Saturday, 24 January 2009

More than a race

Very hot, very humid. So why not stay home and take it easy?

Because there is bike race at 8.15am and you need to sign on, warm up and race.

Why?

It’s fun, it’s satisfying, good people and provides an extra focus for training during the week.

It was a normal criterion meeting at the Nundah circuit in Northern suburban Brisbane, Australia.

All the club members who were not in Adelaide at the Tour Down Under and who had not stayed home to avoid the heat turned up and there were good fields for A, B, C, D and E grade events.

I signed on for D grade, did my warm up, worked hard during the race and left it to the sprinters to fight it out. All in all, a good day and a great work out that even left me with enough in the tank to do a rowing and weights session later in the day.

However, the real highlight for me was a conversation I had with an E grade competitor after the race.

He came 4th but explained (almost as an excuse) that he receives a handicap of a lap head start because he is a category 9 licence holder. Now I am 50 years old and \my licence is a 5. Now I am not sure how the licencing system works but was pretty sure this guy was not 90 years old.

So I asked how old he was and he is 70. This guy is overtly fit and healthy and a testament to a sport that accommodates his desire to compete. Fantastic indeed and a real inspiration.

We chatted for a while. He started racing in 1953 (you work out the age) but gave it away in the late 60’s and did not ride again until the 80’s. He returned to racing in 2000 and has done so ever since.

He told me he still have his original bike from 1953 and until 2000, had never ridded a bike with a derailer.

I mentioned I regretted not having discovered cycling at a much younger age and he said he regretted stopping when he did and was now making up for the lost decades.

While we were chatting 2 other riders came along and confirmed he was riding in the morning (Sunday). He then told me about their usual 60 kilometre Sunday ride.

As I said, truly inspirational and a pleasure to have a chat with.

Safe cycling.

Political Fantasy

Is it totally beyond the realms of possibility that one political party could acknowledge that another political party actually has a good idea, or has done something well?

In Australia today, the leader of the Liberal opposition Malcolm Turnbull, announced a new climate change policy.

I have no idea if it is scientifically sound or realistically practical however I suspect it is.

My reason for saying this is Climate Change Minister Penny Wong essentially critisised Turnbull, not for his policy announcement and its content, but because he has changed his mind from a previously held position of supporting a Carbon Trading System.

I would have a much better opinion of our political leaders if they could, or would come out and say “The Opposition announcement is interesting and we would like to study it and see if there is something in it that might benefit the country”.

And it works in both directions. I would like to see an environment where the Opposition can be confident in responding to a Government initiative by saying “We think the Government’s initiative is sound and we whole heartedly endorse it. How can we help implement the policy?”

The Rudd Government inherited a country in a very healthy financial state with a multi billion dollar reserve. Certainly, the mining boom helped this prosperity as did perhaps too little investment by the previous Howard Liberal Government in needed infrastructure. Notwithstanding, the funds existed.

Times have changed and the reserves established in more prosperous times are being, or have been used by the Government to try and prop up the economy in response to the economic crises. And isn’t that why you put reserves away in good times anyway.

It would be great if Rudd, when announcing the spending programme had acknowledged the previous Government’s efforts to establish the reserves in the first place.

And virtually every Economist and so called qualified expert seems to agree that deficit funding is appropriate for the times we find ourselves in.

Surely the Opposition can accept this too rather than critisise the prospect of going into deficit. They look “petty” when they critisise the prospect that Rudd will go into recession. The general public, the electorate, actually understand that times have changed, it is a different world and a new range of economic management structures are required.

Surely the willingness to acknowledge the skills and ideas of an opponent is a sign of self confidence and self belief. Being unable to do so perhaps suggests a level of insecurity at both a personal and professional level.

I for one would like to have reason to hold our Politicians in a higher regard and to believe they really do have our best interests at heart. Maybe I am dreaming.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Tale of Two Weeks Plus TDU

Week one was highlighted by finding excuses not to ride.

