Bootcamp

What a week. It’s taken a long time to compile this post and get everything that happened in those seven days down on paper. The Strava stats speak for themselves, 13h52m and 202 miles. For some of you reading this that probably doesn’t sound like much but considering that a few weeks back I was struggling both physically and mentally to cope with a six hour week it’s a big victory.

Despite now being two years into a Sports Science degree I can’t explain what’s happened during this last fortnight. My recovery from workouts has dramatically improved to the point where 10+ hours per week now seems very manageable. I put it down to a combination of being at the right weight, sleeping better and being that bit older. All I do know is that it’s bloody awesome, finally I’ve got the capacity to put in the hard miles and hopefully take my performance up a level in the process.

Tuesday certainly provided the highlight. Having had a hard week beforehand I wasn’t expecting much when I decided to do a local TT at the last minute, if anything I was treating it as a training exercise to see how much work I had to do in order to get back up to where I was at this point last year. My course PB was a respectable 21:24. I’d been forced to TT with a distinctly non-aerodymanic saddlebag and succeeded in forgetting my heart rate monitor, leaving pacing to perceived exertion as the only option.

I can’t say that my legs felt especially good. I never have average speed or time displayed on my Garmin during a TT, it’s unhelpful to know in my opinion. I wasn’t surprised to see a time of 22:54 when I paused the device upon crossing the finish line. What I didn’t realise was that I’d turned off autpoause. I was gobsmacked to see 20:18 on the board written next to my name, a massive PB. Initially that put me 2nd, the best result for a long time. I’m not sure if a mistake was made with the original results or the ones posted online but according to the latter it may have in fact been my first ever win.

On Wednesday I took it easy, my usual commutes and riding to the gym and back were plenty after the efforts of the day before. The jury is still out in terms of the evidence on active recovery, some say it’s beneficial and others don’t. For me it works wonders, short easy rides do a much better job of rejuvenating the legs than a full rest day most of the time.

Thursday I set out easy, a 50 mile ride with a cafe stop in the middle was planned. That was before I saw the average speed creep up thanks to a tailwind and relatively flat roads. First 18 mph, then 19 and by the time I reached the halfway point it was 19.8. I couldn’t quite resist hammering it on the way home, mentally it proved to be a very good exercise – a matter of keeping the average from significantly dropping until I reached the fastest section of the ride about five miles from home. Once again the numbers were good ones, 20 mph for a half century isn’t something I’ve been able to manage solo before.

Friday was another easy one, just my seven mile round trip commute. That evening was spent nervously prepping for the following day which involved my first ever MTB Marathon. Having only been riding off-road for six months I wasn’t sure how my skill level was going to compare to everyone else – which is to say I was worried about the very serious possibility of falling off and at best humiliating and at worst injuring myself. ┬áIn fact I was so on-edge that I misread the timings on pre-event email and turned up an hour earlier than needed, missing out on some much needed sleep. Not even a double espresso was enough to fully reverse that level of drowsiness.

Truth be told the events of that day are probably deserving of a post in their own right. It started out very well, whilst this event was technically non-competitive it was inevitable that some unofficial racing took place especially considering it was a mass start. I was surprised to find myself in the lead group, competitive instincts took over and I decided to go for it. Unfortunately my bike had other ideas, the first chain-drop happened at mile two. I was optimistic initially, hoping it was a one-off I set off to chase down the group I’d initially been part of. I’ll admit I resorted riding my MTB in an aero tuck when a section of road came up (judge me for I deserve it). You can probably guess what happened the minute the other riders came into sight. My chain did it again.

I counted a total of 25 such incidents throughout the ride. I have now discovered it was due to having the wrong chainring fitted, luckily this has since been rectified. Suffice to say I gave up on a fast time and decided to take the shorter of two possible routes. There’s an element of adventure with Mountain Biking that you don’t quite get on the road. I had to tackle rocky descents, shoulder deep grass, prickly undergrowth, insects biting me and unexpectedly deep hidden patches of mud just to name a few. Couple that with the searing temperatures and the exertions of the previous few days and it made for a very hard ride. Twenty miles at under 10 mph doesn’t sound like much but let me tell you it was a killer.

I’m aware that this is probably going to be a controversial comment among the roadies reading this but trust me. If you want to get better on short climbs then there is no better training than ascending on an MTB, the heavy bike coupled with technical terrain and gradients that are often steeper than those you’ll find out on the road make it a very tough exercise. It’s a very, very long time since I’ve had to walk up a climb but a couple on Saturday forced me to do it, the sole consolation is that it was exactly the same for everyone else I saw who attempted them. A 20% incline two miles from the finish finally broke my legs, leading to an agonisingly slow final leg of the ride. I was pleasantly surprised however that I recorded the second fastest time of the day for the shorter loop.

The week ended with the following day’s ride, another that I won’t forget in a hurry. I drove down to Exeter to meet up with a Uni friend and head down to the coast. It was one of those rare days when everything was just perfect for Cycling; blue skies with a light breeze and quiet roads. Add in my favourite route which happens to lead to the best Cafe I know made it a real treat. I truly couldn’t have cared less about the numbers, this was not a day to worry about normalised power or strava PR’s. Instead we simply enjoyed riding our bikes and taking in the beautiful views that East Devon has to offer.

In short, I’m happy to report that after a rough few months everything has gotten back on track. Body and mind are both in a very good place and I’m hoping that’s going to lead to a few more good performances in the coming weeks, maybe even a win or two. It’s inevitable that this run of luck won’t last forever but for the moment I’m happy to sit back and enjoy the moment. Happy riding.

Thanks for reading.

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One thought on “Bootcamp

  1. Sounds like a great week of riding. I have to admit that I’m interested in MTB, but I’ve had a history of spine trouble and suspect that the jarring is bad for me.

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