Friday, August 26, 2011

Keeping on Keeping on

When on the injured list maintaining a positive mindset is not surprisingly very very important. Although I have not had a lot of practice being slightly inhibited by injury, I am certainly embracing it if that is possible and doing all I can to not only keep pushing forward and finding ways to improve but also learn as much as I can from the whole experience. The broken rib has certainly been the most inhibiting injury or setback I have had in terms of the number of activities I am unable to do but fortunately basically the only thing I can do is ride the stationary bike. Immediately when I heard my fate from the doctor I processed the information for probably less than a millisecond before shooting back the question of what can I do and what cant I do. The rib was broken so no point crying over spilt milk as they say and all I cared about was what I would be able to do to achieve what I always set out to do which is return from a setback no less than in the same shape as when I suffered the problem and if possible find a way to come back stronger. I think being an athlete finding ways to keep moving during these difficult periods in your career can be some of the bigger hurdles you can face. You are used to day in day out smashing yourself and improving and enjoying the adrenaline and thrills that go with that, to having it taken all away from you and being told you cant do what you want for whatever the specified recovery period is. I therefore wanted to share the way I have kept of keeping on during what I would regard as the more challenging periods of my career.

As I have stated before I am not very good at taking a day off and usually find some sort of activity to occupy my mind for a large majority of the day to avoid getting a little grumpy as a result of not working up sweat. It may come as no surprize then that when I suffered my first sporting injury, a Labril or cartlidge Tear in my left hip in 2005 as a result of falling off my bike when a piece of wet ash felt from the rd got stuck to my tyre and inturn jammed in my brakes which subsequently threw me over the handlebars very unceremoniously on our one a week rower’s riding full gas send yourself hunger flat smash fest. I immediately knew there was a problem which would ultimately require surgery however being a true cyclist in the making my first instinct was to get straight back on my bike like I had seen the pro’s do on TV and pretend there was no pain infront of my mates. I was at the doctors first thing the next morning and was informed that I could not row for a while and that I could only swim and ride my bike. Therefore being able to go out and smash myself daily and work on my fitness was no trouble and for the following 6 weeks I reached I new level of cardio fitness from time on the bike and in the pool. The day of my surgery was fortunately pretty straight forward. It was only day surgery and through a bit of a white lie regarding a goo mate Tim O’callahan who pretended he was my brother I was checked out of hospital as soon as I had seen the doc to make sure all went well and asked all vital question of what training before I had recovered fully. Now the bike was out so it was just swimming for another 3 weeks so after a night in Melbourne I was home the next morning and drove straight to the pool. After a couple a km’s I was well and truly over the pool as I could not do tumble turns and had to stop and turn every lap so I jumped out of the pool and drove straight to the bike shop and brought a swimming wetsuit so I could swim in the ocean where I could swim for as long as I liked without having to do tumble turns. After a while when my speed started to improve I would even work on my technique and inturn could envisage picking up the water in the same way the blade would pick up the water in the rowing boat. It kept my thinking about my primary sport in a technique way that certainly transferred into me rowing with much more feel. When I finally returned to the boat I was fitter than ever and even had improved techniquely despite not being in the boat and so was happy with my maiden injury management experience.

