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TRAT 2010 - None for the road


I’m contemplating laying off the booze until after The Race Against Time to help my training.

There, that doesn’t sound too complicated does it? All I have to do is decide one way or the other and go with whatever I decide. And yet it doesn’t feel quite that simple.


For the past three or four years (oh who am I kidding? It’s three – exactly three) I’ve had dry Januaries in a bid to get on top of a fondness for alcohol that is kept nicely in check throughout the year but which usually goes a bit haywire around the festive season. It’s nothing embarrassing or health-threatening, just throwing a little caution to the wind and allowing myself an extra glass here or a couple more pints there.

My birthday’s ten days before Christmas and it’s usually around then that I’ll abandon my usual pattern until the new year. Until then, I’ll almost always take two or three days off the booze each week, drink very moderately (a glass or two of wine) for another two or three days, and let my hair down a bit for the other two or three. Unless there’s some kind of special occasion – and they’re increasingly thin on the ground these days thanks to middle age, parenthood, blah blah – the wildest it gets is a couple of rum and cokes and half a bottle of wine in the evening, very occasionally on top of a lunchtime beer or two.

So I’m not exactly Ernest Hemingway even when I’m firing on all alcoholic cylinders and yet it feels like a tall order to lay off the booze until July – a disappointingly tall order.

I could fudge the issue and say I’m allowed to drink whenever I want but then choose not to for most of the time – perhaps allowing myself the odd glass of wine here and there but never the day before training for instance. But that would leave an irritating question in my head come the big day: could I have given myself a bit more of a fighting chance by laying off the booze altogether?

The other problem with the fudge solution is that it would require a decision every time I felt like a drink. I’d have to go through a miniature version of the thought process I’m describing here several times a week! Nightmare!

There’s something about the clarity of complete abstention that really appeals to me. It’s so simple – all I have to do is decide once and that’s it. There may be the odd pang and maybe even a wobble here and there, but the fundamentals couldn’t be clearer. That’s how I gave up smoking ten years ago – there’s no way I could have done it any other way.

The trouble is I do like my booze. There are few things finer than a Guinness or a pint of well-kept Harvey’s best bitter at the end of a long day, that rum and coke doesn’t half start off the weekend nicely, and a glass of wine really is the perfect accompaniment to an evening meal. I’ll miss them all…

But on the other hand I’m more likely to stick to it if it’s a straightforward booze holiday, it’ll do me more good, there won’t be that awful ‘what if?’ floating around in my head, I’ll even save some money – perhaps to spend on some of those items I need for the ride. And won’t it feel good to know I’ve been able to do it even though I didn’t want to? And that celebratory pint at the end might be the best one I’ve ever tasted – even if it is Scottish beer.

Dammit I think I’ve talked myself into it.


Lifelong lover of most things cycling-related, from Moulton Mini adventures in the 70s to London bike messengering in the 80s, commuting in the 90s, mountain biking in the noughties and road cycling throughout. Editor of Simpson Magazine ( 

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