This year I have been promoted to elite and taken on a new challenge of endurance racing! Its similar to cross country with a mix of open trail and singletrack, but the distances start at around 24 miles which is a vast difference from the short sharp cross country racing I am used, where laps are around 3 – 5 miles long.
As this is going to be a big change for me I decided to hire a coach to help me plan my training and focus.
So far this is working really well. Mark Grange at Velo Coaching writes my weekly programme and we use Training Peaks to log and monitor my training. The system links directly into my Garmin making it simple and easy to use.
Like most people I work full time. I usually train 5 days a week, which is a lot of hours to get in! I also run my own coaching company on the side so sometimes trying to fit in time to spend with loved ones and training all seems a bit much.
To balance out this training load I have started training before work starting around 6.30/7.00. I am able to get a good hour or two of training in at a time when I would usually be tucked up in bed! Being an early bird this doesn’t affect me and as long as I’m in bed by 10.30 I haven’t found that the reduction in sleep has impacted on me.
Getting up early is about mental determination and also preparation the night before. I get all of my stuff out and ready. Clothes on the radiator, shoes at the door, lights on the bike, then its just a case of rolling out of bed and getting out of the door!
The other part of this is having a clear goal, especially when its dark and raining, going out with no really clear goal is tough. Therefore having a clear training plan and knowing exactly how long and what I have to achieve in that time makes it easier to get up and go.
There is a certain joy to training early. When I first roll out of my driveway its pitch black and the only noises are my breathing and my bikes wheels turning. If I am going through the countryside then ill often meet the odd runner or dog walker but apart from that everything is still. Slowly the birds start to come alive and the sky turns from inky blue to a lighter more brighter shade. It’s a peaceful and pretty time to ride, run or walk. So, if your struggling to keep to your New Year’s resolution to go to the gym or go to a class because of time, then try an early morning run or ride you might just find this is a good time for you too!
On Sunday I travelled to the final race of the year, Mud, Sweat and Gears at Langdon Hills in Essex.
This was my first ever national series race back in 2012 and since then I have done the course three times and it never gets easier!
The course starts with a climb through a field and then turns into the forest for a short rest bite before turning up hill once more. The course is mainly single track through woodland linked together by open cart track sections.
I did all my usual warming up and course ride and was ready to go. I hadn’t been feeling well and this really affected my race, I felt okay on my first two laps but on lap three a mechanical and feeling wiped out brought me grinding to a halt, almost!
I had to ease off due to feeling un well and this insider ably effected my lap times adding four minutes to my lap.
Having raced this course previously and enjoyed it I was frustrated not to be able to give it my all and see how fast I could race it.
Thank you to Martyn for coming and cheering me on, Velo Virtuoso for all your support, Bounce for keeping me fuelled and Lake for keeping my feet comfy this season.
On Saturday I travelled to my parents in Suffolk, ready to take part in round six of the Mud Sweat and Gears series. The alarm went off at 6.20 on Sunday morning and the pre race routine kicked in, oats for breakfast, packing the car, checking I had enough gels and electrolyte drinks, bike on the roof and off we went.
I hadn’t been feeling very well for a couple of days and wasn’t feeling very strong going into this race.
Arriving in time to practise the course, Thetford in Norfolk is a pretty flat part of the country and so the course was mainly flat single track through trees with a slight incline and decline in places. There was one bomb hole which had an ‘a’ and ‘b’ line, this was a simple straight in and out pit so no issue.
After practising I had a banana and cereal bar got my gels and lined up with the others. Today there was five of us in the elite/expert category. I lined up in the middle looking at the bend we had to get round out of the start thinking that would be the best place to start, this turned out to not be the case as the whistle went being in the middle and not the fastest off the line meant I got squeezed by other riders but kept my head down and pushed on. The first lap was short to help spread us out before we entered the singletrack for the second lap.
This first lap felt hard the start had been very quick and my legs felt heavy from not having a proper warm up. I came through the first lap at 17 mins way off the pace I hadn’t had a chance to drink because the ground although flat was rough and I was getting shaken about quite a bit.
Coming into my second lap I felt pretty weak my legs were heavy still and my stomach kept cramping, not a great start when there is four laps left. I kept pushing on riding my own race and trying to not panic about being far behind. To make things a bit more interesting my Garmin fell off my bike which meant I had to stop and pick it up loosing time and becoming a bit flustered about being off the front group.
Half way through lap two my Dad popped up at one of the cart tracks full of support which spurred me on. Going into my third lap he told me I was gaining on another girl ahead and kept talking to me at the gates on the way round, it was so encouraging to know I was gaining on her and getting faster, my legs had eased up and I had been able to drink and had a gel which gave me an energy burst I desperately needed!
I caught up the other rider and over took which again was a big boost, I kept pushing forward riding as fast and as faultlessly as I could. After a while I felt I had lost her enough to start enjoying the race a little more the single track sections through the trees where brilliant and although it felt like you were a rag doll being shaken about the down hill sections were fast as the trees seemed to fly by. Coming into the last lap I felt good and decided to put everything into gaining on the others. The last singletrack section on this lap my legs started to feel a bit tired but I pushed on determined to finish fast.
Crossing the finish line was a brilliant feeling I felt at home on my bike for the first time since getting it and everything flowed together (once I got over the first heavy legged feeling)
I came third in my category and fifth girl back out of 14 which I’m very happy with.
My next challenge is Ride London next weekend and then the last nationals of the year in Staffordshire.
My lap times were;
Lap 1: 17.07
Lap 2: 22.17
Lap 3: 22.45
Lap 4: 21.49
Lap 5: 21.46
Thank you as always to my sponsors and support. Especially to Velo Virtuoso and Geared Up Cycles who keep my bike in brilliant condition, even after I crash it!