Nearly 8 months ago, in a sudden fit of insanity, I signed up for the Etape du Tour, probably one of the toughest sportive races there are out there. Up to that point in my career I had done exactly zero bike races. At that time I identified 3 areas of concern:
1. I’m fat.
2. My knee hasn’t been right in over 5 years.
3. I’m 42.
Turns out there were a few things lacking from this list (a woefully inadequate bike, for example), but let’s take just these three and see how I’ve fared since November.
1. I’m fat. Well, I’m still no Andy Schleck, but since Christmas I’ve come down from 77 kg to what I’m hoping will be 68 kg on race day. 9 kg is a lot of extra baggage to pull up the col du Telegraphe, Galibier and Alpe d’Huez, so although I’m definitely still not at an ideal weight for climbing, it’s a whole world away from where I started.
2. My knee hasn’t been right in over 5 years. This one has been temporarily solved by modern medicine and, probably, building up muscle strength around the knee. The short of it is that I can, for the most part, push my left knee as hard as my right now. Another massive improvement since last year.
3. I’m 42. This one was easy; I just turned 43 since then. Age is not really a factor, I’m finding. For one thing, in most of the cyclosportives I have done in France, guys in my age category are always featured in the top ten. More importantly, I’ve been simply gauging my condition by comparing myself to others in my age group.
When you start out on little adventures like this you really cannot know the fortunes (and misfortunes) that might come your way. Finding my partner in crime, Karsten, was a great move, since we have motivated each other over the months and have done several races together, even though we live at different ends of the country.
I’ve also had the great good luck of finding my step-brother Rob, who has become my online coach and has improved my fitness by leaps and bounds with his simple, effective training tips. Everyone should have a 7-time Ironman in the family!
I’ve also discovered a whole new universe of blog buddies (yes, you!) who have motivated me with both words and deeds (it’s good to know there are others doing the same crazy stuff as you sometimes). Some of these friends might even turn into real live people, if I can find Tim at the Etape next week (look for a guy in a polka dot helmet, probably draped in a boxing kangaroo flag…). Then there are Steve and Peter who I will be seeing in Languedoc later this month, after the Etape when I am allowed to drink beer guilt free…
These next 6 days will be filled with plenty of kilometers, but thankfully not many of them on the bike. We’re off on Thursday for a 600 km drive up to Switzerland, where my budding-artist wife will drag me to an exhibition in Basel, that will be bookmarked by a couple of rides through the (fingers crossed) low hills of southern Alsace.
Then on Saturday it’s to the French Alps for a couple days of anxious recovery rides and beer avoidance. Very, very early Monday morning, if everything goes to plan (ha!), Herr Kaa and I will be in our pens, surrounded by 10,000 of our newest friends, awaiting 3 mythic Tour climbs, a whole lot of suffering, some outstandingly beautiful roads and views, and maybe, just maybe, NO sign of the broom wagon.
Wish us luck!