Well, it's been 19.5 weeks since I started cycle training again and I thought I'd take a minute to reflect on where I'm at and how I'm feeling now that the Tour of Bright (ToB) is only a couple of days away (before my feelings are influenced by the results of the ToB).
During the middle of the program, I felt stressed and anxious that I would never have enough time to get properly fit. I thought that in the week leading up to the ToB I'd be going a little bit insane with stress about the looming race. But instead I feel strangely serene, resolved even. I think this is for two reasons: I've done the best I could possibly do in hitting the training sessions over the past 20 weeks; and I'm aware that the training is done and there's nothing I can do now to change my riding to influence the results this weekend.
Thinking back to where I was 20 weeks ago I can only describe myself as proud of what I've achieved over the past 20 weeks. I had a pretty low-level of fitness after an extended period off the bike, was a nervous nelly in a bunch and bike generally and didn't know whether or not I'd be able to commit to the training due to competing demands on my time. But I think I'd now describe myself as probably the fittest I've ever been, comfortable in a range of cycling situations (including descending and cornering at speed) and proud of my training strike rate (although my boss may use a difference adjective to describe my commitment to my training...). I know I've still got a lot to learn (like Rach I'm waiting for my hotdog turn epiphany) but it's still nice to know I've improved during the program.
Gamin Connect provides me with the following rough stats of what I've been up to since I started training again on 19 July:
* I've spent over 223 hours riding (lucky Garmin Connect doesn't provide me with a stat for how much associated time I've spent having cycling-related coffee, or beer for that matter!);
* I've ridden approx 5,700km, which included 67,684m of elevation; and
* I've burnt nearly 90,000 calories.
But what Garmin Connect can't portray is how much fun I've had riding over the past few months. Here's a snapshot of some things that I am now recalling from the program:
* epic 4 hour ride to Corin from SFP with Andrew, Brad and Tim, where it rained for 3/4 of the ride and we all ended up slightly disoriented (probably hypothermic!) and all conversation ended up consisting of words ending in "y" (eg, Brad being pleased to have fixed his weird "squeaky, squeaky, rubby, rubby" bike);
* coached session with Jason Mahoney (also in the rain), with half the squad singing as we were going up Red Hill;
* chilled out E1 Wednesday sessions, where it's all about the company and catching up in a relaxed atmosphere;
* getting stuck in a hail storm on the return journey from Collector;
* turning up to ANU for another coached session with Jason Mahoney to find him doing his best impression of a commando with chain grease all over his face (yes, I honestly thought he was instigating his own "boot camp" style of training and was most disappointed to find it was just from a mechanical);
* doing a coached session while suffering from food poisoning, and leaving a trail of fluorescent green vomit on the lawn of a random embassy on Mugga Way;
* head / shoulder butting a car in O'Connor on my way to a training session and not getting completely freaked out about it;
* doing Red Hill repeats without closing either of my brakes and doing Stromlo repeats with my back wheel rubbing (yes, it appears that I haven't learnt much mechanically while doing the program - might try and rectify that for the next program!); and
* changing a tyre all on my own on the side of the road for the first time ever (even if it did take roughly 25 minutes).
Some of the above would have been absolutely horrendous if not for the awesome group of people I've been training with. Everyone is fun, quirky and entertaining, and they've all pushed themselves to their limits over the past 20 weeks. We've gotten to know each other and respect each other as individuals and cyclists as part of the program, and I know this is a group of people I will stay in touch with forever (and yes, I am getting soppy and sentimental with old age, or maybe it's just cycling-related fatigue). But what's so awesome about cycling is that we're all equals: as one squad member said, he knows pretty much everyone in the squad's heart rate zones, their climb times for local climbs, grades they race, what their cycling goals are, etc, but doesn't necessarily know what they do for employment. I kind of like that about cycling (although that's probably because I'm a lawyer and everyone generally hates me for it). :-) I hope everyone in the squad (including Jason M) knows how grateful I am for all of their support and friendship over the past 20 weeks (if they don't now, I suspect they will at post-Bright drinks on Sunday afternoon ;-) ).
I'm not sure what I'll be doing after the ToB. At some point (generally before I fell in love with training again) I thought that completing the ride would be enough for me, and I'd retire from cycling (or maybe more from training) and get back to the reality of being a lawyer-mum-wife-friend-occasional cyclist. But I'm pretty sure I'm going to miss it (and the squad!) when it's over and done with. I will enjoy easing back the training a little from next week and into Christmas, but I love the discipline, pushing myself and getting fitter and faster (not to mention being able to eat anything I want!). And I'd miss all my cycling buddies way too much to not train with them as well.
But I guess I don't need to worry about what I'll do post-Bright just yet: I should really focus on achieving my ToB goals. What else is there to say but thank you and bring on the ToB!