Sunday, 11 December 2011

Catalan kindness

A study in Catalan kindness

Mechanicals always suck...

Imagine you’re coming back from a five hour ride, it’s gone well with no back pain and you know there’s an olive oil fair in town that you want to go to to sort out Christmas presents for every female over fourty that you know (first press oil, soap, candles, glass jugs – these are a few of my (grandmothers’) favourite things). There’s an exceptional beer in the fridge (brewdog Tokyo since you’re asking) and the wind is behind you. The ride was fun, you met great new people and rode with equally great people you already knew. Sweet eh? You’re booking it a bit because, well Salou is a crapshoot at the weekends. You ride over a speed bump, out of the saddle and the bike makes a rather alarming CRACK. You think to yourself that you really ought to strip it down soon as something seems loose. Then you hear a tinkle, and you look back as you sit down. Noticing your SLR lying in the road you abort the sit down movement just before receiving 3 inches of carbon where you really don’t want them and pull a U turn. Things have gone from sweet to sour.

An hour later I’ve ridden fifteen k standing up, I’m in decathlon where we’ve drilled out the bolt which had snapped in the middle of the seatpost, taking the thread with it. The seatpost has straight up fused in the frame so you can’t get it out. I use carbon assembly paste but apparently you only need to put clear coat on a post up to halfway, the loer part had swollen inside the frame. And we can’t find a bolt to replace the broken one because Italians like to use really obscure thread diameters (7mm anyone?). Half of the staff in Decathlon is stripping bikes looking for said bolt. But it’s not there. Not in the fishing reels we looked over either. After 90 minutes we’ve hacksawed out the old bolt, drilled out the other end (in the seatpost and forced it down into the frame) and I still can’t find a 7. So I set off home, with my necklace holding my saddle to the toptube! Despite 3 members of staff wasting over an hour, 2 hacksaw blades, numerous bolts and a lot of sweat, I’ve not been able to pay them a thing. It seemed like there was nothing to be done, my luck was out and with tomorrow being Sunday and two more holidays this week, I was unlikely to get this fixed for a long time.

Whilst riding home, bmx style, I stop at a second bike shop, wala Tarragona. The mechanic is an ex pro track rider, we chat as he looks everywhere for the 7mm bolt he remembers seeing the other day. We find it and celebrate with high 5s – until it turns out to be a 7.5mm bolt. Fortunately, one thing pro track riders have over me (well one thing most adult males have over me) is upper body strength. Anti seize and biceps are applied to the post and it came out, success. The till gets shut down while we reboot the pc to find my cyclefit documents – a lifesaver. As I was doing this the mechanic set about stripping my mechs, cleaning my chain and sorting out the shifting on the new cassette I’d put on that day. The bike was remade and I was about to be on my way, when I realized that, typically today was the day I’d forgotten my card (in my defence I had to get up really early to meet a group ride). No worries they said and sent me off home, I left my sunglasses as a deposit. I returned and paid a grand total of twenty Euros. Less than the cost of the post.

I made new friends who I’m going to ride with soon and shared stories of life on the road. We discussed the wind, the local climbs and the reasons why anyone would put a triple on a road bike. We talked about teams, my track riding friend had hurt his knee and his team decided that was a great reason to hurt his bank balance as well, I can commiserate. We wondered what would happen to our friends on Geox and what would happen to our country in the economic crisis. Ultimately I wasn’t the highest value customer, I got about 24 man hours of attention for my twenty Euros but that’s exactly what made Saturday such a high value experience. We’re all the same as cyclists, we all love riding our bikes, even if some us have wider tyres or even silly straws on our handlebars. It’s what we share that makes the sport great, and it made me really happy to see this embraced. These guys could have turned me away, charged like a rhino or laughed at my plight but they didn’t. They saw a fellow rider in a fix and sorted me out, they went above and beyond their commercial relationship with me and became friends. Don’t get me wrong there are places in the US that would and have done this for me but there are also places that wouldn’t. This is the bank of Karma paying out, and I’m going to make sure I put in some more deposits next time I see another rider punctured by the roadside or struggling in the wind. You should do the same, we might be in crisis here but our karma account is definitely in the black.

