowl
- Raspberry ripe bites
- Mango and coconut water gummies
- Chokito truffles
- Raw snickers ice cream bars
I should have foreseen that the Star Wars-style fleets of gummies would precede her announcement that a hot Food Trend of 2016 is gelatin AND by the way you can now buy Sarah Wilson-brand gelatin (which she cheerfully announces is made from ground-up, all-Australian surplus cow parts) from her online store. How prescient! What an incredible coincidence!
On the other hand, the storm of tweaked rip-offs of famous brands (Snickers, Turkish Delight, Chokito, Cherry Ripe – hey, anyone want a Tam Tim?) smacks of addict’s desperation. I’m increasingly convinced that these people work harder at quitting sugar than I do at eating it. That, like the vegetarian who stuffs his fridge with bacon-shaped soy rashers and tofu hot dogs, they are even more addicted to sugar than the rest of us.
But the muggins (duh, a muffin made in a mug – don’t confuse these with meffins which are muffins made out of meat – the book is full of childish mashups like this) confound me most of all. I have always naively assumed there is a correlation between the real food movement and the slow food movement, but apparently once you have quit sugar for life a cake has to be microwaveable in two minutes. What.
Still, none of this seems to bother the vast sugar-free army of devotees with names like jennalovesfood and healthyeatingmum and cupcakesandcookies and paleogeorgie. (Names changed slightly.)
Look. Sarah Wilson has some decent ideas on nourishment, physical and otherwise. We could all stand to lose a few pounds and ‘eat the rainbow’, as they say. She has shared some meal images that look so good they’ve become that night’s dinner.
But this pseudo-scientific dedication to sweet substitutes (in which cane sugar = bad, rice syrup and stevia = good) and healthy treats isn’t setting anyone free from food addiction. It’s probably perpetuating it.
September 20, 2015 § 3 Comments
Race report and final thoughts post Amy’s Gran Fondo.
The final two weeks
Two weeks before Amy’s Gran Fondo I was scheduled to race (on foot) a hilly 24km in Wingello State Forest, in the beautiful Southern Highlands Challenge. It was a bit wicked of me to add this to my diary, but the event had been calling me for months so I thought ‘What the heck, I’m going to be in it.’ I’m glad I did. The red course was 60% twisty single track and (thanks to recent heavy rains) 50% mud. Fun course, scenic terrain, terrific organisation.
The only problem was, I was coming down with a virus. I dosed myself to the eyeballs and got through the race, then collapsed into a nasty flu that reduced me to an aching, shivering wretch and lasted about 10 days. As a consequence, I rode less than 40km in the final two weeks and was contemplating a DNS until just a few days pre-departure. There is tapering, and then there is being bedridden.
Happily, this misery eased enough to turn my head hopefully towards Lorne.
My race base was only 1km from the start line. On AGF eve I took an easy 16km test ride: all good. That night, we made a fish (local flake: delicious!), veg and brown rice meal. Then I started to feel nervous, but kept reminding myself: ‘All you have to do is keep pedaling. You can do this!’
On race day I:
- woke around 6.30am, checked the sunrise, saw it was going to be a clear (and warm) day
- had a cup of hot water, small bowl of muesli and milk, piece of toast and peanut butter, some banana
- did a gear check, bike check, nutrition check, applied sunscreen, got dressed
- went to the toilet multiple times
- had a few gulps of iced coffee before leaving
- spotted Alanna (my Roxsolt sister) in her start group, gave her a hug, took a selfie
- found a place in the start line, waited and listened to the announcements.
Rolling…How the day unfolded
Straight away the pace was on. Along the first 40km of Great Ocean Road, it felt like I was passed by a thousand people. Sometimes one by one, sometimes in large and determined bunches that yelled at everyone to get out of the way. The wind blasted down from the north, shoving me sideways and whipping spray off the top of the breaking waves. I kept up a steady effort and remembered to enjoy the scenery.
The KOM was long (a full 10km uphill into the Otways). I climbed steadily and comfortably, easing my way past several people. It was hot in the sun and in the lee of the hill.
Almost everyone on course was terrific, but I learned to beware the handful of bad-mannered middle-aged (male) Clydesdales: cutting in, cutting off and littering. And some of the older riders who freight-trained past shouting orders. It’s a ‘sportive’, guys.
