Monday, 28 June 2010

The point of it all

These are exciting times. Following on from OH's performance in a sprint triathlon a fortnight ago, we have learned this week that OH has qualified for the GB team and will take part in the World Triathlon championships in September and the Europeans in June next year. As you can imagine I am very proud. OH gets a new one-zee with his name emblazoned across the butt and I get two unanticipated holidays. Yay! We are both very happy with these results. We are off for an extended weekend stay in Budapest for the Worlds, and then to northern Spain next year for the Europeans. And very excited I am too.

Actually, we didn't think OH had done that well at this particular race. This is the one just after his accident where I imagined him cycling the whole course standing up (like me in a Spinning class) so he wasn't really in tiptop form. He also had a bit of a mare with the swim - he was the only athelete in the whole race who chose to stand in the shallow water to get his wetsuit off instead of starting to run into the transition area and using that time to get undressed. He has never been much good at multi-tasking. I would normally have shouted at him to get a move on - but honestly, I was surrounded by other spectators and really didn't want them to know I was with the guy who couldn't run and unzip. All that transition training gone to waste. However. You live and learn.

The other interesting result to come out of this race is that it transpires that OH doesn't really like swimming in close proximity to other people. It seems therefore quite strange to me that triathlon is his chosen sport. Admittedly I can't imagine that I would be too keen on being swum over and across by strangers and having them pull at my ankles and grab at my shoulders either but then I probably wouldn't take up an activity where one third of that activity is something that I hated. Maybe I should encourage him to take up bowls.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The garden

Do you ever find yourself doing something so ridiculous that if you were a fly on the garden wall, you would fall about laughing whilst watching yourself do it? I'm not sure flies laugh so much as buzz like the hideous World Cup horn things (I am deliberately not learning the proper name of them as they are actually sooo annoying and consequently don't deserve to be part of my vocabulary) but you get the picture. The particular activity I am thinking about here is Transition practice.

I assume all triathletes practice the transitions (don't they?) as it seems like a fairly easy area to make up some time. Certainly OH takes it rather seriously. His past experience shows that a few seconds can be the difference between the podium and the rather crappy plastic medal that all the entrants get awarded. So. We set up a practice transition area in our garden. I honestly don't know what the neighbours make of us - I suspect they are waiting for the right time to have us sectioned. (Having said that, maybe they prefer this more silent activity to our more vocal late night karaoke sessions).

The bike is propped up against the wall, shoes and helmet carefully arranged in their pre-ordained positions, towel on the ground to remove any stray pebbles between the toes. I have the stop watch at the ready. I can imagine that you believe this up to now, based on the histories I have shared with you thus far. But will he really get his wet suit on just to practice a transition? Surely not. But yes, he does. In fact, he gets it on and off three times just to make sure. And believe me this is no mean feat - it normally takes him a good 15 minutes just to get it on. He even found an instructional video on YouTube for me to watch so that I knew how to zip him up properly. Truly. This is a very serious business.

So the giant rubber man (complete with frog-eyed goggles and swimming hat) stands hands on hips in the middle of the lawn. A short sighted nosy neighbour might think that some kind of fetishist superhero had popped round. But all the potential embarrassment is worth it because I then get the hose and soak him. We are simulating the real-life situation of having just evacuated the lake. I know. It's hilarious. The Oxford graduate is reduced to standing statue-still whilst his rather gleeful girlfriend has complete license to drown him with icy cold water. I especially like the bit when he holds the front of the wetsuit open and gets me to direct the nozzle down his neck and onto his bare chest. One of my favourite triathlon moments, actually. As my deep belly laughter drowns out his screams I think that all the early mornings are worth it just for this.

Monday, 7 June 2010

The post script

Forgive me. I realised that my last post was a little sombre and so thought I ought to post a cheeky little PS to lighten the mood. It also occurred to me that I had not updated you on my 30th birthday weekend away, which, in summary, was fabulous. You know those kinds of holidays where you have such high expectations that you always feel a teensy bit disappointed by the real thing because it's not as good as you thought it was going to be? Well, this was not one of those holidays. The surprise was that it was better than I thought it would be. Even the Ventoux part.

