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The final preparation week

Anyone who knows me well by now will probably be aware that I am racing across the Alps with team mate Michelle. If you’re unlucky enough to have seen me recently you’re probably bored of hearing about the wave of different emotions that hit me on a daily basis about how I feel about it being so close…

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Since starting this journey in October the idea that I actually have to haul myself and my bike up Everest twice has been far on the horizon, a blip in the distance. Well now it’s only a week away that blip is in full focus in my mind and all around me consuming most of my days with thought’s on whether ive done enough training, having I got my nutrition right, what if I brake a spoke have I packed enough brake pads and so the carousel of thoughts goes on…

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Last week was a huge training week for me as I crammed in vital miles on the bike around work and play (play being one fun ride with my Dad). I covered 185 miles (one of my biggest weeks) in 15 hours and felt super happy with how everything went.

This is my first stage race and one question I keep asking myself is, why did I pick a 7 day stage race as my first and not maybe 2 or 3! I have learnt so much this year from training and racing I have had some real highs and real lows but feel stronger both mentally and physically for it. I think this year has made me a stronger person all round and I am hoping that strength will help carry me through my first stage race.

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I have learnt a lot about myself and really learnt to listen to my body most importantly and I feel more in tune with what’s going on inside and how to get the best out of myself.

Training for an endurance event is a bit like rehearsing for a play, each time I set out I am rehearsing for the big event. Concentrating on my fuelling, listening to my body and improving my pacing.

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Having Rachel’s help on my nutrition has enabled me to get a lot more out of my training and improved my focus. She has helped me come up with a fuelling schedule that keeps me feeling on top form.

I feel physically ready for the Alps now, I have been working hard with my coach Mark to up the miles and feel myself getting stronger.

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This week I have started to taper off training and have been keeping a watchful eye on my nutrition and making sure I’m getting loads of good food!

Thank you to my coach Mark, Specialized, Bike Fixers, Food for Thought, Grip Grab and Dog Tag and of course all my friends and family keeping me going!

Now all I have to do is pack…

 

 

 

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Gorrick Summer Monkey

Yesterday was the Gorrick Summer Monkey, the race that introduced me to endurance racing last year. I was excited about going back to Ceasars camp and trying out my new endurance legs on the course!

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On Saturday I had a long ride with Michelle and then went home to prepare for race day. I packed my snacks making sure I had 60g of carbohydrate per hour. I was trying a new snack my dietitian had mentioned taking which were pretzels instead of peanuts as peanuts high fat content can affect my performance. I also packed bananas, dates, malt loaf and some Torq energy gels.

Race day started at 6am getting up to have porridge before packing the car and setting off. I didn’t ride the course but instead spent my time making sure my feed so was stocked with water and snacks in an easy to reach place. I also had my second breakfast of mixed berries and Greek yogurt.

The race started at 9 and the new course was full of surprises, starting with a long drag uphill on fire road it soon turned back into the forest, where a bumpy downhill section dislodged my water bottle from the reverse rack, with riders behind me stopping was not an option, so I continued making a plan of how I would survive on small water bottles.randr-photo-1550288-1500px

The course climbed further this time up to a high point near the reservoir, this was for me the hardest part of the course the sharp left bend at the bottom of a bumpy descent before a sharp climb up seemed to give me gearing issues every lap!

After this was my favourite part of the course as the singletrack twisted through the tress with loads of great corners, jumps and long descents, my top speed was 26.5mph.

Although the lap had been shortened it was really good fun because you would notice something new or find a new favourite section each time which you could look forward to next lap. Thanks guys for a brilliant course!

Eating every 45 minutes was hard as you could never guarantee whether you would be on a trail section where eating was possible, I think this led me to have a little energy dip at around 4 hours, as well as physiologically being around lunch time it is always slightly harder to focus.

I had an energy gel which seemed to cause me more issues than giving me needed energy. Instead I just got stomach cramps, I made a decision to slow down slightly which seemed to relieve my issues and then picked it back up again on the next lap.