My second injury would come later that year when I suffered Tendonitis on my wrist. This injury proved to be the catalyst for my changing to cycling. This time I was forced out of the boat and onto the bike and running track. Therefore I was certainly not concerned about being able to maintain my fitness, in fact the opposite, I was so excited to get to ride the bike, all be it on the stationary trainer and running around lago Varese in the boiling hot summer that I had to hold myself back so as not to over cook it, quite literally. I found particularly when I was running that i could use the sensation of my feet hitting the ground and propelling my body past that point as the same way you lock the rowing blade into the water and leaver yourself past that point. This lead to me being able to run much quick and more effectively and get more out of my time on the path around the lake. It also kept my mind thinking techniquely about the art of the rowing stroke. Sure enough following the surgery and the full recovery I performed the my best ever laboratory test after only being back on the rowing machine for 1week following 10 weeks without pulling a single stroke. It certainly gave me a whole new appreciation for both rowing and cycling. Knowing that I would return to the boat only 2weeks before the rowing worlds following nearly 3 months away from the boat I had mentally worked hard on rowing and executing what I thought to be the perfect stroke and race plan so many time in mind that when I got back in the boat I again felt at another level. Following this the worlds almost went perfectly the way I had practiced in my mind winning the heat and semi final with ease only to come up about 300m short in the final a fade to 4th place. Mentally I had been prepared for the event but unfortunately in a world championship final my lack of sheer rowing racing intensity caught up with me and I ran out of puff. In fact after the training I had done with the injuries in 05/06 I should have had a crack at triathlons to see where I was at. Anyway I am pretty happy it was just the bike I took up as I certainly enjoyed that more than time on the rd or in the ocean.

The 3rd stoppage of my sporting career was a little more complex when I suffered Glangelar Fever in 2009. Having raced most of the season with it, when it was finally picked up I was forced to have a very long 4months of pretty much doing no intensive training. After a while I could ride the bike but only for periods up to 1hr so I used the mountain bike as it was a great opportunity to work on my very limited bike handling skills and as a result felt much more comfortable handling my bike particually in difficult conditions when I resumed racing last year. Stil 1hr each second day was not enough to keep me occupied so I decided to have a good crack at my golf again and get my handicap which I had neglected for a few years back down to 9. I played golf most day’s and while it is far from a physically demanding sport it would keep me entertained for the time I would usually spend training and not only that but I focused fully on what I was doing the same way I would approach my cycling training. I improved to a level I had certainly not envisaged and even won the club completion every Saturday for 6 weeks in a row when it was finally time for me to get back on the bike and put the clubs back in the shed I was undefeated in the club comp days I entered. Sport for me is all about rhythm and timing and particularly in golf. You can apply all the power in the world but if your timing is out you won’t go anywhere. When I resumed full training on the bike I really tried hard to think not only about applying power as I had done for my first years on the bike, but seeing if I could apply it more effectively and as a result going faster for the same effort or going the same speeds for less effort. I found this to be a good little tool I had basically subconsciously taught myself particularly while riding on the front of the peleton controlling breakaways. In this role you always have to go a certain speed to bring the break back but if you can do it more effectively you can stay on the front and be more use to your team. I had previously just got on the front, rode as hard as could and got spat out the back of the bunch content with my work. Now simply with a little bit of added thought regarding rhythm and timing and adding to that power, I was finding I was getting a lot more out of training and racing. So although initially the glangelor fever had basically restarted my system and I had to rebuild my engine, as often happens sometimes you need to take a step back to take a couple of steps forward, when I finally got back up to condition I felt like I had finally learnt to apply the energy or power I do have in a much better way and as a consequence improved as a cyclist. So again I was happy that I could draw some positive’s from the episode.

As for my current predicament, being the busted rib, it has required a little more thought to try and gain something from the forced time off the rd. With the fracture so close to my Lung breathing has been difficult so invoking a high respiration rate was out of the question. Secondly I could not put any wait on my arms which lead to weight on my torso so standing out of the saddle, abdominal work, and gym work was out of the question. Finally another crash and potentially making the fracture worse could have sent it through my lung so I had to be very attentive. So firstly I was confined to the home trainer. This does not worry me as I am more than happy rolling along for hrs watching tv. For the first 10 days or so I had to keep my heart rate nice and low so this was not so exciting sitting at 110-120 heart rate for 4-5hrs a day but also it give you a chance to work on building the base of your energy system as normally you are working well above this zone. Being on the ergo fan you have the advantage of hearing the fan and can also pick up how smooth your pedal stroke is. I find that when I am working efficiently the fan has a nice consistent wurring sound. If I can achieve this I always feel much better when out on the open rd. As my rib healed I slowly build up my respiration rate first with 5min efforts then up to 30min and then multiple lots until now I am able to work at threshold for short periods again. The only thing that still causes a slight amount of discomfort is out of the saddle so now I have been doing the mindless endurance out on the open rd before returning home to complete my intervals in what now seems like a relatively short 90min-2hrs on the bike ergo. Staying inside for 16days now has one other benefit and that is I cant wait to get back outside and get stuck back into racing next weekend. So from this latest time of adjustment to my routine, I have been able to work long hrs at a low level which also has my batteries fully charged for the end of the season, and after so many hrs of the wirring sound of the ergo fan I am confident that I have made a few subtle improvements with the efficiency of my pedalling. In 2 weeks I am pretty confident you should not lose to much condition and I am reasonably content that I have been able to gradually rebuild the intensity to a point that I hope enables me to get back to doing the job I love the best I possible way I can for my team, Liquigas Cannondale.

