Game Over

Posted: June 10, 2018 in Cycling
Tags: , ,

fingers

Early every Friday morning I go for a club run down to the coast. It’s called the gentle ride as it’s meant to be done at a reasonable pace but the regulars know it as the Gentlemen’s ride as the pace is always that of the slowest, which quite frankly is sometimes not that slow. We meet up at the bus stop at early o’clock. It is a time of yawns, darkness and chill when dawn is just a wish in a dark sky. We head off down the main road to the coast at the stroke of the hour. We don’t wait for any stragglers, they know the rule, the ride always leaves on time. At the end of the main road we turn left, negotiate a few crossings and then it follows the coast. Sometimes on the beach road, sometimes a street or two back. By now the sky is getting lighter and the view out to sea is spectacular. We pass groups of early morning joggers stretching their legs on the sea front and sometimes cyclists slower than ourselves. This is undoubtedly the best part of the ride. As the pub approaches we prepare for the climb. Gears are changed and the chatter subsides. It’s short and steep and can be painful for the uninitiated. We all know that it ends at the level crossing, that is where we regroup and roll gently down the road until we are back together as a group. A few turns later we are back on the coast road and catching anyone who declined the hill. There is no stigma to not climbing just a little banter. We are now on the way home and the call of the cafe is strong. We power up the main road take a right turn at the lights and trundle along the boring road until after a sneaky left turn we are sitting in the cafe drinking steaming coffees talking about the trivia of life.

Today started like any other Friday. The three of us gathered at the meeting place. We were all regulars so we all knew each other and our foibles. We left on the stroke of the hour and started down to the coast. We had hoped for a pull from another group that meets nearby but they weren’t to be seen today. I felt surprisingly good today so I took the front for a long steady turn. We picked up one other just before the lights that were not with us this morning. I kept a nice even tempo, this wasn’t the sort of ride to tear the legs off club mates. I was still happy at the end of the main road where we turn left so I negotiated the maze of turning to bring us across the tram lines and got us onto the long straight road that would take us to the coast. That’s where it went wrong.

I was still at the front as we approached the roundabout. We reached the roundabout at about the same time and the driver had slowed so everything looked as it should. Then the car pulled out in front of me. I avoided hitting the car and shot in front of them, I think I clipped the curb because just when I was thinking I’d got away with it I lost control and hit the ground. I felt winded and disoriented. In was aware of some shouting going on behind me, I was told later that the car looked like it was going to drive off so the others gave chase. When they caught the car, there was a short and frank discussion with the driver. The driver did not endear themselves by saying that I shouldn’t be on the road at that time in the morning or saying that it wasn’t their fault as I didn’t hit the car.

The discussions were over by the time I’d done a full body inventory to ascertain I had pain in my left wrist and my left ankle. I knew I had to talk to the driver and get details but I wasn’t that keen on talking to the cause of my pain. I found a rather shaken driver who felt that they were the victim in this situation. I had very little sympathy for this view, remained calm and got the bear details. I had no desire to argue the rights and wrongs of the situation with a clearly shaken person who was unable to take responsibility for their actions. I suggested that they go home, have a strong coffee and have a think about what they had just done.

 

We resumed the ride but my heart wasn’t in it. I told the others that in was turning back as I’d lost my enthusiasm, they turned back too and escorted me along the road. I was nursing my left hand. Deep down I knew I’d done something serious but I was still trying to convince myself that I’d got away with out serious injury. The others had noticed that I wasn’t putting weight on that hand. One went as far as to comment that there would be no “two hundred change hands” for me for a while.

By the time I got home my wrist was starting to swell and this was making life difficult. I had meetings to go to and needed to look smart but getting into my meeting clothes had suddenly become very difficult.

I tried to concentrate on the meetings but the pain in my wrist just got louder and louder. I needed to go to the hospital the tears running down my face told me that it was a lot more serious than I’d hoped. I queued for a while and was then seen by a doctor, she gave me some happy pills that made my outlook on life somewhat different. The x-ray revealed the truth. There was a fracture in one of the small bones in my hand that required a plaster cast and immobilization. This was not good news as it effectively stops me doing anything I want to do.

