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Entries For: July 2009


Swimming comes to grips with technology, sorta

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Interesting to see how another sport copes with the influence of technology

It's been hard to miss this week, swimming's world record smashfest at the world championships in Rome.  Previous "nobodies" (sic) beating world marks set by famous swimmers.  Why? Swimming suits that reduce drag and increase buoyancy.

They (swimming) started down the slippery slope years ago, but it's finally become obvious that their records are now a farce.

Cycling addressed this issue quite a while ago to howls of derision by some, who still whine about it now.    There's really only one major record in cycling, and that's the Hour.  One hour, fixed gear, velodrome.  If you watched Graham Obree's semi-biographical film or read his book 'The Flying Scotsman' etc you'd remember.  How did Graham break the record? With a special narrow bike, less drag ... How did Chris Boardman break it again? With a bike designed 'On a Computer'.  Eventually the UCI said enough, and now the Hour must be set on a standard bike with standard bits and pieces and there's a separate section of the records that covers the fancy bikes used to set the hour record.  If you want to break the record now you have to do it at sea level on a standard bicycle.  So the Hour is a record that means something.  If you break it, you're actually faster than Merckx was and that's how it should be.

All the other cycling disciplines aren't really based on times, they're all relative (save for some track time trials), so as long as everyone has roughly equal budgets they're on a level-ish playing field.  Our sport coped with the issues swimming has blindly plunged into (who seriously didn't see this coming?!), it'll be interesting to see how swimming copes.  It's a pretty boring sport to watch, the only thrill is the breaking of a world record or seeing someone you're connected to do well, so how they cope with the records issue will be intriguing.


Mobile 'hands free' driving ... Don't Do It!

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There aughta be a law ....

In today's Age, something many of us already know ...


If you think you can drive safely when chatting on your hands-free mobile phone kit, then think again.

Mounting evidence reveals that hands-free mobile phone calls can significantly diminish your driving skills, in spite of claims to the contrary by equipment manufacturers.

It's not news, but it's a timely reminder.


The Griffith study concluded that “a driver’s sensitivity to prospective information about upcoming events and the associated perception and awareness of what the road environment affords may both significantly be degraded when simultaneously using a hands-free mobile phone”.


And of course, the phone companies and gadget floogers spin away ....


“Hands-free car kits allow the convenient and safe use of your mobile phone so you can maximise down time while driving,” Telstra says on its website.


10 points to Telstra, evil bastards.  Money, must make more money ....

Working with the DUCCs

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This morning we had our 6th DUCC squad session

The mighty DUCCs had their 6th racing skills session this morning at Blackburn.  We practiced chasing breakaways and everybody was happy!


Didn't get a new PB!

Well, sorta ...

Warming in the 'Haus I felt pretty flat, got a headache and generally still snotty and clogged up from this lingering 'flu.  The aim, 3 x 3 @ 185kg.  The result?  1 x 185kg, and only just!  So technically I got the PB, but I didn't get any reps or sets at it.  Will try again tomorrow if I feel ok.  I finished off with some light cleans and snatches so I felt like I'd done something at least ... Now off to Spin to see how that goes.  At this rate, pretty shabby, I bet!


Mother's got a brand new ... bar!

Replacement equipment, this time no cheap stuff.

The aboc PowerHaus now has some new gear.  We've got a set of wooden training plates, a pair of 10 kg calibrated Olympic bumper plates and a flash new barbell from the Australian Barbell Company. (There's differences between barbells? You bet there is .... quite a lot of different types and levels of quality.).  Just in time for two of the DUCCs to come over for their strength session tonight.  Merv's fixed the damaged one too, so now we have two barbells which means when there's four people in the 'Haus we can train more efficiently.

The old bar was damaged on Sunday when I was doing power cleans with it, dropping the bar from shoulder-height stripped the thread of one of the retaining bolts that holds the rotating sleeves on at the ends.  The short story is - Cheap Olympic bars are cheap and nasty, don't use them for Olympic lifts, they will fail!  They're fine for squats, deadlifts etc, but no good for dropping.


Broken barbells


I was just doing some warmup weighs before heading out to DISC this arvo, a set of warmup squats (12x20, 8 x 60, 5 x 100, 2 x 150kg) and then some power cleans.  My PC's are pretty feeble, I was only doing 6 x 60k, anyway, at the end of them I always check the retaining nuts on the end of my barbell, it sometimes comes loose when dropped.  One of them was looser than normal, hrm.  Tighten it with the 12mm allen key .. oh noes .. it's stripped!  No more weights today.  I'll either have to fix it, which isn't that hard to do if I can find the right tap and die set, or replace it.  I need another bar anyway, so I think I'll replace it.  Have to get it by Tuesday though, so we can do our lifting on time.