The aid stations were well stocked with fruit, cake, lollies, bars and gels but I only needed to top up my drink. I didn’t really find a bunch that suited me pace-wise until around 70-90km when I rode with a handful of blokes. My energy level was good, even up the final, intimidating 5-10km climb to the finish. This section brought a few riders unstuck; some stopped with cramps and others whose walls had been hit.
I was filmed for a couple of minutes here and must have looked a sorry mess because only my ankles made the video. It was so exciting to see the finish line! My back ached, my bottom was sore, and it was past midday. The sweeping 10km cruise down the mountain to Lorne was sweet.
Some facts and figures
- Including the ride to and from the start/finish I rode 123km. I think this is further than I’ve ever ridden before.
- My Garmin thinks I climbed 2,700m, which is impressive but wrong; it was less than 2,000m. But that is still a heck of a lot of hills.
- The field was 85% male. I’m proud that I was part of the other 15% and I’m used to being in the minority at events, but we can and should do better.
- I clocked 4:17, ending up well outside the top 25% of women in my age group, so no UCI qualifying medal for me. This was slightly disappointing. I didn’t anticipate the calibre and competitiveness of the age-category field. (Top 22% if you include both UCI and recreational field.)
- I expected to climb slightly better than my overall performance, but actually my climbing ranked virtually the same as my overall ride. For both the KOM (40:51) and the total ride time, I was just inside the top 50% of the whole field. Again, a little sobering, but illustrates the quality of the company I was keeping; in other fondos I’d normally expect to finish higher than mid-pack.
- Nutrition plan delivered. I had a gel at 35-40km, 70km, and added one to my water bottle at 90km. I started with 700mls of Hydralyte Sport that I topped up with water at 50km and 90km. I ate two-thirds of a Winners bar (Cadel Evans FTW) and two mouthfuls of peanut butter sandwich.
What I’ve learned and what’s next
I don’t think I’m ever going to be a cycling obsessive, because if I was it would have happened by now. I love riding my bike but I crave variety in my workouts; it’s good for my brain and better for my body. The thing is, I am content to be average at several things rather than a master of one. Plus, I’m just not that talented anyway.
EDIT: I’ve resolved never to target an event in early spring again. Peaking in early spring means training hard all through autumn and winter, and this was an extra long and freezing one. Actually it’s still cold; as I write this the apparent temperature is zero and it’s the third day straight of a wicked southerly. I think I’d have trained more and enjoyed training more in different conditions.
The road to Amy’s has been a powerful source of motivation, but I’m looking forward to a period of being goal-free. For the next little while, my workouts are going to be fun (doing what I love and what I want, when I want), or they’re going to be functional (getting me from A to B), or maybe both! And I’m going to add back the yoga that took a back seat over the past year and the weight training that I’d barely started on.
Thank you to Kelvin Rundle from Roxsolt, and his team, for the generous sponsorship that enabled me to travel to this event and to ride it in style. He’s a huge supporter of women’s cycling. I have enough quality Velocio kit to get me through a few more years of cycling.
Eliza and Alanna, my Roxcycl sisters, my year is so much better for having met you!
And big love to my family for putting up with my efforts (and my complaining, and my self-absorption) and for coming along on the adventure. Especially Richard who picked up plenty of slack at home while still fitting in his own grueling training.
Okay, I think I’m done. xo
August 19, 2015 § 1 Comment
This could be my penultimate blog on my Year ‘o Cycling. I’ve ridden more than 4,500 km this year so far. 180 hours spent pedaling, 47,000 metres climbed. I’m on track to ride double the distance (3,000 km) I rode in the whole of 2014.
Almost all of that has been done on public roads, and the vast majority of it at peak hour. LOL, Canberra peak hour, but still.
I’m incredibly thankful that I’ve made it this far without serious incident, a fact that I put down to a combination of things:
- skill at handling my bike and staying out of trouble
- conservative riding and decision-making in traffic; it’s not worth taking risks unless it’s a Strava segment. KIDDING.
- riding familiar routes and knowing where the black spots are
- look-everywhere, trust-no-one watchfulness, and of course
- good luck, because sometimes – for whatever reason – I do a bad thing and get away with it.
