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June 2016

When in France…

I guess I have been thinking about writing a post during my trip since I arrived in France, it just hasn’t been the right time for it. We are always about to do something, have groceries to buy, washing to do, food to cook. Places to go, things to see. You know…the life stuff that comes with travelling abroad, bike racing and being self-supported.

After an epic 35-hours flying time, including getting to the gate 5mins after boarding time in Toulouse (thanks goodness it was delayed) then almost being denied entry due to unpaid baggage (which I had just paid!) Briony and I, who met up at Charles De Gaulle, arrived in Toulouse. The next bit of the clusterfuck was playing the ‘where is my bike’ game. I was emotionally prepared for this, being a bit of a pessimist at the best of times, and having played this game before.

After accepting that it wasn’t coming, we filed the missing baggage form and collected our Peugeot ‘Teepee’, but not before getting fleeced for an extra GPS which came standard in the car. This was phase one of ‘I wish I could speak French’.

Navigating out of the carpark was a blast, as we very rapidly realised we were to drive on the right side of the road. Add this to sitting on the left when driving, and having a right-sided gearstick, and you could tell we were having an awesome time freaking out, then laughing about it.

We found our accommodation in Tournefeuille, a loft room in a little southern-french style Mediterranean villa with amazing pool. The hosts were great, there was a cherry tree and we were far enough from a major centre that getting around wasn’t too stressful.

The next day we headed out for a ride, Briony on her race weapon, me in my Purple glitter Converses, Cyclinic kit and Aussie gilet sans helmet on one of the hosts large Trek 4500 alloy MTB, fitted with racks, bags, fenders and semi slicks. A race weapon if there ever was one.

windmill
Stylish AF.

Thankfully the real race weapon turned up that night, it was very exciting.

The next day we daytripped to a little town called Castres, in the Tarn region, to go for a ride. Bri had a fancy GPS that uploaded a map of a ride we were doing, and after getting lost and detouring through the ghetto (legit a bit scary) we headed out into the hills for 50km of sun, a few efforts and some detouring for pictured. I wished that I had a camera in my eyes because I didn’t want to forget how amazing and beautiful the scenery was, alas I will have to rely on a few dodgy iPhone photos instead. We travelled through mediaeval Burlats, climbed up Lacrouzette to the top at Roquecorbe. It’s hard to describe what it was like without reverting to generic terms like ‘next level’ and ‘epic’, but that’s kind of what it was.

castres
Castres.

The next day was travel day to Rodez. Getting a little handier at the driving business, that decreased on my list of things that were a bit stressful, while trying to converse about our accommodation rose to the top. We got there and there was a problem so we had to stay in a very tiny hotel for one night before moving to our apartment accomodation. Bri had been feeling a bit under the weather the day prior, and it was my turn to feel fucking awful. We called it a recce day but still traipsed around Rodez.

rodezcatheder
Rodez Cathederal, we are staying right near here. Think it’s reached Peak Gargoyle.

Rodez kind of reminds me of Toowoomba, if it was established in the 12th century. Rodez is actually older than that, but I believe that’s when they started having a decent crack at building the huge Notre-Dame Cathederal-Rodez which is front and centre of the city. Rodez is located atop a hill, and is the city of flowers, hence the Tbar references. It’s a long bow to draw, but i’m doing it. We are staying right in the centre, we can see the Cathederal from the accomodation and more importantly, our favourite boulangerie is RIGHT ACROSS THE ROAD #baguettelyf.

 

lepub
Where else would you get your coffee?

Yesterday we headed on course. The disadvantage of staying in the hotel was we couldn’t cook or do washing and hence we had to wait until the rest of France wakes up (ie: not very fucking early) to get some food in so that we could ride. As a result, we got to Laissac about 1000. On bikes at 1030, and not back until 1330. It was over 30degrees (oui oui, magnifique!) and we had very limited water (non! tres mauvais!).

!) so perhaps took the fatal mistake of cooking ourselves. Coke, quiche and ice blocks against a wall helped momentarily.

WC1
On course.

