Wednesday, 11 December 2013

empowerment, exercise and "devastating diseases"

Today i rode my bike for 210k, i rode with guys who've won world championships, worn leaders jersies of grand tours (this year). I got up pretty early to make the ride, i had to leave mine at 6am to make it to the start by 8:15 so I didn't have time to open my e mails. I didn't touch any work stuff until after i was done riding a very long way and consuming my bodyweight in pannakin muffins.

Had i opened my emails before i set off pedaling i would have found out that i wasn't capable of doing so. you see the ADA informed me that I have a "devastating disease".  That i will carry a lifelong burden of "suffering and danger and fear."  That without a cure for diabetes my life would be limited by my condition and that those close to me would live their lives in "that terrifying, gut-wrenching place." 

Fortunately i didn't read this, i checked my blood glucose and went about a normal day, without being arrogant i did things that most people, diabetic or not, couldn't do. I was told when I was diagnosed that I couldn't race my bike any more, I didn't take no for an answer and i educated myself, i used myself as an n=1 experiment, i taught myself how to manage my diabetes, what to eat and when and how to use my insulin to make myself the best version of myself i can be. 

In my work with AYUDA and with the Pascua Yaqui I have tried to share my message that my diabetes doesn't hold me back. A lack of supplies or medications would hold me back, a lack of available education would hold me back but I have the great misfortune to have been born in a country where the state takes care of my medication needs and where i have access to education which has empowered me to take the best possible steps towards controlling my diabetes. I'm immensely LUCKY to be in this situation, diabetes has made me friends and taken me around the world, without it my life wouldn't have the meaning and the direction it does. 

Our goal at AYUDA is to empower people, to give them the tools they need to make the best of their situation with regard to their access to supplies and their diabetes. Whatever their situation we give them the invaluable tool of education which allows them to make the best of their resources and to live happy, healthy and productive lives with diabetes. Most of all we give them a community to belong to, a network to rely on, and a positive attitude for them to go on and empower themselves and others and serve as agents of change in their own communities.
 
In sharp contrast the ADA has told me i'm disabled (i'm not) that i am a burden on those that love me (i hope i'm not) and that my life is worthless without a cure for Diabetes (i couldn't care less). Their language is neither empowering nor educative, it's upsetting and offensive. Perhaps,a s they have no people with diabetes amongst their officers they don't understand this. Perhaps they do but they don't care. I'll likely never raise as much as this one email will but I would question the real value of what is being done here. My goal is to help people to live healthy , happy lives with diabetes, i need to raise funds in order to do this but the goal is what's important. What the ADA has done is put the cart before the horse, the money before the people and the cash before the cause. 

 My diabetes doesn't hold me back. What i do want is access to insulin for those who need it. I have said and will keep saying that i am fortunate to have the insulin and education that I need, what I want for diabetes is for my brothers and sisters not to die from a treatable condition for want of cheap supplies. I won't go into the why's and wherefore's but please investigate the 100 campaign who aim to achieve 100% access to insulin within 100 years of the creation of syntheic insulin. People in Mali can expect to live just 12 months post diagnosis, this IS something worth crying about, living with diabetes in the USA, with access to medication, is not. 

please take the time to contact the ADA and let them know how this makes you feel, even if you do not live with diabetes. Please think carefully and give generously, especially at this time of year. 

here's that link again: http://main.diabetes.org/goh/12-10-13/lndr.html?s_src=EOY2013_RED_Email03&s_subsrc=LNDR&utm_source=email&utm_medium=EOY_Email03_121013&utm_term=LNDR&utm_campaign=EOY2013_RED http://main.diabetes.org/goh/12-10-13/lndr.html?s_src=EOY2013_RED_Email03&s_subsrc=LNDR&utm_source=email&utm_medium=EOY_Email03_121013&utm_term=LNDR&utm_campaign=EOY2013_RED http://main.diabetes.org/goh/12-10-13/lndr.html?s_src=EOY2013_RED_Email03&s_subsrc=LNDR&utm_source=email&utm_medium=EOY_Email03_121013&utm_term=LNDR&utm_campaign=EOY2013_RED



here are some pictures of the last two weeks with my devastating disease and my life burdened by suffering and fear.





Sunday, 8 December 2013

ride a lot, eat a lot, smile a lot

It may not have escaped your attention that i quite like bikes, I'm also not averse to pastry and, on occasion turn my hand to the culinary arts as a way to fill an empty stomach from an empty wallet. It has been a fair while since I've written a blog about food, not even about nutrition but just about food. Sometimes we confuse the two and we lose sight of both things in the process. Food is beautiful, delicious and something we are designed to enjoy. Over time our relationship with food has become somewhat unhealthy. We fear it and we overindulge in it. Food should be a pleasure, especially good food, real food, food which takes time and effort to prepare should be given time and attention when we eat it.

I love this time of year, big miles, a bit less stressful racing/ travel, beer and bakeries, coffee and cookies and of course the turkey dinners. I see a lot of riders who seem incapable of enjoying a good cookie or croissant only to consume innumerable quantities of semi solid goop as soon as they don lycra. at this time of year the lower intensities and longer rides allow for digestion of slightly more "real" foods and I personally enjoy the break from foil wrapped rectangular calories. oh and did i mention that cookies and coffee are also warm which makes cold days that much more  enjoyable (remember the old "central heating for kids" advert?

I've been experimenting with some new pocket nosh recently. First off thanks to the opening of a new Korean market near my house I've been introduced to the joys of ho-tteok whicha re delicious cold and MEGA DELICIOUS warm. I've been munching on mochi balls as well, those are some FAST acting but yummy sources of carbs.

Whilst recently cat sitting a friend's house i was overcome by my genetic predisposition to enjoy meat wrapped in pastry and made myself some pasties (i don't have an oven so I took full advantage of theirs. Having made my pasties it occurred to me that these were the original pocket food  (the crust allowed miners to carry them with hem down the mine) and, in a  flash of brilliance the POCKET PASTY was born. using a basic dough (there are a few good ones in Allen Lim's book) and everything in the fridge i came up with the following combos:
apple, raisin, cinnamon
mashed potato and cheese
stuffing
mincemeat (which isn't really meat at all ) anyone know where i can get this in the US?
couscous, curry spice and raisin
mozzarella, basil and tomato

but really you could go a million directions and not go wrong. The important thing is to take ingredients you like and cook yourself something special, and if your riding buddies are putting the hammer down, there's no better way to ingratiate yourself with them than via pastry wrapped goodness. Not only are they not 1 cent a calorie like some of the more heavily marketed sugar water out there they're also better for you and more delicious and you don't have to eat sixteen of them to feel full. Oh and you don't get to see your blood glucose climb like Pantani either.

