Suffering in style

“Quit yo Jibber-jabber! You ain’t hurt, yo pathetic!, Argh! If I ever catch you acting like a crazy fool again, you’re gonna meet my friend pain!” Mr T “Get Some Nuts” snickers TV advertising campaign

As my mileage has gone down over the last two months, my excuses have become more impressive. I’ve used various combinations of: the work front, the home front, the weather, the TV schedule and my health.. It’s a far cry from the summer when I was logging a good 500 miles a month.

I’ve fallen into a vicious cycle, made sharper by the fact that I supposedly ride with a group on Sunday mornings. Whilst the group is reasonably forgiving, it got to the point where I know that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them.

“Been out in the week?” you ask, to gauge the severity of pain you’ll be feeling in three hours time. “Did a session or two” they reply vaguely. You know it’ll have been two hours of hill repeats or a 40 mile session on the rollers. Commuting to the station or popping down to the shops simply doesn’t cut it. I needed to put an end to this. The bud that should have been nipped has started to get established. I need to get back in the saddle and put some proper miles in my legs. R, a neighbour of mine and fellow Sunday rider suggested we go on one of his training rides of about 35 miles.

We set off on a foggy Sunday morning, bike lights blinking and damp air fighting through to find any exposed skin. I knew it’d be painful, I just didn’t know how much my performance had dropped. We arrived at the base of a mile and a half long grinding climb onto theDowns. I’m usually a little apprehensive about this as there’s a steep section that forces you out of the saddle, but I usually make it with a gear to spare. By half way I was coughing up phlegm like 1-spot pool balls. Near the top, I thought I might see the porridge I’d hastily wolfed for breakfast. The chain had been greasing the bottom gear from the start.

"Phlegm like a one-spot" image from

But I made it. We dropped off the south side of the downs into clear, crisp autumnal sunlight. Unfortunately, the route doesn’t offer any flat sections, but there’s enough to catch your breath. I’m noticing that I started to favour the small chain ring preferring a high cadence to keep me rolling. 15 miles in and we hit the real killer: a leg sapping three mile steady incline which then drops sharply to turn off onto a  ½ mile climb averaging 1:10. In the spring I made it (cursing consistently) up it on a 42:24. Today I had to get off and walk and I was riding a 39:27. My legs just weren’t there.

R kindly waited at the viewing point at the top, probably wondering if I’d fallen off the side of the hill. My humiliation was complete. I’d reminded my muscles what’d been expected of them and they’d simply failed to deliver. The remaining 20 miles was largely uneventful, by which I mean that I didn’t have to walk again. I was still searching through the gears on every incline and the virtual band between his rear wheel and my front was seriously losing its elasticity.

But I did it. It was painful and it was the perfect kick up the arse to get me cycling again. When I ventured out with the group again I managed to stay in contact for most of the ride. It felt like a narrow escape – another month and perhaps it would have been too late?


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