Monday, August 18, 2008

Commitment high.

I said in my last entry that my appalling gym result had motivated me to try harder and in the last week that commitment has really sunk in. I feel more focussed and I know what I have to do each week. For the next month I’m focussing on my base endurance. That means all flat rides, 3 days of my long commute Tues to Thurs, Mon a short commute as a recovery ride from the big 2 – 3 hour road ride on Sunday. Saturday is a play day and Friday is a rest day. Added to that I’m planning on 2 visits to the gym a week and 1 night ride depending on the weather. If I do a night ride, I’ll also do a short commute that day. All of that should work out to about 8 or 9 hours a week. I feel really happy with this plan and last week followed it and by Sunday’s ride was still feeling really good.
Pete and I went out to McLean’s island on Thursday night for a blast. I took Betty, she likes the night. Man it was hard work. I think my gear ratio is a bit easy for McLeans as my legs were spinning madly the whole way and I didn’t have to brake once. It certainly didn’t take long for them to start burning, but I just kept spinning away. I’m definitely starting to enjoy that sort of good pain. It was really really fun and although it was only 35 mins of riding I was at high intensity the whole time. I’d really like to make it a habit and increase the number of laps we do over time.
My new weights programme at the gym is also really good. It’s all free-weights and core work and it hurts lots. I love it. As an added bonus it seems to be really helping get my body in shape for long roadie rides. I don’t get pains in my hands anymore, and my arms don’t get so tired either.
Yesterday I went out for 2 hours to Brighton and back through town. It was lovely and sunny, with only the slightest of icy breezes. The weather was so nice I had my legs out. It felt great to have sun on my skin. It was a bit bracing starting off, but once I warmed up over the wee hills on Cashmere Rd it was lovely and I was grinning. The ride out to Brighton is really nice, however it does have one significant draw back, I always have a head wind coming home. And head wind home means frozen toes. I must remember to wear my lovely shoe covers.
So here I am looking out at the gorgeous sun wishing I was out on my bike. The weather is meant to turn horrific for the rest of the week which will be a test of my current commitment levels. Surely riding in the snow on a road bike can’t be that bad?!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Could do better??

No riding on Saturday, I needed to let my eyes settle down, which worked out perfectly considering it snowed on and off throughout the day. At least we’re having a proper winter I suppose. I did get a lovely visit from my mum and Pete and I also managed to get out and visit friends and sprogs (I was a teeny bit clucky).
Sunday was a gorgeous day again. Perfectly clear with only the slightest of icy breezes to chill my extremities. It was roadie time. I decided to head out to Lincoln and pick up a friend for a wee ride out to Tai Tapu. It’s a nice round 30km ride on the flat. My lungs weren’t feeling too fantastic so I decided to take it easy and just cruised the whole ride. It was good to have someone to talk to, but I do find it mentally tougher riding with someone. I really enjoy the long solitary ride where I don’t have to chat. I can let my mind wander down strange and interesting paths and I can go where ever I want and at whatever speed I feel like.
It was a nice easy ride for an hour, but by the end of it I didn’t feel like I’d done much. Which is why in the afternoon Pete and I headed out to Bottlelake and I took Betty for a proper ride. My lungs were still struggling with this singlespeeding lark, but they were greatly improved on the previous adventure and I managed to get round the whole inner loop and up all the nasty wee hills. And it was fun. In fact my teeth were hurting from all the grinning I was doing as the cold air rushed past. Pete had a good ride too and we both got back to the car-park happy and tired (well I was tired). So in the end I managed to get 2 good hours of riding in.
Monday was a gentle day with just the short commute to work each way. My eyes were a bit drier being at work, but seem to be settling down fine. Oh and my new eyes are brilliant for riding in the forest. Today I had my fitness assessment at the gym. It was not good. My fitness has actually decreased since I started going there. I’m not too upset though as I suspect my results were impacted by my lung capacity being a bit rubbish at the moment. If anything this has inspired me to try harder. I’ve got a really hard and painful new weights programme which I really like and is definitely going to help my core and upper body strength lots. So I need to ride more. More riding the long way to work and maybe a few lunchtime rides thrown in as well. I’m currently sitting around 5 hours riding a week so I really would like to double that over the coming month. That’s my short term goal so we’ll see how that goes. It still seems strange to me that I’m beginning to really enjoy the gym and I’m surprised how much I love riding my road bike. Nothing beats my mountain bike for grin factor though, even my single speed.

Friday, August 8, 2008


I believe it's quite common, when children are growing up, for them to have an image in their minds of what they'll be when they grow up. I know I did. It changed often as I got older. But the one that was the strongest, the oldest and I remember most clearly is of me in glasses and a suit. Now I know why the suit was there, my father wore a suit every day, classic father daughter stuff there. I'm not so sure where the glasses came from. I do know that from an early age I associated wearing glasses with being brainy and also with authority figures. This image of me dates back to around 7 or 8 years old. Of course as I got older the image changed as I rebelled and my image of my future self became more arty and bohemian. At university I studies arts, majoring in philosophy, but taking just as many papers in art history. But you can't fight some things and I also took management. Lets now skip forward and see what my vision is now. Amazingly, its that early vision of me which is most representative to the outside world. Four days a week (dress down Fridays people) you'll see me in suits or other smart business attire and of course glasses. That was until yesterday.

