As I cooled down after this morning’s training ride I couldn’t help but smile, I’ve been on a really big journey for the past 12 weeks and in the last 30 minutes as I completed my final training session those 12 weeks flashed through my head. I’ve been training for my biggest cycling adventure to come but this time, I’ve really been training, I’ve not just been out riding my bike as I’ve done in the past. For the first time, I’ve followed a customised training plan and I’ve had the benefit of riding with an Infocrank power meter that Verve Cycling kindly supplied for me.
My first experience of road cycling in 2009 was possibly like most other peoples, I just jumped on my new bike and I rode a few miles with no understanding of how to really ride other than turning the pedals and pulling the brakes. I bought my bike in the Lake District and I enjoyed a lovely ride around one of my favourite places there, around Lake Coniston. When I returned to London where I lived at the time I took my bike to Regents Park, I had no idea this was a place for London cyclists. I lived in North London and it seemed like an obvious place to enjoy quieter roads. When I arrived in the park I was surprised to see so many cyclists doing laps of the park and I soon found myself looping around the park too, chasing the group until the sun went down.
This style of riding, all out until you drop was a type of riding I just adopted from the beginning and it stuck with me. I rode with the boys, often in my red zone without any awareness of what this actually was or what it was doing to me. I never warmed up, I never cooled down, I kept up with the group but it was my determination that got me through those rides more than my fitness and I was always exhausted by the end. As I reflect back today on how much I’ve learnt with the addition of a power meter and 12 weeks of coached training I’m not even sure I would’ve survived past day 3 of Lejog in my former skin. The organisers of Deloitte Ride Across Britain advise participants to ride within themselves and to be honest, I didn’t really understand what this meant before now, I always used my mental strength to get me through the tougher rides. Before my 12-week plan started I had this bright idea that I would train at my threshold limit and then arrive at the event and just turn off the speed, slow down, hoping my body would feel all the better for it. I had no idea that I would probably arrive exhausted from the experience of training like this and I had no idea how hard it was to turn off the speed.
Learning to adapt to a different style of riding has taken me time, practice, frustration, effort, more practice, more frustration and even more effort. I’ve spent the last 12 weeks going through a process of transformation which started with getting almost everything wrong, finding it very hard to let go of old habits but then suddenly the penny dropped and I became a perfectionist riding in my zones. I didn’t want to ride with friends, I wanted to ride on my own and perfect my skills. I tried to ride with friends but I got carried away and my old habits came back, chasing the group down, riding on the front pushing the pace, in the red, smashing it up hills, I went so far backwards from one ride and it took me 2 weeks to recover from the fun I had that day but it was part of the learning experience and as I reflect today I can really laugh at myself. There is no way I can ride over 100 miles a day for 9 consecutive days if I get carried away like that so I have to remember this day.
Finally, it felt so natural riding in zone 2, the endurance zone that I barely had to look down at my Garmin to check I was riding at the right effort. There are so many benefits to this new way of riding, it’s not just improved my cycling but it’s also improved my general well-being and lifestyle. I’m more efficient on my bike and I’m more powerful, my fitness grew faster with fewer miles so I had to train for fewer hours, my FTP increased 15% within the first 7 weeks and I recovered from every ride quickly so I could ride day after day with very little impact on my busy lifestyle as a working Mum.
I know there will be suffering, I’m about to ride 972 miles over some of Great Britains finest hills and dales but I understand how I can monitor and control my performance each day by keeping my effort reigned in. The education process that I’ve been through has given me the insight to be able to thrive rather than survive each day on the adventure to come.