I am well aware that everyone has different recovery methods and there are many different ways to skin the cat, but these were just a few simple little things that helped me through these difficult periods and I feel in some ways was able to turn what appeared to be a negative situation at first into a way to learn and grow from the experience.

I am well aware this has been very long winded which is another side effect of having way to much time stuck inside recovering on the couch!!!!


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sofa Time

Yesterday i began watching my 3rd Grand Tour of the season, The Vuelta Espana from the comfort of my sofa. Watching Both the Giro and Tour De France, i was filled with excitment about watching particularly my team mates whom i have enjoyed such a great season with thus far and enthusiasm for when i would finally get my chance in the Vuelta. Unfortunately It did not turn out as planned and while i was still so very excited and sending any amount of telepathic and moral support for my team mates in spain i also had a hurting side of realising what an amazing race i was missing out on. The mood in our young team is always super duper and i knew in the team tt that the TEAM word would have our boys right up the top of the results sheet. Sure enough all nine men turned themselves inside out for vincenso nibali and almost pulled of a amazing victory and in the end only being 4 seconds shy of the all conquering leopard trek team contain world time trial meastro chamion fabian cancellara in second place. Asside from Alan Manangoni none of our boys are pure time trialists but they showed there commitment and tighnittedness to each other to put in such an excellent performance. Not only that but it also clearly illustrates the amazing skills these lads have on there bikes, somthing i am always in awe of at training camps but while i wished i was there so bad with them, thats natural i think, i was also so excited to see the team spirit they showed and take away the results and glory that goes with that, that type of bonding in the team is the thing that i really cherrish and enjoy and will miss so much not being appart of for the next 3 weeks. In anycase i will be infront of the tele every afternoon when the eurosport coverage begins giving them all the moral support i can muster. I am very confidient that there is going to be many more really really really great performances by the boys over the next 19days.

Following another ultra sound on my rib i have been ordered to have another week indoors on the home trainer to ensure it heals up nice and strong. Once it became evident that i was not going to be able to be cleared to race the big races which are now underway the Team Doctor Roberto Corsetti is forcing me to take the utmost precaution with my recuperation. One thing the ultrasound di highligh was the close proximity of the fracture to my lung so upon seeing this spending long hot sweaty days indoors infront of the tele did not seem like such a bad option.

Its pretty fortunate that i dont seem to mind the home trainer. I imagine its another throughback from my rowing days where i think you would be hard pressed to find anything more monotinous than a rowing machine, specially when you spend 1hr at time on one. Atleast on the bike ergo i can watch tele and when i have my time trial bike i can even play playstation. With heavy breathing still not really allowed for me as yet it is no dramas maintaining concentration on the playstation at the low heart rate i am able to comfortable trundle along. Its pretty funny looking at an SRM power file after being on the bike ergo playing Gran Turismo, i seem to slow my cadence down into corners before accellerating out of them with a high cadence simulating the acceleration of the car all completely un beknowns to me. Its a bit like when you are on the coach and you start leaning with your body or turning your head into corners when you get into the game. I have therefore come to the conclusion that its actually a small race simulation with the power ossolations which occur out on the open rd. Sure i wont be replacing playing playstation with my normal training but over the past 10days its been an enjoyable way to pass the time whilst allowing my bone to heal and i hope maintain some of the condition i spent 100hrs developeing in the 3 weeks before this most inconvenient fracture occured. Appart from the PS3 i am very lucky to have SKYTV and i have certainly garnered a whole new appreciation for SportCentre and major leauge baseball, those two can take up a serious amount of mindless ergo trainer time. I also like to try and utalise my time in an effective way and multitask where possible and as a result have found that the History Channel has been excellent in refreshing my memory on all those things that unfortunately left me after having so diligently listened those many moons ago at school. Through in the copious amounts of re runs of Top Gear and i have not really minded one bit saddleing up on the home trainer each day. Having said that i am really really looking forward to hitting the open road again on thursday when i get the green light from Dott Corsetti.

