“Shut up head!” or the lament of lost form

For the first time in my road riding, I am having a year where my riding performance is worse than last year. In fact, I would say on average my riding is 10-20% worse than last year. Around this time last year I had my first ride where I pushed through a 30kmh average speed and this time in 2012 I’m struggling to top 25kmh. Not good. The majority of the Strava KOMs I held are now gone and I’m generally unable to ride at anything like the level of speed that I managed in 2011.

I’m in the third enforced absence from riding for 2012 – this time from a shoulder injury, which even more annoyingly I’ve managed to aggravate just when it was improving. My previous two periods off the bike were for illness including a chest infection that needed a course of antibiotics.

In total I’ve been “forced” off my bike for coming up for 10 weeks so far this year. That’s getting on for three months out of seven and a half as I write this. Every time I’ve started to build some form, I’ve got sick or injured and watched my fitness ebb away again.

To say I’m finding it frustrating and disappointed is rather an understatement. I’m really gutted.

Last weekend I rode on my local shop ride in the “slow” group and after 3 weeks off the bike my legs didn’t enjoy the climbs at all. Unlike the riders I know who’ve ridden tens of thousands of miles since their teens who can seem to spend months off the bike without much really impact. Three weeks of the bike and I’m riding like a beginner again.

During the week my colleague and friend Damien and I did a local lunchtime loop. Damien picked up the pace on the first climb and I had to work hard to keep with him. After a few years and about 15,000km of riding under my belt my head was saying “come on pick up the pace, you can go faster than this” as my heart rate quickly pushed through 170bpm and well into the far reaches of zone four. Unlike the legend that is Jens Voigt, it was my legs screaming “SHUT UP HEAD!” at this point as my body just didn’t want to know.

At present I don’t really know what’s going on with my shoulder and neither does my GP. I’ve got a referral to a physio and hopefully they can help start to get it sorted but this is after a month on painkillers and many uncomfortable nights of broken sleep. Needless to say I’m still off my bike and increasingly frustrated about it.

Over the last five years, road cycling has become a central and cherished part of my weekly routine and regime. At present I’m in a period of cold turkey that I never wanted and I’m having the kind of reaction and withdrawal symptoms that you’d expect an addict to go through. This combined with the fact that on the few occasions I have managed a ride, my head has been fighting against and losing to my body.

I’m sure everybody goes through this and I’m sure I’ll get better and fitter and faster again. Sometimes though when your popping another painkiller and watching everyone you follow on Strava putting in personal bests and knocking out great rides while your own bike gathers dust, it’s hard. It really is.

Thanks for reading.