It probably won’t surprise you to learn that, as is the case with most Cyclists / Triathletes January is really not my favourite time of year. It means getting back into training after taking some time off at Christmas, eating carefully to try and shed the few pounds I’ve inevitably put on over the festive period and spending many hours scrubbing mud off my bike. Oh, and it’s also exam time (i.e. a sleepless week fuelled by caffeine, adrenaline and pure fear).

Thankfully I’ve survived those two weeks of panic otherwise known as last-minute revision, this time round stress levels were particularly high due to a bout of illness over the holidays getting in the way of work as well as training plans. As for how the exams themselves went, let’s just say it could have been worse. Anyway, back to that Cycling thing.

In my last post I had a good old fashioned moan, culminating in a hesitant New Years resolution – have more fun. So far I’m still on track with that one, having taken things right back to basics. For the time being the Power Meter and Heart Rate Monitor have been put to one side. I’m riding for the sake of riding, reminding myself why I ended up hooked on the sport in the first place.

It’s been tough accepting that I’m starting back at lower level than where I left off. It’s meant teaching myself to be happy with the little things, for example calling a six-hour training week a success and not beating myself up for being un-able to do the ten to twelve that I can manage when approaching the peak of the season.

Mountain Biking has been a very big part of that effort, so far it’s proving highly enjoyable even though I’m still pretty terrible at it. I’m coming to the conclusion that at this time of year it’s both safer and more rewarding than road riding; potholes, patches of ice and mud slicks that would be nerve-wracking at best to negotiate on my roadie present very little challenge to the wide and knobbly tyres on my MTB. It’s surprisingly liberating to be riding a second hand bike with an alloy frame, no more living in fear of scratches.

Trail riding is nothing short of exhilarating. I’ll never look at roots, rocks and precariously placed tree stumps in quite the same way. At the moment it’s far more mentally demanding than what I’m used to, taking your eye off the trail for a second can very quickly result in a crash. I say this having had one such lapse in concentration yesterday, leading to a rather close encounter with a tree. Fortunately short of a few bruises, a damaged ego and what is probably a mild wrist sprain I got off very lightly.

Eventually I’m going to have a go at Cross Country Racing, though judging by my currently abysmal fitness level it’s going to be a while before it happens. Besides, in keeping with my revamped attitude to the sport I don’t feel quite ready to return to competition yet with the workload at Uni growing ever larger the last thing I need is something that will inevitably lead to me putting more pressure on myself.

On another note I’ve decided to return to the gym. Paying more attention to my core and upper body strength will certainly make things much easier when it comes to returning to Triathlon. Though project Ironman is currently on hold it’s still very much my long-term goal. If nothing else I would love the opportunity to finally get rid of those skinny Cyclist’s arms that have come along with years of riding. Knowing me this will result in a great many gym-related blunders being made, some of which I’m sure will make it into future posts.

Talking of Triathlon, though I haven’t yet made it back to the pool but I did at least remember to bring my running shoes back to Uni with me. After all the injuries I’ve sustained in the past, especially last year I’m taking it very easy. A couple of 5k’s per week is all I dare attempt for the next few weeks for fear of damaging my feet or ankles again. So far its been surprisingly effective, though my endurance doesn’t bear thinking about the speed is starting to come back – finally achieving a long held goal of going under the seven minute/mile pace. If all goes to plan I’ll enter my home Half-Marathon in March and attempt to better the time I set two years ago.

So, that’s everything in a nutshell. Trying to enjoy myself more, crashing into trees owing to lack of due care & attention, returning to the hostile alien environment that is the weight room and trying to avoid yet more pesky running injuries. So far 2018 has turned out pretty well, as of yet the bouts of illness that got in the way at the end of last year have not returned. To that end I’m cautiously optimistic that the corner has been turned and that things may finally be looking up.

Thanks for reading.

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