Full steam ahead

The power of a positive environment. My competitive sporting career literally withered away over the past 3 years, not being surrounded by the right people, to put it nicely. With it, so was confidence, trust and belief. I would lying if I told you that it was a breeze trying to find a new life. No one from any sporting body will be there to help once you’ve done your service. There wasn’t even a ‘thank you’.
The working world was a whole new unknown. I stepped in on what I would consider as coming out from the lowest point in my athletic career. Not the best way to start, but what the hell. All I can say is that Decathlon helped me back up on my feet. The power of a positive, nurturing environment. I’ve always believed in it. It’s great to be part of one again. Thanks G.Horan, AB, Lizzi and SuBC, Al, Sandy and Mercs, Plews, John L, Andrea, Cormac, J.Baran, Big Dave, John H, Louis, Muzz and TCWA, Noda and CCC, DB, Wibbs, Matthews, Chuas and A.C for being the amazing people that you are.

I’m excited to see where this new journey with another bunch of amazing peps will take me.

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Keeping up

Still settling into the life of a weekend warrior. It’ll take a bit of getting used to. Trying to squeeze some decent ks or efforts in before work. Staying alert and putting on a smile at work with the help of 5 coffees. Late finishes, late commute, same early shit the next morning. Sleep-ins are now legit. Smashing yourself on off days. Two things haven’t changed: 1. Being out there makes me happy. 2. Dealing with snarky comments by sedentaries

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Finishing on a high

2015 has been far from smooth sailing. Sits up there with the rockiest of times. It’s been a year of revelation, soul searching, coming to terms, finding myself.
It’s exciting to be part of something new. New people who hopefully will become new mates, new opportunities, new goals. Let’s not forget what defines you. I’ll always be the athlete.

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New beginnings?

The recent election of the new Singapore Cycling executive committee, to some, has been much anticipated and very much welcomed. It comes at what would seem like an appropriate timing, after our some-what successful SEA Games campaign, depending on what benchmark you’ve set as successful. Looking at a slightly bigger picture, a new ex-co one year out from Olympic qualification is far from ideal. That’s like changing your cleats from Shimano to Speedplay 5mins before you roll up to the start of a 100 laps points race: recipe for disaster. Well that’s only if we are in contention for Olympic slots, which at the moment I don’t think any are, so maybe that’s not a cause for concern. Or maybe not?

The freshness and new energy that comes with a new committee is always something to embrace. They called upon the cycling community for their first dialogue and feedback session. Good turnout, as expected, as many I’m sure were hoping to air their concerns. While their openess and honesty were definitely appreciated, the session didn’t seem to address some fundamentals.

Policies and benchmarks isn’t exactly rocket science. At the start it seemed like the objective of the session was to explain the selection policies and criterias for team selection they have put in place, but of course it was bound to get side-track because a benchmark is just a number and I think everyone is clear what the benchmark is. So someone bravely fired the first slavo on issues relating to competition and that’s when the session become more engaging.

Then came a critical point when it was brought to their attention that the criterias they have put in place is far beyond the current standard we are at at the moment. When world-level times are set for qualification to the Asian Championships, it’s telling us that ACC is the benchmark of races and will be legitimate for Asian Games qualification and beyond. Makes sense. I might be new to cycling but I know my way around high performance sport. I went through the same thought process when I was rowing. The concepts are the same. So what bugged me the most was that they didn’t address at all HOW they plan to get someone to do a 10.3 flying 200, or 1:04 kilo or 4:34 IP. Coincidentally, when I started out trying the sprints, 10.2 was the target I set for myself, because that was what I felt was a time that would indicate you can be competitive in the sprint and keirins. Back then it was still a question mark to whether that would make the cut, because there wasn’t any benchmark. At least now there’s something to work towards to.

I brought to their attention how many of us have been investing heaps of their own resources racing and training abroad but not knowing if we’re on the right track. They didn’t quite get it. Maybe I should have been more direct. While there’s now a legitimate target to work towards to, the system remains the same: we’re all still left to our own devices, to find the results which we need. The domestic racing scene is literally non-existent, which means there’s no way to breed a champion locally. You find/plan your own pathway. Someone suggested they come up with a racing calendar. Well that’s definitely a start, but I can copy and paste that from the UCI website. And if you’re reaching out to the riders’ network for invites to domestic races, it’s a sign you’ve been sitting too much in the office.

