Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Hammer or Nail?

To truly savour success one must have experienced failure, and in the last week I’ve had the good fortune to enjoy both of these emotions.

One of the appeals of cycling, to me at least, is the fact it offers us the ability to regularly experience both of these extremes in (almost)equal measure. As the saying goes, some days you’re the hammer, others the nail.

Let’s consider failure first. Never planned, but always a possibility, even the greats of our sport experience it. Think Cav on the Champs Elysees last year, or perhaps Sir Twiggins at the 2011 tour. Our failures may be smaller, but nevertheless a fail is a fail.

Good planning is no guarantee of success, just ask the team GB road race team at the 2012 olympics, and our failure in the #TwoShiresEnduro is no reflection on the preparation. The route was meticulously planned, and the objective was clear. One day dedicated to the objective of an off road metric century. Whilst 100km on the road is nothing out of the ordinary, on a #Mtb with big fat tyres, and on muddy trails, it’s a different story.
 
This was a very personal objective for me. I’d got close a number of times before, but like a test batsman stuck in the ‘nervous nineties’, I’d never been able to convert an off road ride into the magic three digits.

As we rolled away from the start the mood in the group was optimistic, and early progress was good. We were approaching the 35km mark when we turned onto a unassuming and innocent looking canal tow path which would take us to potentially the highlight of the days route, Cannock Chase. I immediately noticed the hedge trimmings that littered the path, but the Stan’s Tyre milk sloshing around in my tubes meant I wasn’t overly concerned. Not everyone however, had discovered its magic. As the first puncture of the day was being fixed it quickly became apparent that we had a far larger problem.

I’ve never seen anything quite like it before; puncture after puncture after puncture. In a short three mile stretch of canal tow path, 7 of the group of ten experienced in excess of 20 punctures. All available tubes used, puncture repair kits were called into action.

As we re-grouped in Milford on the very edge of Cannock Chase, it dawned on us all that our target for the day was slipping away from us. Cold, hungry, and dejected, we took the difficult decision to abort, and to return to Newport. As we re-fuelled at KFC(surely a measure of how low we were), the consensus was that although we’d sealed our failure, we’d made the right decision. On that day, we were most certainly the nail.
 
Fast forward a week, and this time a very different objective was in my sights. I’m by no means a Strava lover, but I do find its challenges intriguing, and its Gran Fondo 1 challenge had piqued my interest. To ride 130km in a day. Not the longest ride granted, but in January in the UK, the weather was almost certainly going to be the toughest part.

It turned out this was to be a solo affair, but this only added to the challenge in my mind. As much as I enjoy riding in a group, sometimes lone efforts are the most rewarding.

With the rain beating down on the Velux windows it wasn’t looking good. Postpone maybe, but a final check of the forecast was more encouraging. Rule #9 conditions could only add to the experience. My descision was made!

Early progress was good, and without a doubt aided by a significant, but at the time unknown, tailwind. An added bonus, and one that was entirely unplanned, was my first solo ‘Project 330’ ride. 100km in under 3 hours 30 minutes. It was over coffee and cake in Market Drayton that I realised this was in the bag. The last 30km was all about hanging in there and just making it over the line.

As I passed through Sheriffhales, the 130km mark was passed, and less than a week after failure came success. On this day at least, I was the hammer!

936ADL
Vive la Velo

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