How running has caused a crash in confidence in my cycling

There’s a pro cyclists mantra that goes like this…

Don’t walk if you can stand.
Don’t stand if you can sit.
Don’t sit if you can lie down.

Basically “Don’t expend any energy you don’t have to unless you are cycling” is what it boils down to.

Having started cycling again in 2011, and then hit some increasingly difficult challenges and targets through 2012 and 2013 (including 2012 miles in 2012, and Manchester to London (250 miles) in 24 hours in 2013).

This year I have embarked on a further extension to my new sports regime, by signing up for the London Duathlon in September.
I haven’t run for 30 odd years and now I have to run 10k, cycle 44k and then for good measure run another 5k.
I did this because, dare I say it, I was getting a bit bored with only cycling, and I thought the variation might do me good. I needed a further motivation and a balancing out. Cycling had become a bit obsessive.

The Wiggle Long One was clearly a challenge for even the most hardened roadies and had I not been doing the duathlon I know that I would have thrown myself around the 124 miles course with the same vigour (not speed) as all my other challenges and it would have taken me out mentally and physically like only cycling knows. But I would have achieved it and it would have been great for all the right and wrong reasons.

However, I entered last weekend’s sportive with a different mindset. This was very much a training ride, to fill in some of the miles that I should have done on the bike, where I was otherwise running, trying to get my running legs to to speed with my cycling legs.
So I opted to be sensible and participate in “The short one” which was a 45 mile jaunt around the south downs. And all I can say is “thank goodness”. Having concentrated on running this last few months I thought I was fit (and I probably am), but my bike fitness has gone out of the window.

To say I struggled around the 45 mile course, something that last year I could have done (almost) with my eyes shut, would be an understatement. I really struggled.

The course out of Fontwell racecourse was picturesque, at times almost off road, and we meandered our way round the back roads to get into the south downs. From there it was up, but not ferociously up, just up. gradual and considered climbing that that well within the grasp of all participants. And then we rolled – as the south downs do so well.

A now a slight detour to my 1 little bug-bear for the day. This isn’t the first time this has happened either, but I came across one cyclist who was fixing his wheel after a puncture. I enquired if he was OK and he called back that he had no pump. I think he was a little mortified by the situation, and certainly he looked like he should know better, but it doesn’t cease to amaze me how many people you see on these events who have forgotten their pump, or that it simply doesn’t occur to them that they need a pump. Furthermore, we couldn’t get my pump working with his very short tube valves so I had to leave him stranded whilst he fitted a tube with longer valves, in the hope that he could flag down someone else later and salvage his day.

The day’s biggest (literally) challenge came in the form of Harting Hill. As you come through Harting there are 2 ways up the hill. Left or right. I have ridden the right hand route when I have previously cycled down to Emsworth from Farnham, and having studied the route prior to departure I really thought we were going that way.
I was wrong. Which in a way was nice, because I like finding new routes, but in another way was the cause of the days torment. Going left is certainly the harder of the 2 ways up. When you go right it’s steep and straight but you can see the top and you know where you are and it’s all over fairly quickly. When you go left the road goes up, but it weaves and curves and seems to go on for an eternity. Well in this case an eternity was only 1.5 km of circa 9% to 11%, but you’ll know what I mean if you have experienced anything like that, it was a real challenge. I can;t imagine facing that after 100 miles. I was facing it after only 25.

Beyond Harting the ride was pretty much downhill or flat the rest of the way, with the hard work having been done. But it was glorious. The sun was out and the roads were quiet, and the pace picked up for a while until I neared the end of the course and I meandered my way back the same way we had meandered out.

I rolled in just over 3 hours. Slow for me, but I’ve given myself a few excuses to explain my performance.
I’m still running my winter durable tyres which definitely don’t run as freely, and are heavier – I think I give away at least 1mph to them.
I gave 4-5 minutes to my puncture support efforts.
I am carrying a little extra weight (running doesn’t seem to burn up as much calories as cycling or I am just not doing enough).
I am carrying a small knee issue (there’s that running for you again).

I suppose I should still be chuffed because I was awarded a “Gold” by Wiggle which does seem a little generous given that I really don’t think I earned it.

Summing up, I just can’t help but think that running has really affected my ability to cycle, in a very detrimental way. My real hope is that after 2 1/2 years of just cycling, this is the body’s natural way of evening things out a little, and whilst I strive to become run fit, and try and build back some road miles on the bike too, I just have to remain patient and hope that everything comes together and then peaks in September. We shall see.

My respect for Triathletes has magnified greatly as a result, and going back to that old mantra I started with, I have applied my own tweak to it based on my own personal experience, and will abide by it if indeed I choose the way of the velominati over muti-disciplined sports.

If you can run, walk
If you can walk, stand
If you can stand, sit down
If you can sit down, lie down
But above all, don’t run!

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