EyesUp Rolling – Think Less, Ride Faster

I’m sure a few “regular” readers of this blog (hi Mum) have been on the edge of their seats for the past few weeks wondering if I actually completed the mega ride I was undertaking just after my last post explaining Why I’ve kept striving for more cycling goals.

Well I completed the 160 kms ride at a pace far faster than ever before – and went on to complete over 1000 kms of riding in the month of March.  And yes, the new gloves helped, plus the support, advice and encouragement of other Tour De Cure riders.  There is no shortage of great tips and tricks on offer – some technical, some food related, some equipment related.  But riding up a long steep climb one morning I received the best advice yet.

Think less, ride faster.

My primary goal is obviously to stay upright on the bike – so this was not an invitation to throw caution to the wind, but a reminder that what holds us back most of the time from pushing our boundaries physically, is our minds, not our bodies.

I’ve learnt that to ride faster for longer, my heart rate needs to get used to spiking higher and for longer – simply put, I need my body to develop memory for what really hard work feels like, and to know that I will recover afterwards, so that my mind doesn’t tell me to stop.  But when you are one of the slowest in the group, everyone is always waiting for you after each climb, the speed of the peloton is adjusted to suit you, and self doubt abounds.  Those little voices telling you that you’re an idiot to try this, you’re just not good enough, you have no idea what you’re doing, and you look ridiculous in lycra.

I’ve trained my inner voice not to wake up when the alarm goes off with a 4 on the clock a few days a week.  That way I’m up and about before it tells me I need to stay in bed.    Just do It, as the famous line goes.  But “not good enough” little voices were still demonising me until that moment climbing up the Old Pacific Highway.

A week after I received the advice to think less, I rode a 10km training loop 40 seconds faster than I had 6 weeks earlier…. a massive confidence boost that body and mind can be trained to go faster!

Everyone involved, whether new to it or not, is pushing themselves to their physical limits to train and complete an event like the TDC Signature Tour – for me it’s 400kms in 3 days, for some 1100kms in 9 days.  There’s a lot of effort going into fundraising, stress due to time away from family and friends, and the emotion of the personal stories surrounding the cause of finding a cure for cancer.  Some of the people I ride for were detailed in EyesUp Rolling #5 – and new ones are surfacing regularly.

The human mind is incredibly powerful…. but just like my cycling legs, my mind needs a lot of training to serve me in the way I need.   Sometimes, thinking less can help.

I’m humbled again by the support for the cause – you can find my fundraising page here if you’d like to click to contribute.

Eyes Up…..

 

 

 

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EyesUp still rolling – WHY?

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EyesUp has had a year away from blog posts – not unusual even in the brief history of this site.  Writing is sometimes a mental release and sometimes torturous as some of you will know…  one year on from my first multi-day cycling experience, an update is definitely overdue.

I am still cycling –  I’ve covered over 7,200 kms on my road bike plus a few hundred on the mountain bike added to my garage collection last year.  I completed not only 121km event in Lorne, Victoria last September but also the L’Etape Australia ride in early December, including one of craziest hill climbs known to mankind in the pouring rain.  I’ve upgraded shoes, tyres, bike computers, sunglasses and even had coaching sessions – and in a particular moment of madness participated in the Rapha #festive500 Challenge – a mere 500kms of riding between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.  Getting up before 5am has become part of my life on a regular basis… along with protein shakes, sports massages and gel bloks.

WHY?

In February 2018 I spent a total of almost 30 hours on my bike – the equivalent of 4 working days.  All those hours out on the bike provide a lot of time for reflection.  I started cycling with a goal of completing a particular event, but it has stayed in my life – a life which was, prior to that, already packed with work, family, friends and other fulfilling activities I enjoyed.   I have narrowed my “why” down to 4 things:

My competitive nature – I love difficult challenges and proving myself.  Cycling provides constant comparisons, statistics and new goals – you can always get faster and stronger – there is always another goal or event around the corner.  Since ceasing competitive sports a few years ago this has been missing from my life – now I can compete simply with my previous time or even with virtual humans on Zwift!

Gear and technology – you can NEVER have enough new gadgets or gear for your bike – and there are endless people to discuss this with!  Research abounds, new developments occur, bike shops are like a trip to the candy store, and a Wiggle delivery is like Christmas.  I am a born shopper and I love new tech – this sit right in the sweet spot for me.

