Sunday, September 28, 2008

On Speaking Terms With My Bike Again

It seems yesterday knocked my confidence more than I thought. I was going to meet with Dee and some of the others this morning for an 8.15 ride but the idea stressed me out too much. I realised I needed to sleep in and think about something else for a few hours. To add to that I forgot to set my clock forward for the start of Daylight Savings, and ended up running an hour late anyway.

Hamish and I lay around while outside the wind died away and the cloud burned off. Hamish cooked us pancakes for breakfast and I sat around in the sun for a while putting off the inevitable. I spent around 10 minutes riding up and down our short, flat street practicing shifting from the large to the small chain and back and learning in which gears my chain crossed. Things initially didn't go well. I dropped my chain twice more shifting to the large chain ring before something clicked and I found the sweet spot. I learned to shift by feel - not being too cautious nor too aggressive. I learned to listen for the sound the chain makes when it's too loose.

Eventually I felt confident enough to drive down to Oriental Bay to go for a ride. The homework was an hour to an hour and a half of hills. Under the circumstances I decided to ignore the hill part of the homework. I wanted to go for a nice, slow, relaxed ride around the Bays. I needed to get my confidence back and I wanted to enjoy the lovely spring afternoon.

So that's exactly wht I did. I cruised around the Bays. Next time I'll switch my cycle computer off, but in general I achieved what I set out to do. There was a bit of a Southerly, but out of the wind I managed to cruise at a fairly satisfying pace. By the end of the ride I had a smile on my face again and from Kilbirnie back to Oriental Bay I allowed myself a bit of a sprint. It was fun.

So Cleo and I are back on speaking terms again. I'm flying up to Auckland tonight, staying at the City Life hotel and holding two days of workshops. I have a bag of gym gear with me and I'm hoping to use it. Conveniently Gearshifters is in a recovery week and our homework is light so I'm going to try to fit a couple of runs in while I'm up there.

Cleo is, it seems, a little highly strung. Thankfully I'm committed to this relationship!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

An Educational Ride

I will admit it. I lost a mental battle on our ride today. I guess it was about time I had a bad one - all my training rides have gone so well lately. Thankfully it's easy to simply admit things did not go well and to identify what went wrong. I can chalk this one up as a learning experience and hopefully move on.

So, what exactly happened? Well, firstly the weather. Today delivered colder than expected temperatures and gale Northerlies. The wind got to me, badly, right from the start. We all met up at Freyberg as usual and several people remarked on how badly I was shivering as we waited to leave.

Dee had divided us into a slow and a fast group and the slow group had already left. Our pack rode through the city and up Aro Valley. I did RPM yesterday and was expecting my legs to be toast, but I didn't notice any particular soreness. I cruised up the valley reasonably easily and overtook most of the group on the way up. When I got to the top though I had to battle a little nausea which was the first indicator something wasn't right.

We rode through Karori and I got overtaken by most of the pack. This happened to me at the Pass of Branda last week as well. Very frustrating! It was at about this point I realised I wasn't firing on all cylinders.

Up the Makara hill and I managed to overtake people again. The wind was seriously playing games with me however. By the time we headed down into the valley I was starting to cave. I really lost it when Dee had us ride up South Makara Rd. All the undulations did a number on me and I was barely hanging on to the back of the pack. I folded about a kilometre past the golf club. The other Pip and I turned back and everyone else went on. Rounding a corner the wind caught me and sent me wobbling across the road. By the time I got back to the main road I was completely over it and just wanted to get home.

While we were waiting I had some Leppin and drank some more of my Replace drink. I didn't have any solid food on me as our cupboards were bare and I'd forgotten to stock up yesterday. I thought that the sugar would be enough but I should have known better. When I'm low on fuel I don't necessarily feel it physically, at least at first. Rather, I start feeling either grumpy or weepy. Today I took the weepy option. For much of the ride back up towards Johnsonville I just wanted to curl up and cry.

In retrospect of course the ride wasn't as bad as I felt it to be at the time. I was hanging on to the back of the pack and if I'd been feeling better I would have kept up easily. The wind was my primary issue. It was blowing me all over the place and I couldn't overcome the mental image of me flying across the road on my side.

The climb up to Johnsonville was a relief once it finally arrived, because I knew it meant the ride was nearly over. I climbed the hill comfortably and did a little overtaking again. At the top we stopped briefly at Concord Street. I took up Angela's offer of a banana, something I should have done at South Makara Rd. The food was exactly what I needed. Not only did I have more energy but I got over the whole wanting to cry thing.

Unfortunately fate had more in store for me. Just before we turned to go down Ngaio Gorge I dropped my chain shifting onto the large chain ring. I was annoyed because I was having a bit of fun trying to keep up with the more confident downhill riders and didn't want to stop. Vanessa helped me get the chain back on again and the two of us were off. I flew down Ngaio Gorge (well, for me anyway - I probably wasn't going that fast) and we caught the pack at the lights at the intersection with the old Hutt Rd.

So far, so good, until, shifting onto the large chain ring again, clang! Aaaahhhhhhhhh! So once again Vanessa and I stopped, got the chain back on and chased off after the pack. Rounding the corner on Thorndon Quay the wind hit and we both struggled to stay upright, ending up in the middle of the lane and thankful there were no cars around. I let out a startled yelp! The same thing happened at Waitangi Park and I was incredibly relieved to finally be able to turn into the Freyberg carpark.

