Day Ninety Five: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

Getting stung by a wasp is not fun. For me, it ranks way up there, stratospherically high in fact, in my list of ‘unfun’ things to experience. It is perhaps higher even than shopping in IKEA or changing the cat litter.

Getting stung by a wasp whilst descending a technical mountain road at over eighty kilometres per hour raises the bar higher still. Getting stung a second time just minutes later is, quite frankly, taking the piss.

Wasp sting number one was simple. It smacked into my neck, stung me and was gone. I yelped like a child and continued my eighty kilometre an hour descent, teeth gritted. I was just thinking about how long it had been since I was last stung by anything, other than the taxman when – enter stage left, wasp number two.

Wasp sting number two was a little more scary. I was on a long straightaway, still descending. I had calculated that I had enough time to remove my pita bread sandwich from my jersey pocket, munch it and get my hand back onto the bars for the fast left hander, some three hundred metres away. It would have worked out if Mr. Wasp had not messed up my lunch plans.

I was sitting up with no hands on the bars, unwrapping my sanwich when the wasp flew right behind my sunglasses. Total and utter panic ensued. With one hand clutching my sandwich, I made a grab with the other for my glasses and began to shake my head from side to side. I was now just about to enter the left hand bend. Not ideal then.

Just as I began to enter the fast left hander the wasp found a way out and, as a parting gesture it stung me on the side of the face. It hurt more than first wasp sting.

The first rule of descending on a bike is that you should look at where you want to exit a bend. If you look at your exit route you tend to go that way. If you look at the outside of the bend there is a good chance you will end up there. This is of course not the place to end up. It generally hurts.

My wasp evicting, headshaking antics meant that I had messed up my line entering the corner. Thanks to Mr. Wasp, I was now riding in the gravel on the outside of the bend, doing my best to make it around the bend without wiping out. It is as times like these that sheer bloody will power comes into play. “I will not crash. I will not crash.” I thought, and using something akin to ‘the force’ I made it around the bend. It was very, very close.

Apart from suffering multiple wasp stings and almost crashing, my endurance ride was going well. I had, during a brief moment of cavalier optimism declared that I would ride for five hours and tackle the arduous climb to the top of Santa Fe de Montseny, a 21km ascent that would last about one hour. In retrospect I should have spent more time studying the map as there was a lot more road before the climb than I had envisaged, turning my five hour ride into a six and a half hour ride.

It is, however a beautiful route and the climb, whilst rather long, is not overly steep. It saps your energy, tiring you and slowly enflicting its pain, unlike wasp stings which hurt like hell and are instant.

I leave you with a track by, Gordan Matthew Thomas Sumner. Otherwise known as Sting 🙂

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Day Ninety Four: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

For a moment I thought the driver of the little Daihatsu Matiz was gesticulating at me, he had the swivel-eyed look of a mad man, one that would happily jump out of his car, tear the wind-shield wipers off it and beat you to death with them. I held my line, ready to take evasive action if he pulled over ahead of me. He did not.

As his car struggled to accelerate away from me on the steep gradient I noticed that it was a rental car. I imagined that he was frustrated at being in a tiny little car with no power for he was banging his hands on the steering wheel, willing the car onwards.

Several years ago I rented a car that was so slow I actually stopped to make sure the handbrake was not dragging. I got out of the car, put the car in neutral and with the handbrake off, tried to push it. It rolled along the road with almost no effort. In fact pushing it was almost as fast as driving it. I smiled as I continued up the climb.

Earlier on I had felt a bit like the guy in his rental car. I was trying to ride quickly up a long, hot climb but nothing was happening. I stood up, then sat down, I changed gears up and down the block but to no avail. It felt like I was glued to the road. After a while I gave up trying to smash myself to bits on the ascent and pretended to be touring. I eased off and looked out across the valley, enjoying the view. A huge blanket of wild flowers lay across the hillside. The sky was a picture postcard blue and Mr. Grumpy in his rental car was long gone. I was alone on my bike and that was good. It was peacefull. Tranquil you might say.

The fact that my velocity was roughly that of continental drift did not matter. Sometimes you have to just relax and accept it and today was going to be one of those days. Having taken 2 months off the bike, and then jumped back into training it was hardly surprising that I would be creeping along the road like this. I reminded myself that form takes time and that one has to go through days like these before regaining lost  form.

I decided to plan out my weeks ahead whilst I cycled. The basic idea was to build gradually and not to rush it. It was pointless trying to make up for lost time by piling on extra hours and extra intensity. That would risk injury and would set me back even further.

I was approaching the last set of hairpin bends when I spotted the little rental car by the side of the road. Steam was pouring out of the engine. As I drew alongside the car I spotted the driver on his mobile phone. To say he looked upset would be an understatement. As his day deteriorated mine improved. I gradually began to feel better on the bike.

The descent was fast and the road was smooth. I took delight in threading the bends together smoothly and at high speed. I have always enjoyed descending and today was no different. As often happens when I am training on the bike a tune lodged itself in my head and refulsed to go away. Who sang it? It was on the tip of my tongue but I could not remember the name of the musician.

As soon as I got home I looked it up and laughed. Recorded in 1977 it is a song that is full of get up and go, unlike me and the Daihatsu Matiz.

Day Ninety Three: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

I had not touched a bike for almost two months but this did not matter for I had been swimming every day. I was a smidge over two hours into my first road ride and was happy. I felt great. Lungs felt good. Legs felt good. Bliss. I was excited. Deep in the hill country, a long way from anywhere, just me and my bike. No Phone. No money. Just the sun for company. All was good in the world.

Three minutes later the situation had turned from one of deep joy to one of surprise. I watched as every light on the ‘dashboard’ went off. I mentally stabbed at each button trying to figure out the problem. Brakes rubbing? Slow puncture? Mysterious headwind? Trick road that was actually uphill instead of flat? Nope. None of those. My legs had ceased to function. I was ‘pedalling squares’. Power? None. Cramping? No (but that was to come).

It is at times like these that I call upon my extensive vocabulary of profanities. I spiced up my stream of self-abuse with curiously underused words, pillock, twat and Muppet added flair where required. And then I began to laugh.

Laughter helps you know. Anyone that has ever spent time in a dentist’s waiting room will remember the awful Reader’s Digest Magazines (actually they were more of a book). They contained stories about people that left the house in flip flops rather than hiking boots to climb one of the highest mountains in the Himalaya, who were kept alive by eating tree bark and drinking their own urine. The Readers Digest also had a section called “Laughter The Best Medicine”. My point here is that laughter helps when you find yourself in a less than positive situation. You just have to laugh. What else can you do? Apart from wee in a bottle?

And laugh I did. Like a fool.

For the record, swimming every day makes you a good swimmer but it is of little help to you on a hilly, ninety kilometre bike ride. In the same way that leaving your hiking boots at home and setting off in your flip flops is a bad idea when attempting K2 so is trying to substitute cycling training with swimming training.

Lesson learnt. Thanks. It was bloody hilarious.

What a Muppet.