How I was bitten by the training bug
This time two years ago, I’d just recently written a guest post for Brooks England ‘Just don’t call it training,’ where I talked about my worries that undertaking any kind of organised training would detract from the sheer fun and blessedly simple joy of riding a bicycle.
A couple of months later in June 2015, I impulsively entered the Red Hook Crit series’ inaugural London event whilst sitting on a beach in Torquay, where I was staying in a holiday flat as Dave and I didn’t actually have anywhere permanent to live.
I was intrigued as to how I’d fare in the race, having watched the Milan leg of the global event the previous year when we were living in Italy. I knew it would be hard, but could I do it?
When I took the plunge and decided to satisfy my curiosity I realised I wouldn’t be able to properly answer that question unless I turned up as well prepared as I could be. There was only a month until the race so I didn’t have much time to work with but I wanted to line up on the start satisfied I’d done all I could. I decided I’d commit to training for the next four weeks and that I’d knock it on the head after the race if I felt that it was in any way spoiling my favourite activity.
Feeling nervous, I announced that I’d entered on my social media so that I wouldn’t back out and when I did so, James Scott of High Rise Coaching very generously offered to coach me. With so little time until the race, I thew myself wholeheartedly into training, not wanting to waste a minute.
If I decide to do something, I do it 100%.
As I was staying in Torquay, I began training at Torbay Velopark. Having never done any interval training before, James’ sessions were quite a shock to the system and made me reassess what I considered ‘hard.’ Determined to follow his instructions ‘to a t’, I realised very quickly how much longer I could keep going if I really had to and the level at which I needed to push myself if I wanted to complete the sessions as prescribed.
The sessions were intense and painful but I felt like an absolute champ just for completing them to the maximum of my ability. I finished them like a quivering mess but at my core, felt a great strength I hadn’t noticed before. I felt proud of my little legs and of my mind that willed them to keep turning through discomfort. The training was actually making me feel good, even though my legs permanently hurt!
After some problems with the hugely expensive last resort holiday let, Dave and I found ourselves with nowhere to live. The first house we’d tried to buy together had fallen through and I’d lost a lot of money and now it seemed uncertain if and when we’d be able to move into another place. Unsure of our future, I moved up to the Peak District to stay with my parents for an indeterminate amount of time. Dave, meanwhile, had to stay in Torbay due to his job.
Un in the Hope Valley, I continued my training with gusto. With so much uncertainty in my life and as a freelancer with chaotic job patterns I began to really enjoy the discipline and structure of training. I really looked forward to it; it was one my favourite parts of the day. My body responded quickly and I noticed it changing but the best thing was how it all made me feel – proud, happy, strong and best of all, calm. And as someone who’d been made almost hysterical and sometimes in tears during the awful process of buying a house, that was a valuable result.
Two Years On
We’re now not far from the two year anniversary of that fateful decision to enter the Red Hook Crit and the impact that racing and training have had on my life have been profound. Racing and training have given me purpose and focus that I badly needed and the endorphins help keep me smiling. I’m prone to anxiety and depression and have never found a better way to stay on an even keel – the heavy buzz from a hard training session stays with me for the rest of the day, an almost opiate sedative!
I feel better (and better about myself) than I have done in years, and this despite some harrowing health issues I’ve had to deal with that will have lifelong implications. Training hard has helped my increase my resilience to all of this, because feeling like a warrior when on a bike crosses over into the rest of my life.
I will be forever grateful to James as if his method and sessions had not been so engaging and perfectly tuned to my needs, I may well have become disenchanted.