Pro tip, warm these bad boys in the microwave and foil wrap them, put them in your innermost layer and they stay warm for a fair while AND they help keep the old lumbar spine nice and toasty. double win!

oh and when even these go wrong, there's always the Taco shop stop



Friday, 29 November 2013

red eyes, rain and (no) reservations

Last Saturday i cycled 115 miles, before i started i was shivering, once i started i was wet and shivering, after 10 mile si decided to give up, 100 miles later i somehow still hadn't. I burned 3500 calories and ate 350, i couldn't change gear, or use the brakes and when i went on the front nobody wanted to let me get off again. Oh and i rode my bike through a river. Then i got off my bike, got a $250 parking ticket and spent 8 hours shivering at the finish line. I'd slept five hours at the longest stretch all week and not eaten anything like enough.  It was also the best day I can remember.

 Thousand yard stare Jesus anyone? thanks to Conrad for snapping me as I babbled inanely 

The only time i can remember being as cold this year was in Flanders in March,  the odd thing was not that in Tucson i thought of Belgium but that in Belgium, i'd thought of Tucson. I can remember each and every lap that i passed the warm cafe with the smell of cigars and coffee i wanted to give up. my fingers hurt so much that i wanted to cry and my jaw was cramping from cold. I remember looking back through my legs, so low in the drops as the wind whipped straight from the Siberia (or so it seemed) and seeing the Yaqui charm dangling off my saddle and thinking that nothing i would ever endure on a bike would ever be anything like as tough as what the guys on the rez had to deal with just to get on a bike. If i gave up just because i was cold how on earth could i ask people to overcome the barriers that society, economy and culture put between them and the health of their community.

I'd spent the week before The El tour in the Casino Del Sol with my friends, fundraisers and volunteers from AYUDA preparing for The El tour de Tucson with our Pascua Yaqui participants, we put the finishing touches to bikes and introduced Mexican hot dogs to Canadian kids, we sat at the expo for hours trying to find someone who wanted to make a difference, not take a sticker. It was a pleasure to introduce the higher ups from AYUDA to the higher ups from the tribe, to see worlds coming together for the wellbeing of people who wnt to make themselves better. We attended stuffy, formal dinners where wine flowed and small talk came awkwardly and we had our own dinners where tears flowed and big ideas were raised easily.

It's hard for me to express how proud it made me to see my participants dressed up and being honoured in front of hundreds of people, what means more to me is that they were honouring themselves, that they had ridden themselves to a place where they could stand up, smile and be proud of themselves. What made me even prouder was seeing some of my participants stand up in front of just a couple of dozen people and talk about what this year has meant to them, about how through divorce, through the death of loved ones, through abuse from the roadside and miles and miles of self doubt, through (deserts as hot as) hell and high water they'd kept on with their cycling because it had come to mean something to them, it had stopped being about a medicinal benefit, about "taking" exercise and it had become a spiritual benefit and had become about loving exercise.

I stood at the finish line, shivering in my woefully inadequate jacket and welcomed all of our riders. From grandmothers to grade schoolers via tribal padres and boxers each one of them finished in the freezing rain with a huge smile. Some sang their ancestor songs along the way to stay motivated in the freezing rain, others thought of their children hoping that through their example they'd be able to grow up and look forward to long, happy, healthy lives. The power of a hero can't be underestimated but we all need heroes we can relate to. Overcoming the adversities placed in front of these guys makes them heroes, standing up and being proud of being native American makes them heroes, getting back up when a million and one things knock them down makes them heroes. These aren't heroes who you read about in magazines, these are the heroes who can really change the world, because people can really relate to them. They're ordinary people who have overcome their situation to prove that they CAN make their lives better, an din doing so they have made the world that they come from better, brighter and more welcoming. They really have changed the future of their community and that really is a victory more meaningful than crossing the line first.

In so many ways the start line was the finish line, months of training, hugely improved blood sugars, weight loss and as many finger pricks as pedal strokes. Just by getting to the start, by overcoming a distaste for wearing lycra and a fear of being out on the road. For keeping riding when people around them were reinforcing what society already told them: you can't. For all these reasons they'd already won. Yet for so many reasons they started as they crossed the finish line and made a commitment to share what they had learned with their colleagues, their community, their children. They committed to riding further and eating better to being more visible as positive role models and to teaching others what they'd shown through their example, that their health was their own and that they had the power to improve it.

What i saw people do on a bike this weekend is truly more impressive than anything i've seen before.I don't want to name all the individual who helped, i couldn't but It's only fair to extend my gratitude to Focus, Primal Wear, Camelbak, Kryptonite, The World We Want Foundation and the Diabetes hands foundation.  And to my partner in health Apryl Krause.  I want to extend my thanks to everyone who gave us money, product, support, letters, emails, good wishes, thoughts, prayers or even just a smile. Without so many people riding in front of us on our proverbial ride to health this wouldn't have been possible.
The Journey doesn't stop here! please join us at www.facebook.com/pascuayaquibike and donate at http://theworldwewantfoundation.org/projects/diabeat

Monday, 11 November 2013

i quite like Mondays,

I have my music on shuffle, Bob Geldof and the Boomtown rats just came on, "i don't like Mondays", apart from the fact that the song was written about a remorseless high school shooter. I can't hear that song and not thing of a train conductor in Belgium singing it full on karaoke style when i asked him to help me translate a letter into Flemish, the first word was "next Monday", he read that and went for it.  Nobody in the train really seemed to mind ( I imagine they didn't know he was singing about a girl who walked into school and shot her classmates to "brighten up the day"). 

Listening to the song took me down a terrible live aid rabbit hole, haircuts rapidly deteriorated and i ended up in a David Bowie place pretty quickly. It also made me think that lots of people really don't like Mondays (incidentally it also made me think it might be time for a haircut) we've been over this before but if you live for  the weekend you should really think about if you're living right. I like Mondays, I don't teach and often the museums are open for free. I do my long rides, I sometimes take my pupils to museums, I hear from my participants in Arizona about all that they've achieved over the weekend and the coffee shops are a lot less busy. 
Monday 
If you're doing something you love you will never do a day's work in your life. You'll never retire because you never began working in the first place, you keep doing the same thing, just slower. If you're doing what you love, you also do it better (case in point possibly the greatest live music performance in history http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3WcZGN2pTA ) and if you exude passion for what you're doing, i firmly believe you'll meet with success.

On Friday i was sat in a car body shop, my car seems to be bleeding most of its essential oils at the moment and in order to ascertain exactly what is haemorraging from where I had to get the underside steam cleaned. As my car was getting cleaner than I am, is at with the most surly tradesman I've come across in a while, i didn't help myself by reading a book, weighing as much as a teenage girl or wearing pink sunglasses but it was pretty clear that on my entrance I'd been judged and I wasn't scoring 10/10. efforts at conversation were met with grunts so I went back to Clifford Geertz. After about 20 minutes one of my type 2 participants called me and we talked about some issues she was having, we talked for maybe 20 minutes and then i put the phone down.

