86kg this morning. After a visit to the porcelain throne too. How did this happen? Race weight is good if 77kg – back in 2011 at the Tour of Thailand I was a Dickensian street urchin-like 74kg. The belt buckle’s gone out a notch (ok ok two…), the seat of my jeans is begging for a break and though I haven’t yet contracted the curse of fat men all over – Icannolongerseemypenisitis – from certain angles I do look like I might be just coming to the end of my first trimester.
How did this happen? Well, soon after the Mongolia Bike Challenge I had a recurrence of an old football (the kind of football that involves a ball and feet) injury, a pretty debilitating back injury that meant no riding for 6 weeks. It’s that kind of injury that, even as you start to feel a bit better there are twinges and tweaks, meaning that you start to favor certain sitting positions and to hold your head a little weird, compensating for the pain, and this of course brings more strains and aches all over the body.
A bad back is not as bad as losing the left side of the brain say (though many a cyclist seems to get by without this hampering them too much ahem) but it is a bit of a bugger when it comes to sitting in the saddle. After that finally started getting better I then had an acute case of CBA – which, for those of you not in the know, is Can’t Be Arsed – which, for the Americans, means Can’t Be F**ked – aka ‘Michael Rasmussen’… (well, who would?)
That lasted 2 weeks, then I ended up in Hong Kong, where Missus CrankPunk has been living, to help prepare for the arrival of The CrankBump. Not due til May but we had to move her stuff back to Taiwan (damn this really is a proper ‘blog’ entry) and anyway, long story short riding on HK island sucks, the place is pretty awesome in terms of terrain and climbs but the traffic is atrocious, and so, liking being alive still, I decided not to ride.
Which brings me here, me and my 86kg. I went out today and did a former big-ring hill in my granny gear, puffing and slaloming all over by the top. It was not pretty.
But you know, I really am not fussed. Every year I kind of do the same because I am a Traditionalist you see, I believe in putting the bike away and not even thinking of it for 4 weeks every year. I have clients who can’t bear to be off that long and I accommodate them, different horses etc, but for me, it’s off for 4.
And here I have to make an admission. I don’t really really love riding my bike, not like the 10 hours on a Saturday guys. What I love is racing. I love the competition, the moody stares in the car park, the cool kids walking round with the mirrored lenses with the mirrors on the inside too, and the whole mano a mano of it all. I love getting ther to face 150 guys who all think they are better than me who need to be taught they aren’t cos I know I am better than them even if I am not.
That’s how stupid I am. Hahaha! And I guess that’s why I’m a bike rider.
We’re hardwired to think if only i had those wheels I can’t afford or if only i hadn’t eaten that gel with 40km to go I’d have won that f&*%$#g sprint or If only I had no morals and could take EPO!
You know, all those kinds of things. We keep coming back for more, keep getting smashed and keep believing. And why the heck not? Who says we can’t? So I ride to race, and if there are no races I tend to nor ride as much as I am supposed to – but then that word, ‘supposed’, not really necessary is it. I should say ‘I don’t ride as much as other people do’, perhaps. Or ‘as other people think I should.’
Which brings to mind Oscar Freire, another guy with a bad back who used to train about 14 hours a week, but he knew his body, knew when to push and when to ease off, and he won a truckload. What everyone else does is not necessarily what everyone should do.
Anyway, back to my pudding gut. My leg warmers are giving me those muffin bulges, you known the kind that pop out under the shorts around the upper thigh, the kind that make red lights really piss you off cos the driver behind is gonna be there thinking ‘damn this cupcake has cupcakes!’, and my ‘race fit’ jersey is now more like some kind of high-tech torture device, designed to make my eyeballs pop, the veins in my forehead throb and my bingo wings flap for Jesus.
My break has been a bit too long but it is important also as athletes to recognise that we are human. We need to take time off, need to step back and appreciate the people around us, and to get back to the sport we love a little later with even more gusto than before. Recharging is good. The old tradition of dumping the bike in the shed is, in my opinion, also good. One reason it is good is that, if you are riding the way you should to get truly strong, you need a good break. Keeping that intensity there through a season, mental even more than physical, is very hard.
Plodding along all the time does you no good. But yes, I am CyclistFat now. Not good. Slow metabolism. Repeat like a mantra, I-have-a-slow-metabolism...
Now I’m training again, kicking my own butt and loving every single second.
Right. I’m off to the bingo.