Old Dude Diaries #2: When Christmas Comes

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I’ve recently joked to friends that I’m going to get an aches and pains bingo card made featuring a cartoon human so that each morning those of us of a certain age can cross off the body part that’s having a whinge.
Mine’s been pretty full over recent weeks.
I’ve been struggling with a bunch of saddle height related issues resulting in annoying knee and other exacerbated pains making riding far less fun than it should have been. The culprit, a long time slipping seat post has been firmly fettled and once that was sorted the bits of my creaking meat machine have dutifully meshed back into place.
Thankfully that’s less crosses on the bingo card.
Minor physical crisis over I’ve been waiting, waiting like you wait for Christmas, waiting for signs of things to come, the promise of something better, and just like at Christmas waiting for the excitement of ‘that feeling’.
Belatedly, and much later than previous years it’s finally happened.
Maybe it was the still, warm weather, maybe it was the fact that it was a shorts, jersey and puny arms out kind of day, but when I thought about pressing hard on the pedals my body did as it was told, no protests, no grumbles, no refusals, just total co-operation.
There are definitely several orders of magnitude time wise between the rate of losing fitness to regaining it, I’d stopped racing in December and a couple of New Year chest infections had pretty much reset the fitness-o-meter back to zero.
Back in the days when bike computers had wires I used to keep meticulous written records – routes, weather, times and distances for all my rides. Looking back it seems quite simplistic, but that crude training log was the only real way for any of us to map progress, my regular ‘test’ rides were the benchmark by which I scored myself.
Things are obviously different now.
On last week’s most special of days, it was my Strava data that confirmed that something magical was indeed happening, something different stirring, Christmas had finally come. Times over my trusted benchmark segments, mainly stiff, long, off-road climbs were improving, in some cases they were the best I’d ever done, and for some I’m new onto leaderboards.
Every year it amazes me that my fitness does in fact make a return, I don’t seem to be able to trust that it will. During those dark weeks of constant niggles and annoying pains it was hard to think that things would ever be anything but the same drudgery of slogging round, fighting thoughts that perhaps the best, fitness wise, had gone.
However, it was just some fettling that was needed, a bit of attention to my own mechanicals rather than those of bike, a tweak to my basic needs, giving my fleshy drive train a bit of tune and a give it a spark of encouragement to kick it back into life for another season.
Sat in the beer garden of the Red Lion pub in Swanage having just finished the hundred mile Dorset Gravel Dash in a little over ten hours I was pretty pleased with myself at finishing incident free and without pain. However, having hardly seen any other riders during my last few hours in the saddle I was convinced that there couldn’t have been more than a handful of people behind me.
After some chips and beer in the sun, watching those who I thought were the stragglers sweep under the chequered flag, I got to wondering just how many of the eighty plus riders were still out on the chalky trails. I asked clipboard guy in charge of checking off returning riders. “Well over half” was his the matter of fact reply, “If it’s anything like last year they’ll be coming in for hours’.
I’d been back for a good forty-five minutes, seen countless others return behind me and there were still “well over half” out there, I was absolutely stunned. That morning on the start line there were riders that looked far leaner, faster, fitter, younger than me – perhaps my body had indeed kicked up a gear and was finally getting back into shape?
At the best of times my aches and pains knock my confidence and they do on occasion get me down. Perhaps I need to get some perspective and remember that for an old dude I can do pretty well and, if I remember to take care, Christmas does roll round again?

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