Tags: cycling, beginner, diary, biking, women, training, skills, road
So, you know me. I’m the one who likes getting muddy, and toiling up slopes with my bike on my shoulder, and falling off on singletrack. I do a bit of running. I ride on the road when I have to, mainly to try and get a bit fitter for ‘cross.
But something weird is happening to me. I’m turning into a ROADIE. I find myself idly browsing forums, looking for views on Look vs. Time pedals. Someone goes past on a Dual and I think, that’s the one with the mudguard eyes. I wonder whether I need different handlebars. I still can’t do anything useful, like adjust my gears, but I nod sagely as the boyf tells me that clunk-down-two-gears-at-once-and-have-to-go-up-a-gear-again is a common Campy problem. I start to refer to Campagnolo as ‘Campy’.
Of course, there’s a simple reason for this. Avid readers will remember me buying a new road bike. A part of me still feels embarrassedly ‘all the gear, no idea’ when I’m getting ready to go out on it. Everyone’s pointing and laughing at the slow chick on the cool bike, right? But this evaporates as soon as I am riding it, because the FUN takes up all of my brain.
Nevertheless, it strikes me I lack skillz. I mostly go out on my own, and the tricks of group riding are mysterious to me. (Until recently, I thought ‘through and off’ was when you wobble up the inside of a line of stationary traffic, then topple over at the lights because all your library books are in one pannier.) So when @sparkieturner volunteers to run some women-only skills sessions at Seedhill athletics track*, I know this has my name on it.
We have all sorts of laughs. Mark sets out the cones and we wobble in between them. (Well, I wobble; Lucy manages to nip in and out of them without knocking over a single one.) I practise. Mark moves the cones nearer to each other. It’s like the Matrix. I am Neo. Suddenly, I start to believe that the back wheel will follow the front one. I do it perfectly, raise both hands from the bars in jubilation, and don’t fall off. No-hands riding, too, then. There is no spoon.
We do partner work, passing each other bottles while going along, or giving each other a friendly push. We learn that elbows-out riding is just like that bit in Dirty Dancing. We try to learn to trackstand, to impress our kids.
Most funly, we try to go FAST. I’m scared of this on the road. OK, I’ve been doing my TT-for-one, creaking up to Todmorden and back, trying to break 33 minutes for 10 miles. But I don’t dare go for it properly, as buses have a habit of suddenly appearing in front of me. Indecisive sheep loom out of the fog. Potholes materialise like gateways to Hades. Whizzing round a running track turns out to be the answer. The bike wants to go fast, and now I can let it try, safe in its artificial world, where the only thing holding us back is the indignant screaming of my quads and the howling headwind in the back straight. We do through and off in a little group. I’m so excited I keep forgetting to yell CLEAR! and the person behind has to do it for me. We push the pace up and SPRINT for the line, each lap. I’m right down as far as I can get, chin on the bars, pretending I am Cav (the boyf remarks later, ‘You’re just a 12 year old boy.’) I notice that I can wind the sprint up a bit and catch Lucy for the line, even when she starts ahead of me. This feels so utterly PRO I can hardly breathe for glee.
There’s a lot to learn. I’m still scared to get on someone’s wheel (though I’m getting used to the slightly unsettling feeling of staring at the bum in front of me). I have no idea how to position myself coming into the sprint, and I push far too big a gear, ‘cos I can’t think about changing up in the middle of it. I STILL can’t get my left foot into the DAMN pedal. But, astonishingly, I’m not terrible at this. And that makes me too happy for words.
* You’ll remember Mark from the terrific cyclocross skills sessions last winter. There are still a couple of weeks to go on the women-only road skills course: Fridays, 7-9pm, Seedhill Athletics Track, Nelson, BB9 7TY. Just show up with your bike. £5 a session.
Tags: biking, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, manchester, track, velodrome
So. It’s all about the mud, right? And the sunshine, and the wind in your hair, and the views across the valley, the sheep, the reservoirs, the QoMs. Right? Wrong. It’s all about the TRACK.
The highly successful and much-feared Calder Valley Fell Runners have a little-known radical cycling wing, Calder Valley Velo. CVV booked a private session at the Velodrome, which I managed to inveigle my way into despite having successfully avoided numerous attempts to get me to go toiling up and down mountains, twisting my ankle in rabbit holes, etc.
