Gregory May

Sep 162013
 

It happens the same every year. I know it is coming from months ahead. The dry summer months do nothing to prepare me for it. I ride and I pretend to train. I know when it comes it will be like a shock to the system. A moment of pain in the simplest form. A punch in my over laden gut.

I pay race entries months in advance and I forget about them. This one is special. The Three Peaks Cyclocross. A race now in its 51st iteration. A ‘cyclocross’ race on mountains, with totally inappropriate bikes, on exceptionally hard terrain.

Simon Fell is calling and it says prepare, prepare for the steepest ascent by foot you’ll ever have to do with a bike on your back. Prepare for the descent across rock, slate, grass and mud. Prepare to crash, prepare for punctures, prepare to be cold.

Whernside couldn’t care less. Its steps allow you to ascend, step by step they treat you brutally. Never the same, always more each year as the trail errodes more. Designed for walkers, ascended by ‘crossers. The descent, once feared is now revered. Limestone slabs that are like grease on a hot plate in the wet, like sandpaper when you crash.

Pen-Y-Ghent comes sooner than you’d like. The ascent on P-Y-G ‘lane’ brutal, the descent a test of wheels and body alike. Lane conveys something your grandmother could cycle up, the truth is more akin to a gully filled with baby head lumps of limestone. The top of P-Y-G comes with time, time, blood and usually tears. The descent offers up broken bones, wheels and tubs with every drop and turn. The final road section cramps are something of a norm now.

For my fifth time I return. I never know why. I just always do.

I love this race.

Aug 082013
 

For someone who rides bikes a lot you think I’d have learned not to crash by now.

No, no I have not. Not even close to it.

Normally when I come off I get angry. Very angry. Not at the bike. Not at the trail. Not at my skills. Just angry at myself. Why am I so crap? Why do I crash? Why are you destroying a perfectly good ride?

I shout. I curse. I get back on and I get on with riding.

This time was no different. I was riding fast. Following a wheel. Dedication to the line that is being drawn for me. Belief that I can do what was done before me. Trust in my abilities to realise and react. I was wrong.

A rock. A stop. A fall. A curse. A sore leg.

Two weeks have past and the pain has got worse. I’ve not rode in 9 days after realising that trying to pedal was just doing more damage. Off the bike for two more weeks by doctors orders. Compression, drugs, instage sedentary lifestyle until a scan can be done.

I hate knee injuries. But at least my bike is fine.

Jul 102013
 

Time has been passing quite fast since the Highland Trail Race ended. A break from cycling and a return to the real world with new commitments and a new focus. A change from the pattern of wake; eat; ride bike, initially felt overwhelming but eventually settled.

Fat man in skinny clothes

The new pattern of wake; work; rest; mope about not riding bike, took over for a while. I felt like I was wasting my time working, not riding my bike, slowly getting fatter. Not fitter. The mind tries to play tricks with me every day. My summer kit is baggy on my torso, my special clothes that only come out when I am race fit fall down over my hips. Yet I look in the mirror and I see a fat man.

The link that the personal self and public self have with exercise always amazes me. I catch myself looking in the mirror and worry about not training and its effect on my body. Others look at me an worry about the effect training has had on my body.

Some time off has allowed me time to ride again. Breaking out the road wheels, riding up hills that should take more effort than they do. Taking to the dusty trails at high speed clocking new personal bests around the local trails show me my skills are sharper than my mind.

Normally I ride to relax. But I can’t. I’m itching to race again. Feel some pain in my legs. Taste the bottom of my lungs. I need to feel like a racer again.

3 races have been entered. Two short, one moderate. A plan is brewing for August. The Downs are calling again.

May 232013
 

Melting my brain to get all this packed down, lighter if possible, and onto a bike I have to ride for 700km.

From this:
list

Fun times pile of angst:

Kit Pile

 

It all fits down into this:

packed

The kit on the floor I wear until it gets too stinky. Then I switch it out.

 

May 222013
 

The Highland Trail Race starts this weekend in Scotland (http://highlandtrail.net/). 425 miles, 685km,  of non-stop racing. Unless you want to sleep, which most of us will. I’ll be piloting my new Kingdom Bike Tech9 around the course, hopefully smashing myself – not the bike – to pieces. Also keep a look out for Mark Goldie from The Bike Picture, he’ll be somewhere ahead of me, smashing himself on a single speed. Nutter.

Kingdom Bikes Tech9 on nontech trail to munch some miles.

Tracking of the race will be in quasi real time, 10 minute lag on position, and data from our positions will be provided via Track leaders at http://trackleaders.com/highland13. Tracking is being done through SPOT satellite trackers.

The winner is expected to get around the course in just under 3 days. He’ll probably sleep for about 6hours in total. I am aiming for about 5 days.

This race was to be the main aim for me this summer, but after my fathers death has become a memorial ride of sorts for me. Any thoughts of a podium are gone, now I am just racing for ‘fun’.

Hopefully this can provide you some entertainment as you see how we progress. I’ll try and post the odd update to Twitter (@greg_may_) but I cannot be guaranteed coverage.

