…..and so it came to pass that at the end of 2005, in the month of October I finally got to race for the Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team in two races near my home.
Both events were Individual Time Trials where riders set off at minute intervals and ride alone and un-paced a specified distance. The rider who covers the course in the shortest time is declared the winner. My two events were unusual because they both were Hill Climbs – start at the bottom, finish at the top – and that’s it.
Although I knew my preparation hadn’t included much speed work or intense intervals I foolishly believed that my base fitness of steady miles would stand me in good stead for the short efforts. It would soon be painfully clear to me how wrong I was.
The first event, was staged by someone I knew 20 years ago when I raced for my local club. I was amazed and humbled but not surprised to see some of the same faces working hard promoting such events for others to enjoy.
The climb itself was quite short (800 yards) but steep. In riding the hill a few times in training I decided to adopt a strategy of making an easy start on the steeper first part of the course and then to go as hard as possible on the second part which levelled off but where lactic acid build-up would start to tell.
My plan worked perfectly. I used low gears to start with, and then changed up to drive on to the line, finishing totally spent but happy with a good ride, and quietly looking forward to seeing my name on the results board later.
Well, the ego is a funny thing. No matter how many blows it gets over the years, it’s quite resilient and mine is certainly acting like a true survivor. Yet it’s only really obvious when it’s had a good bit of flattering from the mind and then walloped from the side when it’s not looking.
When I looked on the results board, I was horrified to see that I had actually finished almost last! I thought that there must have been some mistake, but had to admit that actually, there was no mistake except that my expectations had escalated beyond all reasonable proportions and my pride was forced to accept the uncomfortable truth that I was not as fast as I’d lead myself to believe.
After this sobering experience, I put my training clothes back on and went for a 2 hour ride before it got dark to try and get my head together. At this point my knee started hurting again so I felt like being caught between a hill and a sore place while I pondered my future. Although I had done quite a lot of mileage in my build up to the winter cyclo-cross season, I had to admit that my knee was actually very sore and I had undoubtedly over-done things in my eagerness to get fit.
Shortly afterwards, I sought out a professional cycling coach for some advice and we decided to go for a gentle ride where he could assess my position on the bike to see if anything was obviously wrong. It became immediately apparent that my saddle was too high and so I was over-stretching my leg at the bottom of each pedal stroke. The simple and obvious solution was to lower the saddle and keep riding gently.
Unfortunately, I contracted a very bad cold and was laid up in bed for a couple of days and felt unable to ride for over a week. I thought this rest would help the knee, but actually it felt just as sore as when I’d been riding.
The day before the second Hill Climb, I decided to go out for a gentle ride (my first one in two weeks) so my legs wouldn’t be too shocked by the following days effort and also, I hoped some light exercise and fresh air would ease my stuffy head. With this in mind, I headed towards a near-by seaside resort and sat on a bench for twenty minutes, unable to smell anything but enjoying the companionship of a local gent who kept me entertained with talk of ‘cabbages and kings’.
The following day I met up with my club mate Richard Pettinger, as we had both entered the Bristol South CC Hill Climb. I’d seen Richard come second the previous year and felt quite confident that I’d be able to give the climb a ‘good go’…
At least this time, with my experience of the previous event, I knew not to base my peace of mind around my position on the results board! After a brief warm up (I didn’t want to tire myself out!) I rode to the best of my ability and finished absolutely exhausted and was almost be sick at the side of the road. Sitting down on the grass verge, I didn’t even care that I’d sat on a patch of stinging nettles in my thin cycling shorts…
Afterwards, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with some of my old friends from the local cycling scene, who I hadn’t seen for many years. I felt like a young boy again, laughing along with the characters that make the camaraderie of sports such a wonderful thing.
Richard and I enjoyed a relaxing post-race cup of tea before he collected his winnings (yes, he went one place better than last year!), and we set out for a pleasant spin together along quiet country lanes. Even though I placed well down the field, this time I was very happy with my effort, and even happier that I had no complaints from my knee. It seems that winter competition is not a realistic option for this year and so I will try to build up more slowly, steadily and sensibly for 2006 and see what happens….
By: Ed Silverton