Are you missing the race season a bit too much? Our George might not be much of a podium contender, but in lockdown he’s discovered that racing is about much more than just not winning.
I’m missing it. The racing.
Not the racing per se; not the sitting in the start gate stressing about trying to put it all together in one perfect run, or even the euphoria of crossing the line after laying down what, for me, was a heater. Not that; more the crew, the craic, the knowing that when you leave home on Friday lunchtime there’s a blissful 48 hours ahead where the main topics of conversation will be how that new bit’s cutting in, or what tyres you’ve got on, or “did you see how fast Danny hit that section?”.
I’m missing travelling home with tales of failure or the odd heroic success, the disbelief that you hit that double, the stories, the bits that make up the blog. I’m missing writing the blog.
It’s not just the racing. It’s the uplifts on the weekends in-between; the prepping the bike, the World Cups on Red Bull TV. Without any of it I’m slowly morphing into the person I’ve spent my whole life trying to avoid becoming. That bloke who, when you ask him how his weekend’s been responds “not too bad; we popped into town so Karen could return a top to Next and…” and by that point I’ve switched off. Just, what’s the point? Where’s the buzz Keith, where’s the buzz?
It’s week 15 now and I’ve just been asked for my opinion on which flavour yoghurts we should buy. I’ve started obsessing about growing grass around the perimeter of the garden (grass that I didn’t give a shit about when it was being destroyed by a mole last winter) and why that bit of the radiator where we dry damp clothes is turning yellow?
It’s not all bad though. In fact, some good has come out of lockdown. I’ve been able to spend a huge amount of time with my daughter, the podcast’s booming and I’ve finally ridden up onto the hill behind our house. We’ve lived here for 5 years but when every weekend is an uplift or a race, who’s got time to explore?
Which links nicely back to the racing. So, this hill; there’s a Strava segment on it, that, once I’m up there I can lap in 25 minutes. The segment’s just under a minute long but it’s an average 13.5% and without overstating it, it’s been my salvation. For those fifty odd seconds I’m back thinking about braking points and body position and looking ahead and not whether we’ve nearly run out of hazelnuts. Just thinking about being in that headspace is blissful. Unfortunately, as is a regular occurrence in my life, without intervention things have gradually ramped up to an unacceptable level.
At 8pm last Monday night, what would be a school night if the schools were open, I found myself making the ascent in a full face (not the D4 I’m meant to be testing for Singletrack, so I can’t use that as an excuse) and elbow pads. After the first run (a 58 FYI) I’d established that conditions were prime, and I was most definitely ‘in the zone’. Pedalling up a second time I noticed a bloke coming down the path toward me. Despite pondering why anyone would be descending this track when there’s a much better one a couple of hundred yards further around the way, I stepped off the racing line and once he was within ear shot, clenched my fists and with all the gusto of a dad cheering on his son in the final throws of a pursuit for Olympic Gold, shouted “GO ON MATE!”
It was only when we locked eyes that I realised. He wasn’t racing. He wasn’t on a heater. He was just riding for fun and if we’re baring our souls here; he looked scared. Like “there’s a f**king mad man over there” scared.
It’s going to be a while before the uplifts start their engines and even longer still until the timing systems beep but when they do, I’ll be there. Cherishing the 5am alarm and trying to load the van without making a sound. The Maccies breakfast with Binnsy and the chat when we arrive; safe in the knowledge that over the next few hours no one will ask me if I prefer raspberry or strawberry yoghurts this week…