Monday, October 17, 2011

Mojo, Derek and Me

It's been a while since I last broke something, probably 6 weeks ago, so it is high time for an update on the situation..

Lately a lot of stuff has been changing - life as I know it really. It's already the end of Semester 2 and I leave for Wellington in 28 days. Scarfie life by it's very nature is always changing and I absolutely thrive on it. You never know what's going to happen next or who you're going to meet...

I've decided I am not racing or training in the traditional sense this year. I'll be reccie racing purely for the fun of it - like the old days, with no expectations, no pressure, just great rides with even greater people. This is why I started racing in the first place and I feel I need to get back to that place and just enjoy the freedom that is mountain biking.

Initially I thought it would still be possible to race and train at the high level but it would take quite a bit more than I'm willing to give at the moment. When I was off with the broken collarbone I was going out running rather than sitting inside on the windtrainer like I "should" have been, which was a pretty good indication of where my heart truly lies, no matter what I tried to tell myself I should have been doing. I have since sold the windtrainer, casual hundy buckie right there, cher boy!

So instead of training I'm going to accept I may not be as fast as I could be, but that's ok. In fact that's great, because it means I can go tramping on the weekends, go running up Ross Creek with my flatties, start road running again, go on 5hr epic rides, race club races and ride with the girls again. It also gives me more time to appreciate the fading days that is Scarfiedom,  Six60 days in the sun, great parties, and even better mates that come with it. We have a truly unique lifestyle down here in Otago and I'm pretty proud to have been a part of it. 

Carpe diem baby!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

What Was I Thinking?

Following the Sheila Dikshit travesty of 2010, Paul Henry suddenly found himself thrown into an abyss of scandal, culminating in accusations of racism, and ultimately his resignation. During the ensuing spare time he found he suddenly had, he wrote a memoir called What Was I Thinking detailing his methods of madness since childhood. Love him or hate him, I fucking love him so I don't care what you think.

I too find myself in excess of time, broadcasting this story to you considerably glazed over by Codeine and writing with one hand only, having been shunted from my MTB by a gust of wind on Saturday. I hit the road with my head and shoulder at 47.5kph. I lay on that road and I thought, well, I'm alive, but I should probably get off the road so I stay that way. When I got up, my shoulder was quite sore so I came to the natural conclusion that I had broken my collarbone. Which is the natural self-diagnosis when your shoulder's sore, eh?

I was very fortunate that a chap called Nick stopped and helped me out after seeing me on the side of the road. He walked over to me and stood there asking what was wrong before I finally realised that I needed to actually talk to him. So I told him I had broke my collar bone, so he took me down to Port Chalmers to meet an ambulance.

Nick was a great story teller. A war veteran himself, he told me stories of terrible pain he had experienced from broken bones, which in retrospect was quite funny. By the time the ambulance arrived the adrenaline wore off and shock set in. My face was sweating profusely. I couldn't stop shaking, and started hyperventilating. But I didn't cry.

The officers were lovely, one was a competitive road cyclist herself, so she told me all about her crashes. Some people just feel so comfortable confiding their traumatic experiences in me. While enlightening me with her stories, she gave me nitrous oxide to inhale, which I didn't like, because it made me feel like I was going to pass out. Strangely enough I became calm and announced that I was intolerant to all opioid analgesics, Morphine, Tramadol, Oxycontin and Pethedine, that my blood pressure would be low because I'm an athlete, I need to call my Mum, I didn't cry when I crashed, and I have a test on Tuesday for Economics. They just laughed and gave me more of that nitrous shit.

Having been through this state of affairs quite a few times this year with knee reconstruction surgery, a suspected scafoid break, concussion and now a broken clavicle, I've started to reflect on risk. A good friend of mine explained the nature of risk, comparing it to a clock, where the numbers change as risk changes. He said I should avoid risk when racing. I told him I simply can't think about risk when I'm racing because it will slow me down. The last time I thought about risk on the mountain bike was before I let go of the fear associated with losing control and hurting myself. That's when I became faster.

Can we slow down? So often, as mountain bikers, we put ourselves smack bang in the middle of a catch-22 situation. On one hand we mitigate risk to ourselves by wearing helmets, gloves and glasses. On the other hand, we put ourselves in that very situation where we are completely exposed to risk. Every time we storm down the singletrack, we are riding that very thin edge between brilliance and disaster. Sometimes we slip and catch the edge just in time. Sometimes we don't.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Land of the long flat white

Lance is right. It's not about the bike.

