637 Days To Go is my blog, which was originally started with exactly 637 days until the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. And now it's been re-started with 637 days until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day

Me. Frozen and tired. But happy!
Bah Humbug. I hate Christmas with a passion. I really do. The carols, cards, presents, family, snow, Santa, and so on. I just can't stand any of it - and probably have been this way ever since I was a child.

But there IS one good thing about Christmas Day: the fact that most people are home with their families – leaving the roads clear of traffic! So today I headed out for my (now) annual Christmas tradition: a long bike ride in the cold!

Two years ago my marriage fell apart during the Christmas holidays (in retrospect another reason to like Christmas). I think the stress of dealing with 15 different family members, the dinner, presents for everyone, trying not to gain 20 pounds, and the fact that I just don't like this time of year was just too much to handle. By New Year's Day we hadn't spoken to each other for almost a week and parted ways.

The deserted dual carriageway
That meant that last Christmas I was on my own for the first time in my life. Not wanting to stay at home alone, I grabbed my bike, tossed it in the back of my car and drove out to a local race circuit. I spent the next 3 hours going around and around the circuit – up the climbs, down the hills, along the dual carriageway; all the while with barely a car in sight. It must be the only day of the year where you can have the road almost entirely to yourself.

When I was done I headed home to relax, and treated myself to a roast chicken dinner. No sweets, fattening deserts, alcohol, mince pies or anything else that was likely to pile on the pounds. The upshot of all this – while most of my competition was sat around gaining weight and losing fitness, I was out on the road getting fitter. I guess there's just something about riding on Christmas Day that makes me feel like a 'real' athlete, instead of just a recreational rider. 

By early January I was in the best shape of my life. The dedication to cycling I showed over the Christmas period really was starting to pay off. Had I not injured my back and lost about a month recovering, I probably would have been in absolute peak condition by the time racing season started. With the carrot of peak fitness dangling in front of me (and a World Championships fast-approaching this March), it's no wonder that I headed out again today to repeat this new tradition.

Frozen landscape on the drive there
Although it meant a bit of a drive to get there, I opted to go back to the same race circuit as last year. If you're going to continue a tradition, you have to follow the same routine as the previous year! True to form, the roads were virtually deserted. The one main difference from last year however, is the massive discrepancy in temperature. Last year it was positively balmy compared to the minus 10 degree weather I faced today. That, along with lots of snow and ice along the side of the roads made it a little risky, but I soon found the best line to take on the route. 

For the next two hours I pounded my way around the circuit – 7 times in total. There's a steep little climb in the middle, just to put a sting in the legs and give the lungs a workout. My hands went numb a few times from the cold and my face felt like it had been punched repeatedly and shot full of novacaine, but by the time I returned to my car, I really was glad I had made the trip.

So once again, while my competition is tucking into a fattening meal, I'm out there pounding the pavement and keeping my fitness at peak levels; all with no traffic on the roads. If every day was like this.... I would be World Champion in no time! And as much as I hate the day, I still would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! Now I'm off to prepare my roast chicken dinner...