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 #2 – a pinch is not a hill, even though it feels like one

When you travel around Sydney on a bicycle, you suddenly start to realise that very few roads are actually flat at all.  However light your fancy road bike, suddenly every rise and fall in the route is amplified.  Travelling up hill remains my biggest challenge both physically and mentally.

Over a few weeks of training I’ve gained some confidence in my ability to make it, however slowly, to the top of most hills – clip in shoes are a definite help here despite being a serious barrier to my previous hill climbing strategy of just getting off and walking.

On my first proper group ride I was consistently confused by the call of “pinch coming up”, followed by a rise in the terrain and the associated dropping down through the gears and shortening of breath.  I relaxed a little when no one behind me actually used an old fashioned finger pinch to encourage me up the hill faster, but given I couldn’t speak after the climb I kept forgetting to ask for an explanation.  On reviewing my Strava feed later, I could see numerous sections labelled as “Pinch” – I was intrigued. (For those not familiar with Strava, it’s social media for cyclists, perhaps a subject of a future blog!).

I eventually summoned up the courage to ask a riding buddy what a pinch was.  The explanation was simple – it’s the psychological trick cyclists use of not referring to a hill as such unless it is truly worthy of the label.  A Pinch is something you must simply power up and absolutely not complain about.

Armed with this knowledge and approach, I recently completed my first ride of over 100kms.  As I reflected on this achievement, I took some time to ponder some of the reasons I’ve undertaken this Westpac Tour 200 challenge.  Starting with the funerals I wish I had never been to.

The mother of my son’s friend at childcare who lost her battle with breast cancer in her 30s. The father of a family with boys the same ages as mine who died from melanoma in his early 40s.  The amazing woman who would have been my sister-in-law now if she hadn’t been taken at the age of 39 by ovarian cancer.  The friend who undertook radical surgery and treatment to survive many years longer than predicted to just see his son reach 17 years old.

When I think of these people I find both inspiration in their approach to their situations and frustration that an answer could not be found – I want to feel that I can do something, however small, to prevent this happening to someone else.

 

 

The work of Tour De Cure and similar organisations is vital in funding initiatives and research to support cancer patients, their loved ones and work towards better treatments and research, as well as raising awareness in the community of how getting fit and staying healthy can help prevent many cancers.  I have an opportunity to make a difference, simply by putting some time aside to train, enduring some physical pain and fundraising through my network of friends, family and business contacts.

Those fighting cancer have hills and mountains to climb step by step every day.  I have a small, insignificant pinch of 300kms to power up which can make a difference.

I’m looking for 100 people with $100 each to support me as I ride – thank you to those who’ve helped me get 20% of the way there with 7 weeks to go!  I’m sure there are at least 80 more of you out there, so please donate what you can to my fundraising page here and follow this blog to track my progress.

Ride safe everyone and keep those EyesUp!

 

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!!

 

Eyes Up #13 – #MakeItHappen – Hell Yeah!

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As I contemplated the messages from this year’s International Women’s Day, I realised the reason I haven’t been blogging for a few weeks is because of the sheer amount of interesting events I’ve been attending and the interesting people I’ve been meeting and hearing from.  IWD has become a high profile event in the calendar and a fantastic catalyst to examine how we are both recognising the contribution of women in our society and taking personal accountability for championing change.  This theme was highlighted in my last post, and my recent observations have reinforced my belief that we can all Make Things Happen for ourselves.

A year ago my commitment on IWD 2014 was to ensure I started meaningful conversations on how the way we interact is subject to our own conscious and unconscious biases – most of which are a product of our cultural background and upbringing.  Now I used to consider this type of statement as strictly belonging to the school of political correctness and hence having no real meaning in my life – but one incident a few months back made me reconsider.

A work colleague came into the office with her two young children, a girl just starting school, and a pre-school boy.  As a mother of boys, I naturally was captivated by the mini-man figure with all his bravado and apparent technical prowess with my own work computer.  But when the 6 year old girl had finished drawing a beautiful picture on my desk, I was quick to say how great it was.  She then said something that surprised me – “this picture is for you to take home and show your husband”.  Now that was a lovely thought – but the fact is, at the age of 6, she had no idea of my marital status or even my sexual orientation – she simply assumed, from her own stable nuclear family background, that any woman of my age would have a husband waiting at home, just for the purpose of congratulating me on my day.

Don’t get me wrong – I have no wish to question this lovely image in her mind.  But to me, IWD is about the possibilities for all women to be empowered to live the lives they chose at the time they chose in the way they chose – and to be able to fully realise their potential without the hinderance of bias and discrimination.  All of us grow up with our own experiences colouring our view of what we are and what we are capable of –  which brings me to the “Hell Yeah” moment.

Last month I was fortunate enough to attend a function in aid of 7 times World Surfing Champion Layne Beachley’s Aim for the Stars foundation.  Layne was on a panel of illustrious Australian female sporting stars that evening, and she was asked the question of how she choses between the many options she is now presented with of where to spend her valuable time.  I really loved her response, which was that if unless her natural reaction to a request is “Hell Yeah” she really thinks carefully before accepting.

