Month 2: In which I get back to nature and rediscover the joy of the long ride.
This month the mileage steps up a notch, with thetrilife Masters programme exhorting me to pull a 3 ½ hour long ride.
My Saturday ride marks the end of one of the greatest weeks of sloth of modern times. I begin the training week in my bunny pyjamas, inhaling Easter eggs and finding myself oddly resistant to doing anything other than that, ever. Having comprehensively failed to achieve my early week training goals I book another day of annual leave to do a belated long ride, and my bunny pyjamas and I subsequently spend an instructive day with Marvel’s Agents of Shield as I fantasise about all the miles I will put in just as soon as I get out of bed.
Now it’s Saturday morning and I’m listlessly scanning the internet for articles on how to motivate myself. Several hamster assault courses later, I am mulling over upgrading to dancing kittens when I stumble upon a life-coaching site. The first article informs me that one of our common downfalls is that we often wait until we feel in the right mood before we take action whereas, apparently, “science” says we have to take action first and the feeling-like-it bit follows afterwards. I grimace and hug my stuffed wolf closer; that sounds irritatingly close to the mark. I resolve to ignore this good sense but on the next page am confronted with Winston Churchill barking at me: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”. I sigh, roll out of bed and don my cycling gear. The time for action has arrived.
My bedroom mirror flashes me a treacherous glimpse of lycra clad chocolate egg belly and I turn sharply away to review thetrilife Masters programme instructions for my ride. I’m to practice several “spin ups” to improve cadence, speed and efficiency.
There are rumours of sunshine today so I decide to head to Windsor. There’s a beautiful downhill through the Great Park I remember from last year and I picture the lovely, green open space on a bright, spring day. That first sight of the scenery opening up is bound to shake off my lethargy. Out on the road it takes me my usual half hour to feel properly warm, by which time I’ve hit the largish “A” road that leads to Windsor. I decide to try some of the spin ups, which I’ve only attempted on a Watt bike before. Soaring into a mile long downhill I drop lower on the handlebars, pile on the gears and push and pull faster and harder. My breathing quickens and I feel my heart rate climb. My bike is keeping pace with the cars ahead and the wind and scents of diesel and daffodils stream past. When I slow to a more comfortable cadence I’m sweating and feel the first rush of power and positivity that comes with pushing beyond the comfort zone.
I’m delighted to reach Windsor in just under an hour and a half, in perfect time for a spot of lunch! I pick a table in the sunshine at Deli Dogs, where the friendly staff let me lean my bike by the front door, and I spend a very pleasant fifteen minutes with a panini and a coffee, watching the happy Windsor tourists stroll around the castle. After lunch is blog photo time. Who will it be today? Aha, I spot a friendly looking couple exiting the castle. The lovely Sarah Perryman agrees to take my photo, then we decide that she should be in it too so her boyfriend kindly takes over as cameraman. They ask about the blog and we talk about thetrilife Masters programme. Long rides bring everyone together!
On the road home the endorphins kick in and combine with the panini to create a rush of pure bliss. Red kites wheel in the sky above me and I smile beatifically and pedal on as outraged crows screech and dive bomb them. Feathers drift down and I pull over and stuff them in my pocket.
The panicked rustle of some rabbity creature scampering off into the bushes at my approach pleases me and I picture myself from the hedge dweller’s perspective: a giant, red, clickety blur, disappearing over the hill and leaving in its wake a lingering scent of sweat and prosciutto.
I grin with happiness. A bumblebee bounces off my tooth.
When I get back to base I check my capricious Garmin and it tells me two things: first, that my heart rate was a steady 65 all the way (hmm); second, that I’ve completed 43.5 miles in 3 hours 10. This is by no means a fast time BUT it is the fastest of my rides this year and gives the first hint of – dare I say it – improvement. I think all thetrilife Masters programme spin ups and isolated leg training are quietly doing their thing and strengthening my legs.
I appear to be edging closer to finishing the Ironbike within the 8 hour cut off. It’s beginning to look like I might be able to wear my “Death before DNF” t-shirt to the Ironman Copenhagen pasta party after all.