Dr. Hutch: delusions of fitness

You may recall the illness of my friend Bernard, mentioned in these pages sometime in late November.

It was more serious than it at first appeared, and while there may have been some rash accusations of hypochondria and malingering bandied about at the time, it seems to me that this isn’t the moment for pointing fingers. The important thing is that after weeks of sickness he’s back on his feet.

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He’s also back on his bike. I went out for a few miles with him, and as an act of charity decided to make no attempts to humiliate him in his still-weakened state. So I rode alongside, maybe sometimes a little behind, and even made the occasional pretence at heavy breathing on those climbs where he seemed to be struggling.

Veritably, I was Mother Theresa in Lycra. “I should do less training,” he said as we rolled into his driveway. “I really gave you a bit of a shoeing there. You’re not quite the hotshot you think you are, boy.”

Trying, very trying
I took a deep breath and thought about Mother Theresa. “Yup,” I said, “you’re in impressive shape.”
Bernard was happy. I was also happy, because for almost the first time in my life I’d eschewed a chance to spread misery and despond, and it felt surprisingly good.

Hence my new business idea: I will make you a faster bike rider, for less effort than you could possibly imagine.

You will send me your credit card details and some notes on your regular training routes. And I will send you a coaching pack. It will explain that not only can you go faster on fewer hours of training; you can also reduce the intensity.

If you use my new service, just a handful of moderate rides of a nice sensible duration each week are all that is required. There will be an emphasis on rest and recovery, and nutritional guidance that will focus on ‘real food’ like steak and chips washed down with a bottle of inexpensive red.

What you won’t know is that I’ll also dispatch a ‘ride partner’ to accidentally-on-purpose meet you out on the road somewhere. He will be charming, and you’ll take an instant liking to him. He will be much faster than you, but he’ll say nice things like, “I’m glad you’ve got a new coach. You’re clearly a natural athlete, and I bet that within a few weeks you’ll be stuffing me up the hills.” You’ll be flattered.

Cash for compliments
And it will come to pass that after a few weeks of you sending me money and me sending you training plans and pub recommendations, you will catch up with and eventually overtake your (well, my) training partner. You will be very happy, and so will I.

I will send to you a new training partner. He will be just like the last, except he’ll be faster than even the ‘new’ you. A few weeks later, though, you’ll miraculously leave him behind too, and the process will repeat.

The ‘gold’ membership for those who use a power meter will include a regular recalibration service. This level of membership will also include stealthy consultation with your training partners and event organisers to ensure you make seamless progress in training – and achieve suitable results in races. They will of course, in the spirit of free enterprise, receive a small recompense for this assistance.

For Strava users, I’ll offer a platinum membership. At this level, I will pay Nasa to move the GPS satellites around as required. Platinum membership will, of necessity, be somewhat pricey. But I’m still confident that you’ll spend less on it than Bernard is going to spend on nice new bikes in an attempt to keep up with me in the coming season.

Dear Doc…

Dear Doc,
Every year from 1995 till 2012, my husband made a new year’s resolution to ride more. Yet his routine was as unchanging as the tides. He had two slices of toast, a cup of tea, rode to work, rode home, and did the three-hour ‘sporting’ Sunday run with his club. This was unaltered, despite the resolutions, for 14 years.

To my surprise, last year he resolved to ride less. He said he felt he was getting older and he ought to cut back a bit. But he then stuck to exactly – and I mean exactly – the same routine as he had for the previous 17 years. What’s going on? Yours, Perplexed of Wolverhampton, email

Dear Perplexed, I think it’s a mid-life crisis. A small and frankly rather boring one. I’d be grateful if I were you. Some middle-aged male cyclists go off the rails totally and start using electronic gears and 11-speed cassettes to try and attract younger women by bragging about their high-speed, close-ratio 80 inches.

How to… run

Running has an appealing simplicity. You just buy a pair of shoes and get on with it. Then, after a few weeks, you buy another pair to see if you can somehow stop your knees from hurting. You keep doing this for two or three years till you find a pair you like. Then the manufacturer discontinues this shoe, allowing you the pleasure of repeating the process.

Another problem is that running is slow. Unbelievably slow. If you switch from cycling, you find that the period of time you usually spend getting to work, or the shops, or the top of the nearest col, will allow you to cover so little ground you’ll still be able to see your front door.

A further problem with running is that it gives you delayed onset muscle soreness of an intensity no cyclist has ever experienced. You won’t realise how much you took your arse for granted until your buttocks hurt so much you can’t walk, bend over, sit down or even sneeze.

In short, any run is a perfectly good bike ride spoiled. The only upside is that it will make you appreciate cycling all the more. Some riders with very short memories have actually incorporated running (and even swimming – which is even slower) into their regular training just to remind themselves how good cycling is.

This article was first published in the January 2 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!