Race of Truth: Mixed Emotions

It has been described as the Race of Truth. The time trial in cycling is a unique blend of pain, fatigue, speed, rhythm, concentration, effort and satisfaction. It's probably a whole lots more as well, but this is what comes to mind after yesterday challenge.

Straight after the event I had mixed emotions. Satisfied I was reasonably well placed in 6th and with 1min 46sec to the winner, Cameron Meyer you could say not a complete disaster or platform from which to consider a future in this new sport.

From the view of a rower it was pleasing to see others like Amber Halliday do so well. I have to say it is no surprise though as her ability in rowing to perform at the highest level and have a great fighting spirit was always impressive. The new challenge of cycling has done her the World of good obviously and although I didn't see her after the event I am sure she would be like a little kid with heaps of energy not only for what's required and what she has done but what is ahead.

In the men's elite and U23 I have been really impressed with the standard of athletes. It's strange when I have been around high level competition in rowing for so many years and with the three Olympic experiences you get a feel for peoples abilities, charateristics and that somewhat invisible factor which set some athletes out from the crowd. What I have noticed and I appreciate it has been mentioned and reported, but what I love to see are some of the amazing young girls and guys with it all in front of them. It's inspiring and energising. I have felt it at times in rowing too, but with the new venture into cycling I guess it has really hit home how many great young athletes we have in this country. And that's not to limit it to them and the future that might await because I think it comes on the back of some amazing World class athletes who have forged the pathway. I won't or can't really mention names as most I don't know or I haven't meet them, but you feel it and when competing like yesterday it provides a direct contrast/comparison for me to be able to say it is exciting.

Yesterday was a challenge I can be honest. The event it's self is tough, but with 10min before the start I was even sure if I would be starting. Let me explain...

What has been the experience? Not long after riding on Sunday morning I started getting what felt like nerve pain in my right leg to the point where it was like I was being stabbed with a knife, or my veins were on fire. It got tot the point where it felt as if the muscle were being starved of oxygen. The strange thing is it doesn't just happen in one area of my legs. It was severe enough to force me to stop riding and stand in agony on the road waiting for it to pass.

This has happened for the last 4 days when trying to ride and even walking. Now I am happy to consider all the possible reason's why this might have been happening. First and most obvious is back related. The physio's and Doctor feel it is either nerve referral or something to do with the surgery site. Second is it could be something else underling in my system, something undiagnosed. And third well here the kicker I am happy to consider it just in my head. Ahhh I am crazy... Seriously though it has been a mystery and one that has happened before. On five other occasions twice months before Beijing and two other times early last year. Yes I did see a Doctor then but we never found out what it was. I have probably chosen to ignore it in part as it has come and gone in a flash other times.

Today I will be off to see another Doctor and I am now motivated to get to the bottom of the issue.

As for yesterday I make no excuses but share this to explain why I would have mixed emotions. Simply put I feel I can do much better. With out wanting to sound like an athlete always think I can do better. I guess in reality I just felt that I didn't do justice to the training and preparation that went into it. I always felt if I could go under 50min I would be really happy and if I was slower than 53min I would be disappointed. So to go 52min 34sec was at least with in that bandwidth although on the high side of preferred. Don't get me wrong I am in no way saying yesterday I could have gone better. Sure there might have been a few things but overall my performance stands and it is clear I am around the mark, but have plenty of work to do. As subjective percentages go I feel like over the last 12months I have managed to get myself back to a reasonable level. To think that last Christmas (2008) I was heading out first my first tentative bike ride and that after the games I thought that would be it for any form of competition. From this view I am over the moon about where I am at and the possibilities.

Now here is the big BUT...this whole experience has been great and even quiet selfish as I have put my family and work under huge stress and strain. The cost has not just been time and energy but financial and the worry is I do have the habit of becoming a little obsessive when it comes to perfecting a performance. This has a huge impact at home and combine this with trying to drop body weight and apparently I have been a bit grumpy. I say apparently because I was not noticing it but my wife, my darling wife, supportive, most wonderful person I know, the greatest of all time partner, friend, lover mentioned it a couple of times. Actually she said she almost dare mention it because I seemed so intolerant, frustrated and almost unfriendly at times. Who me? Well I can see it now and when it's costing money to pursue I really have to consider the reality of how to go forward.

The lure is this...

To be on the limit, physically, emotionally and mentally pushing to hold the line. The line between sheer agony and ecstasy is appealing. To be on the rivet as they say where the intangible and tangible intersect is unreal. The impossible just might not be and the possible becomes very late and old news. As I gasped for air yesterday during the back end of the course I felt the singe of personal pride, of cultivating a new field and of laying a foundation for something more. The road came alive each bump like a hurdle needing to be overcome. Each stone a challenge and yet with a change and uncanny trick of the mind it was also at times a blur, shocking and thrilling. Less like the fine gradient of experience and more a large overwhelming concept playing out around me, around us. This is the best way I can share or explain the experience.

