Find Time

Normally, this would be my day off but I’ve been slacking a bit this week, for reasons that should be quite obvious and understandable. Last night was my first time on a bike since coming back from Eroica, and the guides all tell me it should be five hours a week on a bike by now if there is any chance of being fit enough for the Ride London 46. The good news, of course, is that our shed allows me to train whilst watching the World Cup.

That will make life considerably easier going forward.

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I’ve switched from the original plan I was running, which ended up being simply too much to do on top of everything else, to a month long, more casually focused approach  which is based off my FTP. Last night it was a very stress free introduction, with the backdrop of Iran v Spain making time fly by. Tonight, I’ll do the same to Argentina v Croatia. Then, there needs to be some more work on upper body strength and reducing the weight around my trunk.

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Until Ride London happens, I have given up bread as a cheap carb fix. Sandwiches are my Kryptonite, and so until we make it to the end of July, I’m gonna cut them out. This is already making me cry. However, as I am now a Big Girl (TM) it’ll be alright in the end, and there may be a bit more tea drunk to compensate.

Talking of which… ^^

Bicycle Race

You know I mentioned my e-mail address stopped working a while back? Well, yesterday I discovered a quite important e-mail that had gone astray.

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I made it into the Ride London 46 Ballot. Fortunately I’ve not missed anything vital and the participation’s confirmed, though not gonna lie, I’m terrified. It’s exactly seven weeks on Sunday, which is also the day before we go on holiday, and suddenly everything’s become a panicked, anxiety filled mess. This is not how it was hoped such a thing would initially be prepared for and so, as a result, it’s time to take a fucking huge step back at the weekend and quietly consider what is needed.

However, before anything else, it is time to start selling the reason why I initially signed up to do this.

I grow tired of the pontificating on Social media by people who talk a good ‘let’s all change the World’ speech but don’t ever push their own boundaries to do just that. So, I’ve set myself a £500 target, and have already contacted Mind, who will provide me with a jersey and encouragement along the way. This seems to me a far better means of making sure that the people who really need help are getting it, because I’m giving money to an organisation who’s sole task is to do just that. Rather than just sitting on my arse saying I care, this is a constructive means of making things better.

If the anxiety ridden depressive can do this, then maybe that will act as an incentive to others.

The Other Side

From the low, you inevitably come up. How that used to happen was normally accompanied by a lot of thrashing and wailing. This time around, the day started with a lot of playing Warcraft and no worries about the consequences. Stuff is scheduled and ideas are on the table. There will even be a short story finished by the end of the weekend for Mr Alt to edit. After I’d played, and progressed some stuff that was planned, there was a walk to the Gym. Lots of stretching happened both before and after the session.

There I worked REALLY hard.

The key is to keep moving. Once upon a time I’d have sat and felt sorry for myself, but having learnt the difference between good and bad pain after a year of experiencing plenty of both, there’s now the ability to discern the difference. Getting back on the road to fitness isn’t as painful as was expected, when all is said and done. What is hardest of all, and which prompted the Tweet yesterday, is everything outside of my control. It will mean that there will have to be a reassessment of priorities in the next few weeks. I have Eroica in a month (Saturday outfit sorted, Sunday will not take long.) There’s a distinct possibility I could be doing Ride London.

If they both come to pass, there needs to be more fitness than currently exists to complete both. If the latter happens, there’ll be a sponsorship page for a mental health charity going up because without support, I’d not be here.

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The problem is big numbers; building stamina, without my body failing to cope. That’s where the bike comes in, and why I’ll be getting back on tonight.

That whole ‘no pain, no gain’ thing is the absolute truth.

The World is Not Enough

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Between you and me, I am not a great fan of competition. However, it is undoubtedly true that having goals and objectives makes the process of putting in the miles (whether literal or metaphorical) easier to achieve. It is the reason why a daily list of Things to Do is now written without a thought with the second cuppa of the day. In the exercise department, self-motivation is key. Pushing each day to obtain what can often seem like nominal targets does have a benefit: those thirty-six tiny push-ups achieved yesterday will be a little bit stronger once completed today.

Last night, my Functional Threshold Power went up by a massive eight points. It wasn’t through a scheduled test, simply doing the Richmond World Cycling Championship course on Zwift as if I was trying to win it. What is now apparent is that setting goals matter far more than they ever did, because by these yardsticks does the true ability of an individual emerge. It’s why I’ve signed up for all those challenges: sure, some of them dangle free shit like juicy, fresh carrots… the realistic chances of winning any of it is slim to none. That’s not why we’re taking part.

