Saturday, 19 May 2012

going down

climbing is hard, we know that. t hurts and you want it to stop hurting. from the ends of your toes to the depths of your bowels, everything hurts. On a long hot climb, you experience every kind of pain, dull aches, sharp peaks,  gasping thirst, burning lungs and pounding head pain. But you have to suffer, everyone does and if you don't you can't win, so you get on with it. When you reach the top of a climb you can breathe, you can let off the pedals and move forward on your saddle, you can throw water on your head and in your mouth, you cam move your hands and, just for a second you can pause, take in the scene and briefly just be where you are.

One of the main differences between racing and training is that, at the top of the climb, things don't stop, or slow down. As soon as the terrain flattens out you hear the thunk of front deraillieurs, the slap and ring  of chains bouncing  onto 11 tooth cogs and the woosh of carbon wheels gaining speed. Because on the other side of climbs are descents, and descents hurt just as much as climbs.

going down hills in training is fun; you swoosh around the corners, you don't have to pedal, you wave at guys climbing and you stretch your back. you eat something, drink something and enjoy riding fast without tying hard.

Descending in races is far from fun. Every corner is a gamble, you always seem to be going to fast, but any slower and you'll lose the place that you've suffered for on the way up. You want to break, you need to break, it would be stupid not to break, to go into the corner at this speed would be suicide. But you don't break, you keep pedaling. You watch the guy in front of you go into the turn, you look into the corner for a line and focus on the exit, you lift up your inside leg and press on your outside pedal, you put your hands in the drops and catch a glimpse of the st christopher's medal on your top tube and then you say a little prayer, resign yourself to fate and you come through the corner.

Through the shade and into the sunlight on the other side, there's no time to give thanks,t o reflect on how stupid what you just did was because the guy in front is on the 53x11 and he's going hard, so you sprint, you get to his wheel and your mouth hangs open with oxygen debt, your pupils dilate with fear and yet your shoulders and hands must stay relaxed. And so it continues, every corner seems like the last one you'll take, and you tell yourself you've got to let this guy go, he's going to crash. But you don't let him go, you just get on with it, and you don't crash, . Then you hit a longer, straight section, you hope for a rest as you sprint out of the corner but no, now a new form of lunacy enters the sway, this is stupid, how can anyone claim to be in control on your bike when you can't touch your brakes? Next thing you know, you can't touch your brakes. you feel the saddle rub your sternum, you hold the bars either side of the stem and you stick your backside up in the air, hoping to approximate the spoiler on a Porsche, and hoping not to lose any skin. More corners, more risks, more breathless, intuitive physics; how far can i lean, when can is tart pedaling without burying my pedal? You have more doubts too; how good is my helmet anyway? why on earth didn't i wear gloves, if i crash, i'll never play my guitar again, i hope these tubulars hold out it's been a while since i glued them, I can't hear the motorbike any more, i hope he's not lying on the road out of this corner. You tell yourself you don't mind clibing, it hurts but it's safe, you pray for a climb, a nice,slow, safe climb.

All the while your mind is on a highlights reel, the guy you saw hit a truck in Venezuela. The time when you came around a corner and found a landslide, and crashed, hard. The time you rode off the edge of a mountain. the guy you saw hit a dog, a goat, or a toad. You can't block out these images, but a firend of mine once told me he sees them, plays them through and then puts them away. so that's what I do, i play them through and then put them aside and get on with getting on.

Then, after being scared, after telling yourself you're not going to do this again and cursing the guy in front and cursing the road builder and cursing yourself for being and the race promoter for putting you there. You hit the flat, and then, for a second you breathe and you drink. and then someone attacks, and it hurts again. but this is the pain you were praying for minutes ago, so you get on with it.

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