Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Product Review: Chia Pods (Mango)

Superfoods and surfing - what an awesome combination! No wonder I was powerless to resist when I saw the new ad on TV for Chia Pods being endorsed by surfing superstar Kelly Slater...!!

Buy whatever this man tells you to buy!!  ;-)

OK, well maybe I'm not that easily sucked in.  But the ad did enough to peak my interest.  I'm always interested in new things to try, and these new Chia Pods looked like they might be worth a swing past my local supermarket for a test run...

What is Chia?

Chia is a seed, and lays claim to being a superfood due to relatively high levels of Omega 3, fibre and protein compared to other plant-based foods. A quick google search shows its a huge favourite amongst health and diet personalities.

Does that mean its great and deserves its 'superfood' status? Well, I'm not a nutritionist, so you need to do your own research there.  But it does appear to at least be a nutritionally sound food that you could safely add to your diet.

What's a Chia Pod?

So onto the focus of this review!!  Chia Pods are a pre-prepared bowl of Chia seeds, mixed with coconut milk and (in my case) mango pulp for flavour.  When I ducked into my local supermarket, they also had banana flavour and vanilla bean flavour.

The Pods come as convenient single-serve bowls, and include a surprisingly sturdy orange spoon to eat it with.  Pop off the lid, and you are greeted with, well, I'm not sure how to describe it - so here's a picture:

Looks like, ummm, mango chia?

It looks a lot like a chia seed pudding.  The smell was definitely one of mango, but what made me happy was that its a very natural mango aroma - definitely not fake mango (which can be pretty distinctive!).

How does it taste?

More important than anything is the taste. Life's too short to suffer through inedible foods, no matter how good they are for you!  There are plenty of tasty and healthy snack options out there, so any new products need to hit the flavour mark.

The moment of truth... Incoming!

Let's get this out of the way first - I really, really liked the Chia Pod. Yummy, delicious, tasty. A double thumbs up from me!

Its a difficult texture to describe. It is definitely light, maybe a bit gel-like. Perhaps a little like tapioca, but in texture not taste.

The chia seeds themselves are very bland. They are one of those foods that are a great carrier of flavour without having any themselves.  So my mango-flavoured Chia Pod had a very pleasant, light mango taste. Very easy and enjoyable to eat.

Nutritional Info

For those that love their numbers - my mango Chia Pod had 149 calories.  This was made up of 9 grams of fat (including 3g of Omega 3 and 1g of Omega 6), 13g of carbs (including 11 g of sugar), 6g of fibre and 3g of protein.  A full analysis can be found here.

The Final Word

A small snack without too many calories that tastes great - all good.  But the best thing about this product is its incredibly simple ingredients list - chia seeds, coconut milk, and mango. That's it, nothing else. For me, that elevates it above many other 'convenience foods' that have added sugars, flavours and preservatives.

The only pressure point for this product is the price.  I paid $3.60 for my Chia Pod at my local Woolworths supermarket.  Not cheap, and possibly expensive depending on your budget.  If money is no object, then buying this is a very easy decision.  If you are on a tight budget - then use this as inspiration for buying bulk chia seeds and trying to 'make your own' at home!

The Final, Final Word!

Thumbs up!  Buy it and try it - you won't be disappointed.  Makes a fantastic mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack that is genuinely good for you.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

A February Challenge... #everydayfeb

Its been almost two months since my criterium-racing accident, and so its been almost two months since I've done any meaningful exercise.  This simply won't do!

If I wait until I can actually get cycling properly again, a few months will have passed of inconsistent training and I won't have made any meaningful gains.  Common sense therefore dictates that I need to expand my repertoire to include other activities.

A challenge is born...

So for the month of February, in an effort to start getting back into an exercise and training mindset again, I'm setting myself a challenge - do some sort of exercise or physical activity every day for the month of February.

This activity really can be anything - cycling, running, power-walking, stretching, squats, planks, yoga, gym-work, long walks with the dogs, mountain-biking - pretty much anything that will have a positive effect on my body (and mind).

To keep myself honest and accountable, I'm going to tweet what I do each day with the hashtag #everydayfeb.  If I was smarter and wittier, I could think of something catchier. But I'm not, so I haven't...  If you think of something better, please don't tell me - it'll simply highlight my deficiencies in this regard...!!

Love love love this ad - it'll be my inspiration for #everydayfeb

Feeding the challenge...

As part of this month, I'm going to put some extra focus on clean, healthy eating.  I do eat pretty well normally - plenty of fruit and vegetables, lean meat a few days a week, not too much refined sugar or processed food - but I'll be aiming to raise it a notch and be a little more conscious of what I am eating.