So I was back - frustrated and a bit dejected. Writing it up though it doesn't sound as bad as I felt it to be at the time. I'm not actually physically tired, I just got knocked around by the wind and got into the wrong headspace. I also needed to EAT! I also have to remember - I'm riding with the FAST people. Last time I was the second-to-last rider in the pack. I can't be too hard on myself for having to work a bit harder to keep up!

I took Cleo off to Penny's and got a bit of a lecture about not changing chain rings when the chain is crossed. It wasn't something I ever had to worry about on Lola and, to be honest, when I'm changing I generally don't have any idea where the chain is! I guess riding this bike is a little like riding a sports car - they can both be a bit tempermental. I will just have to educate myself and treat Cleo with some respect.

That wind was frightening today though! This ride will I'm sure prove to be excellent Taupo training. I fought the battle today and I didn't quit and I didn't actually cry, even if I wanted to. I think I deserve an afternoon on the sofa.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Read Write Poem: Word Fishing

The prompt for this week suggested we take words from different poems and use them to compose a poem of our own. I was going to do that but got distracted by the words 'word fishing' and ended up going somewhere else completely.

The stream in this poem is a real place and one I still return to occasionally. It is a place where childhood dreams still live on.

Word Fishing

Today we are going

word fishing

down at the

bottom of the garden,

by a curve in the

stream where the

water slows and

deepens and

where honeysuckle

hangs over the

algal odour of

silt and

mosquito larvae.

The words here are

long and dark

and lithesome.

They hide in dark

corners where

we tempt them

out with things

foul and ripe.

so that they swim

towards us

across pages

worn smooth by

seasons of flood.

The words here are


They tell stories

of epic journeys

and the taste of

salt at depth.

They sing of

great migrations and

homecomings and

the comfort that

can be found in

a familiar place.

We fish for all

of these words.

We hold them

as they slide through

our hands leaving

their viscous

traces on skin,

falling into

red plastic buckets

where they turn and

twist into knots.

We fish for

these words but

we do not

consume them.

A word eaten

becomes bitter

and gristled.

Words returned

to the stream

continue to

dance and

journey and

tell their

stories in a

dark pool

in a cool corner

where water runs

slow at the

bottom of the


Thursday, September 25, 2008


Woohoot because I had a very interesting conversation today which, even if it doesn't go in the most obvious direction, had several intriguing offshoots which could lead even more interesting places (and yes, I know that's cryptic. It's meant to be).

Woohoot because it was spring today. I mean really spring. I mean sun and sweet smells in the air and being outside without several layers of clothing and not dying of cold.

Woohoot because I carried one of Cleo's tires with me to work today to take to a cycle maintenance worshop tonight and the cycle courier in the lift commented on my "nice rims". Yeah, I got rims baby!

Woohoot because the guy in Shoe Clinic also felt compelled to comment on my nice wheel. Mmmhmmm...

Woohoot because I can now clean my bike and adjust my chain and do other cool little things that I should have learned last time I did a cycle maintenance workshop but was too girly to pay attention to.

And woohoot most of all because we're riding Makara on Saturday. Oh yes.

There are times when life fills me with a joy that manifests in pure energy and everything seems good in the world. Today was one of those days. There is change in the air and opportunities emerging with the change of season. I'm riding again!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sneaky Mid-Day Poetry

Wellington, Spring 2008
Come spring
vines, waking push
through from under
pink fingernails,
crescent mooned.
Moist loamy dirt
lies scattered on
the kitchen table,
tumbling down white
pillows each morning.
Seeds fall from pursed lips,
Fuscia flowers bud
from ears, muting
the sound of all
other than the humming
of bumble bees flying
through open bedroom
All inhabitants here
walk under the weight
of a seasonal infestation
until the coming of
the Equinox brings
wind from the North,
blowing new foliage
back out to the
hillsides and

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I figured it was probably a bad idea to go cycling when I couldn't walk down the road without getting blown over. Sigh.

Dinner at Maria Pia's was, of course, excellent. I just couldn't go past the duck again - the big slab of duck. We're off to 550, a pizza restaurant in Thorndon tonight. I'm going to be on a serious detox after the visitors from London depart!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Got Me Some Hills

One way to not prepare for a Saturday ride: drink a bottle of wine and eat a whole heap of cheese and crackers followed by a big curry. Nic and Leonie arrived yesterday and they brought good stuff!

Surprisingly I felt fine this morning. I put that down to the quality of the wine we were drinking and I must check the labels on the empty bottles to see whether any contained sulphites. I'm pretty certain it's the sulphites which have caused me problems in the past.

Any, by today it was shaping up to be a good morning for a ride. It was a little cool and overcast but there was hardly any wind. Dee had promised hills and I was in the mood for some climbing. It was finally time to test my legs.

We started out by riding round the Basin Reserve and through Newtown up to Alexandra Rd at the base of Mt Vic. I wouldn't normally ride down Kent Terrace. The three lanes of traffic and the necessary shuffle from the far left to the far right, followed by the scramble around the Basin Reserve have always put me off. It was only the security of having the pack around me that got me there.

We assembled at the small car park at the base of the mountain and then did three five minute hill repeats. I haven't done hill repeats up Alexandra Rd since the start of the Grape Ride training at the start of the year. I was amazed to find that the hill that I found challenging only a few months ago was now little more than a speed bump. I easily flew past the point where I used to turn around at the end of the five minutes. I know part of this is the new bike, but part of it is simply being fitter and stronger as well.

