I took Monday off and tried to plan Tuesday’s training. As I anticipated the ride I grew anxious. I had to do intervals. I hadn’t done any intervals since getting back on the bike. What if I couldn’t do them? No one would be available to ride with me except Isaac Leblanc. And Isaac was only available at 7:30 am. I wanted someone to go with, but later in the day, when it would be warm.
At 10 pm on Monday, I still didn’t have a plan.
I saw myself 6 months ago, reading and re-reading my workout description on Training Peaks, constantly finding some task to avoid having to get on my rollers, eventually deciding that it was too late to ride. I feared intervals at that time, as they were a daily reminder of how much I sucked. At least, that’s how I saw things then.
Basically, I was afraid that I would be disappointed with my numbers again. I was afraid to be alone. I was afraid of my past. But, intent on continuing with my positive trajectory, I texted Isaac and told him I’d meet him at 7:30.
On Tuesday I set out for my first intervals of the season. I had to do three sets of three intervals. The first two of each set were three minutes long, ranging from a functional threshold power, to slightly over. The third interval was 4.5 minutes, with the power increasing from threshold to max. Each effort was based on power, but I never-the-less failed to set aside my fear of numbers, and opted not to put a power meter on.
I was in good company with Isaac. Trevor Mackenzie also joined us.
I based the intervals on feel (not the most advanced technique). Right away I knew this was silly, but there was nothing I could do at this point. I had made a choice, so now I’d need to deal with it. I think it was for the best in the end. I rode hard. And riding hard was the point; not being glued to a screen. I also didn’t risk upsetting myself.
I felt good enough about Tuesday to throw on a power meter later that afternoon for Wednesday’s intervals. Dylan Cunningham, an old team mate from Russ Hay’s, had kindly lent me his.
On Wednesday, after speaking to coach Jay, I set out for an hour and a half ride before my intervals. I’m not a fan of going out for a short ride constructed around a handful of short efforts. An hour and a half riding doesn’t leave me feeling accomplished. You spend half the time wishing time would speed up as you push through an interval, and then you kill time between efforts as you wait for the next. Or you wish time would slow down to allow adequate rest between intervals. Either way, you don’t exactly focus on simply enjoying the ride.
For my six, five - minute intervals, I managed to hold the prescribed power. I struggled on the first two, often falling just below the goal. It was sort of strange, as I talked to myself about it.
‘I feel like I can do the power, I’m just not doing it. It’s not like I’m super tired or sore during or after.’
‘You can do it. Obviously you just have to be willing to push past the point of pain, and sit in it. Grow comfortable there. Hurt now, hurt less later. You’re capable of this. You’re only a few watts off’
It may sound ridiculous. I don’t know if it is or not. But these conversations (thoughts) I’ve been having are really beginning to allow me to address and overcome issues I face.
The intervals were fine, and the ride was actually enjoyable. I made it about more than intervals. I was happy to hold my target power.
The original plan for this week had me taking Thursday off, doing an easy spin on Friday, and then heading to Hurricane Ridge on Saturday for the annual Canada Day climb. Then, I would race the Windsor Park crit on Sunday. However, on Tuesday I called Jay to suggest I do more. As much as I wanted to take it easier to be fresh for Sunday’s race, I have limited time to train. I need to make the most of it, and I felt that more volume would better prepare me for bigger races later on. The Windsor Park crit would be great to do well in, but with bigger races to target and not a lot of time to train for them, I have to pick my battles.
After taking Thursday off, Friday started with the 6 am hammer fest once again. I felt strong this week, and stayed near the front over the kickers, and then managed to make a selection of 6 strong guys for the final 15-20 minutes of the ride. We rode hard, but steady, rolling through like a proper breakaway. Everyone pulled, determined to cross the line first, and get a hard morning of training in. I finished second in the sprint.
Andrew Russel joined me after winning the sprint, and we went for another two hours. We did almost the same route that I did last Friday, except it was slightly hillier and much harder. A-Russ is one of several Victorian strong-man masters, and he always knows how to put the hurt on.
