Three goals, embrace the change

I woke up to a familiar sound this morning. Is was the distinct buuuurrrr of the wind trainer in full time trail mode. It was a strange thing, because, for a change, it was not me that was making a racket. It was not me, red faced, sweating all over the carpet. It was Purdie. Instead of getting on my bike, or the trainer… I was off to the gym. Something that I am slowly embracing – all to kick the three goals for 2015 that my coach set me in the butt… Let’s see how I go – embrace some change.

Goals for 2015 as set by the Super Coach…#1 improve my strength and core strength, #2 embrace time off the bike and #3 improve my concentration.
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#1. The fact that I’m a relative newbie to cycling and coupled with the fact that I don’t have a sporting background means that my general strength and core strength is lacking. A lot. I bob around on the bike worse than anyone I know. Not very efficient. That’s why I have been embracing the gym and why I’m wearing ankle socks. I’m actually quite enjoying it. The gym is a different kind of challenge for me. Like cycling, I like seeing the improvements each week, I like the satisfaction I feel when I complete a set or go up a few kilos in weight. Just like doing a new watt pb on the bike. I’m putting in the time at the moment in the gym, so I’m hopeful this improves with time!
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#2. Now I’m in the gym more, I’ve backed off the specific training that I had been doing. No more early morning wind trainer sessions for me, and not as many hill reps. I’ve had to embrace my rest days, and… actually rest. In the past, my rest days would still involve a 30km commute to work by bike. I’ve had to replace this with catching public transport. Cringe. I hate PT. It takes me longer to catch the train to work than it does to ride, plus it costs me money and my sanity! This aside, I am embracing my rest days and time off the bike… For me, it is all about routine… I’ve now started to walk to the station, stopping to smell the roses, a coffee and enjoy some people watching. It is doing me good in the long run… Even if I go a little batty.
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#3. People that know me will understand how hard #3 is for me. I’m fidgety. I struggle to concentrate on one thing at a time. I can’t even watch TV for longer than 10 minutes! I get too distracted. Getting distracted and not concentrating are all things that can be your downfall as a cyclist. Get distracted = miss the winning break. Don’t concentrate = lose time in a TT. Short of doing a Sudoko puzzle every day to train my brain, I’m working on it. Learning to focus and concentrate. Let’s just say that of all these things, this is going to be the hardest for me and new years resolution. I’m not sure how to measure it though…maybe if I can watch a TV show from start to finish?

Bring on the rest of 2015! I’ve had a flying start with lots of racing over summer… Now to get prepared for the rest of the season with even more things happening on and off the bike.

I won’t be at Adelaide Tour this year, but will be ready to get my climbing legs on for Mersey Valley Tour at the beginning of May.

Until next time, get on your bike and ride it!

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Going backwards at Oces

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Small lesson to be learnt. a) sunscreen applied at 5:45am wears off well before the 8am race start. b) should reapply when packing bikes in the searing heat.

I wrote this last night whilst sitting on the plane home from Brisbane, rather cooked. For me it was a whirlwind visit to race Oceania Championships in Toowoomba, QLD. I arrived Saturday and flew home Sunday. It was my first Oces, a 105km hilly road race, from all reports, I knew it was going to be a hard race. It certainly was that.

So, I’ve had three hours to sit here at Brisbane airport, to reflect on the race and how it all went backwards. Reality is, I know how. I went in the race feeling cooked and ended the race feeling cooked (literally and figuratively). My recollection on the race isn’t as exciting as those that finished ahead of me. My race involved going backwards, getting dropped and a lot of grovelling…I just about chewed through my handlebars.

As predicted, it was windy and hot. Our first lap was tame, we were all kind of looking around at each other, sussing each other out. I was concentrating on keeping a good position in the tiny field of 24, whilst wondering when my legs would come good. There were a few aggressors that made the race a little more interesting. It seemed like everyone was taking a stab at an attack, one would go, get caught, another would go, get caught…Nothing really stuck though.

