I bought my first “proper” road bike in 2006. I bought a book about cycle training and got on with getting fit. At the end of 2006 I did my first race, the Ythan APR. I was off the back within 100 yards, but I loved it. And so I became a “racer”.

I enlisted a coach, the fantastic Ken Bryson, at the end of 2006 and set about becoming a proper racer. I trained to a plan, I watched what I ate, and in 2007 I started racing. Mainly time trials at first, but a few APR’s and road races thrown in. I wasn’t very good, or very fast, but gradually I improved. At the end of 2007 I lost the Ythan APR by half a wheel in the sprint. I’d come a long way in a year.

By 2008 I’d bought a time trial bike, my beloved Trek Equinox. New carbon wheels were bought. I also bought a new carbon racing bike, my Planet X. I continued to improve, both as a time trialist and a racer. My PB’s tumbled as I raced against the clock.

In 2009 I raced a number of Super 6 events, our national road race series, along with the national championships in Hawick. It was a great experience, the highlight being the Super 6 event in Aberdeen where I finished in the bunch, having ridden tempo on the front for much of the race.

2010 saw a change in emphasis as I decided to focus on time trials. I’d crashed a couple of times in road races in 2009, and didn’t fancy more of that. Ken put a plan together that would see me aim to break the hour for a 25 and go under 24 minutes for a 10. It was a tough ask – my PB’s at the start of the season were 1:03:05 and 24:55 respectively. However, having invested in a power meter over the winter, and training to power rather than heart rate, the times started to tumble and in May, at Stirling I posted a 23:54. Three weeks later at the national 25 I did a 1:02:01 on a slow course. I really believed that I had a 59 in me.

And so it proved the following week at Drumlithie, where I was on it from the start. I crossed the line at 59:58. I’d broken the hour. And that’s when it all started to go wrong.

I’d achieved the goals that I’d set myself back in 2007, never thinking I’d actually do it. But now I had no target, and the season petered out. I posted a few more fast times, but the motivation had gone. It happens when people achieve their goals in life.

Then I broke my collarbone in November. I only missed 2 weeks of training, and was back on the bike working harder than ever. 12 weeks later I was back on the road. Leaner and more powerful than ever, but a little less confident after the crash. A further training crash in Mallorca at training camp dented my confidence further.

The first third of the 2011 season is coming to an end. I’ve done a fair bit of racing, although for the first time ever no PB’s. I’m just back from a three day cycle to raise funds for UCAN, and I’ve realised that I love riding my bike. Not just racing. On race weekends, I do a race prep ride on the Saturday – never more than an hour – and then on a Sunday I get up stupidly early & race. It’s felt like a chore too many times this season. I’ve got there not really wanting to race.

The UCAN ride made me think about why I cycle. Was it about racing, or was it because I love being out on my bike. That’s a no-brainer, it’s the latter. And yet, over the past 3 year’s I’ve defined myself as a racer – that was who I was. But the reality was that I wasn’t a very good racer. In golf terms, I’d be about a 7 handicap (ironically about my real level in golf!). Good, but not great.

I’ve pondered it the past few days, and it came to me on the drive down to Newcastle yesterday. My epiphany. I’m a bike rider. Sometimes I’ll race. Sometimes I’ll go out & just ride. Sometimes I’ll go out on my fixie. I’ve even started working on my old mountain bike. I just want to ride my bike, without any self-imposed pressure to race. That was just stupid.

And behind all of this, supporting me, and encouraging me all the way, have been Joanna, Rebecca & Andy. My amazing family. We’ve missed events because I was racing, or racing the next day. I can’t remember the last time we had a weekend where I wasn’t on the bike. I’m going to change that.

Life will go a little slower from today. I’ll have that glass of wine or piece of cake. I’ll stop moaning about being fat. I’ll still train with Ken, I want to stay fit and I’ll still race. But not as much. And now it’ll be for fun. It might be a PB, or it might not. I’ll still enjoy watching the Pro’s race, more than ever, but I just don’t have to emulate them. I’ll maybe do some sportives – they sound like fun. We might even be able to make a family event of it.

