Saturday was a washout. The rain hammered as I led awake at 5 am, pondering the 6 am alarm to get me up and on the road for a 200 km DIY audax. The route was pretty all weather, although exposed at 450 meters over in Powys, and had been designed soley with views and escape in mind. There clearly weren't going to be any views. Feeling a little under the weather, fighting off the fever and cold that had hit the better half very hard in the week, there was no desire to escape anything, but particularly not the duvet. I turned off the alarm and ignored the little voices whispering "but the bike and kit is ready" "but you haven't done a long ride for weeks" "are you going to bail all the time now?" "are the days of endurance over?" and went back to sleep.
The day was lost in a massive sort out of 'stuff and things'. As I get older it becomes so much easier to let go of things and a good deal was taken to the charity shop or sent for recycling. Chore after chore after chore ticked off the list. So many things that have been put off for many months, sorted. I think most people would have felt a smug sense of satisfaction. I just wished I was riding. Heading into town, the torrential downpour continued unabated, and I stood in the Co-op perhaps a little relieved I had been weak and given in to the duvet afterall.
Then, in the corner of my eye I saw a cyclist, soaking wet, in a cap, walking in just as I was about to walk out. The face looked a little familiar and I turned to look at the bike next to the door. "That's an Audaxer's bike" I thought. Saddlebag with a sewn-on patch gave it away. "Hang on, that's a Hope R8 light, and, in fact that's a Raleigh". All the pieces fell into place and I realised I had just walked right past Steven Abraham, just bouncing back after a tough attempt at the Highest Annual Mileage Record (HAMR) that had been marred by a drunk moped rider. A year and a month of riding solidly, most days 200 mile+ and even recovering from a broken ankle on the bike. The overall record was taken by the impressive Kurt Searvogel in the end, but Steve was the driving force to enliven the world record, still holds the UMCA record in his age group, and shown just how tough you have to be in the UK to attempt it break the overall. What with our road network, mental drivers and hellish weather systems to face every day for an entire year, Steve is the UK's long distance hero and here he was, in the Co-op, in the Green. Of course I had to run back in to speak to him, feeling rather guilty whilst he dripped pools of rainwater all over the floor and I stood there in my wussy everyday non-riding, and very dry, clothes. Still, if I had gone out on that DIY, I wouldn't have seen the inspirational Steve. That's fate, right?
Saturday evening was taken up accepting a marriage proposal (just thought I'd drop that in there) and getting ready for a day trip to the Motocross International at Hawkstone Park. Pondering when I was going to fit in any kind of exercise, suddenly a whim hit to try running again. I'll not go into detail, but I used to run, a long time ago, and pretty regularly on and off for a number of years. I've never been quick, but always enjoyed it and was very sad to have to stop when I started developing agonising pelvic pain everytime I went out. Pain so bad it made me throw up more than once. Never identified the cause, but needless to say, cycling became the only option.
A few months or so back, I had the pleasure of reading 'Eat and Run' by the outstanding ultra runner Scott Jurek, a fantastic book and thoroughly motivating. In addition, 'Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen' by Christopher McDougall was another fascinating read and left me pondering my running form, how terrible it is and whether minimalist footwear and changing to a fore-foot landing would help cure the pelvic pain once and for all.
So I got up, early on Sunday, put on my (normal bulky over-engineered and over-cushioned) trainers and went out to start on what could be a very long and slow journey to correct a 'bash bash bash elephant feet' style into a graceful toe pointer. 2 minutes in and my calves were on fire. 8 minutes in and I was grateful to be climbing upwards, sliding around in deep mud, a massive grin on my face and finally a new challenge. In total, 20 minutes were running interspersed with 9 minutes of walking to ease the calves and ankles, and 1 minute spent trying to retrieve a trainer from full-on-suction mud without getting the shoeless foot in the drink, and the other trainer stuck completely. It was messy, hilarious and I was loving it. Suddenly all the inaccessible-by-bike areas were opened up, and I found new places just 10 minutes from home. What surprised me the most was how little I returned to heel striking. Just a few times in the whole run, and as soon as I fell back into my 'comfortable old form' I pulled myself back out and straight onto my fore foot. Running uphill has always been my strongest point, and downhill my weakest, but this was exaggerated more so by the change of form, and, I guess, the mud. So strange to be stood on the top of a steep slope that would be easy to ride down, pondering how the hell I was going to get back down on foot. Same principle in the end, brakes off, look where you want to go, and hope.
Later in the day, calves were on fire and some Vibram Five Fingers had been ordered.
A fabulous day at the motocross was then topped off by an hour's evening ride on the roadie. Carrying full audax kit, in the rain and wind, I finally got to ride. It was great, legs felt strong, steep hills were climbed and an hour was spent happy, feeling good and just enjoying riding for the sake of it.