Monday, 30 June 2008

Wandong Winter Wander

It was a case of best laid plans coming undone. You'll remember my pledge to try to ride with others on the Audax Wandong Winter Wander. I noticed a few likely candidates in the group milling at the start. Then I read the route notes. Us 150km riders were to ride a 3.2km loop before heading off on the same course as the 200k riders. Damn. Oh well, if I make good time to Seymour, I can ride with them out to the turnaround.

The whole plan was made more complicated by the fact that I was under some time constraints. Sunday was my daughter, Ruby's 5th birthday and I'd promised to be home by 3pm to help out at her party. Five year old girls are not to be disappointedly.

With this in mind, I polished off the 3.2km loop and set off in pursuit of the 200k riders. Easier said than done, even a 6 or 7 minute start is really hard to reel in, especially when Leigh's out there driving into the wind. When I got to the Seymour stop, the lead four where still there and I started looking at the next leg. Alas we were to go our separate ways again. They headed to Nagambie while I was off to Avenel. The head wind had come up a bit more by this section and it was more exposed than earlier. It still wasn't too bad and I knew it was only 20 odd km until I could turn for home with a tail wind.

The general store in Avenel was chock-a-block full of customers and it seemed to take forever to get my card stamped. The tail wind back to Seymour was a great help without being a gale but I made good time.

Back at Seymour I met up with the first of the 100k riders just preparing to leave so I jacked a ride with Stephen, Gareth and Jane. We had a fair wind through the winding hilly country to Broadford and Kilmore. I think my knowledge of these hills gave me a head start up most of them. These are my regular riding routes. It was great to have someone to ride with and chat to at last. I get sick of my own terrible singing after a while.

By Kilmore, I was keen to get to the finish, so I did a hit and run on the servo to get my card signed and was off on my own again. With a passable tail wind I gave the last 13 odd km a good thrashing. The East Kilmore road has a bunch of lovely rolling hills you can really attack, especially with a nice breeze at your back.

At the end, it was really hard to leave the nice warm hall at Wandong to go home. I really wanted to sit and chew the fat for a while, but there you go. All in all, another lovely day on the bike. Not too much wind, not too cold, a lovely course, nice people to ride with and a nuovo series completed. My shoulder feels like I've been hitting it with a hammer all day, but it'll get better.

I got home in time.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

The Art of Tapering

All serious athletes will tell you the importance of tapering properly for a big event. With this in mind my tapering regime for today's Wandong Winter Wander was straight forward. Yesterday I cut and split 6 tonne of firewood. That's three loads like the one below. To make it even more stupid, I split it by hand even though we've got an hydraulic splitter. I thought I'd just make a start and next thing I knew it was getting dark and I had a big pile of wood. Oops.

As a result of this genius piece of work, I woke up this morning with incredible pain in my dodgy right shoulder. The one that starts hurting at about 200k on the bike. As a result I rode the whole ride in pain, wishing I could tear my right arm off and toss it away. The secondary problem caused by cutting wood is that I invariably breath in a fair amount of sawdust which gets trapped in my nose and throat. My immune system then works overtime creating mucus and god knows what else to help expel the foreign matter. Suffice to day I felt like crap.

Don't do this before a big ride. It's only going to hurt. Full ride report tomorrow.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Going for Speed - Part 5

Why am I so hooked on going fast right now? It's not that I'm driven to turn in a performance. I'm hardly interested in the time, it's pushing myself as hard as I can that's interesting me. I find myself deliberately pushing a bit too hard so I blow up a few k's from home. I'm getting depressed if I have too many days off the bike. Am I hooked on endorphins?

Cycling is really enjoyable right now. I hope I have the perspective and common sense to recognise burnout before I go over the edge. I'm even enjoying riding in the wind!

The only disturbing part of the drive to go fast is the unsociability of it. The last two Audax rides I've done, I've hardly spoken to anyone, because I haven't been riding with others 90% of the time. I know it's making me stronger, but I also really like the companionship of other riders. I'm not suggesting that I'm faster than everyone else, I'm not. It's just that the pace that puts me on the hard edge is a solo one. This weekend I'm going on another Audax ride, a 150km to complete a nuovo series. I plan to ride with other people.

Going for Speed - Part 4

What a hammer fest. I did a little ride at lunchtime today. 30km out and back. A fair dinkum 33km time-trial with a really annoying side wind which felt like a headwind equally in both directions. Average heart-rate 162. Not quite a PB for the course but really nice time with the wind. I think I need a little lie down.

What's stuck in my head?
ooo you set my soul alight
ooo you set my soul alight
glaciers melting in the dead of night
and super-stars sucked into the super-massive
you're a supermassive black hole

supermassive black hole - muse

I suppose I should be doing some work - or not.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Eating and Riding

One of my great loves, other than cycling is eating. I really love cooking and eating good food. Unfortunately the two often don't really work well together. Cycling takes up a lot of the time I could be cooking and eating makes me too fat to ride up hills. Beyond these somewhat difficult tensions there is the need to eat in order to ride.

Great, I hear you cry, I can eat heaps of stuff. Wrong! Or wrong for me at any rate. When I do a long ride I find it hard to take in enough calories to fuel the work without upsetting my stomach or binding up the works. Bananas are great but I can't live off them alone.

Here are a few of the things I like to eat while riding which don't give me too many problems with my stomach but are good fuel.

Fruit cake. Not just any fruit cake, it's got to be moist and tasty and not one of those nasty supermarket jobs which leaves my mouth feeling dry and gummed up. The best I've found is the "Golden Circle Boiled Pineapple Fruit Cake" it doesn't taste overly pineapply and it's always tasty no matter how dusty my mouth is.

Avocado sandwiches or rolls. These are also great because they're never dry and the avocado has just the right amount of sticky/squishiness to hold the whole thing together without making the bread soggy. Contrary to my intuition these hold up quite well in my back pocket for a couple of hundred k's on a hot day. If you're so inclined the avocado will hold a bit of ham or cheese in place in the construction quite well also. Lots of good calories to be had here.

