Be Realistic Ask the Impossible: Getting Up On The Downs
Been a better week this week... things starting to settle a bit and I'm feeling like I've got more of a stable base to train from now that the homestead is just about taken care of and I am getting my bearings. There was a fair amount of humming and hawing over a possible 3 month internship that would have taken me to the South of France.... a temptation to be sure in being able to trade London's busy roads for rural French villages, but ultimately not ideal in a lot of other respects so I've let it slide.
This could be in part because I had a good weekend's cycling for the first time in a long time-on Saturday I got up at 6.30 and snuck out the house to make my way all the way over to the other side of London, to Cafe St Germain in Crystal Palace. I got quite lost in the process and put my frustration into some Ulrich-style TTing to get there in time (covering 27km in the process as opposed to the 18km it should have been... oh dear) but as I rounded the corner to the cafe I was met with the glorious and rather unexpected sight of the Dulwich Paragon club grouped en masse and bedecked in their club colours. There looked to be about 60 riders either crowding the cafe or spilling outside onto the terrace, and the pavement was littered with bikes-pleasantly surprising for an overcast Saturday club run in early Feb.
Being a total noob to club riding it was really quite an eye opener, and they very kindly let me tag along for their Saturday run which was well organised with groups setting off in waves according to the speed and ability of the riders. I was a bit nervous about riding in a bunch as I've never done it before, not to mention rather fearful the pace would be too high and that I'd be holding my group up, but I was put into an intermediate group and told not to worry as I could just wait at a rest point for a slower group if I was struggling. In the event the pace was fine, and the 50km excursion into the North downs was a good opportunity to take in some hilly and rather picturesque country lanes.
Riding in the bunch took a while to get used to, but I kept my eyes and ears open for the various hand signals and shouts and soon got the drift of what was going on around me and I can now twirly finger point with the best of them! Riding so close to folk when decending at speed was on occasion a bit fraught, but the feeling of sweeping through villages as part of a peloton was really indescribably beautiful even if I had to keep reminding myself to stick closer to the wheel of the rider in front. Performance-wise, lets just say I'm still getting my legs warmed up... the hills were a bit of a struggle despite my mid-week hillsprints in Haringey, and I was climbing like a stork with broken legs for the most part.
I was well looked after throughout the ride, with Simon kindly keeping me company when I was struggling a bit until I got my legs back after a particularly sharp climb near the end of the ride, and I met a lot of friendly people during and after over a much needed coffee and bacon roll. Although not terribly local, I can see the advantage of joining such a large, well organised club as they have riders of all levels and a structure in place to accommodate improvement, meaning that I would have a clear potential to graduate to faster, longer rides as well as joining weekend sportive training runds and mid-week 'chaingangs' when I get the legs for them. The additional 40k I would need to to to and from through the city is probably not ideal training miles, but I suppose everything comes at a price and South London seems to be where all the hills are at anyway.
So, next Sat I'll definitely make the trip again and hopefully put in a better performance... And even if I'm not going to be setting off for rural France, thanks to the kind chaps at road.cc I now have a rather snazzy turbo on which to get some more mid-week miles into my legs, which can only help when stranded in this urban island so a sincere thankyou guys!