Even with all this on my side, there have been scores of near misses involving cars, trucks and buses. They don’t look, or they look and don’t see you, or they look and see you and think there’s room/time, or they look and see you and don’t particularly care. And (very rarely) they look and see you and try to scare you.
But the biggest idiot I encountered this year was another cyclist. Here’s what happened.
I was riding in to work on a very wet morning. It was actually raining properly, so my shoes were soaked, my bike was wet and my eyewear was beaded over with rain. Visibility was poor, traction was poor, braking was poor. There’s a downhill, left hand turn on my route that is somewhat off camber. I take this turn carefully even in the dry. Enter wide, cut the corner, exit wide. Anyway, I was just about to enter this wet, off camber, left hand turn when another cyclist appeared OOFN on the inside – between me and the kerb – forcing me to abandon my intended line, brake and give way. Since he couldn’t actually execute the turn at that speed, from the inside, on a wet road with wet brakes, he crashed right in front of me, ending up in the car lane. For a split second I stared at this unfolding mess and (because you tend to go where you’re looking) almost rode over him myself. But I didn’t. I pulled up and checked that he was okay. He was okay.
Winter drags on and my goodness, it has been a long and particularly cold one this year. We’ve had very sub-zero starts, brutal winds from every direction, damp soupy fog that lasted most of the day, and plain old soaking rain. It was dark when I got up and dark when I left work to come home. So cold. So dark.
But spring will soon be here. There are buds on some trees, the wattle (Australia’s most optimistic plant) is flowering and all of a sudden, people are starting to talk about magpies.
Magpies, ffs. Here’s my advice on magpies. They may like touching you but they really, really hate it when you try to touch them. So here’s what to do. When you hear or see a bird coming, crouch down low over the handlebars and when it’s super close pop right up as if you want to headbutt the poor thing. Alternatively, try to reach up and grab it. This truly freaks them out. They are not down for reciprocation.
Or, I dunno, try this.
A couple of springs ago my commute took me through the strike zone of a magpie. Now, I have a thing for birds of all kinds, so I decided I’d make this bird an offering to try to win its favour. I left home with a piece of raw sausage wrapped in a piece of plastic wrap. When I reached magpie ground zero it started swooping me, so I pulled over (and this really made the bird mad), stopped and started TALKING to this now-very-pissed-off magpie, ineffectually trying to offer it some sausage. The poor bird’s reaction can best be described as ‘The hell is this, asshole?’ but there wasn’t a whole lot it could do except sit on the ground glaring at me. Anyway, not surprisingly, it didn’t trust me on the meat and I didn’t want to take raw sausage to work so I ended up chucking it at the magpie, which continued to death-stare, and took off. And guess what?
It swooped me, that stinking bag of feathers.
But guess what? Since then, no more magpie attacks, pretty much anywhere. So my theory is that the magpie talked and that I am now in some magpie witness protection racket.*
Please don’t put cable ties on your helmet. You look like a damn fool 100% of the time and (since the bird still gets within 20 cm of your head) removes basically 0% of the drama and distraction.
Also THE EYES DON’T WORK!
*Since I wrote that part, two magpie attacks 😦 But they were pretty soft core. One of them didn’t make contact at all and the other put its feet on my left shoulder three times and squawked in my ear. It was kind of sweet.
Anyway. Just over two weeks to the big event! Road tripping there with the family and can’t wait. All going well (or not going well I guess) my next report will be a race report 🙂
July 23, 2015 § Leave a comment
Here we are in the dead of winter. I’m still here and still working towards my goal event for 2015. But it’s time to put myself in for a service. Here goes:
Odometer (no faking the mileage)
Quick check in with Strava reveals my beloved 2013 Scott Foil has just ticked over 8,000 kilometres (about half of that just in 2015). I could be doing more but it’s hard to see where to squeeze it in. It’ll have to do!
Clock (aka fark it’s getting close)
It seemed like months away but suddenly it’s a matter of weeks until the Amy Gillett Foundation Gran Fondo. I feel like I’m running out of time. And yet, I’m happy with my fitness, I’m still doing PBs here and there, I’m injury free, I feel good and I’m enjoying myself. Gotta be happy with that.
