|"I can swim! I am amazing! I can do anything!"|
|Nicely wrapped up against that horribly cold bit of indoors. Ability to pull silly faces unaffected...|
|I am Rage Owl.|
|It wasn't dark by the time I finished (nor was I on the track), but it sure felt like a long time had passed.|
- The first two or three kilometres will feel very long. It takes me a while to get into a rhythm at the moment, but I don't need to worry about that. I just need to push through the first two or so miles and then the rest will feel manageable. In the first two miles, I need to keep shutting up that doubting voice inside my head.
- At about the 6km mark, I might get a sudden burst of joy in what I'm doing which made me feel invincible. That happened on Saturday and it felt amazing - as if I'd finally settled down into the distance. If that happens then I'll just enjoy it but also remind myself there's a hell of a long way still left to go.
- One of the hardest bits is just before halfway. You're tired and a bit bored and you can't believe you're not even halfway yet. On Saturday, my session was along the Cambridge busway - so I went straight out, and came straight back. I controlled how far out I went. I had to keep silencing that bit of my head that was saying, 'you won't even make it back from here - what makes you think you can make it back if you go even further in that direction?' Hopefully in a race this won't be the case. The route will be out of my control, meaning that I'll be able to accept it more easily.
- There's a point round about 16-17km when you feel that you should probably have finished by now, but you know there's still a decent bit of work left to do. When I hit 15.5km I knew I was about 6km from where I started. I also know that 6km is the distance along the towpath to the lock and back, or from the car park to the bridge after the first lock. It's not a huge distance but it's considerable enough to feel daunting when you're already tired and in pain. At this stage you just have to break it down into very short chunks: 100m at a time, 30 pushes, 20 seconds - whatever gets you through until you realise you've ticked off another 1km.
- The last couple of kms - these were awful on Saturday. I was in agony from my back and I just wanted to get home, have a shower, and spend a few hours getting everything in my body back into the right place, hopefully with lots of hot water bottles and painkillers too! Oh, and I was quite hungry. In Cardiff, though, I didn't want to feel that way. The last couple of kilometres of a road race are always the most fun - it's where lots of spectators will be. I wanted to soak up the atmosphere and feel a part of something amazing. This was certainly easier in a World Championship race than on the Cambridge Busway, virtually alone, in light drizzle!
|kind of like this.|
|We also experimented with new disc wheels, but they're a change too far right now!|
|The Peanut and the Roller|
|Don't try this at home...|
- complete the distance (or ideally just over the distance) in one session.
- loosen and strengthen key muscles in back and core
- learn how I will feel at certain points through the distance
- learn to adapt my technique where necessary (this also includes things like knowing how to handle hills and setting up the steering).
|(not my kit!) - I can't help feeling that a pair of shorts would do the job better than a loo roll...|
|There is no suchthing as 'too prepared'!|
|stripping out all the 'upholstery' to give the frame a good scrub...|
|...and taking off the front wheel to get all of this cleaned up and with oil in the right places (i.e. on the steering but NOT on the brake pads!)|
|How it felt.|
|Playing with Charlotte at Christmas time.|
- Psychological preparation is, for me, the most crucial stage of preparation. If you go into something knowing you can do it, it's a lot easier than not knowing if you can or not. Get the distance done and ideally be comfortable doing it several times and/or going above the distance. There are other aspects of psychological prep listed below, but this is one of the biggest and most important examples.
- Eat properly and drink properly! (Water...not booze)
- Take your medication! I still ended up regurgitating a lot of my breakfast (despite the 2pm start time of the race) but had I not had huge amounts of esomeprazole it probably would have been worse.
- Taper. Don't do a massive session two days before the race. That's just silly. Don't sit around doing nothing either, though - you'll feel stale and stiff.
- Know where you need to be and when throughout race day.
- Don't spook yourself. If it's a competition, be aware of the opposition, but 'control the controllables'. You're the main controllable, by the way.
- Have strategies worked out in advance to cope with difficult situations which may arise. For example: very steep hill (there were a few of these in Cardiff). Normal pushing technique will not get you up. Go one hand at a time, so you've always got some forward movement, and use the spokes to get you there. Think these things out in advance and it'll save you dithering time in the race.
- Use technology. Not one I've talked about much on this blog before (a future post in the making!), but having an idea of your average speed during training on the flat, on roads, on slight slopes, etc., will help you pace yourself in a race.
- Have a reason. Mine: my Grandad (handy reminder in the form of a Halifax bomber on my chair), my Dad, and me. I'm a good reason to finish. I would be soooo annoyed if I didn't make it.
- Enjoy it! This is the bit I tend to forget. Sometimes, I get so bound up in trying to go faster and faster that I forget to enjoy the moment. I need to think back to how excited I was when I first tried wheelchair racing, or when I first picked up my chair. Tap into that, and the miles go faster.