If we don’t have a track, a high performance framework would require a little more understanding on what is happening on the ground, what the scene is like elsewhere, where the available resources are. Should we invest in putting a group of riders somewhere where there’s a track? Indoors or outdoors? For how long each time? How often? Short stints  or longer stints? Should we try to link up with other countries? Will be there a conflict of interest?
Let’s not forget the roadies. While the dynamics of road racing is as complex as the benchmark itself, how do we go about becoming an international competitive national road team? Get riders a stint into conti teams? Or a high level domestic racing team? Europe? America? Asia? Oceania? Is it worth setting up the national team to go conti?

At the end of the day, if the mandate isn’t passed down on what the pathway should be or you’re not involved at all in the process (fyi, simply setting the benchmark is not being involved in the PROCESS) , people are going come up and invest in their own 4-year or 8-year plan on how to get a 1:03 kilo or top-5 at an Asian level stage race. When you only put your foot in when  selection time comes, you might be faced with riders having either contractual or non-contractual obligations to the team of people who are directly involved in getting them there because with those benchmarks, it’s likely they would have gone through some serious high level racing. And lets face it, if I can do a 10.3 flying 200, it’s unlikely I’ll be hard up for a new chain or tyre which comes with obligations you want the rider to be bound to because you want to instill some form of team element at the very last minute. Some might be a little more understanding. Just like how some grown ups can more accepting of a parent who left for whatever reason during those childhood years but later hopes to reconnect. A team needs to be nurtured.

So it’s still early days. Baby steps, but taking steps. There might be something in the pipeline. Who knows. We can only work with what we know.

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Enjoy the ride

So I’ve finally gotten around to pening some thoughts down. I’m at a stage where it’s challenging trying not to make honest sound negative. Well I CBF now.

I’ve always enjoyed sharing the journey and experiences. As much as I haven’t written much about it, I actually still do. Even if you DNF or come in dead last, you still take away lessons. In the society we live in, there’s usually nothing worth mentioning/sharing if you don’t win or podium. Everyone wants to read/cheer about winning stories. People either aren’t sure how to react to poor performances or feels it’s a waste of time.

I may not be a champion bike racer, but I’ve made it my goal to be a constant learner of things. However, if you don’t have a pro contract, haven’t worn yellow, green, polka or rainbow, it’s highly unlikely anyone will take you seriously. We whine about this city state being pancake flat with no real hills to train on. When I suggested to someone to think about adjusting his brakes on to hit the numbers he’s after, I got the eyebrow “that sounds ridiculous” raise. When I told him that was what a rider said in an interview about the year he won the rainbow bands, he looked away with a straight face.

I came into cycling with heaps of energy, negative and positive. The negatives have remained negative, the positives have now become negative. It’s pretty clear that the problem I’ve had with racing on the bike is all between the ears. The community involved in competitive sport is small and exclusive. I have yet to see the light, but I’m thankful to have a few who share the same philosophy to share the journey with. For now I’m just getting on the bike and enjoying the ride.

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Fading into the background. Getting dropped like a fly

I’ve fallen behind on SO many occasions that I can’t help but start to wonder how many times can someone actually get beaten down and still expect to get back up. What’s worst this time was that I actually worked my butt off going in. Numbers were constantly going up, the training was focused, confident I was on the right track. But I came out with a beating so bad, I’m struggling to find any positives at all to walk out with my head up.
You might be on the right track, getting faster, but not fast enough yet. People on the outside don’t care about the process, they just want to know the outcome. Like life, racing is brutal. If you get dropped, you’re not fast enough, period, don’t bother trying. That’s how people are on the outside.
While I would have preferred to have my trusted circle run through this difficult weekend with me, I have to settle for an exchange of wise words thanks to the wonders of technology. It will be a trying next couple of weeks as I look to dig myself out from six feet under.

