November is a strange month. Its
been a fast and furious twelve months since I practiced the art of going slow
and it shows. Adjusting my training speeds and mental direction in line with
the time of year are a hell of a lot easier said than done, competitiveness
must be temporarily subdued and a sense of
plodding along, gathering up the training, adopted.
The winter is a cruel mistress to
tame, a thin tightrope, fraying and ready to snap at either end lest you step
too quick. As a Junior I am fully aware that each and every winter my training
must step up, just as the racing does in the season, in order to allow me to
get stronger and improve on this season. As Tom Southam put it in one of his
blog posts: It starts
off hard when you’re young; physically you have to push yourself to new levels.
You have to work on becoming stronger, faster, better. You have to get out
there in the inglorious winter winds and improve your physical parameters.
This shifting of the goal posts, with the aim of becoming a better athlete,
means its hard to settle into a 'winter pace', with a pantheon
of guess work and time in the saddle needed to feel your way into the dark and
grey winter days.
Due to changes in the schedules of
a few, of the few, Hackney/East London based riders, my own included, I have
been out training solo the majority of the time in the last few weeks. This is
one of my favourite ways to train as although whilst not as sociable as going
out with others, it allows you to feel much more of the ride and as the Olympic
medal winning boxer Anthony Joshua instructed me a few weeks ago to 'be selfish with your training'. It
allows me to do exactly what I want and need to do, while keeping my nose in
the wind, building, I like to think, a little more strength.
These solo miles, something I am
far from unaccustomed to, also provide good opportunity to explore a few lanes
around my stomping grounds of Herford and Essex, with the aim to try and find a
new road or two on each of my longer base mileage rides. And with the speed up
a notch from last winter, this task is made significantly easier, with a three
hour ride now encroaching into four hour territory lanes and so on, my
'knowledge' expands further north, east and west with every passing week.
However riding on your own does also
bring with it a small sense of insecurity, for a young racer at least, with the
worry that you are going too hard, too slow, too much, too little, constantly
plaguing the mind. For although I ride with a
Powertap attached to my bike, I have yet to fully
embrace the unromantic scientific side of the sport based around wattage and
mathematics. I see myself having plenty of time over the next few years
to start using power more religiously and want to embrace this last year as a
Junior as an opportunity to try to get to know my body away from what the raw
data relays. Training and racing are so much more than numbers. How do you equate that magical word beginning with an S? Suffe….
This all ensures I yearn to start
racing all the more. To come up against some competition and measure my legs
against those I have spent the whole winter thinking about trying to beat. As I
toil away, groveling with a headwind or pushing through for the last half hour
of a long ride, as I ride through the winter months, I think about the upcoming
races, the training others are doing, and how I am going to beat them come the
spring. This drives me to do more, to turn left and add another half an hour
onto my ride, to reach further into Essex or take an unknown lane with no worry
of how long it may detour my route. And yet its November, a strange month, for
whilst the races feel so near, a stone throws away, there is in actual fact
much harder work to come, bigger training weeks and more fatigue, plenty of
time to build up to some good legs come March and that magical feeling of
pinning a number to a jersey.