The chap running the car shop waited until I was finished, i was waiting to have him tell me off for talking loudly in his office but to my surprise he told me he's been listening, he said he'd never been checked for diabetes but worried about it a lot, he said hearing me talking had made him think it wasn't that bad and that he was going to get himself checked out. He said it was really nice to hear someone taking the time to care about someone and that doctors never did that. he said lots of nice things, frankly he said lots of things i thought i 'd never hear from a shaven headed 250lb who fixed cars for a living, he showed me pictures of his kids and asked lots of questions.

I told him about what I did, about bike racing, about the Pascua Yaqui project i run, about AYUDA and about diabetes. He listened, he didn't grunt once. After I was finished he said he wanted to help, that he didn't have money to donate but that he wanted to help me put on a concert, he promotes his son's band and other musical groups and wanted to help me put on a concert to raise money.

my ride today took me into the military graveyard, there was a big field of white graves reminiscent of those I've found myself sleeping in more than once in Flanders. The difference was that this one didn't have grass, it had holes, waiting to be filled. That upset me a lot, that could so easily have been me, i was a hair's breadth from the army at 18 (literally, I decided to cut out when they decided I needed to get my hair cut) I wanted to be outside and i couldn't work out how to make it pay. I'm glad i decided to do what made me happya nd think later about how to put a roof over my head. Who knows if I wouldn't be filling a hole in the gorund otherwise.
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
I've often wondered how I seem to bump into people who are extraordinarily predisposed to help me, be it with a beer in Belgium, a sofa in Spain or a coffee in Catalonia  I've been pretty lucky the last few years to have a few minor moments of ill fortune more than offset by all the wonderful things people have done to help me. I'm not a big believer in religion, and i don't think i have any guardian angels. the only thing i can come up with is that i'm pretty genuine in what i do, I LOVE doing what i do and i care about it so deeply that i can't help but be passionate about it. I remember telling a young volunteer that my one tip for fundraising was to exude a passion for what you do, in her 16 year old wisdom she told me i was naive and idealistic (isn't that supposed to go the other way around?) and then she met someone in a cafe who ended up hosting her biggest fundraiser. I don't know if it's serendipity, karma, yin and yang or what but life and people deeply reward and appreciate passion. If there isn't passion in what you do then look to what you're passionate about and worry about making it pay later, I've always followed that approach and i might be underweight and living in a garage but i'm very happy!

seriously though watch this
greatest showman ever born.


Friday, 25 October 2013

train less, ride more

It's the time of year for adventures, for trying something new and finding new ways to do what you've already done. Children start new school years, Trees get rid of their outdated wardrobe and go minimalist,Farmers pull up crops,  Russia has revolutions (or it had one once), girls in Southern California consider leaving the house with more than 10% of their flesh covered, shops sell off their shorts and fill up on sweaters, Germans drink beer and eat sausage (actually they always do that). There's a change of season in the air and it's a time for reflection on the summer gone by, planning for the winter to come, making the most of the last of the good weather and preparing for the first real cold.   It's also the time of year to eat pie.

Realistically the first paragraph of this post was mostly specious bull**it apart from the pie, that's REALLY why i've been doing all these long east county cyclocross adventures, well the pie and the views and the being outside and the unique opportunity to be totally alone in the wilderness with my facial hair. I'm embracing my inner mountain man and, in the absence of a mountain bike i've been using my CX rig for some fantastic adventures.
Boy, bike and beard alone together

I've raced cyclocross before but this is the first time i can remeber fully taking advantage of the CX bike to really have some great adventures. The cross bike covers ground more quickly than a mountainbike and is more familiar than it's flat barred, hydraulic brethren to my dyed in wool roadie constitution. Unlike a road bike i don't have to go where other people want to be (i.e. where there's tarmac) and i'm free to explore. 

Dirt ride #1 went off largely without incident, not only did it occur without flat, fall or failed navigation it also included an exemplary slice of pie. So exemplary in fact that my friends at crank cycling have decided to convene an event over the same course with mandatory pie next month, i may have found my ideal sporting challenge. Having completed a 4 hour dirt adventure Shaun was kind enough to drive the cross bike home while i logged a couple more hours on the road bike. Any potential Manorexic benefits of the above were then offset by the attempt i made at a California burrito speed consumption record. as the photo below shows, i didn't even take off my helmet, you can never be too safe. 

Before, during and after 


With exploring in mind we recently took a trip to Julian where we set about getting entirely lost. We didn't think we were lost, we maintained an incredibly macho stance about our exact location, we looked at maps and nodded at each other, we orientated things and at least once we looked at the sun to determine North. We felt extremely satisfied with finally having used all the useless knowledge we gained with the scouts years ago ( i can still do the stupid three  finger thing as well). We remained entirely sure we knew exactly where we were, and, as it turns out we did have a pretty good handle on where we were (thanks akela, you taught me well). What we didn't know was that where we were was NOT somewhere we wanted to be. 

We lazily breezed along fireroads past rusted illegible signs and old broken down fences of the type you see in national parks. We stopped and i tried to sneak up on a deer (i'm not quite sure what i planned to do, ride it?). We cruised some more and bombed a fire road descent, coming to what looked like the end of the trail we looked around for a sign, i rode about 50 yards ahead and looked at the painted side (facing away from us) of a small post, what i saw is below: 

Right about that time was when the bloke in the Orange jumpsuit appeared, took a  look at us and began gesticulating and making noises. I'm normally a chatter and not one to judge people for wearing brightly coloured clothes but this time i made an excption, i shouted something along the lines of "we're in a ducking prison and there's a ducker in an orange suit running towards us" (in the interest of SEO i have switched two letters in the previous sentence, guess which ones and you can go duck yourself). My buddy looked confused but he managed to absorb and comprehend the situation pretty rapidly, either that or he was overcome by a desire to ride really hard across some rocks, onto a singletrack trail, down a gravel slope and onto a road without turning around, braking or consulting a map. 

Having escaped the incarcerated we briefly intruded on a school summer camp in a way that only two sweaty men in spandex can. having stolen water from kids in the desert we headed off towards the car.

It's been a pleasure to be getting outside again ad rediscovering the pure joy that it is to go fast and be slightly out of control, to skid around a corner with your foot out and to bunny hop onto a dead log jsut to watch it shatter on the bloke behind you. I've done far too many road races without the chance to stop and climb trees and this is the time of year to do that, and eat pie too. Get out, play bikes, turn off your powermeter and eat some pie! Failing that just do the pie bit.  