Huge thanks to the folks at Kingdom for supporting me on this race. All leading towards bigger goals next year. The Tour Divide calls. I’ll be posting a review of the Tech9 before I go, some info on what I am carrying, then slating my own choices when I return.

Now, where did I leave the lube for my shorts….

May 012013
 

Sometimes I make light of it. Sometimes I face it. Mostly I just question it. Continual confusion, lack of direction, a distinct misunderstanding between my brain and reality. Why Cheesoid Exist?  Day to day confusion is alleviated by time away from reality. Sat astride my bike I ride away from it all. Embed myself in the trail. Knowing why I exist. I bike therefore I am. Or, I bike therefore I am. Who knows.

Path

The left path takes me where I’ve travelled before, down a road that feels easy, takes little effort but eventually leads to a dark valley with very steep sides. One I’m not inclined to leave. The right path requires me to wok. An ever rising trail taking me upwards and into the sunshine, painful now, rewarding with time. Trails replicating life, reflecting mood-states.

I know which way to go but I stop. I try to think. The thought of descent comforts me, moving downward with little effort.I don’t see the long term picture. I shirk away from the thought of working to gain freedom. Moving away for no real reason. Making an abstract delusion of the future. The real me loves to climb, loves the feeling of the lactate in my legs and arms. The internal me hates the thought of exposing myself to it, watching while I fall apart.

Which way to go?

Apr 052013
 

Thinking and tinkering are two things I enjoy doing. Bikes, trips, food, training, clothing, everything. I like thinking about what I am going to do with something, and then tinkering with it until it does what I want. With the Highland Trail ‘race’ on the calender this year I have had to think more than normal and have started to tinker with my kit as it arrives. What I hadn’t realised was how much of both of these I would have to do. How much time this would take. How much of a mental strain it would be.

The route is massive. I can’t deal with looking at it yet other than understanding that it is long…..very long and very hilly…40,000 feet of climbing hilly. I’ve put the route away for now, looking at it scares me.

The bike has changed. I’d planned to ride my faithful Scott Scale on the course until I killed it on the South Downs Way last ‘summer’. So I’ve been on the hunt for something with bigger, adult sized wheels. So far the loan of a bike has me sorted for the ride. Big wheels, bigger range gears, bigger bars. Everything has gone up from my normal XC set-up to deal with the duration and distance of the race.

Bounce or no bounce? Gears or no gears? I am used to suspension front and rear for daily riding, front for racing. A full range of gears is normal. But many are running rigid single speed set-ups. Who is right, who is wrong. For me, gears are the way to do. I’m not expecting to race with the front pack, but I do want the road sections to pass quicker.

Kit is the final issue, but more so how to carry it all without it trashing my ability to ride. Bags from Wildcat are taking care of attaching everything to the bike, dry-bags from Decathlon to keep it all in and out of the Scottish weather. But what to carry? What not to carry is the harder question. I’ve taken apart my kit, pulled out my favourite pieces of riding and outdoor kit, just stopped short of weighing them all…for now.

The next few weeks see he riding, paring down what I don’t need, finding out what I do need….and forgot. All of this is perfect thinkering time. Using kit in the field, figuring out how to make it better, fixing it when I go home for the next ride.

Not many weeks left. Now I must prepare. Think, tinker, ride. Repeat.

Mar 222013
 

So long. [leaves the room]

Unfortunately, unlike Homer I have to face the truth. Whilst not trying to hide a speak-easy from my wife, I have been trying to hide my lack of fitness, training and motivation from myself and others. Several milestones over the past few months, the death of a loved one – finishing a PhD thesis – moving country – starting my own coaching group, have all conspired to provide a blank foundation that I can build myself back up off. Destruction can lead to new life.

My name is Greg, I like to ride bikes around in circles for hours on end in order to shut my brain up. It doesn’t always work. But I try.

Since I’ve finished the thesis I expected to ride more, feel free, cover more ground. I’ve found the direct opposite. The bike has not engaged me, it’s been ridden, but more out of reluctance than want. The perpetual student in me knowing how much those bike parts cost. Reticent to take it out in the mud. Denying the bike its one purpose.

My fathers death spurred me on again. Two weeks of nearly no exercise hurt the mental image of my physical self. I saw myself getting fatter by the day despite eating next to nothing. I fell down the slope of believing that I needed to ride to stay free, to keep my mind clear, to run from it all. But I fought it. I stepped back and looked, for once, with clarity at my reason for riding and said no. “I am not going to ride to escape this, I will take this and use it as fuel”.

Three weeks have passed. I’ve ridden little, what I have has been with purpose and reason, not to escape. I’ve immersed myself with people I don’t know at a new climbing wall. Felt my arms working again, doing something that was once dear to me, something that requires me to focus not shut off parts of my brain.

Home in Ireland and it is raining. The trails from my home, my paternal roost, will be soaked. I feel like riding them. My eyes open.

HomeA new season, a new team, a new start.