Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Beans, bikes and brain training

Well I rode 190km today, not hugely unusual but it did take us nearly 7 hours. And we stopped for lunch and we talked a lot and we didn't go hard and we waited for everyone at the top of the climbs.

The funny thing was this was the perfect ride for me today, exactly what I needed. I was surrounded by the people who'd been about when I first emerged on the cycling scene as a skinny yoof with no idea what I was doing. These guys taught me how to fix a puncture, how to drink on the bike, how when and what to eat. What to wear and how to wear it ( apart from our hideous dayglo yellow team kits which looked more like we were digging up the roads than racing on them). They're all different ages, classes, genders (well I suppose there are fewer varieties of gender and we didn't have any trans gender riders so technically not ALL) and backgrounds and all we share is a real pleasure in rising our bikes. Some of us are elite bike racers, others are just cyclotourists and I'm pretty sure some of the latter ride more than the former. Mark said he'd done 300 miles in three days this week and he's been doing that kind of nonesense for longer than I've been alive! I hope I can knock out that kind of mileage in my retirement!

Now I'm not suggesting you stop for beans on toast on every ride, or average 150w but sometimes your head is more important than your legs and getting your head fit takes more than intervals. You need to recall WHY you love riding your bike and how much fun it is riding roads you don't know with people you do.

But seriously the beans on toast are massively underrated, I was stomping on the way home!

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

Location:Most of Shropshire and a little bit of wales

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Break time in brussels

With a fair amount of racing behind me and an ever increasing amount of fatigue in my legs I've been enjoying a week of taking it fairly easy. I'm not quite sure what's up but u seem to have lost anything vaguely resembling a jump or indeed anything looking like someone dressed up as an anaerobic effort for a sports science themed dressing up do. Yup it's that bad.

My initial response was to train more but that didn't work so I've enjoyed a week(ish) with mum in belgium, riding a couple of hours each day and enjoying a bit of culture, museums and food. And sleep, can't beat a good sleep.

I've eaten frites, drunk beer and even eaten chocolate. I can report that all are very good especially the beer!any tips on personal favorites are welcome, but don't say duvel. That's like saying your a connoisseur of fine wine because you drink the four dollar bottles not two buck chuck!

I really enjoyed the centrum ronde van vlaanderen, the belgians really do museums very well and this one obviously hit on a favorite subject. I also dominated the wattbike "cobbles simulator" let me tell you, it was bumpy but the watt bike is neither cold nor wet nor will it push you into a ditch. Anyway the cobbles are okay, it's the missing cobbles which get you.

In other news, new delicacies discovered include carbonnade which is possibly my favorite Belgian meal, and sirop de liege which is a delicious apple,date and pear jam. Waffles are still good, real cream is still better, horse is surprisingly yummy and very lean and Belgium has maple syrup at breakfast buffets unlike canada. Oh and the little crispy sprinkles they have at the buffet, they're for your nutella sandwich but they go well on yogurt.

And now for the Debbie downer; I've been doing lots of museuming and history in Belgium isn't all waffles and beer.

I want to reflect a bit on the tough deal Belgium has had over the years, I mean this poor nation(or nations) has been where the rest of Europe has come to sort out it's squabbles for centuries. With my host family I've found some rather grim souvenirs in the garden, it strikes me as utterly insane that where we sit relaxed and enjoying our beers today, people have been dying for centuries and indeed many of them haven't moves since they took their last breaths in a country which wasn't even their own. I know you've heard it all before but why on earth do we try to prove who should rule whom and who is right about what by demonstrating who can more effectively slaughter young men? Surely the opposite should be the case.

We've raced through graveyards and battlefields in the last few weeks and sitting down to think about how most of the guys in the peloton would've been older than everyone in the ground around them. Having been to Waterloo, passendale, dunkerque and even passed by the eu court of human rights I am given to wondering, if insanity is defined as doing the same thing expecting a different outcome, when are we going to abandon such mass lunacy?

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

Location:Galavanting about in Belgium

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Rituals and cocktails

The changing room before a kermis is a fascinating place to be. I sit there 4-5 times a week but it's never really occurred to me to take a good look around before; everyone has their own little pre -race ritual. It's like a hundred liturgies each with a different means to the same end.