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All laps had to be completed within the 6 hours, I came through after my 9th lap on 5 hours 22 and felt like another lap was impossible, let along a fast one (I had been thinking my lap times were around 45 mins, turned out they were faster) But  I had set out to ride for 6 hours so that is what I was going to do I started my tenth lap steady but soon was being overtaken by people clearly trying to fit their last lap in, this spurred me on to do the same, I was delighted to finish at 5 hours 55 just getting my tenth lap in. I had to really dig deep for this last lap and was proud to have achieved it.

I lost time having to faff around with re-filling water bottles after I ran out of small ones; this is something I need to work out before the Trans Alp! I also found out that pretzels are no good as they suck all the moisture out of your mouth, new savoury snack hut begins!

Altogether I did 59.69 miles over 5 hours 55. My average heart rate was 149 and max was 180. I think what yesterday showed me is,  when I feel like there is nothing left in the tank its always worth having a deeper look, because I found the strength and speed to turn out another fast lap, as fast as my third lap of the day when I was at the beginning of my race.

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Thank you so much to Bike FixersBike Fixers for getting my bike ready for the race, thanks to Specialized for my amazing Era and to Grip Grab for the most comfortable gloves I’ve ever worn over 6 hours.

Lap Times:

  • Lap 1 00:33:31
  • Lap 2 00:33:56
  • Lap 3 00:34:31
  • Lap 4 00:35:25
  • Lap 5 00:35:43
  • Lap 6 00:36:04
  • Lap 7 00:36:41
  • Lap 8 00:37:48
  • Lap 9 00:37:02
  • Lap 10 00:34:19

 

Dusty trails in Spain

Last week I went on a magical summer holiday with me family to Iznajar in Spain. Nestled in the side of the hills is a beautiful villa called Casa Pino Solo. It was from here I explored / trained.

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My key thoughts on training in Spain were to test out my ability to stand the heat and altitude.

The village of Iznajar itself is situated on top of a huge rocky outcropping overlooking the Embalse de Iznájar, the largest reservoir in the whole of Andalucía.

It was this reservoir that I planned to explore on my bike.

Arriving on the Saturday I gave my body a few days to adjust to the heat, the weather was a lot hotter than usual for the time of year reaching 40 degrees some days. Coming from the UK where 20 is a warm day this was unbearable cycling heat for me.

On the Monday I programmed in a 4 hour route to my Garmin and set off, my Garmin soon took me off road through rocky paths made by tractors between olive trees. The climbing was tough, made worse by the dusty terrain which I inhaled with every breath.

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Soon my route joined a road and with some relief the first downhill part of my ride took me all the way down to the reservoir. One thing I noticed about riding in Spain is the drivers were very patient and gave me lots of room when they past.

Crossing the reservoir I carried on uphill for what seemed like an age! The sun was starting to really heat up and I was getting a bit concerned about my water levels, I carried on and soon reached the top. The view back over the olive plantations was incredible. My path turned a few corners and then was downhill all the way to the lake. I was amazed that the hill that had just taken nearly an hour to climb could be descended in about 20 minutes!

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I made my way home as the heat was starting to get to me cutting my ride short. My first day riding in Spain was brilliant I loved the challenging climbs and the scenery was fantastic.

The next couple of days were too hot to ride, on the Wednesday I went out at 3 blow thinking that it would get cooler, 40 mins in I knew something was wrong with my bike the handling was juddery and my arms were uncomfortable, I jumped off and noticed my headset was loose, I decided to call it a day ride home and tried to fix it. I didn’t seem to be able to fix it so I got in touch with a bike shop in Malaga called Recyclo they kindly offered to have a look at it for me and fitted a new headset.

The next day Martyn and I drove the hour to the beach to drop off my bike and have a beach day. It was so nice being near the sea I love the ocean and the sound of the crashing waves has always made me relaxed.

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It was soon time to pick the bike up and with my problems solved I was determined to get up early and get in a good ride on our last day.

My alarm went off at 6 the next morning, after one snooze I got up and went to make breakfast, my little nephew Henry was already up having his breakfast so I joined him with my porridge and sorted out my snacks for my ride. I had planned to head out following the lake towards the dam towards a town called Rute and then follow the main road back into Iznajar and across the reservoir.

