One of the purposes of this blog is to act as a personal training log — while this is mainly to give me a record that will keep me honest and committed to putting the miles in, I hope it will also be entertaining and informative! This is what I’ve been up to on the bike during the last few months…
I’ve spent September and October this year in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, revisiting the college town where I spent a part of my time at university. It’s been a great opportunity to see my girlfriend, Elizabeth, catch up with some old friends, and enjoy some fair weather cycling.
Down but not out
Before I get into what I’ve been up to on the bike (and off it), I’ll just touch on an incident that nearly derailed all my plans for the coming year. The weekend prior to flying out to the USA, I caught the train to London to see some friends before I left the country — bike in tow, the plan was to get out into Richmond Park and tackle a few laps in the late summer sun. Richmond had a great Saturday afternoon atmosphere with hundreds of people out having fun; we took it at an easy pace, just relaxing and having a good time.
Several laps under our collective belts, we turned back toward the station to get the train into central London. This ploy to avoid the worst of the traffic was not entirely successful — just before hitting Putney high street I was taken out by a car.
The driver, an old woman with less than perfect eye-sight, had not seen me in the cycle lane and made a right turn into approaching traffic — hitting me straight on. Thankfully the collision was at low speed, but I still had enough momentum to go flying straight over the top of her car. I got away with a few cuts and bruises, but my bike was destroyed — thankfully it was just an old winter training rig, and nothing too valuable. Her insurance company were fantastic, and had paid up some compensation within 48hrs, but the whole incident reminded me how a great day out on the bike can turn sour because a driver miscalculates a turn, or gets distracted. No real harm done though, and a few of days later I was on my way to the US.
Building and Focus
The last couple of months have been about building on my 2013 season and setting some exciting goals for 2014. After finishing the Transcontinental Race in August (report here) my sights were set on the Tour Divide — a race I’d wanted to take part in for a few years and had committed to ride in 2013 before an injury derailed my plans.
However, toward the start of September whispers started to fly around the web that a self-supported race across America was going to be run for the first time in June 2014. The idea really captured by imagination and I was hooked — I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be involved with the inaugural edition and part of something new, unpredictable, and unprecedented. Who would say no to over 4,200 miles of unsupported racing?
That decision made, my training has been focused on getting myself into the best possible shape for putting in a good ride across the US. Rather than bore you with mile counts, heart rate analysis etc. I’ll try and give a general picture of what riding around North Carolina for a few weeks has been like.
One of the things that I dislike the most about spending a good deal of time at home in Salisbury, UK is that I know all the roads like the back of my hand. Having a couple of months to acquaint myself with the roads of North Carolina has been awesome — I’ve been able to explore a good number of new back roads and even ride some gravel (although my bike didn’t thank me for that).
The seasons have changed while I’ve been here — I had to cope with heat and humidity when I first arrived, but the arrival of autumn saw cooler temperatures and falling leaves become the order of most days: perfect bike riding conditions. A few torrential rainstorms aside, the good conditions meant that I’ve been able clock up some high mileage weeks, mixing strength and speed work with longer base level rides.
Good weather aside, bike riding outside the UK always brings some surprises — just in the last week I’ve been chased by dogs, had a vulture sweep down less than a meter over my head, and had a man wearing only a shirt and brandishing a rake run into the road to tell me that I ought to turn around. At least I’ve been kept on my toes.
Although cycling is the focus of this blog, the time here hasn’t been all about riding bikes. I’ve also managed to check out a load of different sporting events, go to some good parties, and (reluctantly) get some work done. I’m sitting in the airport as I write this; definitely not ready to go home, but excited about the progress that I’ve made while in NC. I have a feeling that the next few months are going to be slightly more testing — both of me and my cold weather gear…