As I sat dazed and emotional at a picnic table, nursing a slice of pizza in the gloom after last October’s Challenge Barcelona Maresme, I had no words to offer when asked by a fellow finisher how I had found it. Instead I just shook my head as I struggled to come to terms with the whole thing.
“Ah, just you wait, in two weeks you’ll be on the ‘net looking for your next one…” he replied with the air of a man who had seen it all before.
I doubted his wisdom at the time and four months on, I still do. I haven’t been on the internet once in search of my next triathlon “fix”. In fact, I haven’t been even in a pool, I have only mustered one track session and my pre-season stated goal of qualifying for the World Age Group Duathlon Championships is dead in the water as I haven’t entered any races.
Last season, I had the relatively serious goal of completing an iron-distance race. A goal that required long winter hours cycling up Box Hill in the drizzle of bitter, dimly lit Sunday afternoons. A goal that meant walking in pitch darkness through the cold and damp of a South London morning just to plough up and down in an overcrowded pool was a reluctant necessity. A goal, which has now been achieved, and with its realisation the 5am alarm calls have disappeared and the guilt of missing a session has slowly subsided.
The fact that I haven’t slipped into total apathy is largely due to Eddie Fletcher and Ian Wilson at Wattbike who have kindly lent me one of their machines to train on over the winter. Being able to have such a revolutionary piece of kit sitting in my back room has not only offered me training asylum on dark wet January evenings but enabled me to improve my cadence, wattage and force curve through the in depth session analysis that’s habitually uploaded onto my laptop.
Most importantly, though, being able to train indoors whilst watching the entirety of The Wire or taking in a midweek Champions League clash has made it possible for me to start enjoying sessions again. And, although I maintain that I’ll never do an iron-distance race again, the idea of an Olympic or Sprint distance triathlon has become altogether more palatable.
I guess, just like physical recovery, recuperating mentally from an event like Challenge Barcelona is a process that affects different people in different ways. Indeed, the nature of the sport for an amateur athlete, the 5am swimming and the tired legs on damp, cold evenings means that training is often not enjoyable and it’s easy to forget why we put ourselves through it all. Rediscovering that enjoyment is incredibly important as it reminds us why we compete and, above all, it is the greatest form of motivation.
The 16 week Wattbike training plan can be downloaded at http://wattbike.com/uk/.