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  • Writer's pictureHolohan Coaching

Wild Wales Dreaming

By Rebecca Richardson.

How much can change in a month. All races cancelled. All schools closed. Most work on hold. My son, Arthur, has been out of school for two weeks. We’ve been mixing up school lessons with outdoor play. The forced break has made space for other parts of life, such as gardening. Underlying is a sense of anxiety and care for others. The mental side of athletic performance is something Liam has instilled in me; I have now limited my time looking at the news, stayed off social media, and focused back on optimising life, creating a daily schedule.

More than ever, routine, fitness, health, and mindset will create a secure and stable environment in uncertain times.

Whilst the world is in crisis, we must remember that as ever, no-one can be expected to take on the burdens of 7 billion people. We mustn’t feel guilty for indulging in our hobbies, past-times and passions. Mental health is as real as physical health.

Now is the time to find fun challenges. Do you remember being a kid? Within the constraints of your garden or surrounding area there was boundless opportunity for the imagination to run wild, create games, dens, and all kinds of mischief!

When I was a kid, I had six younger siblings to play with! Along our small country lane in the Llanymawddwy valley at the base of Bwlch-Y-Groes (hell-fire) hill climb pass Wales, we would get all the motley collection of bikes out and play “time trials”, timing each other to bike a 1km there and back route! Being the eldest, I always rigged it to win! We would spend hours exploring with 5km of home, our lanes, paths, rivers. Climbing trees, making little running racecourses, and taking tractor tyres down the streams.

As you get older and the physical environmental constraints get lifted (you start driving a car; no longer dependent on parents etc) the amount of choice and variety of adventures opens even further. Yet, I have such fond memories of being a child growing up in Wales, on the side of a hill in a house with water from a well, no television, no internet. Rope swings, piano playing, reading, and ample freedom to explore.

When British Cycling and CTT announced a lock-down on races, I heard some fellow cyclists say, “what's the point in training, now that our goals have gone?” It is true that finding new motivation is difficult. But instantly I drew from one of my strengths, which is a very, very active imagination!! Most times my imagination gets me into all kinds of strife, yet it has become my strength during the lock-down!

After spending the whole winter in preparation for the season, arriving at my first race, taking the win; I wasn’t ready to slip into a rest, then another base period. This is something that I discussed with Liam, who thought it important that I primarily have fun, as well as working towards some sort of goal.

I looked around at my surroundings, where I live, all of a sudden, all the little lanes, obscure climbs, and routes within 30km of my home as tantalizing and seductive! They are screaming at me to go and put my best efforts in, take convincing Queen of the Mountains (QOM’s) on Strava and go for some new power bests!

Liam has taken these ideas and we have adapted the training plan to build up for a new ‘A’ goal. A new all-time effort on a local, but classic, Welsh hill climb, ‘The Horseshoe Pass” near Llangollen.

I missed out on racing The Horseshoe in 2019, in favour of “Monsal” hill climb, which was run on the same day. Yet, I was really torn! The horseshoe has so many brilliant qualities that make it a classic hill climb. It is long (approximately 16min for the women's time for the full Strava segment), it has variable gradients and gets exposed at the top. It has a switch-back (important feature - “the horseshoe”) A welsh classic!

In the men's field, the times are eye-watering! Sub-14min on the Strava leaderboard. Apparently, Steve Cummings did a 13min up! Oh, how I would love to close the gap to the men's time, break the women's Strava record, and get a new power personal best.

Having spent the whole winter building my strength and aerobic capacity, we’ve transitioned into a supra threshold phase of training. The goal of the training cycle was to raise my supra threshold power through specific intervals. One of such interval sessions was over unders. The over and under refers to the ability to work over and under anaerobic threshold (something like FTP).

Liam and I are preparing for this effort. My training is specific to this goal. I don’t need a British Cycling sanctioned race or CTT official race to complete this challenge to motivate me to perform at my best. I am driven by my child-like desire to have fun and put everything out on the road. The best part is that I am adhering to all of the social distancing / self-isolating rules.

Ever wanted to target a Strava segment? Get the coveted KOM / QOM?

With social distancing and restrictions looking to last 6 months and flexible home working being more probable I would say that now would be an excellent time to train to a plan and hit some personal goals on your doorstep!

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