Sunday, 9 December 2012

A Little Place Called Bundy

When you compare the pros and cons of a seven hour stop-over in Brisbane airport, the cons seem to far outweigh the pros. However, one that certainly springs to mind is that it gives me the perfect opportunity to blog about my recent (and very spontaneous) adventure across the ditch.

I was told less than a week in advance that I was invited by the Bundaberg Cycling Club to race at the McHugh Steel Cycling Spectacular along with a tribe of fellow kiwis - Georgia Williams, Dylan Kennett, Liam Aitcheson, Brad Evans and Hayden McCormick (affectionately renamed Chicken-Wing). Despite a lack of form and notice, I was - needless to say - more than eager to box up the bicycles and hop across the ditch for a week under the Bunderberg sunshine and a blast on the track at a carnival which attracts some of the best in Australia and the world.

Just another opportunity to get away from the repetition of Wanganui roads, weather and general atmosphere was enough of a pull factor that there was no need to ask me twice, let alone the fact that we were put in the hands of our munificent and greatly hospitable homestays, Mel and Darren Scheuer, as well as the club officials - Toby, Peter, and Sheldon (I think he'd make a good stand-up act) - as well as being treated like superstar athletes with radio and newspaper interviews, meet and greets with the Bundy locals, and a very enjoyable sponsors' evening - even a few autograph requests here and there. Suffice to say, we felt more than welcome in the town which more than made up for it's small size with an abundance of benevolence and geniality.

The carnival itself was excellent, both in organisation and the standard of competitors. Despite a narrow field, the women's racing was fast-paced and challenging, and there was a good deal of money up for grabs, which always adds that extra incentive to leave everything you have on the track. Georgia backed up her Oceania Championship success with a win in just about every race (and will head home with a much heavier wallet) while I fought my way into third place in most races, which required some sly use of the elbows at some points. The boys also had a somewhat prosperous carnival - Dylan in particular - with a podium finish in each race, as well as setting a new lap record for the track.

All in all, I had an amazing time in Australia, and was overwhelmed by the hospitality that Bundaberg offered. The racing atmosphere was one brimming with enthusiasm, praise and enjoyment, with animating commentary from the Under 9 races through to the Elite Men, brilliant audience engagement with the auctioning of riders for the feature Wheel Race, and talented fields in every category. I am so thankful for having the opportunity to spend the week in such an admirable place, meet an awesome group of people and get some top-notch racing into my legs as I head into another season on the track. I would like to say a HUGE thank you to all of the Bundaberg Cycling Club for being outstanding hosts, as well as my homestay parents, Mel and Darren, who provided five star accommodation and the finest cooked breakfasts for Georgia and I. I return to New Zealand with some amazing new friends, a number of additions to my memory box, a considerably darker complexion, a new-found partiality to Bundy Rum (thanks to Mel), and a weariness of the damage that certain platter-dwelling appetizers can inflict upon one's best dress shirt (ay Dylan). Possibly even a slight Auzzie twang to my voice.

Next years dates have already been put in my calender.


Saturday, 17 November 2012

A Few Moments in the Mind of Me

One thing I have learned recently is not to take inspiration for granted. Along with socks, chamois cream and chain lube, for a long time I've underestimated the significance of having a sufficient supply of it. Another thing I've learnt is that inspiration should be treated in a way similar to that in which I tend to my corn crops on Hay Day, in that it needs to be carefully managed; use it all up at once, and it's gone. All you'll be left with is some wilting carrots and a half-empty silo. It needs to be used in moderation, so that two weeks down the track, you've left enough out in the fields to have grown some more.

Metaphors aside, I have found myself running on empty for the last wee while. And it's much harder than I would ever have imagined. Thankfully for me though, every once in a while, someone can throw a little inspiration your way. And often that's all it takes to get back on your feet and start working away at things, however small steps may they be.

It's difficult not to overwhelm oneself when our expectations are set at what seems ever so slightly out of reach, and no matter how much jumping and stretching and visualising we do, the bar is only ever 'so close', and we find ourselves hovering there in our aspiration, grasping at our goals and only ever touching them for a second before they slip away again.

The worst thing one can do is kick these disappointments under the carpet; stack them up in the small black box that lurks obscurely, but never silently, in the waste bin of our mind. Of course, this is the simplest option. To wipe the slate clean and start over, look at the upsides. But it's very rarely the most constructive. Sometimes a little psychological spring cleaning is needed.