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Camp and the rest of it all

Went into camp with a positive frame of mind, both physically and mentally. The bulk of the work has been done and what I needed more was familiarity, with all the elements of the track, equipment especially. I probably should have psyched myself a little better because by the third day in, I was beating myself up pretty badly for the lack lustre times. Somehow I’ve always managed to screw things up between the ears. Maybe I’m not as mentally tough as I think I am. Okay, obviously I’m not.
As our host starts to prepare itself for the Bangkok edition of the Track Asia Cup, I can’t help but sense that the feeling of elitism is very much still present. I miss having that team element. Hell the last time I ever felt like I was in one was back in 2010, 2011 with Mercs.
It was great to touch base with my mentor and to hear of some awesome news. Words of encouragement from people you trust goes a long way.

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Is it a level playing field

In sports, often or not, it’s unlikely a level playing field. At an elite or high competitive level, where top honours is at stake, the intrinsic or sometimes even tangible advantage is usually the make or break. Perseverance and determination is the building block for a tough athlete. But let’s face it, in this day and age, there is no middle ground. You either make or break. Your pat on the back is forgotten as quickly as the pat itself.

If you’re deemed to have natural talent, you’ll be served up on a silver platter. That’s talent ID. You’ll have all the resources at your disposal to develop that talent. That’s as good as a 30m head start in a 100m race. I was going to say 50m, but let’s be as objective as possible. How you choose to run the rest of the race is besides the point. The talent to suck up to people is also a talent by the way.

Getting into recreational sports and fitness, like competitive sport is all about how deep your pocket is. Gym memberships, exercise classes, proper coaching, injury prevention, equipment, use of facilities, going to races.The budget competitive athlete and/or recreational go-getter is tied to whatever budget he/she has. So if you’re born to a silver platter, but is a late bloomer, you still have a head start. Again, how you choose to run the rest of the race is besides the point.

The rest who are not and don’t display signs of natural talent are basically left with the message: Spend your life earning the big bucks and you’ll be able to afford whatever toys you want in the future and your kids might have a chance to be an elite athlete.

Even when we look at it on a global scale, depth of pocket is one of the major factors in elite performance. The more money you pump in, the higher the chances of bringing back silverware. Again, how you choose to run the rest of the race is besides the point.

The against-all-odds stories gives people a sense of hope. But it should not be used as a primary source of motivation because these cases are far from being the majority. Not only that, its effect varies across different sporting cultures and environment. Hard work pays off. Its how you choose to run the rest of the race. If you start the race 30m behind, is hard work going to be enough? What are the chances that everyone else you’re racing against isn’t working their butt off? Because at the end of the race, your hard work will be forgotten as quickly as the hand shake you get.

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G8 Pro Series 2620

The long awaited Pro Series 2620 from G8 Performance came in the mail about 3 weeks ago.

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I’m going through a massive training block to put it through some serious abuse. More about the training block later.

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The foot bed is lined with a nice suede-like material to give the foot good traction while in the shoe. Another improvement from the 2600 is that the dots of the removeable arches have been shifted forward.

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I took this opportunity to do some fine tuning and went for a higher arch. For me, the positive difference it made was immediate: Greater comfort, little to no hot spots, the feel of connectivity with the footbed. I totally get the “no power data to back it up = not legit” approach. But when you’re no longer bothered by your shoes during 4-hour rides or motorpacing sessions, that’s certainly a step forward.

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Over and Under

Nothing exciting to report to be honest: DNFed most or nearly all my races. The training block really only took off in the last 3 weeks. I struggled to find my feet at the beginning 3 with lack of direction and focus. Talk about a roller coaster ride, besides the rolling hills.

If I was going to chuck in any of the goals I kicked, at least I’ve worked up the grades. First crack in an open A grade race in the form of Pickering Brook. Well you gotta throw yourself into the deep end to know where you are and how far away the shore is. Working through the mental side of things alone isn’t a fun game at all. #characterbuilding

At track side, I definitely struggled to find any track legs. It could have been a combination of a number of factors, but I’ll remain focus on what’s within my control: my own progress and performance.

Push through, and good things will come out at the end. I left knowing and seeing that I’ve stepped up (with some valuable help) and made new friends. Cheers to the AvantiPlus boys for smashing me in the hills and the crew from BikeForce Success for looking out for me when I made the hike down to have a hit out at the Peel races. Top job by the Peel District Cycling Club.

It’s been a blast catching up with everyone. They say cycling is cliquey. While I won’t agree entirely, neither will I entirely disagree. More about that next time. Thanks Track Cycling WA for welcoming me back. Till we meet again.

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