Rice salad is a beauty. My favourite is really tasty and has lots of garlic. Not so good if you're planning on a bit of pash action after the ride unless it's the PBP. It's more of an off the bike eat at checkpoints although I have eaten it out of a container in my handlebar bag with a spoon while riding. The recipe goes:

2 cups cooked brown rice
1 red capsicum finely chopped
1/2 cup currants
6 spring onions finely chopped
Mix these together in a bowl

100g raw cashews
100g pine nuts
Roast these on a tray in the oven or in a frypan until browned

1/2 cup olive oil (use the best stuff you've got)
6 tablespoons teriyaki sauce (the thin stuff, not the thick sticky one)
4 cloves garlic crushed

Add the nuts and dressing and stir - easy.

Did I mention bananas?

Cold pasta bake of any kind. I experiment a bit but I find that spiral pasta with a fairly thick sauce and cheese on top, baked, will go quite firm when cold. I cut it in squares, carry it in my pocket and eat while riding. I find I need to cook the past a bit more than I would normally to get it to bind into a nice lump.

Beer. A nice glass of icy cold beer (light if you want) every 100k or so is very refreshing and has an analysis not vastly different to a good sport drink. It tastes much better. If the pub has stout on tap, a black and tan is even better.

And bananas.

Baked polenta with a bit of leek through it for taste is another great pocket food.

You'll note I don't go for sweet things while I'm riding. I find I get sugared out very easily with sport drink and yummy slices and so on at checkpoints. I also find that the really sweet stuff can spike my sugar levels and then take me back down pretty quickly. I wouldn't recommend some of this stuff for the all out speed assault on a PB, I'd tend to stay a bit more plain (skip the beer), but for the average long distance ride I find these foods great.

I'm working on a few more good riding recipes . I'll pass them on as I get them right and test them on the road.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Say Bye-Bye to Kansas Dorothy

Last night when I was eating my lovely home made goat and borlotti bean soup I remember thinking, "this could cause wind". Tonight on my way home I had a head wind of between 50 and 70kph. The ride normally shows a usage of between 1100 and 1200 kcal. Tonight it was 1910.

Anyone who's slept on a wild ocean beach in winter will know the sound of the waves smashing themselves against it. The sound of the worse gusts coming over the hills through the trees was the same. At times I was afraid I'd be knocked backwards. I found myself actually going faster up the hills because of the protection from the wind in the lee of the hill.

For the first 23km of the ride, I really smashed myself against the wind. I had to make decent time to not be late for my Pilates class. At times I was pushing a heart rate of 170 to maintain 18kph on the flat. The second half was much less hectic because I didn't want to undo any good I'd done in the class.

The wind reminds me of a winter northerly I rode into for two days on a 1080km randonnee in my younger days. Not a great memory.

The hardest part of tonight's ride was those sections when riding at about 10 degrees to the wind. Every gust tried to knock my wheels from under me and stopped me dead. A couple of times I got knocked 30cm sideways but each time I was able to catch it and adjust fairly easily.

There is a town in north Ontario,
With dream comfort memory to spare,
And in my mind
I still need a place to go,
All my changes were there.

Blue, blue windows behind the stars,
Yellow moon on the rise,
Big birds flying across the sky,
Throwing shadows on our eyes.
Leave us

Helpless, helpless, helpless
Baby can you hear me now?
The chains are locked
and tied across the door,
Baby, sing with me somehow.
Helpless - Neil Young

Yesterday I felt like crap. Today, I've had maniacs trying to kill me and ridden into a wind like a brick wall. I feel great. I love riding my bike!

Three Times And You're Lucky

This morning on my way to work I had three close calls. All of them apparently deliberate from homicidal drivers.

When only a km from home, riding on the paved shoulder, I had a ute drive past me with horn blaring. The driver then veered onto the shoulder and braked heavily. Not sufficient to cause me to be in danger of hitting him but enough to make me brake heavily and to act as a threat.

When traveling along the emergency lane on the Hume Freeway a large truck passed, again air horn blaring. This isn't so strange so I ignored it. I then noticed the truck pulling over into the emergency lane some distance ahead and the hazard lights came on. Call me paranoid but this made me take notice. I waited for a decent break in the traffic to pass, as I needed to ride out onto the Freeway proper. As I drew level I gave him plenty of room. This was lucky because with perfect timing, his drivers door flew open at head height just as I reached the cab. Missed me. My suspicion was heightened when he passed me again only a minute or so later.

Thirdly, I had another ute pull out from a left hand intersection directly in front of me. He was facing a STOP sign, and rolled through, trying to beat me. There was no way he didn't realise I was there. It was dark, but I had two really decent headlights and made eye-contact with him. This was lucky because I was able to anticipate what he was going to do and was on the brakes early. I was doing around 45kph at the time. Fortunately I guessed right and swerved left. That gets really messy if the driver pulls out and stops in front of you. I very narrowly missed the back corner of the ute and then the concrete crash barrier on the far side of the intersection.

The thing that annoys me is that the only rego number I got is that of the truck and it's pretty hard to prove any kind of intent on door opening. Think I'll just buy a lottery ticket, or that RPG launcher I've had my eye on.

All in all I had a really great ride. I sang a few songs, got a good workout, it wasn't too cold, there was no wind and the loonies all missed me. Somehow I can't even get all wound up over drivers trying to kill me.

I wonder what tonight holds in store? The forecast is for gale force, damaging winds. I'll bet you can't guess which direction they're going to be blowing. I love cycling!

Monday, 23 June 2008

Fifteen Speed Cassette - Revealed!

Following the amazing leaks about Campagnolo's ground breaking new Eleven Speed Cassette based groupsets, it has been revealed that Shimano is on the verge of unveiling their own Electronic Twelve Speed competitor. Logic therefore tells us that the leaking of the SRAM Thirteen Speed effort is only days away.

In a first for Blogscrement I can now reveal that, right out of left field, Microsoft will announce the release of their own Fifteen Speed Groupset later this week. The revolutionary new groupset will feature a derailleur system utilising "Quantum Action at a Distance" actuation. This will allow the gear to be changed moments before the rider thinks of moving the lever. The new MS Dish 1.0 wheel specification, rather than just making the rear axle ever wider will use inverted dishing of the wheel on the drive side. While weakening the wheel somewhat Microsoft CEO and Founder, Bill Gates claims that this will only be an issue is the wheel is misused by cornering to the right.
The most amazing part of the technology seems to involve not knowing what actual gear you are in and something to do with a cat in a box. They're said to be working on super light-weight carbon fibre cats.

