Saturday, May 26, 2012

Supermarket Sherpa

Much to my wife's dislike, I rarely involve myself in the ritual that is the weekly grocery shop. Usually, I am out riding my bike or working or riding my bike or away at a race, riding my bike. Food seems to just magically appear in our cupboards each week and I'm not sure where our never ending bottle of milk came from but it is a blessing.

When I do manage to make the rare appearance at the supermarket with my wife, I've usually just finished a ride and am starving. Consequently, I walk around and grab pretty much everything the shelves and throw it into the trolley. Later, on a full stomach, I wonder what I was thinking when I picked up that 20 pack of donuts.

Due to this habit, I have been put on a short leash whilst shopping for groceries. My duties revolve around pushing the shopping trolley and guarding my wife's hand bag as she gathers things from the shopping list. I am given some leeway in the form of three (and three only) impulse purchases. I need to choose carefully and be sure that I don't waste any of them on something frivilous like tic tacs.

With only three impulse purchases allowed, I have had to be quite careful in my choices. So much so, that I have had to develop some guidelines and 'cheats' that I can employ.

1. Two for one deals only count as one purchase.
2. Buying bulk items like ice-cream may seem wise, but it means I need to wait until I get home to reap the rewards
3. Multi-packs are the way to go. It means I get one now and even more later.
4. If I can convince Emily the an item is a 'necessity', then it doesn't count.
5. I need to weigh up time vs reward when selecting food. If it takes more time or more calories to prepare the food than it does to eat, its just not worth it. For example: prawns are way too much effort for the reward as are difficult to peel mandarins. Water melon may seem like an okay choice but when you factor in clean up time, its not worth it. Basically, I want instant satisfaction.

So, based on these guidelines (and an empty stomach), I chose a turkish delight and picnic bar (a 2for1 deal), a strawberry flavoured milk that didn't make it out of the supermarket and a box of sultana bran (mainly because I always get blamed for finishing off Emily's home made muesli but never contributing to the manufacturing process). In retrospect, I probably could have convinced Emily that the last one was a necessity. Damn it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

QLD Team Series Rnd 3

The 3rd round of the QLD Team Series kicked off with a 15km individual time trial around an undulating loop at Gatton. Every time trial that I have ever done has hurt like hell but for some reason, I’m always overly confident and optimistic before the start of the next one. A lengthy warm up means the legs feel good and I can’t help but anticipate a fast time. I forget the last time trial that I did and how much it hurt to somehow convince myself that I am going to absolutely smash this one.

30sec into the time trial and all optimism goes out of the window. I remember why I don’t like them as I struggle for oxygen on a usually ill-fitting time trial bike that I haven’t ridden enough to be comfortable on. This time trial was no different. I crossed the line with a dry mouth and burning legs, hoping that I beat Tim’s time because I told him I would in a moment of blind confidence before the start.

I finished in 22nd place. A full 30 seconds behind Tim. At this point, I start to think about where I lost time... 5 seconds when I stuffed around with my water bottle. 5 seconds when I braked for that corner. 5 seconds when I free wheeled down the hill. 5 seconds when I didn’t change gears going up the hill. Etc etc etc. Why didn’t I just pedal harder??? Oh that’s right, cause I was in a world of pain! Thank goodness for hindsight.

Stage 2 was on the same course as the road race, taking in 7 laps of the 15km loop. As it was the first relatively flat stage in the QTS, all of the sprinters were hopeful and keen for their chance to shine. A bunch sprint was inevitable, so the plan was to conserve energy and finish as high as possible.

The race went by relatively uneventfully, with break aways barely getting 20m up the road before they are reeled back in. At the end of the 4th lap, we began the descent into the finish when my front tyre exploded. We were on the fastest section of the course and strung out in single file. With the team car in the final position in the convoy, I had to wait for what felt like an eternity for a spare wheel. I pulled over, and out of pure habit, I pulled the rear wheel out of my bike, usually the tyre that suffers a puncture. I realised that I had it wrong and put it back in, hoping that the tv camera that was filming me didn’t pick up on my error. I took out the front wheel as Bruce handed me a spare before starting my chase in the hardest possible gear that I had.

Bruce made his way to the car and then back in front of me to draft me back onto the bunch. ¾ of a lap later, I managed to just make my way back through the convoy and onto the tail of the peleton. I was relieved because due to my efforts, my right hamstring was threatening to cramp at any moment. Waiting at the back of the bunch was Matt and Andy who were quick to say, ‘right, lets get you back up the front’. Aware of my hamstring’s situation, I took some time to recover and refuel myself.

I made my way to the front of the race, just in time to see a small group of 5 riders slowly roll off ahead of the bunch. No one seemed intent on chasing and as we were halfway around the final lap, they had a gap of about 150m. With 4km to go, I pounced of the front of the bunch, only to be met by an angry hamstring. I was swallowed up and did my best to avoid the usual final km carnage to cross the line in the middle of the field. Fortunately, Matt & Brad were far better positioned and finished in 12th and 15th positions respectively.

