Maybe we take our daily routine for granted, or maybe the grass really is greener on the other side. Either way, I know that when it comes to a race weekend, when most people are looking for something a bit unusual, I’m craving a sorted routine and a sense of well rehearsed calm. It might be a three day jaunt to a cross country race in Yorkshire or Scotland or something closer to home like a round of the London League Cyclo x, but it won’t make any difference – The routine remains the same.
Sunday’s race starts for me, seven days before, on the Monday evening. After racing the previous day, I like to head out for a short ride or a swim – just an hour or two to loosen up the muscles and then on Tuesday after work I’ll be looking to get at least two good hours in, on the race bike. That gives me a chance to change anything I need on the bike and test it/find anything that needs to be fixed and fix it – basically give it a decent shakedown. Then it gets a wash and everything is checked and adjusted in the stand in my workshop. Once the bike is how I want it and the miles are in my legs it’s time for dinner. Carbohydrates and protein both take time to do their job in the body and so if you want to race well on Sunday you have to start feeding the fire on Tuesday.
So Wednesday becomes a nice day off (from riding that is, unfortunately not work!) – The ride to and from work takes an hour if I go the fun way. Plus, I’m far enough away from any race to go climbing or sink a beer or two without it hurting. Just remember to keep eating well, because Thursday,…well Thursday hurts!
Thursday starts at about 05:30 with breakfast and a ride to the local pool for an hour or about 100 lengths (usually whichever comes first). Then on to work because, unlike the pro’s I have to earn the money to service my own bikes and van. After that an hour and a half of real training kicks off with a warm-up and then a circuit where I ride about six or eight intervals and finally the ride home to dinner. Like lunch, chicken pasta or spag bol is the order of the night and hopefully I’ll be in bed by about half ten or eleven at the latest.
On Thursday I use something like 5500 calories and on Friday it’ll still be around 4500 so between those two days I’ll need about 1400 grams of carbohydrates, about 300 grams of protein and around 300 grams of fat. That’s about what a normal, healthy family of four would eat in the same time scale! This is just the figure it would take to maintain a healthy weight and so to load up for the weekend I have to eat about 15 to 20% more. This is getting toward the upper limit of what the body can usefully digest and so anymore training/working than this would be detrimental to performance.
Friday itself always tends to be a nice day because after all the extra efforts of Thursday I spend most of the day eating and drinking! After work I’ll run home, have another quick snack, grab the cyclo x bike and head out onto the road with lots of Torq food and drink. I’ll be riding for about two or three hours, but it’ll be quite low intensity and the ride will be focused on mileage rather than the severe hill session yesterday. Another early night is in order and lots of pasta, potatoes or something similar will be on the menu.
Saturday is a strange one because depending upon where I’m racing everything tends to get mixed up and moved around. But basically I have to find time for extra sleep – either through a lie in or a nap, pack the truck and drive to the venue and preferably pre ride the course/ride something similar. I also have to constantly remind myself to eat and drink enough. Also the bike has to be fine tuned for the course. The best thing about Saturday is that it doesn’t really matter what you have for dinner, because by that point it’s too late to do any loading – so steak and chips, with some other racers, in a pub close to the race is often what secures my attention whilst taking my mind off racing.
And finally it’s race day. Basically the plan is to get up as late as possible, a bit like many other peoples Sundays I suppose. Although, by late I mean about nine for a coffee and a big bowl of rice pudding – the breakfast of kings! This is followed by a lap of the course so I can make any last minute tweaks to the bike/tyres and then onto sign on and to shoot the breeze with any supporters, sponsors or friendly faces. We’ll get herded into the start coral and hopefully I’ll be gridded somewhere near the front in anticipation of the first corner. The only prep you can do now is to sharpen those elbows and pray*.
Almost catching another gatepost on my way out of the leisure centre complex, we raced out of Storrington and over to the first climb up Springhead hill. The tarmac ran out as we summited and the fog clutched us so that course markers 50 feet from our eyes were hidden from view. The first extension took us over Wepham hill down into Warningcamp and back out onto Wepham Down on some exceptionally sticky trails which the short rear end of the Explosif took in its stride. After the first feed station we flew down to Findon where I went on a private 2km detour through a park of confused looking dog walkers, who only appeared more confused once I’d realised my navigational error and met them on the way back.
Back on course there were more confused looks from racers as I past them for the second time that hour as we rode through the tricky deep mud in Canada Bottom and back up Past Ho on gravel. The descent into Washington was treacherous as ever, and more than one rider waved to say they were okay as I sped past their stricken bikes and bodies. I’ve not climbed out of Washington for a year, but my cold limbs quickly remembered the steepness and once again my Rohloff Speedhub paid more than it’s due as it amazing torque saw me past many a broken rider worn down by the thick chalk clay. This left just the drop down into Cootham, which saw me acting like a Jack Russell on the kitchen lino – slick would be an understatement.
After a long morning in the warm thick mist of the South Downs I was more than ready to toast my ride with a cup of tea and a big slice of carrot cake. The gold finishing time of was hard fought, but I came away knowing that I’d got some crucial miles into my legs with one week left of winter. With the bike home, cleaned and checked over it would be time for that next week to begin.
*thankfully bike gods don’t mind you playing on a Sunday.