Just a few more days to go now until I board the plane to fly out to LA for the Track World Championships. It is these times, right before major competitions, that a lot of athletes can easily get it wrong. There is a natural tendency to panic and think that you must train extra hard and do lots of extra work in order to make sure you are completely ready to race. But this is the furthest thing from the truth.
Racing for me starts on Friday, February 10 and my first event is the 3KM pursuit. That is just over 2 weeks away. As I sit here writing this, I have a cold. Fortunately it's not a bad one, but just enough to slow me down. And that, is probably a blessing in disguise. It's a reminder to me to take my foot off the accelerator pedal and relax. Believe it or not, the hard work is already done.
I've spent months getting ready. After the last World Championships on the road back in September, I took a couple of weeks off (not really 'off' but rather took it easier) and by the start of October I was back at work, training hard. I starting training on the track straight away – whilst a lot of other riders didn't start their track training until much later on (some are only seeing the track for the first time in January!). I didn't want to lose momentum and let my fitness slide too much. It just meant there would be less ground to make up if I kept my fitness at a steady level, but took some time off mentally to relax.
That's 4 months of training on the track in the bank. Mixed in with gym sessions, lots of road miles and even core exercises at home in the evenings. Like I said – the hard work is already done. All that's left if to sharpen up a bit and find that little bit of extra speed I need for race day. And that... comes from doing LESS. Not more. As my coach says, 'the best way to hold your form is to rest up'.
And so, being forced to take it easy in this final week before departure due to having a cold is just what the doctor ordered. It's forcing me to go against that natural instinct to do more and to do just enough to stay sharp, but not overtax my muscles. I am in fantastic form – I'm just tired a lot. But that's to be expected after the heavy training camps we've done. So yet again, this 'down time' is giving me the chance to recover and get some much needed rest in before the final push.
|The Irish Paracycling Squad and Support Staff heading the Los Angeles|
And that push begins in earnest tomorrow. Tomorrow the last few sessions on the bike begin and the intensity begins to ramp up again. Upon arrival in LA, we'll have a week of training on the track there, getting used to the intricate details of how it differs from other tracks and getting used to the climate and time difference (8 hours difference from the UK). Lots of time to make sure we are going to peak perfectly for race day.
I'm looking forward to this latest challenge. I love to race and it's been several months since I've had that full-on adrenaline blast that only comes from pinning a number on your back. And there's lots at stake – for me and my teammates. I'm trying to win another rainbow jersey (on the track this time), whilst my teammates are battling to be chosen to go to London (and some of them also with a shot at a rainbow jersey of their own). It's all to play for.
And so, my feet are up on the sofa for one more night. I can feel myself getting stronger and healthier (despite the snotty head cold). I have faith in my training and my coach. And can't wait to board that plane. And if all goes according to plan... I'll be coming home a happy man!
I wish ALL my teammates the very best of luck and have supreme faith that all of them will achieve personal bests. I've seen the hard work that all of them have put in and they can only but be rewarded for it. This thing that we do – this riding of bikes – it is our passion, our joy, our nemesis and our reason for being. Or at least... it is for me.