Ultimately it was an attack at the pointy end of the 2nd lap that splintered the bunch… and that’s where it all went wrong for me… I started to go backwards… pretty darn quickly. I was off the back, but I could see two riders in the distance that had been dropped too, so I focused on catching them. It would be way easier to do the last lap with some companions, share the load so to speak. The three of us grovelled our way through the windy dead roads for the final 35km and that was that. Race over. Cooked. I finished +17:10 behind the winner.

In the end it was the final climb that decided the race, with Lauren Kitchen, Lizzie Williams and Katrin Garfoot taking the podium. Jenelle the little superstar got top 10 position, and 3rd in the U23 classification. Full results can be found here. My Strava file here.

The thing is, going backwards in a field of 24 is a pretty awful feeling. In a small pelo like that, you are either on the front or on the back. So I was on the back, then off the back in a matter of seconds. There is no mid bunch to sit in, or to filter back through, there is nowhere to hide or scramble back on to. My legs didn’t have anything today, they never came good. I pretty sure I left them on Mt Donna Buang. (I must remember to go back and collect them).
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All of a sudden, it is Monday. I’m burnt to a crisp, sitting back at my desk, dreaming of riding my bike up hills.2015/02/img_7366.jpg Photo: Cycling Australia

Wah wah wah winter. The holiday countdown has begun…

I’ve been going a bit crazy of late, my bike mojo is waning, I’ve got the winter blues. End of financial year madness at work is stressing me out and this weather, i.e. rain/wind is giving me the royal shits.

Lucky for me though, I’ve got heaps to look forward to! I’m about to head off for three weeks cycling in France and Italy with Purdie. I’ve been waiting all year for it.

I’m looking forward to riding  in 30+ degree weather, not wearing gloves, jackets, shoe covers.

I’m looking forward to pro hours, pro kilometers and pro recovery – i.e. baguettes, poolside.

I’m looking forward to delicious food, cheese, cheese and wine.

I’m looking forward also to some Strava Challenges too… Rapha Rising and Women’s 100. These have added extra excitement to my trip!

Rapha Rising. This is something that ordinarily, I’d struggle to complete at home in Melbourne. But when my home is the Pyrenees for 7 days… this should be a breeze.  The Rapha Rising Challenge gives you 9 days, from the 19th to 27th July to climb an altitude of 8,800m. Consider this challenge done.

This is what I’m planning for the Pyrenees, thanks to The Cycling Life…10,000m of climbing in 6 days…. yes please AND we will get to ride to the top of the Hautacam to watch Stage 18 of Tour! This is what we’re planning:

Sunday 20th – Women’s 100. Route yet to be determined, but likely Bagnères de Bigorre including the Col du Lingous and Croix Blanche.
Total – 100km /1800m climbing

Monday 21st – Col d’ Aspin and La Hourquette d’Ancizan
Total –108km/2268 climbing

Tuesday 22nd – Col de Soulor and Col d’Aubisque
Total – 101k/1821m climbing

Wednesday 23rd – Col du Tourmalet (both sides…maybe)
Total 100km+/ 1961m+ climbing

Thursday 24th – The day that we climb the Hautacam and witness the finish of Stage 18 of the Tour de France
Total – 75km/1480m climbing

Friday 25th – Luz Ardiden
Total –  112k/1752 climbing

Saturday 26th – Sleep in

You can see my full itinerary here.

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Women’s 100. Thousands of women around the world will ride 100km on the 20th of July. Take the Strava challenge here to earn your woven badge.

There are four women with me on the Cycling Life Tour – Purdie, Trace and Kristina. We will be taking this challenge head on, we will ride 100 jet lagged kilometers together, uniting in the spirit and support of Women’s Cycling. There will be many #foreverbuttphotos #womens100 hash tags, bananas consumed, laughs to be had. I can’t wait!

I encourage you all to do so as well. You can join the Melbourne Women’s 100 in Kyneton by registering on the Facebook event page here. Or just get on your bike, and ride 100 km on July 20th.

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Following the Pyrenees adventure, Purdie and I are heading off on our own adventure. Strava challenges aside, this will be where our adventure will begin. The adventure –  lugging our bike bags across France, stopping off at Nice, then ending up at Bormio – Italy. Here, in Bormio we will ride the iconic climbs of the Dolomites, including the Stelvio, Passo del Mortirolo and Foscagno among others (and guided by fellow Melbournian Danielle Garden).

