I had my first DNF for an event at Kinross Sportive this weekend.  I have felt bad in events before but have always got to the finish line, even if it has meant ending up in a hospital tent on occasion.  I have always kept the thought of this is now just a mental battle to finish not physical and one that if you get through it will help on the real race day if times get tough.

So what changed this time?

There were 2 choices of routes I could have taken the long black or the medium red, 90 miles or 65 miles.  I have done the black route many times in the past when I have been training for longer events.  Last year as part of my Sprint program I chose to do the 65 and make it hard.  I felt this fitted better with the way I had trained.  This year I made the decision to do the 90 as a large overload session though from the time I entered I was never completely convinced it was a good idea.  The black route is stacked with the climbs towards the last 3rd of the ride so without the long distance endurance base it would be hard.

I kept my pace sensible for the first part of the race with an expectation of what was to come though as we had started late I had missed any groups of a similar pace so was mostly overtaking people and cycling on my own.  The second 3rd of the ride is very undulating and in the middle of no where.  Without a group to ride and have a chat with this became a real slog.

After the second feed stop you go up one of the main climbs on the route.  As I was going up it I just wasn’t hitting the power number I wanted and finished the climb in 24 minutes compared with 20 the previous year.

On the descent (which was into the wind) which undulates in places my legs were really struggling and I wasn’t feeling in a good place.  I sat down and ate some more food and had some water.

At this point I started looking on my Garmin for the fastest way back to Kinross.  I had decided the rest of the black route was going to be too much.  It hurt to give up but I felt when I had a think about it I had already achieved what I wanted from the session, a big overload.  I was at the end of a training block and needed recovery.  To continue was only going to risk messing with the rest of my training to come.

As I finished the descent a Marshall was at the bottom signalling red route left and black right.  I debated and went left still not sure if mentally quitting was the right decision.

As I joined back onto the red route after a short time I started to feel better about it.  The route was flat for the rest of the way back and I could just get up to a good tempo speed and aim to finish reasonably strongly.  I know I would have struggled over the remaining hills.

So I finished having done part black route and part red I told the organisers I had changed course so it didn’t look in the results I had done a great time for the black route.  I moved from page 1 of the red results last year to page 5 this year due to the extra distance but as it is a training ride it is meaningless to all but me……..yet it still niggles 🙂

So last night I did my first crit race in 3 years as part of the Edinburgh Road Club crit series.  I have only done a couple of these races before and knew they are a great hard short speed work out and that is exactly what I got.  Sitting here typing now with my lungs still sore I know I made the right decision to change routes in Kinross as I wouldn’t have got the same training benefit if I had started the race with my legs unable to cope.

Maybe my biggest mistake was not going with my gut instinct in my planning phase and doing the red route from the start.  i wonder what I would have advised one of my own athletes?

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