Brakes (and other excuses)
It has been HARD putting in any extra effort these last few weeks though. I’m still cranking out a solid 100km+ each week, but this winter has been a very cold, very foggy and sometimes wet one. I know: harden up princess. But it’s pretty challenging training in the Canberra winter. My Velocio jerseys are colourful and the jacket so snug; it’s my old cold weather kit that makes me feel like a #hubbard. The beanie down over my ears, the buff up over my face, the daggy, fleecy pants, the doubling up of gloves and socks – it’s like dancing in a doona. And the days are painfully short; it’s pitch black outside by the time I leave my desk. Not really conducive to loading up the legs.
Oh yeah, about that desk. Another thing is that my job has been really intense. I work in a policy and legislation team that carries a heavy workload, often under high pressure. It’s mostly very engaging, satisfying work. But there have been lots of 10-hour days, skipped breaks, delayed departures and evenings where the best I can do is pedal home in time to tuck my kids in bed, eat, catch up with my partner and collapse. He is amazing (and also gets up in the dark to go running).
Suspension (of boredom)
All those rugged-up, hurry-to-work, hurry-home commutes can get pretty boring. Lucky for me I can mix things up with some running (both alone and with friends), some proper weight training at the gym (a curious new world for me), and some yoga (both at home and in classes). This month I went to two Bikram yoga sessions to push myself out of my comfort zone. Running makes me fitter, weight training makes me stronger, yoga makes me lean and whole. Or that’s my theory.
Fuel (premium please!)
I do love my fuel and I wrote about that last time. Looking at the riders in the Tour de France I think maybe I like my fuel a little too much. Oh well! #toursnacks
Detailing (nothing like a fresh coat of paint)
Thanks again to Roxsolt for the sleek, slick, super kit from Velocio Apparel.
May 15, 2015 § Leave a comment
Hello. I am here to talk about food, diet and race nutrition.
Here’s my advice:
Don’t take my advice. I’m not a dietician or a nutritionist. I have some experience and knowledge (I have been eating for over 45 years now) and I mean JUST LOOK AT ME! but I have no qualifications or expertise in these matters. (I wouldn’t necessarily take the advice of a dietician or nutritionist either.)
Routines are boring, but they are really, really effective. Plenty of people will try to sell you their routines in the form of diet books and training programs. What you need to do is figure out what yours are and then follow them day after day. The sooner you figure out what you can do on repeat, the better. My life works like this because it has to or the whole fragile machine with cogs labelled ‘kids’, ‘job’, ‘chores’, ‘school’ and ‘house’ will fall apart. Not to mention ‘relationship’.
Cook your own meals. This is probably the single most useful piece of advice I’ve got. It’s virtually impossible to get the sheer amount of salt, fat and sugar into food that you prepare from scratch as it is to consume it when served to you through a drive-thru window or in a high-end restaurant. I am a decent cook and it is astounding how much of those things you have to force in to get food to taste like restaurant food. Cooking also requires planning, shopping, hauling and prepping, so as well as eating fresher food and fewer calories, you use more energy getting it on your plate. Plus, who has a deep fryer? No one, that’s who. And don’t be all ‘Gah, I can’t cook for one!’ That is bullshit. I lived alone and it was awesome and I loved cooking myself dinner.
Eat fat. It’s delicious, it’s filling and it is a good energy source. Removing fat from food is dumb. It makes food look and taste bad, and the removed fat is almost always replaced with things that will harm you more than the missing fat. Like sugar, and other manufactured ingredients that attempt to do what the fat did. There is a sugar lobby angling to squeeze more sugar into food. There is no fat lobby, so stick up for fat ok?
Eat carbs. Just as all carbs are not equal, all carbs are not equally bad. A four-ingredient, just-made loaf of bread is not the same thing as a Coke but people are starting to act like it is. This is madness. Eat grains. Enjoy bread, pasta and rice. Agriculture is what made humans the tall, strapping, long-lived plague on the earth we are today. Plus they taste good.
Sugar isn’t that bad. You don’t have to Quit Sugar For Life but sticking to small quantities of it does help. Don’t substitute fake sugar for real sugar though, because that will just confuse your body and it will keep looking for sugar. I thought this was sugar. Where is the sugar? GIVE ME THE SUGARRR! (Same goes for fat.)
