Tuesday, 15 July 2014

A brief aside



Well, LEJOG is rapidly approaching, we're now into the twilight of preparations as we have less than 2 weeks until we head out on our journey, about the same time as the Tour de France finishes.

This week my thoughts have turned to the Wonder Years, a cracking US comedy drama that ran in the late 80s and early 90s charting the adolescent trials and tribulations of Kevin; an adult Kevin narrated the programme and in my memory, he started the fashion in US TV shows of the narrator signing off with a deep and meaningful aside, some heart warming moral that often finished the show with a bitter-sweet life lesson.

The theme tune was a Joe Cocker's cover of the Beatles "Get By With A Little Help From My Friends" and it made me think, if I were to summarise my LEJOG show so far, what morals would I share with you? Before that, here is a short clip from YouTube with the opening credits that may jog your memory of the show:

OK, so here goes:

1.  The first ride - get a plan
You may recall reading the blog some months ago, I headed out on my first ride of meaningful distance, 36 miles, and came back wondering what I had got myself in for - I struggled and even more so, I could not envisage consecutive days of cycling 100 miles.  Whilst I needed to keep the ultimate goal in sight, I needed to break it down in to smaller chunks that I could achieve and only then did I really start to believe it was something I could achieve.

2.  The Long One - what can you achieve?
There are two measures of what you can achieve, 1. What you can achieve and 2. What you think you can achieve.  Don't sit on the sofa wishing if only, you only get one shot at living your life, so you may as well give it a go.  I'm living proof of that, with a dodgy knee I really didn't think I could do this, but during this year I've cycled the equivalent of LEJOG twice, I covered 125 miles in one go (The Long One) and have now raised over £7,000!

3. It ain't going to plan - keep your head
The world is a chaotic place and things will not go to plan (but it's still worth having one).  There were a few rides that didn't go to plan, due to technical failure or physiological issues.  The temptation on each occasion has been to get downhearted, particularly if my body has played up, but you just cannot afford to do that (easily said!).  The first reaction to a disappointment is most likely emotional, so it is likely to be exaggerated. Give yourself some time to think objectively and think of the bigger picture, things are most likely not as bad as you think.

4. It's harder on your own - but I get by
Most of my training has been done on my own and I can tell you, without doubt, it's tough! If I were an elite athlete I'd have a team of support staff, all the kit I need on tap, coaching and training, but I'm not elite, so there is none of that.  But, I have something far more powerful than high-altitude training, diet supplements and sport psychology, I have you.  Drawing on the support of friends and family has been massive, from helpful advice, joining me on training rides, generous donations, encouragement and support.  So thank-you. I hope I make you proud and in turn, I hope I can inspire you to take on your own challenge, you've inpsired me to achieve mine - I get by with a little help from my friends.

Well, I hope the above is useful to you!  Lastly, an update on my training:

Wight Ferry Sportive - 5 July

A tricky ride, 10 miles on the New Forest before joining the ferry at Lymington to continue on the IoW for 70 miles, then a final 15 miles back in the New Forest.  I must admit, I really enjoyed this one, it was tougg though - after crossing through the middle of the IoW from west to east  I turned at Bembridge to follow the coastal road back to Yarmouth.

Some really amazing views of the white cliffs on the south coast, but some huge hills, particularly around Ventnor, and a constant headwind made for a though but rewarding ride.  I really belted it out and am pleased to say I was just a few seconds from being in the top 25% of riders, fantastic stuff.  Below is the official video from last year's ride and the usual Strava summary of my ride, but just the IoW bit.

The Magnificat Sportive - 13th July
This was a strange event and one I certainly don't savour.  Perhaps it was a bit close to the start of LEJOG, maybe hearing of Tour de France riders dropping out of the Tour or possibly a mate, who is a far more serious rider than I'll ever be, having knee injury issues, but what ever it was, this ride did not go well.

I had a choice of 83 miles or 128 and had for sometime settled at 83 as a decent pre-LEJOG ride, but as the ride neared I changed tack and decided to push myself one last time and do the 128 mile epic - a serious test and most likely 9.5 hours in the saddle.

It all started at Newbury racecourse, a cracking venue.  After the alarm sounding at 0530 I pulled into the well marshalled car park and just felt ill at ease.  I don't know why, I just felt like a chancer who had got in to through the back door of a party, I didn't really belong amongst the serious cyclists all kitted up and prepared, this is not for the hobbyists, the Sunday strollers, this is serious stuff for serious cyclists, not for the likes of me.

Such thoughts are unhelpful and I put them aside and just got on with things, but for whatever reason, I just could not settle.  After heading west and then south towards Andover and then Stockbridge, the route took us north of Winchester towards the South Downs.  The route itself was quite nice and I always enjoy the climb up Winchester Hill at Warnford.  I even chatted to a few people along the way, even an old school mate, and all said they were finding things tough.  Me too.

My body niggled like nothing before, in particular the sides of my knees hurt.  I've never been on one of these rides hoping, praying for a mechanical failure, but on this one I was.  I just wanted out, how totally absurd!  As I headed to around 75 miles the welcome sight of some supporters lifted my spirits, but by then I was already struggling with my knees and with my head.  I battled on for another 10 miles, but by then I was struggling, I could not stand up and pedal without it being painful, was it genuine pain or psychosomatic I just don't know, one thing was for sure, it was time to can the ride and reflect on what had happened.

I've now had plenty of time to think about the ride and I have mixed views about it.  On the one hand, giving up is just something I do not do, it's taken me aback a little and I'm disappointed that I didn't achieve what I wanted to.  My preparation was poor, so I really didn't give myself the best chance of being successful and for something like this, you must do that, it's a huge endurance test and I just don't think I gave myself the right opportunity.

On the other hand, I did cover the miles I had originally planned to and from what I can tell, I am physically OK, but I'll complete a short test ride next week to confirm.  Perhaps it is better not to go in to LEJOG overconfident, better still that I now have a point to prove, determination to steel and, if you've ever had chance to read the rules of road cycling, brush up on rule 5 - "Harden the **** up!" (see http://www.velominati.com/the-rules/).

Here's the Strava from the weekend

Happy cycling!