The day common sense had it’s way with determination

Today was meant to be exciting. I was hoping for a little glimmer of encouragement, for the first breakthrough that might give me an indication that maybe, just maybe, the season ahead isn’t going to be a disappointment.

Having been put through my paces in an E1234 road race against cat 1s and 2s one weekend (and stuck with them – albeit at the back), and taken a slow, hilly, never-going-to-get-a-good-time TT last weekend on the chin, I was ready for something to feel successful. I haven’t rested or tapered at all for either of the previous events – since they were all about training and that would be silly – but this one I cared about – and I’d got my legs all recovered and ready for the H25/8.

The H25/8 might sound like some sort of World War One code – but it’s not – it’s just a reference to the fastest 25 mile TT course within a 2 hour drive of home.

Elevation looks a bit like this – according to my Garmin it’s 440ish ft of climbing over the whole route:

It’s also the course where I PB-ed last year with a 1.03.22 on alloy training wheels, as a triathlete with 2 other sports to divide my attention. And today, I was going to do it on an amazing (borrowed) pair of 4 spoke carbon tubs, as a cyclist.

To be honest I wasn’t really expecting to be any faster – the last few months don’t feel like they’ve been too productive for some reason – but I did want to at least prove to myself I wasn’t any slower than this time last year (something that I’m growing to be a bit concerned about – hopefully this is just that normal sort of self-doubt, not the real, scientific ‘you are slow’ sort).

I’ve been periodically checking the weather daily for the last week. It has said ‘heavy rain’ and ’15mph wind’ for 2pm Saturday at every check. Somehow, I was just hoping it might change. Well – it didn’t change as I drove to the event, nor did it change as I un-packed my bike, nor did it change as I pinned my number to my back (with some help!) and slid the number ’27’ onto my arm.

I was debating glasses vs no glasses. On a few rainy commutes home, I’ve found these misted up so badly I couldn’t see where I was going. This isn’t too awful on the commute since I’m not racing, so I’ll just slow down. I didn’t really want my eyes to be taken over by the wrong sort of mist for this one. So I rode to the start sans glasses.

On the way, I found myself blinking about 5 times a second to try to keep the incoming rain out of my eyes. Getting to the slip road, I met a women in a Maidstone skinsuit, with a deep section on the front and a disc on the back (read: serious competition) – she was standing, looking around her. Conversation went:
Maidstone: I don’t think I’m racing, it’s dangerous – there’s too much spray off the cars
Me: I don’t want to – I want them to cancel it
Maidstone: It’s up to you to decide if it’s safe
Of course, she was right but I’d rather someone in authority made the decision for me so I didn’t have to feel bad. Anyway, I carried on riding to the start.

Spray was swooshing off the roads, and my eyes weren’t working well enough to pick the cat-eyes out on the white line as I crossed the dual carriage way – cars where kicking up dirty water and it all felt basically unpleasant. The wheels were catching the wind, too – but I saw at least one other woman at HQ with deep sections who looked like she must weigh less than me, so I figured I was fairly safe.

At the start line, there were a couple of riders. I spoke to 17, who went on this way having dropped his jersey off with the time keeper. 18 and 19 didn’t show up. 20 discussed the options – clearly wanted the event to be cancelled – but rode off anyway (I met him at HQ – he rode 10 miles and exited the dual carriageway having had a near-miss with a lorry), 21 didn’t show, 22 went on his way, 23 and 24 and maybe 25 were nowhere to be seen.

At this point the debate in my head heated up.
Me-competitive: You might as well ride, you’re here now
Me-common-sense: You came here for a PB, you’re not going to get it – so why bother being dangerous on a road you can’t see?
Me-competitive: Wimp
Me-common sense: Bugger off, I’m going to get a cup of coffee

So – my taper has become a recovery, and my first test of the season has been postponed.

It’s annoying when you organise a training plan to focus on getting a good time at one event – overload your body for 3 weeks of every 4 in the hope it will adapt and respond at the right time, than have to move the goal post for another ‘right time’ event. However, I’d rather do that than put myself, my bike, and wheels that don’t belong to me in danger.

So, it’s mid-April, and I’m still waiting for a marker of fitness, so I can actually decipher where I am compared to last year. Frustrating as it is, as number 20 helpfully explained at the HQ (just in case I hadn’t figured it out): none of us are pro’s, and it’s just a hobby at the end of the day. With a recent TT death already in the news, it’s not worth taking silly risks.

Sometimes the world gets in the way of our little human plans, and there is nothing we can do about it. If the moment to ride hard and be pleased is not today, it’s still in the pipeline – I’ve just got an extension on the deadline to train harder for it…

Published by michellearthurs

I'm an NCTJ Journalist and work at Cycling Weekly. Previous to this, I was the Editor at Total Women's Cycling. I've also dabbled in marketing and copywriting - having been Marketing Coordinator and Social Media/Content Editor at Evans Cycles. My first job was working on a local newspaper.  I've written for a variety of titles on a freelance basis, too. I got into cycling when I entered my first triathlon in 2010. I now race crits, road races, time trials, and do a lot of track training for not very much track racing.

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