Day Eighty Six: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

I seem to be in tune with my surroundings at the moment, in particular the beauty of the countryside. I spent four hours on my bike today riding alongside a diverse coastline. Past rocky coves that embraced water so blue it looked fake. Like something out of a demo reel used to show off the latest flat screen televisions.

The sun was shining, I was sweating beneath my cycling kit but it felt good, I wasn’t over heating, it was just a pleasant side effect of working hard. I rode past quite a few recreational cyclists today, probably on holiday for Christmas, I made it a point to say hello to everyone. I was as happy as a sparrow with a French fry in its mouth.

The coastal road hugs all of the beaches; you are never more than a stones throw away from the sea. You can hear the waves crashing onto the sand, smell the salt air as it is vaporised on the large rocky sections of the coast. I turned my iPod off for a while so that I could wrap myself up in the sounds of the sea as I cycled.

Later on, near the town of Sant Pol de Mar, I began to climb inland, heading up through the cold layers of air that are found in the shadow of the large Montnegre mountain range that runs parallel with the coast. My route took me along the Sant Pol River, now no more than a dry riverbed that runs through the valley. It was picture postcard stuff.

Later on, as I climbed higher I entered a spooky area, beneath tall trees; shaded from the sun it was very cold. There was frost on the ground and the road was slippery. A dense white mist lay on the grass beneath the canopy of trees. I was listening to my iPod again. The scene looked mystical, like something out of a fairy tale and my music matched it perfectly. Enya was playing. I half expected to see a white unicorn grazing up ahead as I rode through the mist.

Days like these are what I live for. Days that become memories, days that stay with you, make you smile and want to get up in the morning and do it all over again.

I won’t though. Tomorrow I plan to go mountain biking. Let’s hope it is sunny again. I’m a fan of sunshine. And Enya

Day Eighty Five: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

“Wow”. I woke up and that was the first thing I said. Not particularly erudite I know, but it worked. You see, I’d just had the most lucid dream. It was so incredible, it stayed with me all day. Kept popping back into my head, testing me, making me think, trying to unravel the complex plot. Freud would have loved it. I’m not a dream analyst, but perhaps one of you out there on the web are. So here’s the dream, laid out for you in full colour.

I think it was meant to be Casablanca. It was certainly meant to be some incarnation of Morocco. I was in a bazaar. Or at the very least, what I think a Moroccan bazaar would be like, for I’ve never been to one.

It was hot, which, I suppose, if it was summer, is probably factually correct. It was dusty. I had a stone in my shoe. It was bugging me but the tiny, crowded alley with all the people hustling along, deterred me from attempting to stop and take off my shoe to get rid of the stone. I would have caused a human traffic jam. I carried on. I could smell onions and garlic. It was noisy. People were shouting to be heard above the noise.

In front of me was a girl. I knew she was pretty but I hadn’t seen her face. It was odd. Just one of those dream things, where you know it doesn’t make sense but accept it anyway. So she was gorgeous. I was stuck behind her. I wanted to overtake her so I could confirm my suspicions as to her being beautiful. In a way I was ‘testing’ my dream. I knew I was dreaming and I recognized the fact that you can’t tell someone is gorgeous without having at least seen them front on. Anyway, I was trying to overtake her but it was impossible.

The alleyway was brightly lit by the sun. The walls were a peachy orange colour, some sort of sandstone. There were doorways on the left and the right. I was thinking about overtaking using a doorway as a bit of extra space but the girl was walking too quickly. I’d have risked bumping into her if I tried a reckless over-taking move.

Then, like in most dreams, the scene changed. I was in a bar. Well, a bar of sorts. I was sat on a long table. There must have been sixty people on the table. Next to me was the girl. She spoke perfect English. Everyone else was jabbering away in Arabic and I was just sitting there with a stone in my shoe looking at this girl. Just amazed at how pretty her eyes were. They were light brown and they sparkled like the sea at night under a full moon when she smiled.

She was wearing a red dress. It was long, it looked sort of traditional, almost Spanish in a way. Definitely not local Moroccan attire. Almost like a flamenco dress. But it was her eyes. They bore  straight into my soul and made me smile. Then suddenly I was on a bridge trying to take a photo of her. She was in her red dress, smiling at me and I was trying to figure out how to take the photo. It wasn’t my camera and I was struggling to figure out how to take the shot.

The dream changed again. I was in Hong Kong, next to the house that I used to rent. I was on the beach, sitting on the sand. I was barefoot and was pushing the wet sand between my toes. Scrunching it up and enjoying the feeling of the sand. She was sitting next to me. She had a map in her lap and was making busy making notes.

