Training through a British Winter is tough, especially when you have spent the previous one in shorts and t-shirts! I moved back to the UK at the end of June and moved in with my girlfriend Emily and her friends in Hackney. A slight contrast from where I had been. I took a month off after Lanzarote for a physical and mental break before training in earnest for the following season. I have to say, I have found it tough coming back, especially the first couple months.
When it’s dark, raining, freezing and a 4:50am on a Monday it takes a special kind of nutter to train. I remember listening to a Bradley Wiggins podcast and he talked about ‘training when no one else was’. It breeds a smugness and mental armoury that you can return too when racing. The key for me this winter would be finding the right people to train with. Training on your own all the time gets tiresome and having some company more than anything really helps you enjoy what you are doing – at least I thought so!
My running really let me down this year. We know why, so a strong winter of higher mileage and base/strength training would be essential to the lay the foundation for next year. One morning about 11am (when everyone else is supposed to be working). I spotted a slight, African guy striding out around the muddy footpaths of Victoria Park. I knew he was good just watching him for 30seconds. The guy could run. I caught up with him; we chatted and soon got enough info I needed. He was getting back into running, had run 50min flat for 10miles and was also keen to find a training partner. Perfect. We have been meeting up ever since, except when it rains, “Africans don’t run in the rain bruv”. Which is probably quite sensible in Africa, but not in a British Winter. One run stood out recently when we ran out to the Hackney Marshes (once home to the most amounts of football pitches in London) and the pace got faster and faster. At about 5:20/mile pace he said he was only breathing through his nose – which slightly took the piss. Nonetheless, running long runs with this guy was only going to help me. The only problem with Hackney is there are no hills!!
The same applied to the swimming. The gains I had made early on were slowly reducing and I needed something extra. I searched far and wide for a swim club, getting the usual response of ‘how old are you’? Too old, you can’t swim with kids!” Finally, I found a club that would take me. ‘Newham and UEL Swimming Club’. I turned up at 5:30am Monday for my trail session and the coach, Giuseppe gave me the nod. I just felt sorry for the parents dropping their kids off! I thought I had pushed myself hard in the pool before. Little did I know - the training is intense. The first 8 weeks I had my ass continually kicked by kids half my age and size but slowly I am seeing the gains and getting the odd positive look from the coach. Who, I have been extremely impressed by. One session of 10x400 followed by 30x50 stood out, and left me unable to lift a bar of soap after the session. Feel is what I needed, and that is what you get once you have been ploughing up and down a pool for a minimum of 5km a session for 10 years, I had some catching up to do…
It was great getting reacquainted with the roads in Kent and spinning out with my mates from the 34 Nomads Cycling Club. No ride was completed without a mandatory stop for a cake and coffee, one of the many perks of cycling (no matter how much cake you eat you can’t get a stitch!). Nick Gasson, Steve Cavey, Richard Payn were all regularly cycling and were great company for those cold winter days.