To one side there might be a guy pinning his number 17 times and folding it like an origami artist. Another fastidiously checks His jersey pockets and mutters to himself "twee gel, waffel" and the little pill which triggers a furtive glance every time he pulls it out to check it's there. Someone else pits chamois cream on his shorts. Another takes his shorts from a supporter already lubricated and slips them on before going outside, base layer on and shorts rolled up to to his groin. He sits in a folding chair while the same supporter applies embro like she's about to send him sliding down a chimney.

I'm the same, i get to the race and make my bottles; flat coke. No money for mix any more. I drop a lemon magnesium tablet in each and a paracetamol in one if i feel sick. I will have eaten 4 hours out, maybe 3. Bread, ham, and fruit. Many eat plain pasta or even pasta with sugar! If it's been more than 3 hours I eat a rijstart wen I get to the race. And I get in an early trip to the toilet, before it looks and smells like pasendale.

I usually mix Vaseline aloe vera and litocane to make a chamois cream, pit my chamois and base layer on before the embro (that's important, try it the other way around and you'll see that it's not just a superstition). Check bloodsugar, im always checking. Everyone looks but i dont care, nobody talks. Then i put on armwarmers and check my jersey pockets.

I pull out a big bag of dex 4 and work out the distance of the race, divided by 40. It's never slower than 40. Then I multiply that number by 60 and that's my carbs. Plus an extra dex for emergencies.

Next I put the long sleeve on and shoes and gloves, select my sunglasses and ride to the sign on. Pay my euros and get my number. Pin it on, I'm not that fussy. And drink a redbull (45 mins out, thats how long it takes to hit) I put the race jersey under the long sleeve and ride the course, first lap to look for holes and tight parts. A few sprints. Second lap high cadence efforts. Check again, correct if I need to. Still 25 minutes, time enough to make corrections.

Then it's back to the start, others do it differently some are loud and chatty, others like Thom yorke. After the caffeine hits anemone done my efforts I'm more gregarious, less nervous.

Then to the start. I nine up in the middle near the front and hope we get off on time. Hand off my coat to dernytrainer eddy or janneke at the last minute. Nod at my friends. Cross myself (always, don't know why) and check if my shoe cover is covering the cleat. Some guys clip in and grab the rail. Others stand in front of the line and form a new "line" bastards.

I clean my shades, take a puff on my inhaler and do some light meditation. The guy next to me slaps his legs. Another idly toys with the lucky charm hanging from his saddle. I try to see who's sketchy and look for a good wheel. I look what gear everyone is in, the right gear is the same gear, if they have 53-11 then so should I. Someone kisses his wife. Someone else spits on the floor.

I reset the srm and when the whistle blows. And after two hours if pre-ritual of caffeine and sugar and embro and pills and nerves. Then we start bike racing.

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


Monday, 8 August 2011

The several ps

Proper prior preparation prevents piss poor performance, right

So I went out training on Saturday and 2 hours into a tempo ride I bumped into a race. I was going to watch but peer pressure from te nice old lady who hands me bidons sometimes Persuaded me to pin on a dossard.

Fully expecting to get dropped I set off with one can of coke in a bottle, a jersey with didn't match my knicks and made it to a bakery just in time to pound a rijstart on the line.

For reasons best known to myself I didn't get dropped as fast as I'd hoped, despite my frame pump and saddlebag. Thus I found myself 100k later with nearly five hours on the clock begging jelly smurfs off the other riders as it started to hail.

In the video I'm the only guy in kneewarmers; thats a sin in Belgium but I think the saddlebag marked me out as a rank outsider anyway, Floyd would've been proud.

To top it all off I got lost on the way home, and all I got for the whole 220 k funfest was a waffle!

And yes the Belgian team I'm riding for has a beer sponsor, other major supporters are euro premium dog food (my favorite canine cuisine) and a cabbage grower ( mmmmm cabbage).

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

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Fun in the sun

I woke up his morning after a holiday weekend. My head was thumping, there was a tattoo on my arm and my mouth was bone dry. The tv hurt my eyes wig Its images of a carnival which I had somewhat unwittingly got involved in on Saturday and bottles covered the hotel room floor.