-yep typed it with my thumbs: they're what makes us better than apes

Location:Calle de Ramón y Cajal,Tarragona,Spain

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Beating 'betes with bikes

I promised you more but you didn't expect it this quickly did you? Well it's a double blog day today (let's face it you weren't paying attention at work anyway). This is less of an update from me to you and more of me asking you to update me on your great achievements and adventures.

With the help of my good friends at Extreme endurance I'm starting a bit f a competition. We want to hear from you; if you're a diabetic and you've used endurance sports ( even the sleeveless ones) to turn around your control, the send in your story.

Not only are you in with a chance of wining some cool schwag from xe and team traveller, you'll also get to serve as an inspiration to others. I know what it's like to not have control and how it feels to take that power over your life back. It's bigger than any race you'll ever win. sometimes it's hard for other people to realise just how big of a victory it is. So now is your chance to claim your moment on the podium. This is going to be an ongoing contest with different prizes and featured athletes every month. That gives you the chance to be inspired and to inspire others.

Send your stories, and pictures to and get ready to claim your fifteen minutes of fame (or at least exposure to the very small fraction of the globe who read my blog!)

Can't wait to hear from you

-yep typed it with my thumbs: they're what makes us better than apes

Planning for positivity in 2012

Last Sunday i found myself sat outside a cafe in Miami Platja (not that Miama beach) with one of the guys from Geox (know how he feels) and a couple of local racers. Sipping our coffees, and laughing as the older guy's kids ran around trying to chew on a putty textured energy bar it felt good to be alive, to be in Catalonia and to be with such welcoming people.

The conversation quickly turned to next year, the Christmas lights are up now, the caganers are out and that means it's nearly time to buy a new calendar and start riding a different bike. We all quizzed each other about whether we'd tried various brands of pedals, what we thought of the wheels we'd be riding next year. The local guys laughed at us with our worrying aboutbeing given free bikes and gear. As they pointed out their sponsorship obligations extended to drinking the coffee that the cafe owner wouldn't charge us for.

For me next year is a bit different. i'll be riding with team traveller and bringing together a lot of my own sponsors and supporters. This is a bit different to team situations i've been in before. for one things i've spent months sending emails and there is more work to come. Cash sponsorship has been impossible to come by in this economy and that's going to make travelling and racing tough. I only want to work with companies i respect and who are aligned the same way I am. What's important to me is to keep spreading the message that diabetes doesn't have to be a limiter on your ambitions and that nobody, anywhere needs to loose limbs, eyes or loved ones for the want of test strips. I want to get out there and spread that message and i'm not going to partner with people who don't share that vision. By staying true to my ideals, I might not be banking the dollars but I firmly believe that putting Karma in the kitty pays back much better in the long run.

In 2012 i'm going to step up my diabetes advocacy, i' currently talking to a few people about the possibility of a not for profit foundation. I've seen too many diabetics suffering needlessly in the US and abroad and too any "charities" helping themselves to your donations. I want to use my racing and the friends and contacts i have both online and all over the world to make a real difference. As this project takes shape and grows, i'll keep you updated but if you want to help. get in touch, and expect donation links and news to be on here very soon.

I want to take this opportunity to speak about one of the sponsors i'm most excited about working with next year. You'll have noticed that when i post about nutrition, i'm not posting about my nutrition sponsor, or i wasn't last year. that was because i'm not really prepared to tell lies, especially in this area as it could impact someone's dietary decisions and bloodsugar control.

Well this year, given my own nutrition choices i'm going to be working with extreme endurance they make a range of really solid nutritional supplements, things I'd be using anyway, things I'm happy to put in my body. They didn't approach me for sponsorship i approached them. the chief reason why I approached them is their eponymous lactate buffer. Lactate is a big issue for me and indeed for everyone and I am really excited about this. if you're one of those pancreas functioning "normal" individuals you go above LT when you lack oxygen to burn the glucose in your blood. but the only variable here is oxygen. for me the glucose moves as well, so if glucose goes up, the level at which i lactate goes down. and i am bathed in the burn at 200w. we all make lactate and it's one of the determingin factors in recovery, the quicker you can get it out, the quicker you can get back to training, and get stronger. endurance sport is about recovering faster. be that about recovering from a Saturday ride to play with your kids on a Sunday or recovering from a 200k stage for a time trial the next day.

