Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Sportive Training 101 - Lesson 1 - Just WHY?

Having within a matter of weeks entered into both Etape Caledonia 2016 and just the other day Etape Loch Ness 2016 I am putting myself forward to discuss the ins and outs of sportive training as I understand it.  Having done this for ooooh since 2011 (REALLY?!?!?!? Christ!) I flatter myself in thinking I know a thing or two about cycling, training and a few other aspects of saddle wanking the New Kids on the Block may have missed or anyone else for that matter.  And often I have found myself getting it wrong -  but consider that I have got it wrong so's youse don't have too.

I don't pretend to understand the psychology of deciding to undertake an extreme physical challenge. It is an extreme physical challenge - don't kid yourself it's anything less.  Sixty odd miles on the bike might be on the lower end of the Sportive/Public participant cycle event, but you can't do it comfortably straight off the bat.  Most regular cyclists - those 5/10 mile a day commuters - would struggle to get to the end of it without sustaining some sort of bum damage at the very least, so to go from a swing round the park with the kids a couple of times in the summer to a training sportive participant is a big thing. It's the cycling equivalent of running a marathon.  But I often find that the decision to do so involves hiding your ego behind a virtuous aim.  For example there are easier, cheaper and far less extreme ways to increase your mental or physical health, more civilised ways of getting to know your peers, and easier less time consuming ways of raising money for charity.  But I do know none of these are accompanied by a vague sense of eternal glory standing at the finish line, holding your medal aloft, back lit and in soft focus, with your fellow participants weeping softly into their merino base layers* because they just can't manage your supreme level of cycling majesty.

...we all wish tho' don't we... admit it.
Be aware though, the decision to partake in your first sportive might not be the same answer to the question 'Why?'  In the first year you will ask yourself 'Why?' Allot. In many forms. 'Why am I going out for three hours training after a full days work?' Or the 'Why am I up this early on a Sunday?' and of course my particular favourites, 'Why does it feel like I have horns growing out of the underside of my groin.',  the befuddled  'Why won't this hill end?' and the angry 'WHY DOES THIS WIND HATE ME'.

Your seat will feel like this..
Sometimes the answer to these questions will be that vision of you standing at the end on the podium holding your medal aloft, other times sudocreme (but more likely lack there of).  But be aware there are times when that vision will allude you, when it won't seem worth it and you're just too damn tired  or gritty to feel the health benefits, so sod the knickerless donkeys, kids without wigs, teapotless old folk and eternal glory.  Just Why?  I'm not going to tell you why.  What I am going to do is ask you to keep going.  I'm going to say that if you can complain about it you can still push your foot down.  You can still pedal. Hell, if you need to - and since this is your first year - get off that bike and walk**. Because at the end of your first sportive when you cross that finish line, when you feel like you've welded yourself to that bike, where your hands are cramped and your feet are ice, and the rest of you is just plain cold and crusty, a fresh faced army cadet will tentatively approach with a medal in their hands and you will snatch that medal and you will feel like that vision on the podium, back lit, in soft focus, only  perhaps weeping softly to yourself over your own cycling majesty.

Behold! My Own Cycling Majesty!!!
* Ahh merino - you will come to understand
** Only in your first year mind.

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  1. I think as part of this a post on what we call 'The Art of Cycling Without Cycling' - yes it's supposed to be reminiscent of Bruce Lee . Basically developing that ability to keep going when you are completely spent, the skill of doing the least possible work to still progress along the parcours at a respectable rate. The ability to never go into the red and especially the knack of keeping a nasty cramp at bay.

    All the survival mode things we take for granted as experienced cyclists, but trying to explain the skills needed to do that to a novice is hard...

    1. I don't know if I've quite mastered that yet, as truthfully I still occasionally need a book called 'The Art of Cycling Without Crying'.

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