Viva la Primal
My training had somewhat stagnated, I always enjoy to train mixing things up between cycling, boxing and a spot of weights but I needed a little extra motivation, something to become more focused on. Around this time one such challenge fell into my lap in the form of an invitation to join my fellow Melton Olympic members on a cycling trip the French Alps taking in some well trodden Tour de France routes.
I signed up on the spot thinking we would complete a few fairly leisurely rides taking in the views enjoying pan chocolates and coffee along the way however, upon our first conversation things stepped up a notch. A ride famously named 'La Marmotte' was thrown into the hat, this was met with great excitement from my more experienced and informed cycling friends. For those as clueless as I am La Marmotte covers 108 miles (120 miles from our elevated hotel) and 16,000ft of climbing along some of the most brutal and unforgiving mountains (Col de Gandon, Col de Telegraphe, Col de Galibier, Alp d'Huez). To make matters worse being 90kg I'm far from hill climbing material and being the heaviest of the group the challenge became all the greater.
With 6 weeks to go it was time to get serious and set out my training plan.
I had to think about the requirements of the task (Climbing) and my own weaknesses (Climbing). With that in mind everything had to be designed around long slow climbs as well as building my base fitness. I planned to train 4 days a week incorporating 1x fast and hard intervals, 1x long slow indoor power session, 1x hard 1 hour and a more intense 3 hour ride per week. Also, with weight being so important I would shed a bit of weight by winding in my diet for every pound dropped helps so no lifting weights for a while. This training was very demanding but as I felt my fitness improve I grew in confidence that the task in had was within my capabilities.
Fast forward 6 weeks, I'm in the lobby of my hotel with the same feeling as when I competed in Muay Thai awaiting my name to be called into the ring, its a feeling of nervous apprehension of knowing that something incredibly demanding was about to happen which might not go so well but I have to keep a clear head and focus on the task awaiting me. I then took a sip of water, slipped on my rain jacked and helmet and set off down the famous Alp d'Huez.
The ride itself was both brutal and beautiful, the scenery is breathtaking but those climbs are relentless going on for hours with their gradients varying between the almost manageable to painstakingly difficult. I was on the edge of my tether for long periods staring at my heart rate monitor making sure it not to rise too high for fear of burning out all too soon whilst continually eating and drinking in support of the effort needed. However, for every climb there is a glorious reward in the for of the decent, all of us in a line tearing down the mountain, mind perfectly clear fully concentrating on each hair pin bend as to not crash as such high speed while trying to take in the surrounding beauty. They are so much fun.
La Marmotte nearly broke me, a few times, and there were some dark moments but with my training efforts and all out stubbornness I made it through. Upon turning around the 21st hairpin bend on the world famous Alp d'Heuz in the dark of night I was, and still am, incredibly proud of myself for setting out a goal and seeing it through all the way and completing such a great personal challenge.