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Can't swim bike or run with Andy: cycling is quickly becoming the new running

Posted Sep 18 2011 10:40am


Winter arrived this past week with a vengeance. The remnants of Hurricane Katia crossed the Atlantic and battered the United Kingdom. Torrential rain and gale force winds wreaked havoc on the coast where I live. Trees were felled, rivers burst their banks and buildings were damaged. Not the sort of weather that lends itself to cycling.

I’d taken the day off work this past Monday to watch the second stage of the Tour of Britain cycle race. The route from Kendal to Blackpool would pass along many of the lanes that I train on as it passed within three miles of my home. I was genuinely excited to be able to watch many of the stars of the cycling world such as Mark Cavendish, Geraint Thomas and Thor Hushovd whiz past. I’m a massive cycling fan as I’m sure most triathletes are and I’ve never had the opportunity to watch a major road race. I mean I’ve been to the track cycling world cup and seen Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins and the Queen of the track Victoria Pendleton, which was amazing but there’s something gritty, almost gladiatorial about road racing.

I could hardly contain myself over breakfast, so much so that Em had given me the morning off parenting duties. “I’ll just check what time they’re due past” I said clicking onto the internet before heading out on my bike. My mood plummeted as the news on the race website quickly sank in. The stage had been cancelled; the police would not allow the riders to compete in the severe conditions. I knew it made sense as I watched the 100 year old trees behind my house bending like pole vault poles, but I was gutted. I told Em, she responded with “If the police won’t let them ride, you’re not going out.” Her look was one I’ve seen many times before, there was no point arguing. When your wife is right, she’s right.

I headed for the basement and jumped on the turbo trainer, not ideal, but I managed to get a hard hour of riding into my legs. I really think I should invest in a fan as I was sweating worse than some of the competitors in Las Vegas last week at the 70.3 world champs. I lost so much fluid that afterwards I could actually ring out the moisture from my tri-bar arm rests.

The next couple of days the winds eased off, although the rain was still something that would have worried Noah and his boat building skills. I ventured out though and worked hard. Not being able to run for a couple of months because of a hamstring injury, cycling has become my release. I love running, it will always be the one discipline I couldn’t give up, but cycling is quickly catching it up. I rode a solid and hilly 37 miles, not getting dropped as much by club colleagues as I had the week before. This inspired me and made me want to work harder. I could physically feel the progress I’d been making finally showing in my climbing strength.

I live in a hilly area, stunning but brutally tough on the legs. The other session that I did in the rain was a hard hill repeats session. One hour of seated climbing, working on pedalling efficiency. I challenged myself not to stand and climb on the almost mile long uphill drag. Every time I could feel myself start to “pedal squares” I had a stern word, normally I would stand and mash the pedals, “ Sit, focus on the circle, focus on the circle, sit down!” It worked. The hill didn’t seem as severe and for the first time in my cycling days I didn’t use the small chain ring ( I ride a triple – not ashamed ) or indeed my large sprocket. This was major progress.

I walked through the door, dripping wet, freezing cold but grinning like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. “There’s a long way to go, but that was THE best ride I’ve had all year.” I told Emma. She smiled, congratulated me and said “Reality check, we’ve ran out of milk, can you get some.”

I was so happy with myself I walked to the shop in my dripping wet cycling gear, eliciting strange looks from passers by hidden under rain jackets and umbrellas. I must have looked like I needed committing, the huge grin never left my face. I didn’t care, I’d had the perfect training session.

Yep cycling is quickly becoming the new running.

Signing Andy Holgate is the bestselling author of “Can’t Swim, Can’t Ride, Can’t Run: From Common Man to Ironman.” He lives in England, competes in triathlon and enjoys life to the full with his family.

He has his own blog HERE and his book is available from all good bookshops including Amazon HERE .

Follow on twitter @ everymantri or view latest videos on YouTube .

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