Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Oh dear

Weather + Phd madness + World Cup + illness = I haven't been the most frequent cyclist!

I went out and did the Mt Pleasant loop a few weeks ago after zero riding for a few weeks and survived well enough. 55km/700m was a good start. But since then I've only gotten on the bike twice - one 30km/400m and Sunday's 65km/900m. Except Sunday's ride was awful. I felt really bad after an hour and forced myself to keep riding despite how I was feeling.

In hindsight I should have eaten more before I left home. I had two slices of toast and a banana with a mug of coffee, watched Brazil lose to Holland, and then headed off. You see the problem? The almost-two hour break between food and riding. No wonder I felt like absolute crap! I ate during the ride, but I suspect the damage had been done during the football! If I think about this enough then I feel OK about the Rapha Women's 100 that's on the weekend. But I'm also concerned that perhaps it will happen again next week during the ride! :(

Also I had hoped to have had completed a lot more PhD work before the Rapha ride so that I could go out and enjoy it. Instead I'm struggling with some of my data and long patches of writer's block. It will be a long day (getting to Collingwood, coffee pre-ride, the ride, coffee halfway, lunch at the end), and all I can think about now is how much time I'll not be writing.

Is this the awful ride playing funny-buggers or my PhD being dead serious?

Saturday, July 12, 2014


I don't normally write about my Sjögren's - it looks like I've only used the Autoimmune woes label once before. I was diagnosed with Sjögren's after I was having an extreme reaction to the apartment I first lived in when I moved to Sydney. I think the problem stemmed from the apartment being towards the back of the building, where the balcony faced the air vents of the building. There was small garden and a few base-level apartment courtyards between the vent and our balcony (and a few stories too), but it meant that regular de-dusting of the apartment was required. My flatmate had previously lived in an apartment at the front of the same building and had had a different issue there - lots of black deposits on her balcony and window edges thanks to the proximity of the Western Distributor meant she could never really open the windows or use the balcony.

After a while I found that I was having near-constant hayfever symptoms, and eventually suffering blood noses. The GP referred me to an Ear-Nose-Throat specialist who found I was allergic to dustmites (joy) and have elevated Antinuclear Antibodies. He burnt off a few of the capillaries in my nose and sent me off to a rheumotologist. After a bit more bloodwork I found out about the Sjögren's, which was the reason why I had relatively low tears (which had been noticed by optometrists in the past), a dry mouth (yes, I also have crappy teeth thanks to the reduced saliva), and a dry nose that was prone to bleeding if irritated (dustmites at this stage, but I had also developed an aversion to extreme airconditioning at this point).

The symptoms that affect me the most regularly are the dry eyes and mouth. I like to wear contact lenses when I'm cycling as I enjoy being able to just flick my head around and checking traffic. Doing this with glasses requires a more extreme Beetlejuice style of head-flick (I can't see clearly without my glasses beyond ~20cm), and I can get headlight-double-vision if the lights penetrate my lenses as certain angles. I also prefer to wear contacts when running, but tend to be lazier about this so will occasionally just wear my specs. But I can't wear the contacts for too long as my eyes just become irritated (incidentally my brother hasn't been able to wear contact lenses for almost two years now as he tore one of his corneas removing them one day and it's taken a while to heal - he wears sports goggles now and I still laugh at him when I see him on TV, as do my friends who go to his matches and know he's my little brother).

The dry mouth means that I am constantly thirsty - which means lots of visits to the toilet. It also means that I consciously try to stop drinking water before I go for a run, and perhaps having just a half-glass before I head out. I don't seem to have this problem when cycling, but it may be because my bike rides are longer are because I end up completely encrusted in salt by the time I go home.

Maybe not this salt-encrusted, but there are noticeable white patches on my face, legs and any other sections of exposed skin.
Image from here.

