I can count the number of times it’s happened on one hand. But despite the rarity, I always know when it’s about to happen. But by then it’s usually too late: there’s nothing that can be done. The signal is that the backs of my knees get extra sweaty. Then it becomes a war of attrition: “will I be able to make it to the next petrol station to load up on sugar and carbs or am I just going to cruise into a layby and try desperately to resist the overpowering urge to lie down and sleep?” That’s why, when it happens to the pros they look so pained: there’s nowhere to hide. They’ve just got to keep going; toughing it out pedalling squares.
The first time it happened I was on a three-day mega ride from Portsmouth to Manchester. My route went via Bath and an indeterminate stop between Bath and Manchester – Ludlow Youth Hostel as it turned out. I was on the last “stage” – I’d long since finished my food and had been running on fumes for the last 20 miles, but smooth tarmac and a following wind had pushed me on. I was in sight of the end, less than 10 miles to go, when I found I could barely make it over a pimple of a hill by Jodrell Bank. For some reason my legs just wouldn’t go round. From cruising along at a steady 16 – 17 mph, I now had to stop and rest. I slept in a bus stop for 15 minutes, too tired to care if anyone stole my bike (in fact someone had stolen my bike the evening before the ride, but that’s another story). After I woke up, I scrumped a cooking apple from an overhanging tree and ate half of it. It’s sharpness revived me slightly and I rolled down the road where I found a corner shop. My remaining change bought me a can of 7Up and a couple of Mars bars. I covered the remaining miles with a sugar rush verging on nausea, but I made it. I’m not sure if it was the sugar or the shop keeper’s surprise at the distance I’d covered (I may have omitted to tell him I’d taken three days to cover the distance) that spurred me on.
It seems that I hit the wall with the Cyclostyle blog last summer. I peaked at the Tour de France win and managed to coast through the medal haul at the Olympics. Since then I’ve metaphorically been snoozing in a skanky bus stop trying to regain the spark to write. Well, the sun’s shining and it time to start turning the pedals again. Hopefully I’ll have avoided succumbing to the dreaded “blog fade”.