My list of things to work on seems to be growing and I’m basically re-learning how to ride a bike! Riding in a group is so different to riding on my own, and I’m having to adjust to that. It is a steep learning curve because I only started riding in chaingangs at the start of the year, so in 7 months I’ve gone from the ERC development run (which is aimed at those who have never ridden in chaingangs before) to racing against some of Scotland’s best women and strong men. It is amazing what can be achieved with a bit (ok a lot) of hard work and determination. But it has been fun learning new skills, if a little frustrating at times.
I’ve had a good mix of solo sessions, and chaingangs where i try out tactics – including nutrition. They don’t always work which is why its good to practise in a training run than in a race! When i’m feeling fresh, i’m seeing big improvements in my abilities and finding the chaingangs comfortable. When my legs are tired, i’m hanging on for as long as i can before getting dropped. It is a strange feeling knowing that i’m fit enough, my heart rate is fine, but my legs won’t play! And it is often frustrating knowing I can hang on to the chaingang on a Tuesday night, which has steeper lumpy sections in it, but can struggle on the Saturday morning run which has more gradual lumps in it. Alexa has returned to training after being ill earlier in the year, and we usually chum each other home after getting dropped which is very nice!
Hills at speed in a bunch continue to hurt me me so I borrowed some 50m deep section wheels and enlisted the help and company of Alexa for a hilly session. For once the weather was kind to us and it was dry. The wheels were amazing, it was no effort at all to spin along at a good speed into the head wind! We hit the first hill and i stuck to the gears i would normally be in for the chaingang (which also sees me getting spat out of the back too!) It became pretty clear with some space around me and a chat with Alexa that I basically use all of my power in the first 1/4 of the hill by being in the big ring climbing at 30+ kph up it. I then burn out, drop off the back and crawl my up to the top. So i dropped some gears, and focused on my breathing. I watched my HR drop by around 5 beats and my speed go up! Result! We rode the other climbs in the route several times, pushing each other to go a little faster each time…although i watched her ride off up one of the steeper lumps like it was flat! A huge thanks to Colin R should go here, for your advice and assistance during the chaingangs. Who knew that the secret to sticking with the chaingang on the camel lumps is being shouted at, told where to go, whose wheel to sit on and riding so hard up hill that I thought I was going to be sick on my bars? And more promisingly, the next time the chaingang came up this climb, I hung on for 3/4s of the climb before backing off, aware that there was still a long way to ride. And I survived the camel lumps without getting dropped! The worst bit…i *need* those wheels and i’m about a week or so away from placing an order from Alpine Bikes (race squad sponsors) to get them for my race at the end of the month. That purchase, combined with signing off the final drawings from my custom frame from Shand Cycles means I’d better start winning some prize money to help my bank balance!
First (solo) TT of 2012
I’ve tried my first solo TT of the year too. I still don’t ‘get’ TTs really, I think I’m just not that competitive with myself which doesn’t really help matters – give me a wheel to chase or sit on, and I’ll go harder/faster than I thought I could, but show me an open road with no-one to work with, and I can’t apply the same amount of mental focus. The course was more of a ‘road’ TT than an out and out race one. By this I mean it is lumpy it rather than pan flat. Losing time clipping in and at the turn didn’t really help matters, nor did the fast chaingang the night before the TT! So finishing in 27:05 was a bit disappointing when I should be able to manage better. But its quite different to ride a TT at a consistent pace when I’ve not been training to be consistent – I’m more used to the constant change in pace of road racing than sitting at one speed or pacing myself. And yes, as usual, it was a bit damp that night, a little windy and muddy. My poor shoes!
Crit racing – Edinburgh Road Club Alpine Bikes series
I want to like crits, I really do. But I haven’t got the hang of them yet so I have a love-hate relationship with them (aside from the Salt Ayre crit in Lancaster, which i loved, mostly because I was comfortable during it, sitting with the bunch all the way and even competing for the sprints!). The super fast pace for the first few laps is a huge shock to the system. Even in road racing – which is where I am concentrating my efforts – I always dislike the first wee while before my body realises what it has to do to survive for following 2 hours. So in a crit, sprinting from the start is hard going (even when warmed up and fuelled on energy chews). The constant sprint, corner, sprint, corner and repeat of the women’s circuit takes it out of me. I’ve not been racing long enough to fully understand what kind of racer I’m eventually going to be, but this kind of effort is hard work when I’m up against top women cyclists and track riders and it kills my legs. I’ve managed to hang onto the bunch, to get dropped, to chase my way back on again only to get dropped again and repeat for 45mins! Each week it gets a little better though, and I even had a short spell off the front in the third series (a slightly silly move as it was far too early to think about going but its all good experience)
I’ve managed to place 7th, 6th and 3rd so far. Well done to Louise for 4th and 1st place, scooping first after being taken down in a crash is great! And to Alexa for placing 12th and 7th and for fighting her way back to form after being ill earlier in the year.
Third cat licence
I’ve managed to acquire 14 points on my BC licence, which means I now have my cat 3 licence in my first season of racing! Yay! And because I’m racing so much at the moment, coming third in the crit last night has given me another 10 points, so I’m 14 points on my way to a cat 2 licence. Eeek! The best bit is that there’s still 5 target road races to go, in addition to 3 more crits so I’ve got a good remaining season left to improve for next year, and learn as much as I can. The reality of this means racing once a week throughout July and August when I can then – hopefully – fit in a week in the sun with Andy – before the final two races of the season.
I have so many people to thank for their help and advice so far. I can’t list everyone but special thanks to: my coach Gareth for believing in me and for his time and support. Andy, my other half, who has supported me through the highs and lows of the season when struggling to get over a bad crash earlier in the year. Alexa and Louise for being the best team mates, Gen, Morag and Alastair, Sandra, Colin R, The ERC race squad – and sponsors Alpine Bikes, The Bicycle Works, The Tri Centre and Field and Lawn. A special shout out to Lee who has often dropped off the back of chaingangs to give me a wheel to sit on to take me back to the bunch, and also for staying with me during my two punctures in the pouring rain (likewise, Warren – i owe you both a pint/coffee and a tube!)
If you are still awake and need something to pass the time at work, you can check out my previous rambings on http://pescetarianrevolutions.wordpress.com/
Thanks for reading!
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