The morning breeze was nippy but I knew the sun would be out very soon, so with a few goose bumps I set out, I was soon feeling warm as I climbing the hill to the left of the lake, the view was incredible as the sun rose and shown on the glistening turquoise water.

The path contoured around the side of the lake, the road soon turned to a gravel track which made for a bumpy ride so I stopped and adjusted my suspension. The 29inch wheels made light work of the trails ruts and bumps and I felt really good flying along at a consistent pace.

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Since I have been getting a diet plan from Rachel Hobbs I have been sticking to natural foods on training rides and have found a new love for dates! They seem to keep me going far better than any energy gel or jelly baby and are far better for me!

I could see the dam in the distance and with every pedal stroke got closer and closer. Soon I was passing some local tree fellers and making my way onto the dam, the road which had been shaded by the hills was now exposed to the rapidly increasing heat of the sun as I made my way up to Rute.

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I kept drinking every 10 minutes and new my hydration was good when I had to make a quick ‘nature’ stop!

The climb to Rute was on a really nice road, somewhat like a motorway in the UK but with far less cars.

I stopped in Rute to fill up my water bottles and after a short sharp climb out of the town I had an 8% hill to descend it felt very steep and I clocked 53kph as I flew towards Iznajar.

Crossing back over the bridge and starting the climb towards our villa I felt a huge sense of achievement; I decided to do a few hill reps to finish and then went back to the villa for a well-earned dip in the pool.

I loved riding in Spain the heat made it very hard and I know this is going to make the Trans Alp challenging. Only a month to go now!

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Flying with a bike.

Flying with a bike

It’s roughly a month until the Trans Alp, I am currently in the air  (well I was on Saturday its now Wednesday!) flying to Spain on a much needed break with my family. However due to the proximity of the Alps race and the brilliant opportunity to ride some big hills I couldn’t resist bringing my bike along for the ride!

I contacted Box My Wheels who kindly leant me a bike box to keep my specialized Era safe during transport.

The bike box Alan is a big box with special wheel segments and an anti-crush bar. As my wheels are bolt thru skewers they haven’t fitted in the holes as they should, but with some careful arrangement it has all gone in!

It’s pretty simple to get the bike in you need to remove your handle bars, to do this you need to loosen the headset with an Alan key. I have also taken my forks out as this meant it fitted in further away from the edges of the boxes which made me feel more confident in its safe arrival. If you’re going to do this remember which order your spacers go in and store them securely on you forks by refitting the headset cap. Remember the bits with ball bearings in need handling carefully!

I had to take the rear hanger off which was a simple Alan key bolt I then wrapped this in bubble wrap.

As my wheels don’t fit in the proper wheel holds I have taken my rotors off and wrapped them in bubble wrap too.

Once the frame is in pieces you simply fit it into the box securing with Velcro straps, in the spaces I’ve secured my seat post, a pair of shoes and some inner tubes in the space remaining.

The frame is separated from the wheels by a large sheet of foam. I have also added a blanket for added protection.

Once your wheels are in and the anti-crush bar the box closes securely and once stood up has very handy wheels. Although, a bit like a shopping trolley, these sometimes have a mind of their own!

My top tips for flying with your bike:

  1. Hire a bike box from Box My Wheels around £60 a week
  2. Get a decent alan key set to make dismantling easier
  3. Get some Loctite 222 to put on your rotor bolts
  4. Take photos of things like the headset before you undo them so you know exactly where to replace them
  5. Put some tape round your seat post before you take it out so you know where it goes in
  6. Get bike insurance

 

I hope you enjoyed my post, see you in a week!

 

You can only train as hard as the fuel you put it in

This week a new session was added to my training plan Mark my coach added a ‘no hanging around’ ride a 3 hour fast ride, his comments said ‘no hanging around ride’ which I found this amusing I wasn’t aware that I did much hanging around on training rides!

Thursday was the day for my ‘no hanging around’ training, it was also the day I decided commuting to work on my bike would be fun!

It was a damp but warm morning as I peddled from my house towards work. I had not fully appreciated the amount of climbing in this 31km ride so trying to take it easy wasn’t always possible, by the time I got to work I was slightly pinker than I would have liked! I felt great for arriving under my own steam.

