Rule 32

It’s Easter, or at least it was when I started writing this a few days ago. Traditionally a time of hope, renewal, and optimism, it’s been a little different this year. Each day is accompanied by a new set of depressing headlines; record death rates, crashing economies, and, worst of all, healthcare workers forced to put themselves at risk because protective equipment is in short supply. Most of us are largely confined to our homes, often with little to do except wait, watch, and wonder what on Earth is going to happen next. Truthfully, keeping my spirits up at this time has been rather challenging. Taking a leaf from the book one of my heroes, Columbus of Zombieland, I’m embracing rule 32 and trying to enjoy the little things. If you don’t understand that reference, go watch the movie – it’s guaranteed to be much more entertaining than reading this.

Whilst I’m not going to lie and pretend that I’ve enjoyed the lockdown, it has to be said that there a few silver linings to be found. It might be tricky to get hold of tinned tomatoes, however, on the flip side, desserts are often to be found on special offer. I would highly recommend starting your day with a slice of passionfruit cheesecake. I should probably put in a disclaimer at this point: If you came to this blog in search of nutrition advice, it might be best to look elsewhere. If dessert for breakfast isn’t enough, more happiness can be found in justifying a takeaway habit in the name of social responsibility. Why risk venturing to the local supermarket, when you can get a large pizza with two sides delivered to your door, contact free.

With very few official work commitments, the daily routine has become pleasantly flexible. I must admit that it’s rather nice to ‘occasionally’ not set an alarm, roll out of bed at 11, and spend most of the day in my dressing gown. After all, I’m sure I read somewhere that being in a comfortable environment can enhance productivity. My thesis is, in fact, coming along surprisingly well. Better still, there’s time to get all of those small jobs done, the ones that inevitably get left till the last minute most of the time because there’s always something more important to do. I’m not necessarily doing any of those chores, but it’s nice to have the option.

Anyway. As per usual, I’ve managed to go off on a completely irrelevant tangent. “Where’s the Cycling stuff!” I hear you ask, in indignant tones. Fear not, my increased level of cheesecake consumption has to be compensated for somehow, I haven’t stopped riding, i.e. committing the usual acts of ineptitude that might be vaguely entertaining. I must admit was starting to get worried; my training was going well, the bikes were all rideable, and I hadn’t succumbed to the temptation of any cycling related impulse purchases of late. How very boring. Luckily ,there’s a substantial dose of irony to be found there, in that the one time I prepared properly for the racing season, there won’t be any races. All those wet winter interval sessions, gruelling spring endurance rides, and careful weight loss efforts, were in fact completely unnecessary.

In an effort to make the most of the hard-earned fitness, I’ve decided to go out and chase some Strava KOM’s. Over the past couple of seasons, quite a number of the precious few that I held have been lost. It goes without saying that all the riders who beat me must have been riding e-bikes and been lucky enough to catch perfect tailwinds. Nonetheless; it remains a sore point (before you ask, yes, I have discussed this in therapy). There’s one particular segment that I’ve long since wanted to add to the collection, an 11 mile unofficial time trial course that conveniently starts only a couple of miles away from my front door. Yesterday, in the name of giving my neglected time trial bike an outing, I decided to make an attempt.

You’ll be pleased to hear that I didn’t go all out and put my skinsuit on. Though, it did occur to me afterwards that the sight of it might have helped persuade people to say indoors that day. No, taking a TT bike was overkill enough. Having not ridden mine for months, the first few miles of the ride were a bit of a learning curve. Those machines are very good at going fast in a straight line, sadly they fall short elsewhere. When it comes to certain things you occasionally have to do, such as; stop, go round corners, go up hills, go down hills, and avoid hazards, the TT bike is not your friend. Mine is currently sporting a rather nice pair of 90 mm deep, full carbon rims, fitted with a pair of super slick tyres. Fast as those wheels are, they’re a bit terrifying in anything other than perfect conditions.

The steep descent before the beginning of the segment did a perfect job of getting my adrenaline levels up. I can only apologise to the passing driver who may have heard some of the language I used when, due to questionable braking, I entered one particularly sharp bend a bit more quickly than I had intended. There’s something especially gruelling about a full on TT effort, especially when you haven’t done one for a while. I have a theory that the main reason why people often go on to ride more TT’s after their first one is that the brain forgets the extent of the pain shortly after the experience, as some kind of psychological defence mechanism. Half way through the effort, for the umpteenth time, I vowed to never again try to get the KOM on any segment more than half a mile long.

It’s hard to put the elation that I felt upon eventually taking the segment by 15 seconds into words. At the time, I simply imagined that I’d just won the TT stage of the Tour de France. Punching the air, and shouting “YEEEESSSSSSS”, at the top of my voice felt entirely justified. I have a feeling that the startled family, who happened to be walking on the path beside the road at exactly that moment might not have felt quite the same way. Should this post ever reach them, let it be known that I got my comeuppance on the way home. Having completely exhausted myself, on the final climb of the ride I was overtaken by a man on a hybrid.

To end on a slightly more serious note, if you’re still able to cycle outdoors, please do it responsibly. Listen to the experts; avoid group rides, stick to routes you know, and stay as far away from pedestrians and other riders as you possibly can.

Thanks for reading.

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