Sure, a work commitment was to blame one morning and that is almost acceptable however on 2 other occasions, I was reading non existent demons into the weather and did not venture out.

Week two, (this last week) was much better and as well as doing a 225 k’s (including 2 Coot-tha’s and 3 Gravatt’s), I added two running sessions to the usual non cycling activities of the rowing machine, weights and punching bag.

Friday was this week’s rest day as I had a dental commitment.

And it all paid off with a win in the D grade criterion on Saturday out of a field of 20 or so at Nundah Criterion Circuit. Winning margin was about a tyre and it was the same distance between 2nd and 3rd.

This coming week will be a challenge. It will be lonely as the vast majority of the bunch I normally ride with have packed up and headed to Adelaide for the Tour Down Under and to see the return of Lance to the pro peloton.

Adelaide is totally cycling crazy at the moment, every room, tent site, caravan is booked out for miles and apparently restaurant bookings are hard to come by. I know of some people who tried a month ago to make restaurant bookings in Adelaide for the coming week and could not get a seat.

Having Lance in Australia has been great for the sport and the promotion of the cancer cause.

Love him or doubt him, the guy has class and a seemingly inexhaustible energy. Most people having flown around the world would be totally spent by all his media and cancer commitments without having to train and then race a pro tour event.

A friend in Singapore sent me an SMS advising the Tour Down Under is on Eurosports in Singapore and the TV will be on in his office.

Lance = exposure = ratings = dollars for cycling and that cannot be a bad thing in the current climate where more teams are disappearing than being formed.

In the meantime, Lance has his first chance today in the pre race criterion to equal my number of wins for the year. And just as I will never win a pro race, I am willing to bet that Lance will never win a D grade criterion at Nundah, Brisbane, Australia.

Ride safe, train hard, have fun

Barack Obama

Barack Obama will be inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States this coming Tuesday.

There are many things wrong with the United States; politically, economically, attitudinally and perhaps even culturally.

BUT

I have never been to the United States and rightly do not claim to understand the Country, its customs, its people or its collective personality. My views about America are formed by the tourists I meet, a few Americans I have worked with, what I see in movies and on TV shows, see and read in news reports and what I read in literature.

Therefore, I must have a very limited and edited view of the country, and have believed it to be in many ways a larger, louder and more culturally diverse version of Australia.

Like many outside of the States, I have followed US politics with some interest and never more so than during the last Presidential election and the preceding primaries.

George W. Bush may well be one of the great President’s however he has been portrayed to me as being akin to a clown. I am sure he is not a clown. I am also sure he is not one of the greats. The passage of time may prove one or the other correct.

I know little about Hilary Clinton’s policies but had developed the hope that if she was in the Oval Office, a Mother might be less inclined to send citizens to war. Idealistic? Certainly. Hopeful? Absolutely.

As President, Hilary was not to be however I remain hopeful about the new Secretary of State.

As we (in Australia) became more aware of the Republican Vice Presidential candidate, we also became more aware of broader America and the views of many of the ordinary citizens who were ultimately to decide the election.

I could not believe the Republican Party, with all its resources, research and will to win, could anoint Sarah Palin as its VP candidate and as a person who would be a positive contributor to winning the Presidency for John McCain.

For one, I shuddered at the hypocrisy of being “pro life and pro guns?

The entry of Sarah Palin into the election resulted in Australian’s getting more coverage of what might be considered her prime support areas. And while we can dismiss these supporters as being mis-informed, na├»ve, religious zealots and even racist, it perhaps more correctly revealed there are very large areas of America that are strongly, strongly conservative.

I knew America was not all Carl Lewis, Lance Armstrong, Friends, CSI, I Love Lucy, Hollywood Boulevard and Wall Street. I did not understand the diversity of cultures and opinions of the more rural and disadvantaged areas and communities. I did not understand the strong religious commitment of these people and the conservative views and opinions long held and passed down through generations.