This means that clearing lactate is huge for me. You can look on the link above to see how extreme endurance works. What i can tell you is that it does. What i can also tell you is that they are 100% my goals. to this end they've agreed to hook up my readers with a discount and make a donation to helping diabetics around the world. I think that's pretty cool. you have two chances to get faster; one you'll be buffering more lactate and two you'll be floating on a cushion of good vibes knowing that every time you make a purchase, someone, somewhere gets to test once more that day. i've got some more products and sponsors who are also part of the scheme to share with you in the coming weeks, so hold off that Christmas shopping!
-yep typed it with my thumbs: they're what makes us better than apes

Location:Carrer Sant Roc,Vilabella,Spain

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

food glorious food

It probably has not escaped your attention that Allen Lim has published a new cook book, with about as much launch hype as a Lady Gaga album, and suspiciously apt timing given that we're approaching the "gifting season" (also known as credit card debt month and coinciding with children pressuring parents into buying crap they dont need and will never use in December) you'd be hard pressed to miss it.

Anyway i've decided to launch my own antidote to such blatant commerical high jinks; the Catalan cooking corner here on - i'm pretty sure i've got lim licked. I have taken the offseason as a time to sample new foods and not worry too much about macronutrients etc. just keeping my weight under control and my blood glucose nicely in the zone. One of the cool things about racing is all the travel and the great local foods you get to try.

My friend Emily came to stay recently and was impressed with my predilection for Octopus, squid and other cephladops. there's somethign about the little legs that i really like!

Anyway in an attempt to share with you some of my adventures in real food cooking and my longstanding aversion to any food which comes in a rectangular package it hought i would give you a little run through of last night's dinner:

Pies de porc amb mongetes
righto; i'll try to avoid sounding like jamie oliver as much as i can here. First thing you do is soak your beans (sounds euphemistic eh?) for 10 hours or so. I used the big white ones, but you can pretty much freestyle your legume selection.

10 hours later, you've ridden, stretched and had a thouroughly fulfilling day now you're ready for a thouroughly filling meal. So you take your big pot and put in a few glugs of olive oil. 2 choppe dup carrots, an onion and a red pepper. and a lot of garlic. and you cook that on a low flame until it looks suitably brown. then, you break out the big guns; 2 pork feet. in perhaps the oddest cooking experience of my life i made sure to give these little fellas a good shaving before they went in the pot (and yes, that was the last time I used said razor blade). once youve cooked those a little bit add your beans back in (drained obviously) 1 litre of stock, 3 bay leaves and a big branch of rosemary and let it cook for 2ish hours.

once you're done you have a surprisingly yummy concoction. I really like long cooked onions and carrots for some reason (i think its a childhood thing, all those warm stews on cold days). the pigs feet give everything a really nice gelatinous quality and are quite tasty if you like the texture they have. Theyre also damn cheap! you might want to skim off the fat before chowing down as well. Then crack open a good beer and youre away!

seriously though, if we have the temerity to kill another sentient being for food, the very least we can do is appreciate, sit down and enjoy it and make damn sure to use all of it. It's neither good karma nor good recession bustin' frugal practice to let this stuff go to waste. so go out there and make yourself some hearty peasant food (tis the season after all) - i bet if you ate liek this for a month you'd save up enough to buy a Hardback feedzone cookbook Link

Saturday, 12 November 2011

this time last year

about a year ago, i sent this email. a lot has changed since then...
hey ****, I did an athlete day here in the Bronx, New york today, i just wanted to say how much all this stuff means to me. Today was pretty tough, i saw lots of people missing legs, arms and eyesight but they all really look up to us and that's cool.
i don't know what the procedure is but it would be really cool to get some kiddie kits out here for the younger kids, i spent a couple of hours with one girl today just persuading her to take her insulin again. i gave them some of my tt1 stuff but it would be cool to have something to give them if i come back. I said i'd give them a jersey if they could get better a1c scores (like single figure a1c scores) - is there anything we can do? i even had a little 5 yr old kid ask how he could join the team!
anyway i just wanted to say thanks, today was pretty special

This stuff meant an awul lot to me, and there ar elots more emails like this. I've got nothing to hide an nothing to prove but i was looking for an email address and i came across this in my old emails. It makes me sad not to be able to go and visit those kids again. for one thing i have a few more spare kits for them now!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

chesnuts and change

This is a funny time of year to be a bike rider; the season has been long and hard and you'v got time to recover. But at the same time the last race was already a month ago, and you haven't ridden much since. Your mind goes back to the parts of this season which you'd like to improve upon and part of you wants to get out and train harder than ever. you feel tired from not riding, your body isn't used to the lack of endorphins and you stop feeling hungry. The evenings close in and the trees change colour.