At the end of the three hill repeats we rode back up again and assembled at the top. I had a huge grin on my face and was feeling really fresh. When Richard (one of the trainers) said that there was an optional hill climb up Mt Crawford I was the first to put my hand up. I believe I may even have uttered something like "woohoo". When I got some funny looks I qualified my outburst by saying "I love that hill". Of course that just earned me more funny looks ...

First we had to get back down. We rode down the seaward side of the hill to the bottom of Carlton Gore. It's a particularly steep and winding stretch of road, made more interesting by road works. It didn't intimidate me anywhere near as much as it once did though.

From Carlton Gore around the Bays to the bottom of Mt Crawford. I quickly realised that only the more experienced, speedy cyclists had elected to take on the extra hill. Richard rode with me part of the way up giving me some tips on climbing which were, eventually, appreciated. Richard has a particularly vocal way of organising his packs, riding back and forth and yelling instructions in a constant stream. It can sometimes be a little irritating but I try to appreciate it because I know I'm becoming a better cyclist as a result. His directions are forcing me to maintain a better pace line, retain better contact with the pack, and ride beyond my comfort levels.

Once I hit my stride I overtook a few of my compatriats. We paused for a while at the top for a time and waited for Julia who was bravely tagging along behind. Then it was down to Worser Bay and around the Bays to the base of Happy Valley. Frustratingly I got dropped on the climb up the Pass of Branda. I'm not quite sure what happened. Perhaps I just didn't push when everyone else did but I should have been able to hold my own easily. I had to race down the other side to catch the pack again. Once I was there though we had to slow to wait for Julia again.

We caught up with the non-Crawford riders at Lyall Bay so it was an intimidating pack that rode round to Owhiro Bay. The traffic situation was interesting, with several cars clearly freaked out and unsure how to overtake a large number of cyclists. We had to continually call to warn of cars back. I got cut off from my pack as they rode past the riders we had just caught and I got stuck behind a car. I had to work hard to catch them again at Island Bay.

Dee had said that we would be climbing Murchison Rd, a hill on the right just before the tip. Richard had however said that he didn't think we'd go that way after all. However Dee assured us it was all on and I was secretly relieved. I wanted a new hill and I was a little in awe of how steep I thought Murchison Rd appeared.

In the end Murchison Rd wasn't as bad as all that. Sure, it was steeper than Crawford or Alexandra, but it wasn't anything extreme. Plus, it wasn't that long. I overtook quite a few riders again and was one of the first to the top. I immediately decided that from now on this would be my hill repeat option. It's perfect because it's so close to home. I can ride down the valley as a warm up then get straight into it.

We circled for a little while up and down the flat part of the street and then Richard gave us the option of either turning around and going back down again or riding a little bit further and dropping down Frobischer Street, which would take us back to the Southern coast. From there we would ride back to Owhiro Bay again and back up Happy Valley all the way to Brooklyn. Of course I took the Frobisher Street option.

I got a little dropped at the base of Happy Valley but by half way up I was starting to catch and overtake people. I concentrated on taking them down, one at a time. I soon realised I was overtaking people who had taken the short option straight down Murchison again. Yep, that made me pretty happy. I was feeling good!

I made it through the lights at Brooklyn just as they were turning orange. We all waited at the Brooklyn bus stop at the top of the hill then everyone moved off just as I was txting Leonie to let her know we were on our way back into town. I had to quickly pull my glove back on and jump back on my bike. I had to work hard to catch people again on the way back down the hill. I would have overtaken a few more had it not been for a car sitting on my tail and refusing to overtake me. In the end I moved out and took the road in front of her.

Back through town and back to Freyberg. I was fairly buzzing in the line for coffee at Parade and was getting very dirty looks from some of the other women who were complaining they were tired. I was fired up with adrenalin. I had loved all the hill climbing and was still feeling very fresh and strong at the end of it all. We'd ridden around 60km and I could have gone back out and done it all again. A new bike and proper fit has made a huge difference to my endurance.

I learned one thing today though. Inappropriately positioned leg warmers can lead to chafing in unfortunate places. Lower is better!

I haven't had a chance to crash today. Leonie and I went shopping as soon as I was showered and pretty-ified. Back home and we've had another couple of glasses of wine and some rather fine chocolate that was so rich ist was more like fudge. Soon we're departing for Maria Pia's for some fine Italian food and likely as not more wine. I'm a little tired but I know I'll cope. I may even wake in enough time tomorrow to fit in that one and a half hour ride like I'm supposed to. Maybe.

The last couple of rides are forcing me to reconsider my abilities as a cyclist. I'm really not that slow and even though I might not think of myself as being particularly confident I'm much more confident than most. I'm going to have to hang with the front of the pack all the time now. It's good for me and it's good for my self-belief. Liking it. Liking it a lot!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Or Pip gets things done and nurses a quiet sense of achievement.

It has truly been a good week. Yes, it's been another of those weeks where my fitness levels have taken a jump. This week it's been about bike fitess, and it's not surprising really. Consider this:

Saturday: Gearshifters time trial and ride through Brooklyn
Sunday: Homework ride - around three hours including some hills
Monday: Commute to work, circuit workout, hour ride home
Tuesday: RPM and Balance
Wednesday: 20-10-20 time trial on spin bike, leg weights session
Thursday: Upper body weights session, RPM

You know how I was complaining about my heart rate during Wednesday's time trial? Well in RPM today my heart rate stayed stubbornly low. I could get it up to around 140 and I got it up to 150 a couple of times. I managed to get it to 160 once, and that was during a particularly gruelling power interval on the last hill track. I was absolutely dying and couldn't have sustained that level of exertion for any longer. How did I ever manage to get my heartrate over 170? Hmmm, interesting.

