It's that time of year again! Every December, Australia's professional female cyclists get together at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra to prepare for a new season.
Here at the AIS we can find the most advanced facilities in the world at our fingertips. We can access and utilize all of the services required to obtain optimal physical and psychological benefits.
After stepping off a plane from Italy less than 24hrs ago, it was an early start to the day and due to jet-lag I was wide awake at 5am! I jumped out of bed, ironed some clothes and repacked my bag for another trip. This time it was just a short trip to Canberra for a few days. By 7.30am I was out pedaling along the expressway enjoying the beautiful weather, a nice change from the low 2-4 degrees which I'd experienced last week in the Italian Dolomites. I turned around after 30 minutes of easy pedaling and headed home for a quick shower before preparing the car for my short road trip. The TOMTOM (Navigation System) was set up - just for the novelty of a new toy - my iPod songs were queued up, the fuel tank was full and the bag of Chico's and a RedBull were accompanying the seat beside me - all set!
Noon - I arrived at the AIS residence and checked myself into my room, just a single bed in a small room with a desk, sink, fan and a fridge. Each block has several communal bathrooms only a small flight of stairs away. My bags are now unpacked neatly into my new wardrobe and I'm off to lunch. Anyone who has been to the AIS residence will tell you how awesome... and dangerous the dining room is. The food variety, quality and quantity is absolutely fantastic. Today I'll have only fruit for lunch.
3pm this afternoon was our formal welcome meeting. We took this opportunity to reflect on the 2006 season and to suggest and discuss any future improvements that could be made in order to enhance the performance of our national development and professional's program.
Present at this years camp are the following athletes: Kate Bates, Natalie Bates, Olivia Gollan, Hellen Kelly, Alexis Rhodes, Emma Rickards, Oenone Wood and myself. The introduction meeting was headed by Warren McDonald (women's national road cycling coach), Keven Tabotta (cycling's national high performance manager) and Dave Martin (Australia's guru sports scientist).
We now have our camp schedules which look quite complex; some say you need a degree to comprehend them! After 30 minutes of studying the graphs, I've managed to interpret my personal schedule for tomorrow - it looks like a busy day!
8am: Individual training
10am: Shoe/cleat placement
10:15am: Doctor/medical check up
11am: Olympic team clothing fitting
1:30 - 2:30pm: Physiotherapy screening/treatment
2:30 - 4:30pm: Biomechanics/road/track bike setup
4:30pm: Physiology/haemoglobin mass test
5:30 - 6:30pm: Dave Martin lecture/normalized power
It's now 6:30pm Monday night and my body is starting to struggle with the Jet-Lag so I'm off for an early dinner, 30 minutes on the rollers, a good stretch and then straight to bed!
6am and I was wide awake listening to a herd of athletes exit their dorms and trotting down the stairs - if you were a permanent resident here you would definitely need a good set of earplugs! I entered the dining room with a plan to eat a small bowl of cereal before heading out for a ride. I saw the tray of golden brown fluffy pancakes and couldn't refuse them, nor did I want to! I enjoyed my five pancakes while watching a little news on the big flat screen TV and I'd occasionally observe the daily routines of the other athletes from many other sports. Coffee was popular, there was always a gathering around the machine and I saw one lady return three times in 20 minutes!
I was out riding by myself at 7am and it was absolutely freezing! My fingers and toes were numb and my heart rate was up around 180bpm... trying to keep warm! It was nowhere near as cold as the weather in Northern Italy but at least I was dressed appropriately over there - in snow gear rather than in tight lycra! I headed towards Sydney on the Federal highway for an hour and then turned around and returned to the AIS ten minutes faster than my ride out, so I unfolded the rollers in my dorm and finished off with 10 minutes of spinning.
My first appointment for the day was with an AIS doctor, Karl Bryant. I had a regular check up and we also discussed details of an illness which I'd had earlier in the year. As the doc was taking my heart rate and blood pressure he asks, have you already been training this morning? I said yes - why? His response was no surprise, “your heart rate is 70bpm and your blood pressure is 150/100. We better check it again this evening once you've recovered!”
Next was an Olympic team fitting session, it's a standard procedure that takes about one hour twice a year, either for the Commonwealth Games or for the Olympics. Any riders being targeted or considered for these teams will be required to do the fittings. I've actually been fitted for Sydney and Athens without gaining final selection, even though the fitting sessions are no type of selection confirmation, they do tend to give you the goose bumps and extreme motivation. The Adidas clothing I tried on today fitted well and the materials were beautiful, very comfortable and breathable.
On the way back to my dorm I snuck into the lab and borrowed some tools to attach my Speedplay cleats to my new custom Nike shoes, they're now ready for the biomechanics session this afternoon.
