The Race of Truth

Southgate
Southgate Posts: 246
edited January 2014 in Road general
Just something I knocked together for my club mag...

The Race of Truth

Calvin Versus Calvin: The Gazette editor invites you to join him on a psychological ride into the fires of hell.

Periodically the marshal checks his stopwatch. Every 60 seconds a human bullet is fired from the front, and the shrinking queue of carbon, rubber and flesh shuffles forward in unison until it’s my turn to be the bullet.
The marshal steadies my bike in his hands.

30 seconds.

Adrenaline surges through my veins.

10 seconds.

I taste it on my tongue.

5 seconds.

Fight or flight?

4. 3. 2. 1.

It’s both.

Silence.

The marshal lets go.

GO!

I floor the right pedal. Standing out of the saddle, I floor the left. Then the right. Left, right, left, right, left. But I’m not marching, I’m dancing. I’ve got rhythm.

The village common flashes past in a streak of green, but I have eyes only for the tarmac below and the road ahead. I slide back into the saddle, head down, arms extending out towards the aerobars, focussing on my breathing.

Leaning left I ease the bike into the descent. My old friend gravity offers me a helping hand, but I must increase the pace. Click, click, click. My gears respond smoothly and the pain slots neatly into smaller and smaller rings. I’m spinning. I’m flying. I am alive.

I move my hands onto the drops and brake late, scrubbing off speed.

Shaaarp left.

The road flattens out. Easy time is over. Push, push, push. I get into a rhythm and then ease off a little. This is just a skirmish; bigger battles lie ahead, and above.

+ + +

They call it the race of truth. No tactics, no teammates, no drafting, and nowhere to hide. Just you, on your own, against the clock. That’s what they say, but I only partly agree. A time trial takes place inside your head as much as it does on the road. It’s not just you against the clock, it’s you against yourself. This favours flawed characters who have something to prove, and disadvantages the settled and contented. As the race progresses and your suffering intensifies, the inner voice that tells you to slow down becomes ever more persuasive. The price of resistance is to inflict even greater pain upon yourself, until eventually in your torment you are reduced to screaming out expletives to the birds on an empty country lane. Or waving the white flag. Surrender is always an option.

+ + +

Another left turn.

Now I’m heading upwards and gravity is my enemy. Rivulets of salty sweat begin to run down my forehead and splash into my eyes, blinding my vision. Saliva dribbles out of my open mouth and rolls down my chin and onto my jersey. Flames lick my lungs. I want to wipe my face and press a bottle to my lips, but that would break my rhythm and cost me seconds.

I glance up and see my minute man in trouble; his pedal stroke ragged, his shoulders swaying this way and that. His agony is fuel for my legs, and like a cat I close in on my prey and then pass him in silence. Cycling is a cruel sport.

The hill morphs into an almost endless false flat and I struggle to increase cadence after having burnt a match on the climb. Demoralisation washes through my mind and spills into my legs. I fantasise about a puncture or a broken chain; for anything that can release me, with honour, from this suffering. My speed begins to drop.

Harden the f**k up, idiot!

I push on hard through flatter roads until I come to the final turn: a sharp right. Left leg down, right knee out, accelerate out of the turn; it all comes together and I round the bend in an elegant curve. I tuck in on the sweeping descent; arms outstretched, head down, arse high, building up speed. As I shoot past the station on my left, the road flattens out and then rears up in front of me like a wall. Like a goddamn wall. And I’m already deep into the red.

Momentum carries me through the first part of the climb. Halfway to the summit the road curves left, and up above I see the marshal with his stopwatch and clipboard. I visualise myself as a cold hard bullet cutting through crimson pain towards the chequered flag. It is unstoppable. I am unstoppable.

I stand out of the saddle and will my body to respond. Lactate roars through my legs. I am drowning in acid. It tears into my quads, scalds my veins and burns holes in my mind. I vow never to do another time trial.

30 metres to the finish line.

My legs turn to jelly.

10 metres.

My blood runs cold.

5 metres.

I start to black out.

4. 3. 2. 1.

