I have the last stone to go. I have shifted about 20 pounds, and got down to about 15 stone, which is about a stone over a reasonably fit âfighting weightâ for me.
I have achieved this by sticking (mostly) to a low GI diet of good fresh protein and vegetables, and very long periods of rowing and treadmill jogging and some weight lifting at the gym. Pity about the love of fine red wine, but there we go. That is worth a stone, I know that.
Anyway, it was time to really âup the antiâ and start road running. This seemed me to have the advantages of being free, consuming a lot of calories and time and most importantly getting out into the open air. Gyms are OK, but fresh air is as important as lifting lots of weights, so I decided to aim for a 10 K target.
How hard could it be? I used to run like the wind!
Very hard, actually. Apart from the fact that over the past couple of weeks all training has stopped because of a nasty âman fluâ and a subsequent chest infection, it wasnât working anyway. I was finding it very difficult to run. In football terms, âfair play to the lads but my legs have gone, sonâ. If I was a race horse I would be on my way to the glue factory. It is not was question of lacking energy or commitment, but there was just no spring in my step and I am so slow that I couldnât see any progress.
What to do? I really wanted to get out in the evening and spend an hour of more, unrestricted by the early shutting time of my gym (8.00 pm) and in that vital fresh air!
I thought about cycling, but I just know what would happen round here. A lorry, thatâs what. Some great big wagon carrying steel girders would render me into jam, or some idiot boy racer high on weed would shunt me not too delicately into A and E, or an early appointment with the Grim Reaper.
But the Lord works in mysterious ways. A chance conversation reminded me that they make ârolling roadsâ for winter cycle training. After a quick bit of internet research via Amazon I found a universally praised and reasonably priced âturbo trainerâ (Â£65). It arrived promptly and looked a very sturdy bit of kit. You fix your bike to the steel bracket, the rear tire goes on the little rolling road, and Hey Presto! You are on the road to nowhere in your garden, garage, or in the front room. You can do the Tour de France whilst watching Eastenders, should you desire. I donât.
Next my search for a bike. I just wanted a normal one, nothing flashy. But there were complications. First it needed to be a reasonably large frame, because I am 6â2. Second, I didnât want to spend too much, so I wanted a second hand one really. Third, it had to have âquick releaseâ wheels to fit on the aforesaid turbo trainer thingy. That put the price of new bikes up quite a lot, as it seemed to me.
In the old days I would just have gone to a local second hand shop, like where I got my first racing bike when I was about 8. There seem to be less of these about now (is that because of E-Bay?) but we still have got one. I looked, but no there was no bike that fitted the third and vital requirement.
Amazon proved a no go. The new bikes that fitted my requirements were all terribly expensive for what basically was a mileage machine designed to sit in garden. E-Bay proved surprisingly difficult too. Once again most of the bikes seemed new and very expensive (Â£400 plus), and many second hand bikes had to be collected and were too far away. There was a surprisingly small gene pool to choose from and I lost out in couple of auctions. It seemed that me that my dream of finding a simple, practical robust bike for about Â£50 was not going to happen.
Eventually I found a bike. It looked a bit scruffy and quite expensive (Â£140) for its age, but hell I just wanted to get going and the seller promised prompt parcel delivery, so with my decisive head on (the one that does all the rash, unplanned things that always go wrong!) I took the plunge and offered the asking price.
True to the sellerâs word it arrived within the promised three days, all well packed.
There was good news and bad news though. The bad news was that the bike was a bit of an antique, so that there was a problem reassembling it. The pedals would no longer screw comfortably onto the crank arm. I was worried that it might end up costing me more to repair than to buy. However, a visit to the local bike shop has fixed that for a fiver, so thatâs not too bad so far.
But the good news is that it is a collectorâs piece, a âClaud Butlerâ bicycle. I had no idea what that was, but apparently it is a style icon of its period and very collectable, the E-Type Jag of its day. Serious bike collectors love them.
And it IS a stylish thing. My father, who is now quite old, came to look at it. When he was young âClaud Butlerâ was the ultimate statement of cycling design and chic. So as ever there is nothing ânormalâ in my life. Not for me an ordinary bike to do a job! No, I have to go and âdo a Lovejoyâ and buy a collectors piece by accident. Perhaps there will be intrigues, crime, comedic plots, exotic women and a happy ending to boot. Probably not though.
So I have now set it up on the rolling road machine. I shall peddle away to my heartâs content. Perhaps I will build in a run to my work out, doing a circular course around the park and back home.
Furiously peddling, going nowhere. Running round in circles.
It strikes me that this is the perfect metaphor for my life.
Gildas the Monk