Racing took over my life. Today I’m taking it back.

11 thoughts on “Re-evaluating…..

  1. I love this! Well said, Sir. Reaching your goals does leave you unsettled and unfocused – it’s the perfect time to reassess and you’ve clearly found a great awareness of how cycling fits into your world. I am sure you’re going to have most fantastic time in your ‘new’ life and hope you enjoy #wilmastraining.

  2. Thanks Julie. I really enjoyed writing it. If ever you need to sub any copy-writing out…..

    I’m still going to keep myself fit, so not too much #wilmastraining! I will allow myself the odd cake now & again however 🙂

  3. Love your comments in the blog about the support you have from your family, how your taking things back and one full paragraph that makes so much sense!

    Good on you sir, I salute you, your determination and your courage!

    And as Miss B said – enjoy #wilmastraining, it’s brilliant lol

    1. Thanks chum! Looking forward to catching up next week. Won’t have too much time though – got to catch the last train home! Will have Andy with me too 🙂

  4. Excellent post and something that each of us can relate to in some way or another. For you it was cycling, but no matter what our individual passions are, it’s amazing how easily things take over our lives without us really realising it. Thanks for articulating this so well, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy cycling more than ever now.

    1. Thanks Andrew. Looking forward to getting out and just riding without any agenda this weekend 🙂

  5. Great post Ali, I’ve recently had a similar shift in my thinking, basically about taking control of your life, owning what you do and letting your passion guide you. I know that you’ll be happier in life, and possibly (perversely) you may end up a better cyclist as a result!

  6. Great post. I’m a busy Chief Exec’ who to enjoys getting out on the bike. My chums and I have done some charity distance rides – BUT2JOG – Berwick upon Tweed to John O Groats and Carlisle to Inverness on a mountain bike with thin slicks and full panniers.

    I struggle like mad with my weight – again for charity did a lose 6 stones in 6 months – and did it with a week to spare – raising £5K for Yorkhill CF

    Im too big for road bikes – had tried to get a Kona Hoss for the larger rider (bigger than a Clydesdale) – but didnt manage.

    Opted for a German made Cube – great bike – really solid – and can handle the “Bob” – my previous Specialized bikes couldnt take me hurtling down the tracks

    The bike ride last year raised almost £11000 for YCF

    This year was the West highland way in 4.5 days – £4500 for St Margarets Hospice

    So every year we set ourselves, as a group, something significant to aim for. And use it to fund raise.

    The training I hate. But the laugh we have en route is great – and the feeling at the end is amazing – and the fact that charities are benefiting makes it more worthwhile

    Next year might be a long kayak – the boys need to get together to decide and plan etc…

    I’m pushing my kids to be good at school and at sport – rightly or wrongly – I dont want them to be a chubster like their dad.

    Keep pedalling – and enjoy it
    bob D.

    1. Hi Bob, great to hear about your endeavours! The charity angle is great and it gives a reason for all that training. Personally I love the training and the feeling of really beasting myself. I’ve lost about 10kgs since I started cycling, which has made a massive difference. I realised a while back that I actually preferred the process of training than actually racing. I just didn’t do anything about it – too competitive / proud I guess.

      Anyhow, now I’ve got it figured out, I’m really enjoying my time on the bike.

      And yeah, it’s great for the kids too.

      Hearing great things about your Chamber. I’ll be at your awards dinner later this year, so look forward to meeting. And maybe sharing a beer or two! 😉


  7. Nice A!

    Following your heart


    Fun + Challenge + Help others ….is my top values. So a bike ride for charity sounds perfect!

    My TOP value is love…. spending time with loved ones, loved friends. Will look for ways to hit all of these.

    Wishing you well


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