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Finishing with a bang!

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In the Apolito household the track season finished with a bang not a whimper

(Apologies for the late post.)

From my point of view, most of the summer track season was fairly predicable and at times somewhat disappointing. That all changed in the last week as the season came to a climatic and surprising end for both me and Emily.

It started with the club championships. Emily had a clean sweep of the J13 girls events. No surprises there. She's a year older and a lot stronger than Anna especially at the shorter stuff and all their races were short. So three gold medals to Emily. The Apolito's are on the board!


Far more surprising was my silver medal in the Master's Men Sprints. I'd always hoped to be able to qualify in fourth place but then to have Mick Thomas disqualified in our semi final was a shock. Would he have won anyway? Who knows. It was going to be a very close finish. A big disappointment for Mick but good luck for me even though I felt a little flat afterwards. The surprises continued when I won the first set against Richard Hurley. Crikey I was now one win away from gold. But order was restored when Richard won the next two races to deservedly take gold.


The forthcoming week was all about preparing Emily for the J13 State Titles on Saturday and myself for the final round of the Trek Summer Sprint Series on Sunday. It didn't start well for me when my bottom bracket blew up while training with Pat and Emily early on Tuesday morning. Nathan fixed it same day but I missed a big day's training. Then training at DISC for Emily on the day the hurricane hit Melbourne and wind trainer for me before we both taper off for the weekend.

Watching Emily at the state titles was simply awesome. She was a bundle of nerves and so was I. Her first event, the 500mm ITT was nearly a disaster. She totally fluffs the start and ends up right off the duckboards and onto the concrete. She recovers, grits her teeth and sets a PB (46.330) by nearly 5 seconds to not only win the Gold medal but also beat many of the boys as well. The poor start probably cost her a second to boot.

The timed flying 200 was even better. Thanks to Carl, Emily knew the line to take and was confident. She sets 16.164 to easily be the fastest girl with only four out of 17 boys faster than her.

Two gold medals and unless she totally mucks up the scratch race she will be the overall champion as well. One of the girls in the race knows what to do to sprinters and is constantly attacking Emily. By the end Emily doesn't have much left in the tank but still manages a strong second place with the "attacker" an excellent third.

So, two gold medals as state champion in the ITT and sprint, a silver medal for the scratch race and the overall title as well. We're all relieved and celebrate with pizza. Then I have to somehow switch from proud dad to competitor as I prepare for the last round of the TSSS.

What can I say about the Trek Series that Carl hasn't already said?

Well about all that is left to say is that I rode out of my skin. Setting a PB in the F200, beating A graders in the heats, hanging on in that tense final.... it was all marvelous and I'm proud of how it all finished. I ended up equal with Jeremy on points and take pride in the fact that I pushed him to the last race of the last round before he could claim the bike! Now if I can just improve by another 100% before next season I might have a new bike this time next year!

The surprises continued into the next week. The local paper calls and wants to do a story on Emily with an angle on me as well. And today, I find that our smiling faces are not only in the paper, but on the FRONT PAGE!

Thank God they don't use newspapers for fish and chips anymore!


On the road to recovery

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After three long weeks I can see the light at the end of the tunnel

Unless you've suffered broken ribs before I doubt there's anything I can write that can adequately describe what a diabolical experience it is. Still, I thought it might be useful to document how I've been coping (and not coping) over the past three weeks....

The initial impact was excruciating. I couldn't breathe or talk.  I felt I was knocking on death's door. Turns out I had a partially collapsed right lung which together with the broken ribs, pain and shock was responsible for my breathing difficulties. A night in hospital with loads of morphine and ibuprofen took the edge off the pain provided I didn't move, breathe too deeply, cough and above all sneeze.