So that is what I intend to do. As soon as I can rid my mind of the clutter of my exam notes, I'm going to take a step back and make a plan, and hopefully get my thoughts into better order than my bedroom has been of late. After all, in the words of Laurence J. Peter, if you don't know where you're going, you'll probably end up somewhere else.

Last night I had the privilege of attending the Wanganui Sports Awards, and of hearing Shaun Quincy's absorbing account of his fifty-four day, 2200km solo row across the Tasman. As well as serving as an overdue replenishment of my actuation, it also highlighted the distinct similarity in the way that athletes' brains tick, irrespective of their discipline or ambitions. We all have fight. We all have desire to prove to ourselves and the world what we are capable of, regardless of what sacrifices we need to make along the way. And we all have belief, that someday we will be the one passing inspiration on to someone else.


Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Southland's Wild Side

Through each of my previous five visits to Invercargill this year, I've had no more than a harmless breeze and a few light showers to cope with, so I assumed I was sufficiently prepared for what the Southern spring would throw at me. How wrong was I.

My Southland venture began with the Yunca Junior Tour, the final event of the Junior National Points Series, and one that attracts some good numbers from all over the country, as well as the few Australians brave enough to tackle our harsh climate. HA

Day one of the tour got off to the predicted start, with sleet and gusts so strong that the prologue had to be postponed by fifteen minutes or so (aren't they generous). The little 'uns were the first to set off, and bore the brunt of the weather. How they held their tiny bikes, and selves, down in that, I will never know. The downpour also meant that the only shelter in the area was packed tighter than a can of sardines in a trash compacter, and thus one had to clamber over numerous bikes, bodies and various pieces of farm equipment in search of a spot to warm up. I can pretty safely say I've had a taste of life as a battery hen.

Thankfully by the time I rolled up to the line, the clouds had well emptied themselves and the deluge of rain had passed, leaving only the wind to contend with. I pulled off a pretty good time in the end, and went into stage two with the yellow. The following day's weather held nothing back, pounding us with snow and gales that left half of us blue and solidified, despite what was supposed to be a hundred kilometre day being cut back to twenty five - for reasons I need not explain. I managed to lose my lead due to my lack of oomph in the sprint finishes, and only reattained it in the final bunch sprint of the tour.

Cutting it fine..

I didn't go into the tour with a great deal of expectations, so I was pretty content with my result. However the track racing which followed was a bit contrary. I went into it with a very inaccurate confidence-to-ability ratio, and, for lack of better words, got the shit my ego kicked out of me. But that's just bike racing. You can't win 'em all.

Next on the hit list was the one hundred and fifty kilometre Great Southern Cycle Challenge, which was soon to become my longest day on the bike so far. I have one, fool-proof tactic with races of this sort; Never think about what you're getting yourself into until you've hit the point of no return, i.e. the start line. That way, you can force yourself into it, and no matter how much you kick yourself when you're only twenty minutes into it and already closing your eyes and hoping that, when they open, you'll be cuddled up by the fire sipping away at a hot chocolate with marshmallows, watching The X Factor - it's too late to back out.

This is the mindset I used in approaching the GSCC (affectionately known as the Great Southern Crosswind Challenge, and for good reason). And although it didn't help me one bit when I was slogging my way through  roaring wind with a bunch less use to me than the one fifty km's up the road, I'm sure if I'd thought about how long the race would actually take me with my level of fitness, I would have slept in that morning.

I'll spare you all the sob-session and summarise with.. 'it was a HARD day on the bike'.

I'm back to living life in Wanganui now, and preparing myself for my next big mission - NCEA exams. I'm wondering if my blog would be considered 'Non-Shakespearean Drama', in which case my English exam would be well and truly sorted.


PS. Big thank you to Dillon Bennett for running around after me like a headless chook. He even fueled me up with pre-race pancakes. And also to my host parents, Steph and Brad :)

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Damn Those Limpets

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly one can lose form, particularly when it takes so long to gain it. Last year I made the imprudent decision to take a month's vacation from my bike, and consequently had to drag myself through four months or so of swinging on the back of the bunch, labouring my way up Takaka, and swallowing the shame of the pity claps when I came crawling to the finish, after most were packing up to go home. Needless to say, I felt two weeks off would suffice this year.

I did feel a lot fitter after my break this year than last, but it has still been (and remains) a struggle to be as competitive as I would like to be. Though I have kept in mind that my target race isn't until February next year, and that one cannot be on brilliant form all of the time. So for now, I just have to suck it up and focus on laying the foundations that the coming track season will be built upon.