The dream gets a bit confused then. For a moment I was talking to a good friend of mine Heinz Stucke, a famous cyclist that has been travelling this planet since God was a boy. He is, quite possibly, the most travelled man in history. That is some claim. Anyway, he was sitting next to me talking about how best to annotate the map to show where you camped each night. And then he was gone and I was back with the mysterious girl in the red dress. She was so beautiful. I remember thinking that as I woke up. What a pretty girl…and that was it….the dream was over and I was in my bed, listening to the cats playing in the hallway, the sunlight streaming in through the window. Blinking my eyes trying to adjust to the bright morning light.

Dreams are superb. I just wish I could understand what it all meant.

Answers on a postcard please.

– Eduardo

Oh yes, sorry I went for a ride today. 3 hours, bumped into the Agritubel boys. Tore past them on a descent, reckon they think I must be mad. Judging by my dreams, perhaps I am. ☺ I have a 3 hour ride planned tomorrow, hopefully it’ll be sunny again. I love the weather here, it lifts your spirits like nothing else. Except possibley a good Mexican meal and a glass of Rioja.

Day Eighty Four: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

I wish I could paint. I thought about that today on my ride. The countryside was truly beautiful. The weak winter sunlight had softened all the colours, the deep red leaves and the lush green of the hills; it was a watercolour begging to be painted by someone with bucket loads of skill. Unfortunately my drawing and painting skills are easily eclipsed by those of my daughter, who at age eight would paint me into oblivion. When it comes to drawing or painting I am useless. No, actually I am worse than useless. Stick men and a few cartoon characters and that’s all I can do. It’s almost embarrassing.

I’m rambling on a bit here, so I’ll get back to the bike route. Canyamars. That’s the little town that I ended up in, the road ended in the town and, although I tried to find a way out, it appeared to be a dead end. It was a shame as the ride to Canyamars was one the best I have done in a while. There was hardly any traffic, it was quiet, I could hear my heart pounding in my head as I climbed up through the valley. It really was a magical route. The road surface was excellent – lovely smooth black tarmac. It would be fantastic on my motorcycle. I’ve made a mental note to take a drive up through the valley and find a nice café stop.

Canyamars is a one of three small villages that comprise the municipality of Dosrius, in the comarca of Maresme. It is situated in the base of the valley between the mountains of Corredor and Montalt and is quite a sleepy place. It is not a metropolis. It would be quite a nice place to live if you were a painter. Solitude, the countryside, what more could you want?

I used to share a flat in London with an Australian cyclist. He was quite a character. A devout vegan, he was constantly munching on nuts and dried fruit that he kept in airtight plastic bags under his bed. I nicknamed him the squirrel. He actually had an air of squirrel about him. He was always rummaging about in a plastic bag for something, he seemed to have hundreds of them. A bag that he kept his photographic film canisters in, a bag for bike related spares, another bag for food, and a bag that contained diaries, pens and maps. You name an item, and he probably had a bag for it. He had a bag for his bags.

Rather ironically, his name was Bruce. Bruce the vegetarian Aussie cycle tourist. It sort of went against the grain back then. Being Australian meant you ate raw steak for breakfast and washed it down with a Castlemain XXXX, you did not live off nuts and berries.

He did however break his self-imposed vegetarianism one day. We were invited to a house warming party and Bruce drank rather too much. He ended up eating sausages and bacon straight off the grill and proceeded to put his life endanger by riding a tea tray down the stairs, backwards. Those memories will be with me until the day I die. It was hilarious. I can remember him laughing as he tumbled head over heels down the stairs.

The next morning I awoke to the sounds of groaning. Bruce was really ill. He had been a strict vegan for over ten years. Consuming all those sausages and bacon had given his system a huge shock. He was also terribly bruised and battered from his stair surfing escapades. He really was in a bit of bad way.

We spent the morning chatting about his plans for his next cycling trip. He had decided to take an easel with him and was to be pointed in the general direction of Holland. His plan revolved around cycling alonside canels stopping to paint whenever he felt the need to. He left a few days later, with his paint box and easel strapped to the back of his bike. I never saw him again. I was thinking about him today. He was certainly the sort of person that would have appreciated the lovely countryside that I was cycling in.  He would no doubt have sat himslef down, opened up a bag of nuts and started to paint.  It would have been perfect for Bruce.

I wonder what he’s up to these days.  Bruce.  If you’re out there, drop me a line.  It would be lovely to catch up over a bag of nuts.  Unless you’d rather have some sausages and bacon that is.

