Pains, gains and a touch of madness.

For me it’s by far the most unpleasant aspect of training. In order get better it’s necessary to push yourself right to the limit, that means hurting yourself, knocking yourself down in order to force a super compensation so as to come back stronger. It always seems like a good idea at the time, sitting down in the comfort of my room with a blank training plan in front of me – 12 hours a week, 600 TSS? No problem. Anyone can sit down and plan workouts, the difficultly comes in following them. 5 Hours with 8,000 feet of climbing sounds easy when the idea is conceived on a sunny day, it’s another matter when you wake up early on the day and see its raining outside – your legs still sore from the interval session you did the day before.

Motivation is something that comes and goes, in my case anyway. The same goes for enthusiasm, I love riding – not necessarily training. There are few sports that require such a large commitment should you want to progress, some might be lucky and possessed of enough natural talent that they can get away with sub-par preparation. Sadly for most us (myself included) this isn’t the case, I’ve had to put in many hours and miles in order to succeed at a low level of racing. There is an upside to this though, an immense satisfaction that comes with doing well and knowing that it’s all down to hard work.

Following a Winter training programme which for various reasons failed to work as intended has meant I have an uphill battle on my hands to get ready for my last race as a pure cyclist, before fully committing to Triathlon with an Ironman as my goal. It might be getting towards Spring but many of my sessions have been indoors of late, simply because it’s easier to do a structured workout in the absence of outdoor distractions. Some of these interval workouts have been tough enough that they’ve left me needing to lie down for an hour afterwards. It’s been goodbye to ‘easy’ endurance rides – nowadays a long ride usually involves hill efforts on the way out and a hard tempo on the way back.

With this increased intensity of training, I’ve had to pay much more attention to my recovery. That’s meant early nights, spending more time in the kitchen preparing more nutritionally favourable meals and getting in recovery rides whenever time allows. In the wake of all of this, I’ve had to learn to manage my time more effectively so as not to make academic work suffer – something which hasn’t come naturally. This morning, waking up with the worst case of DOM’s I’ve had in a while lead to the ineligible question – is it worth it?

Yes. Absolutely. It might be my imagination, maybe even a placebo effect – but I can already feel this new regime working. For the first time in a while I don’t feel fat and slow, the roundness is disappearing from my face and it’s no longer a struggle to fit into summer kit. Strava PR’s have come thick and fast lately, not exactly the most scientific measure of improved performance but a serious moral booster nevertheless. My calves look toned again, ready for the day when it’s finally warm enough to go out in shorts. I’ve never recovered from hard workouts as quickly, a single good nights sleep is enough to recover from sessions that would have needed two days of rest this time last year.

Fortunately, today marks the beginning of a rest week. Following on, it’ll be three more weeks of hard training before the taper starts – my A race feels worryingly close. Of course there is no guarantee it will go well, I could easily crash in the first mile and get dropped before the real race has a chance to start. I’m taking on board what seems to be a consistent piece of advice, focusing on the aspects that I can control and pushing the others to one side. I can live with a bad race if it’s due to something that wasn’t my fault – failing oweing to being unfit on the start line is another matter.

Is this guy mad?” I can hear you thinking. I do see the point – it’s not like I’m trying to win the Tour de France or have any chance of getting to that level. I will admit that Cycling has become something bordering on obsession, with my life balance skewed a little too far in its direction. My reasoning behind it is simple. I don’t want to look back in twenty years time and think of all the what-ifs. Why not try and be the best that I can be? Even if if doesn’t bring much success I’ll always have the satisfaction of having given it my best shot – finding my limits.

Stay tuned.

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