Mornings are cold, dark places. First, I am awoken at 5.30 by unpalatable music. Queen today. Queen are the perfect example of a terrible band. Basically they do glam rock / novelty songs, and make their mega-bucks from royalties paid by the owners of sports stadiums, to whom they licence tub-thumping jingles of arch-moronity. Freddy Mercury’s death from AIDS was by far the most interesting and progressive thing they ever did.
After having this quite furious and unironic thought, I queue for the loo. Then I eat a breakfast of vegetarian sausages, fried eggs, croissants, and lots of coffee. Shit Coffee. Nescafe Brown Stuff. Not even Gold Blend! Hot, dark, caffeinated water. Then I go and fiddle with my bike – I oil the chain, pump up the tyres, and load it with bidons of energy juice. Then I go back to my tent and supplement my breakfast with a multivitamin, two caffeine pills, a glucose tablet, two paracetamol and two ibuprofen, and I wash this down with an energy gel.
Then I pack my bag up with all my clothes, my sleeping bag, my blow up mattress, my midge-magnet head-torch, my notepad and my PEDs, struggle it all over to the guy from DHL, and then I cycle a hundred miles and change.
By the time I’m out and riding it is 8AM. Most days I am the last person to leave. If I am ready before 8, I’ll generally just have a sit down until the camp has emptied. This means there are plenty of people ahead to overtake, which will provide scant motivation, at the various points in the day where I am forced to ask myself why I decided to do this. This scant motivation, pride, and a lack of any feasible alternative have thus far proved enough to keep the pedals spinning round.
My average speed today was 29kp/h – by far the fastest day yet. Explained mainly by a lack of hills. There was a decent one near the start, a cat 4, but by the time I got there it was all traffic and exploded cyclists. I can’t recall seeing anyone pushing, probably the first day that’s happened, so maybe all the pushers have found themselves lacking in motivation and pride, but abundant in feasible alternatives, and have duly taken one.
I spent most of the day riding with a nice chap with a faintly plummy voice who was born in Glasgow via the accident of having an oft-moving naval father. We shuffled between a number of larger groups, which meant a lot of wheel sucking and fast rolling. Tomorrow looks similar, with the exception of Shap Fell, which comes quite near the end of the day, and rises to 400 metres. This is an ideal point to mount an attack, I feel.
One thing about riding in a group all day is that it robs my of time to spend just thinking. Normally I spent many, often painful and repetitive, hours in my head. Today I almost exclusively thought about how close my wheel was to the rider’s in front.
Due to the quick speed, I got in at around 2.30, and I write this at 4. I am hungry and sleepy, and dinner is not until 6!
I phone my girlfriend, and learn that she got drunk with her mentor last night. She rarely gets drunk with anyone else. I approve deeply of her mentor’s enabling personality. I am also indebted to her for baking cakes for my work fundraiser. I note I still have her tupperware. It seems to me that she is the perfect mentor.
Finally six o’clock happens and I go and eat dinner. The catering has generally been excellent, but tonight we have different caterers, and I struggle to cope with the change. First, there was no nice salad to start. There was a stramash of sad leaves, but I decided to skip them. There was also a pasta salad (not really a salad). The main was a bean curry with rice. The curry was weak, and the rice as bland as you would expect, but the main problem with each was its scarcity. I am sincerely hungry after all.
Not to worry, I thought, I will make up the calorie deficit over dessert! In fact, I looked forward to doing so. I eagerly crept to the buffet, hungry plate in trembling hand, to find but two options. Two! For context, last night there was so many cakes I literally could not count them. Or did not. I suppose I could have but I had no reason to. But today: two. Apple crumble or lemon tart.
Dear reader, I nearly, and perhaps actually, cried. I stormed out of the restaurant, fists clenched, eyes welling up. Lemon! How could they do this to me. I had to phone my girlfriend to have her calm me down. Who, in the history of ever, when asked what their favourite dessert was, said ‘lemon’? Lemon’s unpopularity is evidenced by the almost total lack of lemon flavoured confectionary available at your local newsagents. It will come as a surprise to nobody to know that Terry’s have never contemplated marketing a Chocolate Lemon. Fuck lemon! If I wanted lemon I’d just drink the bleach I clean my toilet with.
And apple crumble! You can’t make me eat fucking fruit!
So I had no idea what to do. I asked the bar if they had any crisps or nuts—No! I looked for a vending machine. There was none! We’re in a sports stadium! With no sweets??
I write this as I spoon sweet, bleachy tart into my damp, reddened face. In retrospect, I think the seven hours of daily exercise and the bad tent sleep may be having an effect on my temperament.