I ate all the normal things that day and felt fine. At 5:15 I got back on my bike for my ‘no hanging around’ training ride. The first hour I did as instructed I pushed hard letting my body recover on the flat, averaging around 25kph which is good for a mountain bike on the road.

I had a torq energy gel at 45 mins in which gave me a super charge of energy, I felt like someone had added an extra fuel cell to my battery. Sadly this feeling was short lived and by 1 hour 30mins in I had a bout of ‘shaky leg syndrome’ so I stuffed in some salted peanuts for good measure knowing this would be slower to take effect I waited 10 more minutes and had another gel I had another zing of energy (slightly shorter this time) and then another lull by wonder peanuts didn’t seem to be kicking in at all and I was starting to realise it was too little too late.

I finished my training early deciding to listen to my body instead of be frustrated by my lack of pace for the rest of the session. I still managed 60km in 2 hours 37 minutes which is good going and my fastest 60km to date showing that with the correct furling I could achieve more.

The moral to this story is that of you are only as good as the fuel you put in and the timing of that fuel is crucial. You are not eating for ‘now’ but 30 mins later so start eating earlier on to stop getting to the point of no return. Also to look at your daily energy expenditure if you add in a commute or some other activity you need to eat to recover from that and replenish ready for training.

Nutrition seems to be one of my weaknesses so I have taken on a dietician. A girl that I used to work with who comes highly recommended called Rachel Hobbs she is now setting up my diet plan to get me on track for the Trans Alp.

More on my new diet soon!

Thanks for reading x

Scott MTB Marathon – Rhayader, Wales

On Sunday I took on my first Scott marathon of the season. Michelle and I travelled together to Rhayader in mid-Wales on Saturday in the pouring rain hoping that the sun would shine on the race day!

The morning brought dry cloudy weather, as we lined up in the mass start the sun was trying to come out but dark clouds loomed above us so I decided to take my waterproof, just in case.

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I always find mass starts challenging and yet again as we pulled off Michelle easily seemed to slip through gaps between riders whilst I struggled to find my own gaps! I had to push harder than I would usually push at the start of a long race to get back to Michelle and then set into a steady rhythm up the last road climb before the fun stuff!

After the descent the course turned onto fire road, as I turned to my side, I expected to see Michelle but she wasn’t there, looking back I couldn’t see her and thought she must have got caught up so I gradually made my way up the hill expecting her to catch up.

The course was very wet and muddy with huge puddles and a lot of slip sliding around on the grassy descents. I enjoyed the challenge this presented as the steeper decents were made more technical and pushed my skill level where if they had been dry they would have not been an issue. The course was packed with good climbs but the most challenging and best climb was a steep rocky climb that seemed to have a lot of people walking on it, I started the climb behind a guy but once he wheel spun and moved out of the way I was free to pick my own line through the walkers, this was a rather nice feeling to be slowly edging past lots of people, by the time I got to the top my heart rate was sky high but I felt a massive sense of achievement for beating the hill climb.

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I was going well fuelling wise I started with dates at 45 mins then another 45 mins later had salted peanuts then when I reached the first feed station I had a banana, handful of nuts and got my water topped up. It was at this time that a crack of thunder rumbled through the skies and the heavens opened, not just drizzle a torrential downpour started for what seemed like ages, I was glad to have packed my waterproof! It was tough going in the wet and cold every time I went up hill I got too hot followed by freezing on the downs. I tried to keep drinking small sips but my water bottles were so caked with mud I ended up with more than just a drink.

After the course split and the half marathon went one way there was another long road climb, it was on this climb where I heard the sound of my name being called! Looking round Michelle had caught up. It was great to ride with other people again after being on my own for around 43km.

This next part of the course was the worst after a fire road climb the single-track became almost un-rideable due to massive puddles and so much thick mud that my tyres wouldn’t go round. We ended up walking lots of this section slowing down meant getting cold so I ate some more dates to try and get some extra energy. It was a short while after we left the single-track back on a wider path that Michelle fell off and sliced her knee on something, we still don’t know exactly what!

