25th November, 2016
(I started this piece mid November, but didn't get round to posting it due to breaking my arm out in Spain - but that is another story!)
There I have said it out loud! A bit like alcoholics anonymous the first step to solving a problem is to admit you have one! I have lots!
Next year I am taking on Transalp (a 7 day mountain bike stage race across the Alps, as a mixed pair with my husband, with around 600km of off road riding and 20,000m of ascent).....for the 3rd time.
I completed it (woefully under prepared) in 2011 and to be honest despite coming home with a marriage proposal, it completely broke me. I hardly rode my bike during the following 6 months and swore never again. This year, having taken 5 years to get over it, I did it again and finished. It was still epically hard, but I certainly coped better with the challenge.
The goal this year was just to complete it, we have entered again for 2017, but this time I would like to go with the goal of top 25 (this time we were 34th, in 2011 55th).
Despite being a successful coach with some outstanding athletes performing at the top level I am useless at coaching myself and I didn't do enough specific training for Transalp this year. Our performance as a team depends almost entirely on my performance as Steve is so much stronger than I am and although I have all the knowledge, I fail miserably to apply any of it to myself and have a tendency to 'wing it' based on the fact my endurance is good enough to get me round most stuff! This year I have averaged about 300km per week so plenty of volume, but a lack of quality training!
I also did a huge number of events and mini adventures in 2016 (Tour of Flanders, Tour of Wessex, Coast to Coast, Penzance to London, Southern XC MTB series, Rampage MTB series, La Morzine Haut-Chablis, The Shipwrights Way, The South Downs Way, numerous sportives and timed MTB events) instead of doing quality training.
I have always entered lots of things for a variety of reasons and I have been giving this some thought. I think in the past I have entered things so I can say 'no' when people ask me to do things! This probably sounds silly, but when I was first self employed I said yes to everything and ended up working weekends, evenings, early mornings etc and found the only time I said no was if something was actually booked and I had an excuse, this then meant I got to ride my bike!
I also do it so Steve cant sabotage my 'training', if there is something booked and paid for we definitely ride our bikes, but otherwise he has a tendency to try to persuade me to do something else or to have a few drinks the night before or to stay in bed. Not that I blame him for my lack of willpower!
I also enter things with the mentality of 'getting the miles in', I know this is not the right approach, and would reprimand my clients for this behaviour! It has however meant I have ridden further, longer and in worse conditions when I might have otherwise cut a session short or not done anything at all. The XC races I entered to 'force' me to ride fast over technical stuff or in winter through the mud!
I have made the decision I would like to train properly for 2017 and give it my best shot and am reviewing how I work to ensure I have the time available to train. Time to practise what I preach!
Another confession, I am great at giving advice and analysing my clients’ food diaries, but then am easily tempted by chocolate, wine, nibbling the children’s leftovers and snacking. I don’t eat junk food or processed foods, but there is certainly room for improvement and realistically I think I could lose a good 5Kg by reducing body fat (I can’t blame having babies for this anymore as they will be 12 and 14 next year) which would make a big difference (especially uphill!).
I used to do off the bike strength work, but since stopping doing any PT with clients this has also gone by the wayside and I have done very little in the last 18 months so need to build this back in too. I certainly lack strength for lifting the bike over things, carrying or pushing the bike and this was noticeable this year. I also need to get back into a stretching routine as this year only did occasional yoga which is not enough.
I am a bit embarrassed about how poor and unfocused my training has been.
I feel I am capable of being up there with some of the faster amateur riders (perhaps not the pro teams - I could almost be their Gran!) and there were certainly times we were riding with pairs that finished higher than us in the end and I was often stronger than the females in other mixed pairs on technical stuff.
I suffered on the longer climbs (fire road and tarmac) and found men who I easily passed on shorter or technical climbs came past me. I also lost time on technical descents where Steve was significantly quicker when it got really steep. I am aware I back off when it gets muddy or rooty, but generally have greater confidence on rocks or gravel even if loose! You would think living in the UK I would be great in the mud!
So thinking about the goals for 2017, I would like:
To be faster (obviously!)
Finish Transalp and be proud of my performance
Feel more confident technically and not require Steve to wait for me
Be physically stronger in the sections where it is necessary to push or carry the bike
Not lose time on the easy (non technical) long climbs
Shed the excess body fat by cracking my nutrition off the bike
Feel and train like an athlete
Have a bit more self confidence, mentally I think I sabotage myself as lack self belief and don't think of myself as a sporty person (having found cycling age 30!)
Improve my flexibility and stretching
This year, on a positive note, I was delighted with how well I fuelled and hydrated throughout the event and refuelled and recovered properly each day. This was a massive improvement from 2011 and I am confident with my fuelling strategy. I was also pleased how organised we were on a daily basis in terms of logistics, eating, sleeping, resting, washing kit, mending bikes, prepping for the next day etc so all the background stuff is in place - just my performance to sort out!
I have recently been interviewed by Casquette magazine about winter training and said “The winter is the best time to think about your goals for the coming year, analyse your strengths and weaknesses and put together a training plan. Write the goals down, make them specific and stick them up somewhere you will see them to keep you motivated”
Part 2 - taking action (coming soon)