It’s been nearly a year since my last confession. I had even got to the point of 99% completion of part 2 for my last blog, but never did that final 1%. Why not? I simply didn’t have the time to finish it the way I wanted.
You see, I have this in-built drive to ensure I’m doing everything I can to do the best job I can at everything I do*. If I can’t do a good job, it doesn’t happen. And that’s how my lack of time meant that I couldn’t finish that last 1% of my blog post.
It’s also this drive to do a good job that has left me lacking the time to write my blog. You will most likely already know that I compete at Elite level. Probably 90% of you will know that to compete at Elite level takes a lot of time and dedication**. Another 50% of you will know that I also work full time. And a further 20% of you know that I work in the design/ construction industry. 15% probably also know that this industry can require you to work 60+ hours a week (no, we don’t get paid overtime). And just to ensure that you are all covered, 10% of you didn’t know me at all, or anything about me until now and probably stumbled across my blog when looking up the term “sexy women in glasses” (yes, there is actually a photo of me in a stream of photos with such a title. The fact that I don’t wear glasses makes this whole thing a bit more weird. And no, I did not find this out by typing in the aforementioned search term).***
So I work lots of hours and spend lots of time training. And I run the Women’s Eastern Racing League (WERL) www.WomensEasternRacingLeague.co.uk . Which, because I can’t do half a job, is not just a league. With approaching £10k worth of prizes (thanks to the amazing generosity of others) and the improvements it’s made to the scene in the east, it’s very much more than just another league. So, all-in-all, I’m pretty busy and the time required to do a good job on a blog post just hasn’t appeared during the gap between midnight and 12.01am. Oh, and then there was the time I found myself standing as a candidate for the Green Party in the last elections, despite the fact I had not yet decided if I was voting for the Green Party or not and have no political ambitions whatsoever… but that’s a whole other story.
So Sunday sees the return of Tickhill GP and the reason I find myself sat here sipping away at my glass of tonic water (see previous blog posts), tapping out a new blog post 10 months after my last one.
To set the scene I’m going to go back to Part 1 of my last blog post where I said I learnt something that helped pick up my results in time to form a focus during that miserable part of the year called “winter training”. Well now, I’m going to reveal to the world what was written in Part 2, but summaries the 1000+ words down to just one, as I can see the word count on this blog post rising rapidly. Here goes:
I learnt that to do well in a race, you have to concentrate. Well derrr… but it wasn’t obvious to me. Or rather, I wasn’t concentrating enough to notice that you have to concentrate throughout the whole race rather than just at the end. I’m not now going to go into the ins and outs of why concentrating through the race makes a big difference because I’ve got other reasons for punching the keyboard right now.
The key thing is, my coach pointed out that I’ve been loosing concentration during races and then I came out with some amazing results last year. I suddenly found myself at the front of the race at the National Criterium Championships and can for once say that I truly helped team-mate Eileen Roe win. And a race with a stripy jersey at the end of it too! Another great result last year was winning Tickhill GP.
This brings us nicely round to the point in this blog post. I am returning to race Tickhill GP this Sunday as reigning champion. To put it rather dramatically.
For the first time, I am going to a race with certain expectations upon my shoulders. I don’t mean that I’m necessarily favourite to win, but a lot of people will be expecting me to be in with a chance. This brings with it a certain amount of pressure to perform. Those that have raced with me this season won’t be expecting much, but those that haven’t will. And here comes the crux of the issue. Up until 3 weeks ago, I wasn’t going to race Tickhill. I’ll let that sink in a little for those that this may have come as a surprise.
It’s simply because I haven’t been able to dedicate the time to train for it in order to meet the expectations of those who watched me race the event last year. By this, I mean I haven’t trained properly for 3 months. I would have been lapped. My form had slipped so low I may well have been the first rider to have been lapped. As last year’s winner, this is not a position I wanted to put myself in. The way I explained it to my coach is that I didn’t want to make a tit of myself.
Not training for 3 months was not something I had planned and it was not something forced upon me due to illness or injury. Having focused my mind for my winter training, I went really well up until January this year. Then I got flu. This set me back about 6 weeks. My motivation lagged and had a big impact on my dedication to train. Things did pick up again as we approached racing season. But then I hit another snag. The step up to the next licence category, meant that I was restricted in the races I was able to take part in. I could count on one hand the number of races I did before the start of the Matrix Fitness GP a.k.a. the Tour Series. Nowhere near enough preparation required for this level of racing. I also could no longer take part in the local races that I love with and in front of the people who give me the most support.
Again motivation dipped. Whilst this happened, pressure was building at work. I took a step back and surveyed the situation. The outcome was that I decided to step back a bit from racing and focus on work. I chose one race weekend to peak for and took the pressure off needing to perform week-in-week-out on the road and in the office.