I like the connection to the seasons that being a bike rider gives me, i feel that's doubly true living where i do. as the nights draw in the children man the street corners, hunkered over old oil barrels roasting chesnuts which they wrap in the days' newspaper and sell,along with a tot of moscatell to keep the cold out. The time for sipping cava in the sunshine and eating salad because you daren't turn on the cooker is gone, anellets of almond- meal and sugar are the pastry of choice for all saints day and coffee isn't served with a glass with ice any more. The vineyards have changed too, in april they were verdant, bright green and luscious, through the hot summer they became yellow, barely hanging ontot the dusty mountainsides, now they're all shades of red and orange. getting old and loosing their hair, in a month they'll be bare.

There are fewer tourists here now, taking my paseo after dinner i noticed fewer crowds. the streets have been returned to the local people. there's a knowing familiarity in the way people nod to each other. the market still bustles, but in the dark at 6pm it has a different aura, the stalls like little beacons, each with a crowd. there's less shouting and nobody's trying to sell you a photograph of a paella and a menu in english anymore.

training changes with the seasons as well, like nature intended we eat a little more, sleep a little more and move a little less. i don't need my mixes and gels at this time of year. i head out with a jacket and a scarf, a pocket full of roscos and leave the SRM at home. i like passing the families out gathering mushrooms, stopping to pilfer the last of the oranges which never quite got ripe enough to pick or the apples which have sprung up outside of the orchard. When i get back the recovery dirnk isn't a priority any more it's about a warm shower, a cup of tea or hot chocolate and then a hearty meal.

i do miss the sunshine, and i find it hard to summon up the enthusiasm to train in the rain, but perhaps thats not a bad thing. i'm trying to listen to my body, and to nature. it's been around for a while and it's had soe time to work things out. also it's responsible for producing roasted chesnuts which are downright spectacular.

some culture in Catalonia

with it being ealry November and me having a fairly crippling spinal injury (not to make light of those with really crippling spinal injuries, thats like calling a cold cancer) I've not been doing much bicycling recently. After a bit of time in the UK after Tobago i'm now back to Catalonia. my favourite place in the world. I always miss it when i'm gone and nothing feels as good as driving through those big roman pillars and leaving France (even though technically i'm already in Catalonia before then).

With the dirth of lycra time i've been getting in some other activities. to keep myself from turning into a ten ton monster i've been indulging my tight clothing fetish in the water. As i mentioned in a previous post swimming is straight up boring but i have discovered that this only applies to pool swimming. you see pool swimming is to sea swimming as turbo trianer is to cyclocross. once i found this out I embrocated up (yes i really did) and nipped out into the sea. I think the fact i decided to sport compression tights for warmth may have caused a few odd looks (along with the inevitable omnipod stares) but i've never been one to let that bother me and swimming in the sea was fun, just one caveat. when you're really tired, the waves DO NOT carry you in, so you get the interesting additio of a "life or death" interval as your final effort - perhaps unwise given my past history of unfortunate mishaps.

Fortunatley I was joined for a week by my friend, super soigneur (and as i turns out talented speed-reader) Emily Baker . i like having people to show around my little town and especially when i havent got much else to do i enjoy seeing the sights and visiting all the cultural installations that Tarragona has to offer. A trip to the roman ruins was particulairly fun, i posted abotu a million pictures (like a real british holidaymaker) on google + for anyone interested.

We also took the chance to go and watch a local castellers competition (which we missed by a slight margin of 8 hours, arse, but fortunatley we watched a live video on the local tv station). This is another of those peculiar catalan traditions which looks bizzare to anyone who doesn't "get it" i mean grown men forming a huge human tower, which a small child then climbs up. It's not safe and it doesn't really achieve anything - but then neither does bicycle racing. It's a tremendous feat of organisation and strength and isn't without its dangers (someone died in 2006).