Before lunch I made a visit to the AIS library where I received my “Survival around the World” cook book by Louise Burke and other accomplished AIS nutritionists. While I was there I burned DVD copies of my 2002, 2003 and 2004 scratch race world championships and also the Commonwealth Games races for review and analysis.
Lunch was a hot chicken and vegetable wrap - Yum!
1:30pm was a physiotherapy screening with Karin Stephens. Karin ran through some physical tests before thoroughly assessing my body from head to toe. It wasn't long before Karin had identified the cause of my lower right back tightness - it had developed due to an overly tight Piriformis (located between the hip and backside). We commenced treatment immediately and managed to temporarily increase my range of motion, which will hopefully in time, if regularly treated, prevent my lower back from firing/contracting when it's not necessarily needed!
2:30pm Biomechanics with Brian Mclean. Brian loves me (sarcasm) because I always arrive with something new, different and most often very fiddly! Brian spent the first 30 minutes taking measurements from my Pinarello road and track bikes, comparing them to my previous measurements which he had on record. We then spent about 40 minutes setting up my new Nike shoes. We were using the same cleat position which Brian had on record but the positioning of Speedplay cleats is very difficult to duplicate from shoe to shoe. Brian likes to be precise and with his experience, knowledge and scientific nature - he certainly is precise - to the very millimetre! The actual bike set-ups only took 30 minutes. We moved my road saddle forward and down, the bars/stem were shortened and dropped down a centimetre. My track bikes' seat position and reach were perfect.
I was late to arrive at my next appointment, a hemoglobin mass test. I can't explain to you what this test is exactly because I'm not really sure! I breathed a combination of oxygen and carbon-monoxide through a chamber whilst my blood was frequently taken from my finger. That's all I can tell you, I will receive the results and relevant information tomorrow.
5:30pm was the last meeting for the day! Dave Martin with a slide show full of diagrams, tables, graphs and equations that went flying over the heads of most of us - those of us who didn't score over 99 in our HSC! Even if Dave didn't further our knowledge in whatever area he was attempting to, he did manage to send us away with sore abdominal muscles from laughing and with another great story to tell!
7pm Dinner: Meat stew and rice. Hot chocolate.
8pm Diary data entry.
9pm: Shower, stretch and sleep!
6:30am: Blood test (Fasted). I woke early again and was the first over to the lab for bloods, just a routine blood check.
7:30- 8.30am: Easy Spin.
9.30am: Individual meeting with Warren McDonald. Wazza and I evaluated the past season, the positives and negatives- and then we discussed how we could make improvements for the future. It was also a great opportunity to finalise my race schedule for 2007 in conjunction with my new team Menikini-Nobili. We've heard exciting news that David Short has been appointed the AIS Women's coach; this will allow Warren McDonald to concentrate all of his time and efforts into the Australian ‘professional' women. It's a very positive step in the right direction for the future of our younger riders and also for the athletes targeting Beijing.
10-11am: Massage. One of the deepest massages I've ever had! I was a little worried as I was off to Sydney in the afternoon for some track racing - I felt like I'd just raced!
11am: Training the mind - sports psychology: My first ever psychology session was particularly motivating and I felt it was very productive and definitely beneficial. I guess you could put this feeling down to the fact that the psychologist was Rosie, a well known AIS psychologist who I had the advantage/privilege of meeting for the first time - outside of the office.
12:30pm: Pilot fighter insight seminar: This was one of those one hour seminars where the speaker has so much to share and offer in such a short period of time that there's no time for questions or comprehension. This top Australian fighter pilot is as elite in his field as we are in ours, he just seems to have a lot more pressure and responsibility to deal with. It was amazing to realize how similar the preparation both mentally and physically is for cycling as it is to how an army fighter pilot trains to avoid being shot down during battle. I guess being a professional or being successful in or at anything always shares the same principles for achieving. It was an interesting and inspiring tutorial!
1:30pm: Nutrition: 30 minutes one-on-one with a nutritionist to review current eating habits and to make adjustments if needed. I need to substitute my cereal and white bread for low GI options, and also increase the number of meals from three up to four or five smaller meals a day. It's not rocket science!
2pm: Where's my car? It's time to hit the road and head back to my place at Stanwell Tops, the drive should take 3 hours. Then I'll have just 10 minutes there before leaving for the track - Wednesday night club racing.
7pm: Track racing: I won the first heart-starter against the B grade men, it was all down hill from there... by 11pm I was home battling severe chest and kidney pain, 4am Thursday (on my birthday) I was admitted to Wollongong hospital.
I'm submitting this report from the Cardiac ward at Wollongong hospital and hope to be home for Christmas, I'll promise you an update on my condition and some warm Christmas wishes before Santa visits next Monday!