At Louth I spoke to one of the staff and she told me about Shermer’s Neck, something that many long distance cyclists have suffered. Shermer’s Neck is a condition where the neck muscles fail from fatigue and can no longer support the head. She told me another rider had already been through with an inner tube threaded through his helmet and under his arms to support his neck. I kind of laughed, in a nervous way, my neck didn’t seem as bad as this. I had done one descent and not been able to lift my head but after this, I was able to ride and support myself, I couldn’t imagine my condition deteriorating this way, to need to do something this drastic but I was completely niave. It is not a gradual ailment, after first feeling the symptoms, the neck will usually give out within two hours. I googled Shermer’s Neck, it was probably the worst thing I could’ve done at the time. Images flashed up on my phone of some very strange, homemade head braces, they freaked me out. I was still 250km from the finish line, a very long ride by itself but given what I’d already achieved it felt like nothing and I wanted to keep moving. We had a break at Louth and David and I discussed the options, the next goal would be Spalding. We knew we had some climbing out of Louth but the roads would start to flatten out and this could help my condition. The woman I spoke to was very well informed and also suggested we tip up my handlebars so I could ride in a more upright position, it would offer my neck some relief but for now, this seemed unnecessary.
The weather was now really awful, torrential downpours and headwind but it didn’t seem to fracture our spirit, today we were an unstoppable machine. I hated myself for entering this ride yesterday but today I had found my love of cycling again, I was full of enthusiasm and we were on the way to Edinburgh. We were laughing, we were having a really good time, I was calling out to other riders “we’re on the way to Edinburgh” and we urged them on, some jumped on the back of our train but most didn’t stay there for very long. David and I were riding really well together taking turns on the front, charging past other riders and riding with renewed strength and vigor.
I arrived at Barnard Castle and I met the physio, he’d traveled from Italy to offer his services as a volunteer to the riders. He gave me a pot of cream, it was down to the last dregs, so many other riders had been before me. He told me to rub the cream all over my knee, it would bring down the swelling and he continued to treat another rider. After this, he would tape my knee and this was my best hope for getting back to Loughton. I was full of ambition, hope, happiness, and strong will. I had made it over Yad Moss in really bad weather to get to him and now I had a chance to keep moving further.
I was on my commute home from work, scrolling through Twitter and I noticed a Tweet from British Cycling. Without hesitation I found myself clicking through to the registration page and before I’d even had time to stop and think I was signed up for British Cycling’s South East women’s track skills session at Lee Valley Velodrome. I’d been told by cycling friends riding track was a great way to become more skillful on my bike but until now fear had got in the way of me trying this discipline.
I made a big cycling purchase a few months ago, after my bike it was the most money I’ve spent on a single item related to cycling. I thought I was in the market for a new turbo trainer, something that would give me feedback, show me how I was progressing and get me motivated to stay on there longer, that was my goal. I already owned a turbo, it was a very basic one and to be honest it was just gathering dust, I love spinning classes but I found turbo training really boring.
I’m really time poor, work is busier than ever and Savannah has become a little person with a voice and with her own view on how we should spend our weekends together. I’ve entered some really big events this year so I’ve had to up my training, last year I was riding before work at 06:00 (after the clocks changed) but they were fairly gentle rides 10-20 miles with one bigger ride at the weekend. I knew that wouldn’t be enough this year but I couldn’t commit the time to real road miles in the week with work and a 2year old.
I went all out and purchased a Wahoo Kickr. I did all the homework, I read review after review and compared it to all the others on the market but I decided nothing else really compared to the Kickr. It was a huge outlay of money but it really has been money well spent. I’ve already clocked up some great mileage on there and simulated some big climbs but what attracted me to the Kickr was it’s open source, it allows software developers to create programs and training aids for it and I’ve used quite a few of them already.
It was easy to set up and it connects to my iphone, ipad and laptop. The Kickr does come with a 10 speed cassette so my Dad and his mechanical skills were required to change the cassette to a 9 speed but he did this with no problem. If you haven’t got the skills your local bike shop could always help with this too, there’s really clear instructions on You Tube.
I started off using the Sufferfest videos, I’d used them before on my old manual trainer. I have to be honest and say I got about 10 minutes in to it and I couldn’t turn the pedals, I gave up. The Kickr controls the resistance, it sets the gradient / resistance you should be riding and I really struggled. When I used these videos in the past I clearly didn’t have the resistance up high enough.
I logged on to Trainer Road, an app that connects you to a variety of training programs and through this I found the 3LC videos. I’m not usually drawn to ladies specific cycling products but on this day I downloaded their Ladies Road Race, I had no idea what to expect. The 3LC workout is a studio based fitness session, in this particular session there’s a group of ladies on turbo trainers and 2 coaches taking them through the stages of the ride offering guidance and motivation. It’s designed to make you, the person at home feel like part of the class and it works. I was immediately immersed in to the session and I enjoyed having the coaches there, giving me the instructions. You ride and train with cadence so ideally you need to have the ability to measure this as you’re riding. I really enjoy group exercise so this 3LC session was a great way to ride for an hour at home and never feel bored. The session had everything, we warmed up and we did some intervals, threshold, hills, sprints and cool down. I’ve never had any coaching or professional instruction on how to ride a bike, I just jumped on and worked it out so having this professional support and guidance through the session was quite a revelation. I’ve worked with PT’s in the gym and seen huge benefits from this, having professional cycling coaches guiding you through the stages on the ride was a similar experience, I gained so much from that hour on the bike.
I repeated this video over a period of 3 weeks, it was a really busy work time and I didn’t get to ride on the road at all. The next time I did get out on the road I was a little bit taken back by my own progress. I came to the first hill and kept my cadence up, like the coaches in the video trained me to and I got a PB on the hill (in January on my heavy, winter bike). It wasn’t just the fact that I got a PB but it was the way I rode that hill, I felt strong, I went in to it with different confidence and more power because I knew I’d been riding hills with a high cadence and at high speed in the video session so I knew I could do this on the open road, I just had to commit to it in the same way I’d been riding in the 3LC session. My ride that day, out on the open road felt like one of the best so far this year. That was completely unexpected with no road miles over a 3 week period.
I live a really busy life, I’m a single Mum and I commute to London every day for a job that isn’t 9-5. I’m often traveling abroad and I’m usually in the office late at night. I obviously understand the benefits of a structured training plan but I’ve always dismissed them in the past. My life isn’t structured and I didn’t think a plan would suit me but after seeing such quick development, such rapid improvement I’m keen to try and make this work. The 3LC endurance plan is 10 weeks, there’s 11 weeks until L’Etape Du Tour. I have some big events between now and then so I can’t stick to it completely but I could try and structure my weekday training within the 10-week plan. Could this be the difference, could this get me over the Alps this summer.