The real fun started when I got home. I was discharged with a morphine derivative in tablet form, more anti-inflamms and instructions to "Breathe deep and cough regularly otherwise you could end up with pneumonia" Yeah right. This person obviously has no idea. Deep breathing was just not an option. Coughing was best avoided. I couldn't raise my arm. I couldn't bend to put on my shoes. I couldn't turn or twist. Even with the morphine, pain was always there - it just got worse if I stopped taking the tablets

Night time was especially bad. I could only find one partially comfortable position to sleep in - on my left side. But two hours later I would wake up very sore and stiff, totally unable to turn or get up. For the first few nights I needed to wake up Ann every couple of hours who would slowly and painstakingly roll me over and out of bed so I could walk around a bit, take more drugs and get back into bed - again with help. The drugs would make me sleepy and yet I couldn't sleep. And so it went on for most of the first week.

Initially, pain is the most obvious emotion but as the pain started to subside a little my mind would turn to cycling and I became increasingly frustrated, depressed and angry. I was being told I'd be off the bike for up to six weeks and it could be six months before full strength returned. Put simply, this was just not fair. The crash was not my fault. I was totally innocent and unlucky. The guy who caused it remains a mystery. No one had seen him at DISC before or since. He didn't race that night. Just picked himself up and went home apparently. The more I thought about it the angrier I got. I should be training my butt off right now. This summer was supposed to be big for me. We had plans.

Frustration grew. Immediately following my crash the weather turned spectacularly good. God wasn't just content to put the knife in, now he wanted to twist it as well. With Emily's help I managed to climb onto the wind trainer and did a couple of 30 minute easy spins. I couldn't do anything with high cadence because the bouncing hurt. Likewise anything at high resistance strained my back. The wind trainer is in my old darkroom. No windows or natural light of any sort. And yet I knew outside it was glorious sunshine and everyone would be spending their weekend riding outside. Except me. More bitterness. Why can't it be raining?

At the start of week two I did something I should have done straight away. I consulted a couple of friends of mine who are sports physiotherapists. One of them is a cyclist who races with CCCC and has broken his ribs before. The other is the clinic owner who I have known since uni, was my best man and works with footy clubs and the Victorian Rugby Union team. Again he has plenty of experience with broken ribs.

I can't over-emphasise how therapeutic it was talking to Gary (the cyclist). He put things in perspective while providing the sort of empathy that can only come from someone who has suffered the same fate. The next day I went to see my regular phsio/osteopath who likewise had broken some ribs while playing football. I wish I'd gone earlier. He explained that it is impossible to break ribs without traumatising the soft tissue around them and I had significant damage to the muscles around and between the ribs. And although I'd only broken ribs 8 and 9, I'd badly bruised ribs 4-7. Everything was in spasm. Tendons and ligaments had been strained.  A very significant portion of the pain and discomfort I was feeling was therefore not the ribs themselves. There's nothing we could do to make the ribs heel faster but we could certainly start working on the other problems.

And so we did. Treatment by Mr. Physio and Mr, Osteo over the past week has certainly helped. I have more movement and can now do most things for myself. I've been able to complete an hour on the wind trainer a couple of times. I've even managed to do some E3 intervals. I'm still very restricted in my movements and the pain is certainly still there but I'm hoping to do my first outdoor ride this weekend. Just something nice and easy. Any takers?

I'm probably another 2-3 weeks from "proper" outdoor riding but I'm increasingly optimistic that I'll be able to make the first round of the Trek Summer Sprint Series at the start of October and the start of the Blackburn track season a week later. I'll be unfit and probably just making up the numbers but someone has to come last and I'll consider myself a winner just for being there!


I got knocked down but I got up again (great line for a song)

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My first crash at speed

Until last Thursday nights racing at DISC I'd had four "crashes" in my cycling career. All were at low speed and didn't involve another bike or car. In fact "falling off" would be more accurate description than "crash". Nevertheless they had still resulted in a broken thumb, fractured elbow and, most recently, hairline fracture to the rib in the infamous slide involving Carl. But unlike many of you I'd never crashed in a race or with the bike moving forward with any sort of speed.