So this is how I end up driving to Manchester last Friday with four hardy, skinny running types in the car, asking me if I really need the satnav and being altogether too chirpy for before-seven-in-the-morning.
The sun shines. The traffic is fine. We get there very early. A full 45 minutes to get REALLY nervous. I’ve been to the Velodrome lots of times, but only as a spectator. Walking up to reception, I’m conscious of the illustrious people who’ve preceded me across that tiled floor. This is where Chris Boardman must have signed in. Michael Hutchinson stands in this queue for his coffee (Americano, in case you’re wondering). This is where Victoria Pendleton got CHANGED. I don’t feel worthy.
The CVVers, blissfully unaware of the weight of cycling history upon them, are busy getting worried about the banking. It does look impossible, when you’re down in track centre. I have my mind on other things, terribly excited about my SILVER rented cycling shoes and the Dolan track bike which has my name on it, on a little post-it. The saddle is just the right height. I feel a bit loved.
Weirdly, I’m fine about the banking. However, I’ve just read Matt Seaton’s book; in one episode, he forgets to pedal while high up and comes off the bike, with fairly epic consequences. Never having ridden fixed, I am so worried about this that I am nearly sick on my shoes. I seriously consider bailing out, right at the very last minute.
Coach appears and summons us genially up to the track. We line up along the handrail and try to get our feet into the pedals (harder than it sounds when you can’t just hook the pedal up with your free foot). Coach gives us an encouraging pep talk (‘Don’t stop pedalling at the top of the banking, or I’ll be scraping you up from down here’) and we are off to do two laps on the flat, dark-blue-painted concrete. ‘One big pull with the left hand and off you go!’ I do a big pull with the left hand and, miraculously, off I go.
Once we’ve managed to stop again (slow the bike by pushing back on the pedals a bit, aim for the handrail, grab a bit of netting by mistake, feel a bit foolish) we are allowed to move out onto the couple of feet of flat boards at the edge (the Côte D’Azur) and from there, up onto the banking. This feels monumental. The gradient starts right there, at a crazy angle – no gradual incline. For the first couple of laps, I’m terrified I’m going to ground a pedal. It doesn’t happen, and Coach shouts at me as I go into the corner, ‘PUSH on the pedals, now! Get some speed up!’ I start trying a bit more.
I steer up the banking and push harder. It’s hot, really hot. Warm wind ruffles the hair on my arms. The corners rear up, again and again; there’s nowhere to rest. A few seconds on the straight, then into the corner again, over and over. I get down on the drops and pull my knees and elbows in, imagining myself bulleting through the air. I’m overtaking people. I dig deeper: I must be able to go faster. The sun shafts through the roof. The boards rumble with other people’s wheels; my wheels make them sing, odd pentatonic harmonies of wood on wood. I’m reeling in the chap in front, inexorably, lap by lap. I must have him. A glance over my shoulder, swing up and out, grip the bars and here I go. Faster, legs. Come on, lungs. My knees are hitting my chest. I put my forehead down on the bars and barrel through. There is nothing in the WORLD to match this.
Coach laughs at me, as I trundle in at the end. ‘Look at that grin.’ Everything aches. I wobble through to the changing room and laugh stupidly in the shower. A couple of CVVers comment that it was fine, but it wasn’t for them, really. I look at them like they are from another planet.
When can I go again?
Later, at road skills training (of which more, on another day), I have this conversation:
Me (grinning madly, jumping up and down): GUESS where I was riding a bike this morning. Go on, GUESS.
Me: EVEN more exciting than Gargrave*.
Other bloke (knowingly, with a smile**): On the track.
* Is Gargrave really that terrific? Never been…
** There are those who Get It, and those who don’t
(Pictures by kind permission of Anna, the partner of Blair Garrett, who organised the trip. Thanks so much, Blair & Anna!)
Tags: bike, biking, ck2, corsa, cycling, new, newbikeday, squeee, tifosi
So here’s my new Tifosi Ck2 Corsa. Can’t quite believe it. My face aches from grinning.
Pedals are lent from @spandelles (though I quite like them and am angling to keep them). Bottle cages also temporary as I forgot to order any.