Even with all of this in mind though, it is hard to rock up to the NZ Schools Nationals and not want to win a few medals and a bit of pride, so of course that was my aim. But the thing with schools nationals is that they very rarely go to plan, and it is very easy to get swamped by a heap of erratic cyclists in a bunch kick, despite one's best efforts to avoid this by spending a good percentage of the race on the front, trying to lose the swarm of sit-on and shit-on-ers, however unsuccessfully. As you can imagine, there was a fair bit of screaming, shouting and maybe a few swear words incited by a dangerous mix of rage and exhaustion.

Long story short - I had two very hard races, and two somewhat disappointing ones.

Big ups to Devon Hiley for a hugely impressive display in the points race. Holding off the bunch in wind so relentless that my max speed in the sprint laps never surpassed fifteen kilometres an hour, would have taken a great deal of will power and a lot of gas in the tank. Well deserved win.

Now to start the familiar task of packing my suitcase and bike boxes so I can head back down to the foot of New Zealand (Invercargill) for the sixth time this year. But this time it's to try my luck on the road at the Yunca Junior Tour of Southland. I haven't raced the tour in a while so it will be a nice change (though not of scenery), and I'll have a chance to get my track legs going again at the ILT Track Racing the following few nights. Better give my Spaggs a polish ツ


>Limpet Definition

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Road Less Travelled

The dust is starting to settle on my blog and I think it's about time I brush it off. By now you might have noticed somewhat of a trend.. if I'm not content with how things have gone, I'm often dilatory in advising the world about it. Most likely because I'm subconsciously trying to avoid digressing on something that has been pushed so far back in my memory stores that I will have to search through primary school playground disputes and trips to Lollipop Land to find it.

To be quite honest, I was severely disappointed with my performance at the the Junior World Champs. I'm not complaining about a silver medal in the Team Pursuit, and I stand proud to have made it one step higher on the Podium from last year, but I cannot help but feel that I wasn't the best that I could have been that day. Which was made quite apparent five days later, when I rode nearly two seconds slower than my best, and one and a half seconds off the time I rode two weeks earlier, immediately after a fairly brutal training block. Lessons are yet to be learned, as soon as I work out what exactly went wrong.

I've had a decent break from my bike, and it was much needed - if not for my body's sake, my mind's. I would like to thank the people who have stood behind me, and urged me on when it would have been so easy to give in. You know who you are. It's not going to be an easy road from here, now that I've been thrown into the 'real world', but it's a road that I am going to charge down and not look back, and one that I hope to leave some decent footprints in.


Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Final Countdown

Here we are, in the home straight of our build up for the 2012 Junior World Track Championships. After a short-lived return home, and a few days to pedal the travel out of our legs, we arrived in the deep south today to begin the final two weeks of touch ups and amendments to our preparation. I found myself surprisingly unswayed by the dramatic change in temperature as I made yet another transition between seasons, and thankfully did not fall victim to the dreaded jet-lag, so I did not take long to adjust to home conditions and get back to turning the pedals over.

I am eager to get back on the boards, to see the results of our U.S. stint begin to show, and to soon be counting down the days til racing kicks off on two hands. It has been a somewhat shaky build-up at times, but with only a few weeks to go, the legs are coming through and the immune system is doing it's job, so there is nothing standing in our way.

Watching the Olympic Games unfold has been an extra push factor over the past week, and has sparked up a great deal of pride and inspiration inside us all. The Junior World Champs, after all, is just the start.


Monday, 23 July 2012

Getting Closer...

Time is flying by here! I have only five days till I'll be packing up my bags and beginning the journey home (however short a visit I'll be making there). I've had two good days of racing in the past week - the third was rained out, and replaced with the sort of erg session that draws one to tears - with track racing on Tuesday and the Lancaster Criterium on Saturday. The track racing got off to a hectic start, with my seat post clamp malfunctioning, and slipping down mid warm-up so I looked like I was riding a clown bike around in the paceline. After a panicked (and unsuccessful) attempt to fix it, I was thrown onto a completely different bike which was a few sizes too big for me. But knowing that I wouldn't have to take off my shoes and run around the track meant I was in no way complaining. Perhaps it was the adrenaline from such a dramatic start to the night, but I raced much better than the week before, and managed to pick up third equal in the omnium, as well as a massive ten dollars prize money (NZD$12.69). Lancaster Criterium was dominated by the kids in black and white, filling the podium in the women's race and taking out 1st and 2nd in the men's. Sophie and I managed to get a break and hold it for the last 5 or so laps, very much assisted by the blocking force made up of the rest of the girls, and Soph pipped me for 1st place in a very spectacular sprint finish (eh Soph). We also took out all six primes, though upon later reflection we decided they were really not worth contesting for. Particularly these.
I'm a bit shocked at how quickly this phase is drawing to it's end, but at the same time I'm looking forward to getting back to familiar territory and getting the last bits and pieces perfected for J-Dubs. It's been a long build-up, and all that's been on my mind for the last goodness-only-knows-how-long, so it's exciting (and a touch unsettling) to watch the Big Day edging it's way closer and closer. For now though, it's all about making the most of those days we have left.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Sweet Home Pennsylvania