Some possible changes to how we run Sunday at DISC

I'm calling for feedback and suggestions for improvements

One of the guys writes :


Further to our Nando's chat...

Warmup/Scratch race. (WU/SCR)

1. At 4.55pm we announce that the WU/SCR shall commence in 5 minutes and all riders wishing to participate to meet on the fence in 5 minutes.

2. The length shall be 20 laps. The first 15 laps are under control - no attacks or surges. This means the people who just want to use it as a warmup will not be disadvantaged.

3. Everyone to be encouraged to use no more than 86" for the WU/SCR to even the field up. In fact you could almost set gearing according to strength in order to handicap the stronger riders. Like we used to do at Saturday Morning Race Skills.

Race Skills and Tactics

At the moment the emphasis of our DISC sessions is on fitness, strength etc. And rightly so at this stage of the year. I wonder if as we get closer to the race season we can introduce some race tactics drills. For example...

1. Keeping someone on your hip. S. Vaughan did this one with us last year when he took one of the sessions in your absence. It was a good one

2. Accelerating into the gap. This is a killer. I did it to John Lewis in the Kieran. Most people try to overtake the rider in front from right on their wheel.

3. Using the sprinters lane. When to hug the black line. When to come up to the red. (See point 1)

4. Gate starts. I've only done two in my life and the ITT is a target event. Craig's in a similar position

5. Kieran tactics. What to do when you have the motorbike. And when you are further back.
These are some things that have been thrown out for discussion.  We can always do better and improve our sessions.  YOUR feedback is wanted



Spin just keeps getting bigger

26 spinners (28 if you count myself and Nath!)

In a winter that keeps breaking records, we've just notched up our biggest Tuesday Spin Session yet.  It seems the harder we make the sessions, the more people come.  We had 28 in total last night, 5 sprinters and the rest doing various enduro streams and it was huge.  The Blackburn clubrooms are proving to be TARDIS-like, we can keep finding room for more spinners.  I'm glad I made a big bolla, it all went!  The A stream had 3/4 Tabatas to do and mostly survived intact, we haven't been able to break Tom Leaper yet, but next week, maybe ... We missed Andrew Jordan, and wish him all the best for a rapid recovery and also wish Bridgette Thomas good luck and good speed for the Vics this weekend.

We didn't have any takers for the Tuesday night Tour watching, but it was a school night.  Sitting at home watching it on the little TV afterwards Lucie and I were amazed and thrilled at the plays up the final climb and the stunning descent.  When Armstrong bridged up to the leaders after getting dropped ... wow!  Class.  Our last Tour night will be Ventoux, the beast.  This Saturday.  It should be brilliant.

This morning the mighty DUCCs trained at Blackburn and we worked on leadouts and started learning how to throw the bike, before finishing with a couple of 2 on 1's to get them thinking race tactics.  The weather was good, cold and a bit windy at first but it soon warmed up once the sun poked over the clouds and a good session was had by all.

Tonight most of the Sprint Squad will be over in the powerHaus for their usual Wednesday strength training session too, so as usual, it's all go at aboc HQ!


Everyone's got it?

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This damn 'flu!

Blergh.  Taking another enforced day off (difficult when self-employed).  Hurry up, immune system, and win this battle!


Being more coachable

Or avoiding the 'I know everything' syndrome

Remember when you were a teenager (or if you're younger than that, just put yourself in old-man-shoes for a few moments and bear with me!).  You knew everything.  Certainly.  What you did was perfect.  You were the best car driver in the world.  You knew all the tricks, all the facts, everything was perfectly clear and if anyone spoke to you about what you were doing, or dared to give you some advice or relate their own experience they were WRONG or out of line, you'd get angry, you'd tell them off, you'd rant on your blog/twitter/facebook page after fuming for days etc, what do they know?!

Then, when you grew up a bit, you began to slowly realise that you didn't know it all and that other people are worth listening to, and even seeking out, their experiences and ideas.  That the things you were so sure about maybe weren't cast in stone and a little bit of humility and grace began to be a part of your personality?  It's part of growing up.

Around cycling in particular (although I'm certain it exists in other sports and social groups as well) there's a particular breed who are still stuck in that adolescent (my apologies if you are an adolescent, although I don't think a lot of you read this blog, so I'm pretty safe!) mindset.  Defensive in their certainly that no-one can tell them anything.  Some of them have even coined a name for this unwanted discourse, they call it ADvice and they bandy it around like some sort of a badge of honour.  "Don't give ME ADvice, I know it all".  That's analogous to  "I'm a closed-minded fool who won't listen to anyone else's ideas or experiences, and I'm proud of it".  Yah, smart .. very.  When, for example, a world champion hands out a bit of advice on the discipline in which he's world champion at, that's damn valuable information.  Only a fool would cast it aside and be offended about it being freely given.

