I’ve never been overly good with rest and recovery. My obsessive tendencies mean that I want to do the things I enjoy, every day. This means that I often end up overtraining and not making the improvements I am capable of, or those I want.
This and the fact I have remembered that I am capable of pushing myself further than I have been, because I allow myself to be defeated, by myself. Mentally, a lot of us do and I have been looking at this recently.
I find that I follow obligations and commitments well, rules and plans as well as structure help a neurodiverse mind. With this in mind, I am starting to work with a coach, Natalie Creswick teamheadset. I will put a link on the links page. This will help with structure and routine as well as ensuring that I am training in a beneficial manner, rather than just ‘banging out junk miles’.
Plus, a lot more yoga… daily sessions of a minimum of 15 minutes, again I will put a link to the course I am doing on the links page
Further to this, a couple of sponsors, in the form of Torq Energy and Sundried clothing and a new team, Team JMC. So, let’s hope for some actual races this year.
As I’ve stated previously, amongst the traits which people on the autistic spectrum have, reliance on a routine or plan is one of them. Myself included; that said, I have full comprehension of the fact that the current situation vis a vis Covid-19 has meant that things are rather different to a pre-civid world. I’m conscious of the need to maintain social distancing and limit travel, not really see friends or family etc. All fine, I can cope with this, whilst I like some people, I don’t want or need to be around the vast majority of them, I would much rather be in a small group than a large one, probably why house parties are my personal idea of hell, whilst a dinner party seems like a jolly good idea (plus, I like food!)
Now, I’m really good with plans, I build one for most things, I can build one very quickly. Without it, I admit that things either don’t get done, I get a lot less pleasure from them or they cause me huge amounts of anxiety. I am also reasonably good at what my employers refer to as a ‘dynamic risk assessment’, which means that I am able to assess risk as it might occur and plan around it to limit or reduce harm or incident: this is a vital skill when supporting people on the spectrum. It has on occasion meant that ‘I have seen the ‘stupid’ before I did it’ (not always, but hey, everyone one of us is a work in progress!) .
Anyway, Cv-19 has changed the world, at least for the moment; for how long, we have yet to determine and on this forum, I will refrain from comment on the political handling, or mishandling of a crisis. For me, I personally find queuing incredibly stressful, and now, we have to queue for everything. Apparently all shops are due to open in the coming fortnight and the public are being encouraged, or rather pressured to spend money in order to “kickstart the economy”. My thoughts on this are, ‘Great, more queues to buy shit I can get online without the queues.’ Ergo, I will simply shop online; we won’t be able to browse in the way we could before lockdown; nor for those of us who are sensory, will we be able to touch fabrics. We won’t be able try on items of clothing in store and I can’t be appeased with the promise of a pint or lunch somewhere for enduring the queues and crowds of people all waiting two hours to buy something awful from Primark.
The mountain biking bit: –
So, moving onto my own plans and training. As I have previously stated, I had Covid and frankly it kicked the crap out of me. I’m not fully recovered; I have occasional inexplicable breathless bouts on occasion. I am, however, doing well. My Vo2Max is pretty much back to where it was, my heart rate is good and I’m training and working hard. I had planned three races for this season: all endurance races, Hammers8, Exposure Twenty-four:12, and Torqinyoursleep. All of these were planned on the basis that I had fairly decent endurance and stamina and that I think that I can do at least reasonably well in these multi-hour races.
My training has largely been using a turbo trainer at home, my race bike has been having some repairs done (coinciding with me being sick) and is not being serviced and rebuilt. The turbo trainer seems to be producing decent results, although it’s generally hot and uncomfortable. It does mean, that living in a one bedroom flat without a tumble dryer, there seems to a constant cycle of bib shorts either in the wash or drying.
I had managed to arrange shifts to allow for me to do the Hammers8, an 8 hour race up in Hamsterly Forest, in County Durham. However, the event was postponed until the end of October and I’m not quite sure if I want to camp in the North East of England in practically November, it’s also a little too far for me to drive there and back in a day with racing for 8 hours, pre-rides, warm ups and all of the usual preparation and what is commonly referred to as ‘fannying about’.
I have arranged annual leave for a week at the end of July for the Twenty-four:12. This was going to be my first 12 hour race. Yes, 12 hours (ish) of racing a mountain bike. It was also a chance to see family who live in Devon and Cornwall and for my partner and I we were very much treating it as our main holiday this year; we’d brought a new tent, various camping equipment was being replaced etc., I have also invested in a new and very shiny new bar light (I may do a review in a few weeks, once I’ve had chance to try it out).
As such we were both very much looking forward to a few days and a change of scenery. For her, it would allow her a chance to escape from the working from home ritual, meet some of my family (who I don’t see often, if they still speak to me, but all of which live at least a hundred miles away) whilst for me, a change and chance to do what I enjoy, hang around with other mountain bikers, see some family members, go camping and race. Which is pretty much as good as it gets in my mind, at least whilst staying in the U.K.
As we both have the leave booked and the hire car and cat-sitter, new tent etc., we may still try and find a campsite and go and visit, but it’s uncertain whether any will be open or not and whilst I am happy riding on my own, it’s less fun when you don’t have a clue where you’re going or having to stop every five minutes in order to navigate.
*Yes, I realise that staying home and staying safe is crucial, but the reality is that my partner and I haven’t left the house other than as sanctioned by the government since lockdown started, which frankly is showing more respect for the rules than the Government and it’s own advisers have done.