My only regret is the absence of any running. However this week's workouts weren't very long, just numerous. Next week I'll try to fit a bit more running in again. My legs are feeling it of course, but a rest day tomorrow will do them good and I'll be good to go on Saturday, when Dee says we will be riding hills. Yay!

Of course I raved to Grant at Penny's about how much I was loving Cleo yesterday. The guys fitted some spacers on my brake levers (so I can actually reach them from the drops now) and a cycle computer. She's all new again and I'm looking forward to Saturday's ride. The weather forecast is looking good. The only question is whether I will be too hung over from dinner at Maria Pia's to fit in a one and a half hour hill ride on Sunday. My aim is to try to fit it in before everyone else surfaces, then get home around the time they are all thinking about blueberry pancakes. It would be rude to disappear for too long when we have guests from London! I plan to ride from home down Farnham Street, up Alexandra Rd, down Carlton Gore, around the Bays to Mt Crawford, down and back around back up to Mornington again. I can always fit in some hill repeats somewhere.

Oh, and the blitzing? Today I managed 27 full pull-ups - 10, 10 and 7! I totally wiped out my previous record ... Pleased much? Oh yes!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

No Backing Out Now!

Race number 3378. Pip goes to Taupo! OMG - I've wanted to do this for years and I'm finally doing it!

Kathryn has secured four of us a room in the YWCA for two nights on the weekend of the Round the Lake Challenge. Right now we're dreaming of sinking into a hot mineral spa after finishing. The only problem I foresee with that plan is that it's a long steep walk uphill to get back to the car afterwards. Oh, and every other tired, sore cyclist is likely to have the same idea!

The plan is to complete an 80km race in the Wairarapa on 5 October and a 100km race the weekend after that. Both will provide a good lead up and will also give me a better idea of the likely time for Taupo. I've entered a very conservative estimated finish time for Taupo for now.

This morning in RPM a phrase I'd heard the night before popped into my mind. However instead of thinking to myself "pain is weakness leaving the body" I realised I was chanting "pain is fear leaving the body". It seemed apprpriate really. Pain is learning not to be afraid to find out what I can do. Pain is a side effect of being all I can be and doing all that I can do. I take this route not because it is easy but precisely because it is hard. When I was afraid I did all that I could to avoid the pain. By confronting pain face on I am brave.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cleo Love

The results of the time trial are in. They prove conclusively that my love for my bike is justified, and they prove Kathryn wrong when she argues that a new bike doesn't necessarily make you faster.

Out of 24 riders I came in 9th equal. I was the fifth woman home. I beat Kathryn (who finished the Grape Ride 10 minutes ahead of me), if only by a few seconds. I came equal with one of the veterans of last year's Taupo squad. This woman finished the Grape Ride over 25 minutes faster than me. I am not a sprinter; I am a climber, so to do so well on the time trial is remarkable. I have a secret goal, planted in my head by evil trainer Duck at the very end of our last session. Her passing comment showed that she knows how competitive I am and how to push my buttons. I am totally on track to meet my goal.

I guess this is the point at which I stop protesting that I'm slow.

I managed step one of this week's homework programme today. I was out the door and on Cleo by about 6.50am. I wasn't so happy with the huge backpack I had to carry and my legs felt dead on the short little climb up to the Ridgway. My eyes watered badly in the early morning air. All the same I made it safely down Brooklyn hill and managed somehow to hit nearly every green light all the way up to the Terrace. I was on the gym floor by 7.20, ten minute earlier than I would have if I'd caught the bus. I raced through my circuit programme then hit the showers, only to discover they were once again stone cold. That was the only hiccup on an otherwise smooth day.

I left work early with the one hour homework ride to get out of the way. I have to be honest and admit that I wasn't looking forward to it. It had been overcast and windy all day and I was tired. However once I was out there I found myself enjoying the ride immensely. I treated it as an easy recovery ride so kept my pace steady but easy. Sure, the wind made things interesting but I just chose an appropriate gear, tucked in and slogged onwards. Turning right onto the Southern coast at Lyall Bay the sun was out and the mild temperatures had coaxed a number of walkers and their dogs out into the evening.

I was a bit over it as I rode up through Happy Valley to Brooklyn. The headwind was hitting me full on and I was in a far lighter gear than normal. I had to grind up Mornington Rd, having used everything on the long, slow climb up to Brooklyn. It was wonderful to turn down onto Farnham and then left onto the short flat street leading to home. I realised that I'd actually had fun and that it had felt a lot easier than when I'd last ridden that particular commute on Lola.

I'm signed in for Dee's 6.30am RPM tomorrow and it will be hard not to enthuse about how much I'm enjoying riding at the moment. Riding is the high point of my life right now. It's helping me get through a particularly difficult patch at work.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Feeling a Little Overwhelmed

I'm not quite sure how I feel about this Taupo training. It's not that I don't want to do the race, it's just that I'm not sure how I'm going to fit everything in. We're only on week three and I have to fit in three homework rides and two RPM classes. This is on top of the usual Saturday ride.

All the riding would feel more doable if it were daylight savings already. As it is I'm faced with trying to fit in a ride before or after work, part of which will have to take place in semi-darkness. The rides aren't particularly long but I only have a narrow window in which to get them done. There's a one hour ride, a 20-10-20 time trial and a one and a half hour hill circuit. Am I realistic in wanting to try to fit in a run or two on top of everything else?

