Sunday, 3 August 2014

Re-birth of a Cyclist

Well epiphany done and dusted it was time to decide what I was actually going to do......

Bear in mind this was in 2012 and my memory kinda sucks these days so I'll try to put this together in some slightly sane form that at least attempts to make sense.

My wife Ruth had been diagnosed with Graves' Disease, now while this isn't exactly impending doom it quite rightly knocked her confidence and also put paid to what at the time were plans for the #3 little bundle of trouble. On the upside Ruth decided enough was enough and it was time to do something different that would give her plenty of motivation and help settle her body down and into a semblance of normality.......... Running!!!! (You might remember I dislike running..... not completely but fairly comprehensively) More importantly she ended up wanting to do a Half Marathon and then a Full Marathon (absolutely crackers I tell ya).

Now at the same time I (being somewhat of a Facebook wh*re) was stalking some of my amazing old friends from school and the Air Force and their athletic endeavours. Ruth got the ball rolling and watching Kaytee succeed over the years at anything Cycling, Jamie at Ironman, Graham at Road & Mountain Biking, Carl at Ironman, Joe finishing the London Marathon and Donna at Endurance Running just cemented it....... I needed to move my arse.,,,, significantly.

I was 97kg and that arse was unbalancing the earths orbit, plus I hadn't see my belt buckle in 5 years and since I'm fairly tall it did somewhat hide it all however to me it was blatantly obvious that I'd gone beyond simply unfit into plain lazy. So with the plan to support my wife while she trained by at least being active (and in the interests of not being a future health statistic) I decided to at least get a few rides in and so dusted off the old mountain bike. After all it was only 16 years since I'd ridden a reasonable amount, it was hardly going to be the end of the world.....

OMG..... I'm not one for three lettered abbreviations but this one does fit quite nicely. That little old 16km ride damn near killed me. Actually I'm fairly sure it technically did and a random roaming goat most likely resuscitated me from the ditch into which I collapsed.

Now there is nothing more galling to someone who used to be fairly competitive than being forced to realise that they can no longer gallop up that hill or bolt along that flat road....... I was right royally pissed off, which at this point was probably rather a good thing.

After I finished swearing at Ruth about it and between gulping copious amounts of water I started to think about that ride and what it meant. In 16 years I had gone from a fairly well tuned cyclist to a jelly legged rookie who had to WALK up hills....... not surprisingly I got the bit between my teeth and decided that was it. I refused to contemplate puffing my way round the boys sports fields for the next couple of decades so I made a pact with Ruth. She'd do her running and I'd trial the idea of getting back into cycling.

Having rather stupidly sold all my gear over 12 years earlier I decided to buy a reasonable steed off TradeMe that would give me enough kit to get by with until I knew whether or not I was going to carry this through and really make something of it. So in August 2012 after a couple of weeks of searching and $600 worth of investment I picked up an older EMC2 with shoes, pedals, pump and kit bag and a cheap set of cycling kit (luckily I'd kept my old helmet as a memento of the old days and it still fitted).

With a fair bit of steely determination, not to mention the acknowledgment that this was going to hurt like hell, I mapped out a training plan and a first event to do (I don't train well without a target). Slowly I got comfortable at 15km, then 20km and so on until after 2 months I was finally riding 80km for a long ride and managing a minimum of 4 training rides per week without completely seizing up not to mention bawling like a baby every time I saw a hill.

This was quite possibly the hardest thing I have ever done. Knowing full well what you were once capable of made nearly every training ride a psychological battle with myself, I am fairly sure there are quite a few roadside animals around our area that now have a far greater appreciation for swearing than they really need. Every ride was hurting like hell and every now and then I'd have to rest a couple of extra days to let the exercise bed back in and manage my recoveries. But it was making a difference slowly and surely, distances were going up and so were the average speeds. To be honest (and in the words of the great Greg Lemond) it still hasn't gotten any easier but I have gotten faster....... a lot faster.

So in October 2012 it was time to ride my first official fun ride in over 16 years.......... I was looking forward to it and at the same time was as nervous as hell, but more about that a bit later on :P.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Bugger it all.....

Work...... always there, never ending, sometimes a saviour, sometimes a right drag!

After starting my working life I never really looked back at sport. Which is a shame for all sorts of reasons but most importantly because I enjoyed it so much. I think in the end I did about 3 rides after joining the Air Force and little else from there despite the annual fitness test which for a crappy little 3.2km run rapidly became the equivalent of climbing Mt Everest. After leaving the Air Force and entering civilian life it became even more of an afterthought.

