It’s winter. The clocks have gone back. It’s cold, dark and windy. And, quite often this year, rainy. Sensible people put their bikes in storage for this period, only coming out when the sun is actually shining on a regular basis and it’s warm. Sometime next May most likely. Only stupid people go out in weather when the wind seems to blow you to a standstill and the rain guarantees a soaking every ride. That makes me pretty stupid, I suppose. But perhaps it’s also something stubborn, one of the small acts of resistance to personal circumstance.
I tried to be poetic in a past post about why I like training in the winter. Empty roads, clear skies. Cold but beautiful sunlight. This holds true. But at the same time it has to be admitted. There are hardly any days like this. That’s where an element of stupidity and a little psychosis are helpful.
Take a training ride from yesterday (Saturday 9th November). The weather prediction through the week had predicted a cold, clear day. Some wind but that can make life interesting, good training for climbing somewhere as flat as Holland. Yippee, a long ride!
Then, yesterday, the predictions changed. Heavy and persistent rain. And wind.
I still went out. Shorter than planned but still a good 55 kilometres. Judging by Strava and the number of other cyclists I passed it was not a popular day to go out. I was certainly nearly alone in choosing to ride in to the wind. There is one stretch of the route that is long and straight, normally a good excuse to build up a head of speed. My fastest average is 43 kilometres per hour. Yesterday I was the fastest of the day with an awe-inspiring….. 23 kilometres per hour.
Should I have to face the fact that I am a maniac?
Possibly not. Perhaps just a form of stubbornness. With good reason.
It is clear to me that cycling has a crucial role in keeping good shape which, in turn, ensures that I am able to keep my condition not only physically but also in mental and psychological terms. I cannot provide medical evidence of this. I just know that my progressive condition is slowed because I remain active. The advice to stay fit was given early in my diagnosis and I took it seriously. Riding a bike was a fresh hobby then. Let’s say I kept it going
Strangely, riding a racing bike is quite often easier than walking around a small, congested room. Long straights at high-speed or sustained effort for climbing. I just slow right down in towns. The other strange thing is that I feel I am improving. Despite a disease that is meant to, and is, slowly getting worse, my cycling is getting stronger. In 2016, when I think the real cycling insanity took off, I climbed Mont Ventoux and was happy with that. No, ecstatic. I was ecstatic at that.
This comes through near constant training. Not always high-tempo. Not high speed. But consistent, working on my fitness, staying in good condition for whatever slightly deranged challenge I set myself next.
It also puts my mind at rest which, in view of the circumstances, is no small thing.
It’s another small piece of resistance to MS and one where I know I am not alone. Social media has many flaws and if I were to try to list them as I perceive them then this would be a long, meandering post. What it does do is give a chance to see something of the lives of others. Of course, there is a lot of window-dressing and opinions of no interest but these can be filtered out.
Then there is the chance to look at the lives of others with MS. In all it’s forms. This gives the realisation that the challenges faced are common. Which is not at all gratifying. What is gratifying is acts of resistance. For me it is the bike. There are other cyclists with MS out there as well. Even more gratifying.
There is also the need to prepare for the big rides coming up next year. One of them will probably be nice and early in the season. So I will need to carry on low tempo training no matter what the weather. Cold, rain or wind. Not always fun but the benefits are huge and it is good to be ready for what will come. It’s also a small stand, a personal statement, against what I have.
2020 has one challenge set and another possibly to come. More another time.
Note that rides in bad conditions are not done lightly. I wear high visibility clothing and deploy lights. I also try to avoid roads that will have heavy traffic.