Wednesday, 22 October 2008

ordinary world

I don't think blogger publishes its posts with time stamps so, to clarify, it's 02.06 on, er, Wednesday, and I am w i d e awake thanks to inadvertently discovering that chocolate brownies are a palatable caffeine vehicle when late night work is called for. And I've just done a fair bunch of work thanks to that. Oops.

Rummaging around now whilst waiting for the washing machine to finish and the sun to come up. Could be here a while.

Spent overdue and lovely time with old friends today. Sarah, Dan and Hope are not bike people (I'm working on Hope, at six months old she shows potential but is not quite big enough for a Rothan yet) but still wanted to hear all about America adventures. They totally get the cake thing, they get adventures too because they've had plenty of their own and have plans for more, they just don't get the bike bit - but that doesn't diminish it an ounce for them.

It's good to be reminded that what we play at can be relevant in the real world, too. It's easy to become too introspective pedalling around on your own all the time, when it feels like all you ever get to do is listen to bike people talking about bikes in an insular little world, and often not even riding them, just talking a good ride...

Sometimes it's good to talk about socks and crawling and shepherds pie and forget about wheels. Here's to a few more ordinary days.


Monday, 6 October 2008


I love racing at Thetford, it is my most favourite of racing places and Dusk til Dawn the one event I look forward to over any other. Partly this stems from the fact that it's the last hurrah of the season, but also the fact that the atmosphere never falls short of brilliant thanks to skilled and attentive organisers and the way that they use their trails, which is rarely short of sublime. The weather forecast was none too promising but that's what we have waterproof shorts for, isn't it...

So, after a practise lap and lots of hellos, fifteen minutes standing on the start line in strong winds and sideways rain, we embarked on an amusing start loop behind a pace quad, holding position at the front of the pack with pointy elbows and a little give and take. Three fast laps of a swoopy, entertaining, singletracky course, swapping third and fourth with Fi, wind and rain less of a problem than they could have been thanks to the trees, some particularly unpleasant sucky mud but plenty of friends around to banter with, all ready to do battle with the night. It was shaping up so well...

And then when the normal lap four demons popped up (god i'm tired, this really hurts, have i got a puncture, i feel sick, is that a blister on my hand, i can't ride that, WHY?), there was nothing to answer them with. Completing The Thing, which sucked up my life and my energy for two years, battling that monster and sending it packing has turned me inside out in many ways and completely changed the way I feel about certain things. Apparently including racing.

There is an emptiness where the reserves of stubborness and determination used to be. It's not an unpleasant one, but it is unsettling, and as equally endless a bottomless pit as they were an unclimbable hill. The usual doubts and fears went clanging straight to the bottom of it with nothing to intercept them on the way.

And so when I got to the end of the lap I stopped, and sat down, and my wise and lovely pit crew Adam tried coaxing me out with new bottles and food and batteries for a few minutes whilst I tried to make sense of weird emotions, until he quietly reminded me that I really don't have anything to prove anymore. And, as usual, he was right.

I passed the rest of the night enjoying the rare and novel experience of wandering round a race site in the middle of the action, chatting and sharing quiet moments and coffee with friends old and new between laps, using the pointy stick of encouragement on pet soloists Phil, Gareth, Nigel (finishing his first ever 12 hour in fine fashion) and Fi (who took a frighteningly steely podium place as well as two large bacon sandwiches, both of which made us proud), practising my heckling on a very muddy One Speed Revolution who were thankfully going too fast to hear and generally lounging around watching the mud turn a different shade of grey. All to the familiar soundtrack of soggy grass and scorched disc rotors. Lovely.

After four laps at a fair old clip I still feel satisfyingly battered today and there's just as much wet, gritty kit mouldering in kit bags as there would have been had I rode the full twelve hours. There isn't a shred of regret, just the calmness that I still can't fathom and the reminder that sometimes it's harder to make the right decision that it is to carry on regardless of it.

And of course a strong intent to spend the next few months doing fun things on a bike that don't require the demon-beating mechanisms to be pressed into action, in the hope of coaxing them back out of retirement before I get fat and slow... ;o)


* "soften the f*** up". er, thanks, jo.

Friday, 3 October 2008

a rallying cry

Minx first met Susan Greenwood when she called out of the blue because she'd won a the Netjetters travel writing competition for The Guardian. The prize was funding for a proposed trip across the States by bike, which she'd blog as she went along. The only problem was, as she usually rode her bike in cast-off blokes jeans (oh and yes, had never actually ridden further than her London commute...) she didn't know what to wear. Giggling over euphemisms for preventing 'bottom' soreness is a quick way to bond and she's been a true and lovely Minx Girl ever since.

Abandoning her bike for a while, Susan is running the New York marathon next month, and could do with some support. I've spent ages trying to paraphrase this, but instead I'm just going to post her email to me...

"On November 2nd I will be running the New York Marathon because well, what is life without a challenge and because a few months ago my dad died from an atrociously under-funded and overlooked disease called Motor Neurone Disease (yes, Stephen Hawking.) There are no words for how much I miss him but there is an institute being built in Sheffield which from next year will be dedicated to the study of the condition and hopefully a treatment. It is to this end I am sacrificing my knees.I know we all have causes close to our hearts and I know some of you have had your fair share of heartbreaks. I’m not expecting you to donate anything except that I am. I will call in any favour, buy any beers and pay in to the favour bank for years to come if it means you will sponsor me whatever you can afford. Quite simply, I’m begging! This link is to my dad’s obituary because it helps me to know that as many people as possible know that once upon a time an amazing man called John Greenwood existed, the next is to an article I wrote in The Times about the disease and institute and the final link is to the John Greenwood Trust donations page hosted by the Charities Aid Foundation. Like I said, I know there may be other causes which are dearer to you but this means the world to me and I really could use your support (this also comes in the form of emails, texts and post-event Grolsch.) My dad was the bravest person I have ever met and I just want to make him proud one more time."

So yes, as Susan says- we all have our own causes. But she is a friend, and that makes hers a little bit ours too. And if everyone that reads this nips over to donate even the cost of today's skinny latte then Susan's cause will be several thousand quid better off.