The world awaits with great optimism the Presidency of the Barack Obama. It is exciting and is a chance for the US to assume once again a leadership role in the world.

And maybe, just maybe, the positive to come from the current financial crisis is for the American people as a whole to take a less insular view of their world and realise not everything in 2009 revolves around their country and even their own few square miles. And perhaps also, the US leadership will be more aware of just what the Country’s reputation is throughout the world and its people and the almost bully boy tactics are no longer appreciated.

I for one was impressed when Barack Obama stated during the campaign that he would seek to talk and get to know the Iran leadership. I am equally unimpressed that post election, he is backing away from this position.

But for all that is wrong with the US and other countries in the developed and free enterprise democratic world, a quote from Barack Obama’s radio address to the Nation was in my opinion a testament to the ideals and the need for genuine democracy.

The following is taken from Big Pond News and says it all.

Obama used his radio address Saturday to preview the themes of his inauguration, certain to be expounded upon in his much-anticipated speech on Tuesday.
He took particular note of the peaceful transfer of power from George W. Bush's administration to his, a transition that saw the outgoing and incoming teams work cooperatively, often literally side-by-side, in ways never seen before.
It could be a model for the globe, Obama suggested.
'Even today billions of people around the world cannot imagine their leaders giving up power without strife or bloodshed,' he said.


Lets all hope that Barack Obama can match his rhetoric with his actions. Internationally as well as domestically.

The world needs it to be so – America needs it to be so.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

A Good Week and a New Year

What a Week

Let’s start with New Years Eve.

Youngest son (16 yoa) had a NYE party to attend, needed to be collected at 1.30 am and I wanted to put in a few kilometers on the bike on New Years Day morning.

Solution, go to bed at 8.00pm, wake at 1.00am and collect him, go back to bed at 2.00am and wake again at 5.00am to hit the road. Easy, boring NYE but easy.

And, if I was going to do all that, I had better make the ride worthwhile.

Everything went according to plan and at about 5.30 I was driving into the CBD to commence a ride and I hit the roundabout at the base of Mt Coot-tha at about 6.00am.

I decided that time was on my side and I would do full circuits of the Mountain rather than just summits.

4 circuits anti clockwise and 2 clockwise latter I decided a river loop would be a good idea and I kicked off the year by putting 85 kilometers under my belt. However, I have to admit the last 15 were pretty ordinary.

It has been a 300 plus k week for me and included my first Cleveland, Wynnum/Manly adventure in 18 months (yesterday) and my first ever visit to the Mt Gravatt hill. (today) I also included a rest day last Monday (work induced) so all in all, I am pretty happy and feeling good.

I am aiming to be a little more disciplined in with my riding too, particularly when riding solo as I know I can somewhat lazy.

For example, on Tuesday I did a ride starting with a 25 minute warm up on the Nundah criterion circuit. I followed this with 2 rides byes to Nudgee Beach.

To keep my mind focused, I decided to ride a cadence of over 90 but less than 100 with an aim of keeping it at 90 or just above and a heart rate of 140 to 150 with an aim of sticking as close to 145 as possible. My idea was to simply adjust my gears to fit the parameters.

It was a great 90 minute workout; I really worked at an intense level without totally over doing it and rode a range of gearings due to a strong wind. However, I really have no idea if this type of training is actually of any use, however it provide me with some focus and kept my mind on the job.

I also managed to fit in 3 sessions on the rowing machine, 3 weight sessions (core exercises only) and 3 work outs with the punching bag. Add that to 300 plus kilometers on the bike including 5 Coot-tha’s and 3 Gravatt’s and I am pretty happy with what is easily my biggest week in over 18 months

In particular, I feel I am starting to get some sort of proper fitness back.

The motto for 2009 is ride with a purpose, even if that purpose is to catch up with friends and enjoy the coffee shop conversation afterwards.

I must now give some proper thoughts to goals for 2009.

Enjoy the coming week and do it safely.