As I wrote last month I entered May full of the joys of flu which forced me to take 2 weeks completely off training and racing. I missed two midweek races and two weekend races. My comeback was my first 50 mile ride of the year – not the best recovery strategy but sometimes these things don’t go to plan! As well as physically needing to recover from illness I also found, for the first time, that it was a real battle to recover mentally. As I struggled through the month to get my performances back to where they had been, with training and racing feeling really hard, I found it difficult to get my head back into a positive mode, and it would have been easy to just give up and let it all fall away. The poor weather also made this seem like an easy option. This is where you need to keep plugging away, and where there is no substitute for putting the work in. Especially at my age – I turned 48 this month – because fitness falls away really quickly and takes time to build back up. It’s frustrating when you aren’t used to that. You get out what you put in.
So, as I wrote on the 2nd May on J2/1 (10) I was DNS, and again on the 3rd May on A10/16 (10).
On the 9th May I started my comeback on J4/16 (50) and recorded my worst 50 mile result for 2 years. I approached this with a view of taking it relatively easily at the start and gradually trying to increase my power output during the ride. As an approach it didn’t work. I just started off relatively easily and then got worse. My power fell well short of what I’d expect for a 50. 21st from 66, 02:02:23
Normally J5/8 is a super quick 25 course where I’ve previously set my PB, but my power again ended up being 10% down. However this was the most bizarre TT I’ve ever done because of the really strong wind. The outward leg had a tailwind that blew me to an 18:46 first 10 and the turn (13.9 miles) at 26:43 and 31.3mph average. The block headwind on the way back, up the concrete mountain, was simply horrific and it felt like it went on forever, taking 30:48 for the remaining 11.1 miles at an average 21.8mph, and cruelly exposing my lack of fitness and lower power. 36th from 103, 57:33
On the following Wednesday I rode the evening Seamons Club 10. Still 10% down on the power despite a high perceived effort, and my first ever disqualification for breaching a local rule. DQ’d! (my 23:32 would have been good enough for 4th from 27)
The weather on the 23rd May was scorchio – the best weather of the season so far. As I turned up at J2/9 (25) I wasn’t at all optimistic as I’d seen no evidence of my power or fitness returning, and Wednesday had been a let down when I’d felt I should be improving. Despite trying really hard I still could not put out the power I usually did on this course but the reduction was smaller, so you have to take positives where you can get them. And my time was the second best I’ve ever done on J2/9 so again, small positives help build confidence back up. 20th from 107, 57:15
Given my performance on the 9th I had really low expectations for the National Clarion 50 championships on 31st May, and the weather gave me no reason to be anything but pessimistic. This was an A race for me, so I should have been totally physically and mentally prepared and focused. I did what I was supposed to do in training but mentally I was nowhere near – even seriously thinking of not bothering driving 120 miles to ride for 2 hours in the wind and the rain. As it was, I found myself parked on a country lane in Grantham (near Nottingham – the course was A50/5) trudging to the village hall in the rain, with the treetops swirling violently in the gusting wind, wondering who the hell I was kidding. I used the fact that I had a “5” number to try to jolt me into a more positive frame of mind but I was getting wet just getting ready so that didn’t really help. On the ride to the start I decided that the strategy for the previous 50 was going out of the window, and I would start off at my 25 power levels and just ride at that level for as long as I could. This meant dropping my natural cadence a bit to hold the power easier and actually it seemed to work. As soon as I started I felt much more comfortable, even on the long A52 stretch into the headwind. Obviously I wasn’t far in so the test would be how long it would last. And the answer was I was able to roughly hold it most of the way. I had my usual drop in output/lack of concentration from miles 20 to 30 (I mentally break a 50 down into 5 10’s) but then got quicker and quicker on the next two 10 mile laps. By the end I just missed out on going under 2 hours but I logged a power PB for a 50 so was really, really pleased with that. As it was, it was enough to clinch the National Clarion 50 (although I’m not sure I would have had the current champion not DNF’d with a puncture) and 7th overall, plus a tenner for fastest veteran. I’m really glad I decided to ride! 7th from 53, 02:00:34
May saw me ride 395 miles at around 18.7mph average speed, with 12,113ft ascent. That took 15,460kcals with another 5,960kcals in the 8hrs 22mins of turbo training – 1412TSS.