Tuesday, 30 November 2010

You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)


Things are getting more serious now.  None of that bright eyed enthusiasm, the naive candour.

And I'll tell you why in one stinking, fun-crushing word:

         T              U             R            B            O

Yep.  My successful handle-botching skills have resulted in a fully functioning turbo, something which given the extra 2 feet of snow that fell last night, I'm going to be getting regrettably well acquainted with.   For all the older roadies and seasoned cyclists who are probably sitting smirking already, bear with me as I want to fully elaborate on this for my own selfish indulgence, as already the associations with this word forming in my mind are better suited to Traffic Wardens, Council Tax, stubbed toes and sour milk.

First, I've never used a turbo as for the couple of winters I've been a 'cyclist' in the less committed sense of the word; I've never really seen the need.  I bought mine for a tenner during summer from EvilBay on a whim only to find the handle was cracked, and its sat ignored in the garage ever since.  Now, with several feet of snow to contend with and a real need to start getting down to business in building up me legs, it's going to be a core part of my training routine just through necessity.  Now, mother always said I was a quick learner, and 45 minutes of less than turbo based action was enough to school me in the harsh realities of winter training that I'm sure a great many others know only too well already...

Primary observations being:

-It's boring.  Very boring. And staring out the window looking at beautiful, pure white hills only served to make me regret each and every time I've had the opportunity to go for a ride over them during summer but declined because it was 'too windy' or 'it looks like its going to piss down'.  Hills, humid summer rain, wind, potholes, and intemperate Scottish van drivers, I am sorry and I will never take you for granted again.  You light up my life every time I get onto the saddle.

-It's nothing like riding your bike on the road, although even in the most basic physical sense you might be spinning your pins round cranks on the bike, it feels 'wrong' in terms of resistance and I don't know if this is just the monotony, but its more tiring.  I resented every time I looked at my watch to see that the minute hand had only trudged on a few units, so I am dreading the amount of work I know I will have to do on it not just to make it an effective, meaningful part of my training, but interesting as well.

-It is Noisy.  Up to speed and I thought the whole house was going to take off under the power of my pedals.  The bouncy techno music that I thought would provide me with light relief and perhaps induce me into a time obliterating trance, was inaudible through my crappy headphones.  My dreams of maybe being able to watch more films, or listen to podcasts that I would normally consider to self indulgent in terms of time, shattered.

-Sweat.  I've often seen sweat guards for sale for 30 quid a pop and thought 'who the hell needs that?  Surely they want a doctor if they sweat that much?'   Even a meagre 45 minutes (or 2700 seconds if you prefer) was enough to have sweat seeping out of me like juice from the bit of rotten fruit at the bottom of the bowl.  I've never sweated like that on the bike and would probably be deeply concerned if I had!  The plus side is that the BTU's from my body will probably help in economising with the heating bill over winter, even if the house will smell like a sweat-scented magic tree as a result.

So, from looking in the past with scorn and bewilderment at 600 quid turbos replete with virtual reality simulations factoring in pot-holes, crosswinds, cow dung and drunken spectators and considering them the frippery of millionaires and tech-geeks, I now see where the demand has come from....  and how I want one!

And with this, I drag myself off armed with vitamin-c infused water, better headphones and a sense of steely eyed determination to see myself through another hour of high tempo masochism...

The offending article, with bespoke wooden handle.
'View from Turbo Featuring Side of House and Tree', Oil on Canvas, 2010

Sunday, 28 November 2010


Today was earmarked for a nice hilly 50 mile run but snow laden clouds had a different idea and I awoke to a blizzard...  Total white-out. I have however managed to craft a rudimentary handle for the broken turbo in much the same way as a neanderthal might approach the task... it's not pretty but it works.  for now.

Been doing my research and have been reading up on nutrition, bikes, training... information overload to be honest but getting a handle on it.  Nutrition wise with the holidays approaching I'm going to be realistic and try to limit the food and booze intake (i.e whisky instead of beer, mince pies I can grudginly do without...) but my overall goal is to drop back down to an optimal weight of 10 stone/65kg for my 5'9'' height.  I'm currently at about 11 and a half (about 73kg) after almost 2 years of pretty sporadic exercise and little by way of routine thanks to several factors such as moving country/city several times over this period (cerveza, siesta, fiesta when working in Spain was great for the soul but terrible for the waist line), medical issues and existential conflicts so my once rather bemuscled frame is looking decidedly slacker than I would like and I feel sluggish.

I'm not overly concerned about losing the weight as I'll certainly be spilling the kilojoules onto the road or on the turbo in the interim and a balanced diet and some self control over Christmas should do the rest (1kg a month? naive? maybe...).  My budget won't really allow for expensive dietry supplements however so I may have to do some DIY in that regard also by sourcing the ingredients in bulk and home-baking and brewing, which being a practical sort of chap is not a problem as long as it has the desired effect!  I'll be staying away from any Spanish steaks though...

Logistics-wise I've found this excellent free guide to the Etape-dowloadable as a PDF for free here at tourdefrancetips.com by a seasoned Etape-er which has been great-thanks!   I've found some cheap lodgings for the duration so all good there... now just need to get down to business and get miles into the legs-go away snow!!!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Etape du Tour 2011-Alpe d'Huez: Ground Zero!

First post!

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!