Went out for tiny spin (not far due to head cold). Initial impressions:
- Golly! These brakes actually STOP you!
- Aargh! Need to practise getting in and out of these pedals
Here I am, looking just a tiny bit chuffed with my new ride.
(Eagle-eyed readers will note that these pictures also feature New Shoes and New Jersey, which arrived, perfectly timed, on #NewBikeDay.)
Thanks as always to @spandelles for expert bike fettling, picture-taking and general encouragement.
Tags: beginner, biking, cross, cyclocross, training, women
I’m on Strava. I KNOW. Get me! It’s all highly scientific. I’m uploading all my rides, and checking myself out. I got my heart rate up to 162 on the turbo, the other day! And I beat my PB on one segment (though, admittedly, I did have that modern equivalent of a hen’s tooth, a tailwind up Cragg Vale). Garmin overestimates my calorie expenditure; Strava underestimates it, I reckon. I split the difference, and work out how many eclairs it equates to.
People are following me, mad fools. Not sure what they are expecting. Mostly I suppose it makes them feel a bit better about themselves, as I struggle through the week, running slowly, and cycling weakly. I ride 10 miles in 35 minutes; somebody gives me kudos. Bless them.
My friends in other parts of the country are busy amassing QoMs. There’s not much chance of that round here, what with all the demonically fast women Yorkshire seems to nurture. This got me thinking: how am I, a bit rubbish and Not Trying Very Hard, supposed to compete with these Amazons? How can Strava include us, the Crap Ones, and give us a bit of a chance? A level playing field, if you like? Of course, I’m not suggesting we dope (I’m already up to my eyeballs in that, as you may recall). No! Instead, I propose some modifications to the Strava interface.
A new Handicap feature will allow you to modify the details of your ride to take into account the particular conditions that we all know affect performance:
For individual segments, you will also be able to filter results to include only riders who are similar to yourself:
So, fear not! No more will you have to attach comments to your ride, saying how the sun was in your eyes, and you weren’t ready. Strava will work out your handicap for you, and move you up the appropriate leaderboard. Bon courage!
Cartoon by @HerbieGreen. Reproduced with kind permission.
Tags: biking, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, motorists, road
One of the great things about a ‘cross bike is a bit of off-road optionality. Don’t like getting squeezed by buses in Mytholmroyd? Simply drop down onto the towpath instead! But nearly everyone rides on the road at some point, and motorists can be downright scary. So here’s a quick straw poll. You’re riding along, humming a ditty, when a car overtakes you close enough to shave your legs. Do you:
(a) Shout ‘YO, BUMFACE!’*;
(b) Shake your fist at them in impotent fury, like a Scooby Doo villain;
(c) Chase them down so that you can do (a) and (b) right up close;
(d) Smile and wave happily at them.
My one-handed riding is still a bit shaky (I once fell off trying to fling a banana skin into a hedge), which more or less rules out (b) as an option. So I’ll admit that I tend towards (a). Like many of us, this has got me into trouble. A driver tried to run me off the road in Camden. I yelled something NSFW at him; he stopped and got out. Big bloke, menacing expression. ‘WHAT d’you call me?’ Oh, dear. Suddenly remembering some advice from (I think) Richard’s Bicycle Book, I sprinted straight at him. He jumped out of the way; I tore off and hid, sobbing and shaking, until I was sure he’d gone.
Shouting at people sometimes has other, unexpected effects. I SCREAMED obscenities at a driver in Kentish Town, only to realise with horror that he was a colleague. Him (amiably): ‘Oh, hello! Did I do something wrong?’ Me (mumbling): ‘Well, you WERE a bit close back there…’
London is a good place to practise (c), of course, because you do actually catch up with people, even if you’re not very fast. At the traffic lights in Highgate, I pulled up next to a woman who’d sideswiped me. I was STEAMING. She rolled the window down, I took an ENORMOUS breath, and she said, ‘I’m EVER so sorry!’ Me: ‘Oh! Er, well…um. OK then.’
So none of these work too well for me. Recently, I’ve started trying (d) instead. The effects are quite interesting. Waving cheerily at motorists freaks them RIGHT out. You can see them thinking, ‘Oh, crap. Do I know her?’ (An added advantage is that you can do it in great anger; as long as you’re showing your teeth, they won’t be able to tell.)
