After too many weeks of not training, mostly on account of not feeling well, (Christmas is the last time I spent any decent time on the bike, and also the last time I was feeling OK) I was very anxious to get back out on the bike this morning. Can't say I'm feeling any better, but I'm going stir crazy without getting my weekly ration of pedalling action and the call of the hills was strong. Plus, I figured, there's been no change in my condition thus far, so some cycling at a fairly easy intensity may not help things, but it more than likely won't do any further damage either...
With the weather mild and dry, I forsaked the usual overshoes and headed off towards the Sally Gap, not decided yet where I would end up after that. The first few kilometers were good as I got warmed up on the flat. The pedals went around easily and I settled into a groove which lasted until the graveyard on Stocking Lane, when I started to suffer a bit, but nothing more than was expected after a long layoff. After adjusting to the gradient a bit, the going felt easier and it was up onto Military Road where I helped a motorcyclist who had dropped his bike. Some lovely scrapes on his brand new BMW but nothing more serious. The weather was colder and pretty foggy up on the Gap, but there was plenty of traffic around for distraction and even a bus for some motorpacing along the flat top section. Once I turned west down towards Brittas, the sun came out and brightened everything up and the world was good once again.
After about 37km, my legs started to tell me that they weren't happy (only 37km!) and I started to feel the pinch. I started to get quite annoyed at this stage, as 6 months ago this was a route which I would have done as a warmup on a big day, not something that would break me! Stopped in Brittas for a bottle of Lucozade to provide 1 last spurt of energy but I still felt myself grinding up the final hill and nearly cracked. It was a fatigued and relieved body that tucked into the drops for the final run down to Bohernabreena and on home.
55km in total, it felt a lot longer with all the suffering. Really showed the poor condition I'm in and the fitness I've lost recently.
Question is now, where to go from here?
To a (trustworthy) doctor is the obvious starting point, but in terms of planning events, everything is now on the back burner.
First to go will be the 2 Day adventure race in Castlewellan which I was planning to do with Fergal. Was looking forward to this as an oppurtunity to gain some more experience and develop some skills (navigation & kayaking for a start) while working towards the bigger summer races.
Next off the list will be the remaining IMRA Winter League races, and unfortunately most likely the University Champs in Crone on March 9th, which I had set as an early target race for the year. It's still a month away though, so maybe some cosmic forces will realign and provide a miraculous cure and return to form. Unlikely though.
The Big One.
Having tried a few times to get long runs under my belt since Christmas and failed miserably with the stomach cramps, its looking increasingly unlikely that I'll have enough km's in my legs by early April to attempt this. If I can get cured soon enough and back on my feet again, I'll do its Little Brother instead, but its both disappointing and frustrating to be calling it quits before I even got going...
Thinking about all of this, I'm starting to feel somewhat rudderless, as while everyone else is setting out their stalls for the year ahead (L'Etape, XC Elites or whatever) I'm backtracking and putting things off. Its the first time in years that I've not had a goal to work towards, where simply getting back in the game would be enough and it feels strange. I'd always seen myself as someone who saw looked towards the big prize(Nationals, usually) , which generally was enough to get me through and motivate me in the long, dark months of winter road miles knowing that the benefit would come on the start line in March or April or whenever. But now, the big, long term goals have been wiped from the horizon, all bets are off.
I read in a magazine somewhere a quote from mountaineer/climber Conrad Anker: "Never get so out of shape that getting back into shape would be a monumental effort"
To be honest, seeing today how out of shape I've become, its creeping towards that "monumental" status.
Not that I doubt my ability to get there, I just wish it was somewhat under my control, that my body is able to get to where my mind wants it to be, and soon.
Going to see a new doctor soon, a friend and someone trusted and widely respected, so hopefully he can put me back on the road to recovery post haste.
Plus, there's always those most enjoyable climbing sessions to enjoy, which is something.