Rather than a bout of rocketed excess I was recovering from my trademark dehydration and heatstroke and a great weekend at cwd Toronto. I love working with children with diabetes. Nobody should have to stop doing what they want because their pancreas is lazy. And if it takes me to prove that my insulin pump is waterproof sweatproof bullproof and Tarmac impact tested then I'm happy to help.

The omnipod team in Canada really impressed me, great people and a grey attitude and balance. Their office gym and cafe were outstanding and they really seemed like a happy and motivated team. I can't ever see myself desk jockeying but if I do I hope it's somewhere like this.

I managed to get ina quick spin whilst I was in toronto. I rode over to the cn tower and along the lakefront. Sadly some phallus of cn tower proportions had removed the tape marking my position but the guys at wheels of bloor helped me get it back, thanks. A Nys inspired barrier hop on te way back found me surrounded by spandex, sadly not a ride but a parade. I did get some odd looks but I want the one with a flamingo on my head.

We ate some fantastic food, lees. Fusion food provided a highlight without doubt the beat slaw and possibly the best peanut and chocolate dessert ( a subject on which I could be considered an expert) but my best memories are from sitting down with little kiddies as they totted up the carbs in their lunches and decorated their pods.

And mum and gran, you can breathe again; the tattoo was a transfer from one of the children .

Location:Toronto, the town with the tower that looks phallic enough to get it fired

Fun in the sun part 2, the not so fun part

It always amuses me to reflect on place names when I race, the other day as I hacked up my lungs in between the bunch and break in boezinge along a course which passes the Ypres canal it occurred that I was literally and metaphorically in no man's land.

Mondays race here in canada was in terra cotta, which means bake earth and I managed to end up truly baked. This was a pretty interesting race, no uci regulations and a huge number of starters. Needless to say it was full gas first lap to get rid of the muppets and countless people managed to lay it down. A brief batboy cyclocross action helped to avoid one sutch sketchfest and it wasn't until 20k later that I realized it had cost me my bottles.

Heat index was 41 degrees c and I had already ridden 40k to get there and had 104k to go and one bottle. I'd set up my pod to cut my basal two hours before the race but riding out there I left two hours before so insulin on board might have been a little high. Normally I'd snack before racing but the heat killed my hunger. The feedzone had plain water in plastic bottles but I wasn't getting one each lap, the riding was well out of line and passing lapped riders made the feed a pretty unsafe place.

After not drinking mix I predictably began to go low, reaching into my pocket for dex i grabbed a pack, and went to rip off the tab, but there wasn't one, I stuffed it back into my shorts and grabbed another, same thing. So now I had no sugar and no electrolytes. I tried to grab something in the feed justvas some kid uses his face to slow down. Closing the gap was not what I needed at that point. A gel and a wheel and I'd have recovered but sometimes it's not meant to be.

I started swinging and missed the break. I shouted for a Coke and some kind soul hooked me up but it was 30ks too late. I finished at 6mmol or about 104 after a dex 4 which Tracey from gsk handed up and a Gatorade. So I was most likely about 2-3 mmol or 60 for a good 45 mins. Good enough for 8th in the 20-29 race and some nasty arsenal stress. Pity there wasn't a bottle cage prime....

That night things got bad. I felt dire incredible cramps in ever part of my body. We went out to dinner and I threw up. I couldn't move as my muscles wouldn't respond. I was desperately looking for anything with salts, but nothing stayed down. Later I managed a drink of magnesium and some vitamin c mix, and some pretzels. My body had gone pretty deep to ride out the hypo and the dehydration. Sine te race I'd had three crashes and put away almost 40g of sugar to get out of each, and barely bolused. I was running on empty.

Jeff from gsk took me to his house, we sat down (well i flopped down like a wet fish) on his sofa and chilled out like old friends. Such a kind guy, we'd only met that day and here he was feeding me dry toast!

Anyway I managed to get to sleep and woke up ravenous, luckily I could go to town on he hotel buffet, and copious amount of salt!

Just another part of the world to nearly die in!

Location:Terra cotta, quite literally baked earth