The stones are rolled. From the palm of my hand onto the slate flagstone of my doorstep.
In the garden I pull up the beanstalks; put cardboard over the veg patch to start the mulching; and look at my garlic bulbs in my hand debating where to plant them. A ramshackle pile of cobbles donated to me lie in the yard waiting for their destiny, to be housed around a pond dugout during the very unusual hot humid days of this summer. Now in winter, the water in the pond is clear, dark and cold. The garden seems dormant, yet my mind fizzles with ideas for it’s next year's cycle, planting bulbs and laying groundworks now. The emergent garden will be part planned and part fate. The weather, my commitment, and other factors will define its success. But, the joy of getting outside, the process, will provide fulfilment regardless of the outcome. After all, if there are bees, insects, and birdlife then all good. If my pond fails, I will fix it. If my vegetables die of disease, I will try again.
In the same way training the body and setting the foundations for a new cycle of racing happens in the winter. There is a dormant phase where all of the groundwork is done and I look to next year with excitement and there is a prospect. To make the analogy with the garden, I cannot tell you if it will ultimately be a success, but I will and do enjoy the journey. Fate and the future are out of our hands, I relax and laugh when adversity gets in my way, after all our metaphorically boats all spring leaks at times. My head bounces between romanticism and the joy of routine. My inspiration has always been folk who take time to look elsewhere beyond the clatter and unnecessary demands of modern life. How simple a 24hr clock is when you break it down into 8 hours sleep; 8 hours work; 8 hours play.
Team Announcements 2021
Before outlining the end of the year and new season plan setting, I have the good news to confirm that I will be riding for Brother UK Cycling for another season.
For road racing I will be riding for:
Brother UK On Form - Women’s Team
Simon Howes, Manager
For Hill Climbs and CTT events I will be riding for:
Brother UK Cycling
Race results 2020
Magnificent Seven - Mass hill climb event - March 2020 - 1 st Longstone Hill Climb - August 2020 - 1st and Course Record
Teggs Nose Hill Climb - Aug 2020 - 1 st and Course Record
Denbigh Vale of Clwyd Mountain Time Trial - 1 st and Course Record Holly Lane Hill Climb - Sept 2020 - 3 rd
Dovers & Saintbury double-header Hill Climbs - 1st on both and CR on both SCCA Hill Climb - 1st and CR
Swindon Double Header - 1st and CR on first climb & 2nd on 2nd climb - 1st overall Peaslows Hill Climb - 1st and Course Record
Riber Hill Climb - 3 rd
National Hill Climb - N o attendance due to COVID restrictions for Wales
Here are six steps that Liam and I discussed to set out a plan for the 2021 season, starting with the winter 2020 into spring 2021; summer; then, autumn.
1. Setting goals
Relax, de-clutter your brain. Let the mind take you to a vision, a singular vision. Where and how do you see yourself on a bike? Is it a 48hr race, fatigued, on the limit of mental and physical capacity, but keeping on. Maybe, it is a Sunday breezy late spring morning, the air crisp in the Welsh mountains as you set out on a testing sportive that you have always wanted to nail. Perhaps, your vision is a singular person, sleek and low, in a dream-state, whistling down a highway to take a PB. 10mile TT on a coveted course.
The goals need to be personal, they need to instil passion and invigorate the mind. You need to feel a deep affinity with your goal, as it will drive you through the tough days, it will anchor you through the storms of the coming months, it will hold you stead-fast when your alarm clock tells you to get up and you don’t want to. When you question “why”? On those god awful days, you will be able to answer “because I can”.
When I say “goal” this needs to be aspirational and far-reaching, but within reach too! Like that juicy plump apple on the tree, dangling just out of reach, and with some effort and preparation, you will grab it and be rewarded. Fear the desire to grab the juciest apple, swinging too high in the fairy wind, dancing with the clouds and the stars, if you try to climb up to reach that particular one you risk losing all, you risk at the worst the loss of limbs and livelihood, and the best severe disproportionate disappointment. If you get my analogy, I am saying that you need to reach high, but kind of within reason.
I have chosen four goals for 2021. Three goals are clustered together in the same month, ideal for hitting an athletic peak. The fourth goal, and let's not beat around the proverbial bush, is the Nationals Hill Climb. The fire is strong, the desire is stomach grabbing, heart-racing. In 10 second I am there, on the start line, in my head, waiting for the precious 60sec count-down. Yes, you need to be ignited at the mere thought of your goal.
2. Past Season Review
I repeat these three words and in my head thinking “what”? My eyes dry out a bit and my brain goes foggy and blurry. I have visions of the end of year company ‘reviews’, corporate jargon and speak.
This year has been weird and crazy, and no matter how much boot polish I put on it, the shine will be oh so matte. 2020 the year of a pandemic. The year of no road racing. My actions manifested the weirdness at times. My thoughts ran down rabbit-holes. Summer days trawling the back lanes and roads of my youth, finding hidden new swimming holes in the rives, counting years on tree stumps with my 6year old son, making bug hotels, exploring valleys and parched moors, riding to forget, riding to remember that I love riding.
