10.5km running today and 6.5km on the bike.
Worryingly I’ve noticed that this blog has had a couple of hits from people searching for “athletic diets”. As I am a strong believer in the use of chocolate finger and potato chip supplements for improving athletic ability I can only hope they now have a solid nutritional basis to improve their sports performance.
The BIG NEWS today is that the Good Shorts have been consigned to the dustbin of history. There’s a maxim I use when assessing running clothing: “when your shorts have a bigger hole in the groin area than the two leg holes combined, it’s time to throw those shorts away“. Feel free to write that down.
Sad face. We’ve been though a lot those shorts and I.
I went into a large French sports shop and had a really difficult time selecting a pair of new shorts from the extensive choice of 2 sorts of shorts in 1 colour that they were offering (sigh). In the end I settled for a pair in that crunchy synthetic material that generates static electricity when you rub your genitals on it (after 15km of hard running you can shoot electro-bolts from your testicles) and a pair in soft pyjama style material that have a strange cut. I’m not an expert on female fashion, but you know those skirts that hug the waist and arse and then flare out at a 45 degree angle shortly afterwards? (What are they called?) Well these shorts are sort of like that in each leg. Flared shorts if you like. Looks a bit odd, but I’m sure it’s performance related. I imagine they make you run faster because they make you look like an utter tit and you want to get your run finished as soon as possible. That’s probably it.
I wanted to speak a little bit today about bikes. I had a few other topics as possible blog posts today – like my aching back, or how a six year old can dislike macaroni cheese so much he covers himself and me with projectile vomit just to prove a point, or even how in a French supermarket you have to stand in a queue for 30 minutes because there are multiple tills open for people with under 10 items; the disabled; self-scanners and the elderly but ONLY ONE FOR EVERYONE ELSE.
No, today we’re going to speak about bikes and why I’m not a big fan of cycling.
I do a lot of cycling, for sure, but I see it as a very utilitarian pursuit. I like to use it as a means from getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible. I have always been a road cyclist. I don’t see the attraction of mountain biking. When I’m performing any sporting activity I like to be in a zen state of relaxation. Hairing down a mountainside avoiding dead badgers, tree stumps and other mountain bikers doesn’t really fit in with that concept. This is the same reason I don’t like running off-road – I don’t want to concentrate on where I’m putting my feet, just on moving them backwards and forwards as fast as I can. Plus, and I accept this might be a bit of a wild generalisation but most mountain bikers and trail runners take their respective sports a bit seriously for my liking.
You know, not the sort of guys who’d allow their shorts to have excessive genital ventilation. That sort of guy.
Anyway, I’ve done more than my fair share of cycling over the years, and I’ve always been perceived as a keen cyclist. In my teens I did a paper round that involved getting up before school; cycling for miles; picking up a very heavy bag of newspapers; cycling miles back again; stuffing the newspapers through tiny letterboxes of a series of houses with nearly identical welsh names (Llanlloollod, Lllaaannllloolllooochlllod, Llanllococococlod etc…); getting drenched and every seven days getting paid a quite frankly insulting £12.
OK, so you’d get a few tips at Christmas (not many though – there are some tight bastards in Aberystwyth) but by and large it was the most ridiculous effort/wage ratio you could imagine and rather than teaching me the value of hard graft and applying myself (as I think my father intended it to) it just made me increasingly bitter, sarcastic and convinced I’d need to cheat to get ahead in the world.
I vaguely remember the law has changed so you can’t force a child to work 20 hours a week for £12; carry a 10kg bag of newspapers and also get them to do this in the dark without a helmet or luminous clothing. That’s Europe for you, always meddling in British affairs. If you can’t force a teenager’s shoulder joint out of its socket and send him out on busy roads without a helmet then what’s the world coming to? Political correctness gone mad. I blame the asylum seekers.
So my early association with cycling was to see the bike as some sort of bringer of misery and despair. I didn’t cycle a lot at university, and when I started again it was to commute into Edinburgh for work. I sort of enjoyed it, though the local drug addicts often laid railway sleepers around blind bends on the cycle paths and I once genuinely punctured my tyre on a discarded heroin needle. And that’s Edinburgh! Makes you wonder what commuting into Glasgow would be like – perhaps you have to avoid people carrying rocket launchers?
For my early commuting years I rode a very small red racing bike I’d bought from a catalogue, and while I liked it one day a car reversed into it in a car park (while I was on the bike) and finished it off (the bike, not me), so I bought a proper bike, my lovely, reliable Giant OCR2, that I’ve ridden for about 8 years. I was told in the bike shop that my little red racing bike had been a heap of junk and completely the wrong size for me, so it was probably a good thing it got run over by a BMW.
A couple of years ago in a sort of existential mid-life crisis I decided to cycle from Edinburgh (where I used to live) to Le Mans (where I now live). It took a few days, and it was quite enjoyable, but once again I’m not sure the actual process of cycling was very fun. Training for it was also deathly dull – you need to cycle a bloody long way every week to train to cycle a bloody long way. There is an undeniable satisfaction in racking up mile after mile and the nice thing about cycling is the distance you can cover in a day – 100+ miles will take you through loads of towns and through different types of scenery, but it’s quite boring actually doing it and it makes your bum sore.
There’s a joke in there somewhere.
That said, I was quite proud of how I converted the Giant (a road bike) into a touring bike. Even though it had none of the right lugs and fittings, I managed to bang on a pannier rack and rig it out for long distance cycling. It’s served me admirably in this task. I also fitted it with clip on pedals, but that was about it. I’m not one to really lavish care and attention on the bike, so it doesn’t ever really get oiled, or washed, but it’s not had any major problems so I think we understand one another. It’s cheap, and it gets the job done.
What I think irritates me most about cycling is how it’s the worst, worst sport for people thinking they can buy their way to improved performance. Even running is pretty bad for this with people spending a fortune on sweat wicking trainers and aerodynamic nipple clamps, but cycling is an order of magnitude worse. You only have to cycle around any moderately busy country lane on a Sunday to watch a series of 50 something men, with paunches, riding £4000 carbon fibre bikes, and sipping their branded energy drinks. The problem is a carbon seatpost might give you a fractional advantage in a Tour de France time trial when the difference between you and your steroid enhanced opponents is tiny, but it’s going to do absolutely bugger all for most people. I take great delight in sailing past the lycra-d brigade on my trusty warhorse, just to make a point, but it’s irritating all the same.
So that’s why I just cycle in a utilitarian sense these days – my history of pain and misery and a great deal of irritation (which is coincidentally how most people describe me as well). I don’t ever really cycle for fun. So it’s a good job I discovered running really, otherwise I’d still be searching for sporting pleasure after all these years.