You may have noticed a tab at the top of the page for “TRAVEL” since my blog went through its second rebirth earlier this year. Perhaps you clicked on it to see if I had anything interesting to say on the subject, possibly expecting a few tales of exotic and distant lands, traversed far and wide. Maybe some insider tips and knowledge that you could use yourselves if you happened to be in the area. If you have clicked on it, you will actually have seen one, solitary post in there documenting my (half) attempt at the Transpennine Real Ale Trail where essentially, I took a train to Huddersfield on a Sunday afternoon and came back home later that same day. Hardly a global excursion. You could say it’s a little like that bit on The Office where Brent claims on his dating profile he has travelled because he went to Hull. “Well how did I get there then? Did it come to me? Oh look, here comes Hull down the motorway”.
I actually have tried a couple of times to flesh it out with more entries. I really have. My two attempts – from Iceland and Portugal last year – sit half finished in my drafts, incoherent rambling diaries of what I got up to while away rather than offering any sort of traveller’s insight or anything. Maybe they will resurface in some form or other, I don’t know. And now my latest attempt to add to it, the story of a two week city break split between Lisbon and Porto, taking in the Optimus Primavera Festival, was utterly stillborn in the cruellest and most moronic fashion imaginable as I arrived at the airport on Tuesday a full 24 hours after I should have done, my plane long since departed. Literally, the most stupid thing I have ever, ever done and I am still absolutely devastated with myself. Safe to say, I don’t think I’m destined to be a travel writer.
I keep looking for positives to try and make myself feel better, and there’s been a few tiny, microscopic wins along the way. On the train back from the airport after the whole debacle, I remembered the two pints of milk I had left in the fridge that now would not sit for two weeks going rancid. I remembered the full box of recycling that I would now be able to put out for collection. I thought of the three days SQL training I went on last week and how fresh that would be in my mind instead of being pushed firmly to the back by two weeks drinking in the sun, watching bands, being on the beach in nearly 30 degree temperatures…ah, who am I kidding, I’m still absolutely gutted about the whole thing. Total. Fucking. Idiot.
But, there is one actual slight positive in that I now have an extra weekend to prepare for the Great Manchester Cycle on 30th June. Another one of those things, a bit like the marathon, that I’ve pondered many times before finally taking the plunge after sharing a bottle of wine over dinner. Inhibitions cast aside, I paid up and it was suddenly official. I’m doing it. The difference is though, unlike the six months buildup I had to the marathon, here I have less than six weeks.
For those that can’t be bothered clicking the link, it’s a 52 mile ride around the streets of Manchester. Not normally the sort of thing that would appeal, but all the roads are closed, you get to ride over the Mancunian Way and you get to see a few sights along the way, starting at The Etihad Stadium and heading across town to Old Trafford. A 13-mile loop, mostly flat, that I will be expected to chip round four times. So far so, er, good.
After entering it though, I became slightly more apprehensive. For a start, the event is billed as “for experienced cyclists”. This is not me. I have had my road bike around a year, and large parts of that it’s been sat redundant while I dedicated myself to running instead. Next up, it starts at 8am. I have no idea how early I am going to have to get up to make sure I am well fed and hydrated for that one.
Finally, you have to be on your final lap before the 26 mile ride kicks off at 11:20am. This means you are expected to average 15mph to get round it in time and not suffer the ignominy of being hauled off as you go round to start your last lap. Now don’t get me wrong, I can hit this speed pretty easily, in fact on a good surface it’s closer to 20mph, and more like 30+ if there is a descent thrown in. I even set off a speed trap last week. I can quite happily chip along at a steady 17-18mph, for a bit. But for 52 miles? For over three hours? Hmm.
52 miles. Over half a century. Two marathons. Two bloody marathons! I know to many of you more serious cyclists that doesn’t sound like much, especially when you take into account the flatness. And to be honest, if it wasn’t for the time limit I wouldn’t be too worried. I think I may even have ridden this far already a few years back on a Sky Ride Local. which was a good 35 miles and then cycling from my house to the start, and back home again. And there was a fair bit of climbing on the one too. But that was once, a long time ago. And we had loads of breaks on the way around. If I try and have a break on this one it’s an early retirement.
As is often the case, I have no idea how it is going to go. Four weeks tomorrow, I will be expected to cycle twice as far as I ran on October 9th, 2011, at roughly twice the speed. I expect I will be on the saddle for roughly as long as I was on my feet around Liverpool and Birkenhead, maybe more, maybe less. Part of me is quietly confident, knowing how easy it sometimes feels, cruising along a smooth country lane pushing 20mph. Part of me is absolutely shitting myself, knowing how utterly pooped and out of breath I am after overdoing it a bit on the relatively tiny ride home from work. The thought of being told I can’t continue and pulled off the course while hundreds of people in full lycra cycling gear on bikes costing several hundreds of pounds roar off into the distance fills me with dread. Let’s just say I feel I am a better runner than I am a cyclist.