Friday, 29 January 2010

ACE 2010 - Take 5

kind of buzz that lasts for days
had some help from insect ways
comes across all shy and coy
just another nancy boy
woman man or modern monkey
just another happy junkie
fifty pounds, press my button
going down

and it all breaks down at the role reversal
got the muse in my head she's universal
spinnin' me round 'cos she's coming over me
and it all breaks down at the first rehearsal
got the muse in my head she's universal
spinnin' me round 'cos she's coming over me

ACE 2010 - Take 4

continued from ACE 2010 - Take 3

So, I've finished another Alpine and my first ACE.

ACE 2010 NancyBoy Approved Highlights
  • Finding that Surly Dave had knocked over the 200k! I know just how hard Dave worked to do this and his effort is truly inspiring
  • Sitting in the Ovens River with Endurogirl cooling our legs
  • Riding with the lovely Michael B. A joy as always and got me through my toughest part of the ride
  • The fact the my brand new and untried Fi'zi:k Arione got me through 250km without trying to tear me a new one
  • The wonderful section of road from Omeo to the Falls Creek Turnoff
  • Raspberry Hill or the Bit of Grit as it has been officially renamed by Fraser R - A hill to be respected
  • The water stop at on top of the aforementioned Bit of Grit
  • That avocado and cheese sandwich which was still in my pocket after 250km - yum!
  • CO2 cartridges - bring on the global warming
  • The look on the face of the guy directing traffic at the roundabout in Bright as ten wild eyed cyclists closed in on him at 40+kph
  • Getting Endurogirl a beauty when she thought I was going to do something REALLY silly
  • Making the last 200km on wafer thin racing tyres and no remaining spare tubes. I did have a patch kit though
  • Making the entire 250km on a frame with a great big crack where top tube and seat tube meet without incident - well done Great Trek Bicycle Company
  • Last but not least - every turn of my pedals

  • Commander Phil and all his team. Everything was just perfect.
  • Lieutenant Alan and all his team for the vision and energy to make the ACE really ACE. A wonderful bike ride with magnificent organisation and support.
  • Endurogirl for unwavering support in every way
  • Surly Dave for not getting pissed with my anxious phone calls and texts at 9pm the night before the Alpine
  • Michael B for always being great to ride with
  • Each and every volley. You have no idea how lucky we are to have such a fantastic bunch. I've really got to get on the volley list some time soon. Hmmm. Maybe the year after next, 'cos next year I just want to.....
  • Coach DJ for being supportive and positive against all contrary evidence.
  • Dr Ian Gillam for sorting out my exhaustion problems - Antioxidants rool ok?
  • Sukkie sports drink - seriously, you have to try this stuff.
A Final Thought

We are so lucky to have an event like the Alpine. It hasn't happened by accident. It's because of the wonderful work of every volley and especially because of the tireless work of a very small handful of very important people. I have had the opportunity of being involved in or in close contact with lots of really good cycling events in the last year or so. None of them come close to the Alpine, both as a selection of rides and as an event in itself. Please be very protective of the Alpine and all it stands for, be even more protective of those very important people who make it what it is.


Thursday, 28 January 2010

ACE 2010 - Take 3

continued from ACE 2010 - Take 2

The final sections of the descent from Dinner Plain to Omeo were a joy with warming air, good company from Michael and super fast speeds. Slowly I felt my legs and brain coming back to something approximating a functional cyclist. To further improve things they had wonderful food and a track pump at Omeo. This greatly improved the 90(odd) psi I'd gotten from the 16 grams of CO2 on top of Hotham and my blood sugar. Snuffling up to the trough, I scoffed a couple of rolls and jammed another in my pocket. Yummy hummus.

Back on the road, Michael was moving more slowly than I usually expect him to and insisted that I press on ahead. I'm still unsure if he was going through a flat patch, had more respect than I did for what was to come or was just sick of hearing me talk. Slowly, I moved ahead, sure I'd see him again before long. As the K's ticked away on this beautifully graded, smooth and serpentine road, my spirit and pace lifted and sang. I was doing 30kph up the Mitta Mitta River Valley without raising a sweat and I was alone in my reverie.

Around half-way along this section I was collected by eight other riders "en peloton" and our pace increased to between 35 and 40kph as we wove our way along the valley to the river's tune. I managed to stuff another roll and a very nice avocado and cheese sandwich from my pocket into my mouth during this lovely stage. I poured in the Sukki too. Girding my mental and metabolic loins for what I knew lay ahead.