A week later I went to the assessment and was delivered the final blow. The had would have to be immobilized for another six weeks. No cycling, no swimming, it’s effectively game over.

Cast

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Norton Summit is a bit of a local classic. It’s not the steepest hill around but it has the distinction of being used for a professional bike race. This makes climbing it a must. I’ve been up it a few times on a bicycle but I’d not taken Gracie the Trike up there. I wasn’t too worried about the ascent, we have been up a fair few hills together, I was more worried about the descent. That had been putting me off.

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I’d arranged to meet a friend at the café at the top of the climb and he was interested in seeing Gracie so that gave me the perfect excuse. The weather wasn’t too promising but once I’d made the decision to do the climb a little fine drizzle wasn’t going to stop me.

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The official start of the climb is at the bottom of Norton Summit road but the going uphill starts a long way before that. In fact, it was all slightly up hill from my house to the start of the hill. There was no run up to this one.

It starts by rising slowly away from the city. The buildings start to thin out and get a lot larger. It becomes obvious very quickly that this is a very desirable area because of the view. However, the gathering woodland and the threat of bush fire makes building highly controlled. Soon there is nothing surrounding the road except trees.

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The first key point on the route is the first hairpin. The road whips round her and then gets just a little steeper. This had caught me out on my first attempt a few months ago but now I knew it was there I could coax Gracie into a lower gear and smoothly navigate the turn without undue complications giving us time to appreciate the motivational and rude words slathered on the tarmac.

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Once around the corner the climbing started and the views started to improve. To start with I could see the road below, it was good to know that there wasn’t an imminent danger of me being overtaken by a tanned whippet on a lightweight machine or even a old bloke on a sit up and beg. A little further on I turned the corner and was greeted by a fantastic view across the city and over to the sea. This was the real reason to climb this hill.

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The road turns away from the sea and then gives a view of the climb ahead. It’s possible to see where the summit should be but there is always a nagging doubt that it’s actually a false summit. To the left is a gorge to the right an upward slope. This is the point where it becomes hard work. The end seems so far away and the beginning was just a memory. Eventually the road starts to imperceptibly level out until unceremonsally we are at the top. All that’s left is a steady ride to the café for a well earnt drink and a slice of cake.

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I’d been told that this was a fantastic swim so there was no doubt that I would do it. The logistics were a little complicated but it gave us an excuse for a long weekend in Byron Bay and that is always an incentive to deal with the minor complications of travelling over a few States. We left a wet and miserable day at home and landed a few hours later in a warm and sunny land. Just the change of weather meant that this was going to be good.

We spent the pervious two days swimming parts of the route as part of the regular group that meets at the surf club. This was a vital part of our preparation as it allowed us to acclimatise to the warmer water and gave us access to the vital local knowledge. More importantly we had the opportunity to stop and look at the myriad wildlife in these waters. There is something lovely about swimming with dolphins and turtles that requires time and idleness to appreciate.

After registration we were bussed round the head to the start of the race. It was only a 20-minute walk but I opted for the bus as I’m lazy. We gathered on the beach and watched the waves. I have never started a race by running into waves that usually used for surfing. I found the prospect a little daunting even though I’d practiced the day before.

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I watched the first few age groups set off into the waves. It became obvious that running into the water was a complete waste of time as the first wave they hit tended to even everything up. Wading the next couple of waves looked like the best tactic. Those that dived too early seemed to get washed back towards the shore. The time to dive in was when the water was at about mid-thigh and the next wave was bearing down. The first buoy was about 200 meters out and signalled a left-hand turn. Those that started too far to the right had to struggle against the current whilst those that started on the left were just carried round. I decided to start on the left.

It wasn’t long until I had to put the theory into practice. I lined up with people in my age group and watched the starter count down. A few charged down the beach whilst I strolled to the waters edge and into the water. I felt like I was last into the water but the next wave sorted that out. I carried on wading until a large wave loomed in front of me. It was now or never. I dived and prayed at the same time. The water washed over me and I came out unscathed on the other side. I took a quick glance behind to see that a few hadn’t. It was time to start swimming. As I had expected the current washed me towards the buoy, I was glad that I’d spent the time watching the previous starts.

