First, a belated Happy New Year to you all!
Now, down to the serious business. Not so many minutes ago I climbed off the turbo pouring sweat and puce of feature, cursing the day I was born. Yep, it’s back to training in earnest, the difference this year being that I’m a man with a plan. A proper, mapped out, easy-to-follow training plan.
I’ll get back to that in a moment, because even more important is the fact that I’ve also managed to relocate my cycling mojo, a crucial element of any bike racer’s existence that at one point I feared was lost forever, buried under a mountain of Christmas season stress from which it seemed never likely to emerge.
The nadir came with a jour sans while out with two team-mates last week, a pathetic effort that culminated in me being dropped by a bunch from one of our local bike shops out on a social ride, with whom we’d joined up. I’m used to seeing a peloton slowly disappear ahead of me; after all, it happened often enough while I was racing last season. But a chaingang? Heavens…
Thus fully aware of the extent to which I’d let my fitness wane, I immediately postponed the formal start of my training plan, concentrating instead on getting some further steady road miles in to kick-start my legs. It seemed to work and by the Sunday club run I felt a lot more sprightly.
So here I go. Starting today I have four weeks of almost daily (just Saturdays off) training sessions put together by a young chap named Alex Welburn, who got in touch with me before Christmas. And he is young, too; young enough to comfortably be my own offspring. But it’s fair to say that he has already trained and raced at a level I could only dream of, so he has plenty to offer from where I’m standing. Indeed he just achieved the runners up spot in the junior event at the British Cyclo-Cross Nationals, so he’s clearly no mug.
It wouldn’t be fair to Alex to go into lots of details about the plan, but suffice to say it’s pretty tough and it will take some staying power to keep myself on it. I’m starting to grasp just how hard it’s going to be to become truly competitive at even my level of bike racing, given my obvious physiological disadvantages compared with the young, slender whippersnappers I’m up against. And I’m now starkly aware of how inadequate my piecemeal approach to training was last season.
In fact, this is only the second time in my life that I’ve signed up for outside help with a sporting endeavour, the first being some personal training in the run up to a half marathon tilt a few years ago. On that occasion I had the company of a delightful Aussie trainer named Holly to inspire me to answer the 6.30am alarm call – this time around I only have my own gurning visage reflected in the office window to keep me amused.
Although I’m already feeling a lot more chipper than I did a week ago, I’m going to sack off this weekend’s Hillingdon race, which I rather rashly entered before Christmas. It’s too soon and would be a waste of time and petrol money, with little prospect of competitiveness and the ever-present risk of a crash, which seems much higher at Hillingdon than most circuits judging by reports of this series to date.
So instead I’m going to build slowly but surely, then have a proper tilt at the Surrey League 4th Cat event in mid-March as my seasonal bow. Not ideal for blogging purposes, since it denies me the easy out of a race report until then, but a more sensible schedule for what looks set to be another long season.
In any case, my pal Richard is still cyclo-crossing, so he can fill some of the gaps while I huff and puff my way through lonely hours on the turbo that will be far too dull to report on in any detail.
So welcome 2012, a new year and a new adventure for this not-quite-apprentice cycle racer. Right now, with the endorphins still circulating after this morning’s efforts, I feel I could conquer the world. The reality may turn out to be quite different, but a man can at least dream, can’t he?