A variant of (d) is Trying To Stay Calm. A bus driver passed me with inches to spare the other day. I growled to myself, ‘I’ll HAVE you! There’s a bus stop in a minute!’ But when I caught him, I thought, OK, let’s try this. I knocked on the window and said with a blinding smile**, ‘Do you think you could give cyclists a bit more room?’ We discussed his driving good-naturedly and he said he would try harder. ‘At least you’re not shouting at me!’. We wished each other a nice day and I rode off, slightly bewildered.
So I’m trying to extend this principle into general road use. When people let me out, I thank them ostentatiously. If they manage to hold back for a few seconds until it is safe to pass me, or overtake by pulling right out into the opposite lane, I wave and grin delightedly. Once, at the bottom of a long hill with parked cars all down one side, I looked up and saw an HGV coming the other way. Help. I prepared to leap off but the driver saw me, stopped at the top, and waited patiently while I creaked up in bottom gear. I beamed and blew him a kiss; he looked delighted and blew me one back.
Oh, this sounds preachy, doesn’t it. It’s not meant that way. I don’t live in the city any more. I don’t have to deal with multiple, terrifyingly close passes every day, like I used to. It’s not possible to keep your cool if you feel like everyone is trying to kill you. I absolutely believe that less vulnerable road users need to bear the responsibility for looking after the more vulnerable ones, and I’m not trying to shift any of this responsibility onto cyclists. But I often feel helpless as a cyclist, reliant on motorists to be decent and nice, to behave themselves, to think about what it’s like to be me. Pointing out bad behaviour positively, and trying to reward thoughtful behaviour, makes me feel like I’m doing something, however small. If a couple of motorists come away thinking of cyclists as actual people too, maybe it’s worth it.
* you may substitute an epithet of your choice, here
** it really IS blinding. Friend A to Friend B, discussing me: ‘I saw @accidentobizaro outside the Co-op. I couldn’t hear what she was saying because I was so mesmerised by her teeth.’
Tags: advice, beginner, biking, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, enhancing, performance
I just found out I’m a doper. That’s right, me. Doped to the EYEBALLS. WIRED on the latest candidate for PED status. Nope, not GWR4920 (though getting a lift on that would certainly move me up a few Strava leaderboards). I’m out of my MIND on thyroxine. This, of course, explains why I BURST onto the CX scene last season from NOWHERE and, er, well. Yeah.
Thyroxine definitely improves my performance, mostly because I have an underactive thyroid and tend to fall asleep at 4pm without it. So I’ve got a note, and everything.
However, now I’ve Crossed The Line, I feel fully qualified to start dishing out advice on performance-enhancing substances. Here is my list of tried-and-tested supplements to give you that competitive edge.
- Ibuprofen. Best taken after CX training sessions, as it dulls the pain of the bruises from practising those pesky remounts.
- Vitamins. These are EXTREMELY important for effective recovery. An apple should do it.
- Coffee. Sadly, I can’t personally vouch for the effects of caffeine ingestion on performance, as I gave up drinking proper coffee last year. (Me: God, these HEADACHES. I can hardly SEE. Boyf: Maybe it’s the coffee? Me: Don’t be daft. It can’t be the coffee. (It was.)) However, the psychological boost of downing a couple of (fake) espressos before charging over to the start line is not to be underestimated. Especially if you do it while wearing your Rapha top, squinting slightly against the sunlight.
- Music. A bit of jolly salsa in the car on the way to a race can put you in the mood (or, alternatively, enable you to kid yourself that you’re going to be fine, and you really can’t possibly need another wee). More importantly, persuading the kids to sing LET’S BAKE A CAKE! at the tops of their voices all the way home will stop you falling asleep at the wheel after all the Trying Hard you’ve been doing.
- Beconase. If you’re lucky, you’ll have got rid of that lingering cold just in time for hayfever season to start. Ventolin might be frowned on, but a crafty snort of Beconase lets you tackle the grassiest summer ‘cross courses without fear.
- Sedatives. Alcohol is not recommended on race day itself, but if you’re haunted by memories of last year’s Brighouse course, a bottle of Rioja and a couple of whisky chasers will help you get to sleep the night before you tackle it this year.
