The road to PBP – 400k qualifier and a change of fortunes

Despite having a lovely, but shorter ride in Wales, and knowing I had made the right decision to quit, the old feelings of doubt came to surface.

What if I really am just not good enough? What if just getting there is always going to be this hard? Maybe I really should just give up this dream and go touring instead?

But I had put so much effort in already, and a fair bit of money. I didn’t want to give up just yet.

I felt that there was more in me, but I wasn’t going to find it by continuing what it was that I had been doing to date. My acceptable results were inconsistent at best, but more often non existent. When I did finish events, I was still almost always last, and just in the nick of time.

Meet Trevor

I was introduced to Trevor earlier this year by a mutual friend. I was a mess physically. I was heavier than I would like, and suffering with knee issues, a painful Achilles, hip pain on the other side, and the final straw was dreadful sciatic pain that had left me doubled over like an old lady.

Unhappy with physios generally only focussing on the issue of the day, I was told about Trevor, who, as a Biomechanics Coach, looks at your body alignment, and treats the whole body from top to toe, rather than only the symptom.

He just laughed when he saw me that first time, and for every movement that I wasn’t able to do, he just responded with an ‘oh dear’. Note to all, make sure your sense of humour is in tact before you visit him!

But, very quickly, not only did my back improve, but he straightened me up, and sorted out my knee, achilles and sciatic nerve issues.

During our sessions we talked about cycling & my ambition to complete Paris-Brest-Paris. He revealed that he had completed RAAM, coached Paralympic medalists, and a whole host of successful triathletes. We had lots to talk about.

So in May, when I felt rock bottom about my performance in my 300k & 400k Audaxes, he seemed the obvious man to call. After all, who knew better about long distance cycling & sleep deprivation than a previous RAAM competitor.

Our coaching relationship had begun

In Training

For our initial chat, Trevor turned up to my workplace, on a bright pink bike, in his cycling gear and we sat in the sunshine discussing my ambitions and what he might be able to do to help. About a week later, I went to his clinic for a more formal discussion and to put a plan in place that would get me not only get me to the start line of PBP, but also improve my performance across the board so that I could do so comfortably. He asked me to be honest about how many hours a week I could dedicate, so I explained my normal schedule and the plan was built around that. I was going to be doing a lot of cycling (4 or 5 times a week) + turbo sessions and strength training. This was in addition to the events I still needed to do.

I took a deep breath and responded ‘Lets do this!’

All aboard the Paddington Express

My 2nd attempt at my 400k qualifier was in 2 weeks, so I was eased in ‘gently’ into my new training regime. Rides were around 40-50 miles, and they weren’t too hilly to start. The qualifier was going to be a rolling ride mostly, so I didn’t really need much extra hill training, the focus was to go faster for longer.

I rocked up in Bristol around lunchtime, for the afternoon start, and realised I had left my cycle shoes at home in Portsmouth. I had a couple of hours to either find new shoes (impossible), or a set of flat pedals – also unlikely. However, the start venue (Business as Usual) contained a bike maintenance workshop, who happened to have a pair of half cage flat pedals hiding away in a drawer. So with the addition of some cable ties to complete the cages, my pedals were swapped over and I had a workable solution with my trainers on my feet.

We had great weather for the ride, and we left the city for the undulating Somerset countryside through to Bath and beyond. As usual, I was soon in the back group, but it was nice getting to the first control, at a steam railway station whilst it was still warm and there were other riders around.

The route levelled out as the quiet roads running parallel to the M4 unfolded and I rode in the twilight towards Maidenhead and then outer London. The lack of traffic as riding into the night made this ride a total pleasure until we got to Slough. Due to the lateness of the hour, the route just followed the main commuter routes through the town, but every few hundred yards there were sets of major traffic lights…..that sat at red in every direction…..and only changed when cars approached – not very many of them around midnight. I pride myself on not being one of those cyclists that run red lights, but I felt like I might have to sit there until morning – so I ended up jumping a few.

Eventually I got to Paddington Station – on target and was met by Mr Gruber (I think), complete with Marmalade sandwiches under his hat, and coffee & snacks. Just what I needed in the early hours. After a quick photo opportunity with Paddington briefly reunited with his best friend, we turned round and headed back towards the start.

The London streets, whilst devoid of much traffic, were not quiet. The city never sleeps, but it was an easy enough ride out towards Heathrow Airport, just in time for the dawn planes starting their trips again for the day to far flung corners of the globe.

I was beginning to feel quite tired, so grabbed a quick coffee at a 24hr McDonalds, and headed towards Reading for the next official control.

Thinking I was the Lantern Rouge (ie last) , I sat and ate my breakfast and started to see others turn up. Most had gained a few hours sleep in a travel lodge, and were now in catch up mode. I am still not fast enough to plan hotel stops yet, but generally find on a 400k I can get away with just a power nap or two.

After dodging thousands of children on the start of a family fun run, I was soon on my way again, and really enjoying the morning riding. The route largely runs parallel to the south of the M4, and is a beautiful and quiet meander on country lanes back towards Somerset. With alternative routes an option, I chose to take the Greenham common (off road) route, which slowed me down a bit, but was really pretty. It was full of horses, families and dog walkers, out enjoying the warm morning sunshine.

As the route headed further westwards through Wiltshire, the rolling landscape returned, but mixed in with pretty thatched villages this was a very pleasant way to spend the day.

Eventually as I got closer to Bath with a few hours to spare, I decided that I wouldn’t take the shorter main road route that I had originally planned, but instead, search out the Bath tunnels and follow the Bath-Bristol cycleway back to the start. It’s a much longer route, but traffic free and very easy riding. Yes, for much of it you are dodging children, joggers, dog walkers etc, but it’s worth it. If you haven’t ridden through the Bath tunnels, it’s worth searching them out if you are in the area. Between the two tunnels you travel approx 1.5 km, under a massive hill. The temperature is always cool, which can be a temporary relief on a hot day.

I returned to the Arrivee with around 30 mins to spare. I was last, but I didn’t care. For the first time ever I had been able to make a choice to go a different and more scenic way as I had plenty of time in hand. I was happy in the knowledge that I was getting stronger, faster and PBP qualification was in my reach.

This left me full of confidence for the 600k that lay ahead in 3 weeks time……but you’ll have to wait to hear about that one.

For details on Coaching with Trevor visit his website at

http://zone6concept.com/

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