After the turn things started to settle down, the frenetic start moved into a more relaxed swim. People started to spread out and there was much more space to just get on with the whole process of moving forward without getting tangled in other swimmers. A few fish flashed by underneath me just to prove that I was swimming like a fish out of water.

Up to now I’d be surrounded by people wearing green hats but as we rounded the point hats of different colours started to appear. This raised my heart as it meant that I would not be the slowest on the swim. These were the hats of the waves that had started before us. I could feel like a fast swimmer for a while as I passed these guys. The feeling didn’t last long, the fast ones from the younger age groups made short work of catching up with me.

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I got into a small tussle with a man that wasn’t wearing a swim cap. I first noticed him as he bumped into me. He then matched me stroke for stroke. It suddenly dawned on me that I could ease off slightly and benefit from the draft. I have a feeling that he had the same thought at the same time. The only difference was that he was able to act on the thought. He was really starting to annoying me now. My thoughts turned to how to get rid of him. The key was a slower swimmer in front. I used them to cleave him from my side by passing them as closely as I dare on the side of the hat-less swimmer. He had a choice, break off or drop back. He broke off. I put in a massive effort and pulled away. I quick glance back confirmed that I’d left him trailing in my wake. This made me happy.

Getting into the water through the waves was something I had practiced. I should have practiced getting out through the waves as well but I didn’t. That’s why I managed to get pushed over by a wave at the very end of the race. It wasn’t the most dignified way to leave the water but I didn’t care, I’d just had a fantastic swim.

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What a lovely beach

I’d been told a lot about this swim so I was quite looking forward to it. I’ve not swum off this beach before and a new venue is always a good thing. It was also the last event of the open water swimming season and that made me a little sad.

We arrived early, as usual, to deal with the registration formalities and to gather in the lee of the surf club so that we could chat and look out to sea. We watched as the surf live savers put out the buoys. Then we watched as one of the buoys slowly bobbed its way underneath the jetty. A few minutes later the life savers returned in a little rubber boat to put the buoy in the right place and to anchor it more securely.

The course appealed to me. It was one loop, it started on the beach and headed out to the reef, after a quick left turn it followed the line of the reef to the buoy at the far end and then it returned to the start. I’d heard tales of people accidentally swimming through the reef to be greeted by large fish. Luckily a boat had been posted at the gap to stop this happening. That made me happy.

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Noarlunga jetty without a buoy going through it

The sea looked a little lumpy today. The pool swimmers would not be too happy but the ocean swimmers were visibly looking forward to getting into the waves. Waves that give them an advantage over the pool swimmers. We all knew that going along the reef was going to be challenging today.

We started just off the beach and headed for the buoy next to the reef. I’d decided that this time I was going to hang back a bit and take the buoy wide. I was fed up of the constant first buoy fight and felt that taking it wider would avoid it. For once I was right. Whilst the people on my left seemed to be involved in a boxing match I was left free to glide round the wide line.

Then the struggle started. The waves were determined to make life hard. I found it almost impossible to see the buoys or for that matter any other swimmers. There were points when I worried that I was going in the wrong direction. I saw someone to my right and hoped that they had a clue where they were going as my plan was to follow them. The plan failed as I was a slightly faster swimmer. It’s hard to follow someone behind me. Luckily, I spotted a group up ahead and stared trying to catch them. It dawned on me that I had just reached the point where I was warmed up and ready to go. It takes a while. It occurred to me that I really should warm up before these events but I quickly assigned that thought to the stupid bin.

A few meters before the turning buoy I spotted the trunks that Roman wears. The game was on, could I sneak past him without him noticing to take this one from him and redeem the loss of the last time we raced? I drew level but to my dismay he started to speed up. He had noticed me. The next plan was to draft him but he was going a bit faster than normal. This was a bit of a surprise. He slowly pulled away. I hoped that I’d get a second wind or that he would fade but the hope was groundless. He stayed ahead

The swim back was lovely. Now that the waves were pushing me to the finish I could pretend that I was actually a good swimmer moving swiftly through the water. The illusion was heightened by passing some slower swimmers from a shorter event. I felt good as I approached the finish. I would be coming back to this beach.