Wednesday, 9 October 2013

relying on Providence

Divine providence
Quite the weekend since I last wrote, some pretty lackluster racing, some pretty spectacular people and of course, beer and baked goods in ample proportions. Add a free pawpaw into the mix and you can’t go wrong.
I arrived in providence very early on Friday morning, on the last train. I was tired, hangry and three people had already asked me if my bike was a fixie. I sat on the train and endured a quizzing from a somewhat intoxicated young lady who seemed to be infatuated with my messenger bag, my acent and the syllable “aaah” (as it turned out this would be a common theme). In search of someone who wasn’t going to respond to everything I said with “oh. My. GAAAHHHWWD” I turned to the two men in the seat opposite who turned out to be from LA, good fortune struck and they offered me a ride from the station, I’d only been in town 5 minutes and already it was looking like I could rely on providence (in Providence).
The next morning I woke up, played with my allen keys and covered myself in oil and, cobbled together  a bike  with begged and borrowed parts from the shop. I had 105 shifters from the pre cables under the tape era, a demo saddle and cantilever brakes that did a great job squealing but not such a good one stopping.  I had the interesting conundrum of riding through some of the less desirable parts of providence on tubulars and risking an unfixable flat and a potentially long and humiliating walk back to where I was staying or rolling on clinchers which were UCI illegal (too wide). I opted for the tubs and rolled over to the course on Friday to pick up my race numbers, see my friends, get my “getting lost en route to the course” routine out of the way and get clued in on the best places to drink coffee and beer in the immediate locality.
About halfway to the course the East coast decided to remind me I wasn’t in  California anymore, it rained on me, hard. Due to some logistical issues relating to China being a long way away and customs being pedantic my kit allotment was  skinsuits, short sleeved. Once I’d shivered my way to the venue I must have presented a pretty bedraggled figure. Before I’d even had a chance to start whining people started helping. Jim at the Shimano tent spotted my geeky joystick shifters and purple monstrosity of a saddle. He offered the use of his carbon Raleigh, I graciously accepted. Bo from NBX ( online at www.nbxbikes.com – and now your favourite Rhode Island bike shop mini chain ) equipped me with warm clothes, vocal support, a new nickname “Guinness”, a great group of people to hang out with and a set of teammates to teach me some of the important nuances of cyclocross (like how not to fall off).
Feeling suitably warm and fuzzy inside and generally lucky to be alive I rolled off home, but not before bumping into the good people from Stoudt’s brewery. I’d love to say “I’m so proud of it, I put my name on it” but realistically they already put a variation on my name on it. However they do make a fine Belgian Tripel, and the introduced me to Kandy Kakes (how had I not come across those before?), you should definitely check both of those things out, ideally simultaneously.
booze sends you low, sugar sends you high THIS is a balanced diet 


Friday night ended with a prolonged wander around Federal hill in search of shutdown budgeted, gluten and cheese based deliciousness. All the while trying not to snigger at the incredible accents, phrases and wolf whistles that emanated from the bars and well just the bars really.
Saturday morning started with a fantastic ginger scone, and a spin to the race. En route I came across a fairly raucous parade for a Nigerian-American group which had more or less completely shut down the road. Skirting around through South Providence someone shouted at me “hey you, you with the bike” feeling a bit panicky I looked around “hey you come over here” reluctantly I rolled over, two guys about my age pulled out a brown paper bag, I was just getting ready to turn down some pre race nerve calming herb when the guy who’d been shouting uttered the last phrase I’d been expecting to hear amongst the liquor stores and glass covered streets “you wanna pawpaw? You look like you appreciate fruit man, pick one, they’re ripe. But hey, be careful, don’t eat the skin” and so again random people did unnecessarily kind things to make my day better.
The fruit of human kindness 

At the race the tendency continued, I warmed up on a borrowed bike on a borrowed trainer, drank someone else’s water and chatted with a guy I’d never met as a mechanic who wasn’t being paid by anyone associated with me set up someone else’s Dura Ace wheels for my weight. I felt pretty lucky as I sat there and some cycling media types took pictures of my beardy, skinny tanlined self. I imagine they’ll save them for easter or perhaps sell them to someone wishing to depict Jesus after 40 days of fasting.


By the time I’d embrocated and caffeinated and rolled to the start line in time to step through the SMOKE MACHINE they were using for call ups and assume my rightful place DFL on the grid the sun was shining and the cowbells were ringing. Sadly unlike the peer gynt scene that this resembled I didn’t manage much frolicking in the meadows in the following hour. A buzzer sounded, we all went mental, I hopped a curb, shot up the inside on corner one, skidded through a turn sprinted some more and braked a bit less. I spotted some guys I know are good cross riders and made a determined effort to get to their wheels. Soon enough one of their wheels was moving towards my head and we were all lying on top of each other in the dirt as riders behind constrained by the barriers rolled over my feet and one kindly individual modified my helmet with his chainring.
coffee and cookies vs concussion 

I got up, got on and pretty quickly felt like I had been popping ambien like jelly beans. I was riding around with thousands of people screaming at me in a little cloudly world of concussion. After two laps I wasn’t going to  make it much further, I tried to melt into the crowd but within 5 minutes I was augmenting my concussion with a Guinness and trying to downplay my frustration. I felt ok but as soon as I got on the bike to ride home I felt sleepy again. At dinner with friends that night I felt a little slow but I was pretty low.  A shower beer, some froyo and kimchee stew simultaneously warmed me up, cooled me down, satisfied my constant desire for dessert, elevated my bloodsugar and emboldened me,I felt sure I’d be fine in the morning.
 I chundered my coffee in the morning. I  got down a chocolate chip cookie ( Hey it’s October) and headed over to the course, it rained and on the way there I decided to just watch. I got there and spoke to the first aid guys, they agreed, no racing. A few hours later in a borrowed Bern helmet (very cool AND very protective) I found myself lining up. I felt fine off the bike and sleepy as soon as I went above 300w, I’d been trying to ignore this on the warm up but the fact that I kept wiping out on my course recon wasn’t a good sign. The first half lap was, predictably a total zoo and it became pretty clear I was wasting my time. I ended up in the pits trying not to be sick.

I get pretty down on myself when I don’t do well at bike racing and this weekend I did far from well. The NBX and Shimano guys did a great job of getting me back into a bit of a better mental shape, they invited me back in December, hooked me up with their phone numbers and addresses, places to stay and warm dry gear to ride home in. I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t a bit of a sad figure finishing my last stoudt’s beer in the shower that night but, in the fuzzy sleepy philosophical frame of mind that comes from taking a 48tooth ring to the skull and drinking a 9% beer I smiled to myself. The journey is as important as the destination and this was a great journey. I met great people, I enjoyed great food and I had a great time. Next time I hope to come back and have a great race as well. I’m sure this won’t be my last time relying on providence or visiting praawwwvidence. 

