The Strathpuffer build-up and the Festive 500

The last few weeks of Strathpuffer24  training have been a bit ‘loose’. There’s been a plan, as without The Plan I’d probably find myself slacking or I’d be almost-constantly wondering what kind of things would be appropriate, beyond ‘just going out and riding’, to be doing at that point.

It’s not easy to fit everything in  – working, family, mending broken bikes – as well as training for 24 hour solo racing  so for me The Plan is pretty important.

The downside is that it’s a drag at times. It’s hammering down with rain and this thing here is telling me I must go out and ride my bike for six hours AND somehow fit in some hill repetitions. Or when I just want to spend my lunchbreak at work sat down eating my sandwiches this thing here is telling me I need to go and throw weights around in the gym.

It works, but it’s a right pain in the arse sometimes. Motivated by the fear of being crap and at the same time seeing (and feeling) improvements keeps the motivation levels high but one needs to relax every now and then. Ideally at this time of year, I’ll put the work in, but relax the structure and remember to enjoy it. No point in giving myself a proper kicking now. There’s plenty of time for that later in the year.

The Plan has been merely a rough guide this time around. Sure, I’ve (mostly) done the hill reps and the turbo sessions that I should be doing and I’ve been getting out on the bike early and late to fit in the volume around a day job but as for doing it as and when directed….? No. Entire ‘hard’ weeks have metamorphosed into ‘easy’ weeks because the weather’s been especially crap.

Easy weeks have become not-so-easy weeks because the week before I didn’t put the effort in. Two hours on the bike has on a couple of occasions become one hours of off-road running (because you’ll never see me running on the pavement).

Sessions in the gym at midday have become half an hour of weird core exercises in front of the telly after the kids have gone to bed.

It’s been bloody great. The outcome of the Strathpuffer24 will tell me whether I’m going to pay dearly for this lack of discipline (on top of the  standard “paying dearly for doing the damn thing in the first place”) but up to now the power numbers have been going in the right direction and I feel great – certainly better than I would normally do in December. I’m not as light as I’ll be in the summer but that’s fine too. It’s winter insulation 😉

The past week I’ve been enjoying taking on the challenge of the Rapha Festive 500 – nearly 15,000 people worldwide put their names down and attempted to ride 500 kilometres between Christmas Eve and New Year.

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I’ve been working throughout the festive period with only Christmas and Boxing day off work, as well as spending time with family doing the usual Christmas stuff so it’s been far from easy – despite this I somehow put in a reasonable shift and managed to ride 507 kilometres (that’s about 317 miles in real money) in five separate rides as well as getting out for a run a couple of times. It’s neutralised the festive food and drink excesses and it’s given me plenty of useful riding time.

I’ve deliberately avoided riding flat routes for the Festive 500 as I’m using it as an excuse to get me into some kind of race-ready fitness. The big downside to this strategy though is that the past few days have been windy and wet – one ride in particular where I rode over Holme Moss and Saddleworth Moor was cut short after it basically became The Worst Ride I’ve Ever Done™.

Huge gusts of wind sending me into the middle of the road and forcing me to apply all my strength to the pedals just so that I didn’t come to a complete stop with horizontal sleet making it virtually impossible to see where I was going. And it was dark. And by the time I’d ridden down the hill I was almost hypothermic and as such I cut the ride short – my 120 miles planned became 70 miles, leaving me with some remaining unplanned kilometres to ride on the final day of the challenge….

In contrast, the final ride of the challenge was quite pleasant and unlike the previous day’s ride, it didn’t make me consider taking up snooker as a hobby.

Happy New Year!