My bike stands upright at the start line, held in the vice-like grip of a marshal, cold and inanimate; a dead machine. Ten seconds… the flesh and blood perched on top listens intently, and prepares mentally for the effort about to be exerted. Three, two, one… an explosive start to get up to speed quickly but no sooner has it begun, doubts creep in. Did I get off too quickly? How on earth will I sustain this pace? Are we nearly there yet?
“You must be mad”
It’s an all too familiar and frequent accusation which can usually be translated as “why don’t you just sit on a sofa, eating biscuits and watch TV?”.
It all boils down to comfort zones, and I’m not particularly comfortable wasting my life passively in front of a telly.
During a hill climb, however, those clichéd accusations echoed up from somewhere, willing me to actually believe them.
As I battle my way up the hill and across the comfort zone spectrum, I find new depths of anaerobic suffering. It’s a small mercy perhaps that I’d forgotten my heart rate monitor, but the lack of visual, numerical data is more than made up for by hard physiological feedback, the most striking of which is the feeling that irrespective of the rapidity and depth of my breathing, there is very little gas exchange going on. Nobody needs a weatherman to know which way this hurricane blows.
Precariously riding the fine line of oxygen supply and demand (read: gasping like a fish), I recalled reading earlier in the day a quote along the lines of “If you can still walk at the end of a hill climb, you’ve not tried hard enough”.
With this new and inspiring thought, I push on, and sure enough the finish line comes and goes, but not before I was overtaken by a rider who had started a whole minute later than me. How’s that for a kick in the cycle shorts? He was at least 10 years younger than me…
Over the line I went, barely managing to pathetically mumble my number. Slowing to a halt, I felt sick – that omelette an hour before hadn’t been the best idea. But I also felt a sense of pride as a wave of lightheadedness swept over me; another indication that I must have tried hard enough, apparently.
At the end of it all, the cold machines remain dead on the ground. The quivering masses of flesh and blood perched on them never felt more alive.