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  1. Balancing the Green

    April 22, 2014 by Sp8y

    There’s a beautiful innocence to not knowing or having alternatives. The idea of the grass being greener on the other side has no meaning if you don’t know of any other side except the one you are on. The grass of course can be green on whichever side you choose, one or both, but balance can only be achieved when you choose to feed both sides.

    As a Libran I am all about balance and some would say love. I can’t profess to have been successful at either but it is certainly something I strive for on a daily basis, balancing my passion with my responsibilities. Given the opportunity I would spend the money saved for the new kitchen on a new bike and on days like today I would ride for hours drinking coffee and writing nonsense such as this instead of doing house duties.

    Balance is indeed easier if choice is taken away, but then without choice it all becomes a bit boring and so predictable that we may as well book an early appointment at the crematorium. Fire up the furnace Freddy!

    Well, perhaps not just yet.

    I’m a big believer in pushing boundaries, questioning the now and asking what if? This attitude has frustrated many partners, thrilled lecturers and bosses, caused me extreme joy and indescribable despair and yet I continue to prescribe to it. Why? Because life is here to be lived and if we are not growing then aren’t we just waiting to die?

    In the early 1980’s when I first began racing there were only a handful of Australian riders that we knew of that had gone overseas and ‘made it’. When I say ‘made it’ I mean that we actually heard back from them. Years later when racing in T-Town I was to discover that countless other Aussies had ventured overseas to race. They had discovered much greener grass on the other side of the world and they had stayed there feeding it.

    My first taste of grass on the other side was in 1983 when I travelled to Europe with three other female cyclists. Our respective clubs had sizzled sausages, held trivia nights and raffled tickets to pay for a 6 week trip to Holland finishing at the World Titles in Switzerland. The logic of racing for 6 weeks on flat roads before competing in a road race through the Swiss Alps is laughable now but at the time we didn’t care, we just wanted to experience the racing.

    To my knowledge I believe we were the first organised (a term I use loosely) Australian women’s cycling team to compete at an international tournament. A year earlier one of the pioneers of Australian women’s cycling, Sian Mulholland, had funded her own way to compete in the World Track titles in Leicester, England. She came back with a thigh full of splinters but more importantly she had pushed open the door for the rest of us to ride through, if we dared.

    My first glimpse of the other side was a lesson in pain and humility. I went from being the big fish in a little pond to a tadpole in an ocean of sharks. We spent 6 weeks racing on the cobblestones and narrow dykes of Holland, mostly getting spat out the back of the bunch or elbowed off the side of the road. It was an incredibly sharp and bumpy learning curve that saw me crack into the top 15 by the end of the trip. In Australia I was racing against a maximum of 20 riders, in Holland the start line was crowded with 100. The style of racing was hectic, whereas in Australia we would roll off the start line and cruise around until a sprint finish, in Holland they sprinted off the start line and kept the pace up, only slowing for corners but then sprinting out of them to get back up to speed in the straights. The grass was very green and it had stained me.

    Racing as I knew it was forever changed.

    My first race back in Australia was the 1983 National Road Titles held in Sydney. This was to be the last time that I remember racing with my travel companions. While my experience of the other side had spurred me on to greater cycling aspirations, their experience of it had pushed them in directions away from cycling. As I showed off my grass stains with pride, they quickly washed theirs out.

    As we waited on the start line, I couldn’t help but smile at the difference of where we had been racing just two weeks prior with 100 starters to now where just 20 women lined up ready to race. Although we had agreed that we would not allow our friendship to interfere with our racing (we were from different states after all) my friend Liz Battle and I shared an ironic smile at the start and she uttered the one Dutch word we had become very familiar with on our trip, “ongelofelijk” – a loose translation would be “unbelievable” but in a cruder ironic sense.

    The race was 52km and for three of the four 16km laps I sat in the bunch as usual but then something happened. To this day I don’t know what came over me, perhaps just the realisation that I had experienced real racing and this wasn’t it. I attacked up the last hill and stayed away for the last 10km eventually winning by only about 200metres in true roadie fashion with both arms raised. I was the reigning national sprint champion and would have easily won a bunch sprint but that just wouldn’t have made it a proper race. A road race deserves to have a break away champion that has the nerve to take a chance and put themselves out there. I had unconsciously decided to put myself out there.

    Against all odds and logic I had become the national track sprint and road champion in the same year, something that has never happened again, but that isn’t important. What is important is that it happened once and racing for Australian women cyclists was never to be the same again.

