domingo, 6 de junio de 2021

Psychologically Challenged

 Short, but not flat (

Psychologically Challenged. That’s how I felt today. What else would you say if you had experienced this sequence of events.

First you feel tired. Not only from yesterday but from the entire week. With an accumulated TSS of 1300 from Monday to Sunday and a TSB of -28 I haven’t had a week this hard since June 2019, the week we had a training camp in Asturias and we finished with the Quebrantahuesos.

Then my climbing bike didn’t work. I only have myself to blame. Yesterday, Javier, the bike mechanic wannabe, fiddled with the bottom bracket trying to get rid of an annoying sound that was making my beloved bike sound as if it were The Pope’s. I was lucky Luca didn’t ride with us yesterday otherwise I would have been called to order. 

Javier, the bike mechanic wannabe, fiddling with the bottom bracket, meant that riding to LW the bike felt like I was pedalling in squares. As the route passed next to my house I had the opportunity to switch bikes. Now I was riding my long distance bike. A more comfortable bike but also, a considerably heavier bike. 

Riding into Kent, with a group where everyone is stronger than you, on tired legs, not on your lightest bike and following a route that Noel could have named as “Getting as many hills as possible before you get to Four Elms” would have been enough to make me feel psychologically challenged. But that was not all. No, no. There was more.

I had no idea of the route. The arrogant in me loaded the route in the Garmin without looking at anything else than the distance (117km in the provided route) and acknowledging there was some climbing. Short but not flat, I told myself, that’s all you need to know. Didn’t feel like that once I found myself in the route constantly going up and down. Isn’t it psychologically challenging to find yourself riding up and down with no idea of where you are going? Well, there is more.

By km 15 I started to wonder where the coffee stop would be. Somehow I decided it would be at km 60 and I started to count down the kilometres to the coffee stop. In fact at that point I thought I’d title this report “counting down kilometres”. But psychologically challenged felt more appropriate, if not for what I mentioned so far for what is coming. Oh yes, there is more coming.

At some point I heard Noel telling The Pope we would be stopping at Four Elms. I had no idea where Four Elms were so that information didn’t help much. But from that moment I was not only counting down kilometres but also looking for all signs in search of any clue that would tell me how far Four Elms was. Km 60 came and we didn’t stop. Worrying. 

But, but, but, at some point I saw a sign reading “Four Elms ¾”. Brilliant, I thought, we are there, coffee time. But no. We arrived at Four Elms, we passed Four Elms and we didn’t stop. In fact not only we didn’t stop but the road started to go up. 

Wait! what? 

Yes, we didn’t stop at Four Elms and now we were climbing. I would have complained to Noel but he was already well ahead of me in the climb. A climb that, despite how psychologically challenged I had been to that point, I attacked with high morale and full of optimism. To the point I was even climbing out of the saddle, giving it all to get to the top ahead of Denis and Marek. But that was not the top of the climb!!! 

Some words I can’t write here were pronounced. I sat on the saddle and despite all I still managed to keep myself in the game of avoiding being last at the top. I fell back to the best tactic in these situations. Sit on Denis wheel and follow him. 

Well my tactic is not just sit on his wheel and follow him. My tactic is also to attack and pass him as soon as we are close enough to the top of the climb. Javier might not be a great mechanic but is a great strategist.

The top of the climb was in sight and sure enough I jumped out of the saddle. A shame it was only to find out after a few meters that we were not approaching the top. The road turned ever so slightly and revealed even more climbing. Not a little more, a fair amount of climbing still left. Steep climbing I have to add so you get all the context. 

That was it. A few more words I won’t reproduce were pronounced and I surrendered myself. Denis and Marek rode away and I was last by a big margin. Javier, the mechanic wannabe, the great strategist, the terrible hill reader got to the top completely demoralised and wondering where the hell was the coffee stop!!!

I had to wait until km 80. It is fair to say it was a great coffee stop. Sitting in the garden, the sun shining, having a great chat and, crucially for me, drinking coffee.

Once again coffee changed everything for me. It all started with Noel, the not-so-great route designer, mentioning there weren’t actually any other big climbs left. Fantastic news.

It followed with me starting to feel “comfortable” in the group. To the point that I even considered moving to the front. It was only a thought and sense came to me before converting a silly thought into a silly action. That was a good sign though, not only because it is normally good to control your silly thoughts but also because that silly thought meant I had forgotten how demoralised I was just before the coffee stop.

It finished with me doing fairly well holding Bidders, Rupert and Noel’s wheel in the last climb of the day and claiming second at the Horton sprint after a decent sprint against Rupert. 

By the time I got home I was physically and psychologically exhausted. Time for me to take an easy week and to call a proper bike mechanic to sort the bottom bracket of my climbing bike.

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González

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