L’Étape, Oh Crap! – Part 3: Tiny hats and hairy legs

Here's the latest installment of Gareth's Étape du Tour crazy Alpine cycling adventure.

This is why I'm not a proper blogger! So much for monthly updates. It's good to be back!

Training for the Etape is most definitely underway. I'm following a training programme designed to take me from reasonable cyclist to Etape completist(!) in 17 weeks. It takes a bit of time (four sessions and about 120 odd miles per week) but I'm slowly starting to feel a bit fitter.

It was also a good excuse to get a new gadget, a Garmin Edge 500 bike computer, as the training program is based on heart rate zones rather than my old method of barrelling around until I coughed up a lung. I was a bit skeptical about the heart rate training at first but keeping the pace in check to boost endurance levels seems to be working.

Training in Scotland in spring is always interesting. Rain, wind, more rain, a bit more wind, hailstones, snow, the occasional bit of sun but with bonus wind! The weather means you need a bit more kit than your average Euro cyclist.

The best bit of kit I own is the "wee hat" designed to be worn under the cycling helmet to stop you getting ice cream head at speeds of over 5mph. This was a present from our friends Jillian and Greg in San Francisco and was made by Jillian's friend Sheila Moon. In a nice bit of Scottish health and fitness irony I saw Sheila's company mentioned in a cycling magazine I was reading whilst awaiting the preparation of a fish supper at our local fried foods emporium. Looks like she's still doing well and she can rest assured I offer her silent thanks when I have hailstones bouncing off my skull when out training. 


I don't have a picture of the actual Tiny Hat, but this is a good approximation!

If the weather gets too grim it's time for the spinning bike. This can be a bit boring but to liven things up a bit I like The Sufferfest – series of downloadable training videos. They offer gentle encouragement and a bit of hand holding for the wannabe road cyclist, for example:

Seriously though, Sufferfest is good for keeping your fitness when you can't get out on the real bike and they embrace the road cycling suffering thing with good humour. Recommended!

Another cultural thing with roadies (and plenty of internet debates as to the pros and cons) is for male cyclists to shave their legs. It's meant to make it easier to get a massage post race and make things less messy if you fall off but it seems like a big leap for a peely wally Scotsman. I always have this picture in my mind of shaven legged tanned and skinny European cyclists riding up mountain roads before stopping at an alpine cafe for a wholesome lunch. 


Andy Schleck pondering what's for lunch

In contrast my hairy legs have been taking me over the many hills of Fife in Atlantic headwinds and driving rain whilst looking forward to sampling the wares of Dunfermline's finest Stephens the Bakers and a cup of tea.

Still, it toughens you up and I'm hoping for unseasonably cold and rainy weather in southern France during mid July. No way I'm shaving the legs though, I need the extra insulation for next year's winter training!


Dudes, I was clearing out my old Draft blog posts today and i accidentally republished instead of deleted an extremely angsty very ancient 2008 post that I’d taken down at the time! All is well here – sorry for the alarm!!!

The trouble with blogging…

… or rather, the trouble with my inept slow-arse brand of blogging, is that I spend days and days dithering over an angsty post and by the time I get my words together, I'm in a completely different (non-angsty) frame of mind. So I don't want to publish it because then that slab of derangement will sit at the top of the blog until I get around to writing another one!

I was feeling truly crazy at the start of this week, but I got out of my head by getting into the garden then on the spinning bike. I hacked at the earth with a fork (very theraputic), planted some beetroot seeds, then sweated away to the finale of Biggest Loser Season 11.

Hannah-and-oliviaWatching old episodes of Biggest Loser is my favourite guilty pleasure. I love the pointlessness of getting enraged about and/or enamoured with things that happened on television many years ago.

Hannah and Olivia have now usurped Tara Costa as my favourite contestants ever. They're sisters, they banter wittily and they're the same age gap as me and my sister Rhi… so I just fell for them bigtime.

When I'm on the bike I love to daydream about being a contestant. It would be vintage Loser with Bob and Jillian. If slimming Black was unavailable, I'd be on Team Purple coz it's probably the best of those lousy colours with my ginger tones. I'd totally do as I was told and I'd never fake-puke into a bucket. I'd flog the Jennie O turkey with a knowing twinkle in my eye. I'd be charming and jovial and inspirational. Except for about one week per month when I'd be a loathsome, whiny twit.

See that's the problem with The Biggest Loser. Unlike blogging, you can't just go AWOL during Crazy Week. Your hormonal rantings are captured by the camera and presented to America! I think I better stick to the blogging.

Image credit: ViralFashion