I've also been back to uni, studying for a term at the Universitat Ramon Lull in Barcelona and reading ridiculous amounts about Catalan Sport in the 1930s. While in Barcelona i always take the opportunity to pick up some beer, i'm thinking of posting a beer review blog soon. Although i'm pretty sure you can't get any of them outside of catalonia.

other than that i've been pounding the keyboard trying to sort out sponsors for next year, which isn't proving easy. the economy really seems to have hit rock bottom in the us and purse strings are being tightened. The prospect of being without equipment sponsors next ear is pretty worrying but i'll keep trying, i want to work with companies ia m proud to be associated withand i feel that in the long run that approach will pay dividends.

so ciao for now, i'm off to drink more beer and do more begging!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

erection envy?

as we all know, the best bike in the world is the one that fits you (or the one you get paid to tell everyone is the best bike in the world...) anyway, if this is the case then my bike just became even better thanks to the intervention of the gents at cyclefit uk.

since my latest attempt at maiming myself in Tobago i've not been able to ride without back pain, an mri revealed a bulging disc in the l2/l3 region of my lumbar spine. not nice. so, under strict doctor's order's im not riding hard until December and i've been sent to get a fit. cue a few well placed phone calls and tweets (thanks to my friend tom who is a cyclefit (and aquafresh) sponsored rider) and i'm on a train to London at a time normally reserved for testers, jet lag sufferers and those weird people who like to watch birds through massive telescopes (i mean feathery birds here, i dont think stalkers get up that early). After a brief encounter with the metropolitan police (apparently launching a full on attack on the commuters via the pavement isn't cool with them) i made it to cyclefit in time to bask in their luxurious shopfront and browse the 100 pages of pretension that make up Roleur magazine before commencing my fit.

To say these lads have all the gear is an understatement, they broke out video cameras, fitting rigs which move as you ride (which allow you to make changes without forgetting how the old position felt), gnoimeters, footbed making vacum devices, thumbscrews (ok maybe not thumbscrews but i'm pretty sure i saw something that looked like one) and most valuable of all, years and years of experience at the top of their game. we looked at all kind of parameters and ultimatley moved my bars up quite a bit, my saddle up and foreward, changed my footbeds, dewedged my feet and concluded that in the near future (i.e. when i have enough money) a new saddle and narrower bars would be nice.

my approach to dealing with my back injury has been to get the very best people to give me their best advice. my doctor is from the uk institute of sport, the fit is one of the best in the world. it's one thing freestyling your recovery from a broken collarbone - i've tried that and now i can't wear backpacks or lift much with my left arm. it's another deal taking risks with your spine. i want to be walking when i am 40, not crawling. i'm not going to persist in riding with 13cm of drop if the cost of doing so is my long term health, i've always said i'm diabetic first and biek racer second and the same applies here. and when i have the good fortune to benefit fromt he best avliable advice, even i am not stupid enough to ignore it! If you're wodnering why i'm going to such pains to justify myself her eit's because my bike has a stem which resembles massive erection and like anyone going out in public with such an appendage, i'm a little self conscious. Ultimately nothing looks stupid if you're going fast enough and the goal is to go fast, not to look good creeping.

i managed to get out for 4 1/2 hours yesterday, 3 mountains and one particularly vicious dog-pursued interval session and i've no discernible back pain today. in fact i'm getting much more pain from carrying around a heavy messenger bag when i go to Barcelona with all my books- so if anyone has a better idea please share it below.

also NB this is my 100th blog post and I am once again, injured, just like the first one! I may also be eating baked goods, plus ca change...

oh and hea don over to @cyclefituk on twitter to find your optimal position for riding ;)

Friday, 21 October 2011

Water, baby

In an effort to maintain something approaching form while my back is being stupid I decided to make a return to the pool tonight. After three and a half years of absence I had not missed the headdom (swimcap for those dictionary fascists out there) the goggles (can you say panda eyes) or the laughing at my tanlines. I have been manfully preparing with a thorpedoesque diet in the time since the season has finished but oddly that didn't help.

It appears that since my fleeting Oxford university tri club flirtation I had forgotten a lot of the vital bits of knowledge I once held about swimming, and so after one hour of splashing about I present my expert guide;

Things I now know about swimming

As a cyclist you will excel at the following aspects; wearing tight clothes, lacking body hair, posturing, pushing off the wall, breathing. As for the rest, you're buggered. Especially the swimming bit.

Skinny men sink.

