Berlin, Bikes & Boring blogs

Funny how quickly things can change. This crossed my mind last Saturday, as I barely made it up the 4th flight of stairs at our Berlin hotel with my mate Neil. Less than 2 weeks before this point, we were both powering round Essex on our way to a cracking personal best in a Half marathon. Here we were now, hardly able to speak after a 30 second stair climb. A complete 180 turnaround in such a short window. There were mitigating circumstances of course. We were in Berlin for a stag weekend, and had already consumed at least a pint for every training run we had taken in the past few months. This had been washed down with currywurst from a street vendor (because we opted for German tradition over taste/hygiene) and poor quality Mexican food (because we’re idiots). So it was hardly an unheralded drop in physical performance.

 

It’s something a lot of folk say when talking about fitness…”it’s amazing how quickly you lose it“. People seem to see it like trust ‘a lifetime to earn it, but lost in a moment’.
I think this is exaggerated at times and the danger of this is the temptation to throw in the towel as soon as you think you’ve lost it. The thought of another month of work just to get back to where you were yesterday isn’t inspiring at all. (I’ll come back to this point.)
So, back in Berlin, fast forward 24 hours and climbing stairs badly would be considered an Olympic achievement now. Another night of drinking pints at the same speed as the fastest guy* in our group has taken its toll
(*this was not me. This was a group of 10 Scots & and an Englishman now living in Scotland. This is the SAS of pint drinking)
Had this been Zurich & not Berlin, I’d quite possibly have sent a last txt to my wife & family and then taken a stroll down the Dignitas to see if there were any cancellations for that morning. I wonder if this is why Zurich isn’t high on the list of typical stag weekend locations.
On occasions such as this, seeing someone worse off can have a calming effect, so getting showered and going to see the rest of the group was a massive boost in that respect. On our 2 hour flight home and subsequent 45min taxi journey, Bruce, Neil & I restricted our conversation to occasional long exhales and nothing more. Once home, the journey from Berlin had ended, but the journey to self loathingville had just begun.
Tomorrow is another day however, and fortunately for me, I have another event on the horizon. A 130k bike ride around the hills of east Scotland. My running training meant I’ve not prepared as much for the cycling as I should have by now. And getting any time on a bike midweek is almost impossible. Luckily, I live in London which is one of only 3 locations that Athlete LAB exists. It might just be my saviour. Think of a spin class only the bike is a road bike not an ugly big upright thing with a huge foam saddle. It has gears, and clip pedals so you can bring your cycling shoes. I’ll not go into detail here but the guys there know their sheeet and setup classes to help improve your performance whether it be long steady hill climbing or fast interval sprints. I signed up the previous week and booked my first class on the Tuesday evening to ‘Power House’ apparently one of the more full on sessions. I was worried beforehand but once over the initial shock of exercise my body relaxed back into athlete mode. Pedalling away furiously, whilst watching my RPM and Watts on the big screen in front of me alongside a rerun of Sunday’s Tour of Flanders finale was just the ticket.

So here we are a full 180 again from the top of that staircase in Berlin, just 3 days later. We don’t really lose it that quickly. And once you have a good core fitness the odd break now and again is nothing to worry about. It’s just another of those things we humans try to use to  avoid having to do the hard bit. Your brain sees its opportunity for a get out clause, The Voice returns “yeah, you’ve lost it mate, lets just go have McD’s” but you just need to keep faith in your will power.

Speaking of cycling, it’s probably going to be my main form of stress killing these days. I’ll still run, but cycling is a bit easier on my joints it seems, plus I’ve got back into it so much in the past few years that I think I prefer it to running now. It was my brother, watching Miguel Indurain dominate the Tour de France in the early 90’s that started me on pro cycling. Naturally, I liked the opposite of Craig, so while he looked on in awe at Indurain’s effortless almost mechanical control of every race he was in, I much preferred the guys like Marco Pantani who tried to win via a crazy solo breakaway and added much more excitement and flair to the race. During the Lance Armstrong years I didn’t follow it so much, as it become too predictable & boring for me and then as British cycling exploded and Cycling came to the mainstream I got back into it. Being able to commute to work helped as it gave me a chance to do something I enjoy without needing to find any spare time to do it. From a 45 minute cycling commute on a hybrid bike a few years ago, I’m now a fully fledged MAMIL. I’m now looking at a 130k ride in Scotland next month which is probably gonna be > 5 hours in the saddle. It’ll be new world of pain compared to the half and full marathon but again I’m weirdly looking forward to it. It’s another sport where the crux of it is putting your body to it’s absolute limit and then some. It’s one of the sports where you do your utmost to not show your opponents you are hurting, even when you’re absolutely done in. Tyler Hamilton, an American cyclist once broke his collarbone in a fall on an early stage of the Tour De France, He continued to ride the subsequent stages with the injury, to wanting to abandon the race and had to have dental work afterwards as he ground some of his teeth down to almost nothing as he cycled through the pain. I mean, that’s just ridiculous! but think of that the next time you see a £80,000+ per week footballer do this.
I’m actually more likely nowadays to make time for watching cycling on TV than I am football. So, technically this blog should change it’s name since I won’t be on many pavements as I ride to fitness but regardless of the form of exercise, the underlying benefits are the same.

So that’s all my exercise chat done with for now. I should be ranting about something at this point, to keep with the new format of the blog, but whilst in Berlin myself and a few others spent a good few hours talking at each other (the ‘at’ is intentional there) about politics and all sorts of nonsense. Yep, forget the drugs, booze & strippers,
 a real stag weekend involves middle aged men giving their view on the media’s role in the Scottish independence referendum. I’ll be perfectly honest, I remember very little about what was said by myself or others, I couldn’t even say which side of the argument/debate I ended up on, but I know it happened and therefore I’ve got it off my chest in some form. Which means I’m strangely content for now. It could be coincidence, that the first long spell of fairly positive thinking I’ve had for a while happens when I’ve been running or cycling 3 to 4 times a week. Or maybe not. I suspect by now you know what I really think…

 

Graeme

 

Footnote: You know when a rapper makes it big, after rapping about how tough life was, and how they blocked out the beatings from dad by channeling their anger into some bad ass mutha f**king rhymes yo. They then end up flying 1st class to their gigs, drinking Cristal with supermodels etc for a few years, they release an album and it’s stinks worse than a wet dog who’s spent the night with Pete Doherty in basement in Camden. People then say that it’s because they don’t have the hardships to rap about so they’ve lost their edge. Well I kinda feel like that with this latest blog post. This is my Cristal era album. I enjoy writing this blog, but since I seem to be doing alright at the moment inside my cranium it seems like I don’t have the angst or whatever you want to call it, to be as authentic I want it to be, so I’m worried its now just a boring blurb about some pointless events. So I’ve added this footnote, which is me essentially asking for a big setback so I can have some real issues to moan about. What a Self centred dick! I definitely still have issues.
Phew,  I think I just saved this blog post with the final footnote.
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