Toils of Training


My move into cycling has not been as easy as I thought. As the Etape D day closes in (July 7th – it’ll be here in no time), it’s safe to say I’ve started to panic a little. Not for one second do I think I won’t be able to complete it – I won’t allow my mind to go there, I’m not one for the defeatist attitude – but I’ve been thrown into this thing with no real idea of how to train for it. I have to get my runner body to operate differently and as I’m learning there’s a technique to riding uphill, downhill, out of the saddle etc. I’m fit, I love my workouts, but as with anything, starting something new is just intimidating.

I have a crack team behind me in the form of Rapha and an excellent mentor in Collyn Ahart, but when it comes down to it, I have to ride it on the day – no one can do that for me. Finding people to ride with isn’t always easy and the more I get into this thing, it does kind of seem there are no newbie cyclists – everyone just seems to be semi-pro right off the bat, like they cycled straight out of the womb. I don’t want to ride with these people knowing I’ll hold them back. So, all through the month of February, I stuck myself on the turbo trainer and tried to learn what I could there. Except I’ve no real idea what you’re supposed to do on a turbo trainer so I’d just spin for a couple of hours at a time, try to throw a few intervals in there every now and then.

I’d been advised not to run and just focus on the cycling, which I did. I understand the importance of a certain focus like that if you want your body to function a specific way. But I felt as though my fitness suffered.

Going out for a run is so much easier than getting out on the bike. With running, you just whack your trainers on and go. With cycling, there’s a check list of 50 things before you can even leave the house. Plus you have to set aside 3+ hours for a bike ride and it’s not every day I can fit that in.

I had an epiphany last week. I just want to be fit for life. It matters to me that I complete the Etape, but it also matters to me that I can run long distances and be strong and have muscles and be ready for whatever life throws at me. I train best when I keep my training varied. So see, I can’t just not run while I do this cycling thing. I can’t not box or do Pilates or try out all sorts of weird and wonderful classes – it all contributes to my general fitness, which I firmly believe will help me on the day.

So, I ran the Paris Half Marathon, I’ve run with my friends since, I’ve worked out at home and am starting to get my Bangs-style crazy workout schedule back on track. And my spirits have been lifted.

I had one hurdle to overcome. I had to get back out on the road with the bike and this time, I had to do it alone. So, on Saturday morning, I got up super early, got all my bike stuff ready and hit the road at 7am. I rode by myself from Stratford to Richmond Park and back. I navigated the streets, fought my fear of riding in traffic, almost got killed a couple of times going around roundabouts, but I did it. I practiced everything I’ve been learning at KX Gym about form and used the exercises they’ve taught me. I powered up hills, tried (and failed – I’ve got some work to do) to keep a steady cadence but most of all, spent four hours getting comfortable on the bike.

52 miles later, I think me and the bike may have just found our groove.

So now, I’ll be riding into work a couple of times a week and riding every weekend, even if I need to do it alone. I’ll keep my training varied and I will cross the finish line of the Etape with a smile.

Now that I’ve got that hurdle out of the way, it suddenly doesn’t all seem so intimidating anymore.

10 Responses to “Toils of Training”
  1. Melanie says:

    Hello – so glad you are enjoying riding now. Don’t worry, you are not the only beginner aiming for the Etape. I’m signed up as well for July 7th, and although I’ve ridden a bike on & off for years, I’ve never done anything remotely like this. Nor have I done marathons like you, so you’re ahead of me there!! I agree about cross training, I make sure I swim & jog once a week or do something like xc skiing as well as cycling, otherwise I get sore knees and a stiff back. As you say it should be fun too!

  2. Emilyobyrne says:

    There’s plenty of us newbies out here. Don’t go on looks – we all look really pro in our nice Rapha gear. Keep your cadence high and no one will know you’re a novice…

    I’m in exactly the same boat, no one to ride with who isn’t awesome, and I don’t want to hold them back either. (And I don’t have your base fitness, being a gym-phobic who cant run.) And I have a randonee in May – my first 100km – and I’m slightly nervous. So I’ve made friends with the turbo, as the route to more speed in the shortest possible time. I don’t just spin; I can do that on the road. I follow a plan on TrainerRoad which makes intervals as mindless (though not as painless) as a Jane Fonda video. It’s making a big difference.

    And don’t forget that your friends and the adrenaline will turn you into Superwoman on the day, which is always a big help :-)

  3. Angel Dee says:

    Very happy you’ve finally found your rhythm, I understand trying new things is a great challenge, but for me when things are so difficult and it takes longer to ‘get it’ it can be disheartening.

    The fact 52 miles were clocked during the transitional period says a lot. Read that number out loud a few times and you’ll see how great that is. Imagine now you’re felling better about things ..

  4. rachel says:

    Can’t wait to read more about your bike training! I’ve recently bought a bike too, in the last few months, not a fancy one for a race but just one to generally ride around in London on and to add another form of workout to what I normally do. I usually ride 20km to and from work a few times a week (not recently though, way to cold) and I am going to try and ride on weekends too. I fully understand the fear of being a newbie on the road, and the fear of traffic too! It’s mental on the roads.

    Oh, and hills. Did not even think about that when I set out for my first ride from North to East London…it was HORRIBLE. I was panting like a dog and almost feel to the floor when I got of my bike, never felt jelly legs like that before! I had to walk my bike to my office and had a full swagger walk going on, purely because I couldn’t control the wobbliness of it LOL.

    Glad to read you are mixing up different workouts too <3!

    PS. Still trying to rope the other Food and Lycra girls into getting a bike / riding with me! Watch this space :DD

  5. Laura says:

    Hello! Another newbie road cyclist here – and it is so tough getting people to ride with you (for the distances I want to ride)The only road cyclist chums I have are guys, who have been amazingly supportive, but I would like some ladies to cycle with. I’m usually found tackling North London hills on my own, or also cycling from Stoke Newington to Richmond Park. Good luck with the training – I’ve got a 100k Sportive slated in for the 7th July (not brave enough for the etape though, so full respect to all of you taking part this year!)

  6. georgie says:

    You’ll be amazed how fast you work up to the distance and it’s not as frightening as you might expect. If you have the stamina and a good level of fitness, you will be fine.

    If you can make the Isle of Wight Randonnee in May (it’s free to enter), I would highly recommend that as part of your training. I did it last year with my partner, who had done minimal length bike rides & no training- we were both fine.

    Enjoy the training & once you get into the swing of bike training, it is as easy as going for a run.

  7. carine says:

    I think you are doing brilliantly! It is a real challenge riding the etape du Tour. I understand the pressure you are feeling under right now but you will be ready. Keep going! Riding your bike should be more and more rewarding and hopefully warmer weather will help too.
    We are behind you .
    Take care and keep riding

  8. RR says:

    Good luck with the cycling! I’m in the same boat being a runner who has moved into tri and struggling with the cycle leg for some reason…I just assumed being fit and a runner I would be able to do it easily. Turns out I was wrong! I also find it pretty hard to find girls that are up for a 3 hour bike ride out to box hill at the weekend, there must be more of us – hate going with the boys until I feel liked can hold my own a bit more so I sympathise. I’ve found going to spinning classes helps if that’s any use. Best of luck with it!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] part of my Etape du Tour training, I’m working with KX Gym in Chelsea. They are helping me get my body ready for the challenge, […]