    I had proved that the grass could indeed be green on both sides and that some stains can change you for the better. Sometimes you need to be brave and just put yourself out there.

    IMGA0904


  2. Plus One

    April 19, 2014 by Sp8y

    plus one

    There’s a popular saying among bike riders that the perfect number of bikes to own is what you already have plus one. Adhering to this advice is the culprit for garages, sheds and spare rooms being overfilled with bikes. The racing cyclist can easily explain this away to needing specialised bikes for specific racing purposes. It’s later in life that justifying this need becomes more problematic.
    The non bike-riding partner will often question how one person could possibly need so many bikes because surely you can only ride one at a time? This of course is a very good and logical question. The answer is at once simple and bereft of all logic- the answer is simply chemistry.

    Don’t get too excited I’m not about to talk about the type of chemistry that has unfortunately overshadowed the sport in the past few years. Perhaps one day I will write about the sliding scale of hypocrisy surrounding drugs in sport and drugs in life, but not today. Why a sliding scale? Simply because innovation at all levels causes the goal posts to continually change. Society will judge all that is outside of their experience and this is the source of the problem for it is only from within the experience that you can truly speak about it. Context is the crucial element that gives weight to opinions- without it you’re just telling stories.

    At the end of the day we must all draw our own line in the continually shifting sands.

    But that is a conversation for another time.

    The chemistry I’m talking about today is that relationship we have with our bikes -the love that dare not speak its name. After all it’s just a bike right, an inanimate piece of machinery that takes you from point to point, a possession, a tool, a means to an end?

    Yes, sometimes that’s what it is, but other times it’s so much more. It’s the thing that makes you feel the most alive; it’s that spark, a knowing, an understanding, and a feeling of synchronicity that simple mathematics and logic cannot explain. This is what I call the chemistry bike.

    Over the years I’ve had many bikes built for me, by both master frame builders and a few pretenders. Each time my measurements were taken and a discussion regarding the characteristics I wanted the bike to have took place and each time a very different riding experience ensued. This is because as much as frame building is an engineering feat based in pure mathematical genius, it is also a work of art and the beauty of art is in the eye of the beholder or in this case, the perception of the rider.

    A rough estimate to the number of bikes I have owned over the years would be at about 18 and I remember very distinctly those bikes that I had perfect chemistry with. The absolute stand out was my Olympic track frame. That bike was like an extension of me; a transplanted limb could not have felt any more natural than that bike. I would only need to think about what move I wanted to make on the track and the bike would respond in the moment of the thought. It was perfection in every way. A Ferrari red colour forks and front end fading into a pearl white in the rear end, I remember looking at it before I went to sleep each night and thinking it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

    Of course beauty and chemistry do not often occur together, as was the case with my Specialised Mountain bike. It had never seen an off road track and had been originally bought as a way for me to ride from where I was staying in Allentown to the gym a few suburbs away. I had wanted a bike that I could chain up outside without caring if someone else came along and decided they needed it more than me. It was a sort of throwaway bike- or at least that’s how it started out. I converted it into a commuter complete with skinny tyres, shortened bars and a rack, it wasn’t the prettiest bike around but it was excellent to ride and I ended up holding onto it for 18 years!

    Chemistry.

    The bike I have now is what I like to call my “Old Faithful”, a Scott city bike complete with hydraulic disc brakes and sturdy wheels, she has saved my life on an all too regular basis during my weekly accumulative commute of just over 300km. She can take everything I throw at her, from bunny hopping over gutters and speed humps to thrashing over a grassy patch and down a small flight of stairs (that I didn’t know was there..). We are an incredibly good team and I will ride her until she dies – which may be sooner rather than later if I keep riding down surprise stairs…….

    As good as we are together my Scott is not my chemistry bike. A few years ago a friend let me borrow her $10,000 Pinarello bike for a charity ride. Foolishly I decided to ride it to work to try to get used to it. The bag on my back was a burden and the Pinarello wasn’t too happy about the numerous gutters on the bike path. The daily grind of the commute just wasn’t her thing; she was built for extreme riding pleasure not reliable transport from A to B, however during the charity ride she purred along at 40km/h in some sections and effortlessly. On the second day I rode for 100km down in the drops – this is what we call the traditional streamlined racing position of having your hands positioned in the bend of the racing bars. Over a long distance it is usually not a comfortable position to be in but on the Pinarello it was heaven. I remember thinking at the time that if I died on that bike they would find me with a smile on my face. The borrowed Pinarello would be the ultimate plus one.

