A Bike Free September
After all the fun of August with it’s Red Hook Crit racing, swimming in the sea, larking about on beaches and having fun with friends, September turned out to be absolutely rubbish. Told in no uncertain terms by my doctor that my body needed a break, I was forbidden to cycle (and run!) for 4 – 6 weeks.
My first thought was of Red Hook Crit in Milan which I was hoping to enter. But as one of this year’s goals was to ride the entire Red Hook series and I’d already ballsed it up my breaking my hand and missing Brooklyn, it wasn’t like I was anywhere near completing it anyway – I’d only managed to race London and Barcelona. I was philosophical about it really – this has been a tough year and I’m kind of used to things not going to plan.
Not riding my bike was far, far harder to deal with, in fact the though of it sent waves of panic through me. At certain tricky points in my life, cycling is the glue that holds everything together so I was worried how I’d cope without it.
I’ve always enjoyed cycling and it’s always made me feel good, but despite my initial worries about training making riding less fun (which sometimes it does when it’s horribly cold and wet, you’re knackered and your legs hurt) in actual fact training gives me a real boost. It gives me a purpose, give my week structure, gets me up and at it when I’m feeling blue, boosts natural endorphins, makes eating cakes more pleasurable, makes me more calm and rational and just generally soothes.
What was I to do? I was already trying to cope with some difficult personal stuff and cycling felt like the one beam of light.
At first I decided my doctor meant ‘no riding hard, no training or pushing yourself’ so I stopped going to ride fast pre-work laps in Regents Park and went for a slow ‘recovery ride’ with my buddy Marigold in Regents Park. This drew disapproving glances from all involved in my treatment.
I put my road bike away.
Rather than riding my carbon road bike with it’s race geometry that just makes me want to go fast, I decided I’d swap to London’s slow, sturdy Boris Bikes for very gentle, occasional cruises to and from appointments. I figured any kind of cycling would keep me from going crazy. And let me tell you, illicitly free-wheeling over London’s bridges with the sun in your face and the Thames glittering beneath you felt nothing short of amazing.
With people close to me questioning even the Boris Bike riding, the next time I saw my doctors I asked him again if he was certain he really mean no cycling at all. And who’d have thought, apparently ‘no cycling’ means just that. The news genuinely made me tearful.
The next five weeks were really, really tough. I’ve been doing weight training in the gym for the last year and was gutted to watch my quads shrink and my abs melt away. I took any and every opportunity to sneak in exercise when I could, marching up all the stairs at tube stations as fast as I could. I was disappointed to notice myself getting more and more out of breath as the weeks passed. Fitness is so slow to gain and quick to lose!
I’m now fully back on the bike, having taken my first proper ride on my mountain bike yesterday at Haldon Forest and today I took my road bike for a 2.5 hour spin along the coast. Both rides were really hard. My legs are so damn weak my lungs feel teeny and ineffective. I can’t go on any club runs or ride with Dave until I’ve put a few base miles back in the tank, I don’t think I could cope otherwise!
But at least I’m back, and I’m more motivated than I’ve ever been. I’ve lots of exciting plans for next year so I’m gonna get the ball rolling this year and do some quality training over the winter so I come out all guns blazing! Next on my agenda is a training camp in Gran Canaria with Polartec, Alberto Contador and the winners of Follow Contador. I’ve ten days to get myself in some kind of shape before I head out there which is tricky as on the one hand, I want to make quick progress but on the other, I need to be cautious so as not to wreck myself before I get there.
At the end of November, when I should be a little fitter, I’m making my first trip to Australia to ride the first ever Etape Australia and visit Sydney. I’m so excited. Any Australian readers fancy going for a ride?