Mark Rippetoe wrote of his own experience (we all go through the phase, it seems) where he was training in a gym, and some old guy started to talk to him and make a few technique suggestions.  Mark was training like (and he'd say it himself now) a muppet, doing "silly bullshit".  He was sure what he was doing was the best.  But, he was very very wrong, and after he learned a bit more, came to the stunning (at the time for him) conclusion that he should learn to be more coachable.  Ie: learn to listen to the experience and ideas of others.  Sure, some (lots!) of it will be bogus, but some of it won't and being exposed to other ideas is never a bad thing.  We all need to get better at being coached, we all need to grow up a bit and learn to accept advice and experiences and ideas with grace and humility and to accept it in the spirit in which it is intended - as help and support and interest.  Remember, no-one knows it all and ideas and suggestions are valuable, even if the ideas themselves aren't terribly useful sometimes.

We all think what we're doing is the best way to do something (or we wouldn't be doing it that way, right?) but then, often it isn't, and that's when we get to improve.  Closing our minds to suggestions and ideas from others is stupid and immature and taking offence at the same is the sort of adolescent behaviour that we should all try and grow out of.  Being given advice isn't something to be threatened by, it's an opportunity to learn something new or different and it's given by people who take an interest in the progress of others.  Be one of the people that learns things, not one of the ones that knows it all.



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This time, for sure... or something damn similar to it anyway ...

Green lumps, cough cough gargle.

Spit, sneeze, cough, splutter.

Moan, whinge, sook!

Must get better soon ... Immune system, do thy job, post haste!


Belated thankyou

The Apolitos brought back some goodies from their trip

I'd like to thank Dino, Ann and Emily Apolito, they brought back some goodies that they gave to me from their trip overseas - including an aboc Sprint Squad t-shirt!.


I've just put together the 13th spin session program for this winter, the A stream riders get their first full Tabata interval session.  The rest of the A stream for that evening is easier than it would be normally, but the Tabatas are sufficiently brutal that I don't think any will complain.  We'll fine-tune these as we progress and any feedback is much appreciated.

I've still got lingering and unpleasant flu-cold symptoms, so may not be able to train much for the remainder of this week - generally coughing up lumps isn't considered compatible with training.  Still ... these things are temporary and I'll be better soon.  I'm consistently repping out 180kg squats now, and did a set of 160kg deadlifts on Wednesday in the 'Haus, so that's not too bad, and on Tues at Spin I got a 1440 watt effort, which considering I'd just squatted sets of 180kg and was (and am!) crook, I'm happy with.  Last winter that would have been a PB, so being able to grind that out when tired and unwell is a good sign for this coming summer.

The 'Haus has been busy this week too, I've had the Sprint Squad, some of the DUCCs and a few friends over as well.  Teaching them Rip's squat.  I think they'll be moaning today.  DOMS is an old friend we know well!


Another huge night at Spin

Despite a few regulars being unable to make it ...

Last night's Spin session had another big turnout, 23 brave souls attended and we missed a few regulars who couldn't make it.  The sprinters had a strength and power set to do, and the enduros had the usual mixed bag of intervals.  The A stream had their first crack at Tabata intervals.  They only had to do one half-Tabata (2 minutes) but that did enough to result in a few suggesting that they needed a rest afterwards - and they do! 

They'll be doing 3/4 Tabatas next week and the week after, full 4 minute Tabatas, but as we incorporate more of that stratospheric intensity stuff we'll have to reduce the volume, so the A stream will be finishing early when we do that stuff, it's simply too hard to recover from and get any sort of quality out of the remaining time.

As usual Nathan did a great job taking the warmup while I did the sprint stream, banging elbows with Dino, and then we switched over so he got some enduro work in while I took over the megaphone for the rest of the evening.  We finished with the traditional spag boll and Nath's wife had made us a bunch of very yummy chocolate brownies which were rapidly vaporized by the hungry riders. 

Tonight some of the Sprint Squad are heading over to the powerHaus for more strength work and this morning we had the DUCCs at the Blackburn velodrome doing race skills. It's all go at aboc HQ this week!

The track PowerTap is coming

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We've got one of the first of the new generation PowerTaps with a track bike hub coming

There won't be many of these around.  Rich Sawris from has designed and made an updated adapter for the new current generation PowerTap hubs to work with track bikes.  He made one up for the early wired PowerTaps (Liz Randall has one) but the newer designed hubs needed a radically different setup.  We've got one of the new ones on order.  These are not currently available from the Australian PowerTap distributor (Trek Australia) which is unfortunate so we're having to get it from Rich.