Turn the corner and there it is. Impressive, steep and hot in full sun. I take my time to find a new tune to dance to. This one is a dirge. In what seems like a couple of minutes I'm alone again. The bunch of riders I've been riding in such synchronicity with for so long have vanished. One or two ahead, the rest behind. After half a K or so at 16% things level out to something more reasonable and 10%ish. This isn't too bad. What's all the fuss about. A few kilometres later, I ride right past a water stop and 20 or so riders. I've still got a litre so I'm sure I can make the next point.

Then Raspberry Hill kicks again 17% and again more 16%. Again and again on this rough gravelly surface. Now I'm riding past people walking. And these are very strong, tough riders. It's kicking me, right in the berries. The sweat is now pouring off me way faster than my head band can deal with and faster than I can drink. On some sections, I couldn't drink if I wanted to. I need both hands to pull on the bars as my legs push away. Climbing here is a whole body activity. Now my speed's down to 11kph and sweat is running into my eyes. So salty, I'm crying. Glancing at the speedo I realise I've only done 10km. There's at least another 10 to go.

Slowly it eases just a bit and just a bit more. Venturing back to give me a kick now and then but not quite so hard. At last the water point comes into view with perfect timing. I've emptied my last bottle only a kilometre ago. Stopped under a tree here it is cool and quiet. I feel a thousand miles from the evil bit of crappy bitumen I've spent the last hour and a bit with. Bottles filled I bravely push off again. Magically, from here on the hill relents and with each kilometre it get easier until I emerge above the snowline.

Once out on the Bogong High Plains, the scenery and the day are spectacular. Stands of low, white-bleached snowgums burned in fires of recent years contrast with the luscious green carpet of grasses, mosses and wild-flowers. The many alpine lakes and tarns mirror the sky with vibrant turquoise. The mountain is so beautiful that I start to cry. A good thing because it washes some of the salt from my eyes. I stop to take a photo and after fumbling for a good minute to get the camera from my pocket, I realise I'm just not up to such manual dexterity. I push on.

Falls Creek arrives much too quickly so I fill my pockets yet again, send a text to EG and begin the descent. This is a descent I've done a million times. This time it's much harder than I can ever remember. Surely there's not this much uphill? My bodgy shoulder is starting to get really sore too. All the downhill on the drops is starting to take its toll. Now I'm making a corner, stretching my shoulder, then getting ready for the next corner. Tedious.

MtBeauty and I still have a full one litre bottle. I just may make it without a water stop. I creep up the nasty rolling hills out of MtBeauty very cautiously. I've trashed my legs on these innocuous lumps too many times in the past to be caught out again. Now it's just Tawonga gap and it's all over. I start off slowly, trying to find that rhythm. Nothing, just a grind. I'm sitting on 14kph and it feels like 10. Then ever so slowly I start to find that feeling. By the spring at around half way, I'm feeling strong and have that dance starting to happen. Three K's from the top and I'm doing 16kph. Yahoo. This is going to be alright.

I crest the top of Tawonga and begin the descent. The most technical, but by far the best descent of the ride. Toward the bottom of the main hill, I'm joined by Bearded Guy and another rider. Bearded Guy (BG) and I swap turns of around 500m gradually winding up the pace as we approach the turn to Bright. Slowly we pick up a string of riders including several I've passed and been passed by many times during the day. By the time we're onto the Great Alpine Rd BG and I are doing 100m turns and flying along at 38-40kph. Our string of riders flashing by one rider after another. We're calling UP-UP-UP as we approach to encourage them to tag on. Close to Bright, we pickup Gold Colnago Guy who I've spent quite a bit of time riding with today and he tags on to the train. Flying through Bright, round the roundabout you'd guess it was the final lap of a crit. Whooosh! Under the banner and it's all over for another year.

I stagger about, trying to find my card and something to eat and drink. Still buzzing.

To be continued...


ACE 2010 - Take 2

This year's Alpine was different from the start. The new ACE250 distance was a bit of a mystery and a challenge. I had a whole different feel.

My preparation was great until about the start of December when suddenly work, life and the whole wind-up of the year started to slow me down. Then right before Christmas I strained my back which didn't completely stop me riding but constrained every movement for nearly four weeks. My planned post-Christmas training never happened, new year came and went. I eventually got out for a couple of half decent rides.