All of this causes me something of a dilemma. Being something of a Luddite, my last groupset upgrade went straight from a 1970's Super Record 5 speed (quaintly referred to as 10 speed in those days) to an Ultegra 10 speed (shouldn't that be 20 speed). Now it looks like I'll be able to make another 5 cog jump, maybe I should be looking at this stuff. Or maybe I should wait until I can double it again to a 20 cog cassette.

Anyway, I'm in no imminent danger of having to make a decision quickly. The early 2009 release date to be announced is certain to slip until 2015 in true Microsoft fashion.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

It's All Uphill From Here

Yahoo! Yesterday at about 10 am saw the Southern Winter Solstice. This means that today we'll get about 4 seconds more daylight than yesterday. By the end of the week, it'll be a whole minute.

While this doesn't sound much, it's good to know that every day it's getting better.

I've spent much of the last few days indoors and looking after my young kids as my lovely wife has been away visiting relatives. About now I'm suffering from cabin fever to the extent that in a few minutes I'm off to the shed to do some weights. Trust me, it's cold out there, so I must be suffering withdrawals. I'm intending to follow it up with a bit of Pilates too. I still don't think I can go the trainer.

I've noticed a fair bit of discussion recently about the new bicycle regulations in NSW. The most contentious issue seems to be about reserving a space in front of the left lane at traffic lights for cyclists to stop and wait for the lights to change. The controversy seems to be about the idea that it will encourage cyclists to take up the lane as they start from the lights and that motorists behind them won't notice them in front of their vehicles and therefore run them over.

My experience has been that I'm much more likely to be "missed" by a motorist if I stay discreetly to the left. Not too many intersections, but enough, are just too narrow to allow a bike (wobbling off from the lights, trying to get his size 12 cleated in) and a car in the lane together. The worst are those intersections where there's a bike-lane or shoulder on the approach and exit but the traffic island in the middle of the intersection comes right out to the edge of the left lane. At these, I insist in taking the whole lane and so ride and stop if necessary two thirds of the way out to the right edge of the lane.

Here's where it all gets a bit messy. If I come up to a red light at one of these intersections and there are already cars stopped, I don't split to the front. I tend to sit behind the car in front of me on the basis that by time I get through the intersection the cars won't be sufficiently above my speed for me to cause them a problem, I can then move to the left and let them by. If I get to the red light first, I sit well out at the head of the lane and use strong body language to defend the position. This can be a problem and I sometimes get the strident engine revving or horn hooting. I just ignore it. The worst problem is to get the green in heavy traffic. Remember, most of the roads on my commute are 80 or 100kph, so I have to move out into a lane of fast moving traffic well before the intersection and hold my line. Sometimes easy, sometimes knick filling. My favourite is the B-Double who pulls over wide enough to pass and deliberately drifts back in on me as he passes, sounding the air horn.

Of course the problem goes away where there's no bike lane or shoulder at all. Then I just take my lane. That's why the crap bike lane is so dangerous. It makes it hard to claim my road space when necessary.

I can't go without passing on this soul stirring tid-bit. You may remember Gnarls Barkely did a pretty good job of covering one of my favourite bands "The Violent Femmes" with Gone Daddy Gone. Now the Femmes have returned the favour. It's very cool.

Today's longer than yesterday - Na, nya, na nya na! More daylight anyway.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Going for Speed - Part 3

It seems to be the time of year when quite a few of us start thinking about getting faster. Over the past few years I've worked on a few ways to build speed and strength. The first and most important rule is to never just go riding. Every ride's got a purpose, even if the purpose is to just go out and enjoy a ride. The worst possible reason to go riding is to get your distance up. Just going for distance will slow you down.

Here are a few of my go-fast rides which I like try out on a regular basis:

The 30km Time Trial
This is a flat-out ride over the same route each time racing the clock. I set some intermediate points and know my best times. If I've got it right, I power over the line for a new PB. Wrong and I blow my legs up 2km from home and limp back up that last long hill feeling like crap.

50km Hard Push
This is what runners would call a tempo ride. I measure how hard I'm going by my heart rate. I try to keep it over 90% of my max for the whole ride. For me this is about 158bpm. This is a good distance for me because it's my ride to work and I've got a couple of good routes near home which fit this distance.

100km Hard Push
Same as above but extend it out. I don't do this too often because it knocks me around to much.

50km Strength
On this ride I focus on pushing as big a gear as I can keep spinning out to 90 odd rpm. It's a pretty simple routine, I'll push the gear I'm in as hard as I can until my cadence gets to 95 and then pull another gear, push that to 95 and so on. As soon as I drop below 90 or my heart rate goes over 165, I change down a gear and push it back over 90. The idea is to learn to push bigger gears harder but to keep some pedalling style and rhythm.

The Fartlek
Fartlek is a running term and means something like "ouch" in Finish or Norwegian. Ideally I do this over 50 to 200k over a rolling hilly course. It's also great done with others. I ride fairly easily but quickly on the downhills and flats and sprint up every hill as fast as I can in a biggish gear until my legs give out. The idea is to build strength and top speed.

Hill Repeats
I hate these the most. I have a 3km hill right outside my front gate which I can ride in about 3rd or 4th gear if I push hard. I warm up for 10km then ride the hill as fast as I can, turn around and do it again. I keep doing this until it all falls apart. I start with 4 repeats and build up to 6 or 7 by the Alpine. The worst I've ever done was 6 repeats of Arthur's Seat.

Long Ride
I completely forget the long ride if I want to go faster. Audax rides take care of that and they just make me slower.

Coffee Ride
I have to do this now and then. It involves going for a ride with other people and just enjoying the ride and company and preferably having a very large, very strong coffee at some point. It's important to take off the heart-rate monitor, speedo and anything else I might obsess over.

These kinds of rides aren't for everyone, they're not even for me every day. Bike Snob at BSNYC refers to the kind of obsessive riding for strength or speed I've been describing as like "
Wearing a Bluetooth headset during a romantic dinner" and I'm not sure I can argue against that analogy.

Still if you want to go faster, there's only one way to get there and that's to ride faster.

Only 2 more big sleeps 'till the days start getting longer.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Bike Lights for Winter

Yesterday when I rode to work I had dry roads for the first time in ages. No rain, no fog no heavy dew. I realised how much better my ability to see the road surface, potholes, gravel and other obstacles was. When the road's dry, there's much better contrast in my bike lights than when wet. Great. Today it's raining again the the roads wet and it almost certainly will be for lots of days to come.

