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Digging The Hole

Monday: Up at 5. Ride to the gym. 1.5 hour workout. 30 minute run. Work from 10 to 7.

Tuesday: Ride 1.5 hours on the rollers. No work.

Wednesday: Ride to gym. 1.5 hour workout. 30 minute run. No work.

Thursday: Ride 2 hours on the rollers. Work 2-9:30.

Friday: Ride to gym. 1.5 hour workout. 30 minute run. Work 2-9:30.

Saturday: Zwift ride 2 hours. Work 2-9:30.

Sunday: No training. Work 10-6:30.

I had a lot of work to do. I was excited. This would be the hardest and most focussed training I’d ever done over a winter. The hours spent training weren’t super high, but I had to balance training with work.

The first two weeks of training were good. I liked being the first person at the gym. I’d warm up on the rowing machine in the middle of the gym, listening to music and envisioning a season of success as I stared at the darkened window. Outside it was dark. The moon was still up, and the only people awake were delivery truck drivers and garbage collectors. I loved riding to the gym in the dark. My shadow would over take me as I passed under streetlights and I imagined myself in the twilight crit at Tour de Bloom where I sported my King of The Mountains leader’s jersey and fought to defend my GC lead.

Establishing the break on stage one of Tour de Bloom 2016.

Establishing the break on stage one of Tour de Bloom 2016.

I’d ride in the centre of the road. It was mine. I was the first awake. The early bird gets the worm and I was the early bird. I felt I was doing exactly what I needed to prepare for the season to come. I’d arrive at the gym and wait for the woman who works there to let me in.

Every session, whether it was on the rollers or in the gym, I’d work as hard as I could. I’d run faster every day, do an extra interval at the end of every ride, and an extra push-up every set.

After two weeks, I noticed I wasn’t getting any stronger. I was using the same weights as on day one, and pushing the same watts. After three weeks it was the same. By December I was getting frustrated. I was doing everything right. I was working hard. I deserved to improve.

By mid December I was almost crying at the gym. I didn’t want to suffer. I was actually getting worse. On December 24th I got a cold. Luckily, Christmas Day was on a Sunday (my day off) so I could rest. I couldn’t train on Boxing Day, nor could I train the following day. I was forced to take the week off, and on December 30th Bryanna and I flew to Florida. Her parents were treating us to a holiday.

I was stressed in Florida. The plan was for me to take the 30th to the 7th (our holiday) as a rest week. I’d take my bike to do some nice spins with Bryanna’s dad, Currie. I had been looking forward to riding slowly in the sun all winter, and having Currie to chat with. But now that I had taken the previous week off, I felt I needed to train. Kissimmee, Florida is perhaps the worst place to ride. The roads have no shoulders and are designed only for millions of tourists to go to and from theme parks. Bikes never even crossed the minds of the urban planners and road builders. I mean fair enough, who goes to the Orlando area to train? But it wasn’t ideal. I was still sick. I did three shorter spins with Currie, and they were quite nice, but I failed to appreciate them. I was concerned with how little I’d been training for two weeks now.

Despite my stress, it was very nice to be treated to a holiday. I had a lot of fun when I wasn't focussed being a cyclist, and Bryanna's family spoiled us, which was a treat!

A dip in the Ocean after a ride with Currie. My favourite day in Fl. 

A dip in the Ocean after a ride with Currie. My favourite day in Fl. 

The night Bryanna and I got home, I was feeling almost hysterical before bed. I had no idea why, but I cried. I cried hard. I sweated and shook and felt short of breath. I didn’t sleep much, if at all. The following morning I got up at 5. I was exhausted and it was pouring rain. I drove to the gym.

I warmed up on the rower. The windows were dark. The world that I was on top of only two months ago was now on top of me - dark and oppressive. I no longer envisioned raising my arms as I crossed the finish line ahead of Rally Pro Cycling riders. Now I saw myself struggling to hold on. I watched through the window as I climbed into the broom wagon at my first race as pro, Tour of Gila, and witnessed myself becoming ‘DNF at Gila’. They took the numbers off my back. I felt humiliated. I was the same racer as I was when I failed to finish Cascade. I hadn’t improved.

I put the bar on my shoulders to squat. The bar and I were too heavy. There was already an immense weight on my shoulders without the bar. I stared at my reflection in the darkened window. I started to cry. I racked the bar and ran to grab my stuff. Before I could drive away, I yelled as tears rushed down my cheeks. I punched the steering wheel. I drove home and went to sleep before work.

That night I cried again. And the next one. And the one after that.

January was the month where all of my training was to become more intense as I started to build more high-end power. Instead though, I crashed, and this time I didn’t crash while riding. My wattage was low in every interval. I would often cry on the bike. My body might have been able to suffer, but my mind simply couldn’t. Some days I didn’t even get on the bike.

When I did, it and I were just not working. Each day I tried, I was defeated. I beat myself up over my defeat and dug my hole a little deeper. At night, as I got ready for bed, I’d drop my spade and look at the hole and observe how much deeper it seemed to be. I would go to sleep hoping that I would wake up happy.

More to come...