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Bashing yourself in

Updated: Jan 13, 2021

Last night was another victory for me. This time in the weekly Club ‘Bash’. Not in absolute terms, because I am pretty sure came dead last on the road. No. This was a victory for me over the voice in my head that was telling me to stop.

Like many Clubs, WLRCC has a weekly ‘Bash’ ride; one where riders go off in groups of up to 10 at a time and ride in a paceline, with each rider taking turns at the front for 30 seconds or so. The Bash is ridden at a very hard pace and if you get dropped off the back of the line because you can’t hold the pace, then you have to carry on solo and make your own way home. For WLRCC this weekly ride is normally 33km or 20 miles over the same course every week and there are at least three different groups that leave the start point at two minute intervals. It is the only ride the club has each week where riders are challenged to be well out of their comfort zone and no quarter is asked for or given. If you cannot keep up, you go ‘out the back’. Due to roadworks on our normal route though, we have switched to riding two laps of a 16km loop we use for winter training, which is hillier and a tougher ride.

Let's start by saying this: I have been dropped every single time I've done the Bash. This is the result of not being fit enough, fast enough or pacing myself correctly. I have had a tendency to stay on the front too long when I feel good only to run out of gas later. Even just 10 seconds pulling too long on the front can make a difference. But having already established that I have experienced a positive training effect from my Adventure on longer club rides, I have been keen to find out if I could apply this to the Bash distance and pace. The answer was yes, sort of physically. I am stronger, but I suspect that mental strength is pushing me to get more out of the fitness I have.

Literally anyone who has done any kind of exercise will have experienced their inner voice telling them to stop. Sometimes this is a quiet nagging voice and at other times a persistent monologue telling you that you could stop, need to stop, must stop. My inner voice is a sarcastic git who more often than not laughs at my efforts. We all have to conquer this voice. Last night I was dropped at the end of lap one after over-cooking it yet again. This resulted in a lonely slog back where the temptation was to completely ease off. If it is hard hanging on to the back wheels of faster riders, it is even harder to push yourself hard alone. When I used to do triathlon, I found this really hard, because triathlon races tend to go off in waves, it was impossible to place yourself in any race. You had no idea if the people around you started with you, before or after you. Luckily I found a way to circumvent this by being the last person out of the water in several triathlons, so I knew I was dead last. There is nothing quiet as dispiriting as getting out of a lake or the sea and finding that yours is the only bike left in transition. On the other hand it does make it easily to find your bike. Anyway it resulted in me adopting the motto “it’s me against me, everyone else is just scenery”.

I have said it before on the blog, but you need to 'put yourself in harms way’ in training if you want to be able to access the mental strength to carry on when you really need it, like when when one of your children is destroying you on a hill. There is a huge difference though between pushing yourself to go further as I did over the summer adventure and pushing yourself to go faster as I did last night. The former was aided by the fact I had no plan B. The latter is harder because there is no need for me to do it. I was going to be last whatever happened, so why bother? Last by 2 minutes or by 10 minutes, it doesn’t matter. Except to me. I would know I had cheated myself. I so wanted to give up after lap one, but I didn’t and half way around lap two I was able to congratulate myself for not giving up. It didn’t make a difference to my time, but it means I made another deposit in the bank, that I can withdraw when I really need it.

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