It's about the coffee.

Since when was it ever about the bike? Silly, skinny, misguided roadies.

I digress, as part of my feeble quest to become a 'legit' roadie, I have been pondering the remarkable correlation between cyclists and coffee consumption. Perhaps the ability to shot consecutive short blacks is the weak man's substitute for failing to grind a 32-16 up 3 Mile Hill? Even if you have mastered this mean feat, becoming a coffee connisseur is an essential rite of passage in becoming a legit road biker, mountain biker, downhiller, 4X'er, singlespeeder, fixxie, trackie, commuter, poser... whatever.

My limited statistical training cautions me however, in being quick to imply causation. It would be ridiculous to infer that we drink coffee because we ride bikes. That's like saying Rodney Hide was rolled because ACT lacked leadership..

We drink coffee because we ride bikes. Merely a correlation?
Not quite...

Last September, my flat and I conceived a cunning challenge: Sacrifice September. We each had to forego a terrible habit for the month, with the sorest loser shouting a round of drinks on the 30th. The sacrifices ranged from the meek to the essential. For me it was coffee (essential), an un-named flattie, sexual exploits (a meek sacrifice indeed), and everyone else... somewhere in between.

Unnamed flattie failed on all accounts, and I survived a week before sliding into an all-consuming abyss of...well...having to buy drinks at the end of the month, by a long shot (scuse the pun).

My justification? I couldn't function without drinking it. Why? My weekends consisted of this:

Saturday: 3 or 4 hours of training. Coffee,Carb, Protein. 5 hours of study. Dinner, Study, Bed
Sunday: 3 or 4 hours of training. Coffee, Carb, Protein. 4 hours of study. Dinner, Movie, Bed

Other than studying on a Saturday night being pretty pathetic, can you see what is wrong with this equation - what would happen if you took coffee out? The whole damn thing would fall apart! X hours of study would be substituted for Y hours of a pathetic attempt to stay awake, copious amounts of lethargy and worst of all, wrong answers. I would have failed for sure.

Hypothesis proved. Honours in Statistics firmly, but politely declined.

Despite my newly acquired short-term disability, my demand for coffee is still highly inelastic. For you lefties out there, pick up any Economics textbook and have a good hard look at what this means. In fact, so inelastic that this morning I spent the good part of 20 minutes home barista'ring these puppies for my parents and I, courtesy of some Caffe L'affare Primo:

The secret to a great brew

The big one's for Dad. 2 sugars, stirred with love.

Next in my coffee blog series will be an analysis of Wellington's finest. Not only is it home to Rt. Hon John "I'm The F*n Man" Key, but it is also the coffee culture capital... of the land of the long flat white.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My first meeting with a Nun

Exactly 2 months ago today, I was racing at the National Champs in Dunedin. Precisely at this time... I would have been helping Wilson clean Carl’s bike ready for the podium, before heading off to the celebratory BBQ. Well done to my team mates Carl and Katie - both National Champions, and everyone else who braved the Dunedin cold. It’s not called Sunny Dunedin for no reason!

In the 8 weeks since National Champs I’ve been on a training break, in which I have undergone reconstructive knee surgery. The foreseeable future is a long time not training, and I really miss it. I miss spending 2+ hours a day with my bike, my Polar dictating those two hours by minutes, kilometres, and heart rates.

Prior to my knee surgery, and since the final NZ MTB Cup round in February, I’ve had my left arm in a cast, my ass in hospital for concussion, an eye infection, a nasty cold and now my left leg is in a knee brace for six weeks. My surgeon said to me “You’ve really had a bad time lately, haven’t you?” A few other people have said the same thing, but I’m starting to look at it a different way. A lot of my friends are a hell of a lot worse off, some have injuries that are permanent and affect their bike racing in a huge way. They keep going. The one thing I have learned from their experiences, is you can’t really control what happens to you, only how you react to it.

It would be easy to feel sorry for myself, not being able to ride my bike, drive my car, or even just walk without crutches. At the end of the day, though it seems like it now, it’s actually not that bigger deal. In 6 weeks I will be huddled next to a fire at a pub with my flatties, sipping some Emersons, laughing with them at how scared I was the morning of surgery. In 6 months, I'll be nearly finished my degree. Tomorrow I will forget what I did today, and tomorrow I will be one day closer to getting out of the knee brace. It’s all relative, and important to keep it in perspective in order to avoid frustration.