Another great thing is that all my rowing mates have been here during this slightly frustrating period of my season. I time my sessions so we can do recovery seeions in the hot cold baths and there is always soemone to chat to while i am having my daily Treatment from our resident Physio Emedio who has me hooked up to all kinds of modern medical healing machines to ensure i am good as new again. Certainly having the support of the European Training Centre here in my little town of gavirate and Emedio has made the whole process unquatifiably more pleasent and ensured i get the best possible treatment. Us aussie athlete's are sure very lucky that our Magnificent Aussie Government has provided us with such a resourse. In years to come i am certain it play a massive role in the continued increased prominance of aussie sport on the world stage.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Another Racing Re Schedule

I am most inconveniently on the recovery train again. This fractured rib would have to be the most frustrating injuries i have ever had. Fortunately i can only remember being injured 4 times in my international sporting adventures, 2 in rowing and now 2 in cycling, since 2001 so i cant really complain, the annoyance of these injuries is that they either required surgery or repairing fractures so i certainly make sure i get proper injured when i do.

This latest inconvenience could not have come at a more annoying time. Should i have noticed when the initial fracture actually occured 4 weeks ago while racing in arona i would probably well and truly be healed up by now. Instead i have managed to aggrivate the fracture and inturn made it worse in the the racing last weekend which has put my recovery back probably 3 weeks which inturn will mean i will miss another grand tour for the 2011 season, the Vuelta Espania. Now i am starting to see some benefit from missing le tour as i am well equiped to coming to terms with missing what would have been the most important race of my season. Like i learnt before you can do nothing else but re focus and whats going to be up next as a result of the forced schedule change and i am already very motivated on the programme i will do over the nect few weeks instead of spending the time in spain. First i need to get the all clear to get back out on the open rd for training from the doc and inturn the go ahead to pin a number on but expect that to happen at the apsolute latest toward the end of next week. So instead of finetuning my racing pins in the eneco tour in holland last week and packing my backs for 3 weeks of pain in spain, i have been stuck on the home trainer watching television for 3-4hrs each day to keep ontop of my condition as best as possible whilest not aggrivating to much heavy breathing and inturn avoiding aggrivating my pestky fractured rib. While i am very aware that a broken rib is by far a big problem or accompanied but significant pain, being fractured means the bone is weakened and should i crash again which is very common in the stress of such big races and on the same side, another fracture could cause displacement and stick a hole in some vital internal organ which would not be good at all. Then it would be a big problem. While the selfish side of me would be prepared to take the risk as i still feel even with the pain at the moment i could do a good job, the risk of somthing going wrong and jeopising my contribution to the teams effort of the defence of vincenso nibal's crown, and in that form being what i believe to be very much a man for the team the only option is to not be appart of the vuelta team in 2011. So few more days inside before i have another scan and see where the recovery is at later in the week and then i hope start planning my return to the battle fields of the roads of europe for the final couple of months of the 2011 season.

