26 October, 2013

The curse of the stripes

The last post was a bit off tangent, so picking up where I left off before, the French lesson went well! In fact, I’ve had a couple and have managed to learn some wordy stuff as well as some etiquette. Veronique was a teacher and is now an antique dealer, so she’s pretty interesting to talk to.

Out on the bike today I had a long one to do, so I headed out before eight and enjoyed watching the sun come up, listening to some tunes. I met up with some SWRC guys in Cobham to get some company for a few hours and break things up, and they were all nice guys. I’m still not a fan of club rides though so I’ll probably keep them to a minimum. Anyway, being a suave sucker I decided to wear my old National Champs jersey for the ride (I am proud of it after all). A few hours in I hit a hidden rock on a descent and went down pretty hard. What a pillock. All my new friends must have simultaneously thought ‘bloody tester’ in their heads.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had ‘an episode’ when wearing the stripes. I remember a couple of years back I was doing a local 10 mile TT and got to the finish in 16 minutes something. I was going well, but that was just a bit ridiculous. I had turned a roundabout early. Here’s a picture of me looking suitably sheepish.

Thomas narrating War & Peace to my richer, more successful elder brother. (Sorry ladies, he's married)

Other than boring cycling malarkey I took my nephew for a swimming lesson yesterday (or rather he took me along) and it was so fun. He is a cool little devil in the water, super relaxed and natural: pretty much everything I’m not! It was such a gleeful affair.

22 October, 2013

You know what really grinds my gears?

Two words: armchair critics.

A lot of people seem to have a lot to say but not a lot of knowledge, and they love to have opinions. Opinions on politics, on Nationalities, on Countries, based very loosely on a Chinese-whisper of a rumour that they heard off a friend of a friend once.

Why is this? Maybe it’s human nature, or pride that means that they feel they must appear informed, but for me I’m not cool with it. If I don’t know about something I will say ‘I don’t know…’ and as a friend pointed out recently I don’t seem to know very much!! But I would rather be simple and honest than a complicated liar.

Something recently which really touched a nerve with me was all the criticism for the British team at the World Championships. Yes, it was disappointing that we didn't do better and I can understand the management debriefing afterwards and being a bit peeved. What I can’t bear, though, is generic club cyclist insinuating that ‘Froome-dog’ let himself down, is a wimp, can’t hack the tough conditions. I mean really, the guy won the toughest stage race in the world two months ago. How many of these critics are ex-professionals? How many of these critics have ridden 270km races in torrential rain, against the World’s finest? I would estimate zero, and this is because of one thing: respect. Riders respect other riders and know that we’re all human, sport is tough and luck is fickle. In my opinion Joe Public needs to learn some respect.

An issue which I haven’t really talked about before is doping because, honestly, it hasn't affected me. I think we should have a zero tolerance policy and am looking forward to the day when all the doping era relics in the sport have retired, but I won’t go into that today. The problem with the rising popularity of cycling in Britain is that everyone wants to summarise it so they can look knowledgeable when they’re in the pub: “Cyclists are druggies!”… “That Barney Wiggins is too thin to be a time triallist!” (Genuine quotes).

Mostly I just respond neutrally, or change the subject, but when people start up conversations with: “Yeah, that was an awesome result, but what’s he ever done before?” and then knowingly wink at me, I falter. You cannot judge a riders progression on what you read in the Daily Mail (other papers are available) because unsurprisingly you don’t get the full picture!

I understand that people have been let down in the past and as Brits we can be pretty cynical, but calling into question a rider’s credibility, and subsequently his career, because you’re misinformed (or rather uninformed) is grossly unfair. The justice system in this country is innocent until proven guilty and it must be the same in cycling.

Rant over.

18 October, 2013

In a word, stiff

I’m coming to the end of my second week of training now and as you can tell, from the fact that I’m writing a blog post on Friday night (rock and roll!), I’m getting back into the swing of things. I’m re-remembering things like: exercise is tiring and eating is important so you don’t feel dizzy when you stand up (all important life lessons I might add). My general condition could be summed up in a word as: stiff.

I am enjoying it though, despite lingering nostalgic memories of recent frivolities. Cycling is what I do best (in fact it’s all I can do) so I better get good at doing it again.

Pigeons: friend not foe.

I've had a pretty comical week in terms of day to day events. On Tuesday I bent my rear mech on the way to the gym so my gears didn't work great, and then I found a half dead pigeon which had been clipped lying in the road. Unfortunately it was pretty mangled so I had to put it down, which wasn't overly pleasant. The gym went well, if you ignore my eternal embarrassment at complete chin-up inability of course, and so I set off homeward bound on my pushy. Five minutes later and I shift into the 25 sprocket and snap my rear mech clean off. I mean really.

It was a fantastic tap dance all the way to the train station in my cleats, although thankfully it was mostly downhill so I rolled parts of it. Life is indeed a roller-coaster as by complete chance when I was waiting for a train in Guildford a lady approached me to ask about the times. I answered her, noted she was French, did my best Franglais accent and we got talking. I’m going to my first French lesson chez-elle on Monday, so we’ll see how that goes!!

Gaffa: the stuff that dreams are made of.

The strap on my cycling shoe also snapped  the other day which resulted in some gaffa-tape fun. You've got to love that stuff, so many uses! But I digress.. That’s been my week pretty much, just earning and burning (fat that is). I've got a long ride to do tomorrow so must dash. Goodnight one and all!

03 October, 2013

Today is the first day of the rest of your life

So it’s that time when I have to start riding my bike again. I’ve been playing for a while now, perhaps too long. The first week back to training is always truly terrible but it’s a necessary evil, so come Monday: je vais rentrer entraĆ®nement!

Every year I try and do something extra to push myself up another level. Two years ago it was getting a proper coach; last year it was stretching and foam-rollering; this year it’s going to be the gym. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous at the thought a few days ago. The gym and I have a love-hate relationship: I love leaving and I hate going. Having the upper body of an 11 year old girl we’ve never been the best of buddies, and adding into the equation the fact that I’m a sweaty devil you have a recipe for embarrassing disappointment.

The only bit of equipment I knew how to use.

This year though it’s going to be different! Yesterday I had a great meeting with Chris and Sean from SC Vital Fitness who put me at ease. Chris has a cycling background so understands that: (a) cyclists generally hate gyms and (b) my core strength is comically bad. 

We went through a thorough check of background, possible injuries, flexibility and coordination tests, so before we’d even hit the dumbbells I knew I was in safe hands (dumbbells is a joke by the way!!). Talking to Chris actually got me excited for my future gym-ing as he’s got loads of knowledge on training methods which can directly improve me as an athlete! He also understands that the bike will always be the priority so we’ll be able to work as a team to get the best out of my training and recovery time. All I can say is- bring on the six-pack!