People – cycling is incredibly social.  I love the solitude of a long ride on my own own some days – escaping from work or family madness.  But cycling in a group thrown together by a common cause creates relationships that would not otherwise happen – and provides diversity and colour in my life that is a constant source of joy.  When you stretch yourself physically, often it is the encouragement of others that gets you through, and this creates a shared bond – this is part of the power in the peloton.

The cause – without doubt the secret sauce – riding for a cause – taps into the other three “whys” and binds them together.  I started riding because there was an underlying reason – to raise funds for cancer research, awareness and prevention measures.  The amazing Tour De Cure team coached me, encouraged me and inspired me to ride hard and raise funds for their program which has so far resulted in 22 significant cancer breakthroughs, and taken the prevention message of Be Fit, Be Healthy, Be Happy to schools across the country.

In case you hadn’t already guessed, this is why I am still training hard – a 3 day stage ride in the 2018 Tour De Cure Signature Tour in May – 400kms from Tinaroo to Port Douglas via Cape Tribulation.  I’m currently covering 250-300kms a week – alongside work and family life this is tough, but not as tough as fighting cancer – we all know someone who has been impacted by cancer in the past 12 months – each of these stories adds a grain of determination to every 415am alarm call and each rolling hill.

Tomorrow I’m setting out on my longest ever ride of 160kms.  I am terrified, but I have some great support and a new pair of gloves to spur me on.

Please help me through the next 7 weeks of training by making a contribution to my fundraising goal of $8,000 via my profile page on the Tour De Cure website.

Now I’m off to get my bike ready for tomorrow… let’s hope I can keep my EyesUp the whole way…..

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EyesUp Rolling #8 – in the TDC bubble

I come to you from inside what is known as the Tour De Cure “bubble”….  an intense multi-day experience which cannot fail to have an impact on the way you see life and especially other human beings.

For starters, the logistics are nothing short of astonishing – more than 140 riders, numerous support crew, 2 overnight stops, food, laundry, bike storage – and that’s before you’ve got everyone from A to B via a route of over 100kms per day.  Someone has thought of everything, all we have to do is follow the schedule.

Then there’s the riding – there will not be a person on this ride, however experienced, who won’t be challenged at some point by hills, descents, rain, wind, debris on the road, mechanical issues…. I’ve dug deeper in 2 days than I have for a very long time, physically and mentally.   I expected this to be hard work but there are so many things you can’t control, such as a flat tyre or a closed road, that can throw you off course and invite you to quit.

So what has kept us going?  And why have so many people given up their time to not only train and ride but to act as support crew pouring drinks, moving bags, navigating the peloton cars.  Everyone has a story behind why they are participating, and while we are in the bubble, these stories start to come out and make sense.  Add in the stories from local cancer charities we are donating to, such as last night’s speech from the founder of Quest for Life Petrea King, and not only are we frequently reaching for the tissues but really understanding that what we are doing is making a difference.

Today we made our first school visit, to deliver the Tour de Cure “Be Fit Be Healthy Be Happy” message – and we learnt about Flipman and his nemesis Pitman – I won’t steal their thunder here but it’s worth looking them up on the Tour De Cure School Program page.  I remember many years ago how great it was when a special event happened at school – you got to miss classes and enjoy a break in the routine – it was really special to see the excitement on the kids faces, to hear them understanding the messages that a healthy lifestyle and looking after each other can make a difference in preventing many cancers.  And great to see how they embraces us as riders and we’re full of interesting questions… I was quizzed at length about my shoes and the pockets in the back of my cycling top!!

Looking forward to tonight’s dinner and our final day tomorrow which will both be filled with emotion, I have two things I will take away with me in addition to knowing we have raised funds and awareness to help prevent and cure cancer.

Firstly, I have reminded myself that I am capable of so much more than I think.  The night before the ride I received an inspiring message from my parents re-telling the story of when I first learnt to ride a bike when I was around 4 years old.  I actually still remember setting off without the training wheels along the pavement and chanting out loudly “I WILL DO IT”.  I have been riding a road bike for 12 weeks and tomorrow I will complete 300kms in 3 days riding in esteemed Tour De Cure company, raising over $12,000.  I must continue to set myself goals and test my ability to be the best I can.

Secondly, I have been reminded over and over again how amazing human beings can be.  If you open a newspaper or turn on the TV it’s easy to forget this.  We have formed a Tour 200 team with a cross section of both Westpac and sponsor employees of all levels, but when the peloton rolls out everyone is there for each other.  We know we’ve formed both useful relationships and deep bonds, but as we leave the TDC bubble I will take away the mantra that generosity of spirit is the most important trait I can tap into at both work and home.