Swimming in the Caribbean is more fun than in evesham leisure center

It is possible to half wheel someone in a swimming pool

It is not possible to check your bloodsugar when you keep getting things wet.

Swimming makes James hypo, fast.

It is not possible to eat a dextrose pill whilst swimming.

If you train with multisport athletes (see how nice I was there?) they will take this to be revenge time.

Just when you're about to catch someone they stop, always.

My hair is not swimcap compatible, the swimcap is wrong, my hair is not.

Swimmers go straps over hats, this is like sunglasses over helmet straps-vital insider knowledge. I don't think they embrace though and I'm not sure on colour matching of shorts, goggles and hats.

People will mistake omnipods for: bail tags, iPods, nicotine patches, heart rate monitors and pacemakers(?!)

Swimmers train at odd times, like before breakfast and at dinner time. Looking at a few of them they don't seem to let this prevent them from consuming said meals.

Swimming gets dull fast

-yep typed it with my thumbs: they're what makes us better than apes

Location:Outside the municipal leisure center

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Back to being broken

Well I’ve hurt myself again! I must say this one could be a bit more grave than previous injuries, indeed its probably the underlying cause of all the niggling issues I’ve been having this season (well, that and the fighting bulls of Valencia). I’ve just got back from a couple of days with my dad, just being boys. Going to the pub, watching the rugby, walking the dog etc. it was nice, it reminded me of what I used to do at weekends before I started to spend them in lycra.

Two Sundays before I was sitting on a curb in Tobago, drinking a “vita malt” (which I won’t be doing again any time soon, it tasted like what we feed the horses smells ) and hurting after the uci 1.2 tobago cycling classic. My left leg had been feeling weaker and weaker since july and in Trinidad and Tobago it was almost useless. When I got up off the curb my whole lower back seized up and I couldn’t get my leg over my frame to ride back to the car. Not good.

Fast forward 10 days and I had flown home, making ample use of the rum as painkiller method, and taken a week off the bike. I started to train again with the goal of getting my legs back for a race in Costa Rica but it felt bad on the bike, like my position was way out and I wasn’t transferring any power, like I was hunched and contorted. I put in 2 five hour days, each ride thaking about 6 hours thanks to constant saddle and cleat tweaks but it still didn’t feel right. On Thursday I saw a doctor, in the modern era of mris and CAT scans I had expected him to immedeatley refer me to a machine but no. he poked me with a pin and, to my surprise, I couldn’t differentiate between a pin and a peg on my left hand side.

After an examination we sat down. In my experience, when a doctor starts his address with “now young man” and continues by fetching the skeleton on wheels, things aren’t going to end up with a paracetamol and a lollypop. Sure enough he reckons I’ve been bulging my l2/l3 disc and restricting nervous activity in my left quad for a wee while. I’m off for an MRI on Monday and seeing him again on Wednesday. HE told me to prepare for the worst, I might not ride for several months. I know what injury can do, I stopped rowing at oxford in 2006 with a herniated l5 s1 disc just before lightweight selection, probably not the worst thing in the world as it stopped me becoming a manorexic “boatie” but at the time it was pretty tough to deal with.

In a way I’m relieved, I thought I’d just turned into a sloth, at least I know what was wrong now. So in that sense I can look forward to healing and coming back faster. But I’m also pretty bummed. I might miss the whole ‘cross season without ever getting muddy (actually I’ll go and watch just to throw snowballs at the other racers like they did to me last year). I’m going to have to reassess goals on Wednesday, including my diabetes management. Thankfully I’ve go the pod so I can experiment with basal rates to suit inactivity. I won’t have the pod for much longer (thanks to the kind people in Georgia who would love you to believe they exist to do anything other than cream off drug money) but at least it’ll be there for this transition period. It also lets me party it up with my custom “big night out” basal program.

I’ve also been feeling emotionally tired recently. This year hasn’t been great. Not financially, nor with my family. I use the bike as a way of coping but suffering so much off the bike seems to cut into my ability to hurt on the bike. I hate myself for not giving my all, but some days I’ve already spent my beans staying up all night worrying about money, or my family, or where I’m going to get insulin. It’ll be nice to have a break, but I hope I can find something else which gives me the release that riding my bike does. That said I’ve been pretty lucky to have had the help of some great people and travel to some cracking places. This always perks me up and gives me something to look forward to. I also genuinely enjoy the chance to help people. I’m constantly aware that as a diabetic in sport I serve as an example to kids who, like me, are told what they can’t do, not what they can. If only for that reason and not for the many other reasons I have and haven’t given. I’m going to do everything I’m told. And heal as fast as I know I can ride, that way the awesomeness can continue in 2012.