6 days later we will again pack our bike bags up and travel to Lake Como, for some real R&R (haha sure) before heading back to everything winter in Melbourne has to offer. I hope my body forgives me. Going from winter – summer – winter. Lets see what happens.

My holiday can’t come quick enough, 20 days and counting. 20 days of wind, rain and work left. Tomorrow it will be 19 days. I’m so excited! Can you tell?

 

 

 

 

Battle on the Border, where I think I found my watts

The last month or so I’ve been complaining that I had lost my watts, I wasn’t really sure where they had gone. I was running 20 watts short on almost every training session I was doing. It was getting me down. My Super Coach assured me that athletes don’t feel fresh all the time, and that they (the watts) would come back, I’d just have to be patient. So I suffered through, feeling rubbish on the bike, waiting until the day that they would magically return.

Fast forward to last weekend. It really did feel like that, fast forward… All of a sudden I was packing my bike bag, getting ready to race Battle on the Border.

The four stage tour was held around Murwillumbah (NSW) and included an 86km road race, 9km ITT, criterium and 77km road race. Battle was going to be our (Total Rush’s) first National Road Series (NRS) race this season, with Jess Toghill (QLD) joining us, along with Bridie (who had solo’d it at Mersey Valley Tour) and NRS first timers, Emma Scott and Kate Perry (Kelly was unavailable for this tour). We were here, totally unsupported, and were crossing our fingers for a trouble free, strong weekend of racing together.

We flew up to the Gold Coast on the Thursday morning, hired a car and drove to our accommodation in New Brighton, which was about 40 minutes from Murwillumbah.  We settled in, and went for a quick pedal.

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The start times for this tour were outrageously early. 7:45AM starts every day, which meant that we would need to be up at 5AM and on the road by 6AM to get to the start with enough time for my usual faffing about. I was not sure how the early starts were going to affect me, both mentally and physically. I was already tired from the early starts I’d had all week… and I wasn’t sure how my legs would go for my first NRS race of the season.

Stage 1. Murwillumbah Road Race
So we were up and fed at 5AM, at the race start by 6AM. With not enough luggage allowance to bring trainers, we would be warming up on the road. This would prove to be an interesting experience for me, because usually I need a good 30 minutes on the trainer to get the legs going. So we rolled around the cane fields, turning the legs over. I was feeling ok, but those little efforts were nothing compared to the intensity that I was expecting from the race. This course was going to be a challenging. The terrain was quite lumpy, weaving in and out of the rainforest, into flat cane fields. It had in two sprints and two QOM’s to add to the pain. One of the QOM’s was going to be particularly tough being about 2.5km long, it was sure to suit the climbers, and possibly split the field.

(c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

After a quick team chat, we were on the start line with 55 other women. For some strange reason I was not feeling nervous on the line as I usually would. In light of my missing watts, I probably should have been panicking. After a hairy experience getting out of the neutral zone, we were racing.  Not long after battling through traffic on the road (vehicles and other competitors!), Jess went for and got the first sprint point! It was a battle and a half to keep a good position and out of trouble, I felt like it was a washing machine and we were churning around the front. I can’t really remember detail of the race, but there were a few attacks here and there and the pace was high, especially on the climbs and the descents.

To my surprise, my legs felt good and I was climbing better than I had done all year. I was able to stay with the bunch over all the climbs, and not get dropped on the descents. This is probably the biggest improvement I have noticed since the last year. In 2013 I would get dropped on every decent, I simply did not have the balls, skills or speed to hang on to the group. This year, I think I had the confidence, a little more race experience and I wasn’t getting dropped.

Nothing was being allowed to get away. Well, that was until, well I can’t remember exactly where, but somewhere after the 2nd QOM, a group of three being Tessa (VIS) , Lizzie (Specialized-Securitor) and Anna-Leesa broke away on some fast descents and smashed it solo all the way to the finish line. They finished approximately 2 mins ahead of the bunch.

I managed to hold on and finish with the bunch. Stage 1 complete. My legs were still attached.