Don’t drink carbs, unless you’ve earned it. Knock back a smoothie after a massive gym session, or gulp sports drink during an event. It’s just a bad idea to consume soft drink, sports drink, juices, milkshakes and smoothies as a source of everyday hydration. Your go-to hydration should be tap water.
Don’t fret about protein. It is virtually impossible to have a protein deficiency unless perhaps you’re a vegan or have an actual medical condition. There is protein all over the place if you know where to look for it, and you don’t need vast quantities. Eggs, dairy, legumes, whole grains, meat. Sorted.
Eat less meat. Usually, it means that you have to eat more vegetables and other interesting and varied foodstuffs, which is bound to be healthy. I’m non-committal about whether a vegetarian diet is good for you. It’s really good for cows, pigs, chickens, sheep and deer though, who in their own small way have hopes and plans for their lives, and meaningful relationships with their peers and offspring. If you must eat an animal, try to buy one that had a good upbringing, then kill it and eat most of it. Confession: I eat fish and seafood that I don’t catch myself. Sorry fish 😦
Drink alcohol, drink coffee, if you like. I like coffee and I like alcohol, though I don’t need much of either. Sometimes, at the end of the day I need to celebrate my triumph and resilience (or anesthetise my despair and foreboding). But remember, alcohol is a decent short-term solution but a fairly poor long-term one. Caffeine has at last, I gather, been vindicated as a proven performance enhancer, so make of that what you will. It’s also a great reward.
When training or racing, fuel but don’t overfuel. I’ve seen dudes start out on a ride with more food than a picnic. If you’re going to be a while, take some snacks with you, not an all-you-can-eat buffet. Also, there is some crazy literature around regarding hydration. ‘Drink before you need to’. ‘Allow for 2-3 litres per hour’ etc. This is insane. Drink when you’re thirsty, okay? Your body is very good at figuring this stuff out.
Side note: I find running nutrition harder than cycling nutrition because running puts more stress on your digestive system. In my first 50km footrace I spent the middle-third suppressing the urge to spew. In my second I couldn’t bear the taste of the energy balls I’d spent ages perfecting. So it goes. On a bike ride I’m more likely to get hungry and hit a wall but I don’t think I’ve ever really bonked on a run. Isn’t that interesting?
Anyway, practise your race nutrition in training (this includes locating, opening, extracting and then storing rubbish from gels and bars, all while moving) and just hope that you get the quantities right and that it doesn’t all nauseate you on the day.
And now, some recipes. What self-respecting blog on diet and nutrition comes without recipes? Not this one!
For the night before: TBR, which stands for tuna, broccoli and (brown) rice. This started out as a household joke about what bodybuilders eat and has gradually become a staple meal. The basic requirements are a tin of tuna, some cooked broccoli and a packet of instant brown rice, but you can add whatever you like. Some grilled haloumi, toasted seeds and nuts, extra vegetables, boiled eggs are all really good. Put everything in one big lovely dish and mix.
In the morning, granola. I highly recommend this recipe for Maple Almond Granola. It is incredibly delicious and your kitchen will smell like HEAVEN while you make it. The serving size is one or two handfuls only, so layer it with banana, rolled oats, plain yogurt, berries and a splash of milk.
And for performance snacking, you can’t beat a protein cookie. The basic recipe is equal quantities of grated apple and/or carrot, natural peanut butter, almond (or other nut) meal, and chocolate protein powder. Just squish it all together with your hands, shape into cookies and bake just enough to give the outside some firmness. I like to add other stuff like coconut butter, cacao powder, dried fruit or chocolate (not in warm weather). Oh, and salt.
So that’s my two cents! Happy eating and good training 🙂
April 13, 2015 § Leave a comment
Time for a few #mygoalrox reflections, as promised last time. Just so you know, they are mostly downers. It’s getting cold, I’ve got a cold, so I’m having a temporary slump. And as Dr Seuss says:
When you’re in a slump,
You’re not in for much fun.
is not easily done.