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The finish line and the reef 

During the post-race chat over water melon pieces I found that Roman had drafted a faster swimmer almost all the way round the course. That explained his unusual turn of speed. I took heart in the fast that he may have beaten me in this race but I had won the series.

The rivalry will be rekindled next season.

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Such tempting waters

The open water swimming events seem to be coming fast and furious at the moment. This week I was down in Port Elliot for the event there. This one was a little different to the other swims. Firstly, it started in the afternoon and secondly it wasn’t based along the same stretch of coast line that most of the other area.

There was a big throng of people in front of the surf club. All the usual people were there, including Roman my pretend arch rival in swimming. The topic of conversation seemed to centre around the sea conditions and the placement of the buoys, the sea looked deceptively calm and flat but it wasn’t, that much was obvious from the water splashing over the breakwater at the edge of the bay. The buoys were pitching about in the swell and seemed to be further apart that was necessary for the distance. It didn’t matter we would all be swimming the same distance, just not the exact distance advertised.

After the briefing we headed to the water to do the sea entry dance, the movements of which are dictated where on your body the water hits. Eventually the dance and ritual complaining gives way to a dive into the water and a few practice strokes. It wasn’t long before we were lining up between the buoy and the jetty. Instead of hanging to the side I tried starting behind the fast boys. I was hoping that they would disappear in a splash of foam and I would be left to make progress unmolested.

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A buoy on the beach

The first part of the swim was a short dash to the first buoy. The convergence of everyone on the first buoy completely ruined my strategy of starting behind the fast boys. Rounding the buoy was a crowded and confused experience.

Now we were on a long straight down to the second buoy. It seemed like a very long way, the swell made it seem even further. I enjoyed fighting against the wobbly bits but it made sighting interesting. If I timed it wrong all I saw was water. There could have been people within meters of me and I wouldn’t have seen them. Timing it right and I got a panoramic view from the top of a swell.

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The pre swim throng

I rounded the far buoy and looked back down the course to the third and final buoy. It looked even a very long way away. Luckily, the melee had sorted its self out and I was more or less on my own. This is when I start to enjoy the swim. I set off down the course at a nice steady pace happily working my way up the swells and sliding down the side. It was a surprise to see other people as I approached the next buoy.

Rounding the buoy, I started the second lap of this triangular course. This should make it familiar territory but for some reason it felt a lot different. The short leg seemed shorter and the long legs seemed to be much longer. The swell was the only constant.

As the end loomed I noticed that someone was pulling level with me. He looked into my eyes and I looked into his. We both understood, up to here had been the warm up, the race was about to start. We matched each other stroke for stroke to within ten meters of the beach. I was just about to give up and let him go when he cracked and fell behind, two more strokes and that would have been me.

I left the water happy, until I found that Roman had left the water 12 seconds before me. For the first time this season he had finished in front. Grudging praise was due.

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It’s a Jetty not a Yetti

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The buoys we needed to swim round: it looked a long way

It had taken me a long time to decide which distance to do in this race. I would have liked to have done the 10k but I didn’t feel that I was fit enough. I wasn’t organised enough to be in a relay team and I felt that I should do something longer than the 2k. This left the 4k so I entered that. It sounds easy when I write it down but that process took about a week.

I wasn’t feeling the love when I turned up for registration. I’d been out the night before and had drunk a little more than I should. It was probably not the most sensible thing to do but at the time it seemed harmless. I toyed with the idea of downgrading to the 2k but my principles rallied against it.

There was a long time between registration and the swim start. I felt hungry but didn’t want to eat something that I would later empty into the sea. In the end I relented and had half of a cheese and tomato sandwich. I hoped I wouldn’t be seeing it later.

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Heading out to collect swimmers from the jaws of death

The swim was two loops of a two-kilometre course. Southwards was against the wind and current. I knew that that would be the fun bit where I could fight against the sea and drag myself through the waves. Going northwards I would be pushed back to the start.

