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.