If you have ever stood in front of something so large as to marvel in complete awe. Awe for the size, magnitude, impact, influence, unimaginable detail, scope of expression and down right humbling truth; for we are small. And yet large, larger than life at times. We have the capacity to produce amazing works of art, constructions, events, technologies and performances. And at any stage during, before or after these things can have us feeling inferior, small and insignificant. This might all seem some how very random, but yesterday I went through the full range of emotions. At stages I felt like I was flying. Zipping along a road with an ease of movement which was saying to me, go you good thing. Then in complete contrast I also experienced being in a hole. A whole World of hurt and a hole like the odd one on the road that no matter how I tried I was stuck in. Wheels spinning, running on the spot and getting nowhere fast feeling.

The Buninyong course is one interesting place. It's tough and challenging and I actually like it, but as it was said to me the morning of the event, "everyone one hurts here". The highs and lows are experienced by all. I am sure everyone out there yesterday went up and went down and like a raging ocean it can through you around. Even with 5km to go when racing down the decent of Gear Av I felt like I could simple be flipped off the bike. It was like riding a bull or a feathering surf board bouncing down a big wave. It's so vivid because just prior to taking the last left turn I realised how tight I was gripping the bar extensions. You could say it was a little like having a death grip.

A performance is just that it is a chance to bring out your best. You stand by your results and wear them for they are the moments others get to see what your made of. The cliche is there is always things we can learn and improve. That is the quest. I am sure everyone could go faster and as such I am in the same boat as they would say. I am satisfied to have presented myself and performed pretty well. As a novice I may have taken a step forward. Compared to past feeling of how I would physically feel my level is at I would say I am now back to about 80-85% capacity. Mentally though yesterday I feel I drew on many years experience to be able to even start.

Today I sit here and know I have paid a price, but to be able to get out there and take on a challenge after what I went through post Beijing is a huge reward. The guys who have been instrumental in assisting and supporting me have been, Jono Hall, Raoul Luescher & Dan Dwyer, plus the VIS team/staff which has presented its own challenges because I am between two sports. The question get's asked is he a rower or a cyclist? It is a valid one currently, but I will always be a rower and one who loves to cycle. The team at Malvern Star have been amazing with there support and Chris Renolds from Champion Systems with his support has been great. Raoul & Jess with the tailor made ZERO shoes came through as with size 15-16 feet it is hard getting a bike shoe. Through all this though it has been my family who have been the greatest support. My dad has been incredible and at times I have relied on him for guidance that takes us back to when I was very young. My wife and children have put up with everything and still love me. The risk of coming back to sport has been huge. I am no out of the woods, but there willingness to be with me, comfort me and share all the comes with being an athlete is something I am so grateful for. In fact I never really show them enough of what it means, but it has to be something that I do better at if I am to go forward with this. It brings a tear to my eyes to think about how hard it is for family when one part has an intense focus on something which can be disruptive and challenging. My wife said last nigh at least with a rowing race it was over in 6 min. Yesterday for her to wait for 50 plus min to see how I was going was agony.

What we do get from all this is an amazing bond and connection which has been well and truly tested not just over the last few months but during the recovery from Beijing and every build up we have had for major events.

From here I will see if we can get some answer about the medical side of things and if all clear I will be ready to race on Sunday in the road race. This will be very cool fun. Getting a chance to race in a field like this is something I look forward to. After the weekend there will be many discussion with all involved about where to next and the decisions that we need to make.

Initial feedback on TT was technically pretty good from Jono. Power was down from target by some 40watts which was no surprise. The SRM data came in at 409w av for the race. To put in perspective we have seen much better numbers over the last month and even a bunch ride saw 427w for an hour 15min three weeks ago. But from an aero stand point Raoul and Jono were happy with what we have achieved.  The critical nature of reviewing the prep and race will occur next week and then I will work out how far I can take it and am willing to pursue it with regards to family and work.

Also have to mention all the support through the blog it has been great to have so many positive comments from people about this. So thanks

Some links below may be of interest...

Cyclingnews Photo's

Cycling News Link

SBS Cycling Central


Olivia said…
Hi Drew

Have your doctors mentioned piriformis syndrome as a possible contributing cause of the nerve pain you mention in this post?

Sam G said…
Hi Drew

I understand the anxious wait - I too was closely watching for your results. You have done very well adapting to a new sport at an elite level in one year. Next year?
And as an ex lightweight rower I understand the hungry/grumpy side.


Gavin said…
Hi Drew,

When I saw your result I thought to myslef he should be pleased with that as you weren't far off.

As you've admitted you've still got lots to learn which is good as there's loads of areas for improvement.

I was unsure what point you were trying to make when you were bigging up the wide eyed youngsters.

I think an expereinced old dog who knows this is probably his last roll of the dice for an Olympics whether it be in cycling or a return to rowing can easily out trump the wide eyed youngsters.

You continue to be an inspiration in all that you do and the eloquence of how you present your musings.

Philippe said…
Stop moaning and start winning !!
We know you can do it,so bloody well DO IT !!

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