One Day in Winter

Five o’ clock? Sod that for a game of soldiers.

Roll over.

Six. ’Sake. Back to sleep, come on now, you’re not impressing anyone.

Seven. Hnnh.

Eight. Fine. Fine.

I’m up.

Outside, thick banks of dull Mancunian cloud pack the skies. Beyond them, the sun has risen, presumably.

It would be too cold for Carol Cooke, which is one way of making yourself feel better. It would be way too cold for Carol Cooke, but it’s good enough for a Scot in a couple of layers of Lycra and a Team Storey top, and in any event John, her coach, isn’t going to let her off just because it’s a bit nippy.

Downstairs. Bowl. Spoon. Breakfast – porridge with seeds; and if there is one thing and one thing alone that you take from this whole long journey, let it be this: Olympians. Eat. Porridge.

9.30, maybe 10. Time to leave the house, into the garage to pick up Flash, Hannah’s trusty training trike, and then off and away. Today, we’re heading south, through the suburbs and past the prison at Styal, darting past the turn-off for Dingle Avenue without even stopping for a snigger.

Bit by bit, the houses trickle away. The roads become clearer, and everything’s a few degrees quieter, but the bewitching aromas of fork have given way to the pungent smells of field, and the potholes are tending from inconvenience to hazard. Overhead, planes roar through the mist on their way in to land at Manchester Airport, but there’s not much mental bandwidth left for that as the pedal strokes tick over, one, two, one, two. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

There are fleeting glances from passers-by. Some are curious, a few of them smile and wave, but it’s not the level of interaction that you’d get in Glasgow. This is Manchester, after all. They’re pretty used to cyclists.

Down to Nether Alderley, a loop round to the east, and then back much the way we came. A tick over 32km all together, a hair under a couple of hours, and then John’s grand training plan for the year says that that’ll do, even as Flash, his work nearly done, briefly feels his pedals skip a turn after some maniac on a two-wheeler pulls up right alongside and scrapes against his back right wheel. No harm done this time, though.

Home, and a protein shake that tastes a bit like Nesquik but quite a bit more not like Nesquik, followed by an M&S cookie that goes down somewhat easier.

And then nothing.

Nothing but sit.

Nothing, because sometimes, being an Olympian isn’t about pushing harder or going for longer. It’s about finding your just enough. The porridge that’s just right.

Lunch, some tomato soup and toast, followed by a drive down to Woodbank Park, the home of Stockport Harriers, and hauling her racerunner out of the trackside lock-up for half an hour or so of footfall. Which has the advantage of being different from her other training, but also keeps her in touch with a sport that is heading down the track towards full Paralympic status in the not too distant future, and in which Hannah remains, for the time being, a world record holder – at 100 metres, and at 200 metres, and at 400 and 800 and 1500.

Round and round the track, headphones pumping out something with a good strong beat, something that keeps the legs pounding and blocks everything else out, and then, via a quick trip into Manchester on an errand or two, home again, to rest and recover.

Dinner, pasta bake, lovely. A bit of studying, a snippet of a film, and before you know it it’s 10.30, and time for bed.

Another day.

Another day closer to Tokyo.

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