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Vickers Goes To The Cyclocross Nationals

Should I Train When I am Sick

If I think back to December the 20th it doesn’t paint a picture of me at my most desirable. I was forced to take my fist day sick from work in two years as I was ‘self-diagnosed’ with the scarily named Norovirus – AKA the winter sickness bug.

If you don’t know about the Norovirus, it’s miserable. I will spare the details but the key points to take away are, I was sick, very sick and, I spent my share of time making myself comfortable in my cold, cold bathroom. My wife left me for four days to avoid contamination, I lost 3KG in weight, didn’t eat, shivered a lot and couldn’t even think about training.

To make it worse I was smack bang in the middle of my final, big training block for the British National Cyclocross Championships and after riding a comfortable fifth in my local league with tired legs I felt good about my fitness. Don’t get me wrong, I was never going to be a contender, I was never going to finish in the top 30 but I was at least hoping to last 45 / 50 minutes of the race. But…

I couldn’t do anything, I despaired as my form fell away and despite a quick return to training (I was back on the bike six days later) I slowly started to feel a little less confident about Nationals. The only choice that I had was to press on and keep the dream alive. When the house had returned to normal I started to train again, I slowly increased volume and intensity over the week that followed as my confidence started to build and I honestly started to feel better.

The Thursday before the Sunday of the championships I woke up feeling great, positive and looking forward to racing but as the day went on it became apparent that I had another problem, a dirty cold. It couldn’t have been a worse lead up to race day and during Friday and Saturday my newly found training companion (the common cold) moved on to my chest.

So, after 4 months of preparation I was reduced to a snotty, achy, coughing and spluttering, unfit mess.

I had my heart set on racing. I would be taking to the start line with riders I had endless admiration for, and it’s not often an opportunity like this comes around (once a year to be precise) so I tentatively and reluctantly decided to race.

I arrived at Peel Park in Bradford with plenty of time to ride a sighting lap and prepare before the race but couldn’t face standing trackside and watching the other races. I did check the course out and it was great! Technical, muddy and tough and being honest I felt reasonable on my practice lap as some adrenaline took over.

I retired to the ‘team car’ for a few hours and tried to stay awake before changing and warming up. Again, I started to feel a bit quicker as my legs warmed up and the caffeine kicked in.

Before I knew it, I was on the start line and the board was raised by the commissaire showing the words “Two Minutes”, what followed was probably the fastest two minutes of my life as the next thing I knew, the race was on.

I was ON FIRE, my legs felt amazing as the group sprinted up the start drag, “I am being held up” I thought, as I kept having to ease off the pedals to avoid colliding with the riders in front of me, but this excitement was to be short lived as right in front of me a group of five riders went down blocking the road and reducing my progress to a stop and dismount.

Underway again, I rounded the top section of the course feeling quite chipper, adrenaline was playing a part for sure and I convinced myself I was going to go ‘okay’ but after the first real testing run I was blown to pieces.

I had nothing at all to give and every turn of the pedals distilled a feeling of impending doom but I couldn’t give up! I wouldn’t give up!

I was a mess, I had no focus at all, I couldn’t ride the course, I couldn’t predict my dismounts properly, I couldn’t corner and couldn’t find any power. But other than that I felt great.

After 35 minutes I was 7th – from last - and I heard the voice of Ian Fielding shouting “RIDER” as he ripped past me… with that, it was done. I had half a lap to complete and I dragged myself around and across the line.

All colds and diseases aside, I was always going to be outclassed and I was never going to finish strongly, my miserable and unconvincing excuses are all just a cunning rouse to cover up for the fact that I am not good enough to compete with the talent and athletic prowess of the British Cyclocross Elite but I will be back, next year. Faster- fitter- stronger.

11 January 2017

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