Sunday, 7 April 2019

Velotoze Dramas

I have been reflecting on my blog since last weekends 2 part affair. My blog was originally a diary about my sporting life. It was, I suppose, to be about being a runner. A runner with something to say; some news to impart. But life is dynamic. We are all changing. All the time. Ageing. Some more than others. All of us have to adapt to changing circumstances. So the blog has to change accordingly. I'm not the same sporting personality I was 10 years ago. Not even a year ago. Don't take my word for it, just flick a couple of tabs and read my blog from 2009 or 2017.
At the moment, my physiology says 'you're struggling to run, so do what you can'. So I paid another twelve quid a month ago and entered the Stockton sporting course time trial.
I love cycle racing; always have. To a lad like me cycling was always much more glamorous than running...all that man stuff...gears, oil, kit. But the truth of it was (and is), is that I am a much better runner than I ever was a biker. Cycling just caught my imagination more.

I arrived in Bishopton at 8:30am. The sign said it was 8 miles to Darlington. I parked up in the quiet village main street and pulled the keys out. I opened the car door and sat there. The pigeons cooed. A paper-boy in a blue hoodie, hood up, trudged his way down the street wrestling with the various door arrangements and porch apparatus. Sunday papers are mega these days. All that Brexit shit. Most of the curtains were shut. A black cat sat on a low wall. It didn't move. It was either being pensive or was, I thought , a bit bored of Bishopton.  Which was a pity: Feline so disillusioned so early in the day. The main street was old, monied and the houses all different styles. In a courtyard a horse peered out of its stable door. 

I assembled the bike and then rode up to the village hall. The numbers for the event were laid out across a low table and I signed in and picked up my number.  It was a low key affair. As I rode back to the car, the misty damp and still conditions suggested that it might be a reasonable day for a ride.Not much wind.

Digging through my modest kit bag, I realised that I had left my club cycling vest hanging on the bedroom door. I had worn it yesterday for my easy 25 mile Saturday wander. However it never reached the washing machine as it didn't smell. Well, not too strongly. Dreadful personal hygiene, I accept.
As a result, I opted for my club tracksuit top. I was already resigned to wearing tights due to the cold, so no great drama. There was no chance of a personal best.
I put on my cycling shoes, then fannied about with my Velotoze overshoes. These things are impossible feet condoms. Fourteen pounds worth of prophylactic white latex that are supposed to give your feet an aerodynamic edge. They do my head in. I regret I thought I was even fast enough to need them. I tore one of them a little in pulling it on. Would this pin-hole rip slow me down???

All kitted out it was time to crack on. I pretended I wasn't 50 something.  Manning-up, I lined up with the minimal of warm ups and sat behind Nicola of the Boompods club, a top Women's amateur club.  She turned and apologised for her rear flashing light. I just nodded. I had the temerity to think it wouldn't be a problem for me:  I passed her after 3 miles and then passed another two riders. The clagg was down but I was pushing on, grafting. Full quad action. I passed another two riders after 5 miles.  That was five. WTF. The course was very country lane 'up and down'. I was working hard. I had my neoprene gloves on and some amber shades below my helmet and I was generating some heat. Another rider was caught and passed and it was all getting a little surreal. However, I was sufficiently well informed to know that (in relative terms) they put all the slower riders and duffers at the front of these events and I was one of them. Maybe one of the better duffers, that's all (harsh, I know).
The 10 miles came and went and I already had a bagful of scalps. However, from mile 10 to 16 things became a little shaky. I had evidently been writing cheques my legs couldn't cash and my field of vision began to reduce and my perception of the road became all Ken Russell. My amber shades began to fog and I pulled them down a little, peering out above the top of the rim like some Victorian School teacher. Trying to maintain an aero-dynamic position, my head was down, but my eyes needed to see the road and after 15 miles I was transfixed, staring ahead out of the top of my sockets. Was I holding on too tight (as they say)!!. 
Thankfully, reality dawned at 19 miles when number 30 ( a rider that started 8 minutes later than me) came past. He overtook me like I was Mrs Marple on a shopper. The final nail in the coffin was for me to realise that at 22 miles, with my brain reeling faster than a slot machine on auto-pilot, was that this wasn't a 21 mile time trial. How long was this event? I was in a bad-way. I don't even know why I put a hyphen there? The road was getting all wobbly. I had buried myself, my vision was fooked and, mentally, I was down to 10 pence and a packet of space invaders. At 23 miles the finish line arrived, announced by a small collection of fluorescent anoraks with clipboards and I was done. Completely.  Cream Crackered.
I rode back to the car and peeled off my gloves. They emanated small clouds of steam. The good news was I finished 23 miles in 1:04. Only 24th out of 30. The bad news was that I still had to extricate myself from the Velotoze bastard things wrapped around my shoes. The question was ' did they give me an edge?'. The answer was  'only if you're Geraint Thomas'.
Well done to Stockton Wheelers for putting on the event. I caught up with a proper cyclist and bygone star Paul Curran afterwards. He's got a bike shop in Stockton and he's looking at a couple of my wheel sets to sort them out. 

Monday, 1 April 2019

Spring Weekend Part 2: Tom Scott Road Race

We were happy to leave the sub-standard hotel in Glasgow on Sunday morning. The streets were quiet and the sun rising as we made our way to Strathclyde Park in the sleepy hollow that is Motherwell. Thankfully, there were no obvious after effects from my sporting achievements the previous day. We had met the dark destroyer and speedy joe for an Italian on Byres Road the night before. It was chocka. Plenty of disposable income and appetites in evidence.

We arrived at race HQ in good time and Missus Mac went in for the numbers. With a field of just over 350 athletes, the Tom Scott 10m road race is a high profile run. Broadly comprising 2 laps around the lake and with only 1 incline, it has the potential to deliver fast times. My recent training runs have, however, gone poorly. The work in the gym and on the bike have affected my legs somehow, perhaps tightening the ligaments. The flab has also been hard to shift. Nevertheless, I was keen to get my 2019 running (or jogging) account open and 10 miles seemed like a daft enough idea. It was make or break. Having finished Andy McNabs Bravo Two Zero in record time (a really enjoyable read), I was steely in my determination to see this test through.
We set off at 10am. A long line of runners stretched out in front of me. The wildlife in the lake seemed to take this rampage in their stride.  I noticed the presence of a few Hawks vests, but I've not renewed my membership this year and was wearing my Morpeth vest.
I plodded along for the first 3 miles clocking around 7:10min miles. I was aware of the seemingly inevitable tightening of my right calf after 4 miles and the pace dropped to around 7:40min miles. The very warm conditions brought out swarms of mayfly which at times were pretty unpleasant as we wound our way around the lake. I was surrounded by a couple of Perth runners, one from Dumfries and a local Motherwell runner, but I was losing speed as I prayed for the mile markers to come. My stamina was definitely in question, but my resolution wasn't.
At eight and a half miles I had a stabbing pain in the calf and walked it for a wee while, before resuming the final stretch of the race. To be honest, I probably didn't lose much time and finished in 1:12min. All in all, satisfactory.
As I sat on the grass eating my Tunnocks Log and swatting the flies away I mused how antithetical the experience had been compared to my ride yesterday. Maybe I'd best park the trainers for a while.
Next weekends hilly time trial at Darlington will, no doubt, bring me back down to earth. Maybe best to focus on what I can do. Better all round for the morale.  Happily the rest of the team did well and I retired late in the day when we got home to write a less than complimentary review on the hotel in Glasgow and, conversely, a glowing one for the hotel in East Kilbride.