Having failed to book accommodation in Bright, Endurogirl (EG) and I mapped out an elegant yet simple plan for the weekend:
  1. Drive to Wangaratta on Saturday
  2. EG to compete in Wang Track Carnival (nice work Track Princess)
  3. Retire to Wang motel for a couple of hours sleep
  4. Nancy to drive to Bright at 2am for 4am start
  5. EG to race Wang CBD Crit
  6. EG to ride to Bright to meet up after the ride.
This all ticked along beautifully until I drove the car and $15k worth of carbon bikes under a humongous concrete canopy at the motel in Wang. Crap! While both bikes survived relatively well, the saddles on each of them were disintegrated and mine has a suspiciously expensive looking crack in the frame where seat and top tubes meet. This hampered the track meet for the Track Princess as she didn't have a road bike for warmups/warmdowns and instead of looking after her between pushes, I was running around town trying to find a couple of decent saddles in a country town at 5pm on a long weekend Saturday. Thanks heaps to Manon from Rock and Road Cycles who literally ran to his car to get me to the shop and back between his races at the track.

Further the car had a very mangled roof, the racks didn't fit any more and a smashed rear window. Thank goodness for window tinting and gaffer tape. Eventually, emotionally exhausted I dragged myself into bed just before midnight with alarm set to go off in an hour and a half.....

At Bright nice and early, I bumped into Commander Phil at 3am. He did my light check while I sorted out how much food I could fit into my jersey pockets. By the time I rolled onto the start line my head was on fire with worries about the bike, the saddle and my state of mind. Fortunately I rolled right up alongside Matthew R and Peter M who got me thinking about actual riding so I was fairly calm by the time we started.

The ride out to Harrietville was very quiet and I just worked into a rhythm. As soon as we started climbing, Matthew started moving away ahead of me. Man he is strong on these hills. I just worked at finding a nice even pace that wouldn't hurt me for later. Approaching The Meg my bike started to develop a soft squishy feeling. Damn, the frame is failing. No, a slow flat.

At the base of The Meg, I peeled off the tyre, found the tiny piece of glass I'd picked up, and put the whole thing back together with a nice new tube in the dark by the light of the trusty AYUPs. Thank goodness for CO2 cartridges.

Back on the bike I warmed back up - on The Meg. Slowly getting back to a decent rhythm I started cutting a swathe through the riders who'd passed me. Yahoo, now I felt GOOD. Hitting 35kph on the false flat and carrying it on. Was I going too hard? It felt ok. Then within spitting distance of the top the the climb to Hotham - another flat. This one took a lot longer to fix, mainly due to searching in vain for the cause of the puncture and really cold hands. Subsequent inspection reveals that it was a faulty tube.

The decent to Dinner Plain and beyond was a huge trial. Wet with sweat and cold as ice I shivered my way down. The tiredness of lack of sleep was telling too. Wonderfully, I bumped into Michael B as he rolled in to the Dinner Plain stop. Not so wonderfully, in my addled state, I forgot to check in and then took off in chase to ride with Michael for a while. After chasing him for around 5km and not catching sight, I gave up at which point Michael caught up with me!

The decent continued to be a trial of cold and sweat but having Michael there to chat with made it much easier. I can't remember being happier to see a decent hill than I was when we finally reached the base of Jim & Jack and got warmed by the sun.

To be continued.


ACE 2010 - Take 1

the let-down of thin-skinned tyres and imagined crackle of carbon fibre cannot dull the passion drawn from me by these mountains. they etch maps of their winding roads into my skin as evidence that i was here. from salt-stung/tear-stained struggle to effortless soaring flight they speak to me in secret language only we share.

the incessant circles i inscribe on their slopes record the effort as chunks in the groove of a wax cylinder. vibrant now but hollow in the replaying.

pierced by searing white sunlight, i am bleached along with the snowgums. emptied of all but here and now. as i press puny bone and sinew against this ancient range my sweat imperceptibly erodes them as they erode me.

for now
no other rider exists
no controlle
no limit
no training
no reason
no ego


Blowing a Raspberry

grit under my tyre
steep-piston leg punishment
drawn on teared eyeballs


Friday, 22 January 2010

Hurt Town

I've calmed down a bit now. Taken my tablets and started to focus on the Alpine.

Due to a confluence of cycling and accommodation, I won't be getting to Bright until around 3am for a 4am start. We have a big weekend. Endurogirl is racing at Wangaratta on Saturday evening, we're packing up going back to the motel to try to sleep. I'm leaving for Bright at 2am for a 4am start in the ACE, while Endurogirl is getting up early for a hard warmup before riding the Criterium in Wang. Alas, when she finished, she will be sans car. So she'll take plan B - ride to Bright. Between us, we'll cover a few k's this weekend.

