I was dragged out of my running routine by the head-cold that dictates that every step I take is accompanied by a bass drum between the ears. I anticipated problems with breathing as I prepared to run, but not with percussion. I could not return to the weights, as a recent snot-fuelled attempt had me sounding like a hedgehog trapped beneath the shed, so I went for the exercise bike. However, by the time I had decided to lug it from its current resting place – in the arctic garage, between the deep freeze and the tumble dryer – the bass drum in my head had been accompanied by a hi-hat in each ear and any attempt at forward perambulation exceeding the speed of a geriatric sloth resulted in some kind of trans-cranial military tattoo. Imagine – if you can – Cozy Powell’s ‘Dance with the Devil*’ slowed down and piped directly into the cerebral cortex**.
Another dose of synchronicity: the lateness of the hour can no longer be relied upon to bring on the night – days are getting longer although, alas, no warmer – and there, just behind the exercise bike, I spotted my actual bike bike. It seemed a whole lot more sensible to haul myself aboard that. So, I wheeled it out, donned my helmet*** and rode away into the distance****.
I am incredibly fortunate to live in a place that means that I can be on quiet country roads within minutes of leaving my door. Often I do not see another vehicle for miles around – although, when I do it is almost always a small hatchback (formerly mother’s and noisily driven to tears by the change of operator) piloted by someone who is clearly unfamiliar with the function of two of the three pedals, and for whom steering appears to be a pointless frivolity. These cars, on any other day unused to the rev counter turning above vertical, are usually wheezing worse than me. It is, though, because of this narrow country lane/automotive nutcase juxtaposition that cycling proceeds without a soundtrack and I am forced to contemplate the voices inside my head. I fear that, especially in view of cold-constrained faculties, even the slightest diminution of my otic acumen could leave me vulnerable to ending my days as a grotesquely articulated hood ornament.
Cycle runs take me further afield – it is virtually impossible to stay upright on a bike travelling at my running pace – which does affect my ‘baggage’. When I run, I feel that all I need to carry is some means of contacting the nearest paramedic; as a cyclist I am forced to consider the possibility of mechanical as well as physical breakdown. I carry my little repair kit with me: ready to mend a puncture with the best of them – although not to any great advantage, I must admit, as I do not have a pump. Back in the day, all bicycles had a pump attached to the frame and, like the strange squeaking noise from the back wheel, it accompanied you wherever you went. In those days, I recall, the tyre could be inflated with little more than an angel’s fart; now, with tyre pressures three times greater than the car, it requires either biceps like Arnold Schwarzenegger or an electric generator. When I head out for a trip on my cycle, my wife sits in the car with the engine running and the back seats down.
As my cold starts to lift, I will return to running, as I do not feel that cycling exercises me fully*****. By next week I anticipate being back on my trainer-clad feet when cycling will return to the roster of recreational activities and running will, once again, become my king of pain.
*If age precludes you from doing so, you can at least view the original here.
**I have absolutely no idea of what that is.
***This is worn at my wife’s insistence. There is an interesting psychology attached to bicycle helmets as, for some reason, motorists give you much more room when you are not wearing one.
****A very liberal use of the word ‘distance’ as I suspect that I seldom move beyond one that makes me invisible from an upstairs window of my house.
*****Naïve supposition that the worse I feel afterwards, the more ‘good’ the exercise has done me.
N.B. today I have fully surrendered to the vagaries of old-age and pressure-washed the bins!