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.

Singularity

Yesterday was my first session with the new PT, and BOY was it a revelation. I’ve never used a Bosu for anything other than the odd exercise and yesterday, the whole thing evolved past being ‘just another piece of equipment’ and became… well, something quite transformative.

Hang on, you don’t know what a Bosu is?

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If I had said balance board you’ll have probably got the idea: two sides, either is capable of being used as a way of engaging more muscles than just arms or legs. In fact, use one of these to balance on (one leg only, please) and then add some light weights to the mix and BAM there is no need for intense workouts. My new trainer knows I do cardio on my own, without a need to be prompted. Weights are now not a frightening concept either, so what is needed in this new relationship is cerebral plus the effort.

The Bosu requires a level of concentration that I’d previously have struggled with, were it not for meditation via Mindfulness. However, now it is not only possible but incredibly satisfying to stand on the board for protracted periods of time and simply exist. I’ve always watched with awe the guys who use a full balance ball to weightlift on (there’s a rugby player at the Gym who makes it look effortless) but now there’s fledgeling understanding of how that can and would work for me.

Three guesses what I’m doing when I get to the Gym later.

I’m already looking forward to training, and it’s been a while since that happened :D

The End

Today is the end of a significant portion of my exercise ‘life’ as my long-standing PT leaves the sector completely for pastures new. It’s been interesting watching how other people have reacted to this departure: some have angrily blamed her for ruining their lives by leaving, others have demonstrated quite frightening levels of passive-aggressive resistance. For me, although there is considerable sadness at the loss of someone so influential, there cannot be anything other than joy and happiness that she’s off to make her life better.

She has taught me so much about myself in that regard.

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This is a woman who flat-out refuses to use any kind of social media. She is kind beyond measure, and immensely thoughtful. Her capacity to organise is often staggering, but it is her warmth and consideration that rank higher than anyone else I have ever met. It is unsurprising, given the frankly unpleasant and thoughtless nature of many of her clients, that she’s picked this moment to leave. Very few people seemed to be prepared to do the work, despite the fact they were paying her to do just that.

There’s a lot of sympathy for her frustration with other’s inability.

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I have a new trainer lined up and promise not to take too much personal baggage to our relationship. It’s an opportunity to start fresh, without expectations, and should be considered a new set of challenges. My left arm’s at about 80% right now but there are press ups in me plus weights to be lifted, so it is all good. Plus, the rehab is going remarkably well, and my cycling is getting stronger every session.

This is the start of an exciting chapter of my life.

Better Days

Today is Physio Day. I’ll need to make this reasonably quick as a result as it’s still taking a while to get dressed. However, last night in bed, there was some movement in places where it has not existed since last week. Hair can now be put up (but its still painful) so in that regard, it is definite progress. However, I doubt I’ll be lifting anything for at least another week, possibly more. That means watching my diet like a hawk, doing extra cycling to keep the calories in check, and not getting depressed.

My biggest concern is that my arm still won’t fully straighten: it’s definitely more mobile, but until I can lock my elbow without pain, a lot of exercises simply aren’t doable. My wrist is also being problematic so I might have to fork out for a full hour today to get everything looked at. I should probably get in a bit earlier regardless to see if I can locate my PT, and see if she’d like a coffee tomorrow so we can start planning some kind of rehab programme.

See you in a bit.

Run for Home

The last couple of days have shown that even if I’m not able to lift heavy shit for a while, my legs still work fine, and I can continue to train on the bike without (too many) issues. Therefore, this morning I entered my first group event on Zwift.

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The first item of note here is that this is not a race against anybody but yourself. I can tell you for a fact that a bunch of people did make it a race, at speeds that frankly I’d be lucky to maintain for a minute, let alone ninety. There’s an important fact to be registered too, whilst we’re here: cheating a cycling simulator by lying about your weight and power in order to increase speed, or using other means to drive your trainer to give the impression Bradley Wiggins is a slowpoke… who are you fooling, exactly? Cheating a virtual game’s a waste of time in exactly the same way cheating is wank everywhere else. You don’t get to go and cry in front of the cameras as catharsis either. Seriously, nobody cares.

For me, this is the longest I’ve ever cycled virtually, and it has taught a lot about how physical strength has improved in the last three months.

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The killer was there’s a hill (actually a volcano because FIERY DOOM IS BEST DOOM) in this route, twice: brain and legs did it once and then decided between them that the second time would be easier, albeit about thirty seconds slower. I used gears effectively, rested between the hard bits, and as there was enough in the tank left to sprint for the line there’s the understanding that pacing rides is beginning to become a habit. Once it became obvious that I’d be doing the whole thing alone, too, I stopped stressing about other people.

Mr Alt was a star and stayed with me for the first climb, before pushing up to finish a very impressive 75th (the field ended up as 180 people) He’s taught me a huge amount around gearing and planning hills, all of which was massively useful this morning. I could find myself wanting to do that route as enjoyment, once I’m able to hang onto both handlebars and stop worrying about weight on my left arm. Before, that gradient of hill would be a concern. Now, I’m wondering how much time I could take off the climb. There’s a change from three months ago.

I have two benchmarks to hit in terms of recovery that matter far more than being able to lift again. I want to be able to stick left index finger in my mouth, and put up my own hair. Once those two things are possible, I’m honestly not fussed how long it takes to get everything else up to scratch. I’d also like the pain in my right thumb to bugger off too, and then we can never be that fucking stupid and trip over our own feet again.

I blame BST for all this stupidity. LOOKING AT YOU GREENWICH.

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.