It will be laced to an Edge Composites 68 clincher rim.  This is so we can quickly and easily swap the wheel from use at DISC, where we'll have a Veloflex Record on it, and at Blackburn or any other outdoor track where we'll run a more robust and generic road tyre.  The Edge 68 is a really stiff and aero rim, not the lightest around, but not a clunker, so it'll be usable for racing as well as training.  Not a cheap bit of kit, it's going to end up costing around $2,700 I think, all up, but a very useful piece of training equipment.  It's around half the cost of an SRM track setup and a lot faster to switch between bikes.   It will be available for hire when we have it.


Le Tour

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Last night was our first Tour on the Big Screen Night (TotBSN!)

We're running 4 Tour de France watching nights at Blackburn this Tour, as I was lucky enough to stumble onto a projector that could be convinced to work without too much expense and Lucie has a screen and my lappy gets SBS2.  Last night was our first.  Lucie's struck down with a bug, so it was just me rolling up with a carload of popcorn, fruit, nuts, laptop & projector etc.  Fortunately, Stew Lucy was there and gave me a hand to set everything up.  Thanks Stew!

We were a bit nervous, Blackburn has a history of not running these sorts of things with great attendance and despite my asking a few times, no publicity had gone out on the Blackburn mailing list (if they don't know, there's no way they'll go). Stew and I settled in to watch it on our own, but we were soon not alone!  A total of 7 brave souls came along and ate fresh real popcorn, heckled Graham Gate from Airport West, moaned about the laptop screen saver misbehaving at inopportune moments and saw a great attack by Alberto and some disciplined team riding by Lance when it happened.  A very entertaining evening with some great bike racing, and no Sniff and Stiff ads this year! Woo Hoo!

A pretty good night!  The next one is on the 19th.   Details here. We'd love to see a few more come along.  $5 gets you all the popcorn you can eat and I promise not to do any more hand puppet stuff when Graham Gate poses at Southbank.  Maybe ...

How a coach can interact with riders

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We can all improve at how we interact with eachother.

Sometimes, when coaching, I forget that it's not all about me.  The role of a good coach is, as well as all the program design, training planning and preparation and sorting the myths from the Stuff That Works, is to be very good at interacting with the people who've chosen a coach as their coach. 

It's a big responsibility.  As a coach, I have, for example, somewhere between 10 and 30 riders (depending on how you count them!) who've chosen me as part of their team to achieve their goals.  This means that I have 10-30 people to manage in a way, but each of them only has one career.  I expect that they've chosen me because they trust that I will do my best to be part of their team to help them achieve their goals. It's important, as such, to take the time to listen to them.  For example, our Spin sessions.  Riders don't come to our training sessions to hear about my latest squat effort or what I did yesterday, they're there to have a solid session that's tailored to their goals and to go home afterwards feeling positive about what they did at the session and about the people they trained with.

How do I know what their goals are? I have to ask them, sometimes coaxing them to talk more about what they want, how they feel and so on.  Sometimes it's like pulling teeth, other times it's hard to get a rider to not monopolise my time by chewing off my ear when I have lots to see to!  Finding the right balance here is tricky and we can all do better at it and it's important to keep fine tuning how we approach running training sessions.  As a coach I have to avoid the temptation to think I'm some sort of a celebrity.  Yes, I'm in front of 20 or so people at a spin class and they're all doing pretty-much what I tell them to do, but that doesn't give me cart blanch to expound on my latest adventures, even if it's very tempting.  I try to make a point of celebrating riders achievements but we all occasionally slip into the trap of thinking that because we're centre-stage that we're the important person present.  I know I'm not, or a least, I try very hard not to be.  I know I don't get that right every time, but it's something I'm very conscious of, and my friends know me well enough that they know they can tell me to pull my head in and I won't take it personally and that I'll respect them more for doing so.  At least, I hope they know that!  If you're reading this, and you know who you are, I think you know you can tell me when I'm out of line and I won't be offended or hurt by it! I'll probably even shout you lunch or something for doing me the favour.

My blog, my facebook stuff etc, that's where I can whack off about what I've been doing and am doing etc, but that's not appropriate at a Spin or DISC session etc, that's where the emphasis is on encouraging and developing riders and celebrating their successes.  Sometimes also people need to be told that something they're doing isn't being done as well as it could be, but again that has to be done in an encouraging way.  "That's no good" is not a good way to develop an athlete.   We need to identify the positives in something a rider is doing and work on improvements to the things that need improving in such a way that it doesn't offend or demotivate the athlete we work with.  Some athletes like a "that's rubbish, do it this way" approach but they're rare, most appreciate (and thus, come back again for more!) a more considered approach.   We all get it wrong sometimes but I think it's a good thing to consider regularly and to be constantly vigilant against falling into the traps of "I know it all" and "I'm the Star".


Banning bottled water!

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Totally off-topic, totally GOOD!

In today's Age, the NSW government has banned all departments buying bottled water, and a town has banned it altogether.

Brilliant!  Sanity!  Bottled water is an evil triumph of marketing and waste over sanity.

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