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Rusty (Singular)

The update emails from Ironman Europe are long but say little. Without committing themselves they will apparently try and give all competitors 50 days notice as to whether the event is postponed or cancelled. I know in these difficult times this is all very trivial but away from the really huge life contained within our homes the trivial has taken on a certain magnitude.

So what to do? The race, if it goes ahead is on the 12th July, which is fairly tight to get fit for anyway, but they don’t seem to be keen (or able) to make a firm decision one way or another before the middle of May.

If I take the next few weeks off from training I could quite easily eat myself into a condition where you won’t be able to see the brake calipers let alone the bike’s saddle. Which, if the event does go ahead might put me at a slight aerodynamic disadvantage (also, not sure if it is possible to ‘let out’ a wetsuit).

Alternatively, I could try to carry on training and make myself as ready as possible for a race that might not happen, missing all those opportunities for chips, kebabs and sweets.

I’m sure for most people on this site it’s an easy call, for me it’s a disappointingly close call. Anyway, I decided after a couple if weeks of not feeling my most sparky that I would do my best to keep it going.

Luckily, before the lockdown I managed to get down to Devon to join my partner in Exeter. Just a couple of days stuck in my flat in Sutton and I was already watching back to back episodes of Antiques Road Trip and really beginning to care if a Georgian Novelty snuff box would make its money back and thinking that my underpants might just have another days wear in them.

The invitation to go to Devon to ‘self isolate’ together was very timely. I loaded every pair of shorts and trainers I could into the van and set off (forgot the turbo but at least I remembered my bike).

It’s lovely down here, the weather has been great, there’s a garden and my beloved seems to have access to fresh fruit and veg (and didn’t, as I did, mainly stockpile from the Pot Noodle and biscuit isle).

One of the ‘problems’ I have with training is that I’m not great at motivating myself to do stuff. I do find it helpful to have classes, sessions and regular rides just to keep me honest.

In a rare burst of positivity I decided to try turn this situation to my advantage. One of the things that I have read about Ironman is that although you tend to do cycle training in a group you are actually forced to ride alone. One of my many failings is that I really struggle to maintain a pace on the bike, I just start to lose focus and dawdle.

If I am going to ride alone why not try sort it out...

When I used to live in Exeter I didn’t even own a bike so I don’t know any ‘rides’ (not sure that it’s particularly responsible to be on a popular route anyway) so I set off on a couple of straight out and straight back rides, no directions-even less to think about.

You know what? It’s been OK, I get to set my own pace, because I don’t know the route I have to ‘read’ the road, to judge when to get my head down, when to try build up momentum for an upcoming hill, what speed I go up the hill etc.. I’ve got two routes now; the hilly one and the bloomin’ hilly one and try mix them up. I get to experiment with how I ride, concentrating on different muscle groups, trying different gears, standing, sitting etc.. without being dropped or killing myself to keep up.

That reminds me * (see below)

All this doesn’t mean that I’m guaranteed to be burning up the Rusties when we all get back together but I can at least feel as though I’m making progress. Not sure it’s enough progress to make the Ironman if it’s not cancelled this year but it’s the best I can do when left in limbo. If all it does is help me get back some of the time I am going to lose before I get onto the bike because I’ve completely forgotten how to swim it will be something. I know Dave is ticking over but I don’t know how everybody else is fairing.

All the best, keep yourself safe and I’m in the chair when the cafes are open again.

*That reminds me, let me explain- I was brought up in the seventies (I know, I don’t look a day over 52 but it’s true) and in the same way that every impressionist on a variety show would say something like, ‘I wonder what it would sound like if Frank Spencer gave the Queen’s speech’ and launch into the only impression he could do, every guest on a chat show would say ‘that reminds me’ as an answer to a completely unconnected question and then set off telling the story they were going to tell whatever way the interview went. Nowadays the interviewers tend to be much more straight forward and just ask them to tell the story of. Much more sophisticated and modern.

That reminds me of when I’ve tried to better at cycling before.

