Day 110

I decided to stop and see if my brakes were rubbing.  They were not.  This of course was something I already knew and yet, it would have been fantastic had it been the case, for my legs were dead and I was about an hour from home on what was my first long cycle ride for quite some time.

Usually, when choosing a route for a ‘day one’ ride, I tend to make up a new one.  I do this for a couple of reasons.  First of all it means I do not fall into the trap of trying to ride a familiar route at a pace that I remember from days in the past where I was much fitter – for that makes me feel shit.  To avoid this,  I choose a new route. This is a cunning plan. It serves to (a) ensure it is a memorable return to the bike, buoyed by enthusiasm and a desire to explore and (b) that the next time I ride the route, I will be happily moving along at a faster, fitter rate, well if all goes to plan that is.

My plan was a proven one and was sound.  I had however managed to ruin my plan in several ways.  All of which, could easily be described as ‘rookie’ mistakes.  I shall list them below.

  1. riding without money.
  2. riding without sufficient food.
  3. riding without sufficient liquid.
  4. not eating enough for dinner the previous night
  5. not eating enough for breakfast.
  6. not charging my Garmin GPS unit
  7. not checking the map before leaving
  8. not bringing a map
  9. deciding that ¾ bib shorts would be warm enough
  10. not reading the weather forecast.

So there I was, roughly one hour from home and this list was running though my head.  I decided there was only one solution.

Ignore it.

In order to take my mind of the my rapidly numbing feet, my hunger, my thirst and my lack of knowledge of the route, I decided to employ a tactic used to calm myself when I am freediving.

It works like this. It is all about visualization.

Imagine you are trying to hold your breath, sitting on the sofa at home. (do not do it on the metro because people will think you are a freak).

Try it now.  Hold your breath and look at your watch.

At around forty five seconds or so, you’ll start to twitch a bit.  You will be willing the seconds to move faster. If you make it past a minute, as the seconds move towards ninety seconds, you will start to stress.

Now try it this way.

Have a rest after the first test.

Now this time when you hold your breath, close your eyes. Do not look at the watch.

Imagine the house you lived in as a kid.  Try to visualize the layout. Each room. The kitchen. Your bedroom.  The little cupboard with the stickers on it. The bed with the Road Runner cartoon pattern. Your favourite toys. Whatever.

Now think about your high school teacher.  The one you had a crush on.

By this time a minute will easily have passed, without stress.  It works.

Whilst I was thinking about my art teacher and her lovely blue eyes I had missed the turn off for Barcelona and was now happily moving farther and farther away from home.  By the time I had realized my mistake, heading back, into what was now a headwind was not an option.  It meant that as a penalty for thinking about Miss Booth, I now had to climb up over the pass that separated the Valley Orientals, from El Maresme. This was a serious downer.

I began the climb.

It is not a hard climb.  But when you have zero energy it might as well have been Everest. I began to think about food. If only I had some money.

Eureka ! I remembered that I had placed an ‘emergency’ 20 euro note into my saddle bag.  Joy of joys. I was beaming.

I stopped at a  petrol station and filled up.  I started with a Coke.  Some little cakes caught my eye and then an Aquarius (think Gatorade). I finished off with some water for my bottle. Clutching my purchases to my chest I made my way to the counter.  Stopping to stare at a cabinet selling what looked like Christmas themed survival knives (WTF?) and car seat covers with patterns of football teams on them.  Strange.

I was served by an interesting looking guy that seemed to have several hair styles at once upon his head.  He was nodding to a rhythm that only he could hear.  He did not look up from the cash register. He had a tattoo on his neck that looked like a dead bird. I wondered if he had some of the Christmas themed survival knives at home.

“What number” he asked.

I looked at him and said nothing.

After a little while he looked at me and then gazed out at the forecourt. It was empty.

I watched as the realization that I was a cyclist dawned upon him.

I handed over my emergency money and left. Leaving him to listen to the music in his head.

Later that evening, whilst soaking in a hot bath I thought about my ride. It was painful but I enjoyed it.  I decided to plan my next route and made a mental note to avoid my rookie mistakes.

My next ride would take me onto the roads that Juan Antonia Flecha trains on.  I wondered if he ever make rookie mistakes like mine.

Probably not.  But you never know.

Still you do have to get lost if you want to find yourself right?




Day Sixty One: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

My dad used to write lists a lot.  He would then get out a bright yellow marker pen and underline the most important things he had to do.  I think that perhaps I should do the same when it comes to training.  I will definitely put a big yellow line through the word ‘EAT’.

I used to work with a Chinese guy when I lived in Hong Kong who used to say “You can make a mistake once, if you make it twice you are really stupid.”  I was thinking about this as I ran out of food on my road bike ride for the second time in two days.  To make matters worse I was riding exactly the same route as the day before.  I had decided to do this to rid myself of the ghosts associated with 3 hours of pain and suffering.  To be more accurate the first two hours were fine.  It was the last hour that was hell on earth.

There are good times to run out of fuel.  One would be right at the end of a ride, to come home and see a lovely meal had been prepared by your super model partner.  A bad time to run out of fuel would be at the bottom of a climb fifty kilometres from home. With no money. No phone and no choice but to keep riding alone.

The onset of the dreaded ‘bonk’ was so sudden I actually stopped to see if my brakes were rubbing. Unfortunately they were not.  There was to be no easy fix.  It was hot and sunny and I was feeling a bit cold.  On the climb.  Not a good sign.  I zipped up my jersey on the descent and laughed at myself.  What a fool.  I had suffered the day before on the same route and had put it down to not being used to being on my own road bike, having been using my wife’s bike for the past couple of months.  I was wrong.  I had not eaten enough the day before and had started the ride with no reserves. I had two hours worth of food in me and a three hour ride to do.  This would have been fine if I had taken food with me. I had not.

The only way to get through a situation like this is to ride more slowly.  A lot more slowly.  There is enough fat on your body to keep you going for quite a while.  Work too hard though and the body has no choice but to give up on trying to convert fat to energy and makes use of glycogen.  I decided that my glycogen stores were at close to zero so I slowed down to give myself a chance of switching over to using up fat stores.

I am not sure if this is scientifically grounded but I can vouch for how truly awful it feels.  It is not recommended.  The weather conspired against me on the way back.  I was riding into a powerful headwind. I was feeling light-headed.  I slowed down to what felt like a crawl.

I pretended that I was touring on my bike, I tried to forget that I was on a ‘training’ ride.  I sat upright, tried to look at the view, tried to ignore the hunger.  It got worse.  As I cycled along the N11 I decided to look out for food left on street side café tables.  At first I doubted that I would actually scavenge from them however as the ride continued and the wind strengthened I decided I had no option. Unfortunately all the tables were devoid of leftover food.  I struggled on cursing myself.

As I entered Barcelona I spotted a girl riding ahead of me on a folding bike.  It was a funky looking bike ridden by a funky looking girl.  After about five minutes I realized that I was not catching her up.  It dawned on me just how very smashed to bits I was.

When I got home I was too far gone to cook a meal.  I ate whatever was on the kitchen table.  I ate two plain pancakes, leftover from breakfast.  Whilst I was munching them I put two crumpets in the toaster.  I covered these with peanut butter and honey.  Whilst I ate those, I put another two into the toaster.

I looked at the time and realized I had about five minutes left before I had to leave to collect the girls from school.  I made a mental note to make a list and circle the words ‘EAT” in bright yellow marker pen.  Either that or tattoo it onto my forehead.

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