Matt Oliver (Cyclist and budding triathlete)
The ride at Levin's velodrome would be 'sunny with light winds' according to the Metservice. So with sun cream applied I headed off to Levin at 5:15am and looked forwards to a day that needed the numbers to be hit. Matt Oliver arrived about 20 seconds after me at the velodrome, and we drive in and then locked the gates. A warm-up followed, with me down on the bars and following the white line. Wider on the final turn. Then wider still. And to the edge. Feet clipped in. Looking ahead. And knowing that this is stopping - For the last time in six hours. We make a 100 decisions everyday that change our lives in some way, and on this day one of those decisions was the moment I'd start this ride.
I looked down the track and knew that my world would change after I started. And it did. It seems that each of these velodrome rides is a hand in a game of poker, and come April I'll push all my chips into the centre of the table at some stage. Yes. But that day will wait until other rides have come and gone, and made me stronger. And ultimately this day too will have made me stronger, but there is only one way to gain true inner strength…and it doesn't come from group hugs or self help books.
The pace was good, which is more than be said for the weather - It was spitting at first, then a drizzle, and then the teasing stopped. The rain started in earnest and lasted probably three hours. Not enough to cause widespread flooding, but certainly enough to be a pain in the arse. This meant going wide on every corner, (there are a few of those on a velodrome), and later I'd be surprised at how many additional meters you cover per lap when you cycle at top speed saying to yourself, "Don't touch the white line" at every bend. Not cool.
The timing equipment went well though, and frankly it gave me an insight into what really needs to be done. Matt Oliver set the equipment up while I was doing a warm-up. He looked like some kind of mad scientistic; measuring out the timing equipment and pacing out the correct correlations, then nodding, then slight turns here and there, more nodding, checking of the laptop, and disappearing once all done. It was raining, so I won't begrudge him that.
Matt was actually bloody awesome. I'd think, "might need a bottle soon", and the next lap he'd be standing there on the side of the track. I'd tell him what I needed and he handed it too me - on my right hand side. I'm right handed. (I hadn't even considered this). The best moment though was thinking, "Might get those shoes moved soon", (they were sitting in the rain), and the next time around they were gone.
This carried on, and Paul Rawlinson arrived and later left. Then I got to four hours, and my legs that had done so much decided that the ride was over. Literally. With 90 minutes to go I couldn't even stand. The rain had stopped by now, and this meant a drier track, but unfortunately it also meant the winds started. I was heard saying, "Wharking wind!!" at one point, and frankly I'm pleased my other comments (reserved for the 'far side of the track') were not heard. Well, I'll assume they weren't anyway.
Two key moments then occurred with around 90 minutes to go. Firstly, someone lit a BBQ, so I'd be smelling sausages and steaks sizzling for the next hour. And on a more serious note I was unbelievably tempted to stop, so knew that if I did, then that was it - All over. If a six hour ride is too hard, then 24 is not worth considering. "You wanted this", I thought.
And so the minutes counted down, and finally the six hours were up. Two laps to warm down, several days to ponder cycling and life, and legs that seemed to be more sore than they should be. But I was out on the bike again the next day. And the day after that. So it didn't kill me. It would also seem that despite the last two hours going to custard I would have in fact hit those numbers. I also knew what had gone wrong.
I wasn't really too sure what to say about this ride. That is, until I heard "Come On Eileen" (by Dexys Midnight Runners) on the radio one afternoon. I was transported - when I heard that song - back to when I was 11 years old. I knew so little, and life was so carefree. No goals, or ambitions, or races, or training, or early nights, or anything that drives me forwards…towards this ride. Life was not better, just different. And sometimes simply remembering that life can be different is enough to remind us that a little more 'sameness' is ok.
Something else occurred to me in the days after this ride. It seems to me that cycling without racing is nothing more than an excuse to chat to mates while travelling upon bikes to the café. I am jealous of people who see cycling this way, yet at the same time I pity them. Many worlds exist, and the 100 decisions we make everyday determine the worlds we live in. This is where I am meant to be right now.
One Week Later
No. Legs not working.
Would return one week later.
For Velodrome three.