I'm not going to be fanatical about it.  But I'll stick with my general principles and use this to support my #everydayfeb activity.

Baseline stats

I weighed in this morning at 84kg.  That's 3kg above what I was when I had the accident two months ago, and around 5kg more than I really want to be.  So I'll be aiming to slowly and gradually bring my weight back down to where I want it.

Let's go!

Feel free to join me.  Adjust and alter the challenge to include/exclude whatever you like, come up with your own goals and activities, and start the journey with me.  Best of luck, and let's see where this takes us...!!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Diagnosis & Prognosis...

Its hard being a cyclist when you can't ride your bike.  Missing the beautiful summer months has been very difficult - both mentally and physically.  So what exactly was the injury that has kept me off the bike so long...??

Obviously, as previously posted, I came a gutser on the last lap of a criterium in early December.

The emergency doctors were a bit surprised at the amount of damage I'd done, and were saying that the injury was presenting more like a motorbike accident! I did point out that I'd been racing though, which probably accounted for some of that.

The main concern on the night of the injury was that my shoulder was, well, growing! It noticeably swelled, even while in Emergency.  The doctors were a little concerned, and so they kept me in overnight to make sure I was ok.

I went home the next day, with an appointment slip for surgery in my hand. They'd be plating the distal fracture in my left clavicle.

Surgery

Two weeks later, surgery day came along at Royal Brisbane Hospital (RBH).  I must have been pretty out of it during the consults in Emergency, as it was only now I discovered the extent of the injury.

I got wheeled into the pre-theatre waiting area, and one of the surgeons came out to see me for a chat:

Surgeon: So you understand the plan for today?
Me: Yep - plate up the collarbone...
Surgeon: Well, that's not entirely right...
Me: Uh, what??

So as it turns out, the broken clavicle was only of secondary, minor concern to the doctors.  The main issue (by far) was that I'd pretty much shredded some of my shoulder ligaments, which meant the bones had 'popped up' and needed to be drawn back into place.

To do this, they basically needed to use what they call 'tight-rope', wind it around the bones, and tighten them back up under tension.  The clavicle would only be plated if they could do this first, main part successfully.

I was caught a little off-guard by all this - but no point dwelling on it, the surgery needed to be done!  After a chat with the anaesthetists ("wow, another cyclist - I think every patient today is a cyclist...!!"), I was wheeled in, knocked out, and rebuilt...

Recovery

My only point of comparison was my first shoulder break a few years ago.  The recovery post-surgery this time - even though the injury and surgery was much more serious - has been appreciably better and quicker.  I had much more movement in my shoulder, and the pain (after the first few days) was much less.

I was on Endone (oxycodone) for the pain, but managed to ditch that after a week or so.  It was fantastic stuff, but I don't like using pain meds so was happy to be able to get off it relatively quickly.

Post-surgery follow-up

I headed back into the RBH at two weeks & six weeks post-op.  All the dressings and staples were removed at the two week mark, which was a relief to get done (and surprisingly painless too!).  Unfortunately, I was instructed to keep using my sling until the next visit.

At the second visit 4 weeks later, I had x-rays done. The surgeon was extremely happy with how the bones were healing, and with the free movement I had in the shoulder.  I was then handed over to the physio for a brief chat about some initial exercises to do for a couple of weeks - I needed to take it easy, particularly while the muscles were a bit wasted.

What's next?

Next steps now involve physiotherapy.  I do have another follow-up visit with the surgeon in a month or so, but that's more just a precautionary check-up to ensure nothing has gone wrong.

The physio (from the last post-op visit) has said I can start back on a stationary windtrainer again once we tick over into February. Although she did say that was only if I managed to not fall off that too...  ;-)

I'm not a huge fan of using trainers.  I have a magtrainer I bought second-hand when I was injured last time, but I only used it a few times.  Since then though, the Sufferfest videos have emerged - so I might buy a couple of those and give it another whirl...

I'm desperate to get back on the bike again, but am committed to making sure I follow the advice from the surgeons and physiotherapists to get the best long-term outcome.  But hopefully that will mean sooner rather than later!!








Monday, 20 January 2014

Tour Down Under 2014 - preview & predictions

The Tour Down Under (TDU) is far from the most prestigious event on the international cycling calendar, despite its status as one of the top tier World Tour events.  But for Australian cycling fans, it is held dear as our own little Tour de France.