    It’s true that you can only ride one bike at a time and not everyone has the opportunity for a plus one but if your chance ever presents itself, grab hold of it and don’t look back, your plus one will give you that thrill that we all crave when we ride, that moment between you and your machine when all is right in the wheel world – and that my friend is pure chemistry.


  3. Back in the Saddle

    April 15, 2014 by Sp8y

    When you spend a lot of time riding a bike it becomes as normal as brushing your teeth. There’s not a lot of thought that has to go into it, you just get on the bike and ride. After a while your muscles get so used to riding that you have to consciously put a hard effort in just to get that familiar soreness back, so accustomed do they become to the action.
    True bike riders, and when I say “true” I am referring to that (some would say) strange breed such as myself that knows only of a world with a bike in it. You will find that these types of riders never spend much time away from being in the saddle.

    A long time ago I was given the wise advice to not stop riding in the break in between seasons. At the time I had thought it was a fitness thing, “don’t stop riding or you will lose all of the fitness gained over the season”, but that wasn’t the reason. These past few weeks since returning from a two-week vacation have sharply reminded me of the real reason why bike riders never stop riding – it’s all about being back in the saddle, or as I like to call it, that old familiar ache.

    It’s the ache in that place that we don’t like to talk about, so let’s talk about it.

    Now I will admit straight off the bat that I can only speak of experience as a female bike rider, so for all of the men out there reading this I can only say that you may not find any helpful tips for your own bits but pay attention because it will help your female riding buddy and trust me, you do want to help her.

    So ladies, where to begin? Well the obvious place of course is the points of contact – your seat, pedals and handlebars. These are the pressure points that support your weight. When I say ‘pedals’ that is in relation to seat height. The seat is the obvious culprit but then how do your pedals and handlebars contribute to that ache you get in that part that you don’t usually talk about to strangers? Looking at the male anatomy there is a small but obvious place available for them to sit but where do women find such a space in all of their wonderful folds and flaps?

    Keep reading and all will be revealed.

    Back in the 80’s when I first joined the ranks of the racing elite the misogynistic national coach told me that ‘girls’ shouldn’t ride bikes because they had ‘nowhere to sit’. At the time his ignorance annoyed me but in hindsight I realise that he had probably never been close enough to a vagina to actually know what it was capable of.
    Despite their softness people often forget that these lovely lady bits can take one hell of a pounding, push a human out of them; be cut open with chicken snips then stitched up and ready to do it all again a few months later. If there’s one thing I have learnt over the years it’s never to underestimate the power of a vagina or the woman that truly knows it.

    Before I talk about where to sit on the saddle let’s talk about saddle height. If your seat is too high you will get sore from trying to reach the pedals on every down stroke, too low and your knees will get sore – a tricky trade off that for women usually results in them riding with seats too low. To arrive at the correct seat height you can follow the mathematical formula of measuring your inseam leg length and multiplying that number by 109%. This will give you the height that your seat should be when measured from the pedal axle to the top of the seat. The other mathematical formula is to multiply your inseam by 88.3% and this will give you the height that your seat should be when measured from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of your seat.
    Confused yet?
    The easiest way is to adjust your seat so that when you are sitting on it only the tips of your toes can touch the ground.
    Sound simple?
    It is.

    Next let’s look at the handlebar position. If they are too far away you must lean forward and you end up sitting on the front of your vagina – which may be enjoyable for about a minute but then very regrettable for the minutes to come. If your handlebars are too close you will not put enough weight on them as your weight will be shifted back entirely to your seat. The happy medium is in between these two extremes. On a racing style bike you can put your elbow on the front tip of your seat and stretch your arm and fingers out straight. Your handlebars should be about an inch past the tips of your fingers. On more upright style ladies bikes or sports hybrid bikes you will need to feel your way into position. This will make sense in a second when I talk about choosing a side.

    Finally and most importantly let’s look at the seat choice.Big wide seat doesn’t equal comfortable seat. A comfortable seat is one that supports your sit bones. These are the bones you feel when you reach under your bottom and press in. They are the bits that make contact with a chair when you are sitting and they are the bits that you want bearing the weight of your torso. If you get a seat that doesn’t support your sit bones but instead supports the extra layers around your sit bones you’re never going to be able to ride for longer than 30 minutes without screaming out to Jesus to make the pain stop.