If you’ve read a few additions of EyesUp Rolling you’ll know I’ve mentioned several of the people I have been training and riding for.  They have all sat on my shoulder when things got tough in the past two days, and I know they’ll be there tomorrow too.  I have heard their voices and seen their faces, and continued to draw the inspiration to take just one more pedal stroke.

I’ll be keeping my EyesUp in the mighty Peloton 3 for one more day – the Westpac Tour 200 will come to an end tomorrow.  But the Tour De Cure bubble won’t be bursting, it will continue to growand float higher.

#tour200 @tourdecureaus @specialized_bikes @jetcyclessydney

 

EyesUp Rolling #7 – who ate all the pies?

Food.  It’s constantly on the mind of anyone who is cycling a lot.  One of the unexpected positive side effects of riding 200kms per week has been that you can basically eat and drink what you like, providing you get into bed before 10pm most nights.

So you’d think I would have been prepared last night when, following our pre-Tour 200 get together, we headed off for a well earned beverage and some finger food – sadly I stopped to chat by the door for less than 10 minutes and in that time, as if by magic, the pies and pizza slices had all disappeared behind a horde of hungry cyclists.  I was forced to compensate with a couple (ish) glasses of the finest Pinot Grigio.  Fortunately, there was a suitably large plate of curry waiting for me when I got home.

It is impossible to understate the importance of food to me during the past 12 weeks of training.  When combining early morning rides with a busy day of meetings, one slice of toast too few could result in an inability to operate basic Microsoft Office applications.  On long weekend rides which have run over time I came up with the genius method of texting ahead to my husband to prepare a plate of bacon and scrambled eggs.  These can be gobbled down as soon as I walk through the door.  Trying this with the teenagers in the house was a disaster though….they never got the messages despite still languishing in bed when I returned ravenous  – turned out their attention was on maintaining 10+ snapchat streaks rather than on feeding me.  Thank goodness for the large pile of emergency Bounce protein balls in the cupboard.

I’m eternally grateful this year that hot cross buns made their usual unseasonal appearance in January.  I tend to hold off from eating these until Easter week, but I reckon I’ve been averaging a packet or so a week on my own. Working out exactly what works best as fuel before, during and after riding has been what we call in technology a “test and learn” process.  As a result I’ve learnt to restrict my intake of Thai takeaway the night before a ride, but landed firmly in favour of scrambled eggs before or afterwards.  Test results on hot cross buns are mixed.  And of course a cold Corona definitely has nutritional value after a long, hot slog around Akuna Bay.  Even if it is still 11am…

So the actual 3 days of the Tour 200 is upon us.  Looking back at EyesUp Rolling #1 I am happy to report that I have reached a level where I feel I can call myself a road cyclist, based on the following criteria:

  •  My Tour 200 gear is COVERED in sponsor logos;
  • I now own more than 5 pairs of various coloured cycling socks, and 4 sets of very comfortable cycling knicks ;
  • The pony tail ready helmet still rocks my world but not as much as chamois cream;
  • I am on first name terms with most of the staff at Jet Cycles and I have even purchased a refill for my chain cleaner;
  • I finally cracked it and got a Garmin, complete with cadence sensor.

There are 2 choices post Tour – stop eating or keep cycling.  Hopefully I can find a balance somewhere between the two……

Massive shout out to everyone for reading my blog and giving feedback.  Bigger shout out to all those who have sponsored me, to my gorgeous family for supporting me, and to my 2 dogs for putting up with a lot less walks.

EyesUp will be on air wherever possible relaying how the Tour 200 experience unfolds…. can’t wait!

 

 

 

EyesUp Rolling #4 – the power of the peloton

Riding around Sydney on your road bike, even on your own, is fun and good exercise.  Add in a couple of riding buddies and you get the opportunity to have a bit of a chat.  But add in another 20+ people and you have a peloton.  This is when it starts to get serious.

We’ve all watched big cycling road races like the Tour De France, where the pack sticks together and chases down some poor lone rider who has dared to strike out on his own.  Even when race teams are competing against each other, the peloton is used to move everyone along at a faster pace.  The load is shared in order to get through the distance in the most efficient way.

Riders in organised road races have the luxury of a road closed to other traffic.  Training for the Westpac Tour 200 on the roads of Sydney is a different kettle of fish altogether – and the peloton is force to be reckoned with.  Get 20 riders in formation, 2 by 2, riding tight on each other’s back wheel, and the peloton takes up the same space as a semi trailer on the road, having the right to a whole lane.  But riding in a peloton requires intense concentration and the ability to speak a whole new language – both verbally and in hand signals for when you are too tired to talk. (Read the Tour De Cure etiquette guide for more detail if you need it!)