Having not really cycled when I was younger (I had a Chipper bike, a less cool version of a Chopper, bright yellow, long saddle that extended over the back wheel so it tipped over backwards and a top tube at the perfect high to bash your little boy bits when you fell off) I never really got much good at cycling.

Decades later when I moved to Sutton I got a job in Wimbledon and decided, for no particularly good reason (most likely the traffic) that cycling to work would be a good idea. Completely disregarding that I didn’t have a bike and hadn’t ridden for years.

I was given a cast-off mountain bike from a mate and set off. The few occasions I managed to get my backside out of bed in time it nearly killed me. I used to arrive at work in a bright red sweaty mess after what seemed hours having walked up every hill and being past by every other road user; little old ladies with fully laden shopping baskets, old gents heading sedately down the allotment and annoying kids on BMXs, lowered saddles and knees up round their ears. It couldn’t possibly be my rather blancmangey 18 stone plus frame that made me so slow, it must be the bike- right. So convinced I was that it was the bike that I actually went and bought one new from Pearsons (it was one of the previous years models that they were selling off, if I remember correctly a whole £230).

Next day I set off confident I would be the next Lance Armstrong (before we all knew), it was certainly better, and I think a few arthritic Grannies ate my dust. Then this youngish bloke cruised past me, just long enough for me to see that he was riding an identical bike to me and disappeared off into the distance. Same bike, same speed surely? So I set off in pursuit.

The cyclist in the distance continued to become a smaller dot as I redoubled my efforts, my legs flew round and I strained every sinew, sucked in great lung fulls of air. A miracle the dot stopped getting smaller, Come on Dan try even harder you’re winning. Legs flying faster and faster- the dot getting larger. A final herculean effort and I drew level just as the young man finished his phone call, stopped freewheeling and started pedaling again leaving me for dead. Too knackered to pedal any further I had to walk pushing the bike the rest of the way.

That evening I looked up spin classes finally accepting that the bike might need a little help. Having never done a spin class I very quickly came to certain conclusions; being the only bloke- bad move, also beware of an instructor who is a sinewy middle aged woman who has just been through a bitter divorce and seemed to have quite a lot of pent up anger towards all men- very bad.

I could do the slow steady stuff, climbing hills and standing up but struggled on the speedy sections. Let me explain. Perhaps due to a low saddle height, more likely due to my sheer porkiness as my knees came up they lifted my gut, a bit of extra effort required but no real problem, at least going slowly. As the instructor bellowed for me to pick up my speed the gentle lifting of my paunch became rather more bouncing my gut upwards- undignified but bearable.

The speed goes up the, the bouncing blubber goes higher at which point it starts to collide with my man boobs- bit tender but OKish. FASTER, FASTER she screamed. My knees hit my gut launching it into my tits which then sets them off swinging upwards. ‘FASTER’. The speed perfectly matching the upward push of my gut to the downward swing of my bosoms, so they start clapping. ‘KEEP THAT SPEED’ The wicked witch of the wheel screeches. My body sounds like an enthusiastic seal and is starting to feel really weird.

As my flabby appendices smack to together it causes ripples, tsunami waves of fat are starting to circumnavigate my body and colliding on my back. I swear that when I caught sight of myself in the mirror my body was a blur. Legs flying round like Billy Whizz, a beetroot red face on an out of focus body. At least half the time of the class seemed to be spent at this particular speed, I don’t know if she was just evil or thought the applause was just for her but I’m sure now you can understand how much I appreciated Nigel’s more dulcet tones. My bike got stolen a couple of weeks later and I think that I might have managed an odd class or two more before giving up.

That was it for me and cycling until after another change of job and a couple more years I invested six quid on a bike from the recycling centre (city dump) and good mate and cycling enthusiast Steve Wiltshire coaxed me up Box Hill for the first time. From that moment that I crested the hill I was doomed; doomed to buy a proper bike (expensive), doomed to wear lycra, doomed to give up Sunday morning lie ins, doomed to have road rash, doomed to be ‘chicked’, doomed to have, just occasionally, a big, stupid, contented grin as I think I might just be a little bit Bradley Wiggins.

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