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 #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!