Every Tuesday during the cross season for the last 4 years a group of misfits has congregated in a field in Knocklyon. Riding in the dark beside a motorway under the residual light and flashing bike lights makes for interesting training. In the dark you learn to feel the bike better, learn when your tires are about to give way, and learn when you can and cannot go hard.
This year I've been busy for the first 3 sessions, last night was the first of many for the season in the run up to national championships in Lurgan this year. The sessions follow a mix of short laps with lots of tight corners looking at maintaining speed. Then normally a few fast hot laps with some mini racing, a bit of start work, and then if all goes well a bit of racing at the end.
This is where the magic happens, 1hr 15mins into a fairly intense session and you try to hold race pace for 15 or so minutes. This is where we find out who is going well, and who is going home.
This was last nights race. 15mins on a 8 lap course with a gradual climb each lap that tried to suck the tires off your wheels. One dismount and some super slithery corners may not have made for a fast course, but what it lacked in speed it made up for in pain. Two falls, a near crash into another rider and 3/4 of a lap gap between us and the scratch group meant that getting 18th out of 30 was harder than expected. Not to add that my Vittoria CX at 20PSI were not up to the level of grip.
But whatever doesnt kill you makes you stronger. 180bpm is a target i haven't hit in a while. For the last year or so i've not been able to hit any higher than 176bpm in a max test in the lab, or during simulated 20mins time trials of any sort. Working at 95% of max for 15mins is something I am happy with. Strength may be lacking, but at least the heart is coming back.