Friday, 4 October 2013

Dirty weekends


Well I managed to spend nearly an entire month without being on a plane, my legs thank me for it and so does my stomach. The combination of less time in a flying tube, getting back into teaching (but apparently not getting paid) and working hard on the reservation hasn’t left much time for discharging my brain onto the internet. I’ve still got a lot to share, just not the time to share it. I always have transcendentally wonderful blog ideas when I’m riding and then I forget them as quickly as they arrive (or perhaps both of those things are results of the combination of hypoxia and hypoglycaemia which I tend to spend half my day in).
I love this time at the end of the road season. I’m still fit enough to go out and play bikes but I don’t have to go out and “train”. It’s nice to plan rides around a really good café you’ve heard about or a lake that sounds like it’s far enough away from anywhere that it offers secluded swimming possibilities. It’s nice to take in my nutrition in the form of gelato stops and not gels and to spend a few enjoyable weeks without the unique gastrointestinal sensations that come from thousands of calories a day of whey protein, semisolid glucose and meals sipped from bidons. It’s fun to ride still but to forget about training for a while.

Despite not training quite so much I do have 2 uci races this weekend, rather shorter, muddier and rowdier than my usual terrain. The last couple of years have seen spinal/ pelvic injuries keep me away from road cycling’s dirty side and I’m still by no means in tip top cross form but I’m healthy enough to dabble and happy to travel. Cross is everything I suck at, explosive efforts, bike handling in tight, low speed situations and worst of all getting off your bike to walk uphill. I spend a LOT of time practicing bikes, I really thought I was past that. On the plus side, I’ve received beer in every cross race I’ve done so far, often BEFORE the finish. I’d like to apologize for my offensive “counter heckles” last weekend and blame the beer in advance for any this week.  

I’m off to Rhode Island to add another state to my pin board, race some bikes, see some people and talk some ‘betes.  I’m sure to make a fool of myself in the 2 UCI cross races, but if you’re going to be watching I’d appreciate a few cheers, wolf whistles and perhaps an inventive hand up . I’ll be the guy who weighs as much as Sven Nys’ left glute with the “aero tight” skinsuit and the “windsock” beard. Or as one witty individual at cross Vegas put it “the dude who looks like Jesus on a cross bike”.
the jesus look, the disciples, the cross bike

After Providence I’m flying back to San Diego, touching base and turning around to head South to Mexicali for one of my favourite stage races the Vuelta a Mexicali, with the awesome forces of team Valle Congelado behind me I hope I can improve on my 2nd on team GC (achieved without a team) last year.

The weekend after that I’ll be making my coture modeling debut in the Dominicana moda show of my friend Jose Jhan. Not only will his show feature yours truly  but entries and sales will benefit AYUDA’s partners  in the DR. I can’t wait to catch up with the young people I worked with this summer. Prancing about on a catwalk isn’t really my world but (as you may have noticed) I’ll do just about anything to help people who need it.

If you’re reading all this and wishing you could escape on a getaway of your own, why not join us at the El Tour de Tucson in November (yes that’s right [and yet simultaneously grammatically it’s wrong] the el tour gets a double definite article). It’s a chance to talk about nonprofit, about diabetes education, about bike racing and then take part in all of these things. If you sign up through us we’ll get you discounted hotel rooms, powerbar goodies (as modeled by me), AYUDA schwag, bike building and mechanical help, a warm fuzzy feeling deep down inside and important karma credits so you don’t get reincarnated as a Turkey on Thanksgiving. Talking of Thanksgiving the ride is the Saturday before so it’s a great chance to pre-burn some poultry and pie and if you come from the East coast or just about anywhere which doesn’t have a ridiculously pleasant climate then it’s going to be your only ride in shorts for a while. If you stay around until the next day I can promise a mission up Mt Lemmon and a trip to Le Buzz café to sample some of the finest baked goods in the west.

Once The El Tour is over I intend to return to San Diego and extract revenge on the wild turkeys who thought it was really funny to chase me through the wilderness in my clippy cloppy road shoes when I was mid “natural break” the other day. Before I know it this time of year will have got away from me and the time for looking at a power meter and not looking at a pint of ice cream will be upon me. For now I’m enjoying being a bike rider and all the benefits that it brings. Sharing this with other people only serves to heighten my perception of just how lucky I am to spend my Wednesdays in flight from a marauding gang of poultry.


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

planes, chains and automobiles

It's been 5 countries, 4 weeks, 3 states,  2 roadtrips, 1 bike fit and several bike races, not to mention innumerable beers since i last updated the ol' blog. Sorry about that, I've been moving around a lot.
I drove up from Catalonia to the Cotswolds with my dad. On the way we stopped just long enough to make an assault on the strava segment at the roubaix velodrome, purchase enough beer, speculoos, carambars and nutella to ensure that my luggage was overweight on the flight to San Diego, eat tripoux and stock up on over ripe cheese which my dad insisted wouldn't make the car smell. It made the car smell.
look closely and you can see the jelly babies in my pocket, top nutrition choice 

I raced at home, on tree lined roads with some of the characters i raced with when i was a skinny young whippersnapper (as opposed to a skinny, slightly less young whippersnapper), i sat in a village hall and ate cake afterwards, it was magnificent (the whole day, the cake was ok but i prefer a buttercream icing). I got a bike fit and a new pair of shoes. they look shiny and i feel fast and comfy, i can race without back pain and i have the guys at cyclefituk to thank for that as well as a burrito lunch.

From the gold paved streets of Willesden I ate one last dinner at home before packing my life into a bike box and folding myself onto a plane. It feels great to be back in San Diego, i miss Catalonia, i miss home as well but sleeping in my little garage again, getting back into the rhythm of training, teaching and travelling and getting back to the reservation feels great.

Last week saw the gypsy caravan roll into Las Vegas where I met with so many of the people who make my work with the Pascua Yaqui possible. It never ceases to amaze me when people who actually matter in the little world of cycling take the time to tell me how happy it makes them to see the updates from Arizona, or to share in the progress of my participants. It's great to see old friends and make new ones, to try and avoid buffets and to bring back my own bodyweight in free sponsor stash for the juniors.