Being in the 'wrong hemisphere' means as cycling fans we are used to viewing the professionals while trying not to fall asleep on our couches. We have to try and not cheer too loudly either, as the rest of the house is fast asleep...

As a result, and due to its placement during the summer school holidays, the TDU is hugely popular here. Many fans make a pilgrimage to Adelaide, the capital of the state of South Australia, while others enjoy watching the racing with the sun still up.

The Race Itself

The TDU is a 6 stage race in South Australia.  That doesn't include the People's Choice Classic - a pre-race criterium held two days before stage 1 that all competitors participate in.

In recent years, the race has been a sprinters' paradise.  German powerhouse Andre Greipel has feasted on the many flat stages, racking up stage wins and plenty of World Tour points.  This year, however, the stages are little bumpier.  Certainly not mountainous - far from it - but enough to level the playing field a little and give the roulers a chance to win.

The Battles to Watch

Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) vs Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano)

Two of the very best sprinters in the world, both hailing from Germany.  The result from the People's Choice Classic (Kittel first, Greipel second) shows that they came to Adelaide to win.  Will be fascinating to see who can dominate and take early season bragging rights.

Greipel & Kittel sprint to the line during the People's Choice Classic

Cadel Evans (BMC) vs Richie Porte (Sky)

Two Aussies at opposite ends of their careers - Cadel having achieved so much already, and Porte on the cusp of stepping up as a Grand Tour contender.  Both riders are targeting the Giro d'Italia this year, and the TDU provides us with a tasty entree to this battle.

In reality, neither are probably particularly worried about each other this week.  But as a spectator you can't help but feel that this race will be the first shot in a long 2014 battle between these two great competitors.

Caleb Ewan (UniSA) vs Public Expectation & Potential

Still a teenager, and set to join Orica-Greenedge late in season 2014, Ewan has bucketloads of potential.  Many are expecting, probably unfairly, that he'll be able to match the World Tour sprinters in Adelaide.

I'm a huge fan (already!) of Ewan, and am looking forward to seeing how he goes against the big boys.  But let's let the young fella enjoy the experience, rather than suffocating him with any more expectation...

Team Drapac vs The Race Organiser

Stepping up to the Pro-Continental level in 2014, Drapac Cycling Team have had a long running battle to win a spot (as a Continental team) in the TDU.  They have finally gotten their coveted spot, and will be looking to justify it with a showy performance over the 6-day event.

Who Will Win?

The obvious choice is Simon Gerrans (Orica-Greenedge), who showed with his strong win in the Australian Road Nationals last week that he is in terrific early season form.  He will be tested though by the likes of Cadel Evans and Richie Porte, who will be looking to rack up some early season victories to bolster their own confidence leading in to the northern hemisphere spring.

Was the Aussie Road Nationals podium a preview of the TDU podium?

For the other big names, like Frank Schleck (Trek), Robert Gesink (Belkin), and Jurgen Roelandts (amongst others) - well, we'll have to wait and see if they are treating the TDU as a week-long training camp, or as an early season target race.

Summary

Australia's chance to briefly be the focus of the world cycling community.  Home viewers can watch all stages live on the Nine Network's free-to-air digital channel 'Gem' - check your guide's for details.

Don't miss this chance to watch fantastic cycling at a civilised hour - I'll be glued to the set watching as much as I can. I'll be cheering loudly for Cadel for the overall, and young Caleb Ewan for a couple of confidence-boosting performances in the sprints.  Enjoy!!



Friday, 27 December 2013

Race 4/2013 - Twilight Criterium (HPRW), Nundah

Back on December 4th, I lined up for my fourth race of the year.  The Twilight Crits, run by the HPRW club, are one of my favourite crit race series - a bunch of Wednesday afternoon races that turns 'hump day' from boring to something to look forward to!

It would indeed be a race for me to remember for a number of reasons...

Normally I'd punch some stats up for the race straight up.  I'm not 100% sure what they are though - but thankfully Strava (ride link here) helps me out...  I raced in B2 grade, and I know that every single lap averaged over 40km/h - most in the low-mid 40's range.  It was a quick race...

The Story of the Day

I rolled up to sign on for C-Grade (as usual) - but the current grading system used by HPRW has Masters C riders under 50yo racing up in B2 (with the Masters B riders!!).  No worries of course - its all for fun and games.  I handed over my $10 and pinned on my number.

We lined up for the pre-race briefing at 5pm.  Based on the numbers I saw, there were about 60 starters in my race - definitely a big one!  The race format was a 'points race'. Basically, first across the line every lap scored points, and then on the last lap the first 5 scored as well.  Most points would be the winner.