On the more positive side this gives me more time to work on the team traveler project for 2012, although it does seem like free money is hard to come by in a recession. I think time will prove that the market has substantially undervalued our awesomeness. In fact, in a recession the awesomeness necessity quotient (ANQ) is in direct negative correlation to the unemp0oyment rate, so the more people who lose their jobs, the more they NEED men in lycra to come to the rescue. This theory has a pretty strong empirical basis, I mean batman and spiderman didn’t hang about in suburban LA did they? Nope. Grotty urban decay necessitates fast men in lycra. Strangely I’m struggling to find anyone who backs my ANQ theory, or agrees that the 21st century FDR wears zebra print skinsuits, but I see this as a work in progress. Opinions are formed over a lifetime and cannot be changed overnight.

So there’s an awful lot up in the air, I’ll update more when I know more. Any tips on battling the bulge are welcome. Right now I’m off to my little sister’s birthday party via the garden centre. I’ve decided to begin the offseason dressed as Bill (of Bill and Ben the flowerpot men fame) and I need a hat.

-yep typed it with my thumbs: they're what makes us better than apes

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

In pain on a plane

Well I'm on a plane again, earlier than expected and less comfortable. I'm coming back after the uci race in Tobago. I haven't been riding very well for various reasons, some of which it wouldn't be very professional to go into on a public site. While I was away my Sugar management wast always optimal, often this was my fault. I always tell kids with diabetes to take control of their own situation nd never rely on threes who will never fully understand "your" condition I was guilty of ignoring my own advice.

I was also guilty of ignoring the tips I give to beginner cyclists, chiefly listen to your body, don't brake in the middle of a turn, don't attack in the first k of a long race and don't make a prick out of yourself descending in the wet. I'd been feeling pants all week, coming down twice didn't help but I was riding at the back where it's sketchy as I didn't feel like my left side had any connection to push through.

In the uci race on Sunday I marked a very early move ad went way to deep for my bad legs. Come the first long climb I was lathered lactate and paying off my oxygen debt. I tried to float but guys were loosing wheels left right and center I ended up going full gas to stay within sight of the caravan, and descending like a nutcase to get back on. Eventually I paid the price for taking risks and went sideways across a corner, I kept it up but my back was in agony. My whole left side seized up in a familiar pain. In 2005 I herniated a disk rowing at Oxford and this felt like the early stages of that injury, I rode around to get finish but back at the end I couldn't even swing my leg over the bike!

Now I must say the beautiful corse and wonderful people of Tobago made this suffering about as pleasurable as was possible. The 2k 23% climb and 3000m of climbing and descending did not! As for the mudslides, off road sections,goats, chickens and cows well,variety is the spice of life.

Talking of spice the food was really impressive. I'm a devotee of saltfish buljol (especially with bake) and just about anything made with coconut. And i can honestly say I've never even seen some of the fruit on offer. I've also eaten far far too many bad pb and guava "jam" sandwiches when in a country with such great fresh seafood and fruit. A great part of traveling is trying new food so stocking up on basics which are neither that healthy nor that unique always seems a shame. That said when you can eat your fill you shouldn't ever complain. Lots of people can't.

Last night I sank a few beers, listened to some steel band music and reflected on an enjoyable I'd slightly hectic trip. Though about the future and the past. Later I spent some time with Ronnie who might just be the best driver and mechanic ive ever met. When I get flustered I make a knob of myself, I've never met someone who more exuded calm and warmth. I was exuding warmth from the inside as we shared a glass of rum before I left!

Today I rode in the back of a pick up truck to a boat to a bus to another pick up to a rum shop, a velodrome and an airplane to take me home.