- Protein supplements. Well, you can’t have a nice bottle of Rioja without a bit of cheese, can you?
- BreatheRight strips. These are ESSENTIAL for optimal performance. Attach one to your partner’s nose, and get a decent pre-race night’s sleep for once.
Tags: biking, cycling, ladies, women
(It’s a bit of a departure, this one. I discuss the meaning of some of these words, and wonder a bit about women and cycling. It’s quite long; I’d get a cup of tea, if I were you. )
So! I’d noticed myself getting irritable at the use of ‘ladies’ in tweets like these:
I’m worried about this word. Its connotations are bad, for me. Ladies are perfectly-behaved, delicate creatures in twinsets and pearls, or bootylicious babes in bikinis (as satirised by Flight of the Conchords so perfectly here). I can’t identify with either of these groups. I’m not that old, yet; I swear quite a bit and laugh like Sid James; I occasionally wonder what it would be like to have a cleavage. I’m not much of a lady.
But maybe it’s just me? I asked my twitter friends what they thought.
So there’s some ‘chivalrous sexism‘ associated with the term, at least for some people. Is there a real difference in meaning? One thing to try is substitution. Substitute the equivalent term for men, and see if the effect is different (e.g. funny, demeaning, ridiculous). (This is similar to Caitlin Moran’s ‘Are the boys doing it?’ test, and also related to @Ellyblue‘s The Bike Test, question 3.) This works for the word ‘girls’: if you’re going to talk about ‘Team GB’s golden girls’, does ‘Team GB’s golden boys’ sound right? If not, you probably shouldn’t say ‘girls’, either. (And I know there’s alliteration in ‘golden girls’, but ‘golden boys’ is as common a phrase.) Does this work for ‘ladies’?
But the connotations are different. ‘Gentlemen’ is often used to denote good, upstanding behaviour, especially in sporting contexts. See this example by Mark Cavendish (thanks to @mmmaiko for the spot):
Would Marianne Vos say ‘Amazing to have a race full of real ladies today’ in a similar situation? I’m not sure she would. So the meanings are different; the words are not equivalent.
But! I hear you cry. Even if we decide that men calling women ‘ladies’ may give the wrong impression, what about women calling each other ‘ladies’? Those tweets from Gabby Day and TWC again:
These interest me because they use both terms – ‘women’ and ‘ladies’ – in the same tweet. Does this mean the terms are interchangeable? Linguists understand the meanings of words as being at least partly ‘constructed’ through their use; the dictionary definition of a word may not accurately reflect the way it is currently used, as communities of language users unconsciously decide on what words mean, by using them in particular ways. Looking at usage can give you ideas about the connotations that words carry – the difficult-to-pin-down subtleties that people convey (whether they mean to or not) by choosing one term over another.
A twitter search returned a whole HOST of tweets using both terms in the same tweet. I looked at tweets that were (as far as I could tell) written by women, back to 01 March. (Only 35 tweets, but it’s a start.) ‘Ladies’ was most commonly used by women as a term of address (12 tweets):
Do we need to address ourselves as a group at all? As Caitlin Moran suggests in How To Be A Woman, can’t we all just be ‘the guys’?
In some contexts it can be wise to avoid making a gender-based distinction at all. The (male) correspondent who asked the owner of this business writing blog how to address a group of females in a work email was advised, gently but firmly, that ‘colleagues’ would be fine. Some of my twitter correspondents made a similar point:
The inequalities and discrimination faced by women in professional cycling are clear. We also know that women are under-represented in cycling at an amateur and leisure level. Assuming we want to encourage more women into cycling, it seems logical to address them as a group, and try to cater for their needs. But might we actually be unwittingly undermining this aim by doing this?
Going back to my twitter search, the next most common usage of ‘ladies’ by women (10 tweets) was as a tongue-in-cheek way to include the author in the group referred to:
Here, the term ‘ladies’ almost seems to negate the message: women are on the list of influential, powerful people, but referring to them as ‘ladies’ feels chummy and non-threatening. Is this assumed to be the reason that women don’t take part in cycling to the extent that men do? ‘Ladies’ are expected to be uncompetitive, to minimise their achievements, to emphasise that they are ‘just one of the girls’.
