Injuries, whatever the nastiness, suck, we all know that. The one I have at the moment, really sucks. To paraphrase, plagiarise (and sanitise) a quote from the Thick of It – “It sucks **** so deep your appendix is wearing the bell-end as a little hat.”
I’m quite a positive type. My many and varied run-ins with certain governmental tax organisations have made me so – the alternative is a life of sobbing into my pillow in a darkened decreasingly smaller room.
But tearing my calf tested my patience to the limit and 10 weeks on I was struggling to find any upside.
And then I rode a bike.
I’m not a complete philistine when it comes to bikes. I have, as most people probably do, a number of them mouldering in the back of the shed. But I needed something low-impact that would reverse the pounds that were piling on now I wasn’t exercising and wasn’t swimming.
I’ve always had a deep loathing for swimming. I was taught the bare essentials so that, while I won’t drown, I certainly would go anywhere particularly fast or with any degree of grace. A few weeks into the injury – and before the donation of a road bike – I did a few weeks of swimming at my local pool. Each time I would haul myself out, thoroughly depressed as the octogenarians smiled winningly at my back. If to be beaten by a girl in a race is to be “chicked” then length after length I was “oaped” by men and women sedately breast-stroking their way through the chlorine infested waters while I sputtered and spluttered my way behind them.
The only good thing I can find to say about swimming is that you don’t get sweaty. Everything else is a negative.
Back to the bike. I was getting a bit desperate to get outside and get exercising. My brother is a bit of a triathlete (no oaping for him) and as is the way he had a number of bikes he’s used in the couple of years he’s been racing. He very kindly lent me his first bike, with a grin.
It is, I’m sure a perfectly serviceable road bike. It’s definitely got the skinniest tyres I’ve ever seen on a supposedly roadworthy machine. But the weight! I have been lucky enough to photograph Sir Chris Hoy when he was at the Nissan Sunderland plant before he started racing GT cars and, naturally, he brought along a range of bikes he had designed for Evans Cycles. Those ones I could pick up with a finger, my new juggernaut took both hands to get off the ground. Still beggars can’t be choosers and off I went on my first ride.
I don’t have any cycling kit so cobbled together running tights (with compression shorts underneath as some kind of padding), long-sleeved running shirt with my windshell over the top. My son’s borrowed helmet – with beanie underneath – and a pair of climbing gloves completed the outfit. I looked great.
I have since bought myself a proper top. Though going out in an Etixx-Quickstep team shirt (homage to Mark Cavendish) rather than the plethora of Team Sky ones is a bit of a bold move.
I’ve always thought cycling was a bit of a cop-out. You can rest whenever, you want, exert no effort going downhill and it is the definition on an “easy ride”. 20 miles later and back home I could hardly get off and John Wayne’d my way inside. The Chiltern Hills (which I live on top of) had struck again. I’ve pretty much mastered the hills on two feet but two wheels means a whole lot of different and as yet underused muscles. Grudging respect to you proper cyclists out there
So while being injured is a proper pain in the calf, on a positive note it has opened up a new world of pot-holes, storm drains, idiot drivers and screaming quads.
Oh, and news just in, as I write this I’ve received an email that I’m on the shortlist for the Ashmei Ambassadors Day this coming Saturday.
Time to zip up the man suit and get competitive!