The third race, The Torqinyoursleep, is in Hampshire, near Guildford, which is not an insurmountable distance away, but still warranting a hire car and a Saturday – Monday. It’s on a Sunday and whilst the initial plan had been to do the 6 hour race, if there’s nothing else on for the foreseeable, I might as well put my neck on the line and do the 12 hour.
However, here’s the but, the event clashes with someone else on my team being on annual leave. Therefore, I can’t get leave. I have requested that my shifts are based so as to allow me to still get the Saturday, Sunday and Monday, but rotas aren’t arranged this far in advance and I’ve yet to receive any word on whether it is possible. Therefore, I am unsure whether I can race or not. I think that I will simply have to explain this all to my line manager and see if something can be arranged; obviously things such a hire car, cat sitter and such all need to be factored into the equation.
Of course, all of this assumes that any event happens and there isn’t a second spike in the transmission and mortality rate.
At the moment, training has been challenging; not because of fitness although I doubt that anyone is either not as fit or fast as they would like. In reality, despite having been injured and requiring surgery, my fitness is returning.
The problem has been the weather, we’re under the third flood warning inside a month now in West Yorkshire and frankly the trails are waterlogged. I am also reasonably considerate of my environment and realise that riding washed out trails and even fire roads is simply destructive to the trails, causing far more erosion than I am happy with. Therefore, it’s that time of year when ‘turbo training’ becomes sensible.
Basically, this indoor cycling with a twist. Personally, my budget meant sticking with a more basic ‘Smart Trainer’, a TACX Satori, which is ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible and links to various apps.
Now, personally, I like metrics: I like facts, figures, graphics and being able to assess progress or weakness. My autistic brain works well with being able to look over these metrics and compare one week with another and one ride with that performed by another rider. This is possibly less important if you’re not intending to compete, but for me, in preparation to compete, it’s invaluable information.
Indoor cycling is, by and large, a hot, sweaty and highly uncomfortable task; many referring to their sessions as ‘a pain cave’. It hurts, it’s also incredibly boring. Hence, the industry has created various apps, linking to these Smart Trainers to make it less dull.
In interests of getting the best deal, all of these are essentially a premium product, i.e. you have to pay for any real functionality. All of them offer a limited free trial, some a week and others up to a month, or a limited mileage. Make no mistakes, this is now big business with apps such as Swift having a massive share of the market and sponsoring large scale corporate events and competitions as well as having close sponsorship links with events including the UCI Road Racing World Cup.
So I thought that I would give some of these a short review; the benefits and the pitfalls as well as my personal opinions. I will state that I do not receive any endorsements, sponsorships or inducements at all from any of the companies mentioned here.
As I said, big business: According to Wikipedia, as of January 2018, there were over 550,000 accounts. According to Forbes, the company is estimated to be worth $180 million.
This particular app blends training with the world of computer gaming. Allowing riders (and runners with a compatible treadmill) to compete on various courses, including UCI World Championship stages and one which is purely fictitious, called Wattopia.
It’s rather social, you can join friends on rides, compete in events and there are a limited number of training plans: although, these are all very specific to road racing. The app is compatible to Apple TV and, as I am an Apple fanboy, this appealed to me. However, I found constant glitches with the system between my trainer and the app itself. The avatar representing myself only seemed to pedal on rare occasions, the app rarely recognised my cadence (speed of pedal rotation) and this eventually bugged me.
Add to that, it was rather buggy in recognising my heart rate monitor. I also tried both a Bluetooth and ANT+ heart rate sensor.
For the most expensive product, it simply didn’t work for me.
I am aware, although I haven’t tried it, that there is now a mountain bike trail in Beta stages but this requires another sensor and to be honest, I’m not going to spend the money on something that isn’t perfect.
Appropriately named, this is a serious training app for serious people. It’s not at all game-like. Again, it’s orientated towards road cycling, but I feel that it’s something I just have to tolerate; road cycling attracts far more money in most of the world and many roadies still think of mountain bikers as neanderthals or stoners (not that MTB attracts anywhere near the drug cheating, but that’s an aside.)
Graphics on this app are simply footage taken from various stage races; the content is actually secondary to the training programme itself. It also offers a rather holistic training programme; incorporating motivational training and yoga.
In short, for me, there is some real positive benefits to this app for my purposes. What let’s it down is that watching race footage from road stage races, is, in my opinion as a mountain biker, rather boring.
I installed this two days ago. I uninstalled it today. Ride information doesn’t seem to be able to synch to social media, or to Garmin Connect or Strava; both of which I use to record my rides.
The video footage is also rather limited and a lot of rides seem to be simply following a trail on a map. The video footage is nice when it’s available, although strangely the developers felt the need to incorporate a dog taking a crap in the video footage; not sure why, but I rather suspect that the childish joke would get rather tired after the one time.
I’m currently still on my free trial, but so far this seems reasonably good. However, it’s still not ticking all of the boxes.
Footage is very clear, there plenty of routes to ride, you can ride GPX tracks if you wish and upload your own route maps. It’s early days on this app, so I’m going to hold off on a lengthy review at this stage. However, Tacx has been acquired by Garmin, yet, there is not an obvious way to upload virtual rides to Garmin Connect: I feel that as a company, this is missing a trick.
As I’ve said, I don’t think that any one product is perfect, nothing actually beats being able to simply get out and ride, enjoy being in the outdoors and feeling the wind on your face and fresh air feeling your lungs. However, under the current lousy weather conditions, indoor training has it’s place.