You must be mad to get back on the bike?”
Almost everyone I talk to has the same question but there are subtle differences in the way it’s asked. On the one hand there are those who are concerned for my safety. Why would I want to throw my neck on the line again? I guess I’ve got a track record of hitting the deck now. The others are mainly cyclists who understand that “Sh!t Happens!”, I’m not the first to fall off, I won’t be the last and almost everyone has a tale of someone who had an even bigger fall.
In truth, I couldn’t get back on the bike quick enough and motivation this Winter has been simple because of this; get back on the bike, get back fit & get back racing. Turbo sessions have flown by with help from hours of Netflix and despite my hatred of cold & damp weather I’ve managed to keep dragging myself outside at the weekend for longer spins. Before I knew it, I was pushing the painful parts of 2018 to the back of my mind and renewing my race licence.
Licence fees paid, the countdown towards the new race season begins. Throughout December there’s a trickle of race dates that escape from club AGM’s, just to build the excitement. There is an end in sight, Winter is nearly over!!…..However, the level of anticipation for the new season goes through the roof when the official Cycling Ireland race calendar arrives.
Great notions for the season can then be firmly put in place. It’s straight out with a big black pen to choose my dates and plan my assault on the roads of Ireland. What courses “suit me” (if any)?!, a Saturday here, that Sunday there, every weekend in March, out with Google Maps – Where the f*ck is Magherafelt? And the big dramatic finish – A3 National Championships (if only!).
“Darren’s 2019 Route to A3” is then pinned to the kitchen door for all to see. Unfortunately, that includes my wife who wastes no time in decimating my grand plans; “You do realise that’s my birthday”, “Remember that 2-week family holiday we booked?”, “I’m on a Hen that weekend” and “What does 3-day mean under Kanturk?”. As usual my dreams of living the life of a pro are brought back in line to the more realistic life of an A4 weekend warrior.
Once negotiations are finalised, my mind is racing about what’s to come. “If I start off well, I could get that one point early and enjoy a “stress-free” A3 summer, not chasing an upgrade”…..”Then again, you never know I might just pick up a few results by the end of the year”……”and then I’ll be only whisker away from A2.”……”Jaysus, should I really be training for the 2020 Rás!” I’m dreaming of course (but hey dream big).
Then comes the reality check. Just how long is it until that first race in March? 5 weeks!! Just over a month and I’m nowhere near fit for it. The pre-season panic runs riot through my head – “Whilst you were laid up getting slower and slower, everybody else was still racing, still collecting points, still getting faster and faster”. “Most people finished the season and built on last year’s fitness. You, on the other hand, started again at rock-bottom”. “Do you honestly think you’ll be fit to race?”
I had barely touched the bike in the weeks up to Christmas and whilst I was sat down planning out my season I polished off the last of the kids selection boxes. It’s time to get my ass in gear. Even bigger unsustainable and overly-ambitious plans are set in place. 5 sessions a week for 5 weeks, no skipping training, no easy days and some weights will be picked up and put down. It’s all being kickstarted with a 65km early morning commute to work.
6am, I’m standing outside the front door. It’s a grim 4 degrees and raining. Am I mad to get back on the bike???