Oh and I also engaged in some cyclocross, a brief summary of which would be: i started at the back, i advanced to the middle, we all fell over, i broke my bike, we all fell over, i advanced to the middle, my chain fell off, i was confronted by some barriers which i failed to bunnyhop,  i fell over on my own, someone gave me beer, i advanced to the back, i returned heckles with what at the time seemed like a rapier wit, i got off my bike to run uphill (i thought i was over that after all these years of bike practice?!) , someone waved a flag,  i was too hot to care about looking good so i pranced about with my shirt off and drank more beer.
Pre cross race Hubris

Honestly Las Vegas is one of my least favourite places on earth, it's hotter than hell and more expensive. Every year i forget how much i hate it but every year i go back, it's not for the $17 sandwiches or an attempt to find the wallet i lost there 4 years ago(although i would like to meet the person who got their hand into trousers that tight without me noticing) I go back because seeing all my cycling industry friends lets me share with them the pleasures that i get to enjoy each day. Sharing my joy in cycling with other people is a great privilege and it's a privilege i wouldn't have if our project wasn't so well supported. I spent a week in Tucson before heading to Vegas and nothing recharges my batteries more. Hearing and seeing that simple changes like riding all journeys under 5 miles, trying new fruit and veg each week and eliminating sweetened drinks have made huge changes not just to people's weight but to their perception of themselves, the most valuable thing i can give someone is self belief and self worth, for a long time society has taken that from people and to be able to help them take it back is a joy.

If you'd like to come and join in with our ride of el tour and celebrate the achievements people have made with just one year of eating better, riding more and finding a new kind of self esteem and self worth which comes from caring for your body, we're asking people to ride the only ride int he world awesome enough to get a double definite article. That's right ladies and gents you could be part of the el tour de Tucson on our behalf. click here and read more, then sign up, even if i have to push you the whole way!
 
This is my favourite photo of someone on a bike, cycling has taken me around the world and given me so much. It's a pleasure to introduce someone to the simple joys of going out for a pedal 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Snakes and the second republic. My head in a bike race

On Friday night I ran over a snake. Barreling down a brick road with whitewash houses on either side, trying not to hit an obstinate pensioner, be distracted by olive skinned and barely dressed young girls or inhale a lungful of purito  smoke. I never saw the silver and red mess until i felt it under my front wheel. I imagine the guy behind me didn't see it until its guts sprayed over his frame. I didn't think much of it at the time. In the course of a short race (for me) i also ran over several bidons, a croissant and quite a lot of fruit.

It didn't occur to me until later that night that, not so long ago i had been that snake. Lying in the road, invisible in a sea of distractions. I'm lucky, nobody ran me over, they stopped and called an ambulance, they saved my life. I'm luckier than the snake. A lot has happened since I last pinned a number onto a skinsuit, I've broken my back and fixed it again. I've lost a friend and made many. I've helped friends change their lives for the better and watched friends change their own lives for the worse. Life goes up and down, you can't change it, you can't choose to make it stop. Your grief, your pain, your sadness and your trials aren't special, everyone goes through the same. It's like bike racing, it always hurts, it hurts everyone and you always want to stop. You never choose to stop, just like in life. But, just like in life sometimes your body makes you.

My body wasn't having any of it on Friday, or Saturday. Friday began well, a morning ride, a croissant, shaved legs, eggs and rice and a drive to the race. Embrocation and coffee, a pretty girl to hold my spare bidon ( and no hope of getting a feed as she squealed and ran away every lap, but i knew that was going to happen) a coffee flavoured gel and a number pinned so as to hold 2 more. A lucky charm on the inside of my base layer, good shifting on the deep wheels and a place on the second row of the grid.

That's where i stopped rolling sixes and started scoring ones: the guy in front of me missing his pedal, coming around him on the gravel, seeing the attacks go off the front, clawing my way off the back, a dropped water bottle, a bunnyhop, a sprint, burning lungs and aching legs. A roundabout, a traffic sign, another bunnyhop and my stomach flat on the top tube, my toes clenched in my shoes and my eyes closed. Eyes open, no more road sign, another bunnyhop and another sprint, more burning. Another roundabout and braking, the smell of burning rubber. A climb, the pretty girl, a wave and another sprint to pay for my cockiness, the same roundabout as the first time but a better line, more smells, a wave of braking, my brakes burning and my bars swinging, toes curling, eyes closed, no crash, another sprint, more burning, a breath, a drink. The the second roundabout, skidding, a sprint, a big gear and a big hill and a nagging pain in my back. Another lap, the ebro delta, thoughts of the civil war, of the second republic, distractions.

 Another hill, more nagging but worse, then a rod, a red hot iron rod just left of my spine. Who put that there? Stop thinking, start sprinting. I can't. There's no won't there's can't. Instinct, little ring, start pedalling again, light gear. No big gear, sprint, get back in. Big gear. Can't, instinct again, small gear. It's all coming together now and it isn't what i wanted. One more sprint and the rod is back, instinct has me unclip before i fall like I've turned to ice and it's over. my whole body is shaking and my blood sugar shoots up. I lie on the ground with my ribs rising and falling and wait for the pain to subside, i grovel back to my car, the pain in my back has been replaced by a worse pain. Being hurt is horrible, giving up is hard to deal with, not being able to continue, i thought that would be easier, it's not.

Packing a bike race is never an enjoyable, it's never the easy option. A race might last 6 hours and the pain might be pretty bad but the feeling that you gave up, that lasts a lot longer. At least the 6 days until you race again, until you get the chance to redeem yourself. Bike racing isn't real life, it isn't existence it's just a game, it's just for fun and for entertainment but sometimes it feels like it's more important than real life. Bike racing is the life you choose, the person who gives up isn't the person who you were born as it's the person you made. The body you created, the fitness you worked for, the legs you sculpted, the mind you made. Sometime's when all these things let you down, it does you some good to get some perspective, it does you good to think about the snake. I'm lucky, i'm not the snake. I raced around the Ebro delta, where Idealism, hope, equality, liberty and love made a desperate last stand against hate, greed and fear. It seemed at first that hope died at the ebro in 1938 but, 40 years later hope blossomed again in Spain. Even when it seemed that the republic couldn't go on, and it had to give up somehow, in the end the right side won out. Even when i felt defeated on Friday it does me good to think about the snake and the second republic and try to be the latter and be happy not to be the former.

Some pictures which make a story

Catalonia is beautiful 


So is riding with my friends 
Yesterday I bonked so hard I cried 
And felt like this
And then I looked at this 

And remembered how lucky I am . Happy Thursday, go and play outside ! 



Thursday, 8 August 2013

Bonks, bikes and bakeries

I've been getting back in the Gym, there I said it. I've confessed that despite my generally slapdash attitude to training and race prep i do sometimes do things which I find less than entertaining in order to try and be faster at bicycles (and in this case to try not to break like a porcelain vase every year). In an effort to mix it up a bit on my recovery days i went for my first swim since i last crutched away from the beach 12 months ago. I think i'll give it another year before i try that again. Swimming is still slow, boring and painful. As is running but at least it offers something to look at and it makes you better at cyclocross.