The pain stops and I keel over onto the grass verge, gasping for life like a stricken animal. I don’t yet know my time and, curiously, I don’t much care. On this particular day I know I achieved something more important than beating the clock. I won the mental battle. And that, for me, is what the race of truth is ultimately about.
Superstition begins with pinning race number 13 upside down and it ends with the brutal slaughter of Mamils at the cake stop.

Comments

  • handful
    handful Posts: 920
    Story of your commute?
    Vaaru Titanium Sram Red eTap
    Moda Chord with drop bars and Rival shifters - winter/do it all bike
    Orbea Rise
  • Southgate
    Southgate Posts: 246
    Looool, yeah.. I should add a couple a HGVs, make the marshal my boss, and it would be!!
    Superstition begins with pinning race number 13 upside down and it ends with the brutal slaughter of Mamils at the cake stop.
  • Have you got your own blog?
    I'm sorry you don't believe in miracles
  • davep1
    davep1 Posts: 836
    Great article - chapeau!
  • Buckie2k5
    Buckie2k5 Posts: 600
    nice 1, its the cyclists equivalent to 50 shades of grey ;)
  • asjc
    asjc Posts: 103
    Brickendon per chance? I could see that route in my mind.
  • Southgate
    Southgate Posts: 246
    asjc wrote:
    Brickendon per chance? I could see that route in my mind.

    Well spotted!!!
    Superstition begins with pinning race number 13 upside down and it ends with the brutal slaughter of Mamils at the cake stop.
  • Southgate
    Southgate Posts: 246
    Buckie2k5 wrote:
    nice 1, its the cyclists equivalent to 50 shades of grey ;)

    :lol::lol::lol: I love playing around with different writing styles (especially florid purple prose!), and what better forum is there than a club mag? Ours is a bit... well... 'different', sometimes serious, mostly lighthearted, occasionally humorous, definitely not dry and boring.

    Can't be arsed with blogging though... as soon as you get a critical mass of readers they expect you to churn out free copy every day like you're the editor of the Daily Mirror!
    Superstition begins with pinning race number 13 upside down and it ends with the brutal slaughter of Mamils at the cake stop.
  • asjc
    asjc Posts: 103
    Southgate wrote:
    asjc wrote:
    Brickendon per chance? I could see that route in my mind.

    Well spotted!!!

    I flogged myself around that course for 2 years on a decent road bike, no TT bike for me, good account and liked the description of robins nest hill, it was probably me that you were describing as you went past! You a member of southgate CC? a friend of mine is, had a glass or 2 with him at your xmas do in ware last year.
    Nice piece.
  • Southgate
    Southgate Posts: 246
    asjc wrote:
    Southgate wrote:
    asjc wrote:
    Brickendon per chance? I could see that route in my mind.

    Well spotted!!!

    I flogged myself around that course for 2 years on a decent road bike, no TT bike for me, good account and liked the description of robins nest hill, it was probably me that you were describing as you went past! You a member of southgate CC? a friend of mine is, had a glass or 2 with him at your xmas do in ware last year.
    Nice piece.

    Yeah, Southgate. Brickendon is a hard course cos you can never get into a rhythm for more than a couple of minutes before there's another bloody hill. I doubt it was you I passed though as my best time is only 24 minutes (although that's somewhat mitigated by doing it on a 'sportive' bike with forty quid clip-on tribars). If I eat less cake, hopefully I'll get under 23 this season on my new Orbea.
    Superstition begins with pinning race number 13 upside down and it ends with the brutal slaughter of Mamils at the cake stop.
  • mfin
    mfin Posts: 6,729
    I though it was 'ok'. But quite good if you're 14 or 15 though and doing GCSE English.
  • Southgate
    Southgate Posts: 246
    mfin wrote:
    I though it was 'ok'. But quite good if you're 14 or 15 though and doing GCSE English.

    Who crapped in your cornflakes this morning, Shakespeare? :lol:
    Superstition begins with pinning race number 13 upside down and it ends with the brutal slaughter of Mamils at the cake stop.