The race was over and it was 10:30am. We had a a full day to put the feet up and go to the beach! I was very exited about that!

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Results

Stage 2. Dawn ITT.
The ITT would be interesting for the team for several reasons… a) we were racing at the crack of dawn b) we had no gear! The team was all in the same position, no proper warm up, no TT bikes, no aero helmets. All we had were our roadies and our legs. Bridie, who has just come off her Mersey Valley Tour ITT win, would have to go the roadie too. As everyone knows, the ITT warm up is very specific and important to prime the legs and get the heart rate to my usual 205 bpm… all we had was the wide open road…. and a can of V.

(c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

The SC had given me an average speed to aim for rather than average watts. Partly because I was complaining so much that my watts had gone, and partly because the course was fairly technical, average speed would be easier to focus on. This was probably all an attempt to distract me from my whining about my watts. It worked. The course was a weird shape, with an uneven road surface, a pinch, sweeping bends and sharp left handers. It would be easy to brake too hard and wash away any speed and momentum you built up. That’s exactly what happened to me. In hindsight I was way too cautious of the corners, I lost so much speed braking and then having to make that time up. Still, I did a respectable time of 14.28 to finish 25th.

Tessa won, and did an incredible time, of 13.04, which was 1.24 faster than my time!

The time was now only 8:30AM, we had hours to wait until our crit at 1:30PM. Recovery time!

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Results

Stage 3. Crit 
After a 5 hour wait until the start of the crit, it was time to get excited. I was nervous and feeling very jittery about this one. My fear and increased heart rate could have been as a result of I drinking two “V’s” whilst waiting around, but in reality, I put my nerves down to the fact that the course was just plain frightening. It had three pinches, with each getting progressively steeper, combined with a steep decent to navigate and some left and right corners. All this technicality and the climbs, were going to split the field, that was for sure.

It was on from the gun, with various riders taking the opportunity to smash the field’s legs off. Our team goal was to, “just move up”. Riders were being shelled every lap. No surprise really, with Bridie, Holden and Bicycle Superstore setting the pace it was a fast climb and fast decent. We were strung out, almost in single file for most of the race… I was hanging on for dear life and “moving up” where I could.

(c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

I was in a world of pain from that first pedal stroke. Too preoccupied with the pain that when I eventually glanced down to my Garmin to see how much more of this torturous circuit I had to endure, I saw that I forgot to press start. Bugger. I didn’t know how far in I was, how far I had to go. Ain’t no body got time for that. I didn’t have time to dwell. I just kept moving up, moving up.

I was in the hurt box so much that I had no idea what was going on at the front of the bunch. Ruth had attacked, and managed to get a good distance on the front of the bunch. The speed was picking up, then all of a sudden Lizzie kicked and skipped up the hill, down the decent and then everyone slowed down.

I was so confused, I didn’t realise that was the last lap. The race was over. Thank god. I was glad to just survive. Jess, Bridie and I finished with the bunch. Half of the field were pulled. Emma and Kate did a great job but got pulled after about 15 minutes of madness!

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This is 23 minutes worth of my file. Let’s just say that it HURT!

Results

Stage 4. Kingscliff Road Race
It was the last day of racing. We were all feeling weary. This course was full or rolling hills, a couple of pinchy climbs and a few flat sections around the cane fields. Our race objective was to stay towards the front, especially coming into the QOMs. The first part of the race was relatively uneventful. The bunch was staying together. Lizzie grabbed the first QOM and sprint points.

We had just gone over a little pinch, at about the 46km mark, when I did a very opportunistic thing. I managed to get myself in a solo breakaway. I’m not even sure how it happened. We were going over a little pinch, I followed the wheel of someone, then all of a sudden I looked back and there was a gap. Started to descend, looked around and the gap was bigger. I was at the point of no return. I then proceeded to TT my way for the next 25km or so, my biggest gap getting to 1.05 secs thanks to some great teamwork going on in the bunch.

