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 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 #6 – Slow Down in front

This cycling journey has been full of surprises.  Last weekend I found myself at the front of the peloton about 15 kms into our 100km training ride.  Given it was 10 weeks to the day since I picked up my bike for the first time, this was surprising in itself.  However what came next was even more of a shock – a call came from the back “Slow Down in Front”. Seriously?!  Never in my wildest cycling fantasies did I ever expect such a call to be directed at me.

Actually to tell the truth I never really had any cycling fantasies.  Taking on the challenge to ride the Westpac Tour 200, 300 kms over 3 days, my aspiration was simply to make it to the starting line and reach my ambitious fundraising target.  With less than 2 weeks to go it looks like I’m odds on to make it – now the hardest days of training are done, it’s time to regroup and rest up for the big ride.  So the “slow down” call has come at the perfect time to prompt some more considered reflection and importantly, to remind me to appreciate what I have around me.

Caught up in the mad maelstrom of the past few weeks of training, work, more training, getting kids back to school, training again, fundraising, physio, more work, getting kids to sport, yet more training, I’ve often looked to deep emotional stories to act as inspiration and to focus on the next milestone.  I have driven myself hard for a good cause but still tried to do everything else… I have forgotten what I learnt a few years ago about the importance of slowing down.

This week marks 6 years since the devastating Christchurch earthquakes.  My life was somewhat in disarray at that time as well, and I was being treated for anxiety and depression.  As part of  my recovery, I realised the power in asking those around for help when I needed it, stopping to smell the roses along the way, and learning to appreciate the present moment more than I ever had before.

The beauty of the peloton, as described in EyesUp Rolling #4, is that it is more powerful together than the sum of its parts.  Riders at the front might be trying to get their as fast as they can, but if the peloton splits those behind will need to work 30% harder.  So the “Slow Down” call is part of ensuring we continue to help each other by sticking together and riding to the pace of the slowest.

Off the bike, the Tour group has formed a close community,a support network with great encouragement shown by more experienced riders towards the novices, and connections forged over chats during rides and coffee stops that will endure beyond the event.

I have achieved my training goals and my ambitious fundraising target.  Time to slow down and enjoy what is going on.  Stop occasionally on a morning ride and snap a photo of the sunrise.  Live in the moment, but recognise how far I’ve come.

EyesUp…….

(even though I’ve reached my target you can still donate to the cause here!)

EyesUp Rolling #5 – Tired & Emotional, but still determined

Ask anyone who’s trained hard for anything…. those moments come when it all gets on top of you and it becomes difficult to work out how you are ever going to reach your goal.

I started out being very unsure of my ability to even master the road bike.  Then I doubted whether I would get fit enough to ride 1oo kms a day…. and I was at a loss as to how I was going to meet my fundraising target of $10,000.   It remains a struggle to climb out of bed before 5am for three or more days a week to ride for 2 hours plus … and get the laundry done, get the kids to school, and be a nice person around the house, even before turning up at work with a smile on my face.  A meltdown is just one spilt coffee or forgotten sports uniform away……

During and after a long, taxing ride is a good time to reflect again on the reasons for doing something this tough, and to draw on the emotion of personal stories.  The photo above is of the beautiful Sarah, who I was fortunate enough to know for a couple of years…. best described in her own words from her blog:

“I am a journalist by day, blogger by night and lover of ice cream at all times. I used to edit Girlfriend magazine….Amongst other things I like swimming in the ocean, sunny days, riding my bike, wine, dark chocolate, a good book, great design, live music, laughing. I never met a piece of cheese I didn’t like.”

Sarah died in July 2013 from Ovarian cancer which she had battled for 2 years.  She was 39. She was married to my husband’s brother, the love of her life.  She tried all avenues to beat the cancer discovered when they were trying to start a family.  Ultimately the cancer was detected too late…. she maintained her positive attitude and dignity, passing away at home on her own terms on a Saturday afternoon.  The finality of the events that evening remain with me, breaking the news to family and coming to terms with such a loss and its impacts.

Sah was described by her colleagues as “grace personified” during her battle…. but she was not ready to die, and we were not ready to lose her.

Research into early detection of ovarian cancer remains vital to improve survival rates.

I will never be a cancer researcher, but I can raise awareness and money in support of those who are.  I am determined to smash my fundraising goal and make it to the end of the Tour 200 in support of Tour De Cure.

Let’s face it, just like finding breakthroughs in cancer research, if it was easy everyone would do it.

EyesUp and stay focussed on the goal….

Please donate via this link and read more about Tour De Cure and the Westpac Tour 200

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!

centredinternationalwomensday

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.