Nowhere man

OK, I think it’s safe to say that it has not been a good week.  I didn’t know where to put this in here, or maybe whether or not to put it here at all.  But I’m going to.  It would be wrong not to.  Quite a lot of you will know this already, but that’s no reason for not saying it again.  My friend, and fellow Cyclosport rider/writer, Howie Johnson passed away on Tuesday 14th August.  The official Cyclosport announcment can be found here.  I’ve known him for years, since I used to meet him out and about riding for Cycling Plus, in his distinctive bumblebee kit – you really couldn’t miss him, nor fail to smile when you saw him.  We’d become pretty good friends over the years, at events, after events, riding together, writing together…  The last time I saw him in person was at the Mario Cipollini Gran Fondo.  I rode, he interviewed, we wrote.  It’s only thanks to his insistence that I have proof that I and the “great” man were there are the same time.  If I’d known it was going to be the last time…  But you never do, do you?  It was sad news, and I’m very sad.  Howie had a heart of gold and I’m going to miss him :(.

I wanted to ride with MaxiMe on Thursday.  Having not been able to ride on Wednesday I’d had to kick ar*e at the gym instead.  But on Thursday it rained.  Then it rained again.  Then it rained some more.  What with the cracking hangover that I had well and truly earned, in cathartic fashion, still hanging over my head, and not really feeling in the mood, the rain capped it all off nicely.  In fact I decided not to go to the gym either.  Some days you just have to…well…not.   Although those are few and far between, what with exercise being one of my chosen forms of medication.

I wanted to ride this morning.  But the wind was blowing, the rain was falling, and it looked like October out there.  From in here it looked miserable, and the thought of a couple of hours riding in that on my own was enough to make me (more) miserable.  My ride plan became a gym plan.  In the meantime I asked GB if he could ride tomorrow.  He couldn’t.  But…he suggested we meet up on his ride home this evening, and a new plan was born.  ‘Rah!  It’s a lot harder to bail on a plan when you’re not the only party involved, and that being the case, I knew I’d be riding this evening whatever the weather, and that I wouldn’t be doing it alone.

Which is why, around 5:45pm, I could be found slogging my way up Shipham Hill.  Yes, there are easier ways to Wrington.  But if I took one of those, I’d have known I’d wimped out on a day when I really didn’t need to, and that’s not allowed.  It wasn’t my fastest time up…it was my second fastest time which, considering that I could have tried harder, ain’t bad.  It proved that one layer was more than enough, that it was pretty warm out there, and that my legs were still working.  All warmed up and ready to go, I hurtled down to the Churchill crossroads, and then pootled my way through to Wrington at a slightly more leisurely pace, playing David Bailey as I went, to meet GB at 6:30pm, since I was, as ever, early.

I hung out on a corner in Wrington as arranged, doing a real bad impression of a teenager, awaiting GB’s arrival, and messing around with my camera.  Well, it was something to do.  I am blessed with an elegant sufficiency of kit at the moment, and deciding what to wear this evening was not easy.  I didn’t want to wear Cyclosport kit, not least because I’ll be wearing it on Sunday, but also because it cut a little too close to home.  I wanted to wear something cheerful, comfortable, yet also visible, what with it being evening and darker and rush hour and so on.  So this is what you got.

I’m particularly impressed by the fact the my gloves inadvertently matched my socks.  Such sartorial splendour.  GB arrived just I was finishing being a prat.  He was also early, which came as no surprise since we’re both good at building in contingency to our plans!  I’d forgotten he was doing it, but when he turned up I remembered…  In the reverse of the usual statement, since he already has the idea, he has recently gotten all the gear to go with it.  I’d call it shiny but nothing is shiny if you’re riding at the moment!

Time to stop admiring, and nattering, and get on the road.  With oddly amusing little whirring noises every time he made a big gear change *grin*.  The only way was up really, if we were ever to get home, and today that meant Burrington Combe which, and I know this may come as a surprise, I actually quite like.  Imagine my joy when the bottom of the Combe actually included goats?  Do you know how hard it is to take a photo of there that I haven’t already taken?  Fantastic! 🙂

And you’ll never guess what happened today.  Before I get carried away and make this sound like a far bigger deal than it actually is, I’d like to point out that GB has had a very tough week, lots of early starts, lots of work, and that he rode in this morning, and back out again to meet me.  But…*drum roll please*…  I beat him up Burrington Combe.  I did.  Honest!  In fact the man himself said I made it look effortless.  I’ll have you know it wasn’t!  *grin*.  Man that is so going in my little mental logbook of fabulous things people have said about me, for those dark days when none of them are true.  But to be honest it was just the way doing it my way went, and today my way was faster than his way.  As the rain started to pour, having failed to catch me, he took a break to put on the rain jacket that would ensure no more rain fell on us and to eat something, before meeting me at the top.

I got happily soaking wet in what I considered to be warm, while he wrapped up in what he considered to be cold – that’s just the way we roll :).  Which way to go next?  Hm….

We debated the merits of the various descents available for us before opting for Shipham Hill again – wider, quieter, and less bendy than the Gorge.  Oh, and it’s more fun too, even with the added degree of caution engendered by the inclement weather conditions.  Ooh get me, swallowed a dictionary! *grin*.  So here’s what we did.  And here’s Strava’s take.   Not a long ride.  A reasonably fast one considering the climbing.  But it was just what I needed.  To get some headspace, to see a friend, to reconnect with myself a bit.

Cycling time: 1:20:14 hrs
Distance: 20.29 miles
Avs: 15.2 mph.
ODO: 15231 miles

There were quite a few times today when my breath caught, when the tears threatened…but that’s one of the many things I love about the bike.  It takes you away and it gets you through.  Two-wheeled therapy.

RIP Howie.