Yesterday was a big day, the plan was to hit the gym in the morning, grunt a lot, wear a sleeveless top and generally do gym things for 90 mins. After a hearty breakfast (which, if i'm adhering to the gym stereotype should be composed of 17 egg whites and 5 skinless boneless chicken breasts, right?) and some archive action I was going to jump in on the Wednesday night ride. I got off to a good start and by 9am i had grunted and sweated my way around the weight room, completed my bench presses in the squat rack (joking, i'm not THAT guy) and enjoyed a refreshing communal shower with the retired men who occupy the gym when normal people are at work.

Having satiated myself on pastry i made a trip to the archive,a ll the while holding my trousers up with one hand as i had somehow forgotten to pack a belt that morning havign left in my gym kit and carried my archive gear in my bag. Procrastination on yahoo weather revealed what i suspected, a storm was coming. At first i considered sticking around and not riding but my productivity was low anyway so i hopped on the metro, headed home and hopped on the bike at 2. I wanted to keep up the strength focus of the day so i hit a few 20 min climbs in the big ring. All was going swimmingly until i noticed that my pockets, and stomach were yawningly empty. I'd been noshing carbs at an above average rate, finding myself outside a farm i managed to turn some change into a nectarine and 2 figs which sustained me for about 30 minutes.

 I knew i was a long way from home, i'd like to blame hypoglycaemia for my refusal to stop but in reality i'm just a stubborn git. I pushed on and soon found myself on a 15k climb with entirely empty legs and a yawning stomach. wobbling around like Bambi on ice i caught myself on the verge of tears when i realized there were 10k to go, each kilometer hurt more and, as always happens when i bonk like this i got emotional and angry. At the top i gorged myself on all 7 of the ripe blackberries i could find. it's hard to descirbe just how weak, empty and useless you feel when you really bottom out. There's simply nothing left and the enormity of the ride home is unfathomable. You have to focus on the next pedal stroke, the next meter and just keep doing that. It's not just your legs, all the happiness seems to drain out of your soul. There's no point stopping to play your harmonica or to look for lizards you're just going to cry when you can't find any. In a lot of ways being bonked take syou back to being a baby, you're more or less totally helpless, all you can do is crawl or cry! so i crawled.

I wasn't hypo, i carry dex for that i was just HUNGRY, incredibly, horribly empty. I grovelled into the town at the top of the climb and found, to m inestimable delight, a bakery, it was as if the sun shone from that bakery, as if Jesus, Muhammad and Vishnu had set up shop in a small Catalan Forn de Pa. Unfortunatley all three of the bastards were on holiday for a month and they'd shut up shop, at that moment I took a decisive step towards agnosticism. More muttered swearwords and desperate use of the "aero tuck" at 15 kph to avoid pedalling along with some bambi on ice like wobbling up the last climb and i staggered into my house.

Yesterday this was the highway to hell 

There was barely time to prop up the bike before i found myself in the kitchen with a jar of nutella in one hand and a bag of crisps in the other. Both went down before i began to eat Jamon Serrano OFF THE BONE. A brief break for a shower and some insulin and i returned to the fray, laying waste to the rest of the milk and cereal in my house. I walked down the street to the bakery to reussply and promptly hit a pretty special level of hypoglycameia (40 / 2.2) . Staggering into the bakery I asked for my bread, the lady took one look at me guzzling my emergency haribo and began adding emergency baked goods to my bag. Having regained my motor control i offered to pay and was politely refused. "i saw you coming up the hill on your bike ride, you looked very hungry". I don't know how someone can give the outward impression of hunger (maybe its by weighing 150lbs and having long hair and a beard?)  but apparenlty i was THAT starving that I did so.
coca dolc - the catalan way to say no to hypos
Anyway, Catalonia remains beautiful, its people remain wonderful and its food delicious. Today i rode to the orxateria and stocked up, we had a good chat about the ban on glass in the local fiesta and all agreed the drunk foreigners were to blame. I was about to object when, at 11am a German girl with a litre of lager walked in, belched loudly and left.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

bike people are nice people

I've been back on my bike, and back in my beloved Catalonia a while now. I've taken the chance to head out with a few local groups, sunburn my lower arms and legs, sweat a lot, search out the best orxata and get lost in places where I haven't been lost before, and then get hypo and get lost in places i’m intimately familiar with. 

proper hypos mean proper snacks,the nutella filled hippo was the lifesaver here 

Last weekend was my first weekend here for Months, I got home to a calendar which was shocking for two reasons, it was still on the May page and it had pictures of nearly nude med students (I’ll buy anything for charity).  After spending some time at Dad's house celebrating my little sister's graduation (there's nothing like being surrounded by three freshly minted doctors all of whom are feeding you booze/ cake to bolster my hopes for the future of the medical profession's understanding of type 1 diabetes) and running with my beloved dog Widgeon I eventually received my bike, insulin and strips (only three days after I arrived, thanks BA) and boarded a low cost flight to el Prat.


this is the only known way to make running fun

my dad really lives here

Unlike their counterparts at BA the folks at easyjet managed to send my bicycle on the same plane as me and did so without bending the derallieur hanger. I managed a build and spin (and ice cream stop) on Wednesday and a couple of days of what I would like to call training but realistically I’ll call “the desperate search for my legs” on Thursday and Friday before heading out with the local club on Saturday. We met at 6:30 for what I was told would be a “long ride”. Turned out these guys weren’t messing about. With 3x20 on Thursday and Friday I was ready for an endurance paced cruise. This was anything but, they took the flat sections with typical Iberian insoucicance and, come the slightest incline they went absoloutley mental. Having suffered something of a “Schlek moment” I found myself on the back foot and covered in grease as I chased back on after extracting my chain from the nether regions of my frame BEHIND the overpriced piece of metal which is supposed to stop what had just happened. Sure as eggs are eggs, broken vertebrae are painful and I was hurting pretty badly chasing the local chippers uphill. Luckily whilst my legs and back may have forgotten how to climb, my cojones have not deserted me and I showed them how to go down a mountain without breaking in the apex of every turn.

After 100km of such fun I found myself at a café, with a load of sweaty blokes I’d never met before drinking coke and sharing sandwiches, salt shakers and blatant lies about what had occurred over the previous 3 hours. At this point it occurred to me that the longest ride I’d done post injury was 100km and I had just done 100km, and now I had to ride home. We set off at a brisk pace fuelled by cured pork and caffeine and I’m not ashamed to admit that I had to look at the bracelet on my left wrist a few times as we approached the summit of several climbs. Once my new friends noticed this the pristine mountain air around Vic was rapidly polluted with shouts of “venga James, harden de fuck eerp”. As the miles counted down our group whittled down in size, at 40 degrees ( I still don’t do farenheit) and 160k I wasn’t surprised when a few people monted the train to Barcelona. Drastically undertrained, underfuelled and lacking in electrolytes it would’ve been the sensible option for me to do the same. But I’m not that way inclined. 30km later I found myself gasping for water whilst pushing a triathlete  towards the back of a paceline moving at 40kph down the autopista. Climbing the final hill on the way home the wheels came off and I drifted back through the amassed globeros, as I did so I received no less than 3 different water bottles and 2 caramelos. Sufficiently refueled I managed to muscle my way into the rotation and draw out the last of my hubris just long enough to put on the hurt on the way home.



