Do the popcorn and do the horse. Show everybody where you’re at.

I’ve spent the week doing the popcorn and the horse with a heck of a lot of agitated 16th note movement. The boss made a funny joke and said I was moving like James Brown. He had a point. Skip to 1.15, the bit where he holds his neck at the same time is eerily reminiscent of me moving down the stairs at points various during the past 6 days.


I thought I’d be fine by Monday. However, on waking my hamstrings felt tighter than catgut on a wooden racket. Tuesday was the same. By Wednesday morning I could just about take the stairs with an overlapping leg action in the conventional manner, as opposed to the unsteady one-step shuffle. Going downstairs, or any gradient pitched at higher than 0.3%, proved to be my undoing and I reverted back to a drunken misstep.

Wednesday evening was the club 25 around the lake. I felt woefully unprepared, my legs were nowhere near recovered from the 20 minutes of exertion on Saturday morning. I had to ride though, for a couple of reasons. It was a trophy event, first and foremost. Apart from that, I had to ride for my sanity. The end result was a clinical demonstration of why cyclists should never, ever run. I paced the first lap fairly evenly, heading round Chew Valley Lake in 18 minutes and 50 seconds, around 25-30 seconds slower than I should have been. I took it easy knowing full well that bad things might happen over the subsequent two laps. I was right. Bad things happened immediately. I began to cramp up violently at around 10 miles. My second lap was over a minute slower (a geological timescale over an 8 mile distance). In the time it took to me to complete the 3rd lap there were three mass extinctions and the Morlocks ran out onto the parcours. It was a violent, messy, horrible affair. On the floatiest of floaty nights, floatier even than Lloyd Grossman in Mastermind, I went around 3 minutes slower than I should have. I clung on to the trophy by the translucent skin of a gnat’s tooth.

Over the course of the circuits I became well-acquainted with the various flora and fauna around the loop. Not far from the start lay the bloated corpse of a badger, the stomach swollen with muggy humidity and decomposition. Breathing heavily, i inhaled a waft of badger for about 30 yards, once per lap. It had notes of death. On the second lap a freshly-walloped squirrel lay within 10 feet of badger. Afterwards I found out a club mate had killed the beast during his race; it ran out and successfully avoided two leisure cyclists only to be brutally mown down by David Bolton, who was riding a crash-damaged road bike cadged from a friend. it’s a savage tale of death and dishonour. The club skipper then recounted a tale from days of yore, when the spinergy rev-x was all the rage.

cippo on a characteristically understated bicycle

A hapless tree-beast ran out across a country lane in the Mendips, trying to avoid his front wheel by doing that syncopated shuffle they do, only to end up making a beeline straight for it. One of the four bladed spokes scooped up the furry creature and spun it straight into the fork crown where it was, as the captain put it, ‘sliced and diced’ in an act of pure carnage. Generally, rodents and fork crowns don’t mix.

getting cosy with the brake caliper, nice place for a nap

Someone should have called in these guys:


The upshot of the sorry saga is that I will never, ever run again. I can only hope that I make some kind of recovery by the time the hilly stuff rolls around in October.




I opted not to ride today’s super fast mega-race in Tring. I have been ill and tired all week and didn’t know if i’d be able to really compete, so i put in an early DNS. My Mum came to visit and thought it was probably better to spend the afternoon with family, as opposed to chasing the fastest of fast times on a strip of road east of Oxford. Now that the 19s are rolling in left, right and centre, I’m not so sure, but that’s time trialling. Well done to Billy Oliver who went straight from a short 21 to a long 19. That’s quite a PB. I’m going to visit the course in August when hopefully I’ll be feeling right again and en forme. With any luck it will be hot and floaty.

My mum is quite the runner. In fact, she’s one of the keenest runners I’ve ever known. She has done the London Marathon twice. Apart from the endurance stuff, Mum is an eager participant in Park Run, a weekly shindig that takes place in a municipal park somewhere near you, every Saturday, rain or shine. The first one was in Bushy Park or Wimbledon in about 2007 or thereabouts. The Leeds event followed not long after. I think my Mum has done about 86 Park Runs. She has all sorts of special singlets to recognise her achievements. Today she wanted to do the Ashton Court Park Run, so I thought it might be fun to go along, and maybe even jog around the course. I ignored the fact that I haven’t so much as even run away from a bully in the past 20 years, I mean, what’s the worst that might happen? We rode there and back, and I even took a shower afterwards. All of which comes perilously close to some kind of vile urban triathlon.  At the very least, it’s a duathlon, the sickly brother of the triathlon for people who can’t really swim (unlike triathlon, which is for those can’t swim, run or ride).

I don’t mind running, it’s quite a noble sport and has echoes with the solipsism of cycling, as well as the social aspects of club life. It’s also a remarkably cheap sport. I like the Park Run; it’s free to all. The volunteers record the results and do all of the hard graft – often it’s university students and local clubs. They crunch the stats and provide lots of information. Park Run is also really democratic. it’s a Saturday morning blast round a park and welcomes absolutely all abilities. There were people with dogs and babies in strollers. In some ways it’s not dissimilar to a sportive; it’s a mass participation event with the emphasis on getting round and self-improvement. It doesn’t have a precipitous line between success and failure, unlike a road race or hill climb. I can see why this appeals to people. There is also no real equipment anxiety. if you have a set of trainers, shorts and a t shirt, you can run. not only that, it’s unlikely to really impede your progress. For an investment of about £100 you can probably take part in much more comfort. £100 in bike terms might get you a new bottle cage.

Despite all of this, I have one caveat. Running is unbearably hard. The course at Ashton Court is uphill for 2.5km and then straight back down for 2.5km. i was fine with the uphill bit, the downhill near enough killed me. My muscles were being torn apart with each heavy step on the tarmac; the feeling of pain on impact was unable to ignore. I got passed by about 7 people on the way back down. That was fine, my biggest fear was picking up a vanity injury that scuppered the next 3-6 months of bike racing. I backed off a little bit and tried to relax, without much success. For the rest of the day my tendons and ligaments felt taut and stretched. It’s not pleasant.

the loneliness of the short distance cyclist-turned-runner

I have no idea what constitutes a good time on this 5km circuit. I do know it was windy as chuff all the way out and the tailwind down the hill made things worse. I also know that I have the anaerobic capacity to run all day, but not the muscular capacity. I managed 20.39 and came 14th out of about 250 or something silly. If I’d been able to run downhill like I ran uphill then I might have bagged a top 7 place. I enjoyed it. My Mum did a 29.30 or thereabouts. She is a running machine.

I think I may go back and do another Park Run one day. Maybe when my injuries have healed. Currently I can’t even walk up the stairs; it’s disgusting.

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