-yep typed it with my thumbs: they're what makes us better than apes

Location:Piarco airport

Saturday, 17 September 2011

criteriums, doping and the tolpuddle martyrs

Well today i managed to bury my pedal in a 180 corner, end my race and completely screw up the calibration on my SRM. In my opinion the course was dangerous. a speedbump, a 180 turn and then back over the same speedbump. it wasn't about who was strongest but who got unlucky and got the course tape blown into their front wheel or happened to hit the lip of the gutter wrong. I chased like a prick for ages but never got back on. I'd been at the back on the first lap and after a couple of vueltas one member of the biggest and best team in the race took it upon himself to eliminate himself and all the riders behind him. i got back but it cost me all my pennies to do so.

I've raced 2 such criteriums in the past two weeks and the same guy has won both, this would be acceptable if he was a monster sprinter but he's not. he won both with a HUGE gap on the field. It's embarassing for everyone, if he's really that strong he should be racing the pro tour. now this would be ok if i hadn't overheard riders before the race discussing "4mg of that one 100mg of that one" etc. now it's possible that they were talking caffeine, electrolytes or glucose but it's also possible that they weren't.

the problem isn't with the individuals, the people doping or the course designer who is doing his best given a limioted budget and little help from the police or the town hall. I know the organiser and he is a great guy, he has a diabetic kid. He's incredibly kind, he does his best to help people pay to get to races and to put on a good show with good prize money. his races are fun, people come out to watch and to ride. The problem is with us as riders. Quite simply what we need to do is grow a pair and assert ourselves.

When someone laps the field two weeks in a row we need to ask how that's happening. if it's because we all ride like 5th cat muppets then that's one issue but if he's climbing at 600w over and over then we need to ask how. If the races were doing continue to be abandoned due to the failure of the federation or the government to support them then again we need to make our voices heard. Not so long ago i'm pretty sure riders would've sat down and demanded a safer course. Either before the race with the police or even on the start line. Now we're happy to race at all as more and more of the road races here are abandoned in favour of urban circuits.

The problem is one of initiation, just like the intial trade unionists what we need is martyrs. If you've been reading this for a while you'll have noticed that i haven't exactly enjoyed the best employer-employee relations with my former team. If i was unionised they wouldn't be able to do that. It's happened to bigger boys than me as well. Trent Lowe suffered at the hands of the argyle clad lie that is Garmin. Radioshack and Leopard trek seem to intent on merging despite the fact that they will have to terminate the contracts of riders who thought they had secure jobs. I can still remeber the pedaltech and linda mcartney sagas from years back. In short riders are the proletariat in this sport and while we continue to act in a disparate and divided manner we'll continue to be treated as the lowest of the low and people will continue to take advantage of us.

If you ask most of the fans, or peopel at the UCI what the major problem is with this sport they'll talk about doping, but i would contend that this is a symptom and not a cuase. The moment we unite and give a big f**k off to the people cheating in our sport, we'll be able to deal with doping. Only when it becomes the case that lower tier professionals are not over-raced, over travelled and under paid will it become the case that doping does not make economic sense for those "small fish" just looking to feed their families and pay their mortgages. When cyclists don't have to sacrifice an education, and a pension. When professional cycling has a before and after, then maybe riders will be more inclined to look into the future and see the costs of doping. right now, all they see is the present and the short term benefits are undeniable. especially when you have a wife, two children, a mountain of debt and no other job prospects since all you've done since you left school at 16 is pedal around.

I'm sorry if this comes across as ingratitude, i cannot stress enough how much i appreciate those people who put on races. I make an effort to thank the organiser personally every single time i pin on a number. you wouldn't go to a dinner party without writing a thank you letter (i hope) and this is the same gig, just more lycra and fewer candles. SO i'm not ungrateful but I am angry, i'm quite willing to be shipped to the proverbial penbal colonies like the tolpuddle martyrs to make my point clear. I'm lucky, i have job prospects outside this sport and those are where i will ultimatley find myself in years to come. but it takes a lot more than one distinctly average cyclist to make a difference, it takes a critical mass of riders to unite and to refuse to be exploited. Much like the most lumpen of proletariats we have nothing to generate income but our bodies and without unity we're worthless. If we can show unity we can put an end to the necessity of doping in the lower ranks and to those who practice a different form of doping, those for whom doping isnt about survival or paying th ebills but about winning, and when its about winning, then it is cheating. We need to stand up to the cheats, to those who make a profit from the suffering of others and to those prepared to sacrifice indivuals for their own ends. Indeed one might say "cyclists of the world unite, you have nothing to loose but your chains".