It has now been almost 10 weeks since the Ras finished and my learning journey has continued, both on and off the bike. The pain that I had during and immediately after the Ras in my hip/pelvis has gone, but from time to time, my knee is still sore. So back to my physio. George checked over my glutes, hamstrings and quads. Whilst the spinal injury I had has gone completely and I’m much stronger, I effectively have no glutes, and the strength of my quads to hamstrings is 60% to 40% (that at least is an improvement as I was 100% quad dominant before!). No glutes basically means my ITB has slipped slightly, giving me knee pain when I’m on the drops and working hard. Its funny because I have no pain in my ITB when I foam roller every day. To strengthen my hamstrings and glutes I have yet more physio exercises to do (I think I must spend at least 45mins a day doing my physio exercises now to put it into context!). To say these exercises are torture is an under statement – one hamstring rep is enough to make my hammys burn like i’ve just done 1million lunges. My hammys shake during the exercises and its a real test of my mental strength to do more than 1! I’m now up to 2 x 10 and can hardly walk after them. Reminding my glutes that they need to fire is a lot less painful, although mildly frustrating. And actually, seeing it on paper like this has made me realise I did well to finish the Ras, never mind anything else, especially given the virus I had going into it.
So I’ve learnt a lot about my body. My core strength had gradually been slipping away throughout the season and it took the Ras – which was far more stressful on my body than a single RR – to highlight this, resulting in injury. It was hugely noticeable on the rollers – when i returned from the Ras, i was so unstable on the rollers and hated it. This is coming from the girl who loves the rollers and taught herself to ride no handed on them before being able to ride no handed outside! Fast forward 10 weeks of (nearly) blood, sweat and tears and I can now stand up out of the saddle on the rollers again. Massive progress. I’m happy that I can feel my hamstrings working when I ride now (even if they hurt when doing so!), and I’m determined that the imbalance will be fixed by the start of next season, even if it means freezing my arse off lying on our wooden floor every night torturing my legs. Not only will I be injury free, I’ll be a stronger and more efficient rider – and just think of the impact that could have on my season!
I’m about to finish the 2nd block of winter training. Its going well and I’m very happy with the progress I’ve made. I’m surprised at how fast I can go in z2. Uphill is amusing, especially on steep hills – I think my slowest was 5kph up a 10% gradient in z2! Any slower and I’d probably fall off. This winter, my coach and I are doing things differently from last year although certain things still stay the same – like 3 weeks on, 1 week off (to my dismay, the easy week is only 5 hours, mostly inside!. I say dismay because its not that I dislike resting, its just that I love riding my bike – its my method of transport, its my way of unwinding from work, its freedom and escapisim), zone 2 aerobic rides etc. I’m in the gym, but the focus isn’t on a power block this year. And of course, there’s my core and physio exercises which are like a second full time job!
As last winter, I’m eating clean. Today marks 3 weeks of eating clean and NO chocolate or treats. My energy bars and gels have been replaced with proper home made food, and during training is the only time I allow myself something sweet – usually honey in my bars to make them stick together. (i think chocolate might lead to a slippery slope!) I’m still eating fruit, but as I’m dairy and gluten free, along with not eating meat, I feel its important to keep it in. So many people ask me what I eat when I say I don’t eat meat, dariy or gluten. My answer is loads! 2 or 3 portions of different veg is eaten at lunch and dinner time. Rice, quiona, butternut squash, lentils, beans, potatoes and sweet potatoes are my starchy carbs if I need them. I eat eggs and fish every day, take hemp protein twice a day, whey protein once a day, coconut milk yoghurt, peanut butter, smoked salmon and avocados for healthy fats. Chai seeds, flaxseeds, goji berries also feature every day. So you see, lots!
Since ditching the chocolate, I’ve lost the bulk of my tummy fat, I feel my recovery is better, my energy levels are stable and I feel strong. This is reflected in my HRV scores, all of which have increased and a new PB of 106 (unlike RHR, the higher the HRV number, the better). When I go for a sports massage I have no niggles – I guess I feel balanced. What’s better is my taste buds have changed – I can taste the sweetness in vegetables now.
In the next few weeks I’m off down south for some track time in Manchester velodrome, followed by a ride with Team 22 sponsors. I’m really looking forward to seeing my team mates again and meeting the team sponsors, especially Ian from Padon Contracts who was very supportive during the Ras. I feel very lucky to be part of this team. I read somewhere on twitter recently a quote that said: “Trust your coach, trust your team, trust yourself” How very true this is. I completely agree with that quote, and let’s face it, as I do this for fun / a hobby (albeit a very time consuming hobby), being part of a team with a great ethos at its heart, an exciting vision for the future and a Team Manager who I have the uttermost respect and trust for is really important to me.