When did it become unfashionable for dog owners to control their pooches? When I was young it was 'the mark of a man' for doggers to get their rovers to 'sit!' and 'stay!' from 100 meters away. If you couldn't get your dog to play dead, and still expect it to be there 6 hours later, you were immediately expelled from the Barbara Woodhouse Appreciation Society. These days it seems to be all about dog self-expression, and they mostly seem to want to express themselves by hurling themselves under my wheels or tripping me up when out running.
I reckon it became unfashionable about the same time as having well-behaved children became a mark of poor breeding. When I was a kid, there was no opportunity for me to negotiate the terms and conditions of acceptable behaviour; that was above my pay grade. I never needed to be cajoled, persuaded and bribed to toe the line, my old man had all the persuasion he needed and it also held his trousers up.
Anyway, today we had a top notch day on the Yetis, and proffed on the way home by finding an American Diner with burger heaven and some League of Gentlemen locals. The OffCamber XC series has always popped up on the dreaded big brother that is Facebook, and normally clashed with something important like dysentery or the Ski-Cross semi-finals. However, we are determined to get our card stamped in our Panini book of cross country race series.
Firstly, it was a tenner to enter! Ten quid! Being a Bargain Hunt afficianado, I felt compelled to ask for their 'very best price', but ten quid is incredible value, and should easily fetch eight quid at auction. This is quality, grass roots racing at its finest. Limited categories, limited prizes, mass, rolling start and a bloody great course. The lying Caines family had described it as flat, but the wear to my granny ring would dispute that. It's a properly rewarding course; every time you puked on a climb, you knew that the descent would 100% be worth it. 7 1/2 kilometer laps! The B.C. commissaires would soil their lycra! But it's what we want.
Couple of jumps, lots of tight corners, roots, bomb hole and home made cake. 100% rideable with none of this 'B' line b*ll*x. British Cycling clubs should all be duty bound to organize races like this or risk having their lady-shaves confiscated. Off Camber, we salute you!
It’s been the most stunningly bad build up to a race season that I can remember. Not since the dread autumn of ’79 when my conkers went mouldy instead of turning into World Beater ‘laggies’ have I felt so ill prepared.
Now in recent years this wouldn’t have been a problem as I have been best described as ‘on the bike retired’, but for once I actually felt fired up for racing with a new race bike, new socks and a determination to, as Monty Halls described it, ‘bail out the rising tide of old age with the thimble of exercise’.
2013 ended with a few ‘cross races, which ordinarily see me hissing like a cornered stoat, but the 2013 crop of courses were blinders and I even got a photo of me getting air on the demo Yeti during a race. Not on purpose, but it still counts.
Even the wettest period of weather since the last one couldn’t dent our enthusiasm. Gym sessions were racking up, miles logged, hills climbed and training planners coloured in without going over the lines.
Then life happened. Work got busy, time got tight and we got ill. The list of illnesses and injuries looks like the appendix of Black’s Medical Dictionary, a journey through medical science from Achilles’ Tendonitis, via Man Flu and arriving at the final destination of Exploding Arse Mayhem, we had the lot. What I didn’t get is the Twisted Testicle that afflicted one of my young male relatives and still makes my sphincter twitch when I think of it.
I don’t do ill. I thumb my nose and generally sneer at society’s weak, sickly runts. I might look ill, but I’ve always been a walking, talking advert for outdoor work, exercise and stiff upper lippedness. An illness constituted a solitary sneeze or cough before it was passed onto the nearest vegan. In the Horton house, you’re allowed a day of feeling sorry for yourself before you resume full training – even if you happen to still be in hospital or neck to nuts in plaster.
This time my body had plans for an extended vacation. I started on the usual path of training through any illness, maybe reducing the number of reps, but basically business as usual. Obviously my immune system had already arrived in Marbella and was drinking something sweet, sickly and spiked on the beach. I went from bad to worse. I must have had a sign on my back saying ‘Drop off unwanted illnesses here, cash paid’.
Two months down the line and I’m starting to feel like I could turn a pedal in anger again. I might need someone to help me push down as I’m undoubtedly weak as a kitten, but it’s time to give it a go.
So what is Jerry’s message? Listen to your body occasionally. Listen to it, then say ‘Shut up, wimp!’ and carry on regardless until you can’t physically stand. Then have the afternoon off.