637 Days To Go is my blog, which was originally started with exactly 637 days until the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. And now it's been re-started with 637 days until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

For Club and Country

Staying motivated and interested in cycling all year round is no easy task. The rigours of training and racing at a high level take their toll, and especially at this time of year when the weather is cold and snowy, the desire to even get on a bike, let alone *train* on one – day in and day out – can reach all-time lows.

Cycling, for the most part, is an individual sport. Whilst I am part of a 'team' and spend part of the year training with the squad, the majority of the work comes down to solo effort. No one else can do the training for you and even in races, although you might be lucky enough to get some help from a teammate, ultimately it comes down to how well you can turn the pedals over.

I am probably on a bike close to 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year. That's a lot of time to try and stay interested. Some days it may just be an easy hour-long ride, while other days it can be as much as 7 hours in the saddle. Just depends on what the day calls for. To try and do all that time in the saddle, alone and with no one else with you to help keep you motivated is a tough ask. Which is why I am glad to be a part of a great cycling club.

Racing in (orange) Macclesfield Wheelers kit
Being a part of a good club (Macclesfield Wheelers) has been one of the factors to my improvement as a cyclist this past year. It has given me the opportunity to ride with other people, make friends, get additional training, race with a different group of people and just generally break up the monotony of solo training. I look forward to the weekly club run - just for the opportunity to go on a long, easy ride with 20 or so like-minded people. And the weekly training rides have helped push my limits, undoubtably making me a fitter and faster rider.

They say, when you want to get into racing, one of the first things you should do is join a club. I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. A good club will give you experience riding in a group – an invaluable skill to have. And a REALLY good club will offer you the chance to go on some fast training rides – simulating race conditions. My club does it all!

A lot of the time I feel bad when I go out with my club as I'm not the most 'social' person. I have a terrible time remembering names and even after a year or so of being with the club, know very few of the members' names (although know all the faces!). I will shy away from talking to a lot of people on the club runs because of this – but it doesn't take away from my enjoyment of being able to ride with them!

Racing for Ireland
The race season for me is on two fronts – the international races where I represent Ireland and the domestic scene where I strap on my club colours. I am equally proud to represent both groups. And even though I rarely wear my club colours (I only have one jersey that I save for race days), I always feel proud to be a part of the club. 

Even things like the weekly club time trial competition throughout the summer gives my training some focus and further stimulates improvement in my cycling abilities. Week after week it serves as a way to check my form, track improvements, test out new equipment or bike positions and gives valuable feedback to my coaches.

Next year I will probably be spending a lot more time training and racing with the Irish team. But I know whenever I am home, I can always look forward to the next ride with my club. Anything to make the training a little more pleasurable!