Day Eighty Three: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

For the record, the cutest of dogs have sharp teeth when they are lodged in your calf. I was out on my mountain bike, having just spent almost an hour and a half climbing, when I drew alongside a woman walking her two dogs. I was a bit cautious, one of the dogs looked part wolf and was busy by the side of the trail trying to pick up a log the size of a VW Beetle. The other dog was a beautiful Labrador. It was the cute one that decided to try to eat my leg for a bit of a laugh. Wolf dog ignored me whilst the owner apologized profusely.

I’m not sure how, but the teeth managed to draw blood without ripping through my Assos cycling tights. Strange but true. Bleeding and a bit shocked at how such a cute dog could be so nasty, I began a fast descent through a vineyard, my eyes watering in the cold winter air.

It was sunny but I was heading into black clouds that hung over the top of the mountain, an ominous blanket of cold humid air. I zipped up my windstopper vest and wondered, for a moment if I did not have arms would it be a jacket? Strange what you think of at times.

The trail was soft in places, sodden from the heavy rain the night before. I’m using a Maxxis SwampThing tire on the front, super sticky and rapidly wearing out here in Barcelona, I’ve left it on as a test, a little geeky experiment to see how long it’ll last on the rocks and hardpacked ground over here. So far its holding up remarkably well.

I’ve been trying some High5 energy gels, which for the record are disgusting, yet effective at providing for a quick burst of energy. The problem with the gel is that its too thin, so when you rip open the top of the packet, half it shoots out all over your gloves. Not good.

I bumped into a novice out on his bike. He was wearing some truly bizarre clothing, a cross between the sort of thing Indiana Jones would wear and that of a 1980’s aerobics instructor. Pretty scary. I hope you got home OK, he looked pretty cold up there.

All in all it was a good ride, apart from being bitten by the dog. I spent two hours and ten minutes at an average heart-rate of 152bpm – Nice and steady for me.

Tomorrow I am supposed to be doing some work on the fitball with my TRX Bands with a short bike ride in the afternoon. Lets hope my dog bite doesn’t get infected.

I leave you with a song that was stuck in my head for most of my ride yesterday.

Day Eighty Two: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

I have hatched a plan to get to ride a stage in the Tour de France. I am not talking about doing the plain old L’Etape like everyone else. Nope. The real deal, a full road stage, mixing it up with the pros. The plan is simple, yet is reliant upon a few things for it to work smoothly:

– The riders in the Astana team must agree to wear Nixon Masks, so that when I wear mine, I will look just like them and then nobody will recognize my face and go ‘Hey that’s not a member of the team”.
– All the riders in the bunch must ride at my pace. Nice and slowly. Like the cars always did when driving down the highway in the series ‘Chips’.
– The night before the stage, I will have my super model Bond girl accomplice take Levi Leipheimer out for a few beers.
– Once there, she will drug him with sleeping pills that are not on the banned list. He will not notice that his beer tastes like sleeping pills.
– I will wait for her to leave with the sleepy cyclist. He will not fall asleep until she gets him back to his hotel.
– Just as she gets to the reception desk, the night managers shoe laces will get entangled with those on each shoe so he’ll bend down and won’t see them enter the foyer.
– She will go back to his room with him. He will fall into a deep sleep. My bond girl will let me into the room. I will take a complete set of team clothing in readiness for my ride the next day.
– I will take his bike as I know it’ll fit me; having done my research I know we are the same physical size.
– We dress Levi in his cycling kit and put a Nixon mask on him.
– We make good our escape, leaving him snoring in his own bed.
– The next morning at breakfast I hand a note to the rest of the team, all wearing their Nixon Masks – it informs them that if they can speak in a fake French accent until dinner they will each receive a thousand dollars. They all agree. Now nobody will know I am not Levi. My identity is safe.
– The next morning I bribe Graham Watson who agrees to knock off any rider that tries to break away – he will blame this on the poor driving skills of his motorcycle driver who will be fired and sent to Venice to become a gondola oarsman.
– Johan Bruyneel will agree to spread a rumour that a freak weather storm is to lash the route, the race commissaire will agree to shortening the stage by 79KM missing out the climb and the dangerous icy descent
– Lance Armstrong, my cunning accomplice will shelter me from the wind and tow me to the finish if need be – in return when I have completed the stage I will pretend to have a series of fits during which I shall empty the contents of my bladder upon the shoes of the editor of L’Equipe.
– In the confusion I shall make good my escape, ditching my Nixon mask in a nearby rubbish bin.
– Levi will wake up in his bed wearing a Nixon mask and will not remember anything.
– I will leave France with my Bond girl accomplice under the cover of darkness on a high speed jet boat.

What do you think? Will it work?

