Today, however, I am proud to announce that my phobia for cycling is over.
Last Thursday, I arrived in Nice to spend four days with coach Fi and other members of Triathlon Europe. The plan was to stay in Gattieres (the first village in the mountains along the Ironman France course) and essentially scope out the task ahead in June. On that same evening, over dinner, we were briefed on the agenda and presented with the profile of the bike course, involving climbing from sea level to 1,120m over 26km of 180km route. The only thing going through my head at that moment was: “what the hell have I signed up to?”.
The agenda for the next four day was as follows:
Friday: First Half of the bike mountainous course, including that infamous climb.
Saturday: Second half of the mountainous bike course, trying to master the winding descents.
Sunday: A 13 mile run along the marathon course in Nice.
Monday: The entire mountainous bike course (140km).
There was no backing out, we loaded ourselves with carbs, assembled our bikes and went to bed at 10pm. At 8am, we were greeted with a lovely continental breakfast. After a few cups of coffee and some toast, we were on our way out, the sun on our backs and the wind in our face. The next few hours were surprising.
A slight ascent out of Gattieres and some smooth riding for about an hour, we reached the start of our main climb. It lasted for about an hour. Riding off and on the saddle, I began to realise that all the strength training on the turbo at home and all those leg squats were not completed in vain. Just over two hours into the ride, we reached the peak; from here on, it was all downhill.
The descent was sharp, with many hairpins and strong headwinds. After a few kilometres, I began to realise that I was burning more fuel than I was climbing; spinning faster and faster, the roads felt like they were covered in treacle. Four hours into the ride, we reached Vence, the village next to Gattieres where our ride would end. My neck and shoulders were tense, my body physically exhausted, stomach empty and craving anything with salt. We rode back to Gattieres and I collapsed, unable to go for our 30 minute post-bike run.
Discussing my new-found fright of descents with the team, they told me to relax and focus on the apex of the turns; getting stressed aids the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles and does more harm.
After a sleepless night, Saturday arrived. We set off after breakfast, to complete the second half of the course, focusing mainly on the descent. At the top of the mountain, an hour into the ride, we started our return back. This time I got down on the drops of my handlebars, helping stretch out my back and improve my grip on the brakes. Relax. On the way down, I focused on the road; “you have chosen to do this, because it’s fun, not a chore” I kept telling myself. Relax. In no time, we were back in Gattieres, I was feeling fresh went for a 30 minute run, keeping a steady marathon pace.
On the last day of the camp, we did the entire loop of the mountain: 140km. It took me about 5 hours and it went by like a dream. All it takes is giving in, exposing yourself and letting go. Relax. After four days of intense training, I am even closer to becoming an Ironman, with massive help from Triathlon Europe.