What to do when you can't ride your bike #1 - Watch other people do it better than you can.

DOACC – When life gets in the way.

So I have to admit, I’ve been failing as a columnist for this fine website. Failing in the most basic sense, too. For the past fortnight, I’ve hardly had a sniff, nary a morsel of #dirtydropbargoodness in my life. For why, I hear you cry? What possible reason could there be for such a basic lack of moral fortitude. Gather round, friends, and hear my tale of yuletide woe.

It all began, as so many things do at this time of year, with a yelp. Or at least, I thought it was a yelp, heard through the soothing tones of the latest Bonobo album on spotify. No, it wasn’t an errant master’s student caught out by the fast-closing door again, but one of my fellow researchers. Sneezing. Uh oh.

I thought it would all be fine. Plenty of fruit and veg, early nights, keep training, keep racing, don’t make any sudden movements. More colleagues start coughing. Colleagues in my other office started coughing and spluttering too. It went from a question of “if”, to one of “when”? I made it safely through the national trophy at Milton Keynes, and a good thing too as even without the crazy descent (thanks, but no thanks, commissaires!), it was undoubtedly the most fun I have ever had on a ‘cross bike.

What to do when you can’t ride your bike #1 – Watch other people do it better than you can.

Another week of coughing, some of it in a decidedly “misery loves company” kind of a way if you catch my drift, and another fun and crazy event in the shape of the Morvelo Battle Royale down in Brighton, and I thought I was good. I made it, I got through. Achoo! Damnit!

Game over came in the second week of December. Eyes running, nose running, sneezing and coughing, I was down. It took a couple of days to get over the worst of it, and unlike my crazy colleagues (sick days, like holidays, are not universally accepted as de rigeur in universities) I had the good grace to try and keep it to myself. A week of no training. It’s not the end of the world, but with the Bradford Trophy coming up, and two days off the bike for a work trip to Basel in the pipeline, I wanted to make the most of my remaining (healthy) time.

What to do when you can’t ride your bike #2 – Spend some quality time with your work. And your pets!

Unfortunately, unbeknownst to be, the bottom bracket in my training bike had other ideas. This is the bike I ride pretty much every day, to get to work or do my intervals. The square taper bb had worn out, but I didn’t notice. I did some pretty big sessions to try and make sure I was in shape, and wondered why my knee was a little achey. Then, part way through a pretty gruelling turbo session, it got so bad I had to stop altogether. I knew that warm, scratchy pain like bumping into an old friend. Patellar tendinitis. I wobbled my cranks, noticed the dodgy bb, and felt like slapping myself for being so stupid. At least another week off.

I went to Bradford, learned a great deal in the pits helping out Rachel and Crispin, did a few laps of the course, but didn’t race. The whole point of being up there was that I thought that course would be great fun to race full bore. Being in no state to race, and with a knee that hurt when walking around, I realised that it wasn’t even going to be type-2 fun. It was just going to suck. I’m actually rather proud of how sensible I was that day; it’s an unusual trait to find in a racer.


What to do when you can’t ride your bike #3 – Embrace the weight-gain, and visit the Raclette stand (Disclaimer – you might have to visit Basel to do this!).

So here I am. It’s Christmas eve. I’m at my parent’s house in Rutland, and I’ve just ridden three days on the bounce. My knee is not perfect, but it’s much much better, and it’s now the national champs that’s waiting on the horizon. I have a couple of weeks to do a good job of getting ready, but I’m not going to rush it this time. It turns out that having an enforced break like that does wonders for your motivation (Sven Nys is currently doing the same, albeit for different reasons, so I feel like i’m very on-trend!). Where intervals had started to become a case of going through the motions, and trying to make it to the end of the season, I feel like a man reborn. Training is about quality, and finishing tough sessions is an achievement in itself.
I don’t want the season to end just yet, I’ve got more to give after all.



What to do when you can’t ride your bike #4 – Try to earn some brownie points. And make sure the bikes all work better than you do!

So, let me share some advice. If you find yourself struggling, take a step back, be honest about how you feel, and don’t be afraid to give yourself a bit of space if you’re enjoying things less than you should. It’s our hobby. It’s supposed to be fun. Make sure you check your bottom brackets from time to time. And tell you sickly colleagues to shove off home!!

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