Complete or Compete ? That is a question...
As 2013 comes to an end with its all too common wave of cold wintery weather, my mind is already turning towards the warmer spring days 6 months hence .
Having said that i really wanted to reflect briefly on the end of this mixed bag of a year.
After the étape in July i'd planned to do the Ironman/XXL Barcelona Challenge again - but it was not to be. Persistently niggling calf injuries kept me from running throughout the summer, meaning i had little training, if any at all, on my feet. I even pulled out of a 10km in Malgrat de Mar, Spain in August, knowing that i wouldn't be able to compete in the state it was in. So the thought of a marathon after a 180km bike-ride wasn't as tempting as it could be.
"Compete" was a big word this year. I wanted to compete in rather than just complete any race i was in.One such was my very first cyclo-sportif : the Ronde Picardie, Senior event (132km), September 14, which really was something else compared to any run or triathlon. I'd trained well over the summer on the bike and was ready to have a go. It rained all Friday and the Saturday morning as i drove the 90km to Abbeville, but come the start at 8am, the rain had stopped, leaving a very deep-grey sky, more reminsicent of my Manchester home town.. Victorian-lead colour springs to mind. Anyway, I managed to latch on to a fairly fast group, which included Jimmy Casper, a recently retired pro rider, and finished the course in 4h04, 123rd overall (of 560 finishers), 20th in my category age (of 134 finishers) - 8 places and 45 secs behind Jimmy, who was probably just out to stretch his legs !
Even more impressive for me, my brother Mike, who'd made a cross-channel jaunt, and his Pinarello Prince were only 2 places and 18 seconds in front... mind you, he had lost a lot of time with a puncture and ridden most of the course on his own....still, the result is there. Same with Jon - a flat had also pegged him back to just two places (my age category)and 3 minutes in front; Phil's race ended with two flats - a long way to come for that - but 'c'est la vie'... and although i was still a good 35 mins back behind the winner, i was more than satisfied with my effort.
A great rolling, albeit very windy course, made for very interesting riding. It was a fantastic experience and brought that question back to mind - why hadn't i discovered cycling before now ? - 30 years ago, i could have been a contender :)
Here's the Strava info : La ROnde Picardie 2013
Never mind, i still got a Gold category medal - bigger than my front wheel....well almost.
La Ronde Picardie v L'Étape du Tour 2013 - biggest medal i've won
With the decision to not compete in Barcelona i was somewhat at a loss come October. So, as two years ago, i registered for the local Bois Guillaume semi-marathon. Two years ago i ran this a)because it was the French championship event b)i had been forced to pull out of the Barcelona Olympic Distance triathlon. That day I ran round the course in 1h41. In1999 i had run the same in 1h30.
This time i really wanted to run, and really try and make an effort but not having any real time objective other than as well as i could do. Kick-off was 14h30, and the rain and wind were at the meeting. It was cold too...hailstone began to fall as i made my way to the start. I found myself in a small group of my age-group runners, as well as some who were quite a bit younger. It was very windy as we made our way into the forest area, and again up-hill into the commercial zone. It was a nice pace and probably around the 1h35. I was quite surprised as we passed the half way point (start line) in exactly 46 minutes. The group stuck together until km16 when i passed in front, alone, feeling we were slowing slightly. I paid the price though as a strong headwind was blowing from km18-19,5 and i was without any shelter. This meant i had little left coming to the final km false-flat (1%) run-in. I finished in 1h33m08secs. I felt i'd given it a go. So i was happy enough :117th (of 735 finishers); 6th (of around 130) in my age category. I was close enough to my time of 14 years ago to keep me happy - plus the split time was 46mins-47mins, again indicating a steady pace. The effort demanded though was much higher than the past - so i conclude that age does take its toll, and the achilles tendon trouble i've had since this race only proves the point further. So rest for me for a few weeks... he says. yeah !
So i turn to 2014. Already penned into the diary are the Étape du Tour, July 20th (Pau-Hautacam via the legendary Tourmalet) and Challenge Barcelona XXL Ironman on October 5th. So it looks like it'll be a competitive 2014.