I'm thinking my perfect getting-everything-done week might look like this:

Monday: Bike to the Terrace gym and do a weights session. Do a homework ride (the one hour?) after work.
Tuesday: RPM in the morning, Balance at lunch time, run after work
Wednesday: Bike to Penny Farthing to check Cleo in for her service, time trial on way home
Thursday: Weights in the morning, RPM at lunchtime
Friday: Balance at lunchtime or rest (or 1.5 hour ride)
Saturday: Gearshifters
Sunday: 1.5 hour homework ride or rest

The questionmarks around Friday and Sunday are because Nic and Leonie will be with us and of course I want to spend time with them. I'm contemplating taking Friday off work and if so will do my ride then. Besides, we're going to Maria Pia's on Saturday night and I may be hung over on Sunday!

I feel tired looking at all that!

I got today's 2.5 hour homework ride in, but it didn't go as planned. Julia and I were the only riders to show up which is a pity, because it was a gorgeous warm spring morning. We did the usual Mt Crawford climb, which always feels nasty for the first half until my climbing legs wake up. Julia was not having a good day and had to stop halfway. I had to wait quite a while and was about to go looking for her but a passing cyclist let me know she was on her way. I amused myself by watching a group of Marathon Clinic walkers going past when I should have been riding back to meet her.

Down the hill and Julia decided she wasn't up for Houghton Bay Rd or Sutherland. We agreed to ride around to Owhiro Bay, up to Brooklyn, then down Farnham Street through to Newtown and up over the top of Mt Victoria via Alexandra Rd. Unfortunately Julia's back started to give her serious problems and, when she finally made it to McKinley Crescent where I'd been waiting for her, we agreed she wasn't going to be doing any hill climbing.

I decided to salvage something out of my ride and continued up to the Ridgway, then turned back, lowered to my drops, kicked a few gears and caned it the whole way down to Owhiro Bay again. That bike seriously flies downhill! I caught Julia at Lyall Bay, having pushed hard through a nasty Northerly headwind. We rode back to Evans Bay together then I picked the pace up again riding into the wind all the way back to Freyberg.

With all the stopping and starting we were out for over two and a half hours but it was a frustrating ride and I still don't have a true sense of my hill climbing legs. I'm hoping Dee will take us up a few on Saturday. I need to start doing my homework rides at a faster pace as well.

I still feel like a much stronger rider on this bike though. I'm not getting blown past by anywhere near as many other riders now. I ride along with a fluidity that seems to be translating into speed. I'm also curious to discover that I am now also the left arm signal queen - something that never felt comfortable on Lola. A proper fit obviously makes a difference.

The other positive of today's ride - not one honk from an impatient, inconsiderate motorist. The only incident of note was a car flying past me then cutting in front of me into the left-turn lane at one of the sets of lights in Kilbirnie. I'd heard the car coming up behind me and had a funny feeling he was going to do just that. Thankfully Julia was close enough behind me to see him indicating and was able to call out a warning.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Dalek Cookies

Apologies for the poor quality PXT. Hilarity took over the kitchen today. First I added too much water to the cookie mix. I had cookie dough all over my hands like some strange Dr Who alien invasion. Hamish came to the rescue, adding flour to my sticky hands until I was eventually able to rescue the situation and create something that looked like cookie dough. I rolled out the dough onto the bench, but then discovered I hadn't floured the bench enough and that the cookies were stuck fast. I smooshed up the dough again, liberally dusted the bench with flour (and myself and the floor and the cupboards at the same time) and tried again. Eventually I ended up with acceptable Dalek cutouts. I then spent another few minutes adding rice crisps to the cookies before bumping them and sending rice crispies flying everywhere.

It took a fair bit longer than the eight minutes the box gave as the cooking time but eventually we had some cooked Daleks cooling on the stovetop. I was decorating them with the orange paste when the buyer of my bike turned up with his two adorable young girls in tow. Afterwards I regreted not offering them one each.

There's a reason I don't bake very often!

Are You Sick of Me Raving About My Bike Yet?

Another week down, a shift in focus. Tuesday went exactly as planned. I did Balance at lunchtime and had a great class. Margaret was teaching and went through the tentire latest release. The hip track really works for me.

After work I hustled down to Extreme to fit in as much of a weights workout as I could before Dee started teaching RPM at 6.40. I rummaged through my bag to grab some Hydrocortisone only to discover the pills were missing. I'd forgotten to put them back in my bag after moving them into my cycling bag on Sunday. I did a quick calculation. I had enough time to dash back to the office for my spare stash, but that would mean not being able to do any weights. I really didn't feel like rushing around either. Did I have enough cortisol in my system to get me through an evening of exercise? I decided to take a chance.

Upstairs I rushed through an upper body weights session. It was too busy to get near the pull up bars so I threw in some bicep curls then managed three sets of flat body pull ups just before the 5.45 class got out.

Dee's Gearshifters crew took over the 6.30 class. A group of us sat in the back row chatting and being a bit more vocal than usual. I ate a banana before the class started and felt good the whole way through. I had another banana at the end of the class while waiting for the second class to begin. I was still feeling fine and definitely not feeling like my cortisol was bottoming out.

About halfway through the second class I finally started to feel a little sore. Thankfully this was about when Dee decided to play Zombie, from the latest release. I loved it and it gave me just the pick-up I needed to get me through. By the time we finished everything was hurting but I'd survived. I dashed home to my medication and a big bowl of pasta.

Wednesday ended up being an unintended rest day. My legs were feeling pretty sore and it started pouring with rain right before I finished work. Yes, I wimped out. I made up for it on Thursday morning by doing my 15-10-15 interval session on a spin bike on the fourth floor at Extreme. I brought along my SPDs and had Flo and her four personal training clients for entertainment.

