It is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK and I thought it was time to share my experiences of training and how it affects me and what I have done when I find it difficult to keep motivated to train for a distant goal.
It is now mid May and most riders aiming to take part in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain will have been training for at least five months and face another three months of increasing intensity of training in terms of the length of rides and the intensity of some training sessions if using a turbo trainer.
Keeping up that sort of intensity can be very difficult. If you have been training hard up until now you have probably built up a good level of fitness and you may be able to back off the training for a couple of weeks if you need to re-charge the batteries and re-motivate yourself to increase the training over the summer. If you are not at the stage of riding five hour training rides or getting to 60-70 miles in a ride, you may have more of an issue come September. Do talk to someone (or post on the Deloitte RAB Facebook page for tips and advice) and try and keep going – the thought of all my sponsors was a big motivator for me last year when things got tough during training. You will not be the only one having training issues.
In my training last year, very few training rides exceeded 80 miles, but it was relatively easy to knock out that sort of distance. I then combined it with a few 100 mile sportives over challenging terrain, such as the Chiltern 100 in July and the Wye Valley Warrior in August (both have lots of climbing so great preparation for RAB). I’m sorry to say that I believe sticking to 50 mile training rides just will not prepare you for the relentless impact of RAB and nine consecutive days of 100 plus miles, particularly if you want to enjoy the experience rather than survive each day. The RAB “bubble” will only take you so far – no one else can ride your bike for you.
My Post RAB Training
I have found training this year very difficult. I am a “numbers” person and like to compare my fitness level using Training Peaks. It is difficult to accept that my training score compared to last year is down by 25-30 “points”. I am both competitive and a perfectionist – part of my thinks a 40% fall in training fitness is not acceptable. When the more rational part of my brain takes over, I accept that Training Peaks looks at training intensity – my life in 2019 does not revolve around cycling training, I am not going our for 5-6 hour rides on a Saturday and another 3 on Sunday plus three sessions during the week. My FTP is still higher than this time last year, I have just lost a little of my endurance ability.
The last two weeks have resulted in a CBA attitude to a lot of things (CBA = can’t be a@sed); a function of reduced fitness, an early summer cold and a few work commitments that resulted in reduced training. I’ve realised that I need to do some training for the benefit of my mental health and do my best to complete the session rather than giving up at the first drop off in power output. At other times I have to accept that my body cannot “push on” when recovering from a cold. A few completed sessions this week and I feel much better. Hopefully I’ll manage a four hour ride on Saturday. I have the Dragon Tour coming up on 7-9 June – maybe the shorter routes and then see how I feel on the day of the Dragon Ride. After all, cycling is meant to be fun and it is a good way for me to clear my head, even if I’m concentrating to make sure I miss the potholes! If the cycling doesn’t work, I’ll just go for a blast on my catamaran dinghy – sailing is still my main passion.
After completing the Deloitte Ride Across Britain in 2018 I thought it may assist riders who have signed up for the 2019 edition if I shared my top tips for being able to enjoy the whole experience rather than just surviving. This blog post will be about the physical side of preparing for the ride. As I write this post, in nine months time the 2019 edition riders will have hopefully completed the ride. While you cannot always prevent accidents causing you to pull out of the ride, there isn’t (at this stage of the year) anything from preventing anyone getting in the best physical shape for the ride.
Here are my tops tips for training for the ride:
- Do follow a training programme. Threshold Sports publish training plans for Novice, Intermediate and Experienced cyclists. I was lucky enough to have a personal trainer with a background in endurance sports (Ironman races) so had the best of both worlds with a personalised training programme and I chose the Intermediate training plan as a reference point.
- Do get used to cycling in wet weather. I’m not advocating going out when it is icy or absolutely pouring with rain, however, you do need to know that your wet weather gear keeps you dry and warm. If your kit copes with February and March weather it should be able to cope with anything that Scotland in September can throw at you.
- Don’t think you can get away with just going out for 50 mile training rides. Long rides are necessary to get used to being in the saddle for 7-10 hours a day.
- I did very few training rides of more than 90 miles. However, I did enter a number of 100 mile sportives. It is good to know that you can ride 100 miles in a day before you arrive at Land’s End.