I've long had the opinion that the bright white light from LED lights like my beloved AYUPs doesn't give quite the contrast that I get from a good halogen. So I thought I'd pull out an old trusty halogen light and do a bit of a comparison. I had to jerry up a battery pack and gaffer tape it to the bike but it worked. Alas, my last working dynapower dynamo carked it lots of years ago. The first thing I realised is that it just doesn't give out the light of the AYUPs or one of those modern Schmidt halogens. It did however shine a qualitatively different light on the wet road. I perceived that it was just a tad better at picking change of grade and subtle differences in the road surface. I was almost ready to resign myself to having to take out yet another home loan to buy a new front wheel with dynahub and a light when I had a brain wave. I took the AYUPs off the handlebars and held them down lower at brake-bolt height like the halogen.

Tahdah! It made a quite significant difference to how well I could see the road.

Now I've got a job for the weekend. I'm going to build a solid, light-weight brake-bolt mount for the AYUPs. I told Kerrie I was keeping those old bent handlebars for a reason. A second solution might be to drop a Minoura "thingo" from the handlebars and mount the lights upside down.

Here's a really good reason why I want the best lighting possible on my trip to work. The rock in the following picture was right in the middle of my riding path in a spot I normally pass at about 45kph in the dark. Fortunately this particular day I was driving and stopped to clear it away. Objects like this, whole truck tyre carcasses, dead roos and wombats are frequent obstacles on my way to work.

Just a couple of weeks ago I hit a slightly smaller rock along the same stretch, ripped the side out of an almost new tyre, bent a rim and nearly came off. Here's what the tyre looked like with two patches over the inside of the hole so I could get home. Fortunately I was able to fix the rim with a little bit of gentle panel beating.

Next time you see the police booking someone for not having their load properly covered, go thank them.

Only 3 more big sleeps 'till the days start getting longer

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Going for Speed - Part 2

Warning, this blog contains ride time related themes and may disturb some viewers.

I am sometimes asked why the need to keep setting harder goals. I want to explore that question a little because much of the time I can't give myself a convincing answer.

I'm at an age where I'm pretty sure I don't do it to beat other people. If that was the motivation I'd be disappointed because firstly there are so many people I can never hope to beat and secondly because I actually get more happiness out of sharing a ride with others than I do from "beating" them.

That leaves beating myself as the most likely answer. Why? Once I can ride 200k, 400k or 1000k why the need to do it faster? Is it because I like the pain? Probably not. I'm a wimp. I think it stems from a desire to push the boundaries. I do it with most of the things I enjoy. At work I frequently test to see just how much I can achieve, or get others to achieve. I test the limits of acceptable behaviour just to find out other peoples stopping points. I'm always encouraging my kids to try new things. I always follow the most outrageous music and fashion.

So I ride hard because I get a kick out of finding what I can, and can't, do.

A second reason is that I'm a bit of a control freak and my body is one thing I can exert a modicum of control over. The harder the goal, the greater level of control required.

Thirdly, I guess I do like the pain. Just a bit. Being sore and wet and cold and tired is an absolute reminder that I'm alive.

Finally, when it comes to longer Audax rides, I find the time on the bike at least as hard as the distance. Slow and stead just isn't my way. A twenty-six hour 400 is way harder than an eighteen hour one, no matter how good the company is. Of course maybe that's why one takes 26 hours and the other 18.

So there it is. I want to ride fast because I like to test my limits, I'm a controlling bastard, I like pain and I'm impatient. This blog would sound so much better if I constructed some bullshit about attaining unity of body and mind in order the experience the universal oneness of us all. I can't even make out the it's for my health because it's quite clear that ultra-endurance events aren't particularly good for our bodies.

Some of you are going to get it because you're wired similarly to me, others won't. If you get it and have some better explanations, please let me know them. It would be great to have a decent excuse. For those of you who think I'm just mad, tell me why what you do works for you.

If I know anything, I know that a goal isn't permanent. If I do happen to make an 8 hour Alpine, I'll be proud of the achievement but that won't be the end of it, I'll be chasing a better time or some other goal next. In fact a failed attempt at a goal is much more interesting than a success.

Nasty learning experience: Yesterday I stated the desire to lose 10kg to get down to around 72-73. Today I stepped on a scale for the first time in a while... Not the 82 expected but 84kg. So the goal is to lose 12kg.

4 big sleeps 'till the days start getting longer

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Going for Speed - Part 1

I'm waking up at night recently with the idea in my head that I should be trying for a sub 8 hour Alpine. What kind of nut job dreams about that? I nearly killed myself doing a PB of 8:50 last year. I know that the difference between 8:50 and 8:00 is a whole world. I also know what it's going to cost. To do it I'm going to have to be as fast and as fit as I've ever been on the bike. At my age it means I'm going to have to work ten times harder than when I was 25.

I'll have to lose weight. Not just a bit, a lot. Currently I'm weighing in at 82. I reckon I need to be 72 to 73kg. The first thing to go will have to be the drinking. Don't tell SWMBO, she thinks I get grumpy when I don't drink. Next is all the little snacks. The awful biscuits at work aren't hard to do without, but twisties and wasabi peas, that's just cruel.

I need to be fast, really fast. Uphill and downhill. I'm sure I can make 5 minutes by working hard on my descending technique. That leaves 45 more.

I can probably bank 5 minutes by keeping my stops under better control. Last year I'd blown up by the top of Buffalo and spent longer there than I should have. I needed to queue for the toilet too. OK that leaves 40 minutes I have to make up by riding faster. Much faster.

You can all look forward to me boring you senseless with my training program, weight reduction and obsessive-compulsive measurements of everything from calorie intake and gearing choices to leg hair regrowth.

The minor complication to all of this is my plan to do the 1200km Great Southern Randonnee in late October. That will knock a few kph out of my legs for a few weeks. It does mean that I don't need to worry about endurance though.

Time for a little song?

He's going the distance
He's going for speed

She's all alone, all alone, all alone in a time of need

Because he's racing and pacing and plotting the course

He's fighting and biting and riding on his horse

He's going the distance

No trophies, no flowers, no flashbulbs, no lime

He's haunted by something he cannot define

Bowel shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse

Assail him and bail him with monster truck force
The Distance - Cake

Ambitious? Yes, it wouldn't be a challenge if I thought I could do it. I'll keep you up to date with progress. Hopefully without too much bowel shaking.

