Goodbye biscuits. Crunch time approaches.

In two weeks time the hardest block of training in the run-up to my A-priority race will be over. In many ways its a relief – I’ll have a bit more time to concentrate on academic work and won’t miss those agonising turbo session. However, with it comes a touch of apprehension. Power data only tells you so much, I won’t really know whether my training has worked until it comes to a competitive outing.

As it stands, the first is set to be a local TT. 17 Miles, a hilly course – one that ¬†should be suited to me well, in theory at least. I’ve always suffered from nerves before the first event of the season, that initial test of your legs against those of others. Training is a big investment in terms of both time and money, it’s crushing if it turns out not to have worked as well as you’d hoped. ¬†Scarier still, it’s strange to think that April will mark the end of my time as a pure cyclist, at least in terms of the 18 months following on from that.

On paper it looks good, my power output has steadily been increasing over the last month or so. Strava trophies have started to become a regular thing again and my recovery from high intensity sessions has come on in leaps and bounds. The final hurdle is that which I always dread, optimising my power to weight ratio. I’m strong, well relatively speaking anyway – now is the time to get lean. It’s back to the dreaded calorie counting, watching my macronutrient ratios and trying (though not always succeeding) to resist that extra slice of toast.

I train at what I’d consider to be my natural weight, around 65kg. That’s at around 15% body fat though it was measured by a less than perfect method. In terms of everyday health that’s fine, good in fact – you’d never call me overweight. Sadly in order to perform optimally on the bike I’ll need to be a couple of kg’s lighter. It’s not worth trying to sustain that weight all year round, my willpower is simply not sufficient. I’ve found the most effective strategy to be a high protein intake, coupled with a relatively low amount of carbohydrate and next to nothing in the way of refined sugar. Sounds fun right? I wish.

Bad as it sounds, one of the things I’m most looking forward to about triathlon training is the licence to eat a bit more. I’ll have to focus on building muscle, especially in the upper body for purposes of the swim. I know from experience that running does a marvellous job of keeping the weight off, to the point where I’ve lost weight unintentionally whilst doing a lot of it (unheard of for me). A man cannot live on kale and quinoa alone, especially not when training for an Ironman.

There are other advantages as well. Running is far more beneficial than Cycling in terms of bone mineral density. Swimming as said before, should see the end of those skinny arms and scrawny shoulders. Perhaps best of all, the winter will be a far less painful experience oweing to less of it being spent doing those monotonous miles in the freezing cold. In the first few months my training in those two sports won’t need to be highly structured, I’ll have the luxury of just being able to enjoy them and seeing large improvements in a relatively short space of time. Not that it will last of course.

With it though, comes a sense of sadness. I’ll almost certainly lose some prowess on the bike, at least initially – until I can tolerate a higher training volume. I certainly won’t be as light, it’s going to be hard when my KOM’s begin to fall (not there are many of them in the first place) and I won’t be-able to defend them. It’s worth it mind, any negatives are vastly outweighed by the thought of being able to introduce myself as an Ironman triathlete. And of course, at this age there is no reason why I couldn’t go back to pure Cycling after 2018. I’m still not at my physical peak yet, plenty more improvement to come in whatever sport I end up choosing. Well, that’s what I tell myself anyway.

Thoughts turn back to that race now. I picked it as the event with which to end this stage of my Cycling career for several reasons. It’s run by my local club, having been on many a Sunday outing with them over the years it would be nice to give something back. I can’t predict my placing but it would be good to think I could at least finish in the points. With six months of training but around the event, it certainly wouldn’t be much fun to end up getting dropped on the first lap.

With that I’ll leave it. Apologies for the dreadful title – couldn’t quite resist. Stay tuned.

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