It was somewhere miles short of the first mountain summit of this year’s Etape that the neural pathways to my brain (which had hitherto lain dormant since at least the start of the race) crackled into life and, with a desperate, self-preservatory rush of blood to the head, deposited the one coherent thought of the day into my semi-consciousness: “Never do this to yourself again”.
The message from my body was clear. And, believe me, I agreed with it. So why, then – only eight weeks later with the lady-shave cuts to my legs barely healed – do I find myself toying with the idea of entering next year’s event? How can I so carelessly have allowed myself to forget the pain, the torment, the utter conviction with which I promised myself that this really would be the last time?
Perhaps, like the amnesiac in the film Memento who tattoos himself with bodily reminder notes, I should have had “Etape – never again” emblazoned across my chest? Yet I fear, come spring, I would just be under the needle again changing the name of the event to that of some awful ex-girlfriend.
Sometimes, of course, there are very sound biological reasons for why the body tries to forget extreme pain; childbirth for example (which, though I’ve only ever watched it from the stands, makes cycling up mountains seem like child’s play). There is no biologically sound reason for me ever to cycle up another mountain. Quite the opposite, in fact.
So why on earth am I already considering it??