That all changed at the pointy end of the C grade motor pace on Thursday night. The aboc team of myself, Mick Thomas and Matt Ditchfield had again conspired to help each other out and let a team mate back into the paceline if needed. It was going OK and both me and Matt had been able to let Mick back in to prevent him having to drift to the back. But it meant I was on the motor bike with 4 laps to go and had to peel off.

Not wanting to accept defeat because for once I was feeling OK, I didn't go all the way to the end of the line but stayed out in the wind for a lap hoping a gap would open up. It didn't and I had to work hard to hold my position. Then I started to fade and stronger riders were all around me. People were trying to squeeze into gaps that weren't there. I got chopped from underneath which apparently forced me up the track a bit....

THUMP....Someone wacks me behind my right shoulder. I go down and am aware of sickenning loud thud as my head smashes into the boards. I remember thinking "this is not good" and instantly developing a head ache. Then as I'm sliding down another rider crashes over the top of me. I end up lying face down on the concrete with my head throbbing and my arm, chest and back aching already. I don't know how long I was there but it seemed like an eternity. With help I roll over and reveal burns and cuts on my leg, bum and arm. My treasured aboc bib knicks are ruined as is my Descente base layer!

A trip to the doctor and physio the next day reveals no breaks. I've got whiplash from my head slinging into the ground and the usual aches and pains, burns and bruises. My spirit and confidence took a battering too but a quick pep talk from the coach on Friday put everything in perspective and re-ignited my determination. Today a sympathetic Bev took me for a gentle 2 hour ride for which I'm grateful.

I don't know how I'll be on Thursday night. I think my body will be OK but will I be brave enough to race?

(PS I've got new race wheels but I'll talk about them another time...)


Am I a sandbagger?

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Last nights win at DISC seems a bit hollow

I returned to DISC for last nights racing but since I hadn't even sat on a bike in the previous fortnight (illness, working 7 day weeks, father in hospital, sore hip, excuses, excuses..) I put myself in D grade.

The scratch race was awful, no one could hold a line, I was chopped (and probably did some chopping myself to be fair ) and at one stage ended up on the boards to avoid someone who suddenly decided to move into the sprinters lane. I finished third but felt bad and really tired.

The points race wasn't any better. I had a dip at the first sprint, got a third again but blew up badly for the rest of the race. Again I was just glad to stay upright as it was real messy.

The motorpace was good. Being a controlled paceline made it safer and the gradual increase in speed suited me. It also meant the weaker riders dropped off the pace as the speed increased and gaps opened up in the pace line so twice when I peeled of from the guerney I was able to drop back in without having to drift to the back. I found myself third wheel when the motorbike peeled off and was able to easily sprint over the top to take the win.

A win is a win I guess but given I'm normally a C grader I felt guilty. (I donated the prizemoney to Emily). Back to C grade next week and hopefull that aboc guy is in a generous mood and will look after me.


From Leongatha to Las Vegas

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Greetings from the land of the free and the brave

Was it all just a dream? Was it really just a couple of nights ago I was hurtling my bike around the Leongatha velodrome in my first ever open event?

I'm horribly jet lagged at the moment and feel like a zombie so can someone tell me what happened on Saturday night? Did I race really fast or was I dreaming?

I have vague recollections of Bev talking a lot with me driving somewhere. And I saw signs and banners along the road saying "Come see Australia's best track cyclists". Surely I was dreaming - they couldn't possibly be talking about a race I'd entered.

Further vagueness about a guy in yellow and the words "you've got the handicap from hell". Ah yes that's right. Only 20 metres, just ahead of the scratch guys and way behind the types I normally race against. Dim recollections of riding faster than I ever have but still not catching the out markers or holding off the scratchies.

Then another handicap. This time longer but still a cruel starting point. Managing to catch some people and hang on to the end but alas still failing to qualify for the final. And finally a points race. Going as well as I could in a bike race but failing to get one point.

Someone please tell me I wasn't dreaming because I keep seeing images of myself with a big smile but nothing to show for it.

Then again I don't want the dream to end......

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