(c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

Riding solo I had a lot of time to think. My thoughts were mostly about keeping my speed at about 40km/hr. I also had time to ponder my missing watts, and of course, what I was going to eat for dinner. I was having a great tour, in terms of the goals I had set for myself. I had given it my all, and was not doing too badly overall. My legs were feeling great, considering they had three days of racing in them. I just had to keep pedalling, my team would have been working hard in the bunch. I was going to have Baby Pizza for dinner.

I ticked along, concentrating on my speed and picked up the next sprint and QOM points. The further I got, the more I begun to feel the bunch hunting me. I knew they would. I knew that the VIS, Holden and Specialized-Securitor trains would be forming and they would start to chase me down. They wanted the win. There was not much time separating the overall GC positions, a win for them here could easily change the standings.

At about the 70km mark I was joined Shannon Malseed (Holden), Bex Heath (Bicycle Superstore) and Emma Viotto (Brumby Suzuki) bridged over to me from the bunch. There was not much left in the race, with only about 10km remaining. The trains were coming! We spent the first 5km or so working turns and yelling at eachother, then we settled into a rhythm. We were aiming to stay away, but the trains were coming.

(c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

With 600m to go, we were caught. I was just behind Emma going around the roundabout when Lizzie came hurtling by, then all of a sudden, Emma was horizontal, Lizzie had gone wide left and I slammed my breaks on and went right, towards the gutter. I managed to get back on track, with a little less momentum, and get around the corner to finish 9th. My best NRS finish so far!

To top off my efforts on the day, I had the pleasure of being ASADA tested. Now that is an experience and a half. Quite amusing really because I had beetroot for dinner the night before. #pinkreallyismycolour

Results

I had an amazing weekend racing and spending time with my Total Rush team mates. We did well as a team and all learned a lot, such a pleasure. We survived three days totally unsupported, with no on-road mechanicals or flats, we picked up sprint points, rode aggressively, climbed our hearts out and survive the three 5am starts in a row – with not being late once. I can’t wait until our next race together, for me that is Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley. My home town!

I learned a lot about myself this tour too. What SC had been telling me  about being patient and my watts would return, was true. She was right, of course, I think I found them somewhere on the border.

GC results

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And yes, I did have Baby Pizza for dinner. My usual Peroni and a fungi pizza. Delicious.

You can watch the NRS race videos by clicking here. Race photos supplied by TBS Photography and used with permission. Thanks to Total Rush for keeping our bikes in top race condition, to 4Shaw for keeping my feet warm and to my Super Coach, Bec Domange for always being right.

Mt Donna Baung ITT when almost #nogarminnorules sort of comes into play

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Lets just say that I was not enthused at all about riding the Mt Donna Baung ITT. It was a real case of CBF from my part, especially when I woke it to torrential rain.

I was off at 9:30 am and it was a 1.5 hour drive out there. It was raining, I mean belting down. I checked the radar and it was not looking like it was going to stop anytime soon.  I tweeted @CyclingVictoria, with the hope that the race was cancelled. It wasn’t. So I reluctantly dragged myself into the car, Purdie driving and we set off into the washing machine to the start line.

I had never ridden Donna. I only studied the profile for 15 minutes or so the night before, from what I could work out, Donna is just a steady uphill climb. No real false flats, no real pinches, just steady. My race plan was simple, I had a goal in mind to try to maintain 220 watts for the entire climb and/or keep above 16/17km per hour average, this would get me a time of +/- 1:03 minutes.

My enthusiasm to race didn’t get any better on the drive out there, in fact, I fell asleep quite quickly. I was not looking forward to racing in the rain. But thank god I wasn’t doing the Warburton Road Race, like my teamie Kate Perry was. Don’t get me wrong. I’m far from a fair weather rider. I commute every day, rain hail or shine. But pushing yourself to the limit in the rain, is less than ideal, especially when the finish line is at the top of a mountain at 0 degrees.

We arrived at the start line, and I sat in the car. Delaying the inevitable warm up. Purdie almost pushed me out of the car. Just get on your bike and ride it. So I got on the trainer and did a half effort warm up. Reports that it was snowing at the top was not encouraging me to go any harder.

I was off at the head of Mens A grade. I had my goals, just needed to stick to them. Don’t focus on the wet, or the cold. Just focus on the numbers, I thought.

