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.