5 big sleeps until the days start getting longer

Monday, 16 June 2008

Lancefield Lactic Legs

On Sunday I rode the Audax "Lancefield Lazy Legs" ride. I turned out resplendent in my Lancefield Lairs jersey, all set for a fun day of riding. The country we were to ride through is beautiful, the forecast was for fine weather. The inside word from the ride organiser, Steve, was for very light winds, up to 5kph.

I awoke several times during the night and early morning to hear the wind whistling through my roof. I know the noises in my roof very well and that particular noise is the sound of a 30+kph south-westerly. The bearings in the whirlybird on that side of the roof start to wobble at about that speed. In Lancefield at 8:30 it was clear that the wind was howling. Lots of the ride is across lovely exposed ridges and hills. As it turned out we had winds of around 35kph gusting to 50 for most of the day.

I started off with a bit of go in my legs but waited a bit to let a group form. It didn't. By about 3km in I realised I was on the REALLY long breakaway. In this wind, are you crazy? I rode on the rivet for four hours and came in with a time of 4:03 with 4:00:12 on the bike. I would have been quicker if the lady in the post office at Tallarook could have found her stamp. I reckon I could have knocked off the 12 seconds as well if I had that $10,000 bike.

Steve was most amazed that I did it with mudguards. Just wait 'till I take them off, I'll get down to 3:59.

I had a hoot and was really happy with the time in the conditions. Pushing hard in the wind is always as much mental as physical, so keeping the power on in those conditions was very pleasing. Not only that but my legs felt good the next day.

The downside of course is that I didn't get to ride and share the beautiful country we rode through with my fellow cyclists. This is always a tough choice for me, because I really love riding with others. Oh hell, I love riding on my own too. I guess, this day I just wanted to push myself.

Thanks Steve, Leigh and Andy for a great ride. Thanks Avril for the great pumpkin soup at the end.
6 big sleeps 'till the days start getting longer

Friday, 13 June 2008

Core Strength for Cycling

I'm old and decrepit and suffer from a multitude of nasty problems. The worst of the physical ones, is my back. It's been very ordinary since I was 16. I went through a rapid growth spurt and my back has never been right since. As I've gotten older I've added arthritis pain and injuries to the general back dysfunction and wear and tear. Usually I have a serious "event" at least once a year where I'm struck down with pain to the point where I can't walk, can't sit down and can't lay in bed without heaps of medication and work from chiros, physios, aroma therapists, spitiual healers and more drugs.

To make matters worse, I can't ride my bike, can't run and frequently can't even use my arms to swim. Just sit around taking drugs and getting fat. For the last three and a half years, I haven't had a severe back event.

What's changed? Pilates. Admittedly I have "The Best Pilates Teacher in the World (TM)", she told me so. By doing a Pilates class at least once a week and doing some practice myself in between, I've developed sufficient core strength to hold my wobbly old spine together. I feel that it's not just holding together better but actually improved. I just wish I'd discovered this when I was much younger. I may have avoided much of the injury I've done also.

Not only has the strength I've gained helped protect me from injury, it's made me a better cyclist, better runner and a better worker.

Cycling improvements include the ability to breathe into the sides of my ribs, this is a great help when tucked over on the drops and into the wind. Greater core strength also helps keep a lot of weight of my hands, especially when I get tired. Improved flexibility has increased my comfort for long hours on the bike, giving me a greater range of effective pedalling positions by allowing my back to bend and straighten. While the strength in my pedal stroke comes from the quads, the rhythm and continuous power output all comes from the core. Somehow this strength continues to produce power when the leg muscles are completely spent and cramping.

Running improvements: There's only one that counts, now I can run, before I couldn't. The core strength and stability allows me to absorb the impact, and maintain stability in the hips, knees and ankles without damaging my body too much.

Working improvements. Previously I would have at least 5 days a year off with so much pain I couldn't do anything. Now it's very rare to have a day off with my back. At home and on the farm, I couldn't do anything requiring strength and stamina. Try drenching 500 sheep with a crook back and you'll know what I mean.

Most importantly I've gone from being a person who hated my body at 45 to being pretty comfortable in it on the cusp of 50. Now all I need to do is get my Pilates teacher out riding more often so I can repay her for some of the exquisite suffering. Thanks Catherine. ;-)

9 more big sleeps 'till the days start getting longer

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Get(the f#$k)away From Me

I had today's story all planned when I accidentally caught a couple of minutes of the wonderful advertainment spectacular, Getaway. Normally this program is beautifully filmed and produced paff of the lowest order. Presenting unobtainable luxury for the unwashed masses to aspire to.

Tonight we had the spectacle of Catriona (who is now barely identifiable as human) travelling through Tibet to Qomalangma (Mt Everest) base camp. After about two minutes of watching I was beside myself with uncontrollable rage. Why is that? I hear you cry.

The two minutes I saw contained the following:
  • Catriona explaining that the best way to get to Everest was through Tibet. Why? Because you can drive all the way, without all that tedious hard work of walking.
  • An obviously Chinese government sponsored trip through Tibet with not one word about any religious, cultural or political issues.
  • A pointed reference to visiting the home of the Panchen Lama with the implication that this somehow shows a lack of any religious persecution. The current Panchen Lama of course having been installed by the Chinese government.
  • A hideously clumsy piece of cultural awkwardness over buying some dried cheese in a town market, with the explanation that "It's not to my taste. Not the sort of thing to put out on a platter." But, "I'll give it to my driver".
  • A drive past the holy Yamdrok Tso Lake where pilgrims spend weeks meditating and cleansing themselves in preparation, on their journey to Qomolangma (Mother of the Universe). Tibetans believe the lake to be the earthly embodiment of a divinity. The Chinese have built a hydro-power station on it. Again, no mention is made of these facts.
  • Repeated assertions about how much better things are in Tibet than Nepal, because they have built a road to Everest Base camp.
  • Over and over we are told how much better it is to be able to be driven in luxury four wheel drives than to have to walk for more than a week.
I would have watched for longer but I was about to have an aneurysm. This tiny piece of tripe sums up so much that's wrong with our society. Unbridled consumerism, complete lack of concern for the oppressed and downtrodden, cultural insensitivity, instant gratification, greed, wastefulness of resources, destruction of the environment, ugliness presented beneath a desperate veneer of plastic beauty.