I can't say the bike workout was fun. Mostly it just either hurt or was mind numbing. Next time I don't care how windy it is or how hard it's raining, I'm taking Cleo out! All the same my heart rate never got up over 150, despite being drenched in sweat, so I'm still not sure I went hard enough. It was good to get it done though, because I really want to work on my speed on the flat.

After the bike workout I did about two thirds of a leg session before running out of time. I was still feeling pretty sore, but a good physio session that afternoon helped get some movement back into my sacroileac and iron out some of the knot in my right glute. A rest day on Friday (again unintended) helped even more.

I woke this morning feeling quietly confident about today's ride. I was ready for some hills. What I wasn't expecting was to find myself faced with a time trial. Gaaahhh! At least it was a nice morning ...

We biked slowly around to Shelley Bay, stopped, then lined up slowest to fastest. For some reason, because I'd been one of the first few riders to the Bay, I ended up being one of the last to be set off. I'm not quite sure how that happened! Carrie left thirty seconds before me and I had to chase her pink jacket all the way around to Lyall Bay. I was happy just to be able to keep her in sight.

Deja Vu. I set off when Dee told me to go and the next 25 minutes or so were all about the hurt. My quads were screaming, my lungs were hating me. My chest hurt for ages after I finished. As if that weren't bad enough I got overtaken by Lauren at Moa Point, and by a couple of other Gearshifters guys not long after that. And yes, I know Lauren's a lost faster than me, but did he really have to?!

Now I'm just waiting for the official results to go up on the website. I'm dreading finding out that I was slower than some of the people I'm hoping to be able to come in ahead of this time around. I've been saying that I'm so much faster on Cleo. I want the evidence to show it!

After we'd regrouped I somehow ended up leading everyone off towards Owhiro Bay. Without a computer on my bike it was difficult to judge my pace and I even got told to slow down at one point, which was odd. I nearly got taken out by a truck at one stage and had a car fail to do a u-turn in front of me then honk at me when I rode around him. There was a lot of cycle-hating going on out there today, but the weather was too nice to take it too seriously.

Up Happy Valley and then down Brooklyn Hill. I overtook most people on the way down. Cleo just feels too good not to! Back through the city, stopping at pretty much every light and then we were back at Freyberg already. We all had coffee at Parade and then it was off to get the grocery shopping done and prepare for the arrival of the refugees from London.

This afternoon Lola went to a new home. A lovely guy stopped by to pick her up. His wife is just getting into triathlon and wanted a road bike and I'm thrilled she is going to a good owner. I ended up getting $280 for her and given that Mike at Penny's said she was worth $300 I'm happy with that.

Up again tomorrow for a two and a half hour ride. I'm itching to go for a run, it's so spring-like out there, but I should restrain myself. Perhaps I should just eat Dalek cookies instead.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Winston Peters has a Cunning Plan

Winston's master stroke will see him escaping the SFO and criminal investigations via his unexpected and unforeseen use of donations into supporting development of the Large Hadron Collider.

It's the end of the world as we know it, and he feels fine.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Quick Update

First thing's first. Go to Steve Stenzel's blog and watch one of the funniest videos you will ever see involving a guy dressed up as the Grim Reaper.

Right, stopped laughing? On to the second big news item of the day. My student loan is paid off! Well, technically I have a $17.59 balance, but I've paid $33 in interest this tax year which will be written off, so actually the IRD owes me money. It's taken me nearly ten years to rid myself of the thing. Oh how sweet all that extra disposable income is going to be! How happy was I? So happy I opened a bottle of cider after my easy six km run tonight and drank it from a champagne glass. Never let it be said this girl doesn't know how to party. The run wasn't too bad either. For various reasons I was expecting to feel awful but in fact I felt great. It helped that the pouring rain stopped just long enough for me to get out around the Bays and back again and the lack of wind was an added bonus.

Rolling back in time - on Thursday I caved in, decided the weather was too awful, and bussed into town instead of riding Cleo. I did a circuit workout then after work I did an RPM class. Unfortunately Steven was teaching and the last track involved a series of very intense 15 minute power intervals. For the next few days I had tight little knots in my hamstrings just above my knees, and insanely tight quads in the same area above the front of my knees. I should have known better, but when it's only 15 seconds I figure I can ride through the pain, right? Mad Dog will be my downfall ...

My hip didn't like me either, though Margaret's Balance class on Friday seemed to help a bit. The latest release is, well, ok. The hip track is good but the sun salutation track is odd. I did quite like the strength track but I was supposed to be taking it easy. Huh ...

On Friday night the weather forecast for Saturday was for intermittent showers clearing. It poured overnight and the wind got up and by 7am the weather forecast had morphed into rain, with snow on the Rimutakas. Gearshifters was meeting up for our first training ride at 8.30. I felt a sense of doom. This could not be happening!

I wore my full-fingered gloves, my arm and leg warmers, a polyprop, my windbreaker and two pairs of socks. As an afterthought I threw on Hamish's lightweight raincoat. I think the raincoat may have saved me. I parked in the Freyberg carpark and somehow managed to park next to a huge drain into which the Nile appeared to be flowing. Standing at the back of my car to unload Cleo there was nothing for it but to stand in the middle of the deluge. It was a joke trying to put on gloves and shoes. Everything was soaked within seconds.

A small group of cyclists was huddled around the entrance to Freyberg. I joined them and was shivering with cold within seconds. The lifeguards took pity and we were allowed to gather inside the reception area where it was so warm and humid that I momentarily considered going home for my togs and swimming instead, but it was not to be.