I chose the Masters National Track Championships as my peak races. Having started racing on the track last November, it was something I knew I loved. So I dedicated hard, long hours to the office for a period, then swapped this round by dropping my hours at work to near normal levels and dedicating long hours to training in the build-up to the track champs. To put it blunt, I smashed it. Out of 5 events (3 I’d never done before), I came away with 3 gold and 2 silvers. I know a lot of you don’t hold masters titles in high regard, but you will do. That is your future. And I know what I put into those races. I raced harder than I ever have in my life. I wanted to win more than I ever have in my life. I pushed so hard in the Pursuit race that I actually collapsed off my bike at the end and still came away with silver. That is the level racing can reach at the Masters Track Champs.
After the champs I went back to working long days in the office. I get a real sense of achievement from doing a good job, and to do a good job, it meant dedicating nearly 60 hrs a week at that point. So for 3 months I was working lots and riding little. I’d written off this season having achieved more than I had hoped with 4 national titles this year and decided my season was finished. And then it was suddenly 3 weeks until Tickhill and I was feeling a real sense of FOMO****. And that’s when I sent the fateful text message to my coach saying “I’ve got 3 weeks, is it possible to get me to a position to race Tickhill without making a tit of myself?”
Now I have one of the best coaches in the world. Yes, he coached Alex Dowsett to take the hour record and Helen Wyman to medal at a world championships along with many other achievements. But this is not why for me, he is one of the best coaches in the world:
He came very highly recommended by people I trust, he is a lecturer in sports science and so not only thoroughly understands what he is doing, is up-to-date with the very latest research, he lives near-by so I can meet him face-to-face if I want, we can speak for hours on the phone, I can phone him to change my plan at a moments notice if necessary, I know my plan is tailored to me alone. Every day, every week, every month, every year is different, I feel like I am the most important rider that he coaches and I know every rider he coaches feels that way, he has time for me, not just an allotted time, but almost any time, he wants me to achieve, when I do what he tells me, I achieve… What is this? A Mark Walker advert? Here’s his website if you’re interested MarkWalkerCoaching.co.uk . I get no special benefits from recommending him, I just believe in him. And he’ll probably hate me for saying those things about him, another thing that makes him a good coach.
So Mark set about putting together a training plan that would get me into shape in 3 weeks. And so followed the most painful, exhausting and exhilarating three weeks of my life. Wanting to still perform well at work, but without the additional time to deliver the projects was stressful, but I followed that plan-to-the-letter and nearly 3 weeks later, I find myself with a spring in my step and a confidence I never knew. I found out so much about myself in that 3 weeks. Not least that I prefer tough turbo sessions to riding outside. Although I did always know I was a bit weird.
And then last night we were discussing my progress and he happens to mention that he’s never given one of his riders such an intense set of sessions for that period of time. And now I’m really feeling tough as nails.
So I’ve put a lot into this 3 weeks of training and it might all work out, it might not. Truth is, this kind of training was risky, but I had nothing to loose. Now, though, I have expectations of myself for Tickhill. Pressure. But hey, I’ve now also learnt that I love the pressure. It helps to focus the mind. Nothing like a looming deadline to bring out the best in yourself.
Such is the way in sport, though, that you dedicate your time, make sacrifices, plan, focus, train, and build up confidence for that one race, and prepare and much as humanly possible and then so much of it comes down to luck. And that’s what I’m doing now. Preparing myself mentally. I want to win this race again. But likelihood is that I won’t. Last year, the other riders underestimated me. This year they won’t. 3 weeks tough training is no replacement for the season of training and racing the other riders have had. I’m in such a good place mentally at the moment that I don’t want to lose it if I got lapped this year at Tickhill.
And so here follows a list of positives that I’ve got out of these 3 weeks regardless of Tickhill results that I can focus on PTGP (post Tickhill GP):
– I’m not the lazy person I thought I was
– I can push myself harder and for longer than I ever thought was possible
– My body can cope with a lot of physical stress and I can therefore repeat this if necessary
– I enjoy training that makes me nearly black-out, more than easier sessions
– I love my turbo trainer and training indoors
– Myself and my coach have learnt more in this last three weeks about me than in the past year or so put together.
– This new knowledge will revolutionise my future training
– No matter how deep into despair I go, I’m only ever 3 weeks away from getting back into it.
– I thrive under pressure
– I 100% have the right coach
– I know what I need to do to prepare myself for a tough session
– I have everything within my power, that I need to go where I want to go with my cycling
– If I don’t like something, I can change it
– I’ve learnt how to successfully prioritise my work and my training
– I really and truly want to do this
And so that’s the point in this blog post. So that I can write it down and I’m not going to lose the scrap of paper. It’s here for me to read again and again. Because, ultimately, I started this blog for selfish reasons. It’s for me. But if you enjoy my ramblings, or even learn something from it, well, that’s a bonus.
See you on the other side!
*This does not apply to house work.
***Percentages entirely made up. You should know by now I don’t have time to research/ calculate such things.
****Fear Of Missing Out