I’ve taken the “Hell Yeah” as a call to action for how I want to progress in my own life and the example I want to give for my children.  If something feels right and I think I have the potential to do it, I will take a chance even though I don’t have the expertise.  If I can help someone else with a difficult time through sharing my own experiences, I will put myself out there and tell my story.  If I can show my children I can exhibit of tolerance and acceptance, I will try my hardest to demonstrate those traits.  I will not live my life wishing I had been something more, I will be something more.  I have a personal responsibility to show the next generation what it means to be the best you can be, however that looks.

It may be one day at a time, but I will not die wondering.  I WILL #makeithappen.

Hell Yeah.

 

Eyes Up #12 – For things to change, first I must change

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Recent discussion on the numbers of women in leadership has returned to the idea of quotas – including this article:

Quotas will put women of merit in top jobs

I have often pondered why quotas are seen to be evil.  Collectively, I think we believe that we are better than that given we all understand that women are equally as talented and educated as men in Australia today.  Indeed several senior executives I have spoken too would acknowledge that women are frequently more competent and knowledgeable than men at the comparable level in their chosen fields.

My view is that we all like to believe change can happen organically as part of a natural progression, once we all recognise and acknowledge the obvious benefits.  I don’t wish to feel constrained or dictated to by artificial quotas, targets or policies – I want the freedom to run my teams and businesses in the way I think is best – right person, right role, regardless of their gender, culture or lifestyle choices.  So quotas – which are more carrot than stick – are in my view a motivation that can work.  Much as I will tell my children they must eat 2 bites of broccoli before they have dessert.  But the “broccoli quota” doesn’t actually make them like or appreciate broccoli, they just grit their teeth and get through it, or worse hide the green stuff in their pockets, with the ice cream at the end the reward.

I think any public discussion of these topics helps, but I draw the most inspiration where we seek to put responsibility for change in the hands of the individual.  Recent references include Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant’s article:

Speaking While Female

So I ask myself – what actions am I taking to be a catalyst for change?  For a start I’m writing this blog, which is part of my commitment in 2014 to facilitate open discussion on the issue of women in leadership.  I believe real, sustainable change will only happen when we all recognise the need for personal, individual responsibility, including calling out inappropriate behaviour when we see it.  I am a fan of the sometimes controversial Male Champions of Change initiative, because it is leveraging the status of the current male dominated ranks of CEOs in corporate Australia to model behaviour and act as catalysts to initiate change – but as individuals taking responsibility upon themselves.  So I will continue this year to create talking points wherever possible and progress my own career.

But I also recommend we keep an eye on the future and question the way we present ourselves to future generations.  We all have the ability to act as role models day in, day out to not only our own kids but others we interact with, in both the ways we act and the things we say.

I was very proud of my teenage son when he announced last year he didn’t want me to buy Tim Tams anymore because he knew eating 2 packs a week was not healthy for him.  He had taken responsibility for change himself.  I was equally proud when he noted with horror that he had just realised how many mothers of his school mates didn’t work – but told me he thought it perfectly normal that I did.  In fact he thought it was better for everyone!  That moment melted away a decade of working parent guilt.

We should never underestimate the power of the individual – and neither should we abdicate responsibility for change to a system of quotas, targets or endorsement by senior leaders.  We should all just walk the talk ourselves in whatever way we can, and remember that doing nothing is akin to endorsing the status quo.

 

Eyes Up #11 – Courage can be a quiet thing

9-roaring-tiger-981I saw a quote today on Facebook.

“Courage doesn’t always roar.  Sometimes Courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow'”.

We are constantly told to be courageous these days – to speak up, to be different, to innovate.  This quote actually brought tears to my eyes as I considered it, because so many different takes on courage suddenly flooded my mind and challenged me to consider what the word means for me.

I’ve bungy jumped, sky dived, taken off on my surfboard far to late on waves too big for me, driven my car too fast, trekked in Nepal and even been on the Funnel Web at Jamberoo.  All required a form of courage but honestly, mostly the motivation is to be one of the group I was with, or to prove something, rather than to show genuine individual courage.

My true moments of courage came almost 4 years ago when I felt my life was in ruins, and I had decided the world was better off without me.  I had to find the courage to accept help, and rebuild myself piece by piece – sometimes hour by hour.  This was a slow and steady process, but it became a solid foundation which has changed my perspective on life and altered the benchmark for what is really the worst thing that can happen – my aspiration is that I can take this foundation forward and ensure I make the most of the potential I have to make a difference in some small piece of the world.

In the business world this week I came across an interesting example of courage which I have admired: the retirement of the CEO at the organisation I work – the subsequent appointment of her successor, and the associated internal candidate who came second in that race.  The courage of the retiring CEO is out there for all to see – roar and all!  But for the 2 candidates for succession, this has been a long hard road chasing a goal that only one could attain.  Both internally and externally, we treat these contenders as public property – we all have an opinion, we de-humanise them, we may even mock them.  But they’ve both shown ongoing tenacity, dedication and passion.

So today I want to highlight the respect I have for the courage those guys showed to put themselves out there, knowing one would fail… sure, they earn the big bucks, but they’ve both had the courage to move forward with a goal in mind each day; and in the process, they have provided me with inspiration to aim high, despite the possibility of failure.

I hope they can both sit down quietly after a turbulent week, reflect, and try again tomorrow.