Time to rub a few more kg's of arnica cream on my busted wing and get some shut eye, another big day ahead tomorrow spinning my legs away infront of the television


Monday, August 8, 2011

Busted rib

Well the first day of the eneco tour did not quite go as planned. My rib pain had far from subsided this morning so i basically walked the prologue which was double forced on me due to a freak downpoor of rain and wind. After the stage i went the hospital as i knew this pain had to be a little more than torn muscles and sure enough i have a cracked rib so no more eneco tour for me and i will be on my back to varese tomorrow for a week on the home trainer to let it heal properly. Its just a small crack so best to rest up now and be right to race again next week. Prognosis is that i probably banged it when i crashed a couple of weeks ago and somthing has aggrivated it since but really i have no idea, i am still convinced grabbing the feed back on saturday's what did the agrivating and either the outcome is the same. I am sorry to the team as i was super excited and motivated for this race but wont get to test the pins in it in 2011. Time for some r n r

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

A hot hard day in tuscany

Yesterday i was back into a bit of racing action in the gp camaiore in tuscany. The race is natorious for being very hot and very hard so in otherwords alot of suffering. The day started out well for me and the team, after doing my usual job of policeing the breakaway and who was in it i decided to jump in a move myself and low and behold after covering the first 30km in less than 30min along the coast of the mediteranean i was back in a break again. We quickly built up a nice big lead of 8min as with almost every team present nobody was too keen to chase, also being used to being the one who chases the break i kind of hoped with me up the rd gave us a little bit better chance and i was really feeling like i could be a good day for me. Unfortunately team tactics meant this was not going to be the case as i was instructed not to help ride in the break so off course the other 11riders were not going to keep on charging giving me a free ride and inturn our gap plumeted as quickly as it had risen. I simply had to sit tight in the break and wait for our team leaders to ride accross later in the race or if by some miracle nobody chased us i could use my fresh legs to attacks the break and try and win. Once the gap started falling i quickly realised i was going to waiting for our leaders before assuming my usual role of pulling on the front. For me its not a great feeling sitting on a breakaway and not doing my turn's on the front. I realise its a part of cycling but i feel really uncomfortable being a free loader and annoyng the poo out of the other riders in the move. So low and behold we started going nowhere fast. This became the least of my worries in the feed zone at exactly half way 100km into the race when i took a feed bag awkwardly and damaged my intercostrol muscles in my back. All of a sudden everytime i hit a bump or stood up or had to breath deeply i was in serious agony as it felt like i had busted ribs again. This is not a great injury to have just as a bike race is hotting up and as i had already pissed off all my breakaway companions i knew that they were going to do all they could to attack the life out of me in the final 4 laps of the challenging circuits. Fortunately i can mask pain pretty well and with the rule in cycling being basically if you can still ride you ride stopping certainly never crossed my mind and being in the front group retreating to the safety of the bunch was also not an option so i braced myself for 100km of suffering. Sure enough with 75km to go the first attack happened on the climb. Not being able to stand and accellerate quickly i had to remain in my seat and gradually ride back the escapee, this inturn thin'd our group down from 12 to 6. Next lap another dude went and i was forced to do the same of gradually riding hime back which was quite a balancing act as i had to go hard enough so i actually pulled him back but not too hard so i had to breath deeply too often so was quite an interesting exercise for me. Anyway with 1 lap to go or 25km we were now down to 4 when the first riders bridged accross from the peleton. We had one of our leaders in the group in damiano caruso and as soon as he arrived he instructed me to drill it which i duly did. We kept a gap over the rest of the bunch and when we hit the climb for the final climb i did my final big with all i had left, well with what i had left sitting in the seat and when i knew i was close to running out of juice i held my breath and felt like a 100m sprinter for my final m's of power before damiano kept of charging with the another 5 guys left in the group that had bridged accross and i roled of to side of the rd to sack in some very painfull deep breaths before continuing onto the finish at a nice leisurely pace for the final 10km content with my days work which was just what my body needed. Damiano ended up 6th in the sprint which was a good result for him. As for me it was time to think of my ribs and initially i was convinced it was broken but fortunately i learnt later it was just a strain of the intercostrol muscles in the area which is equally as painfull and to rub insult into injury i have been told that the therapy which i will begin tomorrow once the spasm's have settled a little is really really painfull so glad i picked an nice inconveniently annoying injury because tomorrow i also begin the week long eneco tour in holland and belgium so not only will i get to suffer on the bike but instead of then enjoying a relaxing massage i will have another pain fest in the hotel. "Such is sport hey"

Anyway another experience for me and as usual i will find a way to enjoy it!