In the end the ride turned out to be a bit of a fizzer. One of the trainers, Vanessa, organised four of us into our own little pack and we took turns drafting around the Bays. Vanessa charged me with chasing down a solitary cyclist up ahead and it turned out to be Carrie, the fastest cyclist of the last squad. I took that as a sign that I really am faster on Cleo.

As if the rain weren't bad enough the wind was insane. There was enough of a head wind to make things unpleasant but it was the crosswinds that were causing the biggest problem for me. On a bike that was a couple of kilos lighter than I'm used to and with my fancy American Classic wheel set crosswinds were not my friend. Riding around Pt Jerningham it took all I had just to stay upright. I was, quite frankly, terrified. I've ridden in much stronger winds, but this was something else.

As previously arranged we pulled into the Evans Bay marina car park to regroup. A very nervous group of cyclists looked around at each other. A collective decision was made. We were turning back. It was just too dangerous and many of the cyclists were too inexperienced to be out there. One woman in particular had only just bought her bike, having not ridden before, and had in all seriousness fallen off three times on her way to Evans Bay.

A small group of hardy types decided to press on through Kilbirnie, thereby missing the worst of the wind. My feet were killing me from the cold though and I was more than happy to be heading back to Freyberg. We gathered together dripping water all over the floor of the Parade Cafe and it took a good fifteen minutes for my feet to start to feel normal.

Ironically it cleared up that afternoon to reveal a huge dump of snow on the Orongarongas. Julia and I arranged to meet up at 9am on Sunday morning, again at Freyberg. I'd managed to wash and dry my cycle gear but my shoes and helmet were both still wet and I had to swap to my half-finger gloves. At least it was a gorgeous morning, if somewhat cold. We had two rides to combine into one, a 10-10-10 time trial and a one and a half hour ride. My legs were feeling like toast and I wasn't really sure how fast or how far I would be going, but there was no backing out.

We cycled easily round to Shelly Bay then it was all on. Cleo was complaining about having been taken out in the shoddy conditions of the day before. She seemed to have a heap of gunge in her brake pads so I stopped briefly to try to wipe them out a bit then chased off after Julia. It was a gorgeous day but I barely noticed as it was head down and full steam ahead. My dead legs were screaming at me and I felt like I was going nowhere. It seemed to take an age to creep closer to my riding buddy ahead. I was getting really frustrated. I should have been flying past her!

In the end I caught her in time for the ten minute rest interval. We hit the end of the rest at the top of the pass of Branda and I took off again. This time my legs were REALLY complaining. I only made it as far as the first round about in Lyall Bay, then got to stop for a few minutes until Julia caught up.

I had no idea why my legs were feeling so nasty. Well, I suspected it was the after effects of Thursday's ride and the accumulation of a few hard weeks in general. I was happy to take it reasonably easy until I left Julia on the climb up to Brooklyn, waiting again at the top and taking the opportunity to eat half of a Sculpt chocolate and cranberry bar. On the plus side, I rode up almost the whole way on my large cog. I love Cleo's gear ratio!

When Julia caught up we took off down the city side of Brooklyn hill and I faced my fear of death all over again. Boy can that bike fly downhill! It was all I could do to hold on and pray. I don't have a cycle computer on her yet but let's just say that I wasn't getting overtaken by anyone! I faced my fear of death multiple times on our ride back through town, down Taranaki Street and back around to Freyberg. The traffic was crazy. Alongside Waitangi Park I nearly got taken out by a woman running from the supermarket across the road to the farmer's market. I think she had seen a break in traffic but not seen Julia, managed to avoid Julia but then nearly ran into me instead. The look on her face was priceless!

So yes, after my weekend my hip was really complaining today and the pain was transferring down the front o fmy quad. Not good. I skipped a weights session, figuring I needed rest more than anything but couldn't let myself get away with doing nothing at all, so chose the flat, easy option for a run tonight. Of course I didn't feel anywhere near as bad as I should have done on the run and came away feeling really pleased. I probably only enjoyed myself that much though because I let myself take it easy. If I'd tried to keep up with Sally it might have been a different story. It appears I'm learning to pace myself, even if I forget sometimes!

Two RPM classes and hopefully Balance tomorrow, and I plan to fit in some upper body weights before spin to make up for the workout I didn't do today. Hopefully another run on Wednesday and, weather permitting, a ride into town on Thursday with a 15-10-15 interval session after work. Rest on Friday (perhaps Balance) then it's riding both days this weekend. Our homework ride on Sunday will be 2.5 hours.

I had a realisation yesterday that the next three months will see me pretty much tied to my bike each weekend. Until daylight savings kicks in my homework will have to be done on a Sunday with mid-week options a bit limited. It's a bit daunting in all honesty. Thankfully I have Cleo.

The reserve has been met on my Trademe auction so Lola is sold. There are 23 people watching the auction so I'm hoping there will be a bidding war near the end. Some people really can't read though. What is the point of asking what the courier price is to send a bike to Christchurch when the ad clearly states 'pick up only'? Duh ...

Oh well, if someone is stupid enough to buy and then need poor Lola transported they can jolly well pay the $40 to have her properly boxed as well.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Plastic-Free Public Servant?

Leonie challenged me recently to imagine what I would do with my life if I never had to work again. Not work again? But I like what I do!