    Now let’s put it all together – your seat height is right, your handlebars are right and your seat supports your sit bones but those fleshy front bits are probably still not happy. Three pieces of advice here- firstly buy a pair of riding shorts with a lovely padded chamois, secondly make sure when you are riding you get off the seat often giving yourself a break from the pressure, and thirdly try shifting your bits to one side. Most women that ride in excess of 150km a week will naturally do this, sacrificing one lip for the sake of the whole. As much as your sit bones will take most of the weight this technique of picking a side will help preserve the rest of your bits.

    Of course even for those of us that have spent thousands of hours in the saddle over the years, getting back into it after a break is always an interesting experience . The first ride is absolute joy, you are so happy to be riding again that you practically hover over the seat. The second ride back let’s you know that the muscle soreness isn’t the only thing feeling bruised and by ride number three you are wondering if you’ve been visited in your sleep by some rough trade.

    Stick with it because by rides five and six your lady bits will adapt to this new/old normal and you’ll vow never to leave it so long out of the saddle ever again.

    We may be able to take a lovely pounding down there but it shouldn’t be from our bike seats! Happy riding ladies.


  4. She’s Just Not That Into You

    March 19, 2014 by Sp8y

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    As an athlete you learn fairly early on that if you’re going to have any degree of success you have to listen to what your body wants- and I mean really listen.

    When you pay attention to your body it will tell you everything you need to know about how to be happy. It will instantly expel food it doesn’t want, make you thirst for what it needs to drink, shut down when it needs to rest and make you feel like you’re on fire when it desires something. When it doesn’t want something it will throw things in the way to try to make you wake the hell up and pay attention.

    Nearly two years ago I started to scuba dive. Initially it was under mental protest. I didn’t know why but it was just not something that I wanted to do. For one, it scared the hell out of me and I think that it was mainly because of this that I persevered with doing it. I needed to conquer my fear without any thought for what my body was telling me. A challenge had been thrown down and I wasn’t the type to lay down and give in and listen.

    If I had taken a moment to listen I would have heard my body screaming at me and it’s taken me two years and the serenity of a remote island to finally listen to it.

    It’s been almost two weeks now that I’ve been off my bike and I miss it. I don’t miss the saddle sores, eating bugs or getting abused by maniacs in cars, I just miss the feeling. I’m surrounded by tropical beauty but after two weeks of it there’s nothing I would like to do more right now than go for a ride, a really hard sweaty ride.

    Scuba diving for my friends is like what riding is for me- it makes their spirits soar. They want to do it all of the time, holidays, conversation and social events are arranged around it.

    I’m not saying I don’t like scuba diving I’m just saying, well basically all I’m saying is “scuba it’s been fun and I would still love to spend holidays with you but I’m just not that into you” . Don’t get me wrong there have been dives that I have loved- the wreck last week being one of them, but for most of the time I’m sort of bored.

    Sorry girls I know you’re probably reeling in shock at reading this but yes I get bored underwater. My time is filled in with wondering how I would like to eat the fish I see or by giving giving them all a voice and personality as they swim around me. The other thing about diving is it doesn’t help to think too much- thinking too much underwater will send you into a panic faster than a no alcohol announcement at a frat party.

    Being a chronic thinker, this presents a problem for me under the sea and so in between giving fish voices and wanting to eat them I am constantly looking at my air gauge hoping for the magic 50bar that will signal time to surface.

    Just to give this perspective I never get bored on my bike. Even when I used to do 150 laps behind the motorbike on the track with a sprint every 6 laps- boredom didn’t even enter into the equation. Hours of turning pedals, in my mind, still beats 50 minutes underwater and it’s no slight on diving it’s just what my body likes to do.

    Diving you’ve been fun and we’ve become pretty good friends and I still want to come on holidays with you but right now I’m looking forward to my next ride.


  5. Suspended Reality

    March 18, 2014 by Sp8y

    There’s a certain amount of reality suspension that happens and must happen in order to totally enjoy an idyllic island holiday. Firstly you must forget about all of the hard work and calorific sacrifice it took to get your body into good shape. Secondly you must forget about all of the hours of hard work it took for you to earn the money to afford the holiday in the first place. And so it is an absolute necessity that you must wholeheartedly believe in the illusion that whilst on holiday you can eat, drink and spend as much as you want.