The following day, we returned to Gatton for the far more hilly stage 3. We had 5 laps of a 21km circuit that took in a short but painful climb. After a few undulations, we were met with a 200m climb to the KOM but for some reason, it felt like the longest 200m of my life. After 3 laps, I was pretty sure that I was not going to make it over the final two KOM’s in the bunch. My hamstring was still a little upset at me for the previous day’s effort and was getting angrier with every lap.Matt was fighting gravity each lap which left Brad, Andy and myself to search for points in the top 30 positions.

Lap 4 went over the KOM in a, thankfully, subdued manner which meant that I only had to hang on for one more lap. As we headed into the climb for the final time, I made my way to the front to give me maximum ‘backward drift’ distance as we went up. I was managing fine until 50m from the top when a touch of wheels saw two riders hit the bitumen in front of me. I braked and swerved to get around it and leave myself with a small gap to close. I made it back across and fought my way forward again. The sprint for the finish was slightly uphill, which made it look almost slow motion as everyone gave it their all. I crossed the line hopeful that I had made it inside the top 30 where points could be maximised, only to be disappointed to discover that I had finished in 32nd place.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Riding for a Masters Team has many benefits: The guys have years of experience. They are always well prepared for races and have thought of pretty much everything. And if you are all in a group together, they make you look deceptively younger with more hair. Despite this, during Open events, it means that they race in their own category and the younger guys are left to fend for themselves. At the Battle on the Border a couple of weeks ago, Oliver and I were left to race in A-Grade, whilst the rest of the team fought it out in the Masters A category.

Things did not start out well for Oliver. In the opening time trial, his run was interrupted by several cars that pulled out onto the course in front of him. Not expecting to be an overall contender, this didn’t faze Ollie, as he was hoping to help me better my position in the road races after finishing the time trial in 9th position.

Stage two was 142km long with 3 laps of an undulating course. On the first lap, we hit the climb and Ollie dropped down to the small chainring only to have his chain fall off. He stopped to rectify the problem then chased the peleton down to rejoin the front group. This, in itself, is no mean feat and I was shocked to see him make it back. 

At the start of the 2nd lap, I was sitting behind Oliver as we rolled through the start/finish line. With an extremely loud BANG and a puff of white powder, Oliver’s rear tyre exploded and he was again left standing on the side of the road. Any normal person would have had enough by now and called it a day but Ollie got a spare wheel, got back on his bike and chased the bunch down again on possibly the fastest part of the course. I was even more surprised to see him make it back a second time.

A quarter of the way around the last lap, a small group of riders was left at the pointy end of the race. Fortunately, Oliver and myself were included. On a flat, dead straight section of road, a rider, for whatever reason, moved out from the bunch. As he did so, he took out Oliver’s front wheel and he hit the ground, landing on his shoulder.

After previously breaking his collar bone, the pain made him think the worst, however, a trip to the hospital confirmed that it wasn’t broken and it was more likely dislocated.  Either way, his race was done. After a day of exceptionally bad luck, I suggested Oliver buy a lottery ticket, as it could only get better, but I think he was so high on Morphine that he can’t remember.

This left just myself to represent the Mainline team in A-grade and also made it very difficult to have a large effect on the race proceedings. I decided to sit in and hopefully finish the race in the front group. After time bonuses were rewarded for stage 2, I was sitting in 13th position overall with another road race and tight street criterium remaining.

Stage 3 saw the race ascend what I considered a fairly hefty climb 3 times in total, and I was hoping to just hang on. The first and second ascents up the hill were at a relatively easy pace but the 3rd was much faster and after the legs had over 100km already in them. I managed to just hang on to the front half of the group and head towards the finish line in the bunch. The finish saw no change to the overall standings.

The last stage was a tight criterium with many sharp turns. Having raced it a number of times in the past, I knew position at the start was key as it was very easy for a gap to open up and to lose contact with the front. I got to the start line 15 minutes early and still had to push my way forward. With the main contender’s teams at the front of the race, I was now hoping to Steven Bradbury my way into the top ten. After 45mins and a couple of crashes, I was still sitting comfortably near the front. Fortunately, a couple of riders in front of me in the overall standings were poorly positioned at the start of the race and were withdrawn after being lapped. In the aftermath, I managed to claw my way up to 11th position overall, just 18sec short of the top 10. I managed to make up 2 places, but it was no Steven Bradbury.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Claw Hand

If there is an activity that cyclists are not meant to do, its rock climbing. On Sunday, fresh from my Laundry Workout Session, I had the chance to give it a go. As part of work activities, we hit Rocksports Indoor Climbing Centre at the Valley.

I’ve done it in the past, and generally only tackled the easier climbs. This time, rather than wasting what little upper body strength I have at the beginning on the easy climbs, I decided to take on the harder, cliff hanger, Mission Impossible – style climbs.

I conquered them all (with relative ease), and my forearms didn’t even cramp once. However, when I got home and opened the fridge to take a swig of milk from the bottle (as all men should), my fingers locked up.

My hand was cramped into a claw-like pose and I had to press my hand against the counter to stretch them out again. For the next couple of hours, I had limited dexterity in my hands and my fingers continued to revert to the claw pose as I tried remove clothing, open door handles and brush my teeth. Interestingly, if you Google 'claw hand', you will find that it is an actual medical term!