Climb & Punishment

Hey there folks. At the time of writing I’m looking back over what can’t be described as a straightforward week. It’s summed up very well by the events of Saturday morning.

Hill climbs are a a uniquely British tradition, usually held towards the end of the season in late autumn. It’s just as simple as it sounds, ride up a climb as fast as you can. To all intents and purposes it’s a very short time trial. I hate them. In fact, hate is something of an understatement – loathe, despise, fear and dread were the other four words that came to mind. Back in the day when I still had a skinny teenage physique and weighted 10kg less than I do at the moment I’d have had a good chance of doing well, sadly this is no longer the case.

Why bother entering then? I hear you ask. Motivation is sometimes very hard to come by at this time of year, often the only way I can drag myself out of bed for those training sessions in the cold is to give myself an incentive in the form of an upcoming race. At the moment hill climbs are the only realistic option. When I heard of one taking place a mere two miles from my front door I couldn’t really refuse. So it was that I bought my race bike, skinsuit and best pair of shoes to University with me and prepared for what I knew would probably be one of the most unpleasant five or six minute segments of my life.

Of course it was freezing cold in the morning. And raining. And windy. I just about managed to fit a base layer on under my skinsuit but sadly it was akin to bringing a knife to a gunfight. By the time I reached the event HQ my hands were so cold I could barely change gear. What made matters worse was still having half an hour to go until my start time. Ordinarily I’d have used it to warm up but this time round the prospect of sitting down in the dry was simply too enticing.

That’s how I found myself getting on the bike a mere ten minutes before I was due to start. Just about enough time to ride down the hill and get very cold again, say hello to a couple of people I knew on the startline and set off. I’d had a look at the course elevation profile the night before, my pacing strategy was relatively simple; 0-0.4 miles ridden hard, 0.4 to 0.8 at medium-hard, 0.8-1 hard again and finally flat out for the last quarter of a mile. In a desperate attempt to get the whole experience over with I of course overpaced the first section. As you might imagine the remainder of the race wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs.

I mean it when I say I’ve never been so happy for a race to be over. I didn’t even bother to stick around for the results once I’d signed back in and handed my race number back. Suffice to say my time was pretty appalling, the one small positive I can take from that race is that I didn’t succumb to hypothermia. The flu-like symptoms and hacking cough I had for the next two days were I think a sign that I should never do another hill climb ever again. Once I’ve done the one in a fortnight that I entered a while back anyway.

Now, having read that you can draw your own conclusions about the rest of the week. It’s an unfortunate truth that in much the same way as getting the pacing for a time trial or the tactics for a road race completely wrong it’s possible to misjudge people and certain situations. During the last ten days or so I’ve really excelled myself.

Not for the first time I’m immensely grateful for the escape that rides can provide. The countryside that is in reality only about four miles away from the city centre feels like a whole different world. An easy ride gives you time to think about things without the usual distractions and a very hard one can make you forget about your problems all together if you do it right. There is certainly a lot to be said about the mental health benefits of getting out on two wheels, it’s my opinion that they are just as important if not more so than the physical ones.

It was during the last few miles of my ride today that a big home truth popped into my head. This is very important year, during the next few months I’ve got to finish my degree and get round to applying for a Masters. In short, making a mess of it would be a very bad thing. More than ever keeping my health in check is going to be essential. For me this means always keeping some time spare for training, whatever else may be happening in life.

Thanks for reading.



Leave a Reply