The upshot of this is that I'm busy planning my food/clothes/lights/gears and all that other little stuff 2 days out. Sandwiches, sports drinks, all the crap I can fit in my pockets. Trying to judge the right colour for bananas today so they'll be just right after two days in the car and back pocket at 35°C. While still making contingency plans for the weather forecast to change from blowtorch to blizzard between now and then. Then there's the serious question of what to wear, "Does my bum look big in this?".

The weather forecast looks bad. At this stage it's touch and go as to whether the Alpine will even start. It could easily be a scorcher or even a cata(tonic)clysmic fire danger day which would can the whole event.

I've had yet another crap preparation with a crook back for the last 5 weeks and limited riding. My real issue is just getting my brain to the start line. I know that what ever happens, it's going to really hurt. Foolishly I'll embrace that hurt and make it hurt more. I keep imagining Tawonga Gap after 220km with the heat blasting off that rock wall, clawing my way up that road by will alone.

Hey - this is gonna be fun :)


Thursday, 21 January 2010

Bright - The Undesirables Arrive

I took a sneak peek through Mr Magic's telescope last night from the bike shed in which I reside, only to discover that Bright is already beginning to be over run with -"Undesirables".

You know the ones. The Flouro Noddy Set. Those cyclists who champion leg and facial hair. Who revel in self-righteous pride at having no ability, style and really crap bikes. These are the riders who know that they own the Alpine, for they are the true Randonneurs!

They block the roads with their 100kg gas pipe clunkers, laiden with panniers full of army surplus survival equipment, their lighting systems which cost more than their bikes and make the sun obsolete as a light source. Impeding the progress of us normal cyclists with their massive egos, even bigger cassettes and holier than thou triple cranksets. I am forecasting an under-supply of humility and perspective.

These are the kind of riders who really impress me. Riders like Jono Lovelock who completed the Alpine in an astounding 6hrs and 19min at age 17. And is currently recovering from horrible injuries received while racing in China recently. Guys like Leigh who at past 50 can still knock over an Alpine in sub 8 hrs while hardly cracking a sweat. All this and they can look good while they're doing it!

Stop! Stop! Stop!

I don't believe most of what I've just written at all. I just love riding and hanging out with all riders. You are all the heart and soul of cycling and of Audax. I'm hot as hell under the collar because I just read that those riders who ride hard, look good, go fast, really aren't any good. They're not proper cyclists, just egos with big legs. Of course they go fast because they're young and fit and strong and have expensive bikes so their effort doesn't count.

I'm sorry Dave, I don't agree. We are all cyclists. Everyone of us busting a gut, pushing ourselves beyond what we ever thought possible. Straining until there's no more to give. Not to beat someone else, but to explore our own physical, mental and spiritual boundaries. To denigrate the ride of any of us is to diminish us all.

Yes, there are dickheads out there and lycra, shaved legs and carbon fibre seems to attract at least its fair share. Please don't let's discount every cyclist who ever rode beach road because there are some idiots riding there. The Alpine is not a race, it's also not a competition to see who can be the most sanctimonious and self-satisfied.

We're all cyclists and we are about to take on something awesome and beautiful. Let's enjoy it together instead of looking for ways to fight with each other.


Friday, 15 January 2010

A week in the life...

This past week has had so much to write about it's hard to decide where to start. I feel like a kid in a lollie shop with a couple of hundred dollars.

Saturday saw me at track training with coach DJ and special guest (SG) coach. First up SG coach decided my saddle was too low. So up it went - 5mm - 10mm - 14mm!!!!! I've never moved my saddle more than 2mm at a time and then with fear and trepidation. The new position feels a bit strange but definitely flatter, more balanced and in good control of the bike. I may wait a while before trying to duplicate it on my road bike. Wearing my new "NancyBoy" black and pink skin-suit I felt like a million bucks. We were thrashed mercilessly for three hours with kilo effort repeats and two sets of 10 sprint efforts. My hammies definitely felt the change of saddle position.

Sunday I took on the Audax Higher and Higher ride with perfect weather served up for a hilly but scrumptious 100km. I got to spend some time riding and chatting with Tony B for the first time in a lot of years as well as hammering out a few nice hills. My legs are feeling good for the ACE it's just a matter of how they stand up the the "Raspberry" after 160km.

Tuesday and Thursday has seen yet more track training with my legs smashed to bits. This weekend is shaping up to be another tasty treat.

Endurogirl and I have been slowly constructing an amazing year of cycling featuring everything from 1200kms in Perth to a flying 200m in Portugal. We have currently filled 83 weekends for the year so there aren't a lot left to spare.