The group split up 5km from my house and it took a large orxata and a medium sized (goat’s milk) froyo to get me up the hill and into my shower where I proceeded to whimper and groan for 30 mins while I attempted to remove the taste of sweat and suncream from my facial hair.

The point of this is not to regale you all with a tale of how unfit I am but rather to prove a point. Cycling brings us together in a way few other things do. I found that out again today climbing Monsteny when I came across an ambulance and a racing buddy, his friend was in the ambulance and, joined only by our love for the sport and one mutual acquaintance a group of us gathered to make the necessary phone calls etc before we set off and inflicted horrendous amounts of suffering on each other and then bought each other croissants.

 If this needed reinforcing any further I got a lesson in community when my crank FELL OFF on a ride and I found myself awaiting the opening of Dr bike in Mataro. Now in August in Catalonia “open at 9” means, we arrive at 9 and get a coffee next door. So come 9 not only did the mechanics arrive, they also bought me coffee, fixed my bike, gave me a crank bolt and refused payment.

Where else and why else would you find yourself sharing beverage containers with strangers, placing your hands on the sweaty lower back of someone you’d met hours before, splitting a bocadillo with someone 40 years older than you and, most dangerous of all accepting sweets from a stranger? There’s something about a shared love for shaved legs, lycra and carbon which brings people together in a way that other things can’t.

Sure I have met cyclists who I don’t care for (notably the bloke who told me I shouldn’t come on his ride because I had diabetes) some of them I try to be polite to, others of them I dispatch on climbs and very few of them I drop, wait for, drop again and repeat until they take the train home (notably the bloke who told me I shouldn’t come on his ride because I had diabetes). For the most part though, I find a shared love for bikes can overcome a lot of differences.

In the past 12 months I’ve shared a bed in Saigon with a bloke I met on the Wednesday ride, slept on the floor of someone who’d father organizes bike races, had a man who shared nothing more than a racing license and a lack of basic common sense regarding the weather similar to my own undress me in a freezing gymnasium in the Pyrenees, drunk beer in Spandex with a Belgian pensioner who once did the race across America, showered in someone else’s camper van, drunk dozens of free coffees and benefitted from more charity pastry than anyone else I know. None of that would have happened if I didn’t race bikes. So whilst I haven’t won bugger all this season It’s still  been a great year, I’ve got even more friends and I’ve had even better experiences.

These are my friends, we ride bikes

I often wonder why so many things which are on the extremes of the “luck” range tend to happen to me. I think if you put out a lot of happy, you get it back so when bad stuff happens, the key is to keep smiling, even if you break your back, because your friends might bring you speculoos in hospital.


Sunday, 21 July 2013

Big smile, small food

I’m eating mini toblerone and drinking scotch from a tiny bottle, I’ve been touched rather intimately and I’ve been sleeping next to someone I’d never met  a few hours ago. Eating tiny food in smaller spaces whilst sweaty men snore next to me  is generally something I don’t do out of choice and as of last week I’ve been avoiding sitting down at all costs.  

Last Friday I got the go ahead from San Diego sports medicine to start riding again, I popped straight over to velo hangar where the Argon had been hibernating. Gordon restored it to it’sprecious beauty albeit with some adjustments to my aesthetic courtesy of bright orange cables. By Friday afternoon I’d got everything sorted and managed a couple of hours riding by the sea.

Gordon: the bike whisper


I miss riding my bike when I take a day off, I hate it when I take a week off. After 3 weeks and 6 days away my bike didn’t feel like my own, my pedals felt too far away and my saddle to thin. I wondered how I’d ever squeezed onto 38cm bars or ridden with my drops 20cm below my saddle. Despite this I enjoyed riding, being by the sea, feeling the wind in my (safely helmet covered) hair, sweating in a way which didn’t just make me feel like a smelly office worker and doing all of it fast!



This week has been a great return to everything I missed about bike riding, I love racing, I love competing but I enjoy the process as much as the result. I’m at my happiest when my nose is peeling slightly, when my legs hurt a little bit going upstairs, when I can eat 1000g of carbs a day and never go above 200, when I’m finding weird rubbish in the bike lane and I wake up every morning feeling like I haven’t eaten for a week even though I go to bed feeling so full that I couldn’t eat for a week.



It’s not just training that makes me happy. I hate not engaging with where I live, driving a car to the shop feels so sterile. I miss seeing the buff homeless man and the guy with the parrot and the specials at the Mexican ice lolly place and smelling the beer brewing and the coffee roasting (yes, I live near a lot of hipsters) . I like the convenience of nipping out on my bike for a beer or a few things for dinner or to see a friend. I like that I don’t need to look for parking, or worry about taking insulin for that beer. I try not to make any journey under 5 miles in a car and taking those short trips in air conditioned anonymity makes me feel almost as sad as not training did.



This week I’ve ridden to cafes every day and sat there with my friends. Some of them are younger than me, some more than twice my age. I’ve eaten muffins, continued the search for the perfect cappuccino (pannakin la jolla is leading the charge for southern California), received free welcome back cookies and even been part of a waterfight which nearly led to the first ever forceful eviction from coffee bean and tea leaf. I’ve had conversations about travel, relationships, food, beer, coffee, bikes, family and growing up (or trying to avoid doing so). The sort of conversations which only happen when both parties are mildly hypoglycaemic, hypoxic or otherwise mentally impaired. I suppose some people rely on something other than a bike to have deep conversations and justify consuming quite ungodly amounts of nutella at 11pm but bikes are my drug of choice.



Bike riding gives me little forays into other people’s worlds. Sometimes you pick up another rider and talk until you drop them on a hill or your routes diverge. I met a man this week who had a baby blue pegoretti, an enviable beard and a wife from Oxford, another who wanted my advice on wheels but ended up giving me his on graphic design, someone else who went to the DR on holiday and another guy who rode a surly cross bike and couldn’t believe I was diabetic, I couldn’t believe he spent 60 dollars on Brooks bar tape, but we all have things we can’t understand about other people.



Recently I’ve had some sub-optimal results and some pretty horrific crashes. If I didn’t enjoy the process It’s be hard to keep going but racing, and training make me happy in themselves, even riding my franken – townie bike to shops makes me happy.


Bikes are fun, always and I can’t ever imagine living without them I hope one day that more people share the joy I get from riding my bike and they too can enjoy the delights of midnight nutella and a peeling nose.