I started wearing glasses when I was 14 and was getting terrible headaches sitting in the back row of the maths class. For many years (and luckily for me) I only had to wear them for reading and school work. I say luckily because it was the early 90s and television screen glasses were all the rage. Fortunately not very many photos exist of these initial fashion atrocities. Because I didn't really have to wear them that often they didn't really impact on my life that much. When I got to university the glasses were getting smaller, but I was wearing them for longer. I could still go out without them, most importantly, but I was wearing them most of the rest of the time. By the time university was over and I was living in London I couldn't go out without them at all.

Don't get me wrong, I always liked wearing glasses, it seemed right and I guess, in a way, they were something I could hide behind. The thing is, they change how you perceive the world. You are always seeing it through a layer of plastic (or glass), usually with tiny scratches and imperfections, finger prints or drops of water. Your connection with those around you is less immediate. I'm a very visual person and have be blessed to see some beautiful breath-taking things, but most of these have been through a layer of plastic. Yesterday all that changed.

When my lovely husband initially raised the idea of laser eye surgery I was completely against it. I liked wearing glasses, they made me look intelligent, they hide the wrinkles under my eyes, they were part of my identity. Most importantly I'm terrified of things near my eyes. The idea of something cutting my eye makes my skin crawl. However he was persistent. And I got a new pair of glasses with transitions lenses. These glasses were a complete nightmare. They cost a fortune, they poked Pete in the face when we hugged or kissed, I couldn't lie on my side with them on as they dug in, they went stupidly dark on foggy or overcast days and they ripped my hair out when I took them off. Basically, they pushed me over the edge. I begrudgingly went for an assessment and was given the good news I could have the procedure if I wanted. At this stage I was quickly coming round to the idea. Unfortunately I we couldn't afford it at the time.

So time went on and my hatred for my glasses became a deep loathing. More discussions about the surgery were had. The pros were weighed against the considerable con (the cost) and it was decided that rather than get another pair of glasses I should get my eyes done. So it was booked and yesterday I went in for the final assessment at 10am. This was really nerve wracking for me. I knew it was possible (highly unlikely) for the surgeon to say I wasn't a suitable candidate and I'd built my hopes up so high I didn't know how I'd handle such an eventuality. Of course I was just being melodramatic and nothing of the sort happened. Off home I went knowing the at 3:30pm I'd be taking some pills at the eye surgery ready to be lasered.

And so I was. I biked there because it was a gorgeous sunny day and I knew I probably wouldn't be doing much riding over the coming days. After paying I took a couple of pain killers, a sedative and had anaesthetic drops put in my eyes and sat in the comfy chair (not the comfy chair!) reading Spoke and chilling out. Sedatives are good. 15 minutes later I was lead into the room with the laser, I lay down. One eye was covered with gauze and the other had the speculum put on. There's no way around it, this is pretty damn horrid. It hurt a bit and was really really uncomfortable. Then they make the flap by pushing a suction ring against the eye. At this stage I couldn't really see anything, everything was just a grey blur. It was also really uncomfortable and stung a bit when they made the flap. Once that was done I could just make out the green light I had to look at and then I could smell the burnt hair smell of my eye being lasered. It took seconds, and if it wasn't for the smell I wouldn't have even known it was happening. Then the flap was brushed back into place and the horrible speculum was removed. It took maybe a minute in total. Then it was the same for the other eye, except I knew exactly what was coming so it didn't seem so bad. After another minute I was lead to another comfy chair in a darkened room and after 15 minutes the surgeon checked my eye and the evil eye shields were put on and I was whisked home by my lovely husband.

I was a little groggy and my eyes hurt a bit and by the time I was due for the next lot of pain killers I really really wanted them, but then I just went to bed, took one of the sedatives they give you and went to sleep. By morning my eyes felt almost normal, apart from the eye shields which were itchy and driving me a little crazy. As I lay in bed in the morning I amused myself by thinking of all the things that hurt worse than laser eye surgery. Period pain was the very first thing that sprung to mind and so I took some pain killers. Waxing, kicking the doorframe with bare feet by accident, falling off my bike, riding up a hill as fast as I can, riding up a hill slightly faster than as slow as I can, my toes, fingers and eyes on a cold morning ride, playing (trying to play) the guitar for 15 minutes after not playing it for ages. The list goes on and on. At the time (all 2 minutes of it) its actually a pretty horrid, unpleasant experience getting your eyes zapped. But it is only for 2 minutes. And your eyes do hurt afterwards and the eye shields are uncomfortable (if you have a tape allergy tell the nurse), but they give you pain killers and sedatives and you just sleep that away. Then the next day, once the shields come off........