There, I feel a little better. You'll have to wait until tomorrow to hear my thoughts on core strength for cycling.

10 more big sleeps 'till the days start getting longer.
(if the planet doesn't flush us all away in disgust first)

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Petrol Price Mayhem

Wow. If you want to get scared, go to the ABC News site and type "fuel protests" into the search bar. Today it returns 138 stories. People around the world are going nuts about the price of fuel. In most places, the amount of protest is in no relationship to the actual price. It's all about the increase in price. Even in the US where the Oil Industry (Bush family & friends) is subsidised by the government to the tune of many billions of dollars, and the cost of fuel is lower than anywhere in the civilized world, they're going whacko.

What's going to happen when the cost of fuel increases to include environmental costs? A carbon trading scheme will add between 17 and 30 cents a litre to whatever we're paying now. Why the hysteria? It's been clear for the last 30 years that we're running down a limited resource at bargain basement prices. We've been dumb enough to build our economies and our feeling of prosperity on the clearly unsustainable and irresponsible squandering of resources stolen from third world countries. We've built the expectation that everyone can live like us "robber barons" and then whine when a few billion Chinese and Indians want to compete with us to buy fuel. Get used to it people. When the price of oil is driven back down by political and military pressure from the west, just remember, it can't last.

We need to embrace the opportunity we have right here and now to make change. The spike in oil prices is a once in a generation chance. We have a relatively strong economy and can absorb some of the shock. We have the ability to start to change. This shock is the prod that us humans need right now.

What can we do? We can't all just ditch our cars or buy new, more fuel efficient ones, or move to live in new, more efficient housing in better designed cities. We can:
  • Ride a bike when it's possible.
  • Turn things off when we're not using them.
  • Refuse to buy produce from far away - we don't NEED tomatoes 12 months of the year.
  • When we have the opportunity, make efficient design decisions - they can't be made later.
  • Write to the Government and Opposition to protest their plans to cut taxes on petrol and their likely decisions to exempt it from a carbon trading scheme.
  • Car pool
  • Use public transport - yes it's crap and it's going to fail to cope with the load - force change. We need to spend hundreds of billions on it to make it work.
Yes, these are only tip of iceberg things, but we've got to start somewhere. The change will be hard but not as hard as doing nothing. Many environmentalists fear for the future of the planet. I'm not concerned for the planet. It will happily see us disappear without a blink.

(still) 11 more big sleeps 'till the days start getting longer.
Sorry I stuffed up my counting yesterday, getting too optimistic, no chance of that today.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Real Rain?

This morning my ride to work had real rain. This is the first time I can remember having to wheel my bike out of the shed into the rain for a long time. I've been caught in showers and ever severe storms but not riding out into steady rain. We really need lots of this kind of rain so I tried hard to appreciate every drop. At least it's not too cold and I have a tail wind. It could be a lot worse. My "waterproof" jacket is totally useless in this rain so I stop to take it off. I guess I'll just get wet. I can't wait to get my new jacket.

Twenty kilometres in, the fog descends. It's wet and unpleasant. Memo - remember to get the bottle of rainex. I give myself this memo every time my specs fog/spatter to the point where I can't see. I promptly forget when it stops raining. I take my specs off. Can't see without them either.

The traffic is very kind this morning, comparatively light and not too pushy. A bit of Smashing Pumpkins works a treat.
I want to be there when you’re happy
I want to love you when you’re sad

Can’t stand the morning rain?
Get out I'll take your place then
Can’t stand the blazing sun?
Then close your eyes you’ll see
The angel dust
The trucks are even friendly this morning. It must be the holiday weekend having calmed everyone down.

I get to work and find we've got a system down, so I'm running around the administration wing in my very wet cycling gear and no shoes. I'm leaving wet sock prints everywhere. If course I run straight into our new, and very buttoned down CEO, who finds the whole cycling thing very unprofessional. Hard luck, I find his luxury SUV criminally wasteful. It's lucky he hasn't heard me sing.

11 more big sleeps 'till the days start getting longer.

Monday, 9 June 2008

What is the Best Bicycle Frame?

What should a bike frame be made from? I have no idea.

Many people look at my beautiful bike and think I must be some kind of retro-troglodyte. It's all steel with wonderful, hand finished 1950's Cinelli decorative lugwork. The tubes are all Reynolds 531. It's a big frame for my big frame and far from compact. The paintwork is old-school with pinstriping and hand lettering instead of transfers. The frame was built especially for me in the early 1980's. It's got short chainstays, and steep angles for it's size. The head tube is 74 and seat tube 75. In order to get down out of the wind a bit more, I've fitted a down-sloping, track head stem. It's also pretty heavy by today's standards, weighing in at just over 13kg.The fact is that I would love to have a new bike, probably several new bikes. And at least one of them would almost certainly be a plastic fantastic. I've ridden a couple of aluminium bikes and found them marginally less comfortable than my steed. Those were both fairly cheap bikes and I didn't ride them for long. I've ridden one carbon bike and thought it was great. It was an $8,000+ machine and I was tempted to steal it, but only for a moment. The next important fact is that I just can't justify buying another expensive bike when I've got a perfectly good one.

Now, before you all go off thinking I really am some kind of fanatic, I must explain that I have 6 kids and the obligatory mortgage doing a damocles, so it's not really much of a choice. I suppose there is a tiny part of the back of my brain, telling me that the desire to own ten (probably more like 13) bikes so I'll be properly prepared for anything is just the kind of consumerist lunacy that's taking the whole planet down the toilet. Ten bikes is still going to beat any one car from a green perspective though. Yeah, I really want another bike, I just can't afford it right now.

When I do go out to buy that bike, I'll be checking every review of every opinion of every bike on the planet. In the end though, I don't care a toss what it's made from. First, it's got to fit, and the person selling it to me will have to convince me of their expertise in making certain that it does. Second, it's got to feel right. Natural and easy, comfortable. Everything falling under my hands, feet and bum, so they'll have to offer a test ride of something at least very similar to what I'm buying. Thirdly, it's got to be beautiful. Yeah, I know that's in the eye of the beer-holder, but if I think it's ugly, it is. No arguments. Lastly, we can argue about the relative merits of various materials and construction technologies to deliver the right "mix of lateral stiffness and vertical compliance", zerts, dimpled wheel rims, ceramic bearings, single or double tap levers natural or synthetic bar tape and energy polarisers.

