Ruari Grant - 2019 Recap
Coached athlete and blog contributor, Ruari Grant, speaks about his 2019 experiences and adjusting to the coaching progress.
First of all, a brief bit about me. I'm a keen amateur cyclist with a penchant for mountainous events. I live and work full-time in London, with my equally keen cycling girlfriend, having moved down from Edinburgh last year. Nothing that remarkable, but below are a few thoughts on my first experiences of coaching.
Living alone and working 8-4 in Edinburgh the last few years meant I've really been spoiled with being able to ride as and when I liked. This meant I subsisted mainly on a diet of copious junk miles with whichever friends I could persuade to come out with me (not always many in the brutal Scottish winter). This was about as scientific as my training had ever really got, but it saw me improve gradually, accumulating enough 'distinctly ok' results in the UK to get an elite license, as well as some slightly better performances in Gran Fondo’s abroad.
But this year, having moved in with Hannah, I'd have to make some changes if I wanted to step my form up another level, while keeping both my girlfriend and my job. Disclaimer – she's just as into her cycling as me, which does make things marginally easier.
Having won the Pyrenees and Mont Ventoux Haute Routes in 2018, my main aim for this season was the big one – the Alps – preceded by a handful of one and three-day events. I knew Liam had experience in the mountains and a proven coaching record so decided to give him a punt. The idea was to add structure to sessions, i.e. less time trundling around the lanes after work but more time 'training', while teaching me to recover better too, coming back stronger after each successive block (instead of the ride oneself into the ground approach I was used to). I thought his own experience of riding at a high level would also help me overcome the 'I know best' attitude I'd gradually built up with my own riding...
My target events all had the same characteristics: lots of elevation gain and time in the saddle. The physical demands for me were therefore simple: power:weight and endurance.
This meant we'd be placing a greater focus than previously on my threshold with really specific sessions. Shorter, more explosive efforts – of the kind I've struggled with for years in UK racing would mercifully get less attention. Cutting out shorter intense efforts meant I could include more good quality threshold and sweet-spot (you can google these buzzwords...) sessions than before, backing these up as per the multi-day events I'd be targeting. Cutting out UK racing also allowed for more weekends in the hills and trips to the mountains.
I don't spend much time looking at stats, but the end-of-season data does show clear success in these aims. Due to spending more time climbing, I've done roughly 4000 fewer kms, though I've already ridden around 18 more hours. The higher total TSS for 2019 also reflects better quality – harder - training. The next graph points to a similar theme – essentially, I've burnt more energy during the year (I've not included the more cakes eaten graph) but have done fewer long rides as Liam pushed me to do a higher number of shorter, more targeted workouts.
Thanks to better targeted training and Liam's support, 2019 has been my most successful season to date. Perhaps the biggest success of the programme was the peak form we achieved for the Alps Haute Route. Having built through the early summer with wins in the Dolomites and Alpe d'Huez, I entered the main goal feeling strong and very motivated. Finally, at the end of the season I still felt fresh enough to take the plunge with the Taiwan KOM Challenge. Late October was the latest I've ever finished racing. While a challenge to maintain discipline, it was worth it for the opportunity to take away a fourth place amongst a more competitive field, while enjoying the most spectacular, and highest altitude event I've ever competed in.
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