‘Ladies’, in this sense, doesn’t really describe many of the women I know and admire.
Of course, I may just be weird. Never mind being a ‘lady’ cyclist, I don’t even identify that strongly as a ‘woman’ cyclist. (To be frank, I’m not sure I particularly think of myself as a woman at all: my strongest self-identification is probably ‘bit of a twit’**.) I like to ride my bike. I’d like to be able to do it on a comfortable saddle, in clothes that fit. I’d like to ride it with people I can have a laugh with. I am a bit crap: I’m nervous, and lack skills, and am a bit lazy. I want to be inspired to do better.
Maybe if we concentrated less on what we assume ‘women’ or ‘ladies’ need, and more on what newbies, or scared-but-kind-of-want-to-have-a-go types, or experienced-audaxers-that-want-to-have-a-go-at-racing, or I-could-probably-get-to-work-by-bike types might need, we could end up with a ‘cycling’ that subdivides into different groups of ‘the guys’, each of which naturally includes some women. Then I wouldn’t be flipping through Cycling Weekly, looking at the pictures and going ‘Men, men, men, men, men, WOMAN! Men, men, men, WOMEN!’*** (And this is a publication where 1/3 of the writers in their ‘Meet the Team’ feature are women.)****
So here are the cycling publications I want to see:
And then we can all find our little niche, and be with ‘the guys’ who really ARE like us.
* The title of this post refers to this song. Country & Western really does have a song about everything.
** This may be a matter for my therapist, rather than this post.)
*** This did make my small sons laugh, though
**** @Ellyblue’s excellent Bike test is relevant here, too: although the answer to her first question, ‘Are women present or represented at all?’, is ‘Yes’, two pictures in the whole magazine is slim pickings. If women aren’t represented ‘doing cycling’, they may not even consider it as an activity they can take up.
Tags: advice, beginner, biking, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, tips, training, turbo
So, winter. Proper winter, too, with snow and ice and freezing winds and two and a half hours of daylight* and all that. Around this time of year, a young [cough] cyclist’s thoughts turn to staying inside out of the ruddy weather, FGS, thank you very much, what do you think I am, crazy?
But sitting around eating cheese footballs and watching Masterchef only appeals for so long. While Christmas is traditionally a time for getting our fitness baseline right down so that we have something to work on in the New Year, by February most of us are surveying our rears in the mirror with growing distaste, unfriending people on Facebook because they’re on holiday in Tenerife, and biting anyone who suggests we might just go out for a little walk, you know, to clear our heads?
The solution, of course, is folded up in the corner of the spare room: the turbo. I’ll confess to a bit of a love-hate relationship with the turbo. I owe it a lot. My first winter of turbo training** revolutionised my cycling. The following summer, instead of trailing up French climbs throwing mental grenades at @spandelles as he disappeared over the horizon, I actually beat him up Mont Ventoux. (‘I’ve created a monster,’ he said ruefully over pizza that evening.) The turbo kept me sane during pregnancy, when I was dutifully trying to keep my HR down so as not to boil the baby, or whatever was supposed to happen if I exceeded 135bpm. When I gave myself an arch strain jumping around the kitchen in my socks to LCD Soundsystem*** and couldn’t run for nearly a year, the turbo saved me from going postal.
Despite all this, turbo-ing can be a depressing prospect. However, with a few tweaks to your routine, you CAN enjoy your turbo session. Based on extensive personal experience, here are my top tips. You’re welcome!
1. Have a playlist with some fast tracks on it, and some REALLY fast tracks. Choose ‘shuffle’, and try and keep up with the music.
2. Do 20/40s, or 30/30s, or 10/10s, or whatever other heinous alternation of sweating and wheezing you can muster.
3. Sing. This is the one time that singing along to your ipod is completely acceptable. (If you can sing along to ‘I Will Always Love You’, mind you, you may not be working hard enough.)
4. Take advantage of those inevitable trips to go to the loo/ answer the door/ get your towel/ check your @mentions by honing your cyclocross skills: dismounts, remounts and getting your feet in and out of the pedals at speed can all be practised on the turbo. (Well, maybe not the remounts. See ‘wonder why your arse hurts’, below.)