- Do consider entering at least one multi-day event. Nothing can really prepare you for the cumulative effect of riding at least 100 miles for nine days, although the Rapha Festive 500 comes close. Threshold Sports organise the Dulux London Revolution (11-12 May 2019), a two day ride round London which includes a night in the infamous little green tents! London Revolution I did the Dragon Tour in South Wales last year, three days riding in the Brecon Beacons and finishing with the Dragon Ride (7-9 June 2019) Dragon Ride with options for 160 km, 223 km and the Dragon Devil at 300km.
- If you cannot find time for a multi-day event, try and replicate the effect by entering a 100 mile sportive and doing a long ride on the day before or the day after the sportive.
- Think about attending the RAB training ride (24 March) RAB Training Ride. I picked up some good tips last year (see my previous post RAB Training Ride) and met some riders before the RAB started (particularly useful as a solo rider).
- Do not neglect hill climbs as part of your training. I’m very lucky with lots of hills in South Wales. If you live in London, the Chilterns are pretty close to the west (the tube runs to Amersham and trains run to High Wycombe and Princes Risborough) and the South Downs (to the south!). Anyone living is Norfolk and Suffolk has a bit of a problem! The Chiltern 100 sportive (14 July) is a pretty good way of duplicating Days 1 and 2 of RAB.
- Don’t believe the RAB “bubble” will get you through. You still have to do the riding and there is only so much encouragement the Threshold Sports Chaperonnes can give. Remember, on the third pick up in the Broom Wagon, you are “asked to leave” the ride.
- You really don’t want to be getting into camp after 6 pm each day (which could mean 11 hours out on the road). You have to deal with cleaning your bike, showering, possibly seeing the medics, hopefully having a massage and getting some supper before listening to the rider briefing at 8 pm.
What would would I do differently if I was riding the Deloitte Ride Across Britain 2019 (by the way, I’m not!) ? I would do more two day consecutive long rides of 5-6 hours duration on a few more occasions in the summer (June and July).
Next month, I plan to write about the choice of bike for the ride.
I always find it difficult to keep motivated to train once the clocks change and the weather starts to get colder and usually wetter. By this time last year I had entered the Deloitte Ride Across Britain so I had something to aim for and I knew that if I didn’t put in some constant training between November and March I would pay for the inactivity later in the year when I needed to increase the training to gain fitness for the sportives and the ride in September.
Now I have no major challenge planned for 2019 – the Deloitte Ride Across Britain was a one off “bucket list” event for me and I had made it clear to my sponsors that I wasn’t going to make a habit of doing major sponsored events. This means I’m not training for anything in specific and will not be letting anyone down if I back out of any particular sportive. Also, to be honest, I’m not sure if I want to go through the amount of training I put myself through in 2018 in order to end up riding the Land’s End to John O’Groats (LEJOG) without any fitness issues and completing each day in the top 25% quartile of the riders in the event. It has been nice getting my life back since September.
Readers of this blog will know that I use Training Peaks to track my fitness levels. The training graphs show a decline in fitness since the end of the ride – to be expected given the huge effort required to complete the ride and the fact that the weather has not been too conducive to long outside rides.
These graphs show the fitness line declining rapidly since the end of the ride and now flattening off as a result of re-starting a fitness programme. I’m about 20 “points” below the fitness level before the ride – not too bad and not unexpected given the amount of training I was able to carry out over the summer. My current aim is to stay above the 365 day fitness line for as long as possible; April 2019 will probably be the tipping point! My weight has increased since the end of the ride to around 87-88 kg and you don’t want to know about the body fat percentage! Let’s just say I haven’t bought any chocolate in the last two weekly shops and it’s given me the kick up the backside I needed! The one date in the diary for 2019 is the KOM Sportive run by my coach Lawrence at Enduraprep on 30 March – I don’t think I’m allowed to miss it!
I went past one of the locations of my regular photos today in a ride to Cowbridge and I now have a collection of photos from March to November of some oak trees near Dyffryn Gardens.
This week I have an event to go to with Dementia UK in London where I will find out how the money I raised in the ride will be used. The final total is £5,050 plus Gift Aid which gives a fantastic grand total of £6,012.78. The Virgin Money Giving page will close in the middle of December (three months after the end of the ride). It has been very easy to operate and I can certainly recommend it compared to other more expensive donation sites.