Tuesday, July 10, 2012

From Fat lads to Flat lands

When I used to play rugby I loved the way that the structure of the game embraced different physiology's.
In most sports only one 'body type' usually prevails with the athletic ''Mesomorph'  being the most common of three the other being the endomorph and the  Ectomorph
As a child I definitely wanted to be a Mesomorph, and after an early growing spurt I came quite close at the age of 13.
Unfortunately vertical growth gave way to that of the Horizontal type and the closest I got was being a mesomorph/endomorph mix. That was twenty years ago.
 I am now definitely an 'Endo' and really just have to accept it.

In rugby the tubbier, squat Enomorphs with their strong necks, and powerful legs provide an invaluable linchpin in any scrums formation. They are usually shorter and often hidden behind their more Herculean 'Mesos', but the Rugby 'Endos' can be easily spotted by their vegetable shaped ears.
With a low centre of gravity and bullish obstinacy they are able to push and grunt all day long  in any  elements that God might deliver.

They are always valued and often emerge to be the most unlikely of hero's.

There was also some space for the slighter wirey Ectomorph.
For me they always looked like they could do with intravenous drip of liquidised cream cakes.
Their light nimbleness is their greatest attribute, being able to waltz out of trouble and then run like Forrest Gump.

When I started cycling it was the Ectomorphs who appeared to dominate and be the chosen form.
On any mixed terrain they are accomplished and in the hills they are peerless.
When trying to hold a position in a 'Ecto' Paceline I would often find myself  gasping for breath.
They on the other hand would be idly chatting away.
' B*****D's!!!!'

Sometimes their greatest asset is also their Achilles heel. They hate strong side winds, where they bend and twist like weeping willows, often struggling to hold their bikes on line.

At the end of June I took on the 112 mile Flat out in the Fens for the forth year in a row.

The course is totally exposed and on previous years we had been blessed with fine weather.
This years summer has been so poor with frequent autumn type gales.
One particular gale, decided to join us and whipped up the wind over the fens.

Being a classic 'Endo' with a low centre of gravity, and shorter frame size the conditions were fine by me.
I found an easy rhythm  using my comedy over sized thighs to push the 'Diner plates' on my chain ring.
The 'Ectostickss' were not happy being blown from dyke to dyke. Where they could they sought refuge behind my rear wheel.
At one time I counted over thirty.
I was forced into a smile........
I was as happy that day as I once was on the rugby field.
Pushing and grunting all day long, in the weather that god had provided.

Unfortunately the road is not always flat and in most events the terrain is totally unsympathetic to us Tubby 'Endos'.
In ten days time I do the Big G which is 100 miles of climbing and descending up and around the East Yorkshire Wolds and Howardian Hills.
When I finished it last year I crossed the line totally spent and cursing.
I swore that I would never complete it again.
Curiously I must have registered this year whilst intoxicated or through some peer pressure as my number has mysteriously arrived and now mocks me daily.
Alarmingly last year I was  fitter, lighter and of course one year younger.

In a ridiculous attempt at some sort of reverse psychology I devised a plan to overcome my fears.
I thought that if I complete a much harder prior to this event,  then the main event might seem easy on the day!!!
With the plan hatched out came the ordnance survey Maps as I scoured the sheets for the illusive 'double chevrons'  >> indicating the most brutal of climbs.
My 'hillometer' inclined towards the North Yorkshire Moors.

Curiously Her Majesties Stationary office must have had their office party when they printed this particular map as there appeared to be some sort of chevron spillage.......they were everywhere!!!!! >>>>>>>>>
This was the place.>>>>>>>>>>>>
......>>>>>>>>>>.........>>>>>>>>>>
Early on Saturday morning I was joined by two Mesomorphs and an Ectomorph to bear witness to my fool hardiness. 
We set off at 7am from Sledmere in the East Yorkshire Wolds. 
Jokingly I taunted my fellow riders with tales of roads so steep that only tractors could get up them, something I regretted later.

We energetically moved quickly onto the Vale of Pickering and on to Thornton le Dale where we started to climb.
During the first gradients, limited conversations were just possible as we moved up into the North Yorkshire Moors National Park.
From there we headed towards Lockton and Levisham when we were abruptly stopped in our tracks.
Our jaws dropped our mouths muted.
To me it was obvious....I must have misread the map and we had come to the edge of a cliff.

After checking again and again It dawned on me that this was actually the Mystic world of double chevrons, You know......The ones with roads so steep that only tractors could be used.
If ever there was a time that I wanted to resign my Endomorph status.....It was now.
I could hear every muscle in my legs screaming as I cajoled my Mule up each climb.

In the Yorkshire Wolds we are used to seeing the 16% gradient sign....even the very rare 20%

But here the baby Brutes were 20% with Mum and Dad 25% and 33% respectively.
If ever there was an argument to introduce three chevrons >>> it was here.
So on we went through Levisham and across the rail track which hosts the North Yorkshire Moors Steam railway. We then climbed through a pine forest up to Stape. By now the topography had changed to barren moorland punctuated with splashes of deep purple heather.
Once on top of the Moor we headed North towards Egton Bridge.  With all the rain that we had been experiencing I was concerned about a number of 'Fords' that we had to cross. The first we encountered presented no more than a photo opportunity with the water just lapping the edge of the road.

Later we came across Wheeldale Gill at the bottom of a small gully.
The picture below shows the location on a normal day.
This was no normal day. We came across it after a months rain fall had fallen in the previous 24 hrs.
The water was a frothy mass of brown liquid .....a bit like Guinness, although moving at a far greater rate than from a glass to my mouth.

Duncan a new addition to our Saturday adventures did not wait for a debate about how to overcome such an obstacle. Bravely he accelerated parting the waters like a modern day Moses. Like the many Lambs on the moortop we followed suit.
I know I am often prone to exaggeration but in this case there is no need.
As I rode through the deluge the water came half way up my calf and physically moved me sideways a few inches.
 From Egton Bridge we knocked off the 20%+ climbs like a walker bags a Munro moving across the Esk Valley to Grosmont and Sleights. From there it was up Blue Bank and onto the Hole of Horcum Via Goathland.
 By the time we had reached that stage any future ride was going to feel easy especially the next ten miles with a gradual decent to Pickering. Amazingly my legs decided that I could use them again and during that stretch we we close to 30mph for most of the passage.
The rest of the Journey back to Sledmere was pretty routine with some 16% climbs....Paaaaaaaah
I'm the first Endo in the 33% club.

It was a great ride, great company and great pain if there is such a thing

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