5. Fine-tune your raceface. Take a few pictures on your phone, to check yourself out. Make sure that your raceface is sufficiently distinct from your sexface. You don’t want your race pictures showing up on those sites, again.
6. Observe the functioning of your body under stress. Wonder why your elbows/ wrists/ knees sweat so much (delete as applicable). Try to get your HR into zone 5. Try to get your HR back down out of zone 5. Wonder if anyone will miss you if your drop off the turbo stone dead, or if you’ll be discovered three weeks later with the cat eating your face.
7. Think about bike fit. Does your arse hurt because your saddle is too high, or because you’re wearing your shortest shorts? When you’re in TT position, can people see down your top? (You’ll need a mirror, or a friend, for this one.)
8. Have a really brilliant idea for a blogpost/ million selling book/ dastardly world domination plan that you can’t write down. Forget it by the time you get in the shower.
* I may have been watching a bit too much Borgen, here
** by which I mean, riding my bike attached to the turbo; ‘training’ is overstating it a touch
*** When I told the doctor this story, she looked at me and went, ‘Idiot.’
Tags: biking, clifcross, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, skills, training
OK. You remember last time? I vowed to go out and ride with other people. My first opportunity was Friday night, at an informal CX skills session in Todmorden park. Riding over there just before 7pm, I was thinking, ‘God, I’m tired. I mean, I’m REALLY tired. What am I doing this for? It’s cold, it’s dark. I’ll have to wash my bike afterwards. Gah.’ And to be honest, if I’d been on my own, I would have turned round and gone home again. But the thought of seeing the #CXChix* kept me going.
When I got there, the Chix were already riding round and round the kiddies’ mini road layout (good cornering practice. And hilarious). We charged over to the other side of the park to find somewhere to practise dismounts & remounts. Hopelessly overexcited, I immediately toppled over. (I did turn my pratfall seamlessly into a TJ Hooker-style somersault; all that falling-off practice I did last year finally paid off.) Sweetly, the Chix managed not to laugh. We set out my orange mini-cones and did a little circuit, jumping on and off and leaping over imaginary barriers. We tried (not very expertly) to teach @CorinneKielty to do it. Then we rode up and down steep banks in the pitch black, which was BRILLIANT, and much easier than doing it when you can see (I’m just going to close my eyes in races from now on). We looked unsuccessfully for some steps to run up, and did some cornering between the bowling greens. We laughed and shared tips and supported and learnt from each other. It was almost tear-jerkingly lovely.
The next morning, I was up early for my second #RidingWithPeople experience in as many days! So keen! Ali (@millsphysio) wanted to ride a bit of the CLIF’cross route which Emma (@waterrat77) had been speccing out. It was bright, clear and C-C-C-COLD as we trundled off from the Co-op and immediately turned up an impossible hill. We were still on-road, and I was walking… Hmm. Onto the bridleway, back into the saddle, and Ali reassured me she was just happy to be out, no pressure, no need to ride for hours, etc. I relaxed. A bit. The off-road riding was HARD for MTB-deniers like myself: lots of rocks and cobbly bits, holes and loosely packed rubble. Add in the gradient and my general lack of conviction, and I got off the bike quite a lot in the next couple of hours. Pushing didn’t feel like failure though, as it was almost as hard as riding. And we were having such a jolly time! It didn’t seem to matter. At the Top Of The World™ we grinned at the 360° view, then screeched down a long descent to Gorple reservoir and rode along past the water in delight.
UP and OVER and DOWN and UP and DOWN via Widdop reservoir to Hurstwood, where we were pretty sure we saw @GreatRock’s back (he says this is his best angle). We turned into the icy wind here and, although the track was easily rideable, I creaked almost to a stop. Hoo. TIRED. Uncharacteristically, I didn’t freak out. I’d eaten enough, and I knew I just needed to keep going. I can’t emphasise enough how COMPLETELY out of character this is for me. Normally I just cry. Maybe ‘cross is teaching me something after all… Ali’s happy attitude really helped, too. I knew I wasn’t being judged. We stopped for a ‘We Were Here’ photo, then turned on to the road for the return leg.