This meant a walk back to the marshal point and a long 45 min wait for the paramedic, after they washed out her wound they decided she shouldn’t ride on it so I finished the course on my own.

Michelle was okay luckily but had to have three stitches.

Although I didn’t complete the full 75km I am super happy with this result I kept a consistent pace fuelled well and felt in a good place, I didn’t feel tired at the end which I feel is a good indication I had more in the tank. I will be back to finish this race next year! For now onwards and upwards towards the Alps…

 

Training so far, wow it’s May!

It is now the middle of May and I honestly don’t know where the time has gone! It feels like only a few weeks ago I was peeling on the layers and charging up light batteries ready for training in the dark.

These frosty encounters have set me up well for the summer, with over 2000miles in my legs since November I am looking forward to dry trails!

Since the Gorrick 100 endurance race I have been back to firing on all cylinders which is a relief after a couple of weeks of no power in my legs and feel pretty rubbish.

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Last weekend my long steady rides changed, the focus now is on staying off road and getting use to more resistance under my wheels. I really enjoyed exploring, the now dry, bridleways around where I love, finding some great singletrack gems along the way.

To increase my climbing I headed to the South Downs Way which runs from Winchester to Brighton, it’s a chalky bridleway with some great climbing and stunning views over the South Downs national park. Well worth a visit!

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Living below the South Downs national park I am fortunate to make good use of this middle section for training, I headed towards Winchester to climb Harting down which is a steep chalky rutted climb and then on from this Butser Hill a grassy steady climb which gets steeper in the middle before plateauing out. Both had me gasping at the warm summer’s air.

I covered 75 in total at a steady pace, which I am happy with and can build on. My fuelling strategy was a banana at hour one, slated peanuts in hour two, another banana at hour three and then jelly babies and malt loaf in hour four. Considering a banana is roughly 30g carbohydrate I still need to increase my food intake considerably.

As my nutrition has become a vital part of my training i have decided to take on a nutritionist to help me towards my goal of completing the Trans Alp! I will let you know how the new diet goes….

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A test of endurance – Gorrick 100

On Sunday I went to the Gorrick 100 endurance event.

I had really been looking forward to this race as I felt it would be a good indicator on where my fitness levels are and how my preparation is going for the Alps.

Frustratingly I have had a stomach bug and generally not been feeling on top form so didn’t decide to race until Saturday afternoon when I was feeling moderately better.

I have done 100km a few times on the road on my mountain bike and find it hard but I was not prepared for how hard 100km off road was going to be!

Race Day.

I laid out my snacks and water bottles in the feed zone and lined up at the start at 8.30. My strategy was to pace myself stay steady and enjoy it.

The course was a lengthened cross country course a great mix of singletrack and fire road. There was not a great deal of climbing but the course was relentless there was no recovery periods apart from two road sections the rest of the time you were having to push the bike hard.

The first three laps I felt good and able to push hard where I needed too. It was a lovely hot day and I was drinking plenty. When I came back round to the feed zone for lap 4, I had run out of small water bottles so had to spend time re filling them. This is something I then had to do for the rest of the laps wasting valuable time!

The 4th lap was good I was trying to stick to around 15km per hour on the flat, my heart rate was in a good place roughly around 150/160 so I knew I could keep pushing.

I came round for the 5th lap and decided to up my snacks and had a malt loaf and more salted peanuts. I think in hindsight I should have had more snacks earlier on because during my 5th lap I started to feel tired. I slowed my pace slightly hoping that I could pick myself back up. I also had a few mechanical issues with my chain on this lap which slowed me down.

One of the hardest things about long distance bike racing is the lack of ability to pedal and chew at the same time. Even on flattish ground chewing, breathing and pedalling don’t mix! This was made harder during this race because the ground out of the feedzone was particularly bumpy and by the fact I had picked hard to chew salted peanuts and malt loaf both of which take some chew time.

These are my snacks of choice for training but struggling to eat them in this race brought up the need to find other snacks for the Trans Alp which can be eaten quicker and have the same energy hit that I am looking for.

The final stages.

