I feel a little bit like the first half of 2021 passed in the blink of an eye. I started this blog a good few months ago and stopped because, honestly, I felt like I was scrapping the barrel for things to write about and that I just hadn’t progressed or acheived as much as I wanted.
Look I get it, that’s something about the high standards I set myself. But anyway, lets try and take an objective look at what’s happened this year and how that figures on my Road to RAAM 2022.
I think we all started the year already beaten down by Covid-19, a lost Christmas but a year of hope that we might finally start to see the light at the end of this virus laden tunnel.
For me the focus was maintenance and strength ahead of the 24hr virtual World Time Trial Championships (vWTTC) on FulGaz. The virus meant that the event normally held in Borrego Springs, California, wasn’t able to go ahead, so much like RAW and RAAM the previous year FulGaz was the platform of choice. This was to be my second go at a virtual RAAM qualifier, in which I’d need to ride 400 miles over the 24hrs in order to secure my solo rider place for RAAM 2022. After some extended verification post event I got the amazing news I’d qualified, having ridden 405.9mi – a huge, huge step towards my goal and dream of completing the 3,000mi Race Across America in June 2022.
After a bit of time off the bike to recover, I had a blast joining the guys at CrankedUp for their Super Sprint event – a 2hr virtual TT ridden on Zwift. Just shy of 50mi was a good effort for me without pushing too hard, but it was a joy to be riding with good people and listening to some great music too.
January is always a point of reflection for me anyway – it was, in some way, the beginning of this journey, as 7 years ago I was blue lighted to hospital with acute pancreatitis. My body decided enough was enough – the stress, depression, poor diet and alcohol abuse was too much. It took a long time to recover, but it is a constant reminder why I try to be a better person every day.
Oh, I also recorded an episode for the CycleStation Podcast with Dan. I felt Dan brought my story to life really well with some great questions and overall felt it was a much more positive version of how cycling saved my life. Genuinely enjoyable chatting to him and you can still catch it here;
Looking back at February, it doesn’t feel like much happened – sometimes when you are building towards something, you get those periods where you are just in a training block and that’s that. What I did do at the beginning of the month was to announce my next event – the #PACE140 challenge – which I’d be taking on over the course of March.
February was just one of those months where you just get your head down and get busy getting it done. Plus, I got a (now) rare run in!! Funny isn’t it – I started out in 2017 very much with a focus on running, building towards a 7 day, back to back ultramarathon challenge in 2018, before switching to almost solely cycling after committing to Race Across America.
March was dominated by a new challenge and a new daily routine.
Every year approximately 1,700 children in the UK are born with Cerebral Palsy. That’s around 140 children every month.
I wanted to celebrate these children and recognise the incredible support that their families and The Pace Centre provide to ensure these kids still reach their full potential in life. So, over March I set out to ride 140km every single day for 30 days.
140km to represent the number of children born with Cerebral Palsy every 30 days.
It was tough, the end of the first week and in to the second I felt incredibly fatigued. However, once my body had adjusted it became just part of the daily routine. It wasn’t without it’s challenges – I got hit in the chest by a pheasant on day two, suffered multiple punctures and ate an incredible amount of food (including a new addiction to Krispy Kreme donuts).
It was a huge month of cycling, riding nearly 4,500km, but more importantly you all helped me to raise just over £1,500 for Pace – which I’m still blown away by, so thank you.
Following on from my highest mileage month I took a brief bit of rest before launching back in the Zwift Racing League with the Spokes Racing Team. Zwift racing is not something that always suits training for endurance, but I’ve been buoyed by how much it’s improved my FTP and lung capacity. However, after March I never really got going again – I found I was legless and blowing early in the races and as such stepped out of the team for a few weeks so as not to hamper their points scoring ability.
On the plus side, I started my cycling coaching qualification – something which is a bit of a longer term ambition, to use post RAAM.
In an effort to get back to my long miles and make the most of our ability to socialise again, I met up with Nick with the idea of knocking out 100 miles. While it was a great ride catching up with a mate, at about 70mi I knew I was done and struggled through the remaining 20 odd miles.
That ride started a gradual slide in to never quite feeling right and as the weeks went by I just felt flatter and flatter and more exhausted.
Looking back I know I wasn’t looking after myself properly. I’d lost some weight during the March #PACE140 challenge and I became very fixated on it and this idea of being lighter and therefore faster. So I wasn’t eating to recover and my health and performance was suffering. Thankfully some good people noticed and reached out.
After a lot of advice and some reality checking, I finally took some time off, 10 days of doing nothing and it was glorious. I’m not someone who finds it easy to stop, but the break ensured I was mentally back and my social feed filled up with my smiling face again.
Importantly, I got my first Covid vaccination – an important step in us getting back to some form of normality.
May was therefore quiet cycling-wise, but I was very kindly nominated by fellow KMC legend Holly for the Bounce Back Champion award from Fit Kit Bodycare. So that was a lovely surprise.
June started a much more positive month. I took a trip West to take on Cheddar Gorge on a 100km loop with buddy Stewart, he was preparing for his own challenge of riding from Bristol to Land’s End and back. I’d not done the climb before but I think the view alone makes it worth while, even better I felt great on it too, the rest having paid off physically and mentally.
From there the training just got going again and the love for riding came back.
As part of the Lucky Saint #PintPilgrimage I talked my buddy Rob in to taking on his longest ride to date with the self styled 200km Lucky Pilgrim DIY audax. I created a loop that would take us to three pubs, Oxford, Reading and Windsor, all serving the excellent AF Lucky Saint on draught. The reward, apart from satisfaction in riding, we got a case of beers for our efforts!! All the taste, none of the hangover!
Look out for the 2nd half of the year coming next!