Monday, August 25, 2008

Team Bicisport

Shane Sutton must be pretty pleased with himself at the moment. The Aussie and former Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist is head coach of the Great Britain track cycling squad and has overseen their rise to a remarkable dominance at the Beijing Olympics (and the most recent World Championships). It was great to watch all those world beating performances and the world records by the Team Pursuit and Team Sprint squads were tremendous. The bar has well and truly been lifted.

I coach myself, mostly individual riders but at times I help out with squads. Over the last couple of months I've been helping out with my own club's (Bicisport) efforts at the State Team Time Trial Championships. It's a great event to participate in. Four riders work together to complete the 40+km course in the shortest time possible. Just like the team pursuit, it is the time of the third rider across the line that matters.

Our club fielded five teams, all in the Masters racing categories. Two womens and three mens teams. The race was yesterday.

All the teams rode very well, with no mishaps. The women went one-two but unfortunately only two womens teams qualified to ride, which was disappointing.

The big result came with our MMAS 1-4 squad (under 50's), who won the championship in a time of 1:01:30, with a margin of only four seconds to the second place Manly Warringah team. I believe that is a course record for Masters. Team2 were one minute off the podium in ninth place and our MMAS 5+ team were eighth in their division. Unlike the women, there were 40 teams in the Masters mens.

A winning combination:
Ian, Phil, Mike, Alex (coach) and Jayson

It was great to watch them ride, with the key elements of team work showing through.

A big thanks to Mike O'Reilly for getting much of the logistics sorted. Nice work Mike. Also to all the others who helped out and riders that supported the training efforts.

The photo at the top is of the winning squad with me on the right showing off Schooner II. For my mate Phil, this was his 12th attempt at the event. Persistence pays off! Well done lads, a great ride.

As for me, well training had to take a back seat for the past week and a half. I was beginning to have some problems with my leg stump - a kind of bruising type of pain and it was aggravated when I rode and hurt when I walked. Not good. I thought it might go after a couple of days of rest but it didn't, which got me down a bit as I was going along really well with my training.

I called my prosthetics guy (George) last week and arranged to go and see him today and we talked it through. It would seem the solution is about the way I am using the socks that go over my leg liner. I won't bore you with the details but I now have something to try. I mocked up a sample of what I need and then did a 30-minute trainer ride this afternoon. Got through that no problems, so will get back to training again now.

George looked at the way I walked and could see the dramatic improvement in my gait from last time.

Everything is new again and I keep learning about the challenges along the way. I have said before, the mental challenge is the hardest part. Recognising what's important now and doing what you can do now to get to the next step is what matters. I can be a little hard on myself, which is OK when you are trying to train hard but I also have to temper that with the realisation that losing a leg ain't no small deal and in reality I am doing well.

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Monday, August 11, 2008


OK - a couple of pics for your viewing pleasure. Here I am on he start line about to do a 500 metre time trial at Dunc gray Velodrome on Friday night 8th August.

That's Brad Cox (Lionel's son) doing his best to lift my considerable mass off the ground so I can get the pedals in the right place for a start.

Normally I'm a natural left foot starter, so I need to re-learn the start using the right leg. I suppose I could try to start with the prosthetic leg but the forces are highest on the first push down and I think using my good leg first makes sense.

On my first start attempt I pulled my prosthetic "foot" out of the pedal so I had to roll around for a second go. No issues second time out of the blocks. You can see the way the pylon of my leg attaches directly to the pedal. It is like having a pedal cleat placed directly under your ankle, just forward of the heel.

And here I am at some stage on my way to a world of suffering as I try to hang on after lap 1.

Lap 1 was OK, not quite as fast as I thought I might go, but it's a start and I can only get better from here.

Lap 2 was pretty forgettable, I really tried to keep it going but I have no anaerobic endurance whatsoever (understandably) and well it wasn't a pretty sight. But I finished OK. 46.something seconds.

Track TTs are not my favourite event. But the skills involved are crucial for good trackies, so I'll keep trying to improve on that and all the other aspects of track riding.

I have been thinking about the pedal security issue (really important when riding in general but especially critical when on a fixed gear track bike - believe me I know having previously suffered a broken bone through pedal failure).

I sense a different feel when out of the saddle acelerating. The motions are different, the firing sequence is a bit different and so I'll need to re-learn so that it becomes natural again and can give it a maximal effort with confidence.

Since there is no longer an ankle on my left side to naturally manage the sideways forces caused when the bike is rocking side to side, when I push down on the left it tends to straighten the bike up more than normal - but only on that side. If I use the upper body to create the opposing force, then I get that feeling I might be putting too much lateral force on the pedal which might cause it to disengage.

So I was think of experimenting with a hard rubber bushing at the cleat to give that little bit of natural side ways flex so that the foot can pivot sideways slightly on the pedal before it attempts to disengage.

It's just another idea to play with. Each step along the way throws up new things to consider and I learn something new each time. In a weird sort of way I'm rediscovering the pleasures as everything on the bike is new again.

Other than that, it's not complicated. Just get on and pedal. Hard. For as long as you can.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

On Track

This morning I had not intended to ride as we had our club Team Time Trial training session scheduled up at Calga/Peats Ridge (which I am supervising/coaching). That went well. When I got home, well it was such a glorious winter's day, clear blue skies, light wind and about 17-18 C, so I decided to throw the bike in the car and head on down to the park for a roll. Back to that later.

On Friday, the planets aligned for me and so I had the opportunity to dust off the track bike (poor thing, it's been badly neglected), get down to DGV and get myself on the boards for the first time since my accident. So I circulated no problems. Saddle height needed an adjustment (I had installed slightly shorter cranks so the saddle needed to come up a bit). About 30-minutes of rolling around just reacquainting myself with the boards.

Then it was time to see if I could do the sort of stuff I'll need to do when riding on a track - namely accelerate, hard!

I rode up the banking to do an acceleration down the banking, which I did without incident.

So then I rolled slowly along the front straight and then popped out of the saddle and tried an acceleration. OK, so I wasn't going to set the world on fire but I was able to do it and that was the main thing. One more half lap effort, this time a bit harder and out of the saddle for the whole turn and down the back straight. There sure is a bit of re-wiring needed and the sensations are difficult to explain. Some stuff is the same, some I need to re-learn. Practice Alex, practice.

While I was there, Sean Eadie (2002 World Sprint Champ) was there coaching a Chinese rider. So I got Sean to time a standing 250 metre lap. 24.9 seconds. But the nice thing was simply being able to go out of the saddle for more than half a lap.

So back to today. My legs were a little sore but after a couple of laps they came good and I ended up doing a solid hour and a bit. That then gave me a 5-day block of riding and a nice little boost to my training loads. That blue line is on its way up :D

I also tried something new - putting an extra sock over my leg liner before riding, which provides addition compressesion of the leg stump inside the socket. This had the effect of maintaining a more secure fitting, not allowing the leg to sweat as much and so there was not much pooling of perspiration in the lower part of the liner creating that insecure squishy feeling. So that was pretty cool.

I'm going to sleep well tonight me thinks!

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