Did you ever read the story about the guy who bought his girlfriend a dozen roses every day? Every single day! When I saw it I think they had been together for 3 years, that's 13,140 roses! Not sure if they are still together or if he kept up that crazy gesture but that is an impossible level of spoiling to maintain. When I started cyclocross, after having to bin other sports due to injury, I was spoilt with being able to race so much, free from the injuries that had restricted previous endeavours. I think I raced over 30 times each winter those first few years. However all relationships have their problems, when things go wrong you persevere, you try things to see if it is worth saving. With some injuries I've had no alternative but to move on and change sports. The same when you go out with someone, 13,140 roses are pretty pointless if you don't get on. So you go it alone and look for someone new. I found cyclocross and it was the one!
After that honeymoon period though, once deep into a relationship you have to take things at a more practical level. Valentine's Day inevitably will eventually end up with one of you saying; ''shall we not bother this year?'' Take Christmas just gone, all the emphasis was on our little daughter, we finally had one to one time a week after Christmas day to exchange rudimentary, token gifts, a process that took just a couple of minutes. Even strong relationships will change and you need to adapt and battle through. At Christmas I did manage to take some time to contemplate things. My go to way of doing this is to sleep at the top of a mountain, away from day to day life and it's pressures and distractions. I find it easy to re-evaluate issues while watching the sun rise after sleeping out, the solutions come flooding in to my mind.
And so to this season. The injury I'd been able to leave dormant for years of cycling is well and truly back with me. I was only able to start racing again four weeks before the climax of the season, the National Championships. I had again missed the specific training and the race conditioning, I'd only managed a few races, sampling Central, Eastern and London league events. This year would be my 9th successive National Champs. I've raced every one since I started cyclocross in 2010. My goal is never to miss one. I thought last year was tough just getting to the start line (blog from last year here) but this year was even harder. Restricted training meant I was going into the big weekend the un-fittist I'd ever been for the event, which I hold so dear. Little racing also meant precious few ranking points and a pitiful start position. From the 10th row on the grid, the front looked an ocean away, a sea of riders in front. A far cry from previous years when I'd managed to gain enough points to be on the front row. I knew a high finishing position would be out of the question but I was ready to give it my all.
The initial charge was scary, 100plus riders sprinting up the tacmac, most in front of me, about to be filtered into the narrow course. I employ a 80-20 ratio of aggressive commitment and caution. I had to try and get through but a crash would jeopardise finishing. The course was bone dry and my initial reaction to this was that cyclocross just isn't cyclocross without mud, but after eight laps practice the day before I had changed my view. This course was so much fun, littered with off cambers, drops, climbs, ruts and tricky turns. There wasn't a single stretch that didn't have an impending obstacle to prepare for. Back to race day and the injured knee was super sore over the hurdles and dismounts but the National is special to me and worth the discomfort so I raced like it was my last ever race. Well it may be for a while anyway. Another knee operation is pencilled in for late January. I really need to make sure I'm fitter for next year's National (my last in the 40-49 category).
So relationships have their ups and downs but 20 minutes before the start on Saturday my girlfriend makes a surprise appearance. She'd made a special trip over to the race to support me. A great boost and lovely unexpected gesture (no roses though), it makes me even more pumped up and ready, ready to disregard my bodies shortfalls and put everything into this one race again. I am strong for the whole race and as always loved the fight. My position was irrelevant, but it confirmed the fire is still there and wether next year or in five years; I will shine again. Some relationships (especially cyclocross) are worth fighting for.