    This is, of course, a dangerous course of action because we all know that causality is an absolute equation – every action has an equal and opposite reaction. We know this and yet we continue to throw caution to the wind and open our hearts to adventure.

    Life as a racing bike rider was a masters degree in suspended reality. We lived in a bubble and it was a glorious, euphoric bubble of training and racing , padded by public and personal adoration. For fifteen years this was my world and I didn’t hope for anything else.

    I spent the last seven years of my racing career in a little east coast town called Allentown. Made famous by the Billy Joel song, Allentown was so much more than a middle class working town, it was home to the Trexlertown velodrome – otherwise known as T- town. Every May until August the best track cyclists in the world would congregate in T-Town and race in front of a sell out crowd . We were treated like Gods and didn’t know any different.

    Each Friday night the top six riders – male and female, would be introduced to the capacity crowd. One by one we would do a lap of honour while the announcer espoused our achievements. I would wave to the crowd and high five my group of supporters on turn two as I made my way to the home straight where we would all stand with our bikes facing the American flag. When the anthem played and the American riders put their hands on their hearts and sang along, we would look at each other in amazement and respect that they cared enough to sing their anthem before a bike race. At the end of the anthem the announcer would ceremoniously say “play ball” and the racing would begin. We were the entertainment and we never failed to put on a brilliant show.

    The thing about suspended reality is that you often don’t realise that you are in it until you get a glimpse of another kind of life. Towards the end of my racing career I started to think about a normal life- a job, partner , mortgage and job. Mundane things that were not anywhere close to my reality. My reality in comparison was a spectacular existence.

    Holidays are, in a lot of ways a spectacular existence. You put reality aside, suspended until a scheduled date when you must return to life as you know it.
    But are holidays the only time we can allow ourselves this freedom?
    For what if we actually made Wednesday our “hump day” or just allowed for two hours of absolute pleasure to fill a normal day?Perhaps the suspended reality of the spectacular is not just for holidays after all but a luxury we can all afford to have each week. Perhaps all you really need to do in order to suspend reality is to twist your wrist, open the throttle and play ball. image


  6. Photographic Memories

    March 15, 2014 by Sp8y

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    In anticipation of my dive on the wreck at Tulamben I splurged on a new sports video camera. Following popular culture (for once ) I bought the ultra reliable Go Pro to capture the underwater sights. I’m not usually a happy snap holiday person with an endless slideshow of photoshopped snaps to bore friends or myself with years from now. I’m more of a soak in the moment type of person but with my precarious shaky brain I thought I may as well get some photographic evidence.

    The wreck at Tulamben is a US Army Transport freighter that was torpedoed by the Japanese at the end of WWII and towed to shore for salvage. A subsequent volcano eruption pushed it back into the water and at just 15 metres from shore turned it into a scuba divers paradise.

    Yesterday we dropped down and within a few metres the wreck appeared. Eager to capture the moment I switched the Go Pro on and was greeted with the welcome beeps and then a flashing screen – dead battery. No amount of button pressing or screen flicking was going to bring it back to life- it was looking like the wreck pictures, like the majority of my racing pictures were to be recorded on my internal drive for personal use only.

    My racing career spanned 15 years from 1982-1997 and in that time you would think that I would have a hoard of photographic memorabilia clogging my attic.

    Reality could not be further from this idea- instead my yawning attic has less than 5 boxes containing photos and various mementos from my other life.

    My career covered a time when social media was unheard of and search engines were just finding their algorithmic feet in cyberspace. As a consequence there are few if any photos of me on the internet and due to actually being in the races that I competed in I had little opportunity to take my own photos. Much of the proof of my career rests within individual memories.

    In 1988 in the Olympic Athlete’s Village in Seoul our Chef De Mission, John Coates, informed the team that there were two computers in our apartment building that could be used for “electronic mail”. All we needed to know was what country the athlete came from and what their surname was and we could send an instant message – for free! It was of course, an instant hit with the only limitation on social connections being the limited hours in the day.

    While we had this rudimentary email there wasn’t a Google or Facebook or any practical and immediate way to share photos. Photos became a delayed gratification or mortification depending on what came out of the developers solution and onto the page. Once developed they were neatly categorised, labeled and packed away in albums never to be seen again.

    Recently a few old cycling friends started posting old racing programs and pictures on Facebook and in this way it has allowed for a second chance of viewing our careers from another perspective.