Let me tell you about hospital. I had the most peculiar experience at Mercy. The last thing I remember before going into surgery is giggling uncontrollably at the radio playing in the theatre and telling the theatre staff that they looked like they were from Shortland Street. They told me they don’t have nearly as much fun, then I feel asleep. I woke up a few hours later in the recovery room and sat straight up before being pushed back down on the bed, then fell asleep again. The next thing I knew, I was in the ward with my family. It was great to see them, but it was a real struggle to stay awake, so between talking to my parents and sending txts to people I drifted back to sleep.

When I finally woke up, I tried to eat something. I ate half a chicken sandwich and a yoghurt, which I threw up an hour later. I was then given some morphine and tramadol which made me a bit delusional and nautious. The night was rescued however, by a Nun. I have never met a nun before in my life, so naturally I was intrigued by her sudden appearance. I felt like I was in the Vatican. And in Sister Act at the same time, which is clearly impossible, Whoopi Goldberg would not be allowed anywhere near the Vatican with her grasp of the “French” language.

The surgery itself was a complete success in that my knee was reconstructed. Basically my knee cap was sitting 15 degrees out of the socket, causing my knee to be instable and dislocate randomly (which it did, 3 times over 3 years - don't recommend it). John Dunbar is the brilliant surgeon who performed the surgery. He is a very funny guy who does things his way, his own pace, and says the funniest things. He performed the surgery laparoscopicallu on two areas of my knee, where he released and reattached the lateral ligament, and shortened my VMO muscle, attaching it directly to my kneecap for stability. The most involved procedure however, was detaching my patellar ligament with some shinbone attached, and reattaching it back to my tibia with two screws, more medially. it's called a tibial tuberosity. Gross. But all of this stuff basically means my kneecap is back in the right place and will hopefully stay there for the duration... hopefully...

I’m actually happy to have gone through this. I was irrationally medically sensitive and used to have a big fear of injections and needles, to the point where I avoided taking blood tests a few months back because I was too scared of the needles. Last week I was given 7 injections in 3 days, and after crying at the first one I didn’t get scared of the rest. At all. So without the surgery, I would still be scared of needles! Proof that I didn't freak out at my IV:

So.... where to from now? Well, I’m approaching the whole saga like I would approach training. It’s all about numbers. I have 5 more weeks in a knee brace. So for the next 5 weeks, no I can’t ride my bike, I can’t walk, but I can study, learn about new things and do things I wouldn’t normally do. Once my 5 weeks is up, I am going to focus solely on aceing my exams and rebuilding my body. I will have some ridiculous muscle imbalances that will need to be corrected, and then I will be working on building strength and regaining base fitness for some exciting events next year. I'm moving to Wellington next year to start work as a fresh faced graduate which puts me in a better position to train and race. Secretly I love Wellington far too much and need to go back. Oceania’s in Rotorua will be the peak event in 2011, I will also be doing my first road tour, the Tour de Femme in December and tackling my first Karapoti in March.

Exciting stuff, but for now, I’m going to enjoy being a student.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A little less planning and a little more faith..

One thing this Summer has shown me is how much I truely love New Zealand, and how proud I am to be a Kiwi. We should all be pretty stoked to live in such a wicked place. I've been fortunate enough to go as far as Auckland, race in Napier, Tauranga and Rotorua, and travel through the little shanty towns of Turangi and Taihape, I've loved every minute of it... just looking at the path to Vegas you know you're headed for heaven..

Ever since riding in Rotorua at Christmas, I have been itching to get back and race. It's every mountain biker's spiritual home, and I always feel so in touch with the real NZ when I ride there. NDuro #2 seemed like the perfect opportunity to spend a weekend away catching up with mates, making some new ones, and racing bikes. I was elated to discover on Friday that every track on the course apart from Soakhole I had ridden before, and that the course followed all of my favourite ones! I was really looking forward to racing the course I had got to know and love in such a short time.

Since my terrible performance at Nationals I have been spending a lot of time looking at why I haven't been performing at the level I am capable of. A few things jumped out at me, so I have changed my approach to training and racing. I've been putting a lot more trust into what I have been doing, rather than planning everything. Put simply, I was just overthinking it all. I was getting too wound up because I didn't have a plan when things didn't go to plan!!

