Jens Voight .. a cycling great... made famous the phrase 'shut up legs'. Along with Rule #5 (Harden the Fcuk up) this is my biking mantra.
Cycling through the winter months is invariably a challenge. Its cold and dark and often wet. This winter however the training has to continue given that.. as many of you know.. I am attempting my hardest CraZiest challenge to date at the end of June.. Cycling in an individual time trial version of The Tour Divide... a awe inspiring (and fear inspiring) off road race from Banff in Canada all the way down to the Mexican border in New Mexico.
Throw in a house move (actually 2 house moves) and the highlight of my year.. every year.. The Gathering (A weekend of music from my inspiration Mike Peters) not to mention work... and time for training has been a bit curtailed. This all changed with my move to Tadley and a 14 mile commute to work with another 14 miles back. But more of that in a bit.
Motivation to get up and go out on a bike in the cold can be difficult to muster but I did manage to fit in an absolutely awesome day in the Exeter Haldon Forest with lovely fast trails.. the odd tough incline and some beautiful scenery... seen in the weak sunlight on a frosty morning with the leaves glistening and the stillness of the forest infusing the soul.. it was perfect. But to get regular rides in isnt easy and often I have to mutter 'shut up mind' when it is councelling me to stay snug and warm inside.
One purchase of a very warm jacket has transformed my winter cycling although at times I have been far too hot... I havent felt cold on my bike since I bought it. Testing it out in sub zero temperatures has been very useful in preparation for the chilly higher elevations of the Tour Divide (highest pass is over 11000 ft)
So back to the morning commute...
14 miles to work isnt very far... nor is the 14 miles back.... but after a long shift at work or after several days in a row... its a lot tougher than it sounds. Suck it up... shut up legs... shut up mind... my new phrase in the morning as I switch on my bike lights and my very powerful head torch as I prepare to head out onto the pitch black roads.
For 5 days in a row I got up and headed out... heading down the road with black forest on either side. As I settle into the rythm of the road I am transported...
Gravel crunches under my tyres (Debris on the tarmac) as my ipod blasts out the latest tunes ... blue skies ahead (cracking album Matt Peach! ) My mind starts to calculate time and distance... only 100 miles to my destination (14 miles to work)... where am I going to stop for food and drink (Looking forward to coffee at work). Watch the forest for signs of bears...(Watch out for rabbits in the early mornings) sing loudly round the corners to make sure they hear you coming... watch out for the Elk running across the road. (Swerve to avoid the muntjack deer)
Writing this blog in my head as I tap my way up the steep mountain track (writing this blog as I crest the small incline) .. keep close to the side of the road to avoid the logging truck (bin man)
Top out on the Indiana pass (Get to the top of the hill up to the shinfield roundabout).....
And so passes my ride to work. Despite the weariness I am actually enjoying it. Actually I feel a bit smug 😁 I have actually dragged my arse to work every day cycling and done 140 miles this week without even officially having gone out training. Ok so its on road but it all contributes to baseline fitness. And cycling after a shift when Im knackered contributes to the Tour Divide reality check feeling.
Also contributing to baseline fitness has been the hauling round of boxes and furniture and the painting of two rooms. Despite the lack of miles over the last few months I have not been idle. But the training must get more over the next few months and some rides are in the planning... some with friends (nicola johnston.. about that 100 miles!!) .. some solo.
The testing of my jacket and lights has been invaluable and slowly my kit is coming together and plans are aligning.
So on Tuesday when I head out to work again... whether its cold... or wet... or dark... or all three... I will swing my leg over my bike... and head out with the knowledge that every tough mile I do today may make the tough miles in June that little bit less tough. Aiming towards a goal... keeping my dreams to the forefront of my mind and whispering under my breath... 'shut up legs... shut up body... shut up mind' to silence the doubts and the fears that enter without invitation. And in my ears at the moment of writing this are the lyrics by my friend Matt Peach (a great supporter of Love Hope Strength Foundation (the charity I cycle to raise money for)... an all round good guy.. and a very talented musician)....
In the silence of the streets
In the sound of your heart beats
Do you hear the whispers of defeat
I said NO Im not done
Wont leave you till the battle is won
Dont say tomorrow's over before its begun
There's just one life
Live it now
Keep an eye out on www.facebook.com/OneChallengeAtATime and like the page for updates... training blogs .. and from the 25th June Follow the journey of The Tour Divide!