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 #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…..

nelune-logo

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!!