as a firm believer in listening to my body and heeding the signs that the little grey lump encased within my skull transmits to, er, itself, i took the decision not to take part in Taiwan’s second biggest race of the season (the first being the UCI Tour de Taiwan), the AMD 2 Day Huadong race.
with a total of something like 320km over two days in what looked like being bad weather (Day 2 was in fact very wet), i felt like it was going to, in then end, drain too much from my legs rather than help improve my form.
it’s been a funny start to the season this year, all affected by having to take almost three months off from the beginning of October to almost the end of December due to injuries.
that led me to having to pack in big kilometers from the start of January then to pick up the pace from the middle, way too soon really but with the Tour de Taiwan coming in mid March i had little choice.
two wins in my first two races were a little surprising but in the Tour it was obvious that I was a little off the pace but unable to really ride myself into the race, as the signs of having over-trained were all too obvious. aching legs, a lack of power on climbs and a sore throat, not to mention a pervasive tiredness, all combined to let me know that it was time to back off.
as cyclists/athletes/nutters (delete as applicable) we have learnt that through endeavor and dedication in training, we get fitter and stronger, so when we are going slow we ten to go to the default setting of ‘Train Harder,’ but this is, very often (unless you’ve been lazy), a mistake.
an old pro once told me that it’s better to be under- than over-trained, and there was never a truer word spoken when it comes to preparation. being a little slow allows you to use the next race and the subsequent training to gt fitter for the one after, whereas if you blow a proper gasket due to having done too much, it can take weeks if not months to get over it.
the human body is amazing, no doubt, and adapts to innumerable situations in incredible ways, but we have to remember that, whilst exercise may be fun to us, to our bodies it is stress. and, if you train a lot, that stress is accumulative.
the body begins to respond to being overworked by sending signals to itself. we, as irrational beings (we are cyclists, remember), often tell our bodies to shut the f**k up, cos we are hard as Belgians and love the pain.
sometimes that is justified but sometimes it is just plain stupid. like, stoopid stupid. signs of an impending crisis are an inability to get a good night’s sleep, sleeping late, a sore throat and a lack of motivation. thirstiness, for me, is another, as is feeling aches in the legs from a moderate day on the bike.
forget SRMs, PowerTaps, heart rate monitors and whatever other gizmos you paid a truckload for – the best and most brilliant training device we possess is between our ears.
the sooner we start listening to it, the sooner we can make steady improvements and get proper rest.
so, after the Tour de Taiwan i took ten days off the bike. put it in the spare room and forgot about it. despite the sniffling and whimpering i heard from it during the night, i stood firm.
then when i picked up again i had an easy 5 days, then started training proper again. my motivation was back and within another 5 i felt strong again. the Huadong race that i just missed is a lot of fun and i felt ok for it but something was telling me to ease back off a little again, so i did.
instead i did a solid 75km yesterday with one 8km climb and a 30 minute TT section, and today i headed out to Ali Shan, a beautiful behemoth of a mountain (around 2,500m to the road summit) an hour’s drive from my place.
with a hill climb up it on May 5th, i decided to tackle the route, a 63km climb that is 90% up, heading up into the rarefied air above the clouds. luckily i just missed the rain and the cold and had a wonderful ride. i’m not a natural climber but i somehow have convinced my head that these climbs are actually time trials, just, with a dollop or three of extra gravity, which helps pass the kilometers.
anyway, legs feel fine now, i’m tired but not wasted, and all good for the next week of training and the stage race the week after in Thailand.
less, as they say, sometimes really is more.
As a hill training session the Alishan route is pretty good as it is relatively shallow until the last few kilometers. You can delude yourself into thinking you are just sucking a little bit on a flat course with some rollers. When you get to that nasty scar at Tatajia, you are mentally in good shape.
well it depends on how fast you’re rolling up the first 45km – i’ve blown in the last 8km and it was not a pretty sight! it is one majestic climb though, no doubt about that…