A while ago, The Trainer told me that he wanted me to do the short route on a local sportive, Bike Oxford. The aim was to get round as quick as I possibly could. This was a bit of a departure for me because I’ve only ever done sportives before with friends for social reasons, with the exception of Black Legend which no one could say I was exactly out for sport! I guess now that I’m training for Paris24 things are getting serious, and sportives are a great opportunity to have a route planned for you so make time trials a little easier.
So the alarm went off at 4.45am and up I got to eat my overnight oats, fuelling for the day ahead. I really didn’t want to get up and go. I hadn’t had a great night’s sleep and I was also suffering from the transition period between one Zoladex injection and another. Not sure if the symptoms are an increase in menopause ones, or a return of PMDD ones, but either way my head was not in a good place and was definitely not on my side. Still, forced myself out of the house to do what I was supposed to be doing.
Drove over to Oxford, making stops to get fuel for the car and then change for the car park, and the event start was really busy with folks doing the 80 mile long route. I checked in then headed straight to the safety briefing, which was aimed at the long route riders. I told the marshall I was on the 20 mile route and he asked me to wait 30 minutes so they could get the feed station ready. On a route of 20 miles I didn’t think I would need to stop to refuel, so I set off in earnest.
The route took us through the quiet roads and colleges of Oxford city centre before heading out into the countryside.
The Trainer had advised me to try to find someone going just a little bit faster than me and train off them by trying to keep up. With all the superfit folks on the long route, this wasn’t going to happen. However, I was really pleased that a big group of club cyclists came along side me, and I was able to sit in the middle of them for a good while. Not ages, maybe 1/2 kilometre but for that period I was doing 28kph with them and feeling like I was achieving something good. I backed off to let them go and give my legs a short rest, and before I knew it I was at the route split, so I was on my own from that point onwards.
There was one reasonably big hill on the short route, and I gave it a good go but didn’t quite make it to the top. A little bit of pushing followed, I felt like I was having an asthma attack and looking at my Heart Rate data later on, it was max at that point, so can’t say I wasn’t working hard. I had to have a little rest at this point (plus, errrrm, reduce race weight by shedding some fluid) and I was not a happy bunny. Average speed check revealed 17.9kph which I was disappointed with since I was aiming for 20kph. Shouldn’t have looked, it didn’t help me feel good about myself! In fact, even my gloves weren’t happy – look!
I had a good old talking to myself – it wasn’t all that positive – and I just wanted to get finished, so got back on my bike and pushed on. I did manage to take a selfie through to record the pain on my face after the hill. The smile was hard to come by!
I sped past the feed station, which was just setting up, and put in some good speeds on the return, including a new highest speed of 45kph. For someone who is terrified of downhill speed, I push myself a little further each time and I found this descent actually quite exhilarating.
I soon saw the 3 mile marker and carried on. I was already pretty flat out but it was good to know the end was in sight and my Strava speedo had been showing lots of speeds greater than 20kph which was my target, so that was good. I arrived back at the finish and went into the Check In tent to ask for my medal. I was the first back, so they weren’t ready – no food prepared or medals out, etc. The poor woman offered me a Caramel finger (which I declined, obviously) then hurriedly sought out the medals for me. She obviously felt really bad they weren’t ready but I explained I’d left early and only done the short route as a time trial. I was really quite pleased with myself for being the first back! When you’re me and you’re usually at the end and back of everything, it’s very cool to be back first. I don’t expect my time will be anything amazing compared to the other short route riders, I just left first, but hey, could have been worse I could have been overtaken by other short route riders who started after me! So in my head I’m sticking with “I was first back” which is good, since I actually was.
And the results. Well, I was hoping for 20kph which is my interim target before my final target of 25kph. A bit unrealistic to expect really since I’m just back from holidays and haven’t been training very hard, and haven’t been doing my prescribed spintervals at all, so I was pleased to achieve an average of 19.2kph. Nearly there! And when you compare this ride to my last similar ish ride of 20k back in August, I’ve improved my average speed by a whole ONE KILOMETRE PER HOUR!!! Haha, doesn’t sound much but this ride was longer, had 3 times the climb and I still managed to go faster without a great deal of training. I’ve still got a long way to go but I’m feeling encouraged.
Fairly obviously, the average was affected by the hill, and had I not walked a bit of it and got a bit broken I think I might have hit the illusive 20kph, but of course you can’t really say “If I would have gone faster, my average would have been better” so I just have to accept that on this ride today I achieved an average of 19.2kph which is still good and it’s still progress. I’m motivated to train more to improve by another whole kmh next sportive! Do that 6 more times and I’ll have the magic 25kph!! It’s getting there – look:
Today wasn’t my happiest time since I’m getting battered by the menopause/Zoladex symptoms – mostly a sense of tiredness and negativity – but I reflected on this on the way home. Rather than submit to the symptoms of not being very kind to myself, I choose to recognise that I have a physical/hormonal issue that makes me feel this way and actually applaud myself for getting out and doing it anyway. There are people who don’t work half as hard as I do and think they’re brilliant, and yet there I am, working my rear off on a 20 mile time trial when my body and mind were set against me, and I think I’m not good enough?! If I had flu I wouldn’t feel terrible about taking it a bit easy, having a rest, not being on top form. Yet because my illness (or the side effects of treatment) are unseen in physical form I berate myself for not being in top sante all the time. The outcome of all of this is that I’ve recognised that I’m not having a great day but I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself for getting some progress and achieving something cool even when I’m not at my best. Also, as my GP said recently, now that I’m hormonally much more settled I need to get used to what is normal. People aren’t all deliriously happy all the time, and I wasn’t today – but in addition I recognise the menopause/zoladex/pmdd symptoms that haven’t helped.
My plan for the rest of day – a nice hot bath, refuel with a beetroot smoothie and some seeds, then feet up and watch a film or two with my family. Plus keep reminding myself that I was first back at something sporty for the first time in my life, and bask in the faint glow of satisfaction that comes with that!