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May 2016

Risk

This road racing thing is a curious beast. Though first and foremost my main lover is the mountain bike, I am increasingly attracted to the lure of the road. Please don’t tell my friends. I’m not entirely sure that i’m even happy admitting it. A new challenge, a different beast, using your head in an entirely different way despite the legs still turning in circles.

I have no illusions of grandeur on the road, I have had enough brushes with high performance programs to know that what I want from racing is for myself and not the accolades and small time glory of medals and kudos. Bulk watts and fucking shit up is the motive. Without a power metre I get to choose how many watts I put out “one million!”, “one million plus two!”. Plus, wine and cheese AMIRIGHT?

Having qualified for Worlds a month or so ago now, it’s kind of been a little of ‘what now?’. The investment of time and energy getting to qualifying races is hard enough, it was difficult to grasp the prospect of qualifying and travelling overseas to a major competition at all. But I have, and I am.

There is bulk commitment in spending exorbitant amounts of money on going overseas for one race, but commitment and discipline is not something I lack. Unless we’re talking about wine or silence, in which case I am a total delinquent. Being able to “just get on with it” has been perhaps one of the best skills I have acquired over the course of my now medium-length life (I found a grey eyebrow hair the other day. That was concerning).

Get on with it; make it happen. Book the flights. What next? Training, yes. The 0400 starts are a brutal neccessity, but how many others sacrifice a warm bed for the taste of blood in your mouth? The regurgitation of an espresso at 0545? Get out of bed because others won’t. There’s definitely a time to be kind to yourself, but that’s not during VO2 efforts or max sprints. Watts, squeeze them out. Every last one.

The learning curve of this road thing (and my apparent lack of smarts. Like who’s up the road? Are they fast? What is going on? What do I do now?) has just been another opportunity to step up in uncomfortable situations, and really mountain-biking is all about who can be the most uncomfortable for the longest. What mountain biking isn’t about is taking the most risks. Of course, every technical feature has an element of risk, but a full blown gamble is a rare thing in mountain biking; which is essentially the dirtiest, suffering-est, offroad, paced time-trail there is.

At the risk of my writing becoming overly prosaic and repetitive; risk and reward are often good bedfellows. The road has shown me that taking a gamble can be a good thing, if the fitness can follow through then the risk is that you end up back in the bunch, hopefully not off the back.

I’m heading to France, I am taking a risk. What’s the worst that can happen? I end up 67th in the world, shred some rad singletrack, drink a fuckload of wine and eat cheese to celebrate. And the good stuff? Top 30? Better? Who knows. Either way it sounds pretty good to me.

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Cheese and wine here I come!
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Temperance and haste

Often in my world you see things no reasonable person should see.

It’s not the blood and guts, no, we don’t see them nearly as much as everyone thinks. It’s the darker, more insidious undercurrents of the human condition we witness. It’s the single mother in a housing commission flat, high on drugs who has lost both custody of her daughter and control over her life. It’s the neglect in nursing homes, the complete loss of self and independence the residents have, the despair when we realise that old Betty has had a broken hip for a week and no one has noticed. It’s the man who arrested—dead—on the side of the road who you manage to get back, his family crying on the phone to loved ones in the hospital.

It hits you like a truck sometimes, that we all have the capacity to be these people we go to. We put a barrier up, which is an easy enough thing to do when a great deal of our patients fail to look after themselves, and believe that we couldn’t be in their shoes. But we could.

How many poor decisions away from becoming a single parent in a Strathpine housing commission flat do you think you would be? Many fewer than you think, I would argue.

How hard would it be to end up in a nursing home with staff that fail to notice you’re broken a bone for a week? Considering the state of most of the nursing homes we go to; not very fucking difficult.

How often do you think that this is all there is, and to make the most of it? After all, any of us have the capacity to die unexpectedly like our bloke on the side of the road.

Living like there’s no tomorrow can understandably cause problems, but living like there’s no terminal event in our lives can be similarly problematic. The difficulty lies in how to balance the line between them. Temperance vs haste.

I feel like I have gained some wisdom of age, but still definitely still have the folly of youth. Life’s too short to hide in the shadows and be unheard so I am noisier, know what I want and ask for it. Mostly. I want to experience the full breadth of human experience, however how compatible is that with all else we are ‘supposed’ to do in life?

I am going to XCM World Champs to race elite in a month. That’s part of the human experience for me. I qualified and while I have a snowflakes chance in hell of getting on the podium I have recently been in great form and think I can have a great race. It costs a lot of money and will be a big drag financially, but in my temperance vs haste argument it is all justified, after all i’m thirty and opportunities like these don’t come knocking all the time.

So, live in the now, you never know we hit our terminal day.

Own your unique

Road cycling is an interesting thing. A far departure from the hairy, smelly, beer drinking mountain biking community I can proudly identify with, road seems like mountain biking cycling with the volume turned down. Having spent a weekend away at ‘road training camp’ I have identified that roadies value: watts, conformity and matchy-matchy team socks (pref white, eew). Nothing wrong with any of this, roadie camp was fun and hilarious.Adjustyourcrotch

As a young AB I often spent time being stuck as a round peg in a square hole, not the least because I was at a wholly inappropriate all girls school with undiagnosed ADD (I think…), too much energy and no outlet. Sport, and mountain biking in particular became that outlet; a community where I can smash myself and others while being outside. Even being noisy isn’t so much of a problem, with the wind in your hair you can’t hear what anyone’s saying anyway.

Having been on the ‘volume on low’ road far more than usual (getting bulk swole in preparation for World XCM) I have found that in this situation I am kind of that ill-fitting noisy, slightly crazy peg once again, but with the wisdom and experience of age I just don’t really care, and I reckon it’s a tactic that works really well. Somehow the ill-fitting peg seems to fit anyway.

So sing on your road bike, ride skinny tyres on the grass, drink coffee and don’t give a fuck. Own your unique; after all you’re the only one of you out there.

Plus you’re totally special (just like everyone else 😛 ).

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I can’t help it. Pics by Mowen.

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