I am prepared to admit that the weather outside is shocking. The wheelie bins heading off wind-assisted down the alley look like March of the Daleks, and they know they'll have the last laugh when their contents are strewn all round the hood, so the neighbours can see who among us has eaten the most shit over Christmas. I think it's what Jesus would have wanted, so I've done my bit by speed eating chrimbo cake since November. They say that you are what you eat, but no matter how many Heroes I inhale, it doesn't make any difference. I probably need the right situation to arise and I'll be on it like a tramp on chips; the first damsel in distress or cat up a tree, I reckon my inner chocolatey hero will emerge, but I'll probably be too fat to be any use.
As the magic reset button that is New Year's Eve passes, and we wake up the next day without magically becoming 20 years younger, fit, flexible and motivated, the wind lashing the windows doesn't exactly lend itself to pursuit of physical excellence. New Year's resolutions last only until the first news report of Storm Bernard with dire warnings to stay indoors, buy crap online and vegetate.
We're not much better. Our garage is full of bikes that we love to tell people are "ideal winter bikes", and indeed our rigid, single-speed mountain bikes and fixed road bikes are the perfect cheapo bikes for smug winter training. Unfortunately, we are still the weak willed, weather dodging cyclists that we were before we had those bikes, and with our determination never to sit on a turbo trainer or rollers again the net result is limited cycling, but no saddle sores. I might be cultivating the beginnings of middle aged spread, but at least my bare arse is more presentable than when I was riding a lot.
But sod the Met Office, what do they know? Today we went for a run, in the middle of Storm Elanor, which is the most miserable name for a storm so far this winter. Met Office give a severe weather warning, advise us to avoid exposed coastal areas at all costs so where do we go for a run? On the coast path if course! The thing about any kind of outdoor fitness is that it takes us back to those primal, chasing down velociraptors days. Even when you're mincing round that 4 miler on tarmac, round the block from your house, you're still channelling Conan the Barbarian. Add in some severe weather and there's no escaping the fact that you are one hard-core muddy funster, battling the elements when the rest of the Walter softies are rearranging their sock drawers. Go to the woods for a run at the moment, and you've got yourself a mud run whether you like it or not. You'll be up to your knackers in mud, water and something smelling a bit canine, jumping over fallen branches, on all fours up and down slopes, laughing like a loon. People pay serious money for this kind of action, you might not get a medal and a photo at the end but you won't get stung for a tenner for a burger.
The great thing about the UK is the weather. There, I said it. When the severe weather warnings happen over here, we can say with some confidence that it won't really be all that bad, The likelihood of a tsunami, hurricane, earthquake, blizzard or anything remotely life threatening is pretty remote, Carol Kirkwood can be totally earnest with her warnings of death and destruction and we can gleefully shout "Bugger off, Carol!" and head out the door into severe weather (by UK standards). Think about the poor sods in Dubai, who had to import tons of mud for their Tough Mudder event! Yes, they imported mud. We have this incredible natural resource that we spend most of the year moaning about and hosing off our legs, and they are paying a fortune for it in Dubai, presumably only for it to dry to dust and blow away within an hour.
The incredibly gullible Americans have developed yet another health-boosting theory called grounding or earthing. Here, the simpletons claim that exposing your bare feet or hands to the earth will have incredible health benefits while simultaneously draining your bank account as you need to be guided into earthing by a qualified instructor, probably called an earthworm. Again, those of us that brave the dangerous outdoors in the winter find that rather than consciously touching skin against the earth, the earth graciously comes up to meet you as it is sprayed up your legs, on your face and forced into every orifice. You'll repeatedly have to 'earth' your hands to prevent you 'earthing' your face.
So get our there and run, even if you're not a runner. Just going out for a jog, walk, wade and swim in your local woods will make you feel better than looking mournfully at your bike collection rusting in the corner, and is infinitely more human than going on Zwift. If you need someone to guide you through the process, we are available at ridiculously extortionate cost.
RIP Sharon Laws.
It was with deep sadness that we learned of the death of Sharon Laws on December 16th at the age of 43. We didn't really know Sharon, she was one of those elite athletes that would occasionally turn up at a mountain bike race from road or cyclo-cross and proceed to rip the legs off the cross-country purists. Maddie shared a start grid with Sharon a few times, and I would have met her when working registration at the Nationals and it's a damn shame that we won't see that happen again. Sharon's palmares and history in the sport is stunningly impressive and she crammed everything into an all too short and belated career, with a work ethic that puts us all to shame.
This isn't one of those call to arms, or demands that we all immediately get off the sofa and go for a ride in Sharon's name, it is just an acknowledgement that an outstanding member of the cycling community is no longer with us. If anything, it's an inspirational example of how you can achieve greatness in a sport without being on the British Cycling talent pathway since you were on a balance bike. If you get chance to read her story, I highly recommend it.