    Yesterday a fresh battery provided my second chance at capturing some underwater memories of the wreck. I’ve got some great footage and photos, many megabytes of memories that I will most likely edit and upload here or burn to a disc, show family and friends and then stash away in a drawer.

    Thankfully there’s no footage of my head exploding or having a fit at 28 metres. Although I am enjoying a 24 hour headache and feeling as if I’ve been poked repeatedly in both eyes but it was worth it.
    Not for the saved megabytes that will sit unwatched in my drawer but for what I’ve saved in my internal drive.

    This is the drive I access the most. This is the drive I go to in the quiet moments either when alone or in the company of others. This is the drive that I will freely access and enjoy until my battery runs out.


  7. Pleasure and Pain

    March 12, 2014 by Sp8y

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    At the time of writing this I am enjoying a two week vacation in Bali- the first half spent lazying naked by the pool in our private villa eating, drinking and a little shopping – this last activity performed with clothes. Next week will be spent with friends at a resort we have all to ourselves- it’s all very self indulgent and the copious amount of alcoholic calories guilt free- it is a holiday after all. Time to unwind the previous nine months of stress.

    Day one brought massage number one and I soon discovered that my weekly 300km of commuting coupled with hours at a desk had rendered my body to be in desperate need of attention.

    The relaxing massage of Bali with piped music and aromatic oils is a far cry from my weekly massages as a bike rider. On holidays a massage is an indulgence but as a bike racer the weekly and sometimes twice weekly massage is an absolute necessity.

    As an athlete your body is a tool that is continually poked, prodded and primed for performance. The weekly massage provided no place to hide, it revealed to my coach what I had been doing all week – following my program or eating rubbish and sleeping in.

    The massage table was strategically placed in the ergometre room, otherwise known as the torture chamber.

    The ergo (as it was affectionately known) was a stationary bike with a fan bladed front wheel and was hooked up to every known electronic recording and measuring device available. The ergo was used for hard efforts – intense intervals that usually resulted in throwing up or just plain collapsing off the bike and onto the nearby massage table.

    During one particularly memorable session of continual efforts with my heart rate over 220 I told, or rather, gasped to my coach that I thought if I did one more effort I might die. My coach paused as if considering this possibility and calmly replied, “don’t worry mate you’ll pass out before you die and when you pass out you’ll stop pedalling and your heart rate will slow down and so you won’t die” . I couldn’t fault such logic and went on to do four more efforts before collapsing onto the massage table where my coach would try to rub the lactic acid out of my shaking thighs.

    Back then any groans that escaped from my mouth were from the agony of having tired muscles rubbed. Now the holiday massage groans are so much different or at least the first two massages were- massage number three was a completely different story.

    Having experienced the relaxing traditional massage followed by ear candles I decided to venture into the unknown territory of the hot stone massage.

    The hot stone massage promised new levels of relaxation and was described in the brochure as ” a gift from the earth” . Being all for earthly gifts I stripped off and lay down on the table. When the first stone was rubbed over my back I was instantly transported back to the ergo room and that fine line between pleasure and pain.

    When they say “hot stones ” they’re not joking- these were some seriously hot stones. Some people run across these kind of hot stones to prove their bravery and here I was having them rubbed over my entire body- Effectively moving me from the brave to the crazy zone.

    Did I mention that these stones were rubbed over my entire body? Yes. Let’s just say no stone was left unturned.

    The stoning continued for 90 minutes during which I was transported through a range of sensations. By the time I got my rocks off I was a lather of sweat but totally relaxed, relieved and rejuvenated- definitely a happy ending. This is one earthly gift I can recommend but be prepared to walk that fine line.


  8. Fear Less

    March 12, 2014 by Sp8y

    I work with a woman who is absolutely fearless. A self confessed adrenaline junkie, Jen’s weekend escapades read like an adventure brochure. Jen doesn’t just go for hikes in parks, she treks for hours through rugged bushland, jumps out of perfectly good planes and if there’s the worlds highest, scariest and most dangerous bungee jump then you can be sure that Jen has done it or is waiting in line. For Jen the hard way equals normal and the rest is just plain boring.

    I used to have a saying up on my wall that said ” the elevator to success is out of order, you’ll have to take the stairs”. Jen always takes the stairs.