Day Eighty One: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

I just had a fight with my cycling glove when the velcro on the glove would not let go of the sock that I was trying to put away in my draw full of cycling gear. Usually such an incidence would be no more than a minor distraction, however having not cycled for three days, or indeed done any exercise whatsoever, my nerves are frayed around the edges.

I picked up a nasty case of flu and have spent the last two days in bed, with my laptop balanced upon a cushion, head propped up to prevent drowning in nasal fluid (sorry) with any thoughts of training out of the window. My aggravation has been made worse as I spent a good part of the day following twitter updates by Lance Armstrong and the Astana team training over in sunny Tenerife.

As usual when I am feeling a bit down or ill I try to cast my mind back to when I have felt worse. This time I really had to cast my mind back as it has been a long time since I have felt quite so poorly. I think having company makes things better. Being alone and ill is the worst combination. If I ever have to be hospitalized for anything I would rather be in a general ward where I can look at other people that are in a far worse state thanI am rather than be stuck in a room by myself ‘dying’ alone.

Men, it has to be said, are wimps when it comes to being sick. I know this because my wife reminds me of it often. Being the only man in a house of three girls the chance of receiving any sympathy is middling to none.

Women on the other hand will turn up at the doctors with their left leg in a carrier bag and say ‘its only  minor’. Women are tough nuts. They say it is because of childbirth; women have a higher pain threshold so that the human race can continue. Great.

I cast my mind back to Hong Kong where our eldest daughter was born and wondered why almost all the local Chinese woman in our antenatal classes all had elected caesareans? Was it because they didn’t want to endure the pain? Having nothing better to do whilst stuck bed I did some research and discovered that by having an elected caesarean they could choose an auspicious day for the birth of their child. OK, so actually all women are hard as nails. I gave up and went back to sleep.

Tomorrow I plan to do a gentle one-hour ride. I’ll make sure I’m wrapped up well and will head out along the coast on the cycle paths, past all the gorgeous yachts in the Port Olympic in Barcelona.

Right now I have some laundry to sort out. If that glove gives me any more grief its going out the window 🙂

Day Eighty: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

I slowed my mountain bike down and came to a rest in the middle of the trail.  Visibility was perhaps three metres.  I had been climbing a rocky trail for forty minutes and had entered the clouds.  It was eerie.  The dense cloud was blowing across the trail, one moment I could see four or five metres ahead of me, the next minute I was wrapped in a grey blanket and could barely make out the trail at all.  Not ideal really.

If you see this sign, turn around.

If you see this sign, turn around.

I could hear dogs barking.  Lots of dogs.  Shots rang out.  They were close.  I guessed that a hunt was taking place but had no idea what they were after.  Spurred on, I continued to climb and almost rode straight into a chain that was stretched out across the trail.  The fog cleared for a moment.  I noticed a sign attached to the chain.  Wild boar was being hunted. This too, was not ideal.  Not ideal for the boar and certainly not ideal for me.

Wild boar do not usually appear in the touch and feed section of the zoo.  They are powerful animals and, when in danger, would think nothing of charging a person.  I remembered watching a nature programme some years ago, an enraged boar charged at a jeep after a poorly aimed shot had grazed its hide.  It made a nasty mess of the side panels before it was put out of its misery.

The dogs were getting close.  More shots rang out – they were alarmingly near.  Being dressed head to toe in black was perhaps not an ideal choice of attire on my part.  I decided to do an about turn and descend at full speed back into the valley. My heart was pounding. I was trying to remember the terrain I had cycled over on the way up as I hurtled down the track, jumping wheel eating sized gullies and avoiding large rocks. It was manic.

I had a feeling the wild boar were taking the same route, as the dogs were definitely following me down the trail.  I was still in the fog.  The high humidity made wearing my Oakleys impossible.  I was struggling to see. I was forced to stop and take them off. Perhaps the hounds were chasing me not the boar? More gunfire.  The hunters seemed to be even closer, which, given the fact I had been riding downhill at break-neck speed for the last three minutes was disconcerting.  Perhaps they were on horseback? With my glasses off and semblance of visibility restored, I resumed my wild descent. After another five minute I popped out of the cloud into bright sunshine. I felt incredibly relieved.

As I cruised down into the valley, I wondered if the wild boar made it?  I felt sorry for them.  It was scary as hell listening to all those baying hounds, the gunfire, the chaos of the hunt.  It made my heart pound; I can’t imagine how awful it must have been for the boar that was being chased.

Tomorrow on my ride I shall wear bright clothing for I do not want to risk being shot up there by a bunch of trigger happy Spanish guys. In fact, I think I may take my road bike out instead.

I leave you with a track from U2.  Why? I have no idea.  It just popped into my head, seems somehow appropriate….