Okay, so we’ve all been there. It’s wet, windy and frankly quite miserable outside. Winter feels like an eternity and the only thing that keeps you motivated is the thought of your first spring sportive that’s been highlighted in your calendar like a beacon of hope to pull you through the darker months. At the time it may have felt like it’d never arrive but suddenly, as the seasons change, it’s just around the corner.
Coming so early in the year can be a real shock to the system so it’s important to plan well, be realistic with your expectations, listen to you your body and take care of yourself in the right way so that you’re not only able to enjoy the ride but also use it as a stepping stone to progress your form. Read on for our series of tips on how to ride your first event of the year.
Having identified where you’ll make your season debut is one thing but being prepared and ready for the ride is whole other kettle of fish altogether.
Planning Within the Wider Context
Having identified where you’ll make your season debut is one thing but being prepared and ready for the ride is whole other kettle of fish altogether. Whilst it’s easy to just rock up on the day and take it as it comes sometimes this can lead to unexpected consequences that with a bit of pre planning can make all the difference.
Love you, love your bike! If you’ve been riding it all winter then now is the time for a spring service.
Make a check list and work through each point to ensure you have everything covered paying particular attention to entry closing dates, your bike and kit, nutrition, travel plans and accommodation if needed. If you’ve been riding the bike that you’ll use in the event all winter then give it a good spring service, checking the drive-train, brake pads, cables, tyres and bearings in the headset, bottom-bracket and hubs. Avoid using a brand new pair of shorts on the day, make sure you’ve tested everything in advance and are comfortable with your kit.
Inspect your water bottles for winter mould and prepare all of your nutrition and spares a couple of weeks in advance.
Inspect your water bottles for winter mould and prepare all of your nutrition and spares a couple of weeks in advance so that if anything does slip your mind then there’s still time to get it. If you do have to stay in a hotel then find out what time they start serving breakfast from, there’s nothing worse than waking up on the day with a rumbling stomach only to find the restaurant is locked.
First and foremost, the most important thing at this time of year is to be realistic. Sometimes, even with the best will in the world, you can easily find that you’re a little behind where you’d hope to be in terms of form for your first event. Don’t worry, it’s a long season. It’s far better to realise this now and set your goals accordingly as opposed to biting off more than you can potentially chew.
The great thing is that most events offer a number of different courses and distances, often trimming the amount of climbing or general severity to make it more manageable. If you haven’t been able to get the amount of miles in that you were planning then consider opting for the short or middle distance as opposed to “the leg buckler”.
If you haven’t been able to get the amount of miles in that you were planning then consider opting for the short or middle distance as opposed to “the leg buckler”.
While it can be tough on your pride to take what appears to be a step down, it’s far more embarrassing weaving all over the place in a state of tiredness and sugar deprivation as your legs say good night sailor. It’s all very well setting a goal of a certain time or wanting to hit a gold, silver or bronze standard but once again be realistic. It’s far better to use your first event to really find out where your form sits, identifying positive areas of progress, rather than going big and and then slipping backwards.
There are a number of ways to monitor your performance and tools available to help you do so. Since we’re all individual it’s normally better to try and gauge yourself against measurable data as opposed to monitoring your overall performance on a final outcome – for example use things like time, speed, heart rate or power to control your tempo and pacing as opposed to saying something like “I want to finish in the top 30″ which is out of your control since you don’t know the ability of most of the riders there.
You can normally get an idea of how long an event will take from looking at previous finishing results. If you do this then don’t forget to take weather conditions into consideration and make sure that the course is still the same so you’re comparing like-for-like.
Use things like time, speed, heart rate or power to control your tempo and pacing as opposed to saying something like “I want to finish in the top 30″.
You’ll generally get a good idea of what your average speed is from training. Provided the terrain is similar in the event to what you are used to then this is a good way to keep track of your overall ride. Such are the delights of modern technology it’s now also possible for your nearest and dearest to monitor your performance in real time as well on sites like mapmytracks.com. The only thing is you may get a phone call mid event if you’re caught at the feed station too long!
Post Event Recovery
However your first event goes it’s always very important not to overlook your recovery. In doing so you may delay the quality of your training when you return to the bike, losing valuable time in the saddle that could be used to progress your form towards the next challenge. Don’t leave it to chance to see what you can find in the food tent after the event. Plan accordingly and make up everything that you need in advance. Mix recovery drinks and chill in a cool bag and try to consume as soon as you get back to the car. It’s really easy to start chatting as soon as you cross the line, and whilst it’s nice to share the stories of the road an hour can slip by before you know it, only to be reminded as your stomach starts to groan.
If the event finishes at the top of a climb then it’s likely you’ll flood your muscles with a final hit of lactic acid in the closing minutes. It’s amazing what a 15 minute spin in the small chainring can do to clear this before you pack everything up for the day.
If the event finishes at the top of a climb then it’s likely you’ll flood your muscles with a final hit of lactic acid in the closing minutes. It’s amazing what a 15 minute spin in the small chainring can do to clear this.
A good way to increase blood flow to tired muscles is by using an electro-stimulation device such as a Compex. Perfect to stop the legs stiffening up if you’re a passenger and are cramped in a car between bikes and kit bags for hours on the way home.
Returning to Training
It’s easy to finish on a high and get straight back into your training on Monday like nothing has happened. Whilst it’s good to train when you’re buzzing with motivation following an event, if you do this too many times then little-by-little your form may start to plateau as you return to training and push too hard too soon before your body is ready for the next block of work.
If you need to take a couple of days off at the start of the following week then do so, gentle recovery rides in a low gear with high cadence are a master at bringing your legs back around after a big day in the saddle. Make sure that you’re fully recovered both physically and mentally before you start your training again. Make a note of what went well for you and where you found things tougher than you thought. Use this to your advantage to tailor your training accordingly, maybe you need to work on your base fitness still to build endurance, focus on your climbing technique, or perhaps it’s time to step up the intervals to bring on that extra speed. Whatever the outcome of the event use it as a positive to make sure that your training compliments the time you have available and the objectives that you’ve set.
If anyone has any questions or needs further advice then feel free to contact me on Twitter @cottydale.
Good luck with your first event my friends! Ride smart, ride safe and above all have fun!
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