A lot has been happening this month and things are starting to gain a little momentum, which is a really nice feeling.
First major new development was that I failed my exams miserably. Actually, that’s not true. I passed 3 with very good marks, and crashed and burned the other 3. In France they work off your ‘average’ mark, so although I performed well in some areas (80% in Droit Contentieux Int’l !) other marks really tied up, abused and humiliated my average (I’m looking at you, Droit International Privé… 0%. Yes. That’s not a typo. I received 0 marks).
This may lead some of you to question my intellectual ability or ‘academic props’ as all the cool kids say, but apparently this is normal for the course and indeed French Universities. 80% of the class failed as I did, and of those I actually had one of the stronger averages. Which leads me to question the effectiveness of the teaching, really, but that’s another vitriolic rant for another day.
So, the situation. 60% is the pass mark average required. I currently have 52%, so need to get 68% in my April/May exams to bring my overall average over 60. If that happens, all happy, leave France with both degrees. If I don’t hit 68% this semester, then I stay a bit longer here and do retakes in June for all the exams. Marks, unlike in UK, are not capped for retakes. It’s essentially another complete bite at the apple, and could improve both of my sets of exams and lead to me passing. Apparently this is also the ‘french way’. Almost everyone (I’m looking at the 80% who failed first semester) does retakes of some kind. Bizarre, but that’s apparently how it works here.
So, failing. Has had an incredible effect on both my work ethic and general happiness. Because at last I have accepted the fact that working hard in no way assures a good mark. Incredibly intelligent people on my course failed. Others appeared to pass. I got 0 for DIP, yet 60% for a subject where I did nothing more than basically write the titles for an essay. As far as we can see, there is absolutely no logic or coherence to the marking. If hard work doesnt guarantee good marks- why do it?
This is not to say I’m going to slack off and do nothing- I still have lots of work to do, and so forth. But I’m no longer willing to prostrate myself at the altar of academic obsession, working 8am until past midnight most days. I’ve got back to more reasonable levels of diligence, and we shall see what happens.
The flipside of this is that I am back training. You have absolutely no idea how good this makes me feel. The brittle achiness as I hobble to the bathroom each morning is a welcome and familiar ritual that I’ve sorely missed. The constant questioning of ‘have I eaten enough?’, ‘how do my legs feel walking up these stairs?’, ‘am I getting in 9hrs of sleep tonight?’ is really nice to have back.
It’s early days yet, but I can say my motivation is sky-high and because I’ve had essentially weeks away from proper training my recovery is good and progress is coming quickly. We shall see.
Coming at a good time, therefore, are my bike fits at Cyclefit next week. We’ve obviously done bike fits numerous times, but it’s good to do them fairly regularly to see if there are any changes happening to my body. My flexibility, for instance, is something I’ve been working on- and greater flexibility may mean we can manage a more aero position or aggressive bar drop. It’s also a fantastic chance to catch up with the guys, and Jonathan from Balance is coming over which always bodes well for the banter and extra opinion. So that’s all going well, then.
On a slightly less successful note is my ongoing search for race wheels for this season. I have a fantastic set of 50mm race wheels for crits and road races, but after a few years of heavy use my old PX Time Trial wheels are really beginning to show the strain. I’ve been speaking to one major wheel brand who were really keen to help out, but due to their supply issues they won’t be getting any wheels in until June- which is obviously a bit late for the British Uni Champs on April 21st. I’m speaking to two other brands at the min and seeing what can be done, but progress is (understandably) slow as decisions/questions are passed up/down the chain of command. So if anyone has any bright ideas, that would be great. I just need some fast TT wheels. Are you a bike brand? Do you know a bike brand? Would you like to sponsor/give/lend me a pair of TT wheels for this season? Please send any ideas to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
On a more positive note, I spoke yesterday with Q at Decca Belgium about the possibility of some skinsuits for TT and Track. I had skinsuits, but for teams I no longer ride for, which were sold on eBay in order to raise the vital funds required for me to move to France! Anyhow, Q was extremely professional and we decided the best thing to do would be to test me in their stock sizes and see what parts fit, what may need to be tailored, etc. I think probably a M will fit fine, except for the arms which will need tailoring down to XS. So Q sent a selection of XS, S, M, L skinsuits. By UPS overnight. And they’ll arrive later today. That is seriously impressive service- and if you’re in the market for custom cycling clothing you’d be advised to contact them! I really like these guys, so will be raising the possibility of whether they’d like to do some sort of sponsorship deal in future.
Speaking of sponsorship… my sponsors page is getting pretty hectic now! To everyone who has agreed to help me out over the last few years- it’s really appreciated. Thankyou Cyclefit, Balance, Jaguar Academy of Sport, Southern Cycle Coaching, Rapha, Guru, High 5, Fi’zi:k, University of Exeter, Condor Ferries, LookMumNoHands and finally RokkXpress, without whom this site wouldn’t exist.
All that remains now is 2 more days of studying before a week’s half-term holiday in Exeter and London. When I get back I have to polish off 2 presentations and an essay to hand in Saturday 3rd March. After that we’re on the home straight, essentially. Just lectures/workshops up until end of term on April 7. Exams 26th April – 19th May. Possible retakes 19-30 June. Summer. Sun. Bikes. Freedom. The next stage of the journey.
Thanks for reading.
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