My current lust list extends to a Specialised S-Works Roubaix, Serrota Legend (titanium and carbon exotica), Rodrigues Rainier S3, Cervelo R3 and a Surly Steamroller fixie.

Whatever your choices in bikes, live and let live. Everyone has reasons for their own choices and they really don't affect you. There's room for steel, aluminium, carbon, bamboo, titanium and mixtures of any and all of the above and much more. Recumbents, fixies, retro monsters, plastic space shuttles and even tri-bikes are all bicycles. Mind you I do have an agreement with my mate Steve to take my life if I take to a bent before age 90.

Thirteen more big sleeps 'till the days start getting longer.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Whhoo hoo.

I had the best ride today. Covered about 110km with my mate Steve. It was quite windy and typically cool for this time of year but we were on the road and free as birds. It didn't rain but it tried to drizzle a bit just coming towards Lancefield.

We nearly ran over a fox sitting on the road at the bottom of a hill. Boy did he get a surprise as we whizzed by. The cockatoos squawked like maniacs and threw bits of trees at us.

I'm in love with my new merino undershirt. It really kicks polypropylene into the weeds.

At one point Steve described our ride as a bit like going out adventuring for the day with your mates on your dragster as a ten year old. This is why I ride a bike.

15 more big sleeps 'till the days start getting longer.

Friday, 6 June 2008

World Environment Day

For those who missed it, yesterday was world environment day. Wishing to find out what the hot environmental topics were this year, I did a bit of a search of the Internet. I came across TreeHugger which I've never looked at before, but thought I'd give it a look.

The first thing I noticed was this Advertising Header at the top of their home page.

Interested, I followed a few links to find this.

Now call me crazy but I firmly hoped that we'd started to reach the point where the penny had dropped for most of us, especially those who hold some claim to greeness. It's not enough to keep looking for ways of doing the same stupid stuff a bit differently. We need to do different things. Let's start with a totally dumb SUV and paint it green. That should fool the punters.

The worst isn't that this is being done by GM. It's exactly what you'd expect. A dying industry trying desperately to hang on to its outdated formula. What's really upsetting is "greenish" groups buying in. Whether it's giving oxymoronic "Green Car Award"s, or just accepting advertising dollars. It doesn't matter. We urgently need leadership to changed thinking. So often the only alternative view offered is that of the anarchist, anti-everything loony green group who's idea of saving the planet is sinking Japanese whaling boats. Yes, I care about the whales, but I think we've got bigger fish to fry.

Groups who should know better have their snouts so far in the trough and are so beholden to Governments and big business that I can't see them being the answer. Bicycle Victoria was recently taking advertising on their website from a car company. What's worse, they can't understand why members got upset.

I'm going riding in the morning so I'd best get to bed.

16 Big Sleeps 'till the days start getting longer.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Is It Just Me?

Somedays I really start to wonder about the cosmic interconnectedness of everything.

This morning I had a shocker of a ride to work. It was really hard to get out of bed and get going. I was monstered by rednecks and maniacs and it was really hard work. It was just the usual harassment. The
idiot who rolls down his window to yell "Brluuuufreeeed!" as he passes. The driver of the B-Double who can't resist running his wheel down the rumble strip as he approaches and firing a huge, sphincter tightening blast of the air horns as he reaches me. The picture at right shows one of my favourite little bridges along the freeway on the way to work. I should add that the shoulder/stopping lane is marked for cyclist use. It's just not continuous.

It wasn't especially cold and the headwind wasn't terribly strong. The fog wasn't even as thick as it's been recently, but by the time I got to work I was feeling really scared.

Then, just when I least expect it, I come within an inch of being doored, 100m from work. I'm travelling uphill at about 35kph when I spotted something about the parked car. There was a man on foot approaching it from maybe 10m behind on the footpath. I had another car catching me from behind. As I came close, the parked cars indicators flashed on
ce to show the doors had been unlocked. Instantly, my brain processed the scene as:
"The guy on the footpath is the driver, he's unlocked the doors so he can get in when he reaches the car. It's safe."
I pull closer to the parked car to give the passing car more room. Whoosh, the door flys open as the driver pushes it with his foot. I take evasive action to somehow miss the door and the passing car. Whew.

During the day I feel increasingly apprehensi
ve about the ride home. As I throw my leg over my bike to start riding, everything seems ok. What just happened? What caused the sudden change? I feel at peace with the world and riding my bike feels like a gift. On the way home the following happen:
  • A guy drives up along side me wishing to turn left at the rapidly approaching intersection. He realises his error, waves, smiles and drops back in behind me to make the turn instead of just hooking me.
  • The driver of the HUMUMGOUS truck pulling out of the truck stop in Kalkallo spots me, waves me up and waits for me. He then pulls me up the long hill at 45kph, waving again in the mirror as he pulls away at the top of the hill.
  • The young girl who pulls out in front of me coming out of the service station, causing me to brake, winds down her window at the traffic light and says, "sorry".
  • I had the most amazing puncture. What the heck is that thing? Even fixing a flat in the dark couldn't spoil my mood. While I was fixing it, three motorists stopped and asked if I was OK.
  • When I stopped at the top of Mt Pretty Sally to put on my warm gloves and arm warmers, another driver stopped to ask if I was alright.
All this in one trip home? Has the whole world gone mad? This was just what I needed. Riding is good, the world is a better place. Not everyone in a car is trying to kill me.

Seriously though, what is it about a good mood that attracts good things? Why is it that I so often get what I expect from people? I'm back to singing again.

17 more big sleeps 'till the days start getting longer!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Banana Holders?

During a recent discussion about the nutritional value of bananas, versus their dried counterparts on the Audax-Oz list a link this picture was published. These cute little puppies are sold by a mob called Banana Bunker. Now I'm not the most worldly person in the room but I'm sure I've seen something like this somewhere before. The only question I have is, "Where do I put the batteries?"

It's not like I don't have enough trouble, what with being called Nancy, without a couple of these cheeky little guys peeking out of my back pocket.

Bananas have long been credited with protecting riders from that dreaded fate, the "BONK". I think we need to see some broad ranging longitudinal studies to ascertain whether using one of these guys enhances or detracts from that effect. I'm just not sure what we give to the control group, a non-bunkered banana, or vice-versa. Volunteers to participate in the study should apply here.

