29 Feb 2016

Personal Trainers are Go!

One of the items in my List of Many Things is getting some input from a personal trainer. I wanted to get some input from a person who knew about riding bikes and had some experience in getting ready for races. I also wanted to get fit without becoming poor, so I was willing to prepare my own training plan as long as I had a bit of input from someone who could point me in the right direction.

I had a look around the net at the local trainers, quickly realising that I'd have to meet with each before I could make a decision. I read Josh Kench's book; Ride, about his experiences leading up to the RAAM, in which was mentioned a local trainer - I thought that could be a goer until someone mentioned that I might not be willing to apply the amount of dedication required (and also the insane amount of cash). I started to wonder if that might apply to all trainers, perhaps I just wasn't in the league that even required a trainer? After all, plenty of people do Taupo once without a trainer - some commuting, a few group rides on the weekends...

I talked to a few people about the idea and again got mixed responses. Some recommended just riding a lot and reading up, others suggested that I should follow through on my idea of getting a trainer, even if it was just for a general training plan.

I started to realise that it wasn't that I needed one, as much as it was that I wanted one. I could have applied the time to learn, but I had doubts that I was doing the right thing, and I just needed someone to tell me what to do.

In the end I got a lucky break - The Colleague mentioned that she had a personal trainer who had the level of flexibility she needed to manage her work/life balance. Her trainer had recently moved overseas but had a long history of on and off-road riding in NZ and the Wellington region. He agreed to have a Skype to see if we could work something out.

What I had thought would be a 30 min converstaion turned into a one and a half hour session talking about everything. Hopes, goals, experiences. It was awesome, and from all of the research I had done his easy-going approach fit nicely with all the things I know that I didn't know. He was happy to have me riding all over the region to seek out new hills rather than doing reps on the same incline, and worked in nicely with my plans to spend at least some of my waking hours with my family. I left the conversation excited to be hearing about the things I would be doing over the coming months as he drew up a plan, and very pleased that his modest retainer was within my non-existent budge.

A few days later I got a link to a Google Sheet which outlined my riding for the month of March, and I was simultaneously amazed and scared at the crazy miles that I was about to embark on.

There is something hard about commuting to work on a bike as a part of training. You get on the road and Work Things start buzzing around in your head. You ride, but your mind is on getting to work. Punctures have to be fixed quickly because they are affecting deadlines; meetings are at stake if the destination is not reached in time.

Riding past work to get to work is a concept that my brain really struggles with. I've tried. It ends with me thinking something that can be roughly paraphrased as 'screw that I'm going to be late and I do the extra miles on the way home'. The problem with this being that I actually have more time in the morning before work than in the evening when I want to be spending time with my growing family - we have cicadas to catch and model planes to paint!

So when I opened this Google Sheet to see what was in store and saw a whole pile of deviations away from work in the morning (or at least not in a straight line) I was surprised at my reaction. Instead of the usual resounding 'NOPE' I got a resounding 'sweet, things to do!' from old brain-central.

That is the reason I need a personal trainer.

Maybe I could have made up my mind about which routes to take on the way to work, but it wasn't happening. I have deadlines to meet at work, things to do and people to bribe with coffee. Being given another set of tasks to perform was actually easier than planning it myself. It also helps that they are tasks that I trust. They were provided by someone who has done this type of planning before so there is no doubt that I am doing the right thing.

Does everyone need a personal trainer? No. But if you are struggling to make the time, pick the routes, or figure out the right type of riding - something I've not really touched on today - then perhaps a chat with one would be a good idea. Even if I get good at this I'll probably still use my Top Secret Trainer's advice when building my own plans.

Happy riding!
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24 Feb 2016

Why am I doing this?

The Taupo Challenge is a prestigious event, and I've never ridden a lap. I have many friends who have done it. The stories they tell are of success, failure, pride, fear and grit. A friend of mine bent his dérailleur hanger and walked half the course in his cycling shoes. I remember driving through the steams of cyclists when I was younger, my father cursing gently at the delays, while I was wondering how anyone could actually ride around the whole lake. As I came to understand the distances involved I still couldn't understand 160km at high speed, serious amateur cyclists and Sunday riders racing in huge bunches. Then there are the stories of the crashes, the near misses. Cyclists who are strong enough to ride at speed but not experienced enough in huge bunches, cyclists who don't 'call it', who don't follow the lines...

I started riding when I was young, as a form of escape. To get away from the 'stresses of youth', which was probably a combination of serious things like being bullied, and the more teenager-esque wiles of doing the dishes and keeping my room tidy. We all used to cycle. To visit friends, to walk the dog, to get to school, and as I grew up; to get to work. Cycling for me is a peaceful lonely endeavour interspersed with interesting bits. Views at destinations, deviations along unridden lanes. Stopping to eat freshly fallen fruit at the side of the road and speculate about whether I could make it from Mutiny Road to Waipukarau and back to Havelock North before dinner time.

Riding in bunches scares me. Being social often scares me too, so as I got more and more into cycling I was spending a lot of time on the bike by myself. Exploring, commuting, and trying to impress myself and others with my Strava entries. As time went on I thought about doing Taupo, possibly some other rides, but the crowds and thought of navigating a sea of moving bike parts turned me off. I missed Taupo in 2015, realising afterwards that I hadn't actually planned to go in the first place.

160km doesn't seem like a long way. I can do 100km in a day relatively easily, 60% of that is just my commute. Throw in some hills and a few long rides on the weekend and you're done. Getting around at a decent rate, well that seems like more of a challenge, but the challenge seems to be staying in the pack. Staying on the bike. Watching out for the crashes before they happen. That sounds scary to me.

320km is a challenge. I think I can do it, but it will take some planning. I couldn't just do a bunch of riding beforehand and turn up and get it right - I'll need to be seriously prepared, worn in and well practised if I'm going to make it through. It sounds stressful, but not scary.

Anyway, that's my take on it.

Where I want to be at the end of the year is sitting at the Endurance Riders Breakfast, smug and warm having ridden two laps in a reasonable period of time, and walked out in one piece.
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