Four months today, I’ll be heading off on from the start line of Race Across America. The first section is unsupported, allowing you to take in the enormity of the 3089mile journey that you are undertaking. You can settle in to the rhythm of pedalling, far from the madding crowds and the hive of activity at the start in Oceanside. At mile 28 you rendezvous with your crew and get on with the business of the first big climb of the race that takes you up Palomar Mountain before the sweeping 10 mile descent of the Glass Elevator which takes you into the desert.
Just thinking about it brings a smile to my face and with the race creeping ever closer, I thought now would be a good moment to take stock of where we are on this crazy adventure.
I’m feeling strong and in good shape. I put in a solid block of training over the Christmas- New Year period which involved some long, sweaty hours on the Wattbike as it was so icy (I was very glad of my high strength electrolytes from Precision Hydration – #notjustfordeserts). I also got out for a comedy long ride on New Year’s eve amidst the fireworks and drunk people in an effort to beat the rain which failed spectacularly! Last week was a decent week which included a long ride in freezing conditions out on the mountain bike which was good for mental resilience and also for leg strength and bike handling. It was actually weirdly good for morale as well – there’s something deeply refreshing about being out on the Ridgeway with just a few hardy runners, dog walkers and racehorses for company (and not forgetting Dave the hardy cameraman who took the photo that accompanies this blog). Nick Thomas from the Endurance Store continues to set me training programmes that challenge me, balancing the need to build strength and stamina with the risk of physical and mental burnout or injury.
The Crew Chief
After RAW (or actually during it), Kyle decided to step aside as Crew Chief to take on the role of mentoring and supporting me. This was something I was very happy to agree with as I could see that as Crew Chief he was very torn between the desire to support me when I was finding it hard going and the need to kick my butt to get me to the finish line within the time limit. This isn’t a position I wanted to put him in and I’m delighted that John has stepped up to take on the role of Crew Chief. He’s quite capable of kicking my butt and making me take my medicine (literally) should the need arise and his strong sense of mission control will ensure we get the job done.
The Crew has gone from strength to strength. We’ve now got three new crew members, Wes, Shane (of Running Reborn) and Dave the aforementioned cameraman who will be making a film about the journey to Oceanside as well as the race itself, capturing all the highs, lows and laughter along the way. I’m delighted to have these guys on board as they all fit in perfectly with the ethos of the team and its values and bring a wealth of knowledge and experience with them. We had another excellent team day with Damian Piper from Effective Challenge which helped get the new team members up to speed and us all re-aligned with the “north star” of the mission.
The Bianchi is at Pankhurst Cycles as I neglected it. I am ashamed and very glad that there isn’t an equivalent of bike social services (although slightly concerned that Daryl our mechanic might confiscate it from me!). The Orbea is getting regular outings but the Argon will have to wait for the better weather. Wilbur the Wattbike is in full work and earning every penny that we spent on him and my trusty Whyte MTB is getting me out on the trails. He’s a bit like riding a young racehorse – prone to try and dump me over his shoulder every now and then but so far I’ve stayed intact albeit with some rather unprofessional language
We had a rather hilarious team-building exercise on the team day to look at some strategies for dealing with Shermer neck and some possible ways to help avert it. I’m working on the trigger points on my scalenes and continuing to work with Andy my strength and conditioning coach to mobilise and strengthen my upper body. Zoe my long-suffering chiropractor from Reflex continues to do her best to keep both the neck and the back in shape
No, I’m not talking about my cat 🙂 . Sorry, for those of you who don’t know, Guinness the cat is nicknamed ‘The Fat” in our house, courtesy of his little (or not so little!) fat pouch. We love him dearly, although we love him more when he’s quiet….
Anyway, the fat adaptation thing is going well. I got good results with my sports science testing showing that I am fat adapted and now burn fat at levels where I previously would have burnt carbs. I’ve resolved my previous issues with constipation and muscle cramps by increasing both my salt and magnesium intake as recommended by the scientists who have pioneered the ketogenic diet. I do now allow myself more carbs when I’m training and am trying to find a balance that keeps me effectively in ketosis and fat adapted whilst still allowing me to perform for my high intensity or longer rides. It’s become a way of living now and I’ve let go of a lot of the stress I had randomly developed when it came to adding carbs back in. I’m confident that I can eat to perform at my best; whether that will manifest itself as a requirement for less Imodium on RAAM I don’t know, but for my long term health I feel this is the right way to go.
“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”, so says Mark Twain. I’m very grateful to have done many things that I have loved, including my vet work. It’s time, however, for a new chapter and to do what I want to do which is inspire people to do the things that inspire them. My journey to RAAM is a part of this, but this is set within the wider context of performance and resilience coaching. I’ve embarked on this journey (which has it’s similarities to RAAM – to be discussed in a future blog) with the Coaching Academy. It’s been a hectic few months of studying for my coaching diploma and NLP Practitioner (long time since I had to write 8000 word short answer papers and do practical assessments – back to vet school days) but I have learnt a huge amount as well as continuing to raise my own self-awareness. Whilst I love learning and developing myself, nothing beats having a client that you are working with having their own lightbulb moment and moving that step (or sometimes a huge bound) closer to achieving their own goal.
Just as I’m working on other people’s performance, I need to ensure that my own head is in the right place. Life is hectic, training is hard (and needs to be relatively unrelenting for the next four months). I need to be in the right mindset for work and training and most importantly, I need to arrive at the start line not just physically strong but mentally and emotionally resilient with my batteries charged. I will need to know how to access a resourceful state of mind and to deal with the negative mind chatter when the chips are down. I’ve started using specific techniques to access a more coherent state and increase my own resilience and have become a HeartMath coach. Coherence is something that I can work on by myself, but just as I want to coach others, I see the value of being coached myself and can really feel the benefits day to day. I’ve started working with Andrew Jenkins to start to unpick some of the presuppositions that I’m working with and challenge some of the limiting beliefs that are holding me back. As a management consultant we used to always be told about the need to have “powerful conversations” with clients and I pretty much assumed that they were ultimately the ones that involved the clients handing over money. In coaching those powerful conversations are the ones were the client sits back and says a quiet “wow” and suddenly things become a little clearer. Last week we had one of those conversations and two key points stuck in my mind; the realisation that I am living my story now and that my energy and motivation are in my future, not in my past. This is my adventure, my life and also my job. As Landrover would say “One life. Live it”
The Month Ahead…
….involves more cycling! The aim for February is to gradually start increasing mileage and to build consistency ahead of a big training camp in March. It’s about getting coursework done, spreading the word about RAAM, getting flights booked, finding new sponsors, making new contacts, hooking up with some old ones, getting filming underway, getting back in the swimming pool, not neglecting my loved ones and quite simply, getting sh*t done. It’s 5am starts, long rides, PT at 6am, hill work followed by squats, keeping bikes clean, lung-busting FTP tests, compression tights and wishing that the days were longer. This is RAAM. Bring it on.
My mission is to inspire others to do the things that inspire them. This journey is about the people that make it. Follow the blog, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Spread the work and come and enjoy the ride.