So in the interest of un-slumping myself, I’m offloading some of my worries (in no particular order). Number one:
My hill climbing seems to be improving a lot but I’m kind of frustrated by my descending. I’m not comfortable shooting downhills. I brake more than most people. I’m not aggressive on corners. I check behind me too often in case a vehicle is there rather than use the lane. I’m timid I guess.
It doesn’t help that I’m a lightweight, and the power to weight ratio that helps me pass the MAMILs on the way up also means that they sometimes barrel past me on the way down.
Basically, I think at some point in your life you get old and you don’t want to break things because you just have so much other shit to do that you can’t afford to not be doing. Or that’s how it feels to me.
Descending is about developing skill and managing fear. To do that you’ve gotta have number two, which is:
My confidence waxes and wanes like the moon (not in sync with it, as far as I can tell).
Some days I feel really in charge of my body and my bike and the road. Not invincible exactly (that is asking too much of a push bike) but strong and assertive.
Other days I feel like a mobile skittle, trying to dodge my way through the onslaught of peak hour bowling balls and verge debris. Sometimes people yell at you from passing cars, or blow their horns, or pass by so close that you could touch metal. Someone cursed at me from a passing car at 5.30am the other day. Up an hour before the sun and I still can’t escape some asshole in a car.
Then there’s that whole matter of internal confidence. Sometimes it gets replaced by little voices in your head that say unhelpful things, like:
You’re too old for this, what are you trying to prove?
You’re so slow.
(Variations on slow include wrinkly, pale, bloated and saggy. Sometimes all at once!)
Well, this sure is unpleasant.
Hey I wish I was running instead. Running was fun.
(It wasn’t. It was never fun. Okay maybe sometimes.)
2015 will be over soon and then you can quit exercise forever, take up internet shopping and be old, slow, wrinkly, pale, bloated and saggy.
It’s hard to get out there on the days when you feel physically or mentally vulnerable. The problem is that you don’t know what kind of ride you’re going to have until you’re having it.
They say there is strength in numbers, which brings me to number three:
Almost all of my cycling is done solo. Most of my Ks are clocked up riding to and from work, which isn’t compatible with bunch riding and coffee dates. For the most part, I enjoy my own company and it’s good that I don’t need a coach or a program to get me moving, but I do feel LONELY sometimes. So I’m trying to fix that by taking myself outside my comfort zone and riding with other actual humans sometimes.
It seems as though every female cyclist I know has a significant male cyclist in her life. I don’t know if women take up cycling because their partners ride (since male cyclists far outnumber females). Anyway, it’s really common for a female cyclist to have a boyfriend, husband or other household member who is a cyclist.I don’t. My partner runs. The closest he gets to cycling is a spin class. I’m okay with this! But just occasionally I wish he was a cyclist and/or mechanic, and then I wouldn’t have to read hill descending tips and watch Lance Armstrong fix a flat on YouTube. I could just say ‘Should this tight thing be loose?’ or ‘Should this loose thing be tight?’
To be fair, my dad is a cyclist. I spent my childhood at bike races and he taught me a lot. He still rides! But he’s nearly 80 and lives 1,500 kilometres away, so I can’t really count on him for help.
So this is my problem. I am, without question, the most talented cyclist and expert bike mechanic in my household. And that is saying very, very little because number four is:
Honey I’m having a mechanical
I can change a flat, given ten (or fifteen or, uh, twenty) minutes. If it takes longer than that, or if it is freezing and I can’t feel my fingers, or if it happens again, and I have your number, I will phone you. I can clean my bike, if by cleaning you mean washing and degreasing without removing any parts.
Make it look pretty. Do something when it goes flat. That’s it. That’s all I can do. That’s all anyone in my household can do. I don’t know how to adjust anything or service anything (this makes me a good user of the local bike shop). I can’t take a bike apart, or more importantly put it back together, which brings me to number five.
I have entered Amy’s Gran Fondo. This is my Roxcycl goal event. Truth be told it was my goal event last year but, as I said in my video, in the end I couldn’t quite get my head around the logistics of getting myself and my bike to Lorne in one piece.
I’m just a little bit freaked out about how to get my bike to Victoria, but I signed up for a challenge and that is part of my challenge.
Right, I feel SO MUCH BETTER now that I got all that off my chest. Anyone up for a ride?