The semi-religious, semi-martial mythologies of the convicts of the road shaped how the narratives around bike racing were formed, even today with our more cynical and media-savvy populace. "Calvary", "Enfer du nord", "Fight for Pink"- these motifs are still drawn upon as journalists and authors try to give the general public at least some semblance of an insight into the men and women who make their living hauling 6.8kg of carbon fibre up mountain passes or across unforgiving cobbles.
And so- this is quite a tenuous link to what I really want to write about tonight. Yes there is some heroism in suffering, particularly when it would be easier and more tempting just to step off the bike- both literally and figuratively. And there is always room for heroism and dealing with pain alone- however we have to remember that there are limits. Limits where even the most ardent, most competitive cyclist knows that they have reached and maybe it is time to turn around and ask the directeur sportif to let them into the car. Even the best don't go beyond their limits without the support and safety net of a team. And this is not just about physical pain and exhaustion- any sportsperson will tell you the mental aspect is as important, if not more so, and needs careful monitoring and conditioning, just as muscles and the cardiovascular system do. If you read anything about Team Sky and British Cycling success stories, every rider and staff member will mention the role of Steve Peters and how he was as important as the aerodynamists or interpreters of training data.
And this Sunday I will be going through the physical suffering to try and help alleviate those whose pain isn't so visible. I will be doing Lap the Lough to raise funds for Craigavon branch of Samaritans. Yep I know it is only 95 miles (I will be adding a few extra on to make the ton) and many people will see this as no more than a normal Sunday run, but I have to admit that work and other commitments (including those linked to being a Samaritan volunteer) mean that I am already trying to work out my pacing strategy (not helped by the changed route- thanks folks!!). My training has been derailed for one reason and another so it will be a long day in the saddle- a few events that I normally use over the summer to get the legs working were cancelled or postponed this year so I am short in miles - and I only wish this was me getting my excuses in early! But I have a few motivating factors- as well as my Qhubeka bracelets reminding me that there are kids much worse off than any temporary pain I will be in on the day, I will be helping ensure that other people will also benefit.
No matter what time of day or night, or what time of year there will be Samaritan volunteers listening to callers or replying to e-mails or texts sent by people who want to be listened to. In some cases they are ready to step off the bike, but in many other cases they simply want to be heard. My Lap the Lough adventure will go a small way to make sure Craigavon branch is able to offer that opportunity to be heard- to be the team car handing out energy gels and bidons to ensure the person can make it that bit further, and hopefully closer to safety so that when they do climb of the bike it is into the safety of a team bus, and not an abandonment with no one around (okay I may just be stretching this analogy a wee bit far here...!).
I'm not a natural fundraiser- I really hate asking people for money particularly in these tight times, but if you would like to ease my physical pain and the mental pain of many, many others my fundraising page is here. And if you can't give that is fine- you can do your bit by simply spreading the word that Samaritans exist, they can be contacted on 116 123 (free call) or e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org .
(Please note that if you do want to contact Samaritans use those details rather than just through this blog.)