It's true that working full time and working out when I'm not working doesn't leave me with a lot of free hours. There are loads of things I would do if I had more time (and if I weren't careless with what time I do have). I would read and write more poetry. I would meditate regularly at the Wellington Buddhist Centre. I would learn how to make patchwork quilts, how to paint and how to make my own clothes. I would spend more time at the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. I would probably, predictably, spend even more time at the gym, running and on my bike. I would hopefully spend some quality time in the pool. I would almost certainly go to more art exhibitions and concerts. I would grow my own fruit and vegetables, plant out my garden with more natives and eliminate the various noxious species flourishing in corners. I would redecorate our house.

Of course I would travel. The travel answer is too obvious. I haven't been overseas in nearly ten years (I'm embarrassed to admit that) and it's about time I did. However, even if I never have to work again I can't travel forever.

If I REALLY never had to work again, if I were able to make a lifestyle change that wouldn't just be about finding more THINGS to do and more about fundamentally changing the way I live, there is something I would really like to do. I would like to stop buying anything made from plastic.

Beth Terry, of Fake Plastic Fish has pretty much already said anything I could hope to say on this matter, but I thought it might be useful to try to spell out exactly why eliminating plastic from my life has ended up being number one on my list of 'things I would do'.

Here is my reason number one for wanting to stop consuming plastic. Welcome to the Plastic Stew. This is a huge area of the Pacific Ocean where ocean currents and environmental quirks have led to a not very appealing collection of plastic. The problem though isn't just the plastic bags, the can rings wrapped around birds' necks, the bottle caps in dead sea creatures' stomachs. Those are just the more visible side effects of plastic pollution.

Unfortunately plastic doesn't just disappear. Instead, it breaks up into smaller and smaller particles. In this stretch of ocean the water contains six times more plastic than plankton. So what happens to these particles of plastic? They get eaten as though they were plankton. Those creatures which don't starve as a result get eaten by other creatures, who then get eaten by other creatures, who may well then get eaten by humans. Fancy a little plastic with your sushi? Now about a little endocrine disruption with your chips? Work out for yourself what the side effects of consuming all those toxins might be doing to you, let alone the planet's biodiversity in general.

Don't think that recycling lets you off the hook either. Chances are those bottles in your little green bin won't end up being recycled anyway, or will end up being turned into products that will eventually end up in a landfill anyway, or will accumulate in a polymer mountain in a country like China, where the Western world can tuck its environmental guilt away out of sight.

So, what can I do? The Green Party does, of course, have some good ideas, and Hamish and I have been involved in several music festivals based on Zero Waste principles. However the logical place to start is at home. How can I start eliminating plastic from the things I buy each week?

Let's start with food. Here I have unashamedly played the no-time card. It's easy and quick to park in a supermarket carpark and grab a week's worth of groceries. Fruit gets slipped into plastic bags. Meat comes wrapped in plastic wrap, resting on polystyrene trays. Inside the cardboard cereal box the cereal is sealed in plastic. Bottles have plastic sealing their lids closed. Frozen food comes packaged almost exclusively in plastic. Milk, yoghurt and cheese - all stored in plastic. Alison Holst's face is printed onto the plastic bags used in the bulk bin area. Don't even get me started on the pleasures of fresh pasta - presented, of course, in plastic. Even if I bring my environmentally friendly organic cotton bags the checkout person will still try to wrap the chicken and the cat food in plastic bags.

At the gym - the sports drinks and protein bars - all packaged in plastic. My beloved running shoes - non-biodegradable. My shampoo bottle - also plastic. At work polystyrene cups are set out next to the coffee plunger at morning tea time. The dishwashing powder comes in a plastic bottle, as does the environmentally friendly dishwashing liquid. Even the environmentally friendly laundry powder comes with a plastic scoop.

My iBook - largely plastic. My beloved Tivoli radio - plastic. Pretty much any of the toys I would like to buy will come packaged in plastic. My medication comes in non-reusable plastic bottles. Even the plastic Snapper card I bought to replace my bus pass came encased in its own little plastic wallet.

Of course there are ways around all of these problems, as Beth is discovering. However truly abandoning plastic also involves surrendering a lot of the consumption-focused middle-classed and privileged lifestyle I and my peers are used to indulging in. And I feel like a petulant, spoiled little child saying this, but it also involves giving up a lot of time and risking becoming viewed as a right oddball.

I enjoy farmers' markets, but it takes time and energy to stop off at the market after a Sunday bike ride. Yes, I know how stupid that sounds. It takes time to drive to the Island Bay butcher and request that meat be wrapped in paper, not plastic, and then to stop off at a bakery for packaging-free bread (although I love bread fresh from our breadmaker). I would feel like an idiot taking my own recyclable containers to Kana Khazana for my Indian takeaway. I would miss the convenience of buying a serving of Pasta Fresca chicken ravioli, even though I know I would enjoy making my own pasta and that it is perfectly possible to make up a large batch and freeze the extra.

The cliche is that Rome wasn't built in a day, and nor will Pip's plastic-free world happen overnight. It's not just the obvious plastic products either. There is also a huge problem with processed food (let's not even open the corn debate here or mention the genetically modified food problem) and petroleum-based or dependent products. The more I read the greater the issues I feel compelled to address become.

I can start small. The obvious first move is to stop being so lazy and do the farmer's markets and shop small and local. I can look for organic or sustainable products. Where possible I will seek out glass or cardboard. This summer I WILL establish my fruit and vegetable garden (if only because I grew up with fresh produce out of the garden and miss it badly). The money I save won't hurt either! I can make steps towards a more sustainable life in general, and until the day comes where I really no longer have to work, that will have to be enough.