Within the first 10 minutes, I was passed by the whole of Mens A grade that started behind me. Not long after, I realised that my trusty Garmin was having issues. As I wiped the beaded water from the screen my speed was going from 6km/hr to 30km/hr. I was confused. Was I going too fast, or too slow? It was affecting my distance measure too. I had no idea how far I had gone. How hard was I pushing… well I forgot my heart rate strap, so that was another number I was missing.

I don’t know why I was stressing, I could barely see the screen anyway, it was still raining…so I just thought to myself, #nogarminnorules. Suck it up and ride. My legs felt like rubbish, full of lactic. I was stressed that I was going to hard, I I had no idea how far I had to go or how hard I was pushing. I was too much in the hurtbox to take my hands off the handlebars. I just kept spinning as fast as I could. I started to pick off other riders. As I gained elevation the visibility became poor, I was riding into a cloud. Finally I saw the 5km to go marker on the road.

This is where I started to get into a rhythm, then before I knew it. It was snowing, and I crossed the finish line. I put my 100 layers on, and descended with no idea of the time that I did. I got changed and got in the car, and waited for the results to come out. As we drove back home, I was anxious at what time I did. I felt like I did a good time, I pushed hard, but I had no idea how hard I really went. I just rode as fast as I could.

57:23 was my time. Remarkable, I was not expecting that time at all. 2nd fastest time by a woman!

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There is something to say for riding without the stats. Just riding as hard as your body will let you. #nogarminnorules, sort of. It was fun, but next time, I’d prefer my Garmin was visible.

April obsessions

It’s been a while since I’ve posted my monthly obsessions… so here we go, I’m back on the bandwagon!

Enjoy!

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Muesli – This one is particularly delicious, from my 2nd favorite café Palate 

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My new 4 Shaw merino arm warmers and socks, get yours here

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My new Alice McCall dress. I rarely buy anything that isn’t cycling related. This is one item!

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Vegemite on rice cakes, with tomato. Delicious.

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I get my nails shellaced fortnightly. This is my latest colourway.

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My new TT bike thanks to Total Rush. I looooovvvveeeee it!

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My new cat Vans. I love cats. Sooo cute!

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Icy sticks. These ones are made with yoghurt. Also a fave of mine!

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Wunderunder pants by Lululemon. Perfect for mooching around in.

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#Foreverbuttphotos

Finding that motivation, rain, hail or shine

Yesterday was the first time since I sold my car, where I really wished I hadn’t.

It was raining, and I mean bucketing down. I had to get to work, trains and trams are not so convenient, so on the bike I got. As I pedalled, dripping wet, I really started to resent the fact that I had to ride my bike… I was feeling daunted by the weather to come, this was only the start… winter that is. Sigh. The worst is yet to come.

My motivation for riding my bike always seems to wain this time of year, when the darkness sets in and the temperature starts to drop. This is the time of year when I find it increasingly hard to get myself out of bed in the morning and find that motivation to get on my bike and ride it. Don’t get me wrong. I love riding my bike. I once did this:

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But still, there is something about this time of year that gets to me. There is a brief adjustment period. Though my motivation starts to wain at this time of year, it is a good time for me to revisit my goals. So why do I get up to train in the morning? The underlining motivation is my love for riding my bike. Bike riding keeps me fit, happy and if nothing else, sane. Often it is the 45 minutes I spend commuting to work in the morning that is almost the most enjoyable part of my day, an opportunity to clear my mind, experience some endorphins and get my daily vitamin D. My bike is also my primary mode of transport, I need it to get from a to b. My competitive streak keeps me focused with many bike related goals to achieve. Then there is the social aspect that cycling provides, many friends to ride with, places to go, breakfast spots to eat at. I really do have hundreds of reasons to be motivated, to get out of bed in the morning, to ride rain, hail or shine, and to just get on my bike and ride it.

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My training will shift from focusing on summer crits, to winter kilometres, hills and tts, and I will remind myself that despite the cold, wet and dreary conditions, I love riding my bike and everything that it provides me. The cold can be relieved, the wet can be prepared for. Now it is time to rug up, put on those merino socks, rub that embro on the legs and get on my bike and ride it!