The title of this blog is probably fairly misleading in all honesty. I am going to talk about going fast or 'hard' in this blog but probably not as much as i've made out. The fact is i'm now three months into the year and on a completely different trajectory in teams of training and structure compared to previous years. Last year I was focused on getting in as many miles as possible without a care in the world how long they took or where they took me as along as I was having fun. This year however i've settled down a little and structured my training so that I can build up some speed and leg strength and get back into racing. So given we are now just about three months into the year i've had ample time to think about whats different to last year and how going long distance has differed to going short and hard for me so far. Admittedly, what I've found won't apply to everyone though as I know some guys that can go the distance and maintain some phenomenal speeds outside of the pro ranks. So just what is different or even just the same over the two years?
Well, firstly the required recovery has changed massively for me since I upped my game. When all that matters was the miles it was fairly simple to maintain a nice steady rhythm that didn't really stress the legs, lungs or heart and tap out mile after mile whilst taking photos and at the end of each day I wouldn't really be too tired. Therefore a hearty meal and a good nights sleep was all that was needed. The recovery level was sufficiently quick enough that I was able to do some months without a day off the bike at all and in July managed 1,607 miles in the month. However, come 2016 and the training has intensified and my legs, heart and lungs are working much, much harder as I try to go faster and build speed in our training sessions. Now I can't simply roll home and eat a good meal otherwise my body feels weak and undernourished so I regularly take a protein shake immediately after my rides to help repair the muscles in my legs - a big shaker of SiS Rego does the job most days and then some overnight protein too just to be safe. Equally, I have to have actual full days off the bike now too which is a bit of a novelty to me in some ways but if I didn't i'd probably have no legs left.
Secondly, the food consumption has changed quite drastically. Normally on a long and steady ride i'd just eat some bars and have a nice hearty cafe stop to help me along the way following a nice pasta dish the night before. Long distance cycling for me requires more carbs than fast burning energy. Now however I'm forced to leave the pork pie at home and take gels and energy bars on my rides to see me through the hard sessions where I really need to get the energy in me as quite as possible after a tough effort; these tend to be the normal SiS gels for me on the whole with the sneaky 150mg of caffeine laced gels for those real last gasp efforts at the end of the day! On the whole though I still eat everything in super human proportions and baffle Sarah on a daily basis as she tries to figure out what on earth to add to the shop to keep me full. It turns out protein yoghurt does the trick.
There is also the pain that comes with training hard. I'd completely forgotten what it felt like to hit 193bpm and taste blood in your mouth whilst your legs fill with lactate and the man in front of you just won't slow down. That hurtS a lot and doesn't stop hurting even after the ride either - DOMS! Again, last year I didn't really get any of those problems as I never really pushed hard enough to make my legs hurt as I needed to them to work every day. I have to admit though, I secretly love the burn that comes with pushing your body to the limit as you sure know you are alive.
The final thought or more probable fact that i've noted is i've piled on the pounds quite literally since I changed my training. I don't mean in a bad way either as I still get told I'm a twiglet and too thin so I can only guess i've put on muscle weight. 6kg of muscle weight, which when you consider that i'm now 72kg is quite a lot of extra weight to be carrying around (10%!!) so that's been an interesting challenge and means i'm maybe a tiny bit slower uphill but a million times faster on the flat. I'm not really sure why it's happened as I'd have expected to put on more weight last year as the carb happy plodder but I guess that was more of a fat burning exercise than now.
So in a nutshell it's more painful, harder to recovery and you have to think closer about what you eat if you're me. I'm quite enjoying getting back into 'race shape' and it's now only three weeks until my first race, which is more than likely going to be in London, so watch out down south, Yorkshire is coming to get you! Until then I better get on the protein, have a few days off and weigh myself to make sure I'm not a track sprinter all of a sudden.
P.S - As every it's only polite to point out that the protein and the gels are kindly given to me by SiS. Without their help i'd probably be in a ditch somewhere trying to take energy from grass or something!