So far it's been a pretty awesome and enlightening experience. I haven't often needed to swerve around horse drawn carts trotting down the side of the road while racing at home, or freeze my drink bottles before each ride so that I might get around burning my tongue when I have a drink half an hour into it. Some of it has been challenging.. such as accustoming to the drone of the air-conditioner going full blast in my ear whilst I'm trying to sleep.. but that's all part of living in a new country, with new conditions, among new cultures. And the upsides far outweigh the downs.

My first night of racing was a shocker, which you may have guessed is probably the reason I've left it until now to tell you about it. In short (because it is not worth going into great deal about), I was not in great shape for racing. And, to make matters worse for myself, my top two inches were switched off, so I raced the long way around the track and drew greater attention to my already obvious lack of form. Though I had to remind myself that the important thing was getting some good, hard racing into my legs, and that was what I did - as unspectacular a display as it may have been.

Since then I've got some solid rides, decent sleeps, a course of antibiotics and a bit of retail therapy into me, so with some luck, tonight should be a bit more of a success. (don't hold me to that)

Yesterday we were rewarded with a day off our bikes, which we spent exploring the second largest shopping mall in the U.S. The size of it was a bit overwhelming, and after four or so hours bouncing from shop to shop, I'm pretty sure we only saw the tip of the iceberg they call 'King of Prussia'. We came home with much thinner wallets and heavier vehicles (both because of the ridiculous amount of shopping bags we collected, and the pizza Racket and I scoffed), along with refreshed mindsets and rested legs to take into the rest of the week.

So all in all, it's been a positive and rewarding first week here, and I'm eager for some more.

Peace Out.

P.S. I never thought I'd say this - but to my fellow New Zealanders, you should take a moment to appreciate the wit of our TV advertisements. The ones here are distressingly tedious.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

You'll Find Us Chasing The Sun...

Time to blow the dust off my shorts and tees! Only one sleep left till I'm on my way to the US, where the side walks will not only be frost-free, but will give off sufficient heat to cook my breakfast. We had, overall, quite a successful week in Invercargill, despite some unwelcomed interruptions by illnesses and what-have-you. It's not always ideal to begin a training camp with four riders and come out of it with three, but unfortunately that's the way it went, and I'm sure our wounded soldier (Georgie) will be back on the front-line in no time at all. Bike riding is also made a whole lot less fun when every session is followed by a good chunder, however Alysha - being the hard-ass that she is - didn't let this phase her overly much.

In spite of this, and the fact that we felt as though we were riding every track session in a giant refrigerator, we still got some much-needed track time in, and a nice dose of lactic acid fed to our legs. We also gave our cores a decent work out, not in the standard way, but through spending a sizeable chunk of our free time sitting around regurgitating lame anti-jokes off the net.*

On the bright side (if there can be one in this situation), we can rest assured that we've had our share of hindrances and that the path from here to Jay Dubs will be one swept clear of any further boulders, landslides and rickety old bridges with a few too many rungs missing. And I am certain that some Pennsylvanian  sunshine along the way will do us all some good.


*PS. And the Lord said unto John, "Come forth and receive eternal life." But John came fifth and won a toaster.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Much Too Close to Antarctica for Comfort

We all know that Invercargill can get pretty cold in winter. So cold in fact that one must wear at least two pairs of everything (with the exception of shorts) if they want any show of making it twenty minutes into a road ride and still have feeling in their extremities. I thought I was relatively prepared for it until I hit the Southland roads this afternoon, and had to slide my way across patches of ice on the road. Slick tyres made this that little bit more thrilling. As well as Racquel's very alarming, high-pitched shrieks. Big ups to Mumma Georgie for brewing us all a nice cup of chocolatey goodness to defrost our fingers post-ride. Isn't she good.

