Normally I’d have cycled about 20 miles by now on a Saturday morning. Daylight hours are receding so I may wait until 7am rather than heading out at 6:30, but I haven’t missed an early Saturday morning ride since the first weekend in June, when I was getting ready to fly to Spain. Weekend mornings, before everyone else is awake, are my favourite times to cycle, whether it’s taking the familiar coast route down to Dawlish to see my parents for breakfast on a Saturday, or heading east to Clyst St. George and Woodbury, ascending up over the Common, north to Ottery, and back through Talaton, Aunk, and Broadclyst, a 30-mile loop that takes just a smidgeon under two hours on a Sunday.
But today I haven’t cycled. It’s grey; the air is semi-sodden with faint drizzle but still. It’s the type of morning that makes you want to not get out of bed. Except that I’ve been waiting for a day like this, for faint moisture, for coolness. I’ve got a new cycling jacket, an expensive, wind-resistant Rapha thing, that I haven’t cycled with in anger yet because it’s been too warm, too temperate, on the days I’ve been out on the bike since it arrived. Not that I’ve been out many days. Not at all since last Saturday morning, when I did the usual roll to Dawlish, except with some added hills, as the start of serious preparation for the Exmoor Beast, 100km across Exmoor at the end of October with thousands of feet of climbing.
I haven’t cycled since then because that ride caused the pain in my shoulder, initially sparked by building the shed some three weeks ago, to return, only this time it hasn’t gone away. It’s eased at various points, under assault of ibuprofen both taken internally and rubbed into the shoulder as a gel. The pain has varied between something harsh and something dull, has limited movement, has eased, has been a mild ache, has seemed to move around to different muscles, has been a clicking in my shoulder with some movements I’ve made, has seen me put weight back on in only a few days after having lost the best part of a stone in the last three months, has made me miserable and frustrated, each easement of pain a tantalizing hint that I might be able to get on the bike again and climb over Woodbury Common, drop down that two-mile descent at 35 miles an hour into Ottery, set off one of those 30mph speed traps that displays your speed in an effort to shame you in front of other motorists, turn off down a random lane I’ve never gone down before simply because it looks tempting and I want to see where it goes. But then the pain returns, slowly, unpleasantly, the joint feels week, heavy, hollow, and the black pall of dread that comes whenever your body fails you again, a twisted knee, a herniated abdomen, an infected wisdom tooth, a badly sprained ankle, a strained muscle in the groin, wells up over your shoulders and permeates from the back of your mind to the front. What if I can never cycle again? What if I can never play football again?
I’ve booked a physio appointment for later this morning. I need to get this sorted.