Some calls are obvious – a shout of “hole middle” meaning there is a hole in the road you might like to avoid – or “car back” meaning a car is coming around the group.  Others are plain confusing until you get used to them – “Over” means over to the RIGHT – but only gets called from the BACK of the peloton where there is visibility to the front that all is safe.  And the signal for moving to single file, holding your hand straight up on your head, is bizarrely the same as the signal for “SHARK” if you’ve ever been scuba diving…..

The true power in the peloton is the fact that as a group, you are more powerful than on your own.  Stronger riders rotate through the front, driving the speed and buffering those behind from headwinds.  Weaker or struggling riders travel directly behind this “engine room” in what is known as the armchair or “business class” – taking full advantage of the wind break and drag from the engine room in front.  Bringing up the rear is another set of stronger riders who ensure the peloton stays together and make key calls as other vehicles come past.

Riding in a peloton reminds me how individuals can be organised to make a difference to each other.  Charities such as Tour De Cure are based on this principal – an idea to raise funds for cancer research started over a coffee chat has resulted in funding for key research breakthroughs in treatment.  I’ve also been fortunate to be involved with another fantastic cancer charity, the Nelune Foundation,  and I will be dedicating a day of my Tour 200 ride to the amazing Nelune and Anna,the Nelune Foundation founders.

I can’t do credit to Nelune and Anna’s story here, but this clip from a few years ago will give you an overview.   The reason I will ride for them is to honour their commitment to making a difference, to finding areas which are gaps in the system, and rallying support through their networks to fund ever increasingly ambitious projects.  The power they call on is simply to engage people in the story, and to develop genuinely human relationships which create a groundswell of support for their causes.  From grass roots patient transfer services for chemo treatments, right up to world class cancer centres, the Nelune Foundation seeks to help patients fight cancer with dignity.   They have previously benefitted from Tour De Cure grants for their projects and I hope will again in the future.

The human relationships being formed during the Tour 200 will enrich our lives for a long time to come.  The power of our peloton is people power, and together we ride stronger than on their own.  The power of Tour De Cure & the Nelune Foundation is also people power, everyday human beings striving hard to make a difference.  Sure, there’s a lot of emotion in that statement, but also a lot of facts and real results to show this is worth all the effort.

Donations to this ride will got straight to Tour De Cure where the next breakthrough can’t be far away – 18 cancer breakthroughs have been directly attributed to research funded by Tour De Cure.

EyesUp and feel the power…..

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EyesUp Rolling #3 – double shot please

I mentioned in EyesUp Rolling #1 that cyclists seem to hang out in cafes early in the mornings.  In fact you could be forgiven for wondering if some of them have actually ridden anywhere at all before the coffee stop, perhaps they just put on the lycra and pottered down to the end of the street for that first morning fix.  But the fact is stopping for coffee is an essential part of the cycling ritual.  It’s that moment you get to reflect on your ride, relax for a moment and of course whip out your phone and analyse every section you’ve covered on Strava.

I’ve known several keen cyclists over recent years – and a number of them are massive coffee drinkers.  This always surprised me as I assumed the amount of exercise cyclists get through meant a constant flow of happy endorphin hormones would make caffeine irrelevant.

It’s taken me into my 7th week of hard training to realise that when you ride a bike this much, coffee is not only a nice habit, it’s an absolute necessity.  In fact on big training days I suddenly realised the words “double shot please” were starting to roll off my tongue as easily as “I’d love another glass of champagne thank you” usually does.  The fact is, training this hard is bloody tiring and some days caffeine is all that is going to keep you upright.  I’ve actually worked out that stopping for a quick double espresso two thirds through a hilly training ride gets me home pretty nicely – follow up with my energy gel of choice, a couple of Clif bloks which surprise surprise, have added caffeine… and it’s downhill all the way.

Whilst out on the road struggling through a long hill ride this week, I reflected on the experience of one of the people I’ll be riding for in the Tour 200, Steve.  He had just turned 40 when he was diagnosed with a melanoma, which he thought nothing of and had removed in almost routine fashion – but it had spread and was particularly resistant to treatment.  He had 2 boys similar ages to my own, and was just expecting twins with his beautiful wife – they were renovating their home to fit the expanding family.  Steve played the hand he had been dealt.  He was realistic about his situation, but eternally optimistic, never afraid to discuss the real details but determined to live every moment.  He tried organic food, yoga, and signed up for experimental treatments where offered.   I have no doubt these extended his life so he saw his daughters turn 2; but undergoing those treatments no doubt also contributed to better outcomes for future patients.  This is why funding research is so important.

