Saturday, 16 December 2006

Felled by grotty cold caused by the Northern Chill. So, the weather's finally turning Winter, and I'm grovelling about in the bottom two sprockets, back on inhalers I thought I'd seen the back of many months ago, and suffering that deep, deep tiredness that tells me it's sofa time. Still, it's traditional to be a little bit poorly over Christmas, and I'm buying someone the full Aardman box set, so it's only right that I should get to watch them all first before wrapping them up and handing them over, no...?


Friday, 15 December 2006

Note to self. When setting alarm clocks make sure the time is set correctly first.
Scenario: drift carelessly off to sleep on Friday night before a big adventure race on Saturday. Dream first fretfully about the following morning’s early start, anticipating a rude awakening in the early hours. As those early hours approach and no alarm sounds, your body relaxes more and more and your dream becomes calm and relaxed and eventually your brain blanks into deep, uncaring sleep.
Until a corner of a part of an eye catches sight of the clock. 7.35am. You should have been at your teammate’s at 6am and well on your way to Sussex by now.
Heart rate doubles, bed covers thrown back, curtains wrenched to check for daylight. Check. There shouldn’t be daylight. It should be 5.30am. Panicked dressing and sprinting out of the house, waking the dog, all the cats, breaking ornaments, slamming the door and driving through bollarded, pedestrianised one way streets to the other side of town. Heavy breathing. Adrenaline surging.
So we reached race HQ at 10am just as the first teams were heading off. The start was staggered and we had negotiated a later start time (although we were only postponed by 4 minutes until 10.09). So we threw the bikes together, necked a gel and headed out for our run. Late but not that late.
It was an 8 hour adventure race. We were to run first (our choice) and then mountain bike. It had been raining for days and the ground was sodden. We ran and ran and ran through woods and moorland and over beautiful agricultural land. We ran for 5 hours and cleared the course. Neither Gary nor I had run that far in months and our legs were screaming by the time we reached the transition. I was so grateful to sit on that saddle and my thighs and calves welcomed the pedalling action as though it was a steaming hot Radox bath.
But soon I realised that although Gary had been struggling on the run, his cycling legs were fresh. He shot off effortlessly and for the next 3 hours I pedalling and pushed trying to keep up. I gave up all hope of trying to contribute to the navigation and let Gary get on with it. I’d done my bit on the run.
With 20 minutes to go we decided to be greedy and go for one last checkpoint. The bridleway started well with firm concrete under our caked wheels. But turning a corner we soon sank axle-deep into thick boggy mud. After a brief chuckle from us both, we aborted the mission and backtracked. Unfortunately despite our best efforts we arrived at the finish 3 minutes late (annoyingly we had also started 3 minutes late) and so were docked 6 points which was enough to nudge us into second position. Errrr….
But what a race. It was fabulous fun and I was feeling very chipper in my pink Minx jersey. No prizes for us but the knowledge that the moral victory was ours and a few lessons – in alarm clock programming – learnt along the way.


Tuesday, 12 December 2006

This weekend saw a return to Proper Mountain Biking. Driving up the M1 on Friday night was just the begining of the nostalgia trip - hurriedly packed bikes and kit rattling away in the boot, alternating coffee and Red Bull at every other service station to keep myself awake, Pete Tong cranked up to LOUD as the endless headlights flashed by for mile after mile... There was a time when I used to think nothing at all of hopping in the car on Friday night and driving hundreds of miles just to ride for two days somewhere different, only to drive all the way home again on Sunday night ready to start the week primed with tired smiles, a severe calorie deficit and a few new scabs to the knees. The tally this weekend? A hankering for suspension&gears (and indeed rocks) which could prove to be expensive; plenty of smiles and laughter to see me through the winter; and one smashed helmet - leading to a realisation that riding full-tilt round potato fields is a great way to get faster at the expense of proper, didn't-see-that-one-coming trail skills. I've done a lot of petrol miles to and from endless races and events this year, but precious few in search of 'just riding'. Next year, this will change. More driving to ride. More driving to friends. More... driving to fun.


Wednesday, 6 December 2006

You know how you have friends who fulfill certain needs in your life? And how often a certain somebody is the only person who will do when you're feeling a certain way? Went for a road ride this evening with just such a friend. She races, too, and we spent the majority of the gorgeous, full-moon-lit, tailwind-assisted thirty miles chatting about next season's racing and working ourselves up into a state of gibbering excitement. It's great to be able to share that feeling; sometimes it can feel pretty isolated down here in the arse-end of Britain, where few people make the effort to spend a substantial amount of weekend traveling round the great, sucking gravitational mass of the M25 to race and so have no idea what it might be like to know that you're going out on a Tuesday in December, whether or not it's blowing a gale, pouring with rain or icy, just because this is where the head start begins. When they're sitting at home with a beer and the record collection, we're putting in miles which already count towards next summer. Grinding up over the Dyke in the dark for the hundredth time we know that every pedal stroke is one up on those who stayed in because it was a little bit damp, and the odd thing is that it just adds to the fun.