The Lost Weekend – Eyjafjallajoekull Strikes

Posted on April 19th, 2010 by Tim Bell in The Road to Tourmalet

I was looking forward to consolidating a good weekend of cycling training around London, free of knee pain, with another couple of runs on the weekend just gone. Having been in Munich for work, I was scheduled to fly back last Friday evening, but was instead faced with interminable delays and a blanket accommodation deficit. The best answer I heard from a geologist responding to journalistic demands for an end date to all the ash chaos was… “it’s a volcano”. Enough said.

Rather than sit around bemoaning my fate and getting frustrated to be missing a key weekend of training, I thought to myself “what would Steve McQueen do”. I find this question useful whenever I’m stuck behind enemy lines, or in solitary confinement. It was the latter this time, and I found some exercises that I could do even in my Lilliputian hotel room. Having decided that a slight leg strength discrepancy is at the heart of my recurring knee problems, I am trying to build up a bit of extra muscle in my left leg. I started out with some Bulgarian split squats, and continued with some step ups onto the chair. Realising that doing extra squats on the left was working my right calf more than the left, I set about balancing this new discrepancy with some calf bounces on the left. I’m not sure what the cleaners outside my door thought was going on, but it definitely sounded rhythmical.

Hopefully my night train from Munich to Cologne will arrive on time, then it’s a shortish transfer to Brussels and the Eurostar. I feel for some of my new friends met in various hotel lobbies, who are still trying to figure out how to get home. To the Coloradian trying to get home and feed his horses, good luck and God speed.

Bavaria under an ash cloud?

Bavaria under an ash cloud


Update 21/04/2010:

I managed to find my way home, via a stinky couchette to Cologne and a Thalys train to Brussels which had a signal failure with hundreds of metres to go; agonising for me and the 100-or-so passengers with Eurostar tickets, now about to miss our connection. My ticket itinerary suggested a 20 minute walk to reach the Eurostar check-in desk, which we are advised to reach at least 30 minutes in advance. So it didn’t look good when we were finally off the train with 3 minutes to go. Luckily I was on a coach right next to some steps down to the Eurostar, and with only hand luggage was able to take them two at a time, then to switch on the afterburners for a sprint to the desk. I was first to reach it by some distance (once a racer, always a racer…) and pleaded in my apology for French with four members of staff behind a closed check-in desk to hold the train for me and my fellow passengers, now pouring forward and getting hysterical. One phone call to the train and they yielded, promoting mass celebration and more than a little mania. Despite knowing I was effectively on the train, I didn’t stop rushing and sprinting until I was on board, partly to ensure the maximum time for those behind me, but mainly because of the adrenalin.

Final thought:

This whole episode puts the development cycles of civilisation into perspective. Human time and geological time have never seemed so distinct as when our species has been able to master mechanical flight and become its slave in between two bouts of volcanic indigestion.

Icelandic volcano eruption

Icelandic volcano eruption

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