Melbourne has lately been windy, and thus dry. So the nosebleeds have returned. I put up with it for a couple of weeks hoping that the weather would sort itself out before I my nose annoyed me too much, but I gave up the other day. Or gave in - I'm back to sticking sesame oil up my nose, although a version that is sold at pharmacies for this purpose (aka Nozoil). I find it a bit messy to use - the initial bit's fine (sticking it up your nose), but soon after I have little bits of excess oil dripping out of my nose. If I'm especially unlucky, enough of it enters the back of my throat that I am overwhelmed by the taste and I start gagging. I'm worried that one day I will actually throw up, because my teeth are fantastic as they are let's add stomach acid to the mix! Woohoo!


In case you're wondering how I knew it was the apartment that was the problem - I moved out to a new place in Randwick (closer to uni) a little while later and my symptoms cleared up very quickly. My flatmate stayed at the Pyrmont place for another couple of weeks before she moved on overseas, so I would occasionally go back to catch up for dinner or pick up a few things, and in less than 15 minutes I'd have a runny nose and teary eyes.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A day out with the Fly6

The Rapha Women's 100 is coming up in a couple of weeks - I'm definitely not prepared for it, but I know that I'll get through the day as long as I get some riding in before then. I've spotted what the course could possibly be (thanks Strava) and I know I need to get some hills in.

I'm lucky that I can actually access quite a few local bumps on roads with bike lanes - this is important because I am crap at climbing. It's partly my 13kg bike's fault, partly my 80kg body weight's fault and partly my fault for not actually getting all that much climbing into my legs. So I've started to venture north-east from home towards Research and Kangaroo Ground. I like that I can get a 30km ride in with about 450m of climbing and not require the use of a car. I'm just riding on my own, which is why I am appreciative of bike lanes and roads with shoulders.

Of course riding alone has its downsides, but I think I'll generally be fine. In past group rides I have been the one who has dealt with other people's flats, provided spare tubes, and fixed random mechanical issues (although there has not yet been anything too serious). I may have encountered some arseholes on the road during Breeze group rides, but I've been lucky so far when riding alone. That did not stop me from ordering a Fly6 combined rear tail-light and camera on Kickstarter, and my first ride with it captured zero stupidity. While I notice that cars often give me space or hang-back until it's safe to overtake me (and I flick my right hand as a thank-you when I notice), the footage the Fly6 captured really shows that the traffic around me is often fantastic and that I don't thank nearly enough of them for being courteous and safe!

Even on roads which have bike lanes, I often have to claim the main lane due to the presence of parked cars, skips, and debris (Melbourne's recent windy weather dislodged a lot of branches of all sizes). Some roads have only a shoulder, although it's not always possible to ride in that as the surface quality can be, well, quite shit or have a severe cambre. I really enjoyed watching the footage the Fly6 captured on these occasions as most vehicles gave me heaps of room - even when I was in the bike lane.

Parked car up ahead so I sat a little out of the bike lane. Overtaking car gives me HEAPS of room. ❤❤❤

No shoulder on this road, and cars are still being nice despite the double-lines. ❤❤❤

Aren't they lovely? ❤❤❤

Super-crappy shoulder, but no pressure from the traffic. ❤❤❤

A different crappy shoulder, still lots of love on the road. ❤❤❤

I am clearly in the bike lane here, but this car still moves to the outside of their lane when overtaking! ❤❤❤

No bike lane here, but there's still plenty of space when overtaking. ❤❤❤

This Camry just sat behind me for this section of Williamsons Road. ❤❤❤

This was another lurker who waited until they could change lanes to overtake me. ❤❤❤

And lots of space was given when in the dooring zone. ❤❤❤

The Fly6 is not intended to be a sports camera, but I think the image quality is good enough to share on occasion. It was school holidays at the time, so it was great to see some kids out and about on their bikes despite the grey skies and chilly wind.

I can also share this climb - I really like separated paths when going uphill as I don't have to worry about how crap I am at climbing. The paths are especially loveable if they're pretty like this section that goes through Alan Morton Reserve in Park Orchards and runs adjacent to Park Rd.

And here's a yappy dog for good measure.