I'm writing this blog as a personal diary of my first ever foray into the domain of sportive cycling. 2011 will be the year of the Etape du Tour and several other UK based sportives as I aim to raise my level of fitness, improve my riding, and basically just stimulate change in my life.
About me... I'm 27, from Scotland, and have been a casual cyclist for the last couple of years. I've become more and more interested in the sport proper after an initial obsession over the machines themselves (mainly vintage bikes I have to admit) which are beautiful pieces of machinery in their own right. I cycled as a kid but not road/competative cycling so when in a rather tumultuous (read bleak) period of my life I picked up an old beater, and spent hours stripping, cleaning and re-assembling every part, something clicked and I found a sense of calm and purpose that was much needed at the time and gave me vital repose from external and internal demons alike. So, I've been steadily clocking up the miles and investing in the right gear, and although I usually ride solo, I know a good number of good people who all ride to varying degrees of seriousness, and this has spurred me on to aim a bit higher, find a bit of structure and train towards something a bit more ambitious than the usual 50 mile runs.
At the moment I'm unemployed despite many hours spent every day glued to a screen looking for jobs, filling in applications, joining agencies... and lack any kind of structure at all which is as terrible for the mind as it is for the body. This is despite speaking three languages, having all the certificates, scholarships and awards you can flog yourself through Uni, £30,000 of debt and countless dead-end jobs to obtain. My finances inspire a weird kind of numeric vertigo that I imagine many folk are feeling too at present, so all of the preparations and training I'll be doing over the next 8 months leading up to the Etape will be on a shoe-string budget, and will hopefully have to fit around a work schedule sometime soon, though I'll be trying to maximise current free time even if its just job searching whilst sitting on the currently broken turbo I've sourced for a tenner and will be mending tomorrow with my rather quirky woodwork skills. ahem.
I'm pretty much a sportive virgin-I haven't been brought up to be a 'participant' in mass events or team sports so its a daunting concept to me to even join a club even though most every cyclist I've met has been really friendly, and the thought of decending the Galibier en masse at x kmph is enough to make my stomach lurch. However... this shall change and I'm genuinely excited at the possibilities the next few months will bring. Worst nightmare is not even making the grade before the event, after that it is injuring myself in the run-up, or not finishing. Despite this, I need to consider that I'm young, in relatively good shape even if I've slipped since my peak at 23 when I did a lot of long-distance running, and I know I have the will power and discipline to see this through.
So... I'm going to keep this anonymous out of general modesty, and its largely for me to chart a personal journey in a way that I wouldn't normally have the confidence or reason to do so, but I will also try to make it as honest and real as the repetative strain injury I'll be sure to inflict upon myself in the process and maybe it will even spur others who like me are sometimes finding it tough to find a purpose to keep themselves going about their day to day lives in these hard times.
So, I give anyone who is reading this: I give you the salute I plan to give (probably very feebly mind) as I creep up the Huez on the 11th of July and offer you a glimpse of the image that will be scorched on my retinas and etched into my bones during the by sweat-drenched, muscle knotting, jaw clenching rides for the hours, days and months to come!