I'll see you on the road, bananas at the ready. Is that a banana bunker in your pocket???


Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Bike Lanes - Part 2

I wasn't going to go here today. The world's conspired to bring out my bitter nasty side.

Firstly for your delectation - my "Crap Bike Lane du Jour". This one is a little beauty. It's at the bottom of a long steep hill so I'm going 60kph when I hit this. Only when I normally get there, it's dark. This is marked as a bike lane on both sides of the intersection pictured. The cars are coming by at 80kph. The only way to take this is on the main carriageway, which my colleague Treadly tells me is actually illegal in Victoria (see rule 247) unless it's impracticable to do so. Impracticable???????? How about "too fucking dangerous" because it's designed by an idiot and never maintained because it's just a bike lane? Do I sound mad? You bet I'm mad. This is my life their playing dice with.

All of this is carefully veneered over by our governments at all levels with nice words about bicycle friendly infrastructure and green policies, blah, blah, blah..... Meanwhile they spend billions of our tax dollars on yet another super-tunnel-megabridge-flyover-interchange-ultrafreeway to nowhere, from nowhere to fix problems created by self centred, short sighted development and greed. Try to get anyone to even take a complaint about fixing the potholes in this bike lane seriously and you'll get nowhere. I know, I've tried.

Now, I come to the people I feel the greatest amount of bile and anger toward in all of this. The people who are supposed to, no, the people we pay to represent us; Bicycle Victoria. Try ringing BV to get them to take on a problem like this. "Nothing we can do". "Have you tried writing a letter?" It just makes me boil.

What do we get from BV? Under the heading "Change the World" we get this little pearl. A bicycle lane design with a rumble edge so aggressive that it will cause an annoying noise for a motorist. Just try crossing one of those lines at an acute angle on a bicycle in the wet and you're just as likely to end up on the road in front of the approaching truck.

Finally the "
pièce de résistance" from these peerless advocates for our wonderful pursuit; the CEO Harry Barber slagging off the recumbent as a non-viable form of commuter transport. Now I love to bait our bearded, sandal wearing, train-spotting, non-showering, bent riding brethren as much as the next man, but I'm not employed solely to promote the interests of cyclists. And I'd certainly share the road with them every day of the week rather than with the homicidal maniac in a two tonne steel box.

Those of you in Victoria Australia, please, if you do anything good today, write to the board of Bicycle Victoria and demand this guy is sacked. If you're not a member, join. Go to the AGM, camp on their doorstep, whatever. We cyclists NEED someone to stand up for us and be heard. If BV can't do the job we MUST get someone who can.

Cycling is the obvious answer to so many of the problems our society faces. Global warming, high fuel costs, over crowded public transport, traffic congestion, obesity, heart disease, urban sprawl. Why is it so hard for us to get representation to Government? Why isn't anybody listening? Why isn't everyone else as mad about this as me? It's your lives they're all playing with, it's your planet they're fucking up. For all our sakes, get angry and do something. Write one letter a week to your state, federal, local representatives. To the respective transport ministers and shadow ministers. To the "environment" ministers and shadow ministers. And copy in the gormless idiots at BV on every one of them.

I promised myself when I started this blog that I wouldn't just become a bitter ranting nut. Normal service will resume shortly.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Winter - the next challenge.

Winter has officially started here in Australia. It's hard to know what I really want from it. As someone on the land, I really need rain, and lots of it. As a cyclist I'd prefer the rain restricted to the times I'm not on the bike. It's so hard to make time to ride that I can never make up a ride missed due to bad weather. I find myself riding in filthy weather quite a bit.

This is the first year for a very long time that I've set myself a goal of keeping my
fitness on the bike right through winter. Normally I've tapered off by now to very little riding and I keep fit by running or just let things go. This year, I really want to do the Great Southern Randonee 1200km in October. This will need a really solid base to do well.

So, how do I keep myself riding through the long dark months 'till spring? Here's a bit of a list. I'm told us bloggers do a list now and then...

  1. An alarm clock. Yep, planning the ride in detail, laying out all my gear and programming myself to climb out of bed when that darned clock goes off is the only way. Hopefully, I can trick myself into getting up and going before the higher brain functions kick in. I can be on the bike and riding before I notice the shards of ice being driven into my face by the gale force wind.
  2. Warm, dry clothing. This one's a double edged sword. It's important to not be freezing, but there's no point going out in all that coldness if I'm so hot I can't put in a decent effort. Ideally I want to be just a little cool. Bear in mind that it's much better to be a bit too warm and have to pull off a layer than to find you just can't get warm. Layers are very important. Preferably a thin wool or poly undergarments, a couple of outerwear layers, something wool by choice, and lastly a shell. I'm currently in love with my Nalini wind proof vest which is quite warm but folds up really tiny in my pocket.
  3. GORETEX! I've tried, but I just can't get past Goretex. Jacket, pants, gloves, booties, you name it. It's light, it'll keep me dry all day and it's not like being wrapped in glad wrap. Others report great results with other gear. Maybe I'm just spoiled but I can't find anything else close.
  4. Lights, and lots of them. I've got two headlights and three tail lights on the bike all the time. This way I'm ready for the Melbourne winter where we only get 2 hours of daylight each day (approximate value used).
  5. Mudguards. Yes, they're daggy but they'll keep a heck of a lot of that water off you. Go for a yummy set of Soma Eurotrips and they're not nearly so daggy. They're also a great spot to add a whole bunch more reflective stuff.
  6. Ride fast. When ever I get a chance to ride, I try to make the most of it. This isn't the time for long recovery rides. I just get cold. The less time I'm in the weather the better. The harder I go, the warmer I am.
  7. Reflective anklets. I'm a big fan of the reflective anklet. The reciprocating motion conveys the message "CYCLIST" into the tiny, numb, warm and cosy brain of the most sedated driver. The movement is also said to also give a better impression of distance and speed to a motorist.
By now you're probably getting the idea. Winter isn't so bad. It's a great opportunity to get a pile of really cool technical gear. If worst comes to the worst, I might have to buy a trainer. My experience with trainers so far is that 15 minutes on a trainer can be unfavourably compared to an evening of Vogon Poetry, eating 300 Weetbix dry out of the packet or watching 15 minutes of Sea Patrol.

If all else fails I just keep reminding myself that it's only 20 more days until they daylight hours start increasing.