Operation Zorro

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

Happy New Year to you all.

We all know that January is traditionally the time to set targets for the year ahead. For my part, I have/am committed to making changes this year. Not because I think what I’m doing now isn’t worthwhile, or because I feel like I need to “improve” myself, but because I want to set a series of targets and I will be delighted when I hit them. It doesn’t  matter what those targets are; all that matters is that I’ve set them and that I’m going to hit them.

To give myself a better chance of reaching my goals, I’ve been reading a bit about change. Although I risk incurring the wrath of Appreciators who are sick of hearing about cycling, I gained a good insight into the subject from Dave Brailsford, Team Principal of the wildly successful Team Sky. He describes his thinking as the “Triangle Of Change” and he says three elements are required:

1. You must be suffering enough, or the reward must be great enough, for you to engage with change.

2. You must believe that you are capable of change.

3. You must be committed to change.

What I take from this theory is that we won’t change simply because we feel that we should i.e. that feeling obliged to change isn’t enough. If we want to change, it has to be for ourselves. That seems healthy and sensible to me.

Although all three points of the triangle apply to me, I’ve decided to add another layer of carrot/stick. By sending out this TF, I’m also going out on a limb and saying that I’m committing to making these changes. This means that, if I fail, I’ll have to face you as well as myself. The added advantage to going out on a limb is that there’s a chance others will come out there with me.  It’s always easier to attempt things with the help of others.

I have also decided to give this project a name: Operation Zorro. There are three reasons for this: it makes the whole thing “real” rather than just some jumbled ideas; Zorro has many qualities which I admire (the wiki page refers to him being a superb athlete, acrobat, tactician, horseman, swordsman, marksman, unarmed combatant, well-educated, wealthy, master of stealth with extensive scientific knowledge and advanced gadgets. No-one sees him coming); and, crucially, Zorro rocks a Tash:

Tash Friday 10:1:14

Just one last point. I heard a quote (I don’t know where it originally came from) just before Christmas and it’s been buzzing around my head ever since:

“A year from now you’ll wish you’d started today.”

I’ve started already but you can start today, if you want.

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

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Cash for a Tash

Morning Tash Appreciators,

 
 
Some of you may have caught snippets of the Giro d’Italia, which began in Naples last Saturday. It’s one of the three grand tours (a race which covers an entire country over three weeks) and is arguably tougher in terms of climbing than its more famous brother to the north of the Alps. 
 
 
Pictures sometimes speak a thousand words and so the difficulty of the race is perhaps best shown by a shot of the Tash-toting winner of the “flat”, 206km (128 mile) stage 5:
 
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That guy had just ridden for 4 hours and 37 minutes which, coincidentally, is about the same time that reasonably strong riders will take to do this Sunday’s Etape Caledonia. For the amateur rouleurs of Scotland, the Etape is a tough test: 130 km and approximately 3,300 vertical feet of climbing. 
 
 
As seems to have become a custom in recent years, a few Tash appreciators are taking the test on. One poor sod is even doing it for charity (thereby relieving himself of any way out of packing it in if it snows or there’s a gale force wind). In the spirit of charity, TF urges you to throw a couple of Pounds, Euros, Dollars, or whatever your native currency is, the way of his Just Giving page (all proceeds going to Marie Curie):
 
 
 
There have been statements on various social networking websites that TF tshirts would be given to all of those who donate. Alas, a restricted budget means that the tshirts can only be offered to those who make a donation of £100 (or the equivalent in euros, dollars etc) or more. 
 
 
The guy doing it for charity asked me the other day what he should be taking with him for the ride. He was particularly keen (perhaps a bit too keen, come to think of it) on knowing whether chamois butter (which one may use to prevent “saddle sores”) was worth using. I can answer that question here and, again, a picture is perhaps useful: 
 
 
When one is attempting a long bike ride, a few things are important: a bike, food, water, spare inner tube etc etc. However, one must always take whatever steps are required to avoid a sore… Graham Gooch:
 
 
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Have a great weekend folks – spare a thought for the poor lads and ladies attempting the Etape on Sunday (which starts at 6.30 am)!
 
 
Keep. Going.
 

Hell of the North

Morning Tash Appreciators,

I was out and about over the weekend and there seemed to be loads more runners and cyclists than usual. Maybe folk are trying to get in shape for the summer. Or maybe they just thought the weather was decent for the first time in months! Either way, many of them appeared to be suffering. 