As usual, my goals were a lot more modest (especially given I was racing 'up' a grade). I simply wanted to last the distance.

The race went hard from the gun.  The first 3 laps were actually the quickest of the day - all averaging above 45km/h (with the second lap up around 47.5km/h).  We were hitting 50km/h along the home straight each time!

Needless to say, I was struggling.  I was giving absolutely everything to just hang on.   I somehow survived those first few laps, but I was well in the red zone.  The clock on my speedo had just ticked over 5min, and I thought that may be it for me!

I started a simple game - just hold on to the next corner...  I kept digging deep, and pushing on & on. A number of times I thought I was gone, but I managed to just keep a hold of the peloton. My mouth was dry, but I dared not reach down for my bottle...

Time started adding up - 6min, 7min, 8min... When the clock ticked over to 10min, a wave of relief washed over me - I had at least made double figures!

At around the 12min mark - something changed with me. Suddenly, everything seemed to adapt. I was still pushing extremely hard, but the pain disappeared and I seemed to find my rhythm. It was a wonderful feeling, and I dared to dream that I may make the finish...

Finally, at around the 35min mark, the 2 laps to go sign came up.  The bell went a lap later, and I was on the final lap.  I was absolutely elated!!  I knew I had never been in a race this fast before and made it to the finish.  Having dug myself out of the deep hole I was in after 10min just made it sweeter again.

I knew I wouldn't be sprinting at the finish, so I decided to get out of everyone's way.  I was about a third back fro the front, and let myself drift back into the rear third of the field.

Suddenly, everything changes...

Second last curve of the race.  Some guy a few in front of me dramatically changes line and chops someone's wheel.  Guy goes down heavily in front of me, spreadeagled with his bike across the track.  I'm travelling at almost 50km/h with no-where to go.  I hit him and think, "please not my collarbone..."

The Short Story

Everything hurts - and then only my left shoulder hurts.  Yep, the same one as last time. Oh no...

Ambulance to Royal Brisbane Hospital. X-Rays and MRI's.  Concerns over a fractured eye socket eventually dismisssed (phew!).  Lots of concerns over a left shoulder that seems to be continually swelling, so kept in overnight.

Final verdict - left clavicle fractured distally, and needing to be plated. More concern though over the ligaments, that seem to be 'shredded' (registrar's words - not good!).  Surgery scheduled for the following week.

What's next?

Normally, this section of a race report is about my next lot of racing and/or training.  But I'll just leave things there for now, given that any cycling is months away (at least)...

For the sake of posterity though - next post will cover off on what exactly happened with my shoulder...!!

Stay safe everyone, and don't take the joys of cycling for granted.  I miss it already...



Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Where have I been...?! (Oct & Nov 2013 Review)

Life's been pretty busy lately - lots happening in all spheres of my life.  Don't mistake inactivity in the bog for inactivity in life - quite the opposite!!  I'm checking in here quickly to log a few stats for my ongoing record, and quickly run over what I've been doing, and what's coming up...

Firstly - updated stats:

----------------------------------------------------------
January - 300km / 13hrs
 February - 452km / 20hrs
 March - 341km / 20hrs
 April - 269km / 12hrs
 May - 201km / 10hrs
 June - 437km / 21hrs
 July - 71km / 4hrs
 August - 518km / 26hrs
September - 455km / 21hrs
October - 386km / 17hrs
 November - 245km / 13hrs

Year to date - 3674km / 178hrs
---------------------------------------------------------

Obviously things fell away mileage-wise over the last couple of months.

The main culprit has been work.  I had a sudden change of role due to some urgent priority stuff going on. This included some changes to my work location.  So instead of working 4 days/week at my usual building (and 1 day/week elsewhere) - I'm now split 3 days/wk in the CBD, 1 day/wk in Milton, and 1 day/wk at my usual location.

My cycle commuting (which has been the backbone of my mileage) thrives on 'habit' - and my new arrangements haven't been conducive to that at all!!  It took me a few weeks to get access organised for my bike to underground carparks (and other annoying administrative stuff), and then some further time for me to work out the best way to carry a lot more than usual to/from work (the new CBD location doesn't have lockers available).

Fortunately, things are starting to settle into a routine again.  I'm managing to cycle-commute at least 3 days/week, which is (probably most importantly) is making me happy...  :)

Weekends have been a bit scrappy, as my kids' weekend school sport really ramped up over Oct/Nov as well.  That's not a complaint though - I absolutely love it.  Cheering my girls on and watching them improve and grow in confidence is one of life's great pleasures.  School sport is on Christmas holiday break now though, so plenty of opportunity over the next couple of months to build up some time in the saddle.

