No, this is not a blog about Intensity Factor (as only those who speak power lingo will understand what that means). Neither is it a blog about ‘if only… I could/would etc’. I am not a virtual winner. It is a blog inspired by Kipling’s poem ‘If’. What a wise woman described in five simple words to me the other day (see my last blog post), this British Nobel laureate needed quite a few more words for, but he admittedly did so very eloquently.

I won’t bore you with the full poem, but just pick out the lines that hit a note with me when my husband pointed this poem out to me recently.

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with triumph and disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

I love it. It hits home very clearly how success and failure are part of life. The key is to not get too high or too low, keep a positive attitude and keep moving forward.

So after my last blog, I am happy to say I am definitely improving this year, even if that isn’t always reflected in my times or results.

A big breakthrough for me was finally being brave enough to give bottle hand-ups a go during a TT. Whilst this may seem the easiest thing ever for some, for me bike handling and particularly doing things with just one hand have always been a challenge. Luckily I am not very good at road racing, so will never even have to contemplate practising taking both hands off my handlebars for that winner’s salute…

After some early morning practise in Richmond Park with my coach a few weeks ago, I practised bottle hand-ups with Chris (my husband), as he had promised to come along to support me for the National 100 mile TT. We first tried stationary bottle hands-ups in the park and then, encouraged by a group of local cyclists who were sitting nearby observing us whilst having their coffees, even moved on to moving/running hand-ups. I first thought there would be more risk to drop the bottle at speed, but each time we tried it went super smooth and no impact at all.

Still very nervous, but proud to manage my first bottle hand-up in a TT. Thanks Chris, you're a star helper and welcome to come along anytime ;-)
Still very nervous, but proud to manage my first bottle hand-up in a TT. Thanks Chris, you’re a star helper and welcome to come along anytime 😉

The day before the National 100m TT we drove the length of the course and had a good look at which places would be most suitable for bottle hand-ups. In the end we chose a flattish bit of some 10-15 meter in between the two bigger lumps on the rural back roads (which by the way were soooo much fun to ride!). There was a nice bit of grass for Chris to stand on, plenty of verge for me to chuck my bottle, good sight-lines and even space to briefly park up the car. I am chuffed to say that we managed two bottle hand-ups during the race and even a half-peeled banana in the latter part of the race. I am really happy to have achieved something I feared for so long and proud of Chris for helping me so well. Best of all, I am confident I can do it too during the 12hour, which could translate into a significant mileage gain.

But as is so often the case… two steps forward, one step back. I finally nailed bottle hand-ups and have improved my power both for 100 mile and 50 mile (the two distances I have trained for most so far this season). Unfortunately the step backward came during the National 100m TT this weekend when after about 65-70 mile (at which point I was surprisingly only 2 minutes down on the super talented winner Hayley Simmonds and had been feeling good and within myself), suddenly both hamstrings went and kept going ‘pang’ for the remainder of the race…

I am sure some people will say ‘yeah sure, blame it on cramp, you just overcooked it’. But I know I didn’t. I drank enough (5 bottles in total), but my black skinsuit was still completely caked in white salt crystals by the end of the race (and it wasn’t even a hot day!). So a few lessons learned:

  • I need to lower my saddle just a little for the next race;
  • Saltstick will hopefully make all the difference (thanks Vicky Gill for the advice)
  • Sometimes it pays off to struggle through problems even when crawling like a snail and having given up all hope: I still came third in the National 100m TT!

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