Ain’t found a way to kill me yet.
-Alice in Chains, ‘Rooster’
Medal: Yes. Feat. the Dorking Cockerel!
Following my LeJoG disaster, I was keen to reestablish myself as a competent rider of bikes, and even more keen to conquer the event Roz had encouraged me to sign up to in the waning days of blindness, and the waxing days of getting-the-fuck-on-with-it. Once the medal design had been shared on facebook, and Roz drew my attention to the chicken on it, no sprained wrist or split helmet was going to prevent me from facing my spiritual nemesis. I was gonna own that chicken. Physically. Metaphorically. Completely.
Taunted by the ghost of crashes past, and rarely one to believe in ‘signs’, I temporarily became a believer. This ride was my Magnum Opus. I could feel it. Once I crossed that finish, I’d be drawing a line over the past 8 months and getting on a flight towards the rest of my summer adventures, lighting a match destined to blow my life onto a whole new (weather beaten) path.
Breaking up the journey south with a stop at Roz’s brother’s, we breakfasted with chicken adorned glasses before setting off for registration. Back at our city apartment, we decided to remedy the start wave situation (I was due to start about 45 minutes later than Roz) by plastering her luggage sticker over my race number, and neglecting to put any other identifying paraphernalia on my bike. We’re stealthy bitches like that.
The plan provided us both with a seamless entry into the black wave pen the following morning, and we managed to pass the time before we were released by trying not to freeze to death, and eye-rolling at boastful conversations occurring in the vicinity. The guy with the microphone was asking someone at the front of each start wave to suggest a song to set off to, and some asshole in our wave picked PJ and Duncan’s ‘Let’s Get Ready to Rumble’, a grievous aural assault considering he had a choice of basically any song in recent history. Things could only improve.
And they did! We stuck in behind snakes of lycra-clad men and kept up a very respectable average speed with relatively little effort on our part. In fact, I was so busy going fast that I failed to notice cycling by famous landmarks and my old place of residence. Yes, I missed my own home, but I paid extra close attention to anyone’s wheel in front of me, because as much as I trust my own ability to ride a bike, I don’t trust an amorphous clot of cyclists varying in experience in the winding veins of London.
In typical Roz/Rachel riding fashion, I found the first 60 miles or so a bit of a slog, and let Roz do a lot of the work, but when she started to tire my legs decided they were sufficiently warmed up. We hit a couple of ‘hills’ (laughable when you consider Scottish terrain) and took in a couple of the water stops. At one point we became separated, but a quick location stalk on our phones solved that problem pretty quickly. And then we were into the final, fast, downhill 20 miles where I always seem to find a turbo boost.
Just over 6 hours after we set off, we were finished. And I hadn’t crashed! Until approximately 7 minutes into our gentle cycle back to the apartment when I was momentarily distracted and ended up going over my handlebars into London traffic, staving my left pinky and adding to my collection of bruises, cuts, and grazes…
I refuse to believe it was the hefty weight of the chicken medal that pulled me to the ground, because if I know anything, it is that the chicken has no power over me anymore. 2017 may be the Chinese year of the Rooster, but that curse has been lifted, and I am free. Good riddance, motherclucker.