For every cancer patient and their loved ones, there are different angles to each story.  But as a friend, I saw from a distance the amount of pain and tiredness he went through during treatments and as he became less and less well.  How it was a struggle to do the things he used to do, how his family had to adjust around him. This is why funding for grass roots cancer charities providing support for patients and their families is so important.

Right now I am fortunate to have a supportive family, good health and the opportunity to raise funds to make a difference.  It is hard work but a small sacrifice for a few weeks  – so please take a minute to donate to my Tour 200 page  – I’m nearly half way to my target with 6 weeks to go so every bit helps!

EyesUp remaining Wide Open thanks to the double shots……

 

 

EyesUp Rolling #1 – all the gear, no idea

I’ve always had a strange fascination with the MAMILs (middle aged men in lycra) who frequent the cafes of my local area when I’m returning from my morning surf or dog walk. Yes I am talking about road cyclists. Apparently, cycling is the new golf. So late last year when I received an invitation to participate in a 3 day cycling event, I was keen to find out more. I’d already set myself a goal to get fitter and raise more money for cancer charities in 2017, and this seemed to fit the bill – 300kms with 99 others, organised in conjunction with Tour De Cure. My application was accepted and then the realisation hit me that I did not own a road bike, so the first step was to buy one.

I was already well acquainted with several keen cyclists, but I underestimated the number of people eager to contribute advice and tips on the purchase of not only an appropriate bike but the associated gear. I also hadn’t realised that it is easily possible to spend an amount equivalent to a luxury overseas holiday or a small car without even trying! Road bikes don’t even come with usable pedals, clip in shoes don’t come with the clips, your usual bike pump requires a different attachment… the list continues. You can even add in a special machine to clean your chain with.  As a black belt shopper and lover of gadgetry, this was definitely a whole new avenue of interest awaiting my attention.

Whilst collecting my beautiful new wheels from the bike shop, I observed the lengths a truly dedicated MAMIL will go to in the name of ensuring the correct look. The rider in question was in search of the appropriate water bottle cage for his very expensive looking black and white machine – the selection process focussed on 2 colours – black or white – which would ensure complete colour co-ordination from the tip of his black helmet to the toes of his white shoes. But the choice was difficult – and in a scene reminiscent of a teenage girl in the change room at Zara, could only be settled by sending photos to an unknown person (I assume an associated MAMIL) whilst discussing loudly over the phone. His final choice will remain a mystery as he was still in deliberation when I left.

So now, thanks to the amazing David at Jet Cycles in Sydney, and the generous Tour De Cure discount offered by Specialized, I am the proud owner of a brand spanking new bike as pictured above (note associated bags of additional essential gear!)

Here’s what I learnt in order to look the part:

  • Cyclists are impressed by brands and logos. On the bike, shirts, shorts, socks, water bottles, everywhere. The more logos the better. Extra points for everything with the same logo.
  • Socks are strangely important. Not too short, not too long, they should be absolutely in the middle of your calf. Seriously, people have written blogs way more impressive than this one on this topic. Unfortunately, if you cycle in summer you will get an interesting tan line.
  • Buy the most expensive and comfortable pair of cycling shorts you can afford. Sorry, you cannot get these in Target. I have been training now for 4 weeks and trust me this is an area you do not want to skimp on.
  • Specialized have finally designed a bike helmet for women that accommodates a pony tail. If you have long hair you will realise that this is life changing.
  • Regular visits to the bike shop are essential to browse for new gadgets, discuss the latest energy gels and restock those very important socks in different colourways.  Fortunately Jet Cycles is a stone’s throw from the office.

My transition from one spin class a week to 300kms on a road in 3 days has commenced. There are less than 8 weeks to go, and the time and energy commitment is intense – but a whole lot easier than battling cancer. My aim is to find 100 people to donate $100 to sponsor the ride. All funds go to the Tour De Cure, ride costs are covered by Westpac.

Here’s my fundraising page, where you can not only make a contribution, but find out more about the ride and where the money goes. I’ll be back soon with a training update (follow me on Strava if you know what that is!) …… and I’ll let you know if I ever use that chain cleaning gadget…..

EyesUp started as a surfing tip for me, but it certainly applies when riding in a peleton.  Ride safe everyone!!