Author's Musing

Ticking off Goals

This season had a slightly questionable beginning. Your summer season, I think, is determined by your winter training. Put in the right work, at the right intensity, at a volume that to be honest feels absolutely un-repeatable by the time you get to summer, and then enter the right races and you’ll probably crack it.

Over winter I had every intention of spending my summer racing crits, and just time trialling for fitness in-between. As my anaerobic capacity is – frankly – shite – I did loads  of work on that.

When summer came, I did a few crits (loved them – hated the number of crashes) but once I’d done about 1 TT I was addicted again to the speed and the individual effort and the personal battle to beat the clock.

So I changed the goal. Which was probably pretty annoying for poor Ms Brama who writes my training plan (sorry.. )

Anyway – I made myself three time goals:
10 miles  :  25mins
25 miles : 01.01 or 01.02. Over winter an assault on the hour seemed possible, having cut off 6mins last year, but soon realised that doesn’t happen every year.
50 miles : 02.15.00 –  Club ladies record 2.14 but with a PB of 2.27 I, 2.15 seemed sensible

It’s now August 11th and I have:
10miles: 24.21 unofficially (club event), 24.48 officially
25miles: 01.00.35 (more on this in a minute)
50miles: 02:12:47 (boom)
Other targets were the National 25 and National 50 – 24th and 12th place seemed good enough for a third year of racing.

The 25 happened yesterday. I was getting pretty frustrated with 25s. Partly, I think 10s were going well because I did so much work on the higher-end fast stuff over winter, and the 50s went well because I upp-ed the length of my long winter rides from 3hrs Saturday and long run Sunday to 3 hours Saturday and 4 hours Sunday (yep – thanks Lizzy…) And partly I did a lot of sporting courses at the start of the year, then did one fast 25 with tired legs, and decided that must mean I was a failure at the distance full stop.

So yesterday Maurice and I went all the way to Derby in search of the fastest course we could find. The A25/11 is in the top three. It’s on the A50 – a very, very busy road, but the concrete is smooth, there aren’t many hills (all short and not steep – no need to change gear sort of affairs).

I was nervous about this one. When I’m nervous I have this amazing ability to convince myself I’m getting ill. I can genuinely invent a sore throat/headache in my mind, and suffer the symptoms. It’s annoying, and I’ve learnt now that it will happen before every “A” race – I just have to ignore it.

When I finally got to my start – I’d been feeling ill since Wednesday and I was ready to get on with it so I could stop feeling ill. So there I was. 1minute. 30 seconds. 10 seconds. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. GO.

The start guy was really friendly. Everyone at HQ was so lovely and kind (I love people North of Birmingham). All this being said, people up there clearly expect you to know the course. It wasn’t very well signposted. I’d looked at the map several times and memorised a few points, and I’m so damn glad I did. I slowed down repeatedly unsure where to go – but deep down I knew it was going to be a PB and I was prepared to make it a bit slower for the sake of not being disqualified for going the wrong way.

You first went left immediately after the start, then roundabout, straight on, roundabout, right – then you were on the A50.

I looked down and my heart rate was on 190bpm. I had no power because I was not going to lug the heavy PowerTap behind me on this course. But I know my usual 25mile TT HR is 186bpm. My 10mile TT is usually 190bpm. I tried to relax and get it to come down. Next time I looked it was 194bpm.

Then there were 2 more roundabouts along the way ‘out’. I knew there was a turn at 22k – but got to a roundabout with no arrows at 12.5 miles and was paralysed with ‘is this it – do I turn? Do I keep going?’ I genuinely slowed to almost stop, and I very almost went to turn – when I saw another tester coming from the other side – so I carried on going and finally got to the correct turn were there was an arrow and a marshal (as you might expect!!). I was so glad I’d seen that other guy or I would have turned too early and it would have been over.

I’d been trying to get my crazy heart rate down, but by this time I was half way there, and still going from 190 to 192 and 194 with the odd 189. So I decided to stop trying to calm down and just go with it. I’d had a recovery week and I was feeling pretty highly strung.

( ^ It looked like this in the end ^ )

I knew you had to turn off the carriageway down a slip road right at the end. I spent the last 5 miles petrified I’d miss it. I tried to reassure myself that it would clearly be arrowed and marshalled because it would be crazy not to.

And would you believe it.. at 23.5miles I got to a slip road. No arrows. No marshal. Petrified. I was well on course for a PB (more than!) and had no intention of ruining it. I panicked for a second. Looked down the road – no more turns for a while. Had to be this one. Took it. And as I did I saw a tiny arrow just past the slip road – were you would only have seen it either after turning or if you’d gone past it.

Keep going. Marshal (they exist it seems!) – left. Keep going. See Maurice setting out (he started about an hour after me) desperately want to shout at him ‘THERE ARE NO ARROWS JUST REMEMBER THE MAP’ – decide that might mess with his head – best not. Keep going. Finish board.

Fear: What it he doesn’t see my number and record my time?
Think: Shout your number.
Shout: Done!
Think: That’s not your number!
Shout: 7!
Think: You’re not 7- you’re 9!
Shout: Nin.. er..
Think: You went past the bloke about 20 yards ago and your voice is a croak, stop trying.
Think: Ok.
Press stop: 01.00.55. Stopped a few seconds ago. Must be good.

Being me – my head is full of lots of arguments telling me not to celebrate too much. It’s a faster course than my H25/8 PB – and I had a disc on the back of my bike (it looked FIT): This time doesn’t make me in any means 3 mins faster than last year.

This being said, Maurice had a 3mins improvement on the H25/8 time he set this year, but he also put out an extra 13 watts and set his H25/8 time on a 20mph-wind-mid-week-club-event-night – whilst my fastest ever H25/8 last year I was lucky with a very still day and I was putting out all the watts I had on a target event, tapered-for-Saturday. Basically after much tester-like-debate, we think given the conditions I had in April 2012, with the extra 13 watts, he could go faster on H25/8 this year which hopefully implies I’ve improved at least a tiny bit.

Results look like this (not my ‘photo’ – stolen from the Time Trialling Forum):

It’s a shame not to have power data – it would be interesting and it’s the only absolute way of knowing if you’ve become physically stronger. However – I’ve never had a heart rate that high in a 25 mile TT. The problem with HR is it’s affected by loads of other things, whilst power isn’t, but it’s the best I’ve got and it’s an indication it was probably the hardest I’ve actually ever gone.

So – that’s that. I’ve got more TTs lined up for this month – but I’ve done it now. I’ll put the effort into them. but my goals are achieved and I can relax a bit. If I’m honest my mind is already drifting to how to be better next year:

1) Use winter to train for TTs and don’t change your mind come summer
2) Train on the TT bike (as I did winter 2011/spring 2012)
3) Stop concentrating so much on commuting and doing sessions on the way to/from work – and spend more time on the turbo. My power numbers are always down on the turbo  but it’s more focused training.
4) Do more swimming when needed – riding every day results in tired legs and no point trying to do VO2 sessions when you’re barely putting out FTP numbers. Plus I love swimming – I missed it and it’s good for my back, core, shoulders, lungs..

So there it is. The season ends at the end of September – when it gives way to hill climbs. So a few more hard efforts, and it’s back to the routine of training and dreaming of summer and PBs. Though I think next year it’s going to be all about course-PBs, power PBs and placing – if I ever want a genuine PB on a 25 again I’m going to need to go back to Derby…

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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