........everything is clear. I can see things across the room. I can walk in the rain with my head held up. Which is great, because I love walking in the rain and its just sucked so bad for the last ten years that I haven't been able to fully enjoy the experience. I can go night riding without lens flare. I can buy sun glasses. I can kiss my husband and not poke his eye out. But most importantly I can see the world directly, no plastic barrier between me and the beauty and wonder that's all around me. Sure I've had to give up my way of hiding, but I'm an adult and it's part of growing up (and there's always botox!! kidding). This is part of the new me that's been evolving over the past 3 years. And now this new me can see everything! (Disappointingly this new me can't actually shoot lasers out of her eyes now, but I guess I can't have everything).

PS, Here's a couple of shots with the shields and the teeny dots left today.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I’ve Joined the Club!

In my family asthma has always been present. My mum is a chronic asthmatic and when my brother and I were growing up she had some very extreme attacks. From an early age we understood about mum’s puffers. As my brother got older he developed asthma too, so it became quite a family affair. Now I’ve joined the club. I finally went to the doc today about the problems I’ve been having with my breathing, especially at high intensity, and she’s pretty sure its exercise induced asthma. Which, for me, is actually a relief as I was beginning to get worried it was more serious, and I thought I had a touch of pneumonia! Having asthma doesn’t worry me at all. My mum has always been extremely active and I know of many competitive athletes who suffer from the same thing. I’ve got my pair of lovely blue inhalers so hopefully I’ll be tackling Bottlelake on the singlespeed with fully functioning lungs in no time. I’m very much looking forward to being able to breath properly again.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Launch of the SS Betty

It has been a long while between posts again. Work has been crazy busy so no time for blogging. On the 22nd of July my lovely husband and I did a skills course with, which is run by Helena Parsons. I’ve done the beginner course previously and this course built on that really well. We learnt how to lift our back and front wheels, how to corner fast and sharp, how to get up over obstacles, how to ride fast scary dips and how to climb properly. It was really great and exhausting. I still can’t bunny hop to save my life, but I know what I have to do to get there so it’s just a matter of practise.
During the work madness I’ve been bitten by the singlespeed bug and decided to convert the Rincon into a singlespeed for the Sandpit and McLeans Island. It took some pretty full on engineering as the components on the Rincon are pretty low spec meaning the chainrings were riveted to the cranks.
That makes it slightly more difficult to have only 1 chain ring up front. Fortunately Pete’s fantastic powers of engineering came to the rescue in an exciting display of sparks and soon I had the 32 tooth chainring all on its lonesome for my new baby. After this pulling apart the rear cassette was a piece of cake and soon I had a lovely 17 tooth cog for the back. After stripping off all the braking and gear shifting components that came with the bike and replacing them with some Hayes Sole brakes that I had lying round she was good to go. Unfortunately work had other ideas as I had to work on Saturday the 26th and on Sunday we had a family gathering to attend for Pete’s grandparents (the weather was rubbish anyway). After working a stupidly long 52.5 hour week by Thursday evening I didn’t go into work at all on Friday and just lay round. Saturday dawned clear and lovely and after a quick text we were off to meet up with scatter, a lovely vorbette, at the sandpit. I’ve heard that singlespeeding is fun, and is it ever! I had a great time, although I’ve decided its time to see the doctor about my lungs as they were in absolute agony most of the ride and I felt like I wasn’t getting enough air. This made me feel quite sick and headachey. But it was still uber fun. The great thing about singlespeeding is you have to go fast, so it really improves your strength and handling skills. I can’t wait to get out and do more, once my lungs are sorted.
We cut the ride a bit short and then had a wee play on the skinnies. The SS Betty needs a few tweeks before I’m really comfortable riding on the skinnies on it. The handle bars are too upright and too wide for me so I’ll have to do a bit of fiddling to sort that out. Even so, it was a fun wee play, especially racing through the big puddles, wahoo simple bikes!
We were muddy and grinning when we left and I discovered on getting home another reason to love singlespeeding – it only took 10 mins to get my bike shiny and clean.

Sunday I decided that I had to get out for a decent length ride on the roadie. The weather was pretty horrid with cold temperatures, a chilly breeze and misty, spitting rain on and off. I really didn’t think I was going to enjoy it and was nervous about spending 2 hours on my hard roadie saddle, but I was pleasantly surprised. The ride was really enjoyable (well the first hour and a half before I starting feeling the cold). The last half hour was hard, sore and I just wanted to get home. My legs and arms were shattered, and my feet were frozen, just over 44kms in just under 2 hours, not bad for a first attempt at a long ride. After a hot shower and a big feed of pasta I was feeling more human, but still had a Nana nap for about half an hour in the arvo. The great news is my seat is absolutely brilliant. By the end it was the only thing that wasn’t hurting me, yay! With the Molesworth now only 3 months away there will be plenty more of these and longer rides in my future. I need to sit down this week and sort out a training plan.