On the morning of my first training ride back in the UK I woke up to the sound of the rain battering the skylight. I wanted to hide in bed all day; I couldn’t face the torrential rain! I checked the weather forecast in the hope that there would at least be some respite during the day. No such luck. The whole of the country was hiding beneath a dark blue blanket of biblical rain! My thoughts turned to a long session on the turbo trainer before I recalled an email that I received from a friend while we were away in the Canaries. In the email Sophie, who is a passionate MTB newbie, comically described “having to wash my bike after EVERY ride that I have been on since probably October. I seem to resemble an SAS soldier with the amount of gear I have to wear for a ride these days. The Downs are bleak windy grassy climbs which are fine until you realise that you've only covered 5 miles in an hour on a good day, whilst the woods are a mudfest negotiating slippery slimy roots”.
An hour later I was donning my waterproofs while I whizzed around Wareham forest for a 3 hour mixed pace off-road ride. I found myself grinning and thoroughly enjoying the slippery conditions and three crashes! It was great to be back in the UK taking on the technical conditions in the forest – I’d actually missed it. The only part of the ride that I didn’t enjoy was the large, aggressive dog that decided to attach its mouth to my foot while I was pedaling. It’s amazing how fast it could run while its head was rotating with my foot! Eventually the owner managed to catch up and wallop it a few times before it released its grip! I finished off the ride with a coffee shop stop with a friend. I love the warm glow and satisfaction I feel after batting the elements. Lovely.
The next day I set off for a 3 hour road ride (maintaining a heart rate of 141-155 beats per minute). I was fine for the first 2 hours but then it was like someone pulled the plug and my legs refused to keep my heart rate in zone. I reluctantly backed off and managed to slowly pedal home. After explaining to coach Matt Hart that I've never ‘hated’ a training ride in that way before, we decided that I needed more rest. I took an unscheduled rest day, with the option of taking a second if I still felt rubbish, because it was important that I was feeling recovered before starting the first interval session of the year. After one recovery day I decided to try the interval session but to stop and try again the next day if I still felt tired. I bought some new music and set up a new playlist on my Ipod before heading off to the highest point in Dorset: Bulbarrow Hill. I completed seven 10-minute intervals (155 to 169 bpm – close to, but just below, anaerobic threshold) with a huge grin on my face throughout. I have to confess that I don’t normally enjoy intervals, but on this day I was absolutely beaming and enjoying the music.
The following day I set out for a 3 hour road ride (141-155 bpm). I don’t normally ride with an Ipod but after the huge buzz that I had the day before I decided to plug in my left ear only so that I could still hear the traffic with my right ear. Just like the last time I tried this session, I felt brilliant for the first two hours but struggled with the last hour. After another chat with Matt we figured that I had possibly under-carbed during the previous days interval session where I only had a 750ml bottle of 6% carbohydrate. Matt suggested that I take a gel during my next interval session in order to get more carbs.
After a rest day I headed off to Whiteway Hill, Isle of Purbeck, for my first anaerobic interval session of the year (more than 169 bpm). The session included six 3-minute intervals followed by eight 1-minute intervals. This is a session that I find really hard, particularly half way through the 3-minute intervals, and this day was no exception! Before the 1-minute intervals I took a Torq Caffeine gel and that gave me an extra boost to finish the session. One of my non-racing friends came over and had a go at the session too! It was really nice to see her giving it a go and her smiles and shouts of encouragement made me laugh. Extra motivation also came from the reward of lunch at Corfe Castle tea rooms afterwards :D
Yesterday I set off on a 3 hour road ride (141-155bpm). I drank two 750ml of Torq energy mixed at 6% (90g of carbs), ate a Torq bar (45g) and a caffeine gel (28g). This gave me a total of 163g, which meant that I met my target of 54g of carbs per hour (aim = 1g of carbs per kg of body weight). I felt amazing for the whole ride and a big smile throughout was clear for all to see!
I absolutely love life on two wheels at the moment and any doubts about taking a sabbatical have now been replaced with excitement about training and racing full time :) I am truly very happy.
I’m having an easy week now to ensure that I’m rested before the start of the Andalucia 6-day Bike Race on Sunday. I’m teaming with Kristine Norgaard (Denmark) who won the ladies pairs in both the Cape Epic and Trans Alp last year. I’m really excited to be racing with her and it’ll be great training for the 8-day Cape Epic that starts on March 27th. I’ll be writing daily updates during both the Andalucia Bike Race and the Cape Epic….fingers crossed!!!!!
Happy training and racing,