We rode about 1/3 of the course and as we were both under the weather it was a pretty glacial pace. It had everything! Boggy euro mud, south-of-france loose rocky fun descents though pine forest, craggy rocky climbs, mud chutes like Offenburg. The fun is in the surprise ‘holy shit I am careering down this muddy chute, should probably avoid the orange trees’, and the race will hold some more surprises as I am taking today off with my sore throat and ears in order to get myself right for the race.

It’s not so bad, the descents I ride were wicked fun, not too crazy technical if you are in the mindset to just hit it and worry about it later. While I am hoping/praying that my health comes good for the race, it’s World Champs; it doesn’t matter where I come as long as I ride as hard and fast as I can and enjoy the pain in the process!

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Navel-gazing on a stopover in China

What is happiness? We chase an elusive thing yet how to we measure our own happiness? Is it the childhood joy of running through a sprinkler in summer? The elation or self-satisfaction of a big win or job promotion? A sense of contentment and ease with the decisions you have made in your life and where you are thus far?

We chase the goal of happiness, but like many things that are widely desired (love, admiration, desire) happiness remains to be an abstract concept that is unmeasurable in any quantifiable manner.

We often choose to do things because it’s what we believe we should do. We should trudge through a boring four-year accounting degree at university because the end will be worth the means; not in that we are going to be able to make deeper meaning out of our lives by sitting behind a desk crunching numbers laboriously day in and out, but rather we are able to make money; the conspicuous bartering tool that is also tied up and complicated with ideas of happiness and worth.

We should settle down, get married and make a family, because that’s what the norm is and what is expected in the western, heteronormative, monogamy-focussed society in which we live. What betrays this expectation is the facts that many marriages don’t work out, children have been proven things even harder in a partnership and decrease happiness, and there is no guarantee that our children will even grow up to like us, despite our best efforts. So even though there is factual evidence that in this case, towing the socially expected line is difficult and fraught with the possibility of failure potentially worsening individual happiness, yet we still believe this is the way to go about life.

The difficulty lies in the shaky measurement of happiness, mentioned above, and the way in which we think the things we are told we should do in society (get a respectable job, settle down etc) are potentially at odds with what would make many individuals happy.

“Comparison is the thief of joy” is a great quote I have used with athletes that get overly hung up on rating their performance against others’ performance, but the quote works quite nicely for bigger picture life as well, it’s particularly apt in this era of social media, the exploitation of self and the ‘highlights reel’ we present as true life rather than choreographed glimmers of uploaded perfection. That guy with the garage full of sports cars? He works 60-hour weeks every week and doesn’t see his family. He has toys but life is otherwise vacuous and empty. That picture perfect, cookie-cutter family that is enviably outwardly perfect in any way? Well he’s looking at other options, she’s depressed, and the children are on a fast track to diagnosable mental health disorders.

That being said, should we strive to be happier or should we settle in lives that are guaranteed to disappoint us at some stage? I don’t really have the answers but it provokes interesting questions.

Good mood tunes

Had a bike race yesterday. Haven’t raced XCO in a while, focussing on miles, marathon and the odd road event (ssshh). I didn’t really think about it too much until I woke up that morning and realised I had 90min of abject suffering in my near future.

Despite getting more sleep recently than I had in the insomnia phases earlier this year, I am fucking exhausted. Having some time of work for the first time in 7months surely will help, midday naps await. I rode out to the race and felt awful. The legs lie sometimes, other times they tell it like it is. The problem is you don’t really know which way it is going to go until you’re racing.

Urg. Gurgle. Yawn. So unexcited. Race at 1230. So late. When does one lunch?? What is this 1230 race start time business? Why am I here? What is the meaning of life?

Sky grey with cloud cover and mood grey with mindfog.

The skinsuit was on, however, and I just needed to switch the brain into gear.

I had some secret weapons though, i’ll let you in on them.

Coffee.

Dancing.

Music.

Shot the coffee 20min before race start.

Jam some tunes up, warm up while doing some dubious thrusting type manoeuvres (aka: what the young kids call dancing) on the bike in your skinsuit. Works every time. The physiologically impressive (in like a physiologically aberrant “maybe i’m coming down with something”) and not-quite-right 1hr20 at VO2 max speaks for itself; the music aids the hurting.

Without further ado I bring you a sample of my somewhat dubious (and wholly fucking excellent) warmup playlist. From the 80’s to today…

(Some very NSFW images/music right here because AB).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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