Lesson 1: Expect the unexpected
It was the end of February. I was sitting down in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by strangers. Someone was holding a cloth to my forehead and asking my name and if I knew what had happened. There was the smell of blood. There was very little pain and a feeling of detachment. I didn’t really know who I was, never mind where I was. I was living in the present with no consciousness of the past or the future. I then remember realising that I was sitting in the chemists in Arnside, and someone telling me that I had come off my bike. My next memory is of being in a car on the way to hospital in Kendal.
I had set out that morning for a steady ride on one of my regular loops and my last clear memory of the ride was starting up the hill at the back of Arnside Knott. The next half hour or so is, and thankfully will probably remain, a mystery to me.
I spent the rest of the morning in the Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal before being taken to Lancaster for a scan. I gradually regained my faculties and the scan showed that there was no real damage. After receiving stitches above my eye, my wife was able to collect me and I arrived home some 10 hours after first leaving home. As I sit writing this in December, I still have no memory of what happened or of whether I simply came off or whether a vehicle was involved. Perhaps it’s for the best.
Lesson 2: Helmets are a good thing.
Seeing the damage to my helmet and sunglasses leads me to suspect that their absence would have led to much more serious damage. Although my face was badly grazed, the helmet certainly saved me from a serious blow to the temple and probably serious cosequent damage.
Prior to Christmas 2010 the weather had been appalling with thick snow and ice on the ground which made cycling hazardous and thus meant that I got very few miles in during this time. The snow then cleared, but I injured a rib (not cycling related), and so I missed more winter base training. I was just getting into my stride again when I had my accident as recounted above and thus missed another two weeks. Suddenly the early summer sportives were looming so rather than trying to catch up on the base miles, I went straight into tempo rides (top end Aerobic). These sportives are documented elsewhere on the blog and I was fairly pleased with the way they went. However due to the truncated preparation I hadn’t done any threshold training.
Lesson 3: Don’t neglect high intensity work
Usually I try to do two sessions a week where I ride up Brigsteer Hill and Scout Scar from both directions ( four ascents in all) at a high heart rate. This didn’t happen, so inevitably I lacked zip when climbing.
My main focus for the year was the Raid Alpine. Having completed 3 sportives I turned my attention to this. As it approached, I began to realise that I wasn’t riding as strongly as I had hoped. A niggling nerve injury in my leg and a lack of base training meant that I was running out of steam at a critical time. Nevertheless I turned up in France and set off on the first day of the challenge.
Lesson 4: Don’t expect to maintain your one day pace for back to back days.
I was in one of the front groups for the first day, but by the second, I realised I was digging too deep. From then on I backed off and rode at a more conservative pace. Having backed off, I determined that I needed to ride the hills at my own pace.
Lesson 5: Spin more
By the end of the trip I was spinning much lower gears and was climbing more quickly and efficiently. This continued when I got home and is something that I have tried to maintain since.
Lesson 6: Spend as much as you can afford, then spend more on cold weather kit!
Nothing prepared me for the cold and wet conditions encountered on my first trip to the Alps. My cold weather kit was completely inadequate and I suffered the consequences on long cold descents.
Lesson 7: Lack of base miles will catch up with you. Try to get the steady miles in during the winter.
I returned from a tough but exhilarating Raid, to find that my lack of base work had taken it’s toll. I was more tired than I should have been, and it was time to knock things back a little. On a subsequent family holiday to the Cevennes, I rode only half my usual miles and enjoyed a more leisurely two weeks than normal. There was something very satisfying in dropping the pace and looking round at the views.
All this sounds as if I have had a bad year. On the contrary, I’ve had some of the best cycling of my life, as I hope some of the blog entries show. I just wanted to look at ways in which it could have been even better.
I am now in the middle of a concerted period of steady base training with a couple of good hills usually thrown in on Sunday group rides. I intend to keep this up till after Christmas, when I will start to introduce some tempo work. As I’m hoping to ride the Fred Whitton again in May, I will start some threshold work in March. All this supposes that I stay free of illness, injuries and bad weather for the next few months. There is a perverse pleasure in winter group rides and the last few weeks have been very enjoyable. There is a lot to be said for a steady paced social ride, particularly when you can justify it as base training!