Sunday, 19 August 2012

Who's to say where the wind will take you

A short post today, despite some fairly hefty miles this week, I need to stock up on sleep before my Pyrenean trip which starts on Saturday. Don't ask how I managed to fit them in, including today's sportive, I never realised how much stuff you can cram into your life when you have to.

I would like to thank everyone who has sent me good wishes in respect of my Mum, or who has listened to me or given me kind words, more tolerance than usual, and helped to reinforce my fundamental belief that underneath the froth, we are all essentially good people. My Mum is still very poorly, but she told me today she is not going to die in the next three weeks so I should still go to France.

I am beginning to realise where the directness in my personality comes from, and in the last two weeks we have had some amazing conversations about all sorts. I'm not going to share them, but, and it's a big, big, but, take a lesson from me. Don't leave it till someone is dying to have the conversations you always wanted to, and spend the time with your loved ones now.

Also, while I'm in the pulpit, don't take the things you think are "serious" too seriously. The toilet seat up, or the top off the milk, or the missed item in the supermarket, are not as important as you will one day realise. And laughter, you can't actually have enough. That is a fact. And my Mum says so.

Right, to business

On Friday I commuted to work, and met Skip on the way home. It's been a tough week for her too, (see her blog via the link at the side). I didn't know Howie although I had met him a few times. So I was pleased to be able to get Skip on the bike and doing something she does really well, and I was doing pretty poorly, and that is ride up Burrington Coombe.

The Pork and Apricot filling for my jacket potato at work at lunchtime didn't look very nice, and tasted even worse than it looked. So I left it, and forgot to eat anything else. That's my excuse anyway, that and the last knockings of a cold and the after effects of being up early every day, blah blah blah.

Still, I can go downhill all right, and that's important in mountains too. And I managed to do 50 miles in total without having to build in extra loops or any other OCD like behaviour. It was fairly warm as well, despite the periodic downpours, which fortunately my new Di2 Ultegra coped with admirably.

Is it worth it? Good question and of course depends on your perception of value, but it certainly made shifting a lot easier on the go. I noticed this more today actually on the New Forest Rattler, the sportive I had entered 4 miles from my Parents' house. Shifting when you are moving at speed or climbing a hill is effortless with Di2, no more missed gears on turning a corner or having to stop and start and crunching your gears to get going again.

It also allows you to change gear more often. With a cable system I would often not bother to change down for a short sharp hill, I'd be out of the saddle and pushing a big gear. Now I can change gear back and forth without changing the cadence, which keeps momentum, your speed up and doesn't wreck your calf muscles. Or stretch your cables or put extra strain on the chain.

Enough of the techy stuff I'm even boring myself.

Starting at around 8AM, I cycled down to the start this morning and registered nice and early. It was pretty misty, but the sun was breaking through even before we set off, and by the time I crested the first hill it was bright, sunny and very, very warm. It was a fairly flat course really, and I completed it fairly quickly. Charlie played up, this is what he recorded, there is about 7 miles missing from the total trip of around 91 miles. I think my official time for the 80 miles of sportive will be just under the 5 hour mark, I know my average moving speed was 17.3 mph.

Almost all of that was solo too, except for the bits where I acquired more followers than I have on Twitter, usually when there was a draggy climb or a headwind. Happy to help.

What was it like? Absolutely beautiful and absolutely boiling. The temperature was over 30C by the finish, and humid too. It made me realise how little hot Summer riding I have done this year and how under-prepared I will be for that aspect of the mountains. (probably rain now!).

But the countryside was gorgeous, wide open views as well as nice foresty bits, quiet glades and plenty of wildlife. Ponies obviously, which make for an interesting call when a herd of 20 or so are blocking the road. But also foxes, buzzards, a stoat, ducks, etc. etc. And Sunday drivers too, but I'm not being cross with anyone anymore.

So I'm nearly ready to go. I'll have to do the mother of all Faffs on Thursday and Friday and then it's Gatwick, Biarritz and the mountains. As someone at work very wisely said "lucky sod".

A bientot.

Talk to each other

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Carry each other

Balloons, sunshine and a bike ride. I'd say that equates to a state of happiness, and it was what I found myself in on Friday morning. Despite the dreadful effects of manflu, and not having been on a bike for 8 days, I manfully threw my leg over the top tube of K-1 and found the flattest route into Bristol that I could find.

And by a delightful semi-planned coincidence, it was also downwind from the Bristol Balloon Fiesta's Friday morning mass ascent. Dozens of balloons sailed over my head, one was even close enough for me to bid the pilot a cheery good morning. I spent an extra 20 minutes or so circling the countryside to find more balloons to cycle under.

Fresh from the Olympics myself, this specimen really caught my imagination, yep it's a Team GB balloon, combing all the feel-good stuff in the world into one canvas-wrapped bag of hot air.

I really don't know why, but balloons make me smile, and they seemed to capture the imagination of lots of other people too. Everywhere there were bleary-eyed folks staring up into the sky, waving, chuckling, smiling at the display, and completely oblivious to the fact that there dressing gowns were so last year.

It was nice to have a couple of days of sunshine to enjoy, and even better to ride in one, despite feeling a bit rough, it actually made me feel better. And also nice not to have to push myself either, what with the trip being two weeks ago, I need to take it easy I guess.

My very flat route was not that fast, all that stopping and starting, but just being on the bike was enough.

Elsewhere I have now had some modifications made to the Red Madone, which will not necessarily make me go faster, but hopefully a bit smoother. Life is short, and I figured there was no point in having money in the bank, and as I don't want to buy a new bike, since the two I have are nicely tailored to my weird body, I went for the next best thing. Eddy Merckx famously said "don't buy upgrades, ride up grades", but when you have dropped the Cannibal on an 8% hill like I have, you can afford to scoff at his advice.

Yes, Cheddar cycle store has equipped me with Ultegra Di2. More on this next week when I have actually ridden it.

Today, was an Axbridge Cycling Group Day. For me, it was a chance to go and clear my head, and also (for which I do apologise to my fellow riders) clear my lungs. My lungs have nothing nastier in them that a cold and mild asthma, unlike my Mum who has something far more deadly in hers.

I asked her if she minded me blogging about this and she said that she didn't. She is remarkably sanguine about the fact that she has secondary tumours, including the one in her lung, from her breast cancer of seven years ago. For me, this is an opportunity to talk about it without having to be face to face with anyone. That said, I have been overwhelmed by just how supportive and kind people can be when you are faced with something like this.

But it isn't really about me, it's about her. Much as I love sport, and admire those that compete, strive, etc. I found myself getting a bit irritated with all the Olympic crying that was going on. But then, one consequence of my Mum being ill is that it makes me realise that there really is no point, absolutely no point whatsoever, in being irritated or angry with other people.

So life must go on, can go on, will go on. We don't know how long we will have my Mum for, but actually I have realised that I will have her forever, in me, in my heart and in my head. In the things she loves, believes in, phrases she says, mannerisms we share. I'm sorry if this is too intensely painful or personal for you. But this blog is not about you, it's about me, and right now, this is just about all that I can think of.

Today's ACG ride

Thought for today

Because it is possible for terrible things to happen and yet for us still to feel happy and enjoy life. Even when it's ending, actually more so then that ever. This is not some sentimental claptrap, it is hard, cold, logical, life-affirming reality. We do get to carry each other, we reach into the murky, messy world we all inhabit, and do our bit, when we can. We haven't got to, we get to. It's a privilege not a right.