Spring has long been the time when people get their act together and start becoming a bit more active. Whether it’s spring cleaning or getting some exercise in, it’s like the sun gives everyone a bit more energy. 

When folk first start getting out on the roads or down the gym, the first few sessions will be the worst. People will generally feel like they’re going to throw up or that their limbs have turned to jelly. 

Thankfully, it’s the same for everyone, even pro athletes. For example, the cycling season started a month or two ago but the first few races were in exotic locations with pristine roads and comfortable temperatures. They weren’t real races. Now though, the season has moved on to Belgium for the spring classics and the real races have begun. 

These most recent races have seen dozens of cyclists abandon due to lack of fitness but there have been some incredible performances. In last week’s Tour of Flanders (a one-day monster where the riders tackle the same 20% hill six times) Fabien “Spartacus” Cancellara rode away from the rest of the field after 150 miles with pure will-power and determination. Look at the expression on his face:

This weekend sees the biggest race of the spring: Paris-Roubaix, also known as Hell of the North. Team-mates will not help in this race – the cobbled roads (yes, for large sections of the race the riders will be going at 20+ mph over cobbles) mean its every man for himself. Strong men end up looking like this:

The point is, it’s all relative. These boys will cover 157 miles in a little over 6 hours. However, the pain they suffer is no different to that of you or I as we pound the pavements or brave the pot-holed roads. 

For example, Nike released an advert a couple of weeks ago about an overweight boy who decided to lose weight and took up running:

s there any difference between his pain and the pain of the guys doing Paris-Roubaix? Yes, the cyclists are being paid big bucks and have thousands of people cheering them on; it’s much harder to put the hours in on your own.

If you’re getting out and about this spring, TF salutes you. 

Have a great weekend folks!

Keep going!

Racing through the dark

Morning Tash Appreciators,

Now that we’ve all heard Lance Armstrong’s “confession” and the media frenzy has died down, I thought this might be an opportunity to tell you a tale of real redemption. Not the kind that follows crocodile tears and a prime-time tv interview; I mean the kind which follows spending time in the depths of despair but which ultimately leads to a raised fist and victory while doing something you love. This kind:

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That’s David Millar: a Scottish cyclist who insists on being described in the press as “David Millar, ex-doper”. Like everyone else 10 years ago, he took performance enhancing drugs to win bike races. And, like many others, he was caught. 

Unlike most, however, he offered no excuse for what he did. You will not hear him attempting to justify his use of drugs by saying that everyone was doing it and that he was just trying to level the playing field. 

Instead, even once he lost his lucrative contract, his newly built house, his friends and his livelihood, he gave a full confession which described what he did and why he did it. He then served his ban; helped start (and now partly owns) a successful cycling team that has a no-needles policy but which also allows former-dopers to race again; started campaigning vigorously against doping when no-one else was; and did everything he could to ensure that cycling, and sport generally, is drug-free.

Armstrong and Millar make for an interesting comparison. Both could have (and did) win clean but both bowed to pressure and cheated and were ultimately caught. That’s where the similarities end. Millar used his experience to better himself and the sport he cares about. He missed out on two years racing – and a lot of money – but since then he has made a lasting impact on cycling and sport in general. He’s now an athlete representative on the World Anti-Doping Agency committee and has done as much as anyone to help young athletes avoid making the same mistakes he did. Along the way, he’s even managed to win a stage of the Tour (which he did in 2012) and get back to the very top of the sport. Millar shows that sometimes the pain of defeat is sometimes worth it. He’s rebuilt his life on his own terms and seems to be a happier man because of it. I’m sure Armstrong can’t say the same. 
Millar’s victory in the Tour was his last step to redemption. The state he was in after it shows just how much of an effort it was:

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I’ve already mentioned Millar’s team. Its name has changed over the years but Garmin has always been part of it. It’s also always got some kind of Argyle pattern on the jersey. Over the years, some of the team have sported a Tash. One such Tash was worn by Dave Zabriskie: another former-doper who is currently serving a 6-month ban after blowing the whistle on Armstrong. He’ll be back racing in March and I can only hope his Tash also makes a return:

 

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Quality, right?
Have a good weekend folks!
Keep going!