‘Cross diary 13: I discover the secret of training

August 8, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Posted in cycling | 7 Comments
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Guess what? I’ve been doing some ROAD biking. I know! I’m as surprised as anyone. And I’ve been enjoying it! And getting better at it (these two are not unconnected, naturally).

Avid readers will remember me: I’m the one who took up cyclocross as a way of avoiding road riding. Road riding was dull, cold, depressing and dangerous. So whence the volte-face?

Bike Kitchen's Big Move

It’s not the weather, for sure; that’s been as rubbish as ever. No new steed: I’m still riding my ‘cross bike (complete with mudwrestlers, despite @spandelles threatening to put road wheels on it. I’m not keen; I like a bit of off-road optionality). I HAVE got some new kit, which is clinically proven to make you ride up to* 53% faster: I am looking the part in new (bargain) shoes and new (half-price) shorts. I even have a jersey with some pockets in it, for my tracker bars and lipsalve.
28/365 Contents of my bag on work days

But the real reason it’s all going better is I’ve discovered the SECRET of TRAINING. Yes! Really. Get a pencil! It can be summed up as follows:

Try A Bit Harder.

To be more specific:

–         Try and ride faster, all the time. On the flat? Change up a few gears, get down low and pretend you are Michael Hutchinson. Uphill? Someone shouted at me from a car as I was grinding up a hill, ‘Pedal faster!’ He was right.

–         Pretend you are Emma Pooley, or Ellen van Dijk. Attack your imaginary bunch relentlessly on climbs. Try to pass someone in real life. Try to stay away.

–         Do something counter-intuitive. When the going gets tough or you start feeling tired or bored, don’t slow down. Try harder. Up the pace. Get out of the saddle. Change up a gear.

–         Don’t pace yourself, or worry about running out of steam. Just go for it as much as possible. I was stunned to see that I could completely bury myself on a short effort, then be ready for another one a minute or two later.
London 2012 Olympics - Women's Road Race | Emma Pooley

The completely unexpected side-effect of this approach is it is RIDICULOUSLY good fun. I ride around grinning like an idiot, puce in the face, sweat dripping off me. I shout SHUT UP LEGS! at myself, and sing going downhill (usually just as someone awesome on a Cervélo is passing me). I beam at other cyclists; they give me almost imperceptible Yorkshire head nods of recognition. I no longer feel like a fraud when pro types wave at me, because I am trying really hard. I can’t walk down the stairs when I get home, but I feel like I could conquer the WORLD.

I just need a bit of lunch first.

* statistics experts will note that the term ‘up to’ includes the number 0**

** this joke (c) Monty Python


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  1. Good grief woman this is masochism. Have you read a book called 50 sha…. no, maybe not. As an outsider (ie not a regular cyclist) but an undisputed expert in procrastination and avoidance, it seems to me that your secret is the latter. Go all out at one method of getting cold, wet, dirty and exhausted until you lose motivation and then switch to another and hammer that until your mind catches up with what you’ve done. The running didn’t last long though did it?

    Still intending to make it into the hills of Yorkshire to visit – you’ll be out on a bike though if I do. A

    • Haha! Well, variety is the spice, etc… Oh I haven’t lost motivation for ‘cross, don’t get me wrong. The road training will transfer! As will the general theme of Trying A Bit Harder. And as for the running, I’m still doing it. Thought now I’m better at biking, running hurts a LOT more than it used to. Swings and roundabouts… sigh. How is your running? Come and see us soon. Looking forward to it X

  2. […] the tops of their voices all the way home will stop you falling asleep at the wheel after all the Trying Hard you’ve been […]

  3. […] **** I actually pulled a muscle doing this. No-one can accuse me of not Trying Hard […]

  4. […] This summer I’ve been Trying A Bit Harder, riding a (little) bit further and getting ever-so-slightly faster (downhill, at least). I’ve had […]

  5. […] ** I put my Garmin on for the first time in a race, mostly to check that I was really working as hard as I thought. It’s quite funny: my HR is basically a flat line across the whole race, at 92-95% of my (notional) maximum. So, yeah. I am Trying Hard All The Time. […]

  6. […] Trying A Bit Harder. I know you all hate Strava, but it’s made an enormous difference to my riding. Who knew trying […]

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