It's hard... to just trust that you'll be able to handle certain situations in racing. But I have always been quite a casual person who has been able to come through in challenging situations. After chatting with Stu Houltham a couple of weekends ago, I decided to approach some aspects of my race differently, so I decided to employ this new strategy in Vegas and see what I could do. It turned out to be both a dream race and a challenging one.

The NDuro start wasn't very fast unless you were in the Elite bunch, which worked in my favour. I just worked consistently through the first section until the pack strung out a little, so I could warm up into race pace. Heading into A-Trail, I was feeling great and got some epic flow on, which I used to start going at full race pace right up Direct Rd to the Summit. In fact I wanted to go full race pace until the end, and that's what I did.

Through Tickler I was railing berms and jumping doubles having just such a great time riding my bike, fast. Going downhills is one of my strengths, certainly the part I most enjoy, so when Billy-T came around, I was still jumping and pumping pretty loose. Big mistake! I flew over a lip coming down Billy-T, crossed up a large tree root with my front wheel, flipped the Berg, went over the handle-bars and slammed into a tree. I sincerely thought I was going to be pretty badly injured, but somehow rolled onto my back, facing the wrong up the track, had a little giggle, said to myself "I'm ok, I'm ok" and jumped straight back on the bike to have a great run down the remainder. My left foot was cramping pretty badly, but I just gritted my teeth in pedalled harder to make it go away. No excuses.

My next major challenge was at Sweet + Sour. This is an easy track, but at 2 hours I was starting to feel fatigued. This track always pisses me off, because just when you think it ends, it starts again on the other fricken side of the road!! After climbing up Lions Trail and arriving atDipper I was so exhausted I genuinely beleived I was going to collapse, I was digging so deep that I though very soon I'd come to the point where I had nothing left. I usually rip around Dipper lapping up the extreme berms, but I was crawling. Still, no excuses, I just thought of the time Lance hit the wall so hard he could barely pedal in the winning stage of the TdF, and that kept me going through Rockdrop. In fact I was so inspired by Lance that I decided to take the hard line through Rockdrop 44km into the race. I ended up nose wheelieing down and nearly going over the handlebars again, HAIRY!!!

The remainder of the race was pretty much a blur of pain and exhaustion, hanging out for cold water, but I was so motivated to keep going hard to the very end, which is what I did. It's a great feeling to love racing again.

And Gav, I found me a classy new box at Paka's Rotas! It is so solid that me and Rae could probably carry you around in it. Can't wait to try ;-)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The people you’ll meet.. the places you’ll go

Willow Koerber has really inspired me as of late, she is one of two of my #1 heroes on the bike. Funnily enough, it’s not because she’s one of the most talented mountain bikers in the world - it’s because she is genuinely balanced and spirited within herself. It’s just fricken awesome! Read her blogs and you will get the picture ( - “The Training Part” is my fave).Plenty of people have labeled her as a tree-hugging hippy, but I totally disagree. She has simply struck her inner balance. I think that’s what we are all in pursuit of - racing is just one of many channels in which to discover it. Besides, those who criticise are not World #3. She must be doing something right, eh?

I have been fortunate enough to get a small insight into just how much it takes to train and race at your best – to find the inner balance that enables you to do so. Not only is it what you do on your bike, it’s actually mostly what you do off the bike to back up all the training you do! The first two NZ MTB Cup rounds have been nothing short of shocking for me. I have deliberately not updated my blog for a while so I could give myself time and space to process everything, and look at what I didn’t quite do well, and what I need to improve. Then explain it all neutrally. It was difficult for a while to stay positive when things don’t go well, but therein lies the challenge! I want to and need to be able to focus on learning from these situations to be able to move forward. It’s a process, it’s exciting, and I’m improving.

Sometimes you just have to look at your dreams again. They’re big, they can be achieved, but they also need to be bright, and right in front of you. My dream is to race on the pro circuit and represent New Zealand at the World Championships. If I get distracted, my focus word is “Kia Kaha”. Be strong. It reminds me that I am a Kiwi (a very proud fact), and also reminds me I’m out there day in, day out, working towards the day I will wear the Silver Fern. Yep, there’s been ups and downs, there will be plenty more ups, and a few downs. I’ve been distracted, made wrong decisions, second-guessed myself, been confused, tired and worried, and haven’t walked my talk. But above and in front of all that, I’m strong, fast, happy, laugh at stupid shit and have a lot fun.

Besides, how would you know what a special moment is when you don’t have a tough moment to compare it to?

A 3rd of 3. The medal for me was about being rewarded for not giving up when my performance wasn't great.