It’s hard turning the pedals this time of year – maybe not every ride you do but you get days, sometimes weeks where you’d rather just lie on the sofa, radiators on, telly, bit of food. I think I’m currently going through one of these patches and mentally it’s hard to keep training, even after a ride it doesn’t feel rewarding, just simply nice to have ticked off another one.
Lets face it, in the UK, this time of year is not made for riding. Living in Newcastle makes things just that extra bit colder than southern parts of the country, we’ve already had a few heavy frosts and nights are getting really long. Wake up in the dark, walk to work in the cold, get home and place every last piece of kit on to stay warm, head out cycling in the dark…physically that’s demanding, the hormones are just not coursing through my veins this time of year – I’m stuck in hibernation mode. When I get home, I eat and I eat, comfort food…it’s super nice, and I don’t even care anymore, more calories please, more fat – get into my belly and get me into bed with some warm cocoa. I’m just riding to train during the week, it’s like a part time job I’m not paid for (it’s only a bit worse than my PhD stipend) – and with rides getting progressively slower…I can’t exactly see where the form is coming from.
It’s not all bad though, is it? I’m out on my bicycle, with my mates, I could be listening to that terrible Pogues song and Christmas shopping (I should do that probably). The saying goes – winter miles, summer smiles – so at some point I’ll reap the rewards. Those that do minimal training this time of year will be behind and probably never catch up. I guess it’s this fear that drives me on, another 2 hours or I’ll be fat and slow – or just slow, I’ve never been fat. I’ve had a number of giggles too, whilst out on the bicycle, laughing at the conditions, tasteless conversations, joking about future race celebrations (I’m thinking about the leg thrust), and shaking my head at motorists. Tuesday night was particulary eventful, Northerly wind blasting at me and Aidan, rain bolting down, Aidans bicycle falling apart – poor lad had to walk home after his rear hanger snapped, never have I giggled so much.
Then there’s the views. The countryside in the dark can be a sight to behold – a full moon beaming down, the lights flickering inside a warm farm house, fog surrounding you like a wet duvet, rabbits darting across the road, and an owl motionless on a gatepost. I’ve seen it all, I love it. The way the cold air attacks your face and almost cleanses your lungs with every breath. Ah, maybe I’m enjoying this cycling lark again, I’ll keep typing, it seems to be restoring me. It takes courage, real determination, to keep riding this time of year – I’m not talking a few hours, I’m talking 10+ hours a week – that takes something special from within. Hunger, desire and lust. I’ll remember all this when I take to the line in Spring for some races – in a time of desperation when I’ve run out of gears, energy, knowhow…I’ll remember that cold night in November, remember how I felt then and I’ll shift up a gear and give it everything – nothing can stop me from achieving the dream.