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This effort, plus the fact there was no car to use yesterday in the rainiest day remembered for some time, also pushed the step count up in the range that’s not been seen for many, many months. I miss walking, and that needs to be fixed as the weather improves.

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The Fitbit won’t normally record my steps as miles, and so this is not a strictly accurate representation of effort (18 miles ridden plus about 6 miles walked yesterday would be closer to the truth.) Asking my Fitbit to record the activity as cycling will work if bike moves, but is largely redundant when static, so the thing is shoved in my cycling shorts (at leg level) to record movement that way. As a heart monitor is worn it’s easy to equate an accurate calorie count regardless.

However, if truth be told, the camera and I need to be outside, by the Estuary and in the woods and at the old buildings that are crying out to be photographed. That’s the plan for May, and with an improvement in general organisation, all these things should now be doable.

That’s the plan anyway.

Not Enough

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However good you think you are, it’s a lie. Look at Lewis Hamilton’s race this morning in Australia as conclusive proof that anything can happen, and does, and the only way to deal with that is to be as prepared as possible. I’m not dumb enough to compare my training to the world of F1, don’t worry. However, I’m well aware of what complacency can do for your mental state. This is one of the reasons why I’m on this sixteen-week training course, being summarily schooled in what my legs can and cannot do. Yesterday I began what the Guide refers to as Neuromuscular Power training.

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I have only briefly trained like this before, and the hour session completed yesterday made it apparent that I’m severely lacking. After a brief warmup, body was asked to do 15 sets of 3.30 ‘intervals’: 3 minutes at my comfortable cycling pace and 10 seconds right up in ‘owowow’ Zone 7. In fairness, I did manage ten of these before my legs started complaining, and the last fifteen minutes was the most uncomfortable I’ve been since any kind of training began. BUT IT WAS FINISHED. Today’s workout is Anaerobic Capacity and I’m already pretty nervous for that, too. However, we’ll do it.

At least I hope that’s the case.

Understanding the science of what is going on in my body has been incredibly helpful in order to grasp why all these numbers and zones have a relevance. Understanding how muscles tear and strengthen, what exercises benefit which parts of your body, why rest and stretching matter so much… all of this contributes to enlightenment and understanding, which in turn makes me a better athlete. It also gives me a chance to plan and organise everything else with a level of certainty. Even if I don’t make the Ride London Ballot, this is body strength that will set me in good stead for the years to come.

Eventually, my legs might even stop hating me and begin to enjoy the journey.

Wednesday Week

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When I look back on this point from the future, there will be the understanding that 2018 was where everything changed: not just exercise, or mental outlook, or even the ability to discern truth from deception. This was the year when, driving to pick up my daughter, Brain successfully informed Body that we’d done enough and it was time to stop. I turned off Social media, came home and spent a couple of hours looking after myself. There was no cycling (I have two days worth of tests to run starting today) and no exercise (which will happen after I’ve written this) but what there was included writing novel and organising next week.

Then, I slept for nine hours. The elimination of caffeine after 6pm and removal of electronic devices which can be read from the bedroom has begun, finally, to bear fruit. It also helps that I’ve been physically exhausted by my new training plan, which is now pushing body in new and interesting ways. I had time to prepare breakfast the night before, and make a list of the things needed to continue to improve my food intake. Once I’m done here it is good enough weather to walk to and from the Gym for a weights session, and if it’s not too busy afterwards, I might even have lunch there.

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This is where I’d like to make my home, for a while. However, yesterday I was prompted by an e-mail that I might like to consider the Ballot for the Ride London 47: a shorter version of the main ride, without the killer hills, which would allow me to gain a sponsor and make some money for the time spent. I won’t know if I’ve managed to get in until late April, but it shows willing and is an acknowledgement that there’s a desire to try a ‘proper’ event, rather than the more casually-based Eroica. It will also take place the day before we go on holiday, so I’ll have plenty of time to recover.

Entering myself, however, is a huge deal. I don’t like races, get nervous and itchy at the competition. The psychology of it all will be a bigger undertaking too because I’ll be doing it alone (husband will be on the full ride) and I’ve never had the confidence to do something this complex without support. That’s the biggest leap forwards of all. I am good enough. I can do this. There’s anxiety just thinking about it, typing the words, but beneath all of that remains the confidence in myself, that never existed before. Just as I’m about to finish a novel that’s taken two decades to grasp, I could ride alone and succeed.

All things are now possible, if I just believe enough in myself.