What's ahead?

In the short-term - club racing.  A couple of HPRW club's twilight criteriums on a Wednesday afternoon (including my first one this afternoon), and a couple of my own club's Saturday morning criteriums.  I had planned to race the Brisbane Blast Open criterium on 15th December - but I waited too long to enter and Masters C reached capacity. Lesson learned...

Big News!!

June/July 2014. Northern Italy - riding the Stelvio, Gavia, and Mortirolo. France - spectating a stage (or two!) of the Tour de France.  Looks like it will happen, but I dare not write anymore in case I curse my luck...

Needless to say, I'm excited...  :)

Getting ready for 2014

Normally, I spend the week or two around Christmas/New Year off the bike.  Then in January, I'll just do some sporadic riding to slowly get back into the groove of it all again.

With some big plans for 2014 though, I want to be ready to start strongly in January.  So December for me is about trying to rack up as many days in the saddle as I can to be ready for a big first 6-months of 2014.

Ride safely!!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Race 3/2013 - BBP Open Criterium, Toowoomba

Only my third race for the year, and I was lifting things up a level.  I made the 90 minute drive west of Brisbane to Toowoomba, a large town sitting atop the Great Dividing Range.  At the Glenvale Criterium Circuit, I was signed up for the Be Better Psychology Open in Masters C.

After a few navigation errors once I'd reached Toowoomba itself, I arrived at the criterium circuit about 20 minutes before race start.  I quickly signed on, grabbed my number, got changed, and squeezed in a few minutes warm-up before the call up for race start.

The temperature was perfect for racing, however the wind was not.  A fairly strong 'Toowoomba special' was blowing across the circuit.  The commissaires called the role at the start line (there were 18 of us), gave us a quick run down (30 minutes + 2 laps, with 2 mid-race primes), and we were away!

Race time!

The pace pretty much exploded from the start.  I felt the lack of a good warm-up, especially as the pace nudged 60km/h with the wind at our backs along the first pass of the clubhouse.  We swung around a corner, and the crosswind smacked us all across the width of the circuit.

I was already red-lining - on the first lap!!  We sprinted up the first climb, then swung around down the long back straight.  Now we had a cross/headwind, and we were strung out in single file along the edge of the circuit.  Half-way along and - KABOOM - my legs exploded and I was out the back.

Dropped on the first lap - not quite what I was hoping for!  The Race Commentator didn't miss me either, as I tried to regather my breath (and composure!) along the home straight, I heard him say, "And here comes a Balmoral rider - he obviously forgot this is a race and not a coffee ride, let's see if he can catch back on..."

I laughed and waved, and decided to make the most of what looked like becoming a hard training day instead of a race.

Wait up fellas!!  Disappearing off the back, on one of the climbs...

In the end, what became apparent was that I am still a good level below Open racing ability.  I did my best each time the peloton came around (another three times), but the best I could do was hold on for one full lap on one occasion.  I just wasn't good enough.

That said, a bad day on the bike is still, well, a good day! I learnt plenty about racing in crosswinds, and enjoyed watching my much stronger competitors as they went past.  I basically did a set of intervals for 30min, working hard and making the most of my time on the circuit.

My final stats were:
40 minutes of racing; Average speed of 29.5km/h; Top speed of 63.7km/h!
My fastest lap of the 1.8km full circuit was 2min 56sec - my 3rd lap, and the only one I completed under 3 minutes...
In contrast - the winner averaged 39.5km/h, and hit a top speed of 69.8km/h...!!

Glenvale Criterium Circuit

If you haven't raced at Glenvale before, and get the chance, you should definitely do it.  It is a very honest (and fast!) criterium circuit, and I highly recommend it.

If you consider the most commonly raced, dedicated off-road criterium circuits in South-East Queensland, then Glenvale is probably the most balanced and fairest of them all.  Murarrie and Nundah are flat tracks for the sprinters, while Lakeside and Nerang both have decent climbs in them that sap the legs and favour the lightweights.

The Glenvale track (photo taken during construction)

Glenvale is 'just right' - a couple of shorter climbs that favour neither the sprinter or climber.  Add in some wind, and there is no way anyone can fake (or hide) their way through a race.  A brilliant test of racing ability - I'm looking forward to my next opportunity to race there to see if I've improved...

Finally - many thanks to the cycling community of Toowoomba (and the organising club, Bikeline Racing).  It was an extremely well-run day of racing, by a very friendly and welcoming crew. Thanks, and I'm looking forward to coming back again!