The gradient is about five percent, a road I know ever so well, one of my favourites. It lopes along, never strenuously, however continuous none the less, slowly winding up the mountainside. Except as I look down, the only thing slow is my speed. My heart thumps, my breathe chases itself around my lungs and ‘200watts’ is firmly displayed on my screen. Everything feels unfamiliar. It is too hard.
My training partner’s wheel edges ever further infront. I feel sweat when there should be none and the fluidity of pedalling that I had taken for granted a mere month earlier, has disappeared.
The first training ride after the end of season break is firmly underway.
I had to look up the date, the 14th of November, but the feeling, the panic at my state of fitness, I can remember poignantly. There is nothing quite like that initial shock to kick start the winter. Thankfully though, it comes whilst thoughts of racing are still but a distant blip on the horizon. The mantra this time of year is undoubtedly ‘anything is possible’.
Patience and belief are the name of the game. One step, or pedal stroke in this instance, at a time. I follow my programme methodically, clocking in for a day in the office as I leave my apartment, rolling down the small cobbled street outside, and semi-clocking out as I press stop on my Garmin any number of hours later.
I say ‘semi’, for in some ways this job simply never turns off. October is free, November is somewhat relaxed, but by December training camps loom or even occur and with January comes the racing season. Long gone are the days of teams meeting to Après-ski on the slopes in late January and as such the winter is no longer the six-month break it once was. So whilst the Garmin stops every afternoon with a jingle of countless beeps, the extra ballast each rider carries this time of year, the need to recover from the days exertions and the following training session, loom large on the mind. Being an athlete must be the most enjoyable twenty-four hour job on earth.
And like everyone else, it all seems to pass in a blur. It’s February now and with it the days are lengthening, the temperatures rising and me? Well I’m back on my favourite climb ofcourse. Thankfully back with the feeling how it should be. It’s no easier mind you. For over the past month structure has crept deeper and deeper in to my programme, gradually at first, before becoming a near daily occurrence. Manifested in the form of Intervals and set efforts, specific sessions target all aspects of my physiology, preparing for the races now firmly in sight.
Some long endurance days do however remain, albeit with a little more pace. And I really enjoy them, heading out to try to find some new roads, stopping for my favoured café con leche and bocadillo tortilla. Here in Catalunya where I have lived the last few years there is almost always friends to catch up with and a beautiful view to glance at. So no matter the day at the office, I find myself feeling lucky and the days, as ever, passing in a blur.
A winter block
Day1: Gym session – mix of core training, mobility training and strength work using both body weight and machines. 2-3hr bike ride in the afternoon.
Day2: 4hrs endurance ride in the Hills, most likely in a small group, 4x8mins Strength (low cadence) on a climb.
Day3: 4-5hrs general endurance ride. Maybe with some nutritional tricks to work the bodies efficiency a little.
Day4: Easy recovery ride, 1-2hrs.
[I say ‘typical’, but this doesn’t exist! Not in this line of work anyway… Also note ‘block’. This is what I work in, it’s similar to the average persons working week, however they are normally 3 to 4 days, and bookended by an easier day. Where you might say, what day is it? Oh it’s Tuesday. I would reply: Its day 3!]