I clip back into my cleats and push down hard on the pedal. The hotel and weekend in Oxford already feels a million miles away and yet it’s only 30! My legs are tired, the contents of my weekend are strapped tightly to my back weighing me down like a pack horse and the only source of fuel I have are different flavoured gels that have gone warm and sticky in the sun.
Stay south I said, it’s flatter I said. I forgot about the Chiltern hills! I forgot that Sunday would mark the third day of consecutive endurance work but I didn’t forget the goal. I didn’t forget the bigger picture, the reason i’m here and not on a comfortable train with wifi and a softer seat for my derrier! And with that, I look up at the next climb, drop down in to a lower gear and pedal the next 40miles home imagining the finish line (and the cool bottle of chocolate milk i’m going to drink the second I get home!)
Lately, training has stepped up a lot. And here’s the thing, I NEVER regret a training session. Even when I’m tired or spend multiple hours in the cold and rain, it’s always worth it and I always feel better for getting some miles under my legs.
I posted a week’s training schedule on social media a while ago and most of the responses that I got were ‘you’re crazy’ and ‘why would you do that?’ which really got me thinking about why.
I said before that i’m really interested in pushing physical and mental limits and discovering what my body can do but I started to question why am I programmed that way?
Not to sound like a cliche but I think it has a lot to do with how my parents brought me up. If I wanted something, I earned it. At 14yrs old I was the pot wash at the local pub, at 18yrs I held down 3 jobs to pay for my gap year in Thailand and I paid my way through University by teaching kids how to dance and working at the local bingo hall! None of it was particularly glamorous or what I wanted to do but it taught me a lot about having a strong work ethic. I think it all comes down to this:
I never feel entitled to anything I haven’t worked for.
In today’s culture with so many gadgets and hacks to make life easier, it becomes very easy to take things and people for granted. We have become increasingly infatuated with how quickly we can become successful, how easily we can make money, how soon we can order something and receive it.
What I love about endurance races is that there is no cheat, there is no short cut or easy way. If you want your body to run and cycle for 100+ miles then you have to build it’s capacity to do that over time and with relentless hard work. I either train and achieve my goal or I make an excuse and fail; there is something very brutally honest and simple in that.
So far my longest bike ride is 80miles and my longest run is 20miles so I still have such a long way to go but that’s ok. Every session, I’m learning more about me, my strengths, my weaknesses, my ability to overcome them and i’m slowly feeling more entitled to cross that finish line with unapologetic pride and it feels good!
There’s a quote that is often over used but under appreciated:
“If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough”.
It’s about taking risks, it’s about coming out of your comfort zone but equally it’s about striving to create a higher threshold, moving the barrier and limitations higher and earning the right to say “I did that”, despite starting in a place when you couldn’t.
So in summary, training has been going really well but every goal has it’s challenges! Here are 5 less desirable things I’ve learnt along the way about road cycling:
1. Even the most expensive of saddles feel like sitting on a block of wood after 20miles, never say no to padded shorts!
2. Pedestrians lose ALL sense of spatial awareness and etiquette the second they step into a public park. My slalom skills have increased tenfold with the help of human obstacles!
3. Driver’s seem to think I have an invisible windshield attached to my helmet and don’t understand that when they pull in front of me, the muddy water from their tyres actually just sprays in my face! Moreover, if you use your windscreen wipers as you pull up next to me, I am going to drink a mouthful of your soapy car water and I am going to call you something unsavoury!
4. If you set off early when it’s overcast, still put sunscreen on! I have never been so burnt in all my life and the strap lines were far from trend setting!
5. If you get a puncture, it will ALWAYS be raining. The second you get home, the sun will shine!