2021 Racing Wrap Up: The ups and downs of multisport, as an aging athlete
It all started with my annual pre-season pilgrimage to the F. Bidlake memorial.
My 2021 season has featured a real mixture of highs & lows...
It's fair to say the year started badly, my first (and last) duathlon race of the year ended somewhat abruptly on the tarmac at Bedford Autodrome in April. My lockdown training over the winter had been consistent but not stellar. Nonetheless I ran the first 10k pretty well, and jumped onto the bike ready to chase down the leaders.
I was pushing very hard as the weather gradually deteriorated. As the hail came, I ran out of talent, and treated my beautiful new bike to a high speed slide across the racetrack. Mercifully a busted shifter spared me from rejoining the race, and I went home to nurse my wounds.
An experienced athlete would have taken a few days off to recover. A proven idiot would be back out on the road the very next day, having dressed their roadrash wounds with clingfilm. The same idiot would soon have a painful (and dangerous - don't be a hero kids!) sepsis to deal with. That idiot's body then rebelled and retaliated with an inflamed achilles.
It was decision time. Unable to run, but also without the motivation of any running or duathlon targets, I decided 2021 would be a 100% bike season. Serendipitously, roadworks on the A11 meant that many TT events would be moving to my local drag strip - the A428. I would be getting very familiar with that stretch of road over the next few months.
My favourite parking spot on Cambourne business park
First up was the Leo 30 mile race - a new distance, so a guaranteed PB. 280w secured a 1:03:09 (28.5mph average). Not amazing, but a very solid start. The next two weekends brought a 51:20 25 miler (which I was pleased with) and a 1:51:22 50 (which I wasn't).
It's at this point, I'd normally resign myself to mediocrity, but Coach Newport was having none of it. We built a program of consistent TT work - I spent a lot of time ploughing up & down the A1307 while my daughter did her gymnastics lessons, and a lot of time at either sweetspot or chasing new interval power PBs on the turbo or out on the road. The quick times soon started to tumble in:
June 10 Abbo (11.2 mile sporting course) 24:48 ** New PB **
June 13 Viking 50 1:45:25 ** New PB **
June 24 Abbo 24:37 ** New PB & Team SS club record **
June 30 F2a/10 19:41 ** New PB **
July brought two further decent 10s:
July 21 F2a/10 20:02
July 24 F2a/10 19:46
Then in August, the accumulation of more consistent training and solid recovery (the bonus of not having to squeeze run sessions in as well) brought home some really significant milestones. First up, on a wet warm Saturday I smashed through the sub-50 (30mph) barrier for 25 miles, finishing second only behind one of the top time triallists at this distance:
August 7 F2a/25 49:32 ** New PB & Team SS club record **
The following Saturday, I paced superbly to overcome the windy conditions and secure my first open TT win:
August 14 E2/10 19:57
On the final Abbo evening of the season (possibly ever, if the planned new road goes ahead), everything came together to chisel another few seconds from my all time best on this challenging circuit:
August 26 Abbo 24:34 ** New PB & Team SS club record **
Finally in September, I lowered my 10 mile PB again. If anything, this was one of my most disappointing rides of the year. I really wanted to challenge the 19 min mark, but on reflection a new power PB of 336 watts tells me that it wasn't that special a day. I also dropped another sub-50 25 - what had once seemed unthinkable had become routine:
September 4 E2/10 19:32 ** New PB **
September 12 F2a/25 49:52
All things considered it has been an incredible year. I have PB-ed at every distance attempted. My work life has never been busier - often to the point of being absolutely ridiculous. 60+ hour weeks pushing my training to even more obscure times of the day. I also try not to let the family down with my exercise obsession!
Just having a single focus has reinforced how hard it is to be even just an adequate multisport athlete. I have thrived on the success and proved to myself that I can deliver results that I am proud of. Coach Newport has been awesome, keeping things moving forward session by session.
So where do we go next? Well I've started back along the running path. The first five weeks went well, with some nice progress back up to 35-40mile weeks. And then my achilles stepped in once more - currently unable to run again, but on the mend, I'm still deciding what 2022 will bring. I have a few ideas...
Thanks for reading!