Monday, 19 July 2010

A Sucker for Punishment!


I don't know what's gotten into me this year. I keep complicating matters for myself by signing up for different cycle challenges. It's true that I like to do cyclosportives or challenge rides of 200km. Those type of events are as much about discovering new scenic places to cycle and meeting new folks as they are about the mission of the ride itself. In any case, I have got to the stage where I know what to do in order to get through a 100mile hilly bike, and I have confidence in my ability to complete such events. (Of course the time I take is a different matter!)

This year I have hardly done any of the usual cyclosportives. Instead I have found myself signing up for tough challenges - the Fred Whitton, the Paris-Roubaix. These are the sort of challenges where you really don't know if you'll make it through.

Signing up to ride the Paris-Roubaix had made me quite nervous. I felt very anxious in the days leading up to the race, and was quite worried about what effect the cobbles would have on me and my bike. At times the feeling of going out of my comfort zone was overwhelming, to the point that the mere thought of battling through the event had my heart skipping a beat.

I'd had very similar feelings in the run-up to riding a cyclosportive event abroad for the first time about 8 years ago. The fact that I eventually made it through the race should have given me the confidence to know that I would be able to make it through this new challenge. But my mind was up to its old tricks and I didn't feel as if I'd be up to the job at all.
The smile on my face when I finally crossed the finish line at the Velodrome de Roubaix said it all, and I was elated to have accomplished this feat.

So, as if all that was not enough for me for one year, I now find myself once again faced with a challenge - two in fact.

Firstly, I've got a hill climb to do this Thursday. A hill climb taking place within striking distance of central London is completely unprecendented and sounds too cool an event to miss out on. So I signed up to do it - the Rollapaluza Urban Hill Climb. Slight snag is that I must winch me and my bike up a 13% gradient for about 950m and endure stretches that reach 20%! I am not the best racer, and with a hill thrown in that complicates things even more!
Five minutes of pain and humiliation ?? Of course I'll survive it, but it will be very uncomfortable!

Secondly, I'm down to do The Three Peaks Cyclo Cross challenge. Now this goes off the scale in the cycling self harm stakes! Thirty eight miles of off road riding is not too bad. It's a different story when it involves riding up and down the 3 highest peaks in the Yorkshire Dales. Actually, riding will not be the verb! The story goes that no one rides up them. The first climb involves scaling up the side of a mountain, bike slung over shoulder, gripping tufts of grass for leverage. It's impossible to wheel the bike along, especially when considering that riders go up the peak in a procession and to know who's in the line you look above your head or between your feet! The descents are rocky and treacherous, and have people and their bikes reduced to bits.

So, you've guessed it I've signed up for this challenge. While I do take part in cyclo cross events, this event is a completely different kettle of fish. Rather than the usual hour-long frenzy over grass and muddy trails usually with a small hillock, this will be around 5 hours of all types of terrain that can be thrown at the rider in mountains! The stakes are high in this one. I may not finish. I may finish but with a broken bike, or with broken bones, teeth and skin. I may be lucky and get round, having had a thoroughly miserable time carrying my bike up and down the "ultimate assault course"!
I don't know what possessed me to sign the dotted line and send in my cheque to commit to this event. Now that I am over the initial shock of seeing my name on the start list, I am ready to take on the challenge and punish myself in order to get through it.
I have yet to know the real answer as to why I keep on putting myself forward for these crazy challenges. Maybe I just like pain!
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