Actually, the Tour de France part of the mini-break was pretty cool. 'Cool' being quite apt here - seeing as I found myself 1900 metres in the air in the pouring rain in nothing but my summer maxi dress and flip flops. For some reason it had not occurred to me to wear something warmer, despite the fact that every year on our ski trips (where we would stay at a comparable altitude) I wouldn't consider leaving the apartment without a full thermal layer, ski wear and my trusty hand warmers. But not to worry, I did have the car at least, and also took refuge in the teeny shop at the summit. I do not know what kinds of cyclists are going to buy Ventoux tourist paraphenalia at the top of the mountain they have nearly killed themselves climbing. Where on their bikes are they going to put a miniature mileage post (see picture for the real life version) or a stuffed toy marmot?
OH did really well in his ascent though, completing the climb in a pretty good time I think - although of course he now says he could have done it faster. I might play up to that next year - any excuse for a return trip back to Mayle's Provence.

The call

It's an irony that I always nag OH to take his mobile with him when he goes out for a bike ride, and yet it's the thing I least want him to use. I dread the sound of the familiar OH ringtone when he's meant to be cycling - it's never going to be a good sign. If I'm lucky, it's just a call to say that he's got a puncture, and please can I drive 25 miles to come and pick him up from some layby in the middle of nowhere. If we're not so lucky it's the kind of call I got this weekend.

Actually, I had a funny feeling that something was wrong. I'd been down to the local DIY store, sussing out paint tester pots for our hall stairs and landing (the next DIY projet) when I realised that OH had been gone ages, way longer than he should have been. I even got my phone out of my handbag and set it on the table beside me, so that I wouldn't miss it when he called. Sure enough, he did. Please could I come and collect him from under the motorway bridge? Why, I ask, almost afraid to do so. I've come off my bike, he says. My stomach drops away from itself. What the hell do you mean? I yell, not meaning to sound angry and yet finding myself annoyed that he is not telling me quickly enough what has happened. He sounds drowsy, a bit slow to respond to my questions. This makes me feel worse.

But he is talking at least, I reassure myself. I'll be there in one minute, I shout, wishing that were actually true - that the approximate 6 minutes it will take me to get there would shrink into mini-minutes. As I'm driving to get him, the same thoughts are going round and round in my head. What's happened? Has he broken anything? Will we be going to the hospital? I get irrational road rage at the biddy in the car in front of me who is driving too slowly - admittedly she was driving at the speed limit - but today this is too slow for me. Suddenly though I see the ambulance too soon, his bike propped up against a post, OH not to be seen. I park up, and creep up to the ambulance. They open the door and let me in and I can see him - he's ok, he's ok, thank god.

Well, I say that, but considering he only has what he is calling "flesh wounds", he's in a pretty poor state. His eyes are blackened and red raw, all of his bony extremities are covered in bright red open grazes. His cycling top has been scratched open, revealing bloody cuts and the largest area of road rash I have ever seen. The purpling bruises on his butt cheeks are already coming out - he looks like he has gone six rounds with Rocky - but thankfully this is about the extent of it. No broken bones, and as yet anyway, no more sinister injuries. So I suppose we need to consider ourselves lucky.

But how did this happen? Some shirt-less divvy pulling out onto an island (when OH had the right of way) and then, instead of going, he stopped directly in OH's path. So either OH could have driven into the car, or did what he did, which was brake hard and go head first over his handlebars. I cannot believe what a big advocate I am now of the cycling helmet. The one he was wearing is totally mashed - it would however have been a different story had he not been wearing it. If (by some miracle) I ever get on a bike, I will wear one no matter what the after effects on my hair.

Perhaps more scarily though is the fact that the paramedic man couldn't believe that OH had never been involved in a cycling accident before now (well, he did need paramaedic treatment once before - but that was from a crazy man who got out of his car and punched OH in the face because he must have gotten in his lane at the island - but that's another story). It makes me terrified of what could happen to him. You just can't control what everyone else does and that's the worrying bit.

I begged him afterwards to only cycle on a track and to stop going on the roads when he's in training. Of course he won't. There's a race this weekend and no amount of girl-crying, emotional blackmail or pleading will stop him competing. He's already been back out on the bike to 'make sure it's ok' - you can imagine that more of his concern was for the TT bike than for himself - but it's now had a thorough pit stop and you'll be pleased to know it's fine. What a relief. If only I could say the same about OH. I don't know how he's going to finish the race this Sunday with his bruises - he'll have to do all of the cycling standing up.