Re­mem­ber­ing how it used to be, kind of

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - by James ”Cranky“Ram­say

Fuzzy frozen mem­o­ries

It’s very cold out­side. At this time of year, I like to sweat it out on my in­door trainer while my but­ler reads Cana­dian cy­cling mag­a­zine tome, passes me fresh tow­els and cues up my Swedish death-metal playlist, which keeps me mo­ti­vated. It wasn’t al­ways this way. Be­fore I got rich writ­ing this col­umn, I rode out­side through the win­ter. Back then, I had no in­door trainer, a lim­ited sup­ply of tow­els and cer­tainly no but­ler.

As with any re­flec­tion on times gone by, my rec­ol­lec­tion is ro­man­ti­cized. The hard edges have been pol­ished smooth. I’m left with rosy mem­o­ries of my ad­ven­tures through the frozen tun­dra. Let me paint the pic­ture for you.

At 5:59 a.m. on a crisp Sun­day morn­ing, I awake one minute be­fore my alarm goes off. I spring out of bed, pour a large cup of ex­tremely strong cof­fee and pre­pare my­self break­fast: two eggs, scram­bled, a lean slice of ham, all served atop spelt bread from the ar­ti­sanal bak­ery down the street.

Eat­ing at a leisurely pace while I read the news­pa­per, I pause to check the weather: -13 C, and with the wind chill, -20 C. The colder, the bet­ter, I think, smil­ing to my­self. This will be one for the record books.

I ap­ply deep heat­ing rub to my knees (hav­ing put my bib shorts on first to avoid un­nec­es­sar­ily warm­ing my un­der­car­riage), pull on my wind­proof tights and, layer by layer, I pre­pare to meet the el­e­ments.

Strap­ping my ’cross bike to the roof of my car, I make the one-hour drive north of the city, where I will meet a small group of fel­low lu­natics for a three-hour romp through the back roads of the Hock­ley Val­ley. I ar­rive per­fectly on time and we set off. We’re cold at first, but the ef­fort of the ride quickly warms us up. It’s all over too soon. Be­fore I know it, I’m back in my car, head­ing for the com­fort of home – tired but ex­hil­a­rated, buzzing with the ela­tion of a hard ef­fort on the bike.

But wait. Is that re­ally how it was? As I think more on this, the de­tails are com­ing into fo­cus. Per­haps the pic­ture wasn’t quite as rosy…

It’s 6:00 a.m. I’m shocked out of a de­light­ful dream in which I’m pheas­ant hunt­ing with my un­cle Des­mond and cousin Hortense. We never ac­tu­ally kill any pheas­ants, by the way – it’s more of a so­cial out­ing – but that’s be­side the point. I reach over and hit snooze. I re­peat this ac­tion for at least three cy­cles, which brings me to 6:32. Now I’m going to be late.

Drag­ging my­self out of bed, I trip over the cat on my way to the bath­room. Curs­ing as I re­gain my bal­ance, I put my con­tact lenses in back­wards and stum­ble down­stairs to get some break­fast.

Look­ing at the clock, I re­al­ize there’s no time to eat at home, so I place my toque inside-out in my up­turned hel­met and fill it with dry ce­real. I run back up­stairs, get dressed as quickly as I can and scram­ble out of the house.

Ex­ceed­ing the speed limit all the way, wolf­ing down dry corn flakes from my hat as I go, I’m lucky to en­counter very few red lights. I peel into the re­sort park­ing lot only to see that it’s empty. Not a soul. At least now I have time to drink my cof­fee while I wait for the oth­ers to show up.

But they don’t show up. Later, they’ll tell me it was sim­ply too cold to ride. For now, all I know is that I’m on my own. Hav­ing made such an ef­fort to get here, I can’t go home with my pur­pose un­ful­filled. I pull my bike off the roof and start off down the road solo.

It’s so cold that my shift ca­bles freeze in their hous­ings and my shift levers don’t’ op­er­ate prop­erly. I’m stuck with a very lim­ited range of gears, none of which are ideally suited to rid­ing through snow. As I grind my way across the frozen land­scape at a ca­dence of 35 r.p.m., I curse the weather, my ab­sent train­ing part­ners and any­thing else I can think of.

Now I’m starv­ing, so I pull an en­ergy bar from my pocket. On the plus side, the bar is so cold that the wrap­per comes off cleanly – a nice change from the melted choco­latey goop that I’m used to wrestling with in warmer weather. But on the flip side, it’s so frozen that I can’t bite into it with­out risk­ing ex­pen­sive dam­age to my dentures. And it’s too big to swal­low whole. Curs­ing again, I put it back in my pocket and re­solve to de­frost it in the car and eat it on the way home.

Fi­nally, af­ter two and a half hours, I de­cide to pack it in. I can no longer feel my feet. I’m weak with hunger. My in­su­lated wa­ter bot­tle has failed to live up to its guar­an­tee of keep­ing my drink in liq­uid form. I strug­gle back to the car, swear­ing as I try to se­cure my bike to the roof with numb, frozen fin­gers. On the drive home, I feel the faint sat­is­fac­tion in hav­ing toughed it out. But on the whole, I’m ex­hausted, cranky, bit­ter and my feet hurt like hell as they start to thaw out.

So which ver­sion is more ac­cu­rate? As usual, the truth prob­a­bly lies some­where in be­tween. But I can tell you that my but­ler prefers the sec­ond ver­sion. He says it makes him feel more val­ued. An­other fresh towel, please, Sains­bury – and for heaven’s sake, turn that mu­sic up!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.