Category Archives: focus

Getting serious about training

I am starting to get a little anxious about training. In the past my only training has simply been to ride and then ride some more – with a little stretching.  And on longer rides there has always been an element of riding yourself into better shape. I accept that. But with my current work and travel schedule my riding comes in spurts.  I am home for three weeks and try to ride a lot. I am then away for two weeks and don’t get on a bike. I also don’t go on every ride I should. I was going to go on a ride this morning but missed the call to say when it was starting and before I knew it I hadn’t lifted my head from the computer for four hours and it was lunch time.

And then today I got a message in my inbox advertising fitness courses at a club I belong to. I typically delete these things without reading them. But today I read it. It was offering a number of courses, such as:

BODY TONING & STRETCHING – Helps strengthen muscles, joints, ligaments as well as the cardiovascular system, where stretching helps maintain flexibility.  These exercises will help prevent neuro-degenerative disease and muscle tension, and will increase blood circulation throughout the body.

Wow! But regardless of the excessive and questionable claim of preventing neuro-degenerative disease, would it be useful? I may change the habits of a lifetime and join a fitness class. Will I have to wear a neon colored leotard? I’ll let you know how it goes.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania



Sorry to be late

Sorry I have been silent for so long. I have been away on holiday for almost a month and have just returned to Tanzania. But I am now back at work and the kids are back at school. Time to think about bikes again.

While I was away I visited a few bike shops on the off chance that something that hadn’t come up during my research would jump out and say ‘buy me’.  But it didn’t happen.  So, after looking at a dozen or more options and seriously considering three, I have decided to get the Genesis croix-de-fer . It is the closest to what I have been thinking of and nobody has suggested it is a bad idea.

I have now been in touch with a bike shop in the UK that I have used often in the past and asked them to see what they can do for a full bike plus spares package. Hopefully it will all be set up and with me by the end of September so that I can put a few miles on it before the TdA starts.

All of a sudden January doesn’t seem that far away. I have now sent in almost all of my forms and other paperwork to the good folks in Toronto who run the TdA. I am sure they try to keep bureaucracy to a minimum but there is still a fare bit of bumph:1) RIDER CONTRACT; 2) RIDER RELEASE; 3) HEALTH AND FITNESS QUESTIONNAIRE; 4) RIDER INFORMATION; 5) NEXT OF KIN INFORMATION; 6) INSURANCE INFORMATION; 7) TOUR INFORMATION; 8) BICYCLE INFORMATION; 9) FUNDRAISING INFORMATION; 10) GETTING TO KNOW OUR CLIENTS FORM; 11) RIDER QUESTIONNAIRE; 12) PHOTO AND TEXT FOR THE TdA WEBSITE; 13) COPIES OF PASSPORTS.

It is now time to start compiling lists of all the other things I will need. I can’t wait. When will I have time to ride my bike?

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

Bums or Clocks

Do you chase bums or clocks? I am not a racer. But I do check my performance today against my performance yesterday and the day before.  It helps to motivate and it gives a sense of achievement. If I know it took me 13 minutes to get up a certain hill the last time I rode it and only 12 minutes today, I am happy – even if somebody’s grandfather left me standing half way up. So I look at the clock, but not only the clock. I also enjoy riding with a group because I often find that somehow I ride better with a group. So what drives better performance? Riding against the clock and pacing yourself to challenge your personal best? Or chasing the bum in front, that is, riding with a group and working to support and push a pace?

In a fascinating article in the July/August issue of Walrus (“Racing Against Time” www. ) Alex Hutchinson looks at recent research into what drives best performance. In the past, performance was evaluated in relation to physical capacity and limits. Training was designed to increase capacity and limits and improvement was measured against the clock. Race strategy was based on performing at the edge of your limits so you could achieve the best time possible based on your capacity.  The limits to capacity were understood by measuring when and to what extent muscle, heart and lung performance began to drop off. This drop off was understood to be a purely physical phenomenon.

As Hutchinson points out however, new research, much of it lead by a physiologist named Tim Noakes who runs the University of Cape Town’s Exercise Science and Sports Medicine Research Unit and who Hutchinson characterizes as ‘a controversial exercise physiologist whom some peg as the greatest of his generation,’ suggests the mind is an equally important player. In the article we follow the Canadian marathon runner Reid Coolsaet as he attempts to meet the qualifying time for the London 2012 Olympics. The Olympic qualifying time is 2:11:29. This is new territory for Coolsaet. He has trained hard to achieve a pace of 3:05 per km over the 42.2 km race. His race strategy is to set and maintain that pace.

The race is the 2011 Toronto marathon. The field includes several Kenyans and Ethiopians capable of running 2:05 to 2:08. The night before the race Coolsaet goes to his coach and says he wants to throw the plan away and run with the leaders. He does and comes third, well under the Olympic qualifying time; and this included a stop at 22km to take a dump.

What Noakes’ research has discovered is that performance limits are not purely physical. When you chase the clock, the mind closes down effort before the muscles are damaged. But with the added motivation of living competition the mind will alter the thresholds and enable more effort.

So my hope is that riding with the rest of the Tour d’Afrique riders will provide the extra motivation to pass the EFI threshold. One can always hope.

A Long Way to Go

I am sitting at my desk trying to do some work. I was going to say ‘real’ work but I am not sure what that means any more – at any rate, work that I get paid for. But I am having trouble concentrating. It’s all too easy to flip over to google and look for another Tour d’Afrique blog from years past. I have read through quite a few of these in the last week or so – and there are some very good ones. I know it is only June and the ride doesn’t start until next January. I know there is a long way to go between now and then. I know I need to focus on ‘work’ work. So perhaps it is a good thing that the water pump broke this morning and we have no water in the house. It brings you back to now. Organise the fundi to come and make the necessary repairs. Make sure it happens. Feed the dog. Back to my desk. I will focus.