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Getting a year older

The last couple off weeks has seen me log some pretty long hrs in the saddle. It is pretty much the final block of structured training i will do for the season with racing and recovery now set to keep me occupied through august september and october. A little bit of periodisation, i small block within a season of pretty crucial work that i hope give's me the possibility to perform well through to the end of the year. I particualy love getting into my core stability, you should never neglect your abs, and also the strength work on the climbs. For me it seems to be the work that keeps my body ticking over at its best. So after 3 solid weeks of 30+hrs work i feel like i am prepared as well as possible for the final part of the season.

During this time a couple of other crucial activities needed to be squeezed in. Firstly a game of golf with our great family friend gunther from germany or "the german tiger" as he likes to call himself. Just before i wrapped up my last similar preperation phase before the tour of turkey in april, gunther came over to varese for what was our 3rd grudge match. Like the previous 2 matches both played in australia, the 1st played on lord howe island and the 2nd at my home club royal hobart gunther gave me a hiding and sure enough he did the same to me in varese. Gunther's handicap in golf is 6 so he is a pretty good player so i certainly set myself up for a belting each time. On the return leg this past weekend gunther again made the journey from germany along with his wife stephanie as he feels now such battles are crucial to preparing me for the intensive racing blocks to follow. This time around i was better prepared and although i did again lose it took him until the 18th hole to defeat me so in the same way i micro manage my improvements in my profession i was happy to see some gains in my golf game all be it coming up short again and giving gunther a 4-0 victory rate over me. Gunther figured it was better he win again as last time it preluded perhaps my best performance in a race this season in turkey so in his opinion it was best not to mess with the routine. All in all however although the competition certainly spices up a round, for me i just love playing golf for a couple of other reasons. Firstly i dont have to be any good at it as win or lose on the golf course i am just happy to be on the course, my job requires me to punish myself and stress about making gains that the golf course gives me a great place to simply switch of and enjoy sport. Secondly days of for me a somthing i find very hard to endure. I need to do somthing. Golf thankfully takes alot of time and it is also is sport so i get some form of exercise so for a day off it fits in perfectly into my schedule. I am sure as i get older i will find it easier to take days off.

On the getting older theme this time of the year, well august 3rd to be precise is my birthday and it was time to turn 28 in 2011. To celebrate my birthday i was fortunate to have jess's sister elana and her boyfriend jack living in london and offered to have me over for dinner. Now lanny is one seriously exceptional cook along with all the wade women so i did not need much twisting of the arm accept the invitation. For the meal i knew i had to be prepared so fortunately the week precedeing my birthday was the longest in terms of hrs and intensity i have ever done on my bike so i was certainly going to earn a good wade family meal. So on august the 3rd i got up and headed out for a few hrs with my mate and training buddy ivan basso which was great to see him as i had not seen him since before le tour. Training with one of the best riders in the world is not a bad treat to start with i reakon for your birthday. After training it was of to the airport for a quick flight over to london to catch up with lan and jack. I rocked up conveniently just intime for dinner and as expected lan had wipped up all my favourites of roast crispy potatos, lazagna, bit of fancy salad, a great bottle of plonk and perhaps most importantly for the birthday cake, a toblorone cheese cake. I ate until i felt i had enough energy onboard to sustain me for the final few months of the season when i could indulge in another such fiest and was even sent on my way with a bit of a doggy bag and a box of my faxourite biscuit, the "anzac". Thought i might give them a test drive in some upcoming races. So that was my birthday, another one ticked off and one i wont forget in a hurry and looking forward to having rediculiously large amounts of energy to burn off in the coming months.

So with the training all done, another defeat at the hands of gunther on the golf course and a stomach full of fuel i think i am ready for the final part of the season beginning on saturday in tuscany.

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