Friday, 23 July 2010
Isn't it a mad world when crowds of people gather along a steep hill to watch us suffer on a slopy bit of road with a horrendous gradient. We are probably madder for signing up to these challenges.
Entering the start gantry arms a-quaking, legs a-wobbling, adrenaline rising, I realise that in a few moments I should explode out of the blocks and tackle The Beast (aka Swains Lane). The time is now! I can't get out of it. OK, I'll put my hands up and say I did the crime. I had the strange moment of excitement and I signed a form to do the race, and took myself off to Highgate yesterday evening. So, I'm on the start line doing the time. Yes, I am the prisoner - I'm held in place, unable to move. I'm trapped in a wobbly body on an overweight bike about to try and defeat gravity and get up the hill! If only I could get out of this "contraption" - I can't walk away, as I'm all set with my number on. I can't get going either - must wait for the countdown. I so just want to release the tension in my body and stop the shaking. Shout, shout let it all out!
The countdown begins - 30 seconds and my breathing's getting shorter - 15 seconds, body's getting more tense - 5,4,3,2,1 and I'm released - I break out ready to tear on up the road. Trying to find the right gear - or at least the gear I'd run through in my pre-race strategy. Oh well, I press on, using my energy but not feeling like I'm going anywhere. Is this the start of the breakdown?
A few metres in, I remember what I'm supposed to do and begin to focus. The first 100m seem long, and drawn out. A few people shout words of encouragement. Then, just as I'm getting used to the gradient, another "step up" appears in the road and the high wall of the cemetery becomes visible at the side of the road - the net is closing in on me! There's no way out of this! The road is getting steeper, the crowds are getting thicker. People cheer, but I can't make out what they're saying. I'm just hurting, I think I will burst, or faint or both. Have the people come to watch me bleed? Oh God, how do I get out of this? Pedalling is the only answer - and hard, if I don't want to fall head over heels! I focus as much as my body will allow me, and pump the pedals with what limited energy I have left.
The finish line comes into view, but it's still so far away. Someone shouts "sprint for the line." I feel sick, I try, but I just crawl to the chequered flag and turn right into the side street. All flaked out, I throw myself off the bike and sit at the side of the road. My legs have buckled and I can't walk anywhere for several minutes. I see other riders finish in a similar state. We are broken!
So that was my hill climb - 2mins 40s up Swains Lane, and alot of pain! But hey, I did it. Memories fade, and I will probably do something like this again!
Photo by John Mullineaux, London Cyclesport
[I couldn't help make references to that 80s band, Tears for Fears - it seemed apt at the time!]