Lap 6 was exhausting I had entered survival mode and didn’t know whether I could do another lap I kept pushing forward thinking it’s only another 12/15km, but I knew I was in trouble my heart rate was really low around 130bpm but my legs where giving everything they had I had hit the proverbial ‘wall’! I was relieved when I reached the long straight gravel section before the entrance to the arena this was my que that the lap was nearly over and I stuffed in another malt loaf for good measure!

Lap 7 was so hard my body was done in physically and I felt too tired to make it up some of the hills which earlier I had found easy. The bomb holes had also become hard and I found myself making silly mistakes another sign that my body was finished. It seemed like a life time before I reached the long gravel straight and I knew that this was probably my last lap.

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I had a love hate relationship with this course, I loved the first section cornering through the trees and the big bomb holes and little jumps it was hard work but good fun, the second part of the course had lots of twists and turns doubling back on yourself all the time and the ground was loose making it tough going, I didn’t enjoy this so much!

This race was far tougher than I was expecting, I think I felt every emotion going in 6 hours 54 mins on my bike from enjoyment through to dread at the idea of doing another lap!

From the race.

I learnt a lot about my fuelling strategy which I need to work on over my next few long rides to make sure I’m eating enough and early enough for it to have an effect on my ability to keep going.

I need to also look at pacing and how I can improve this. I am really delighted with my first four laps as my timings were consistent. It is hard to tell my riding time from lap 5 as I had to stop to sort out water bottles and also had chain issues.

Overall I am super happy with my performance this is the longest I have ridden this year nonstop and after the past two weeks of feeling powerless and not being able to complete a cross country race this is a great turn around and has shown me that I need to really use my recovery days to recover properly.

Lap times:

  • 51:02
  • 54:41
  • 55:25
  • 55:39
  • 1:01
  • 1:05
  • 1:10

 

The transition from racing XC to endurance races

I started racing cross-country mountain biking four years ago, after being inspired by the Olympics to get out and give it a go.

last year I decided to try a new challenge and turned my attention to endurance racing. This is a very different type of riding which is as much about mental strength and physical.

Here is a little video about the transition. Please subscribe to my channel and follow my blog for more updates on training towards my next challenge.

The Trans Alp.

Mud, Sweat, Gears and over training

At the weekend I travelled to Henham in Suffolk for my first cross country race of the season. I have not been feeling great for the last few weeks, my body and mind have felt tired and I have found things have been getting on top of me in all aspects of my life.

Training between 6 and 12 hours a week, working full time and running your own business does not leave a lot of recovery time, and I think I have now officially burnt out!

I have been ignoring the ‘warning’ signs that this was coming. I have been really tired even though getting plenty of sleep. I had a few little colds, not felt like training and training was certainly not going how I wanted it too and to top it all I felt mega emotional!

This all caught up with me at Henham. I did a practice lap and after the great inspiring session with Steve Manser the day before I felt confident on the course.

My start was not great I missed my pedal and everyone else shot off. Where I can usually recover from moments like this, this time my head was telling my body it was game over and my legs were in complete agreement.

I finished my first lap knowing that the first lap I usually find hard, but this was different. When I pushed down on the pedals I had no power, I felt like I was going backwards, after another lap I decided that I should listen to my body and stop.

I have never pulled out of a race and this was such a hard thing to do I kept wondering whether I made the right choice, was I just being a wimp?

Looking back on my decision it was the right one. My body needs some recovery time and trying to push it too hard on Sunday was just going to mean I would need more time off.

My plan now is a training free four days when I can concentrate on letting my body recover fully.

It has been a steep learning curve for me, I have been training so hard spending every spare moment I have on the bike, working on my endurance doing 5 hour rides and dedicating my time to becoming the best mountain biker I can be. So it is really frustrating when you get to the start of a race not feeling your best and not able to perform in the way you feel you should.

What I have learnt from this is to look out for the signs of overtraining and workout a way with my coach that I can focus on training for the Trans Alp in the most efficient way possible.

Part of my challenge is I am always pushing myself, which isn’t a bad thing, but part of that is I am not very good at saying no and take on too much.

Anyway in every situation there is a chance to learn and improve. I am now on my last recovery day feeling a lot happier and rested.

I look forward to what tomorrow brings….