So this is it. The big week. The mental test. Where the doubts can start to creep in.
After a wonderful weekend in the lake District it was back to sunny Derby. I was mulling over taking Monday morning off of work to do my run and in the end decided to let my body decide. If I woke up at 5:30 like I had done for most of the weekend, I would run before work.After waking at 7:30 my decision was made and after a chilled breakfast, I set off for my 2 hour run.
After the climb up Skiddaw on Saturday my bum was feeling rather tight and worries about injury were starting to creep in. Especially as it was so close to race day. I could feel the DOMs from the start so made sure I didn’t push too hard. An hour ticked by and I was starting to want to stop. I knew I wouldn’t stop but somedays your head just isn’t in the game. This is where the mental grit comes in and it turns out this grit would be a theme of the week.
That being said when I got home, I was mightly happy, especially as my splits for the 16.2 miles were consistent and controlled. I was also very glad I only had 4 hours at work.
Now I might sound like I never struggle to get my sessions done, but I can very much assure you this isn’t the case, as Tuesdays prework swim would show. I actually had an extra snack as I was lying in bed Monday night, as the thought of getting up before 6 to do a hard endurance swim didn’t give me any sense of joy.
Anyway, I got up and had my crumpets, and drove to the pool. As I got into the pool to do my warm up, it was almost like my arms had broken, and lifting them out of the water involved far too much effort. This was a different sort of tired to yesterday, this was physical tiredness rather than mental motivation. As a result the session turned into a steady session and I instead focused on my technique. I was relieved to get out of the pool, but I also had this sense of failure. I immediately felt like I had let my coach down and ashamed for not just pushing through.
I had a relatively easy rest of the day, and went to bed early determined tomorrow would be a better day. Some days I just forget my body isn’t invincible, as much as I think it is.
So Wednesdays are one of my favourite days of the week, it’s the day I get to ride my bike to work. However, after a mess of a session the day before, I was worried I would fail this one too.
In fact the complete opposite happened, and I had a fabulous ride, even accidentally adding a few hills onto the already lumpy route. The ride home was equally as fun, even though the wind had considerably picked up during the day. A 30 minute run off of the bike, and I finally arrived home at 7pm. By the time I had showered and had dinner it was gone 8, and I can honestly say I was ready for bed.
Thursday was another swim morning, with some long endurance efforts. I could tell I was slightly tired as I actually drove past the junction for Ripley Pool, so ended up swimming at a completely different pool to normal. While I felt considerably better than I had on Tuesday, it was still harder than normal. That being said I still put a decent effort in, and got out of the pool feeling happy and ready to face the day.
So Saturday was to be the biggest ride of the week, according to my coach this ride was important both mentally and physically and would impact me on race day. I had been talking about it all week like it was nothing, but as Friday evening came around I started to get really nervous.
I had decided to do my ride in Birmingham, and stay at Paul’s house, one of the cycling coaches I met at uni and had come to know quite well since. On my way I popped into see one of my old cycling buddies, who was going to help me set my tribars up properly. What actually happened is I was there for about 2 hours and left the house with his tribars on my bike, with some bodge, involving a wooden peg, to rise the pads up. Sadly I didn’t get a picture to send to GCN.
I had wanted to get an early start on Saturday but for the first time in ages I slept like a baby and laid in until 8. I actually hadn’t managed to see Paul yet as he had run off before I got up to watch the Tri relays over in Nottingham. I spent the next hour eating, setting my bike up and faffing. I could feel the nerves building up, and for some reason had let the pressure of the importance of the training session get to me. I didn’t want to go, and was finally bullied out of the house by my friend over Facebook messenger.
This was an interesting ride both in good and bad ways. The first 30 miles involved over taking groups of cyclists, horses and a herd of dogs all running towards me, guided by people on horses in suits. It was the most bizarre moment, and I initially thought they were sheep. This ride was a lot about getting used to riding in the tribars, and this provided a welcome distraction at times.
I climbed the only notable hill in the ride, a big grin on my face as always. But I got a bit carried away with the tribars going back down, hitting 40 mph in the bars before bottling it and swapping to the drops.
It was about 10 miles after this that the ride started to go downhill. At 50 miles my head was properly starting to hurt, that heavy feeling and all I wanted to do was get off and have a little nap. Now I knew I had eaten enough, and couldn’t see how I was dehydrated as I had already been for 2 wee’s. Even so I stopped briefly at the shop, bought some water and had a packet of Belvita biscuits, golden syrup because they are the best. In all honestly these made a nice change from the SIS bars.
After a few minutes, I set back off, but I wasn’t feeling much better. I just kept my legs ticking over and tried to focus on my position on the bike, anything to take my mind off of the headache. It was at this point I actually felt like giving up. Instead I had a caffeine gel in the hope this might get some electrolytes back in my body and the caffeine would give me the kick up the ass I needed.
Thank god after about an hour the headache eased and I could get back into a good rhythm. There is something about going down the roads I know well that bought a sense of peace, and I felt a lot more positive about the rest of the day. That being said the thought of running off of the bike still wasn’t filling me with the upmost excitement.
Now one thing that did make me smile through the pain was the pads on the tribars. They weren’t attached properly and were spinning every time I touched them. Definitely a bodge, changed my mind, probably wont send that one to GCN after all. My moods were also lifted by a field of sheep who kept baaaaing at me, and I started baaaing back, having probably gone a bit crazy at this point.
The miles began to tick by and for the most of the majority of the ride I managed to get my mind in a better place and tick my legs over. As I hit 100 miles, I knew there wasn’t that far to go, and while the final 20 would still take over an hour, I knew the majority was out of the way. I did start to feel a bit sick about 10 miles from home, but I imagine this was probably a mixture of nerves, gels, bars, and water. The relief as I climbed the final hill to home was unreal, 118.39 miles and just over 7 hours later, I came to a stop outside the front door. It was at this point I decided to man up and get my trainers on. Weirdly the change of sport was nice, and I ran off of the bike feeling strong.
I had picked up a slight niggle following the brick run on Wednesday as while it was 99% better I could still marginally feel it. Now I did run until my legs felt normal, about 20 minutes, but it wasn’t the 40 on my plan. Even so, I am mega happy with the big day of training, and incredibly glad I didn’t give up.
Sit Down You Say?
The next few hours involved a lot of eating, showering, popping to the shops and sitting down. Somehow though I managed to drag myself out of the house to sort out my spinning bars (I did drive the 1 mile down the road mind, and I’m not even ashamed.) I also got a cheeky bike wash so I can’t complain.
The fix wasn’t as easy as it looked and I was still at my friends gone 11, my eyes barely even open. I made the executive decision at 11:30 to go home and leave my baby behind, after all I certainly wans’t cycling in the morning.
Highlight of the day: getting to swim in the new University of Birmingham swimming pool, only the 25 meters mind, I would have had to been at the pool for 7 to swim 50 meters. There is always next time!
As always thanks for reading!