Life became about work, money, expenses and eventually children........ Don't get me wrong, I love working and adore my boys but sometimes you can lose sight of your own needs amongst the supposed "must's" of adult life. I managed a few little excursions and one corporate triathlon (where I almost drowned, gathered myself together on the bike and subsequently felt like I was going to have a heart attack during the run). Oh and as my lovely supportive wife has just reminded me there was an infamous trip to the mountain bike park at Woodhill that resulted in a fractured elbow and almost permanent retirement for the mountain bike after being used precisely ONCE.

I don't for a minute regret any life decisions I have made, they are part of me and who I have become. However as with everyone I can never help those little twinges of what might have been..... after all hindsight is a bugger of a thing and it kinda sneaks up on you.

So without listing all the trials and tribulations of my working career it is probably easiest to say that after quite a few years, promotions, new companies, longer work hours, moving houses, getting married, having kids and letting life rule me I finally managed to say bugger it all.....

It wasn't something I did lightly but having started a new job again it finally dawned on me (yes I'm a slow learner) that there was more to life than this, life isn't meant to rule you and it was high time I did something that I enjoyed again to relieve a bit of the pressure.

In the end it became quite a bit of a mindset change. I still work long hours, especially at business planning time and when projects are on but I don't feel 100% beholden to work anymore, if I decide to finish early as I've done my hours for the day then I do and no longer feel guilty about it. In turn this let's me focus on the important things, like having fun, spending time with the family, having spur of the moment adventures and getting some me time to unwind while (I hope as to be honest it's extremely unlikely) being a good role model to my boys.

And after this epiphany you say? What happened next???????

How it all began......

Sooooo how to begin this little blog on my cycling journey?

I guess to start I should explain a little about my cycling background. As a kid I got to try a fair few sports, particularly at primary school, thanks to my very supportive parents. There were the staple Kiwi traditional's such as Cricket, Rugby, Soccer, but given my ball handling skills are similar to that of a single celled amoeba I rapidly headed in the direction of other options. I enjoyed hockey and loved sailing but what really clicked was cycling.

It really shouldn't have been much of a surprise as given my rural upbringing if you wanted to get anywhere or do anything you were left with few options; either you hocked a lift with the parental's or you got there under your own steam and let's face it the quickest way was by bike and didn't involve bribery with chores....

Eventually at the final year of my primary schooling when i was 12 I entered a little trial Duathlon in town as while I am not a fan of running it kinda sounded like fun. It actually went remarkably well, if I remember rightly I finished 6th........ more importantly I beat everyone on the bike leg and I was riding Mum's old step through bike........ needless to say I kind of realized this might be my sort of sport.

When I got to College the next year it took a while to slot cycling in as nothing existed in the school program at all but thanks to the forethought of a couple of motivated teachers and some friends who banded together to enter the then VERY fledgling Secondary School Triathlon series we started to enter a few team events. My role was always the team cyclist and thanks to having some fantastic team mates we got some good results, then as the years went by some great results and a lot of wins, usually against teams with some sizeable budgets while we continued to operate on a shoestring mainly at the cost of our parents. By then the Triathlon Team had morphed into the much bigger Multisport Team covering all sorts of disciplines and under which I continued to chug away as a team cyclist.

At the prompting of Mum & Dad and the advice of the team coach I joined the local cycling club. Back then this was the Auckland League of Wheelmen and was a rather eliteist outfit (as cycling clubs often can be) and I think perhaps this was where it went a bit wrong. I was cycling, multisporting and sailing across both seasons but the big difference to me between the two sports was that the Waiuku Sailing Club & any Multisport Event were awesome, supportive, enjoyable and fulfilling whereas the Auckland League of Wheelmen was (to me at least) standoffish, eliteist, hyper-competitive and for a young chap not as fun.

This is not to say my results were not good..... in fact looking back now they were fairly bloody awesome given my lack of knowledge and club support which is why I perhaps get a little annoyed with myself these days thinking back on it.

I won my first race....... partly by hammering it home in a solo break and partly because the handicapper made the silly mistake of judging me by my equipment (an old Morrison 16 Speed) and not the blunt suggestions of my coach, parents and a close mate in the same club. Needless to say they only made that mistake once. After that the results came a little more sparingly but still plenty of podium places and in the first season a silver medal in the club champs. The following season was just as good but I was over the club and the sneering at each other over equipment and results......... so I never went back and just focused on being a team cyclist and sailor instead.

To explain my comment about being annoyed, I think perhaps I had strayed into an area of sport I didn't understand..... one where results mattered and equipment was taken seriously because the sport was seen as a future career for some, whereas at that time, for me, it was all about enjoyment. Looking back now I wish maybe I had persevered and perhaps gotten into the club further and who knows where it might have led if I had understood that professional sport could be a future option.

But let's face it that didn't happen and I left school after 7th Form with good marks and an A Bursary to join the Air Force and since then work took over in my life...... but that's the next chapter!