    Now I’m not entirely sure of Jen’s age but I would say she is about 24 and while I too was a stair climber at that age, I wasn’t exactly fearless. Fear was my constant shadow – a shape shifter that attempted to hinder and retard any progress or foray outside of my immediate family’s low expectations.

    Fear fuelled that little voice in my head- we all know her, that anxious little bitch that pipes up every time you want to actually let yourself free to enjoy something out of the norm. Miss What If always seems to pop up at the most inopportune moment attempting to hip charge you with her predictable big “but”.

    Fear it seems , was genetically passed on from my fearful parents. My mother has spent a lifetime pleading with me not to do things. When I used to get up at 330am for training before school my mother would echo miss what if and shout out -”but what if you get hit by a car, or get lost” or just what if? But these were things that I was never afraid of, my fear was always that I would not be fast enough or strong enough, smart enough or just plain “enough”

    When I first started racing on the track it wasn’t the steep banking, no brakes or bumping elbows that scared me, it was fear of not performing in front of the crowd. What if I didn’t win ?

    A trip to the hypnotherapist cured me of my crowd anxiety, flipping me from fearful introvert to flamboyant performer- the track all at once transforming from pressure cauldron to performance space. Track racing was my passion and racing around sharply banked planks of wood was one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done- it never scared me even after several spectacular crashes.

    On the track I was fearless but years of injury have taken their toll and subsequent advice that another knock to the head would put me into punch drunk boxer territory caused me to make concessions – no more racing, no riding on the track and if I have a choice of bike path or the road I choose the bike path every time.

    Concessions it seems are a necessary consequence of my reckless youth. Recently I discovered, courtesy of a panel of experts that due to a ridiculous amount of head trauma my cochlear is damaged, my brain has cloudy bits and I am the lucky dip winner of chronic vestibular migraine – otherwise known as vertigo- yes Hitchcock variety – but don’t think that I will be throwing myself out of a tower only to show up years later at the oscars sporting bad plastic surgery, no, all that has really changed in my life is my attitude to accept what I have and to just get on with things albeit in a wobbly way.

    The downside is that after a few years of silence Miss What If is back, trying to drown out any logical thought concerning my new twisted normal especially around my new pastime of scuba diving.
    image
    Apparently diving when having migraine symptoms is likely to cause a seizure- not a happy event at 20 metres underwater but then there’s a lot of things you don’t want to happen at 20 metres and if you thought enough about them you would never dare to get wet.

    In a few days time I’ll be doing my first wreck dive and hopefully not blowing my mind in a bad way in the process.

    Am I scared?

    Yes.
    But not of a remotely “likely” event happening. I’m scared that Miss What If will win and I will not do something that I have been looking forward to doing all because of Miss What If’s fear of unknown consequences.

    It is, after all, what it is.

    This time I know the consequence and I won’t dive if I am having a migraine, that would be reckless and I’ll leave reckless to my young friend Jen at work.
    This time I’m diving in and Miss What If and her big but better just watch out because I may just blow her mind.


  9. The Time Thief

    March 9, 2014 by Sp8y

    I was always a bit jealous of Mick Jagger. It wasn’t because he had the moves , the voice, the lips or the ability to completely annihilate himself and still live to old age. No, for me it has always been his relationship with time that tends to bring out my jolly green giant.

    Time you see has never been on my side.

    Time for me has been more like the schoolyard bully- teasing me with the possibilities of what I could have in my day and then laughing cruelly when I realise that there’s just not enough time to achieve my desires. Regardless I keep trying to stretch and compress it, to try to cheat it and avoid that stinging slap in the face when it robs me of something that would give me pleasure.

    It’s ironic then that I chose an event that was somewhat reliant on time. The 1000 metre sprint event is only timed over the last 200 metres and so to be competitive you have to be in the top 5 for the 200 metre split. Nowadays this means that unless you can smash out a 10.9 second 200 you will most likely be watching the event from the stands. Of course being able to do this doesn’t guarantee your success, tactics play an important role and it’s not always the rider that can beat time that wins but the rider that can manipulate it that emerges the winner.

    However being seeded first certainly helps. It used to be that you went into an event seeded according to your performance in the most previous event. This gave an automatic advantage based on reputation and not current form. It allowed the out of form top rider to have a non earned easy first couple of rounds until having to find form in the quarters.

