We’re 4 days in and already 2015 is off to a frustrating start. Things were going swimmingly (no pun intended) until a day before I was due to set off driving to Spain when it became apparent that my van had some kind of serious issue involving the power steering. I was informed that I should not kid myself that things would be fine if it went wrong – I would not be able to steer the van if the power steering failed. Considering the near-fatal accidents I’ve already suffered in the last 12 months, I thought it prudent to deal with the issue now and come to terms with a 3 day delay to my journey rather than plummeting off the edge of a pass somewhere in France when my steering failed.
3 days later and the parts have still not turned up. I am assured the job will be done by Monday, after which I will begin my migration southwards and start a block of training in Spain.
Since my last post I’ve had some interesting ups and downs, which is becoming the recognised format for life as an athlete. I was getting back into something that resembled training, and had even done a couple more competitive events after the Whinlatter Duathlon. The 9 Bar Chilly Duathlon had been on the calendar all year as a fun day with team mates, and I was pleased to be well healed enough to take part. With no speed work under my belt, I wasn't expecting great things from the 10k road run in the morning, but came away with a time close to my personal best and 3rd out of around 300 competitors – it’s amazing what a bit if enforced rest can do for your form. However, it turns out I maybe hadn't been resting enough.
Later in November I went for some metabolic efficiency testing at Guru Performance Labs in London. It was a really interesting day, and opened up new avenues to improve my performance which I hadn't really considered before. In basic terms, Laurent who runs the testing measured what my body was using for fuel (fat, protein or carbohydrate) while I was at rest, and then during a run test which slowly increased the effort I was expending. The idea is to increase the level at which your body can burn fat, meaning you never bonk or fade during sub-threshold activity.
I certainly wasn't as metabolically efficient as I could be but that’s fine because it can be improved. The problem was the testing flagged some potential issues with my cortisol levels. A trip to the GP later and it turned out I was dealing with a whole host of odd endocrine markers, quite possibly caused by over-training. As you can see from the pictures of me turbo training in my halo brace, I maybe didn't take it as easily as I should have done post-accident, although there is probably some argument to be made for the necessity of exercise for my sanity during that time. I don’t think I fully took into account how stressful the accident itself, and healing from such a traumatic injury, was on my body. I came out of 3 months in the brace thinking I’d had a rest, when in reality I’d had less than 2 hours sleep a night and been healing from major trauma.
Post the endocrine problems being flagged I've had the first full-on time off exercise I have had in years. I’m never very good at having a month totally off exercise at the end of every season, always finding some excuse to go for a 4 hour fell walk or single speed cyclo-cross ride rather than do nothing and thinking it counts as rest because I’m not using a power metre. After my total time off, I started doing some yoga at Meadowlark in Edinburgh. I couldn't have asked for a more welcoming environment to get started. The yoga has already helped me regain some back strength and flexibility and I’m excited to take it forwards to balance out my stretching regime without just spending 30 seconds stretching each muscle group.
All in all, it’s been a very interesting year and not as rubbish as it might appear from the outside. While my physical wellbeing has been extremely questionable at times, I’ve had one of the best years of my life in all other aspects. Now it’s the tricky part of balancing that mentality with getting back to full-on training and competition. I’m always up for a challenge. See you on the race circuit in 2015.
Through 2014 I have had the support of some great sponsors who have been patient and supportive the entire time. I’d like to thank them all and I’m delighted to report that will be continuing with most of them for 2015. A special thanks to Billy McCord of Kingdom Gas who has supported me with travel expenses and kit in my first year racing professionally as a triathlete. I know I’m not the first athlete he has back up with more than just his boundless enthusiasm and we owe him a dept of gratitude for his selfless contributions, cheers Billy and good luck in 2015!
Hi, I'm Ali. I like riding bikes and coaching people to achieve their athletic goals. I've been coaching for more than 10 years now and have never failed to make an athlete faster (I can't quite believe this myself either). I used to race bikes, triathlon and in 2014 I broke 9 vertebrae and my skull. Follow my journey here and on Twitter.