Needless to say, I'm looking forward to hitting up the indoor track tomorrow, and we're all crossing our fingers that Cycling Southland will be kind enough to crank the heaters up full blast. (Bribery isn't yet out of the question...) Puffer jackets are the next best option but, as you can probably imagine, they create a bit of drag.

And it's always a good feeling being able to count down the days till we reach the searing hot temperatures of the U.S. of A on two hands. Seven fingers, in fact. It is strange, but satisfying, packing shorts, t-shirts and sunblock into a suitcase when you're wrapped up in a blanket in the middle of the day and have to ice-skate across to front lawn with a bucket of water to throw over the car.

But until then we'll be layering jackets upon jackets upon thermals, gritting our teeth and making some big gains with our training. And willpower.

Expect another post over the next few days... that is if my fingers haven't fallen victim to frostbite, in which case typing will become quite an issue.


Saturday, 9 June 2012

Back On My Bike!

After a few niggly sessions on the massage table, my afflictions have been righted, at long last. I was relieved, but a little frustrated, to hear that my chest pain was coming from a twisted rib-cage and sternum which lead to a whole lot of other less-than-ideal consequences (insert various physiotherapy jargon terms here) which I was obviously zoned out to as it was being thrown at me. I apoligise for my vagueness. But the conclusion is that the problem is more or less solved.

I decided, due to my do or die attitude at the time, to throw myself in the deep end and race yesterday, despite nearly two weeks spent mostly on the couch. I felt entitled to race it like a limpet - ie clinging to the rock-face that is the back of the bunch and very rarely showing my face anywhere else - as not to send my body into complete shock, and the chest thanked me for it (unlike the majority of A-grade) by doing what it's supposed to. So I can only assume from that that I am good to go.

Now for the panic training..

Stay tuned,

Sunday, 3 June 2012

And here's the sob session...

But not because I had to slave my way through the torturous few days of bike racing they call 'Le Tour de Taranaki', but in fact for the complete opposite reason. Which sounds like I am just extremely hard to please, but the fact is, I couldn't race, because the body is not up to it. And worse still, I'm not entirely sure why.

Long story short, something is not right with my chest. Any serious problems with my heart have been ruled out, so the doc is guessing it's a virus thats causing a bit of havoc in my lungs. Either that or something mechanical. I am frustrated, to say the least, but there is no use throwing a wobbly over it so all I can do is get on with things and get better as quickly as I can. I am sure I will back on my bike very soon.

AND. Just to add insult to injury, the weather at the tour was perfect. No wind, (practically) no rain, no snow - very unlike the past four years that I have raced it. So after all my moaning, it turns out the tour would have been almost pleasant, almost being the operative word.

You will be hearing from me shortly (stories with more biking and less babble)


PS. Spectating is not harder than it looks, regardless of what parents and supporters may tell you.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

A Quick Summary (i.e only a small novel)

Where to start.

It's difficult to find anything overly intriguing to share, with the weather quickly slipping its way into winter, and without any serious racing coming up. (with the exception of Taranaki Tour, which I am still in the denial stage about.) So far, the only thing keeping me sane on my painfully mundane solo rides is my trusty iPod and some muesli bars.

However, the big push factor is, of course, the UCI Junior World Track Championships (hereby given the abbreviation 'J-Dubs) campaign, which is making its way closer and closer, at a rate which makes one wonder if the hours in a day decrease with the more we have to get done. I have only five weeks left to play with before the campaign begins, with a week or so in my second home of Invercargill (I know my way around better than half the locals), followed by a full-on three weeks in the U.S, where the temperature will lose the negative and gain a few zeros (can't complain). It will be a much-needed change, and good to get some decent racing into the legs before J-Dubs. Not to mention the cheap as Chuck Taylors. 

So that's where I'm headed over the next wee while. I've had a fairly successful, and encouraging, past few months, and I am looking forward to getting stuck into another few months of cry-worthy, vomit-inducing training so the legs know what to expect come August.

I'll do my best to keep you in the loop as to how that goes.

Peace out,

PS. Expect a huge poor-me, poor-me sob session after Taranaki Tour. Either that or nothing at all (in which case it will never be spoken of again).

Saturday, 26 May 2012


Well ahh, I thought I'd start a blog. I figured, seeing as I'm the chatterbox that I am, that I should have a few good yarns to spin about life.

And so begins the Official Autobiography of Me. The ups, the downs, the adventures, and the insignificant-but-worth-mentioning musings which make up the life of a kiwi bike rider.

Watch this space.