    That all changed in the mid 1980′s when it was decided that qualifying time trials would be held to determine seeding. Each rider must now perform a flying 200 to qualify – there are no wings involved (although the current German world champion may have to be checked for feathers on her back due to her impressive 10.94 at this years world titles), instead each rider gets three laps on the track by themselves with the final 200m timed. This provides a true seeding based on time and if time ruled this event then the top four seeds would always meet in the final rounds. This is where tactics come into play- just ask the second seeded British woman cyclist at this years worlds about this – she qualified milliseconds behind the German and then finished 5th overall having been eliminated by her tactically better teammate in the quarter finals.
    Tactics it seems are a way to cheat time.

    Recently I started doing yoga. There’s a lot of breathing, stretching and for me groaning as my injury ridden body tries to find some kind of balance. There is also chanting and focussing. At the beginning of each class we do warm up poses, deep breathing and a couple of “ohms” to centre ourselves. The instructor then tells us to each choose our intent for the class- to decide what our sole focus will be.

    This is my favourite part. Focus and intent are much like tactics they give back what time tries to steal away – they help you to formulate a plan and execute it without distraction. I was not always the fastest rider but a lot of the time I was the smartest tactical rider. I used to keep a dossier on each rider. It would detail their style of racing and what their strengths and weaknesses were, it had what their favourite tactics were and what mind games they would employ during the warm up. There was a rider from the USA who would always make a point of blasting past me in the warm up when I was on the apron(the flat bottom part) of the track winding down. Before I recognised this as a tactic it would totally psyche me out but eventually I saw it for what it was, just another tool that this rider used in her intent to stealimage time.

    I may still miss appointments , hopelessly schedule events that I have slim chance of fitting into my day but if I live with intent and remain focused the cream of life will still be mine to enjoy in my own time.

    Time still may not be on my side Mr Jagger but at least with intent I know how to cheat it.


  10. The “Me” in Team

    March 1, 2014 by Sp8y

    At 707 am this morning my team The Patsy Declines crossed the Coastrek finish line after walking for 50km over 13 hours in the dark and through the rain. It was an amazing night. No, I’m not still delirious although there are parts of my body that no longer feelphoto(16) like they are attached – my toes are the first that come to mind. Or where my toes used to be, should I say? Oh sure they may still physically be there but they look like little raw sausages and all normal feeling has since left the building. Clearly 50km of walking has sent my feet into shock.

    The other shock was how much I loved being in the team. Yes, me the individual operator, the lone rider, the ‘no me in team’ person got sucked in to the team theme and let me just say that our team rocked. I’m not saying that because I was in the team, and so of course it would have to be a great team right? So not right, in fact if the truth were to be told I was easily the weakest link in our team.

    Our team rocked because we stayed together as a cohesive unit for the entire distance and came out of it the same great mates as we were when we started. The same we found, could not be said for a lot of the other teams that trekked through the night next to us. These were the teams with the matching designer pink safety vests, full face of make-up and a family of supporters in tow. For them the start was all fun and games – happy snaps were taken and calorie laden energy bars scoffed, a jazz band played and the mood was light.

    For our team the mood was nervous with an undercurrent of fear – our longest training walk had been 14km shorter than the distance required for the night and we certainly weren’t as bubbly as the other, obviously seasoned entrants. If the looks on our faces didn’t give away our newness then the comments by our chirpy co-walkers did, “Good for you! Have you just completed the first 50km?” was the question I received from full face make up lady in hot pink as I leaned on my walking poles stretching. When I replied that I hadn’t even started yet she laughed and said, “Oh but you look so exhausted!”

    As the kilometres passed under our feet our team laughed as we told embarrassing stories (what happens on the walk stays on the walk kind of stories) and supported each other when our muscles threatened to go on strike and some of us lagged behind. We walked next to or within a few metres of each other for 13 hours and never once had a bad word or angry moment – ok well maybe I had one- but that’s what I mean about being the weakest link. Our team stayed strong and supported each other while the bubbly seasoned walkers split into small groups of two or lone walkers and griped about having to wait for their weaker team members who could no longer be referred to as mates.

    When our team finished we were together as close as when we started and as we enjoyed a beer we saw full face make up’s team walk in one by one their happy start mood long gone along with their camaraderie – lost somewhere along the way. Last night we proved that as predicted we were indeed ready and our great friendship provided all of the opportunity needed for our fantastic outcome. Our faces may not have been fancy but we know for sure that our friendship is not just made up. Thanks ladies, it was an honour to be on your team – our team.
    Turns out there is a me in team after all.