I always start slowly and today was no different, I watched the faster ones disappear forward and got knocked around a bit by some of the other swimmers. I’m never happy at the beginning of a race, I like it more once it has settled down and I have a little more space. I passed the half way buoy and I was happy. I’d relaxed into the swim and I was enjoying the waves, all except the one that forcibly filled my ear. It was almost a shame to turn round and start heading back.

The elements started pushing me north. It made me feel like a good swimmer moving many meters in one stroke. My only thought was to make sure that I was aiming for the buoy down near the jetty. I am notorious for veering to the left. I saw the water cover guys start gesturing to me. I didn’t think I was off line but then I never do. They kept waving. I looked round, people were heading to the shore. This could only mean one thing: Shark. I turned to the shore and swam in. It was race abandoned

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The sadly underused finish arch

Later we found that a shark had been spotted a few kilometers away and heading in our direction. Unfortunately, the helicopter had to be refueled so it couldn’t monitor its movements. Based on this surf live saving felt it wasn’t safe to have over one hundred people in the water so took the decision to pull us out. Although a lot of us were disappointed no one felt it was an unwarranted decision.

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The swim course being used as a rowing lake

I feel that I have to do at least one triathlon a year to maintain my status as a triathlete so I chose this one. I knew that the run was going to give me a bit of trouble owning to my ongoing achillies problems so I entered the longest of the events on the rational that I could make up time on the swim and bike. I’d visited the physio the day before to have my legs beaten into shape and I’d promised my loved one that I would walk on the run if I felt I needed to

I turned up at the venue with plenty of time to do all of the things I need to do before a race. It was all very relaxed and low key. It seemed that nearly everybody knew every one else. I’m new here so I didn’t know anyone, that didn’t really matter, I just went around doing my usual routine of checking where everything was and making sure that I was as light as possible before the race.

We were all herded up for the briefing. I always listen to the briefing even though I heard most of it before there is always something important in there. I’m always amazed how little attention people pay to these briefings, up to the point where some people nearly missed the start of their race.

The shorter distances started first, Before the race I’d debated whether to wear a wetsuit or not. I’m not a fan of wetsuits and in water this temperature I think they are too hot. Others didn’t share my opinion. I may be slightly slower than them but my transition would be a lot faster.

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A calm and relaxed transition

We were ushered into the water in small groups to start the swim. It wasn’t exactly a mass start, more of a staggered start. It took a while to get into my rhythm, there were a lot of people who seemed intent on trying to swim over me. I’m not too fond of that. Slowly the swimmers thinned out and I started overtaking people in wetsuits, that made me happy.

I took the first buoy wide to avoid the usual crush but ended up being pushed against the quayside. I few nudges later and I was back on track. It wasn’t a beautiful swim but it was effective. I got to the finish somewhere in the middle of the pack, neither first or last. This was my ideal position.

I’d done a lot of cycling in the week before the race, this was probably a bad thing as my legs were a bit sore. I hoped that this would help me. The soreness disappeared the moment I got on the bike. I got onto the tribars put my nose in the wind and wound it up. It was a lovely course; all the corners were coned off so there was no need to slow down, the straights were long and flat and easy to speed along. I was overtaken by a few fast boys on flash bikes but on the whole, I overtook more than passed me. I got off the bike feeling content. It had all gone well. All I had to do was survive the run.

I knew it was doing to be slow. It has been a long time since I’d run off the bike and I’d forgotten the feeling. The memory slapped me in the face as I wobbled down along the path. I ran for almost as far as I could before breaking into a walk. My plan was to walk for a minute and then start again. It was amazing how many people came passed me in that minute, most of them offered the odd word of encouragement. I started running again and jogged along happily passing some of the people that had passed me. I saw them all again when I started walking again. I wasn’t happy with the run as I’d had to walk but my achillies wasn’t complaining so that was a good thing.

When I crossed the line, I was happy. The swim and bike had gone well and the run had gone as expected. The results confirmed my feelings. I don’t need to do another one for at least another year.

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The final step