Riding straight into the freezing headwind, being buzzed by motorbikes, I realised how tired my legs had got. 8 fairly hilly miles to go, and nothing left at all. Ali was freewheeling uphill to give me a chance to catch up. Her: You OK? Gonna make it? Me: Yes. What’s the alternative? Her: Good attitude… We chose the offroad route back down from Blackshaw Head, mercifully out of the wind. Mirages of hot baths and cups of tea floated before me. I could smell home.
We took nearly three and a half hours to do 21 miles, which tells you something about the terrain**. It’s the longest ride I’ve done since having kids. We were IMMENSELY proud of ourselves.
So, the tentative verdict on #RidingWithPeople is: GOOD. Key for me have been a happy atmosphere, lots of chat and laughter, challenging riding but a complete absence of competitiveness. It IS possible…
**or maybe about my lack of leg strength and terror of going uphill and downhill
Tags: beginner, biking, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, racing, training, women
So. My 2012 season ended with a whimper, as I was ill for both the Heptonstall Fancy Dress charity ‘cross race and TodCross (which take place within a week of each other and are 2 miles and 5.5 miles from my house, respectively. Insert your own emoticon, here).
But it’s New Year, and everyone is busy Resolving. I hate resolutions; they just seem to be a formal way of giving yourself a hard time about not being good enough (at which I am already black belt, seventh dan). But I need a plan of action for this year, if I’m going to be not quite so comprehensively rubbish at ‘cross.
@sparkieturner suggested doing a SWOT analysis. Once I’d established that this didn’t mean reading a lot of books and sticking my hand up excitedly in class (it couldn’t be that easy, could it), I gave it a go. My first attempt looked like this:
@sparkieturner said this was ‘a start’, but I needed to put at least five items in each quadrant. Ooh.
Well, weaknesses are easy. Descending, rooty singletrack, riding in mud, riding up steep banks, riding down steep banks, grinning instead of doing #sufferface in photos, wobbling and shouting ‘Hoo!’ when people overtake me, being scared of everything, not really trying hard enough, almost complete lack of killer instinct, and most obviously, a general absence of power on the bike. I’m gonna need a bigger quadrant.
Strengths? Oh, I hate this. I don’t have any strengths. Writing about riding my bike? Not sure that qualifies. (I suppose I could always yell at everyone who laps me, “I bet my blog’s funnier than yours!”) Um… My cornering’s better than it was, though I’m still not sure I’d describe it as a strength. I’m going to put running, simply because I know some ‘crossers would do ANYTHING rather than run.
Opportunities. Well, the women-only training sessions have been great, and more of those would be fab. I can find time to ride, as my work is quite flexible, and there are plenty of places nearby to practise. I’m also getting to know other women ‘crossers around here, and they’re very friendly. I should be out riding with them, though I am dimly aware of avoiding this, which brings me to threats.
Threats are (as far as I can tell) almost entirely in my head. I’m not just talking about confidence to tackle scary stuff on the bike (though heaven knows I could do with a bit more of that). No, I’m frightened of riding with others. Anonymous at the back of some race, I can concentrate on how *I’m* doing. That corner was quite good! Look, I got up that bank! I’m gonna get you, Mesh Insert Man! And so on. But bring people I actually know into the equation, and I become despondent. The women’s race at Waddow was brilliant, but I’d really hoped I would do better; having my arse kicked by women who’d only been racing ‘cross for a couple of weeks honestly made me want to weep with despair.
There are of course many excuses I can bring in here (though, strangely, there’s no column for these in the SWOT analysis*). These include: being a good ten years older than many of the women I’m comparing myself with; not having been in a race of any kind since childhood (apart from coming 176th out of 244 in the Hot Toddy a few years back); having always been completely rubbish at competitive sport; and being generally weak, feeble and prone to crying and giving up when I can’t do things. But enough! I can still improve. I must be able to do better than this: after all, I’m not dead yet. So what do I need?
I think the main thing is to be stronger. To get stronger I need to get fitter; to get fitter I need to ride harder, faster and further. I also need to stop thinking being competitive is nasty and unfriendly. To achieve both of these, I probably need people to whip my sorry arse. So, @waterrat77 and @millsphysio and @makepiece, my resolution is this: I will swallow my pride and my fear, and come out riding with you, if you’ll have me. Just try not to laugh at me until after I’ve gone home…
* maybe because that would make it a SWEOT analysis, which sounds a bit icky