I will stand proud to say that out of this haze, in August I attended Longstone Hill Climb and Tegg Nose Hill Climb, and in the heat of those evening races took some memorable wins. Ethereal moments, unreal against the backdrop of the pandemic uncertainty. Racing up in the fading light, pushing to the line in the mind, body crackling. Years pounding in my head, why and how did I get to this point. Remembering looking up to winners of Hill Climbs 5 years ago, and now, here I am on the pointy end. A new landscape of thought and brain wiring. Then weeks of gruelling intervals, testing my lungs, my resolve.
Losing out on the chance to race Nationals. Fighting with my son in hospital for three days then two weeks of recovering early October, to then come back and take a win and new course record on Peaslows Hill Climb. Cold air, flags fluttering, friends and no foes in hill climbing. New competitors, new incentive. Then the day of nationals riding for 6 hours, revelling in the certainty in my joy and passion for bike riding and thinking......next year.....
3. Analyse the goal events
Eye-popping impressed. No, actually, I will rephrase. I was in green-eyed jealousy at the luscious graph Liam presented to me recently, showing the most concise breakdown of my key races for 2021. Taking into account the demands of the event; the terrain; how it has been won in the past; what will I need to achieve. There is such methodology that my competitive side is sparked. Oh, how I wish I could do that! My brain loves the ‘concept’ of logic, and yet, I am afflicted! My brain plays tricks, it draws me down random places of pictures and poems.
Thank god for Liam and his logic. If I attempt a race plan it usually ends up as a nonsensical poem...
“The start line lies within ye english village, And, rolls out to the moors yonder,
With twists and turns that will make you sure, To focus and stop the ponder”
In comparison, Liam's graph leaves me with this ‘ah-ha’ moment, its genius, brilliant, obvious! At least someone is guiding the ship! Liam is like the compass and I am like a ‘seer’. We all know a compass steers true, whilst witches just drown in the end!
4. Gap Analysis
“I can do this, I can jump that gap”, that happened to me when I was 11 years old, standing on my desk in my room staring at the gap to my metal frame bunk-bed in our house up a track in Wales. “If squirrels can do it, so can I”. Then, thwack! I jump, smash my shin into the frame of the bed, crash onto the floor of the bedroom. My mum laughs at the memory. Damn my self-belief, evidently, I am not a squirrel.
In comparison, Liam of logic has evaluated the gap. The gap in performance, in my physiological attributes, based on three years of data collection! Wow, three years. Everyday data submitted to Liam. Power, heart rate, RPE (rate of perceived effort), metrics (weight, sleep hours, overall feeling, hormonal cycle). He plugs in a red circle of physiological targets to enable me to meet demands of my goal event, VO2; sprint power; aerobic capacity; fatigue resistance; and so on. He then has a blue circle showing what I can already achieve. Where there is a GAP between the red and blue circle then he knows this is the area of work to be done! Phew! Amazing! Witch-craft!
I try and stare into the circular graph, imagining it is the crystal ball of 2021. Trying to see beyond, to predict the outcome.
Gap Analysis does this wonderful thing! It looks at:
- Where I was
- Where I am
- Where I want to go
No, this isn’t a psychic exercise!
5. Annual Training Plan (ATP)
Grab a coffee. We are almost there.
Now that we (the royal we). Correction. Now that Liam knows when my key events are; and what he needs to do to help me achieve them; he then develops a 12-month plan. Like the biggest trees in the forest. Beneath them are the supporting trees, weeds, everything that will need to help build the ladder to the tops of the canopy. The canopy being my goals. I am terrible at focusing on weeds, small outlying “marginal gains”. Oh no, not this year. I will only look to the tip-top canopy!
Each phase of training typically takes 3 weeks, and within each phase, there are mini performance goals. Thank god he has a handle on this.
The part I love is the knowledge and faith that Liam has it all in hand. I look at the table of words and micro-tasks and I love it. It is tremendously satisfying. Why? Because I don’t have to do anything!
Ride my bike. Eat. Sleep. Relax. All is under control!
7. Destiny is ALL
This is the hidden step.
Within every best-laid plan, we must accept fate. We must accept balance and forgiveness of ourselves. Perfection does not exist. Imperfection and change surround us. Relax and breathe to the whirlpool of life. What really is important? Our short terms here on earth. Everyday wildlife exists. We are animals too.
There is no ego. We live, we die. We breathe and feel the air. Our instinct to hunt to survive is within us. Let sport and racing be an outlet for our animal side. Let racing be racing. Let life and connection, co-operation and society, good-will and kindness prevail overall.
Fate will decide, the stars may align, outside of all the parts I can control, accept those I can’t. Let go of fears, visualise the freedom within you.
“Man is his own star; and the soul that can Render an honest and a perfect man, Commands all light, all influence, all fate; Nothing to him falls early or too late.
Our acts our angels are, or good or ill, Our fatal shadows that walk by us still”
Epilogue to Beaumont and Fletcher’s Honest Man’s Fortune - taken from “Self-Reliance by R.W Emerson”