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2016 Cycling Goals

Wednesday, 28 December 2016 09:45

At the start of the year I took the decision to set myself a mileage and elevation goal for the year. 12 months later here I am, regretting the over consumption of the festive period, reflecting on the last year and planning my targets for the next rotation around the sun.

The idea of setting the goal was to give myself a reason, beyond the simple enjoyment of being on a bike, to get out on the saddle. Setting the goal in December, I was well aware that in the colder months my motivation definitely drops. A quick check of my Strava over the last few years shows a clear lack of mileage, only 60 miles in February 2015, 88 in November. Ever since my motorcycling days the thought of frozen toes and soaking clothing has never appealed, doing it without an engine was no different. Would having the goal keep me cycling throughout the cold darkness of winter or just push me to greater efforts in the long warm days of summer?

The year could not of started any better, by the end of the first day, I had got two rides in, one on the road bike with Leah and one mountain bike venture around Thetford. 1 day, 25 miles done. This is going to be easy! I setup a weekly mileage tracker, smartly adapted to allow for more miles in the warmer months. Through January and February the benefit of the rollers was clearly seen, even in the worst of weathers I clocked 75 miles in the (relative) warmth of the garage. By the end of February I had clocked almost 500 miles already, it was too good, too easy, I was already ahead of schedule on the progress tracker. I knew that by the time the warmer weather and seeming endless light of Summer came round the miles would be rolling in. Maybe my targets had been too easy on myself?

However, I had not factored in the curveball that my job was soon to throw. I knew there was going to be a curveball, I had known about it for 12 months. In 2014 I spent a few weeks working away, I knew I would be doing the same this year, but was not expecting quite so much curve on the curveball. In total I was away from home for almost 3 months; most weeks through March, April and May saw me carried away on a Sunday evening, returning on a Friday afternoon. Yes I still had weekends to get out riding, but I also had to fit the rest of home life into those 48 hour blocks. Pretty quickly my progress tracker, which looked so healthy by February was falling behind. My mood for the challenge waned, I couldn't see any possibility for recovering the miles. Next year I said to myself, next year I won't be away, next year I will do it.

It's not to say I didn't get some good riding in through my time working away. We were working in Bracknell, South-West of London, not the nicest town by any stretch, but it had one gem in it's rather dulled (or non-existent) crown. On the outskirts was Swinley forest, home to some excellent mountain biking trails, far more entertaining than what I had been used to in Thetford and within easy riding distance from our flat. My mountain bike stayed in Bracknell for the majority of the three months away, giving me one or two rides a week, not massive miles, but my skills on the mountain bike definitely improved as did my love of the wide rubber and squishy front end.

Into June and without many decent miles on the road bike and I went straight into my first ever sportive, the Norwich 100. Riding with the Yorkies, the pace was fast, coming in to finish on an average of over 18.5mph for the 100 miles. Although hugely enjoyable, having not been out on the bike it much it wasn't plain sailing, major cramp left me requiring a massage at the end, but it started off the summer nicely and the miles kept flowing in after. Plenty of rides to work with James, Tuesday nights with the Yorkies and weekends of mountain biking and steady road miles made for a glorious summer on the bike. Three centuries, a highest point of over 450m above sea level (about 4 times higher than anywhere in Norfolk) and one ride with over 5000ft of elevation (it's a lot when you are from the flatlands).

But even with all this, I was still languishing behind the all but forgotten schedule, I stood little chance of recouping the damage of early Spring. But in August I changed job, my commute went from a 35 mile round trip to 8 miles, a distance I felt more comfortable riding every day. With the winter bike cleaned and lubricated, slowly the miles began to build, as the Summer started to fail, my commuting continued, hardening my mind and proved to myself that actually, winter riding wasn't as bad as I had always thought. My winter commuting bike became my workhorse, with it's mudguards in place it took the abuse of the poor road conditions heroically. Unlike previous years the dip in mileage into October and November was not so pronounced, and a shimmer of the idea of the target began to appear. Could I actually do it?

By the end of November I was calculating weekly averages required, the finish was almost tangible. With a week to spare I cracked it, 4000 miles in the year, 150,000ft of elevation gain, both goals completed within 1 or 2 rides of each other. With a few days of 2016 left I'm hopeful to get the total to over 4075, thereby cancelling out those indoor trainer miles, giving me a full 4000 out on real roads, real tracks, real miles. By keeping the riding going I have been left in far better shape in December than usual, I can feel far less guilty for that second helping of Christmas dinner knowing that I've earned it through the year! It does leave me with the thought of next year, what targets do I set? 5000 for the year seems like a logical progression. But what else, more centuries? I completed 3 last year, so 4 or 5 this year? Maybe a double century? Maybe riding some new places, possibly abroad? Either way I'm clear that setting some goals for the year is key to keeping motivation, so try it yourself. It's pushed me to get out more and given me a sense of achievement, just because I set a goal and made sure I completed it.

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