I’ve just returned from our annual Elitecycling Training camp and as I unpack and rebuild my bike I am reflecting on the week that has just passed and the months that preceeded it.
Our coach, Paul Mill, is a creature of habit which means that for the past three years our training camps have come at exactly the same time of the year, and for the last two years at the same location. Naturally this means it is easy to look back and compare how you have ridden year on year.
At the end of last year I made a conscious decision not to plan any racing goals for this year. After four years of racing and the training that is increasingly needed for me to be vaguely competitive I needed a break. For me it felt like the downs (the scary head injuries, the broken bones, the disappointing results, the cost!) were starting to well outweigh the positives. Initially I felt like I was giving up. Everyone else was progressing to bigger things, sharing training stories and big results and exiting plans for 2017 whilst I was basically downsizing. Very quickly though, I realised that comparing myself to others is never the answer and accepted that this was right for me.
A natural consequence of having no race plans is that my training intensity has reduced as well. I’ve always had something to train for and without goals then the impetus hasn’t been as great. I’ve spent more time focussing on my work, which has been challenging and rewarding. I’ve spent more time relaxing (something I’m fairly bad at)and spending time with my partner, family and friends away from the bike. I’ve even started running! And I’ve been able to do all of these things without feeling guilty, without feeling like I am letting myself down or missing out. It seems that I had been putting so much pressure on myself without even realising. Since letting that pressure go, I’ve been much happier and, weirdly, more proud of what I have achieved in racing rather than disappointed.
(At this point I have to say that pressure has never come from others. I’ve never had anything but support, encouragement and acceptance from my coach Paul and my partner/coach/mechanic/derny pacer Glen!)
And so, I went to Spain this year having ridden my bike a bit, but much less intensely than last year. And unsurpisingly it showed. As my club mates around me had got stronger and stronger, I had gone backwards. And despite the positive rational for it that I’ve just explained, it was still hard not to kick myself!
But the feelings of disappointment don’t last long when you’re riding with friends on beautiful roads in the Spanish sunshine. Instead of being despondent, I focussed on ‘paying forward’ some of the amazing support I received when I first started riding and found a new kind of satisfaction in helping newer riders to find their legs and their confidence. And I took pleasure in riding with a good friend who had helped me get in to cycling in the first place.
I’m not sure yet what this year will bring. I’m sure at some point I’ll need that excitement and adrenalin of racing in one form or another. I’m looking forward to seeing what pops up, taking on new challenges and enjoying the ride.