Now that the Track World Championships are over and I have had a short rest, it's back to work for me. Or rather, I have been hard at work training for some time now! I have actually been busy with a lot of things, so haven't made the time for many updates. But as it's chucking it down with rain out there today I've decided to stay indoors and update my blog before hopping on the turbo trainer for a quick session.
Coming back from LA, I was on a bit of a high (naturally), after winning another World Title. But it didn't last long and I very quickly started planning how I was going to replicate the feat in London. Two World Titles is one thing, but I want to add two Paralympic medals to that. And it won't be easy.
Because I spent a lot of the winter preparing for track racing, my road and TT training had suffered. Even though I still trained on the road during this period, the closer I got to the actual competition, the less road riding I did. I was more focused on going fast for 4 minutes than I was on going fast for 10 miles or an hour and a half (typical TT and road race distances/times). And so, to prepare for the season ahead, it's meant going back to basics and building up me endurance again.
I have had to start my training almost from scratch now. While many people out there started this type of training several months ago and are already coming into form, I have to start my base training now. It's frustrating because instead of going fast... I have to go SLOW. I'm racing every week already - but I'm nowhere near as fast as I have been in years gone past at this time of year.
That's because unlike other years when I wanted to be ready to race in April, this year I need to hit my peak in late August. My entire season this year is all about one thing: hitting my absolute peak for the Paralympics in September. It'll be a slow build-up all season long towards achieving that goal. It also means most of my early-season events will suffer.
I've started my base training phase and it's got to be one of the most tedious things you can do in training terms. Long, slow and steady miles on the bike. I'm sometimes doing 4 hours a day at a slow (for me) pace. Always trying to keep the power down. No accelerations, no big bursts of power, no extended hill climbs. Just keeping it steady. When you ride like this, it's hard to stay focussed and motivated. The mind wanders. Time seems to drag on. I know there's a reason for it, but it doesn't make it any easier to do!
Base training is all about... giving you a base of fitness upon which to build on. You need these miles in the legs as the foundation for which everything else is built upon. It helps improve your endurance and makes the harder efforts in the future easier to do. But it doesn't make it easier to race in the early part of the season!
Because of the revised training plan in relation to what I've done in years gone by, I've had to change my expectations. It means that when I race at the weekend, I'm not looking to 'do well' or get good results – I'm using these races as training efforts. The alternative would be to skip the racing altogether and build these harder efforts into my training plan until I'm better prepared to race. But I'm of the opinion that the BEST preparation to do well in races is to just race! Racing (even if you do it poorly) pushes you harder than any training effort can do. You get a kick of adrenaline from racing that just makes you dig deeper than when you're out there on your own. Having someone or something to chase in a race is the ultimate carrot – you just can't fully replicate this in solo training.
So when I'm sitting there on my bike, hour after hour, mile after mile, how do I pass the time? For starters I usually have an earphone in one ear with some music going. I know there are people out there that think listening to music while riding isn't safe, but I can still hear everything that goes on around me. Plus it encourages me to look twice before making 'risky' moves on the bike. But I digress...
Yes – I listen to tunes to help keep me motivated. I also do a LOT of thinking. I think about my next blog entry. I think about getting home and relaxing. I think about race strategies. I think about new equipment. I think about not going too fast/hard and wasting the training session. I think about the route I'm using and how I can change it to keep it interesting. And so on.
I try and plan a route that will take me far enough away from home as to fill up the amount of time I need to ride. So, if I'm on for a 4 hour ride, I try and head a couple of hours away from home before turning back towards my starting point. That way I can't cheat and give up early. I find if you do a loop that keep you close to home, then it's tempting to call it a day early and head inside after 3 hours instead of 4. Going far away from home forces the issue.
I've also taken the opportunity to reconnect with some of my cycling friends. I try and join other people on their rides during the week. Some friends work shifts and have free time during the day to rides, or others have days off mid-week (or might just be in the area for a few days). Whatever the case, I try and mix things up a bit and get out with other people. It's probably the best way to make the hours go by a little quicker!
But mostly I try and convince myself that all this training, as boring as it may seem, is to serve the greater good. That when I'm standing on the podium in London, it will be a distant memory and it will have all been worth it. I may do poorly in every single race between now and then – all that matters is that I do well in my races from August 31 to September 6.
And now...it's back to the grind for me. More updates to follow soon and thanks for reading!