On Saturday I did the Oak Bay ride. The group was quite small, as many were doing Hurricane Ridge, and some were taking the day off to rest before Sunday’s race. Craig Ritchey of the Garneau-Easton professional cyclocross team made an appearance, so I knew we weren’t off the hook.
Once we reached Lands-End, where the flag drops with about 30-40 km to go, the pace quickly picked up. Soon we were in a selection of six. Just like Friday, we rolled at a hard, steady tempo. Each of us doing our share of the work, like a proper breakaway. No bullshit. Just riding bikes. Hard.
I sprinted over the top of Panorama, just to feed my ego. No one else tried, so it meant nothing, but I just wanted to make sure I could. Little things like that can keep it fun.
Again, I got second in the sprint, after the group had reduced to four. Nothing special, but I made it.
On Sunday I got up before the crit and watched Taylor Phinney claim the polka dot jersey in the Tour, after completing around 200 km in the break and being caught as he approached the flamme rouge, indicating one km before the finish. For those of you who don’t know, Taylor injured his leg terribly a few weeks before what would have been his Tour de France debut in 2014. He was forced to take a long, long time to recover, and spent a lot of time in contemplation. He also took up painting. Three years down the road, he’s finally racing his first Tour, and on the first road stage, at the first opportunity, he found himself in the Tour’s first breakaway, claiming the first polka dot jersey, and came very close to a podium.
I was inspired.
I spun down to the race, feeling tired, but confident. I had been really strong all week, and for the first time this year, I went in with the goal of winning and the necessary, cautious, confidence that I could be in contention.
The race started, and on the first lap a break of two went up the road. I put in a couple efforts to chase, and on the fourth lap as the pack caught me, I saw Emile de Rosney accelerating up the right hand side of the road with another rider in his draft. I looked across and watched as I accelerated to match their speed before swinging across and jumping on. Soon we were a group of four, and a few laps later we caught the original break of two.
Around mid-way through the race, a bee stung me right on the nose. It was frustrating for a second, but served as nothing more than a bit of a distraction for a few laps. As we entered the last 10-15 minutes of racing, two guys in the break collided in the second corner. Somehow, miraculously, they stayed up, after rounding the corner on their front wheels. The collision resulted in a flat tire and our group slowed down as we re-organized. Now we were down to four. The chasing peloton had us in their sights - about 10-15 seconds behind us.
Entering the second to last corner on the final lap, Nick Rowe attacked, and I followed Nick Monette. He looked fresh, so I expected him to chase after Rowe. Simultaneously, Isaac Leblanc made contact with us, bringing the peloton with him. Nick Monette wasn’t as fresh as I had thought, and led through the corner a little slower than I’d have liked. I came around him as we exited the final corner, but Nick Rowe was long gone. The race was for second now. I sprinted as hard as I could, only to have Isaac get me on the line with a bike throw. We’re still friends.
I was disappointed for a second, and that was all I gave myself. At the end of a hard three week block, I managed to get on the podium. I knew I was strong enough to be there, and I lost due to a tactical error. For once, I felt fit enough to win, and that’s a big victory for me. I’ll definitely push it next time, and try an attack like Nick’s if I’m ever in a similar position. I had considered trying to do something like that, but figured it was too risky. Races are about taking risks though, so I’ll know for next time.
Emile de Rosney and I went for a solid ride after. Each time we completed a section of the ride, we’d decide to ride further instead of turning home as per the original plan. We were both just stoked on riding. It was a great feeling to have. Usually, after a race, I would go home. But I wanted to keep training.
So that’s week three. Another 17 hour week with 530 km ridden, and a ‘podium’. In the scheme of things, it’s a small, local race, but it’s a testament to how much I’ve improved in the last few weeks. It feels good too! And it’s good timing as well, because I’m going to BC Superweek.
I’ll tell you more about it in a couple of days, but I’m extremely excited (and nervous). Next Friday I’ll finally be kitting up with the H&R boys, and will be entering my first race of the season.
If you're interested, click to learn more about Taylor Phinney! I think he's pretty cool.