Round and round and round we go

27 Aug

I had just been anally interrogated by an insensitive lover.

Setting off...

Setting off…

Or at least, that’s how it felt on Sunday night, coming back from my fourth circumnavigation of Lough Neagh (the largest lake in the British Isles don’t you know) by bicycle as part of the annual Lap The Lough event. I suppose there’s only so long you can sit in the saddle being bounced around by the roads before your ass begins to complain, and my limit appears to be about 50 miles. After that the hurt started and by the end I really didn’t want to sit down. I haven’t been so saddle sore in years.

I am by my own admission, quite overweight. That poses all sorts of problems, and I’ve struggled to sustain any significant weight loss for a few years now. No point making excuses its a simple fact. And that contributes to my awful sense of self-worth and increasing dislike for my physical appearance. Taps into all those jibes from youth and adolescence about my uselessness when it comes to sporting activities.

And yet, I appear to have stamina (no, I’m not trying to send a subliminal message). I clocked just under 90 miles cycled on Sunday once I included the warm up/down. Quite an achievement.

Usually I’m one of the last ones out of the starting line, meaning that folk have a chance to spread out ahead of me and the roads are slightly safer. This year I set off along the ‘easy’ group of riders, quickly getting caught in a very frustrating bunching of riders. After a couple of miles of that, I started overtaking where safe to do so in order to settle into my own pace, falling in behind a group from a riding club and keeping pace with them for the first 25 miles – until the first stop. I kept up the pace (a solid 15 mph average) until lunch at Antrim – just over half way through. After that I always struggle – the seemingly incessant slope from Antrim up through Randalstown always drags me down, and while I coped better than in previous years, it still took its toll as the weather cooled down and drenched in sweat I felt the burn.

My pace slowed significantly and I hit Ballyronan – our last stop of the day – around 2.20, spending longer there than planned – maybe a whole half hour – before setting off on the final hard slog home. My knee started giving me grief another mile down the road, and the rest of the trip was at a much slower pace, finally sailing into the Peatlands Park near Dungannon once more around 4.30pm.

I barely dipped into my food reserves this time, and I had managed to keep the weight in the panniers down (yes, I know many will complain about me using them, its a force of habit I suppose – allowing me to keep waterproofs, some supplies, my camera and emergency repair kit. I’ve always carried a bag when cycling. If I could just loose some of my body mass, that would make life simpler.

Bikes parked post-lap at Peatlands park

Bikes parked post-lap at Peatlands park

Its always a little anti-climactic reaching the end of the event – especially when there’s nobody there to greet you at the line (mum picked me up, but as I’d got in a little ahead of time not quite in time). So it was a simple stagger to grab a much needed cup of tea, a wrap and my commemorative cap.

Why do they do cycle caps? Its not as if they actually fit my fat head, and considering the importance of helmets when cycling (several head injuries when I was younger ensure I don’t go out without one), the cap offers bugger all protection should you decide to make a high velocity impact with the tarmac.

Considering my body-image issues it is surprising perhaps to learn that I have fully adopted the semi-pro-cyclists’ uniform of lycra shorts and vest. Oh yes. I allow all my numerous curves to be put on display to the wider public. Truth be told, its a damn sight more comfortable than riding in cotton shorts and t-shirts, as I used to do, or even jeans (when I think of the riding I did as a teenager, its a miracle I made it anywhere). I’m sure for spectators there is a dual approach – the lycra either revolts with the impression it gives you of grossly proportioned bodies, or can excite with its figure-hugging enhancement of the beautiful people. I wouldn’t know… I’m too busy concentrating on the road ahead, and not the ass on the saddle in front…

Divert your eyes...

Divert your eyes…

So two days later and I’m still in pain. My shoulders feel the burn from the limited positions my body can adapt during the ride. My legs were stiff from overwork, and I’m a little John Wayne-y in my staggering. And I feel like I’ve been sitting on a pole, causing discomfort whenever I sit down and get up again. I’ll leave it another 24 hours at least before I get back in the saddle.

Why do I do it? Well, I like the challenge. I’m probably proving something to myself, and you know, my head gets completely cleared during the epic trip. I’m free from all my stresses with the probable exception of pleasedontgetapuncturerightnow and dontletmerunoutoffoodbeforethefinishline.

And I raise a little money for charity too. Which gives me incentive to finish, and a nice feeling of achievement. And this year I upped my cycle challenges to the Lap The Lough, and the tour of the Ards Peninsula (which I completed in June). Next year I might try and add in the Belfast to Dublin cycle.

You can still sponsor me here: uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RobertJESimpson

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One Response to “Round and round and round we go”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 1st Annual Review – 2013 | The Sherlock Holmes English-speaking Vernacular - January 2, 2014

    […] Wheels were put in motion that week that continue to gain momentum. And I took part in my 4th Lap the Lough cycle around Lough Neagh, again raising funds for NICFC. I closed the month with a workshop for the […]

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