KRMCC and Covid-19 — Part 1

This article presents the experiences and thoughts of the members of KRMCC who responded to my request, and with a great deal of honesty. I’m grateful. It might seem premature to be assessing experiences now, in early June, when the virus is still present, but so much has happened in the past three months that now feels appropriate. While reading the responses, certain themes have emerged: fear & frustration, but also opportunity. You wrote about relationships: to your bike, to the park, to Strava and Zwift, but also to loved ones, neighbours and to KRMCC.

First, a reminder of our introduction to this new virus. As we went into 2020, New Year celebrations were already muted, with the ongoing Brexit fallout, the U.S Presidential election and more climate crisis debate looming. But who could have foreseen what was to come? In my e-mails, the first mention of the virus is on March 4th, with my mother writing to express worry about my daughter, who lives in Tokyo: “I know how concerned you are about Brigid, as I am!!” The disease was ‘over there’, or so we thought. As Kevin wrote, “We all saw what was going on in the rest of the world but here in the UK we carried on regardless.” Covid-19 arrived in Europe and the news coming from Italy and Spain turned our thoughts to Kevin and Chris and the businesses they are establishing there, where we have enjoyed their hospitality. The first confirmed death in the UK was announced on March 5th, and by March 17th, London was the epicentre of the UK’s virus outbreak. The situation began to feel very real indeed. By May 5th, the toll of 29, 427 gave the UK the highest number of Covid-19 related deaths in Europe, and by June 5th, the government’s figure for the death toll surpasses 40, 261.

Fear & Frustration.

Can any of us say that we haven’t felt moments of fear during this pandemic? I certainly have. I had pneumonia in January and felt that I would be especially vulnerable if I caught the virus. Tony wrote of being over 50 and having an underlying health issue, which, at first, made him stick rigidly to the government guideline of one hour of exercise.

Tony has been working as an Uber driver during the pandemic, a job he put in place to go alongside his return to school. He has been driving doctors, nurses, care home owners and workers, funeral workers and, he wrote, “I reckon everyone in the essential work category.” He began to hear of deaths among the family of his friends and he felt “it’s creeping closer to me.” This worry caused him to double down his lockdown and shield himself when not at work, though he has recently returned to cycling.

Rob, too, has had to take precautions because of Type-1 diabetes, which he has lived with for 35 years, “I tend to take it all for granted and tend to almost forget that I am diabetic. That’s not to say I’ve not been more cautious being in the higher risk category, I have and so has Jane by giving up work at school earlier than most.”

Tony’s first long ride after the one-hour rule was lifted

Tony spoke of his experiences at work, which have put him right on the frontline: “I have been working throughout the crisis. I believe I have witnessed the crisis as I have criss-crossed the city of London. The variety of Londoners I have met and interacted with have shaped my views. The stories they have told, the pain they have lived through. The hope & sadness, the tears & the joys, I bear witness to the London Lockdown.”

Issues of frustration have tended to focus on weight control. The cycle commute was the central element of Joe’s exercise, so when he began to work from home, he wrote, “I lost my daily 2 hours of high-intensity cycling that was the bread and butter of my fitness regime, overall my fitness has fallen off somewhat, and my weight has gone up.” For Tony, because of class, studying and driving, “the problem I had going into lockdown was and is weight, aka un-useful fat.”  Nick B has been spending any spare time perfecting his baguette recipe (which uses the ‘Poolish’ formula), but he says, “The extra baking, without the usual miles in the legs, has resulted in me not fitting that new KRMCC jersey that I bought for this year. It’s my target by the end of the summer to wear it for a ride out.” Stefan even wrote a poem dedicated to the subject of weight:

  • Bikes getting dusty
  • Tyres going flat.
  • Legs now too skinny
  • And my belly’s far too fat.
Strava chart showing Ali's improving fitness
Chart showing Ali’s race training

For Ali, the frustration centred on his plans for cycle racing getting scuppered. As well as having bought a shiny new bike, he had begun training straight after Christmas and was fighting fit to take on CAT 4 races across Surrey and the South but due to the pandemic the race season was completely cancelled by British Cycling and the Surrey League. He says, “I was rather disheartened and unsure about what I was going to do”. Luckily, he was able to borrow Kevin’s Wahoo turbo trainer and got introduced to Zwift Racing. He explains, “It’s been great fun, and kept my motivation and mental health high, after a couple of weeks wondering why I had bothered to train so hard in the dark months of Jan, Feb, and March.” (More on Ali’s Zwift racing later.)

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