I arrived in Switzerland late on the Wednesday just after Challenge Barcelona. I stepped off the plane to discover that my bike hadn’t arrived. I know this has happened to many people but it was a first for me. I was assured that it would turn up and be delivered to me as soon as it arrived in Geneva so after a long delay I set off for Leysin. The train journey wasn’t too bad once I worked out exactly where to go and as usual the Swiss trains operated like clockwork. My journey was actually a little easier as I didn’t have a bike bag to drag around with me. (My bike did arrive the next day with a massive hole in the bag!)
I arrived at the top of the mountain still dressed in the clothes I had been wearing in the summery climate of Barcelona and got a big shock to the system. It was FREEZING! Right there I started emptying my bag of clothes and putting on anything I could find to keep warm for the walk to where I was staying. Honestly I couldn’t believe how cold it was but I put it down to being tired and not used to the colder weather.
The next morning I woke up and looked out the window to see that the whole place was covered in snow! I couldn’t believe it, I had come from roasting hot Lanzarote and arrived to what felt and looked like mid-winter in Switzerland. So again I piled on about 7 layers and headed off to the pool for an easy swim.
My First day of ‘real training’
The following day was to be my first day of proper training. So I headed to the pool to meet Brett who I hadn’t seen since October. We jumped in the pool and he set what felt like the hardest swim session I had ever done. I felt totally knackered after it and it felt like I was so unfit in the water. I had been swimming fairly well in Lanzarote but when I got in that pool in Leysin I felt like a drowning rat! Following the swim Brett told us what the sessions were for the rest of the day. A pretty big track session. I had done that specific session once before so wasn’t as worried as I would have been if it had been my first go at it. They usually ride to the track from Leysin but it was too cold to descend the mountain by bike so it was decided that the best option was to get the mountain train down to the Aigle and ride to the track from there.
Stupidly we assumed that the track would be right there at the bottom of the hill so we were pretty much all ready in just run kit before we got on the train. The girls (Caroline and Celine) gave a funny look as I was stood there in run gear; they were fully dressed in winter cycling kit! ‘Isn’t the track just at the bottom?’ I asked. ‘No, we have to ride there from the bottom’ woops, so I had a quick change on the train in to some cycling gear which I had with me for the ride home up the mountain. We did our track session which at the time felt good, I pushed on a little on the last few reps but was still feeling fine. As we were about to start the last rep I asked Celine how long the ride home would be. We could see Leysin from the track and it didn’t look too far (as the crow flies). She said ‘if you are going well it’s about 1h30’. Well I almost fainted when she said that, for some reason I assumed that it would be a short ride home. We finished our session put on a load of warm kit and set off for home.
We had ridden on the flat to the bottom of the climb home and I started to think, ‘oh no, this is a long way up the mountain’ so I dropped back to ride super slow at my own pace. To begin with this was conscious decision to ride slowly but after about 5 minutes of very slow climbing I realised that there was no choice in the matter. I was very tired and didn’t feel very good at all. I kept riding but the further I went the worse I felt. I started to feel sleepy and a little sick but just tried to keep pushing the pedals round and round. Eventually I was wobbling all over the road, it was freezing cold but I was pouring with sweat. I needed to stop but kept saying just make one more bend then stop. Eventually I had to stop because I was all over the place. I sat down in a lay by and ate some food (a Mars bar and a banana.) I wasn’t sure if that would be enough to get me home as I didn’t even know how far I had to go but after about 5 minutes I got back on and started riding again. At that point it wasn’t quite as steep so I felt a little better and the sugar seemed to help perk me up a little, at least until I hit the last 4k of the climb, the steepest part of the climb home.
I have honestly never felt so bad in a training session/ride in my life. Part of me wanted to just tip over in to the ditch and sleep and maybe if I it were warmer I would have but it was so cold I couldn’t stop. Every car that went past had me thinking ‘please pick me up and take me home’ I wondered if I was going to make it without passing out. It just seemed to get steeper and steeper but I kept turning the pedals trying to think as positively as I could. One minute I thought I was going to be sick, the next I was almost asleep on the bike. I saw a house in the distance and thought to myself that I would try to make it up there and stop for another break. When I approached it I realised I was nearly at the top so I managed to keep going. I must have had about a mile of climbing to get home from there but it was possibly the longest and slowest mile of my life. Eventually I made it back in after stumbling down the steps to the front door I fell inside and lay down without even the energy to remove my shoes or helmet!! So that was my first experience of real training in Leysin, ouch! Since then I have discovered that I’m not the first person to feel like that on the climb home after a track session.
For the first week or so all I wanted to do was sleep and sit by a nice warm fire with a mug of coffee. I will put it down to a few different things, it could have been altitude, change of environment, different terrain, cold weather, lack of fitness etc. but since then things have improved and I am beginning to feel a bit fitter. It was actually been a good wakeup call to get us out of the comfort zone and it was nice to experience some proper winter training after missing out on most of the winter back home. Although there was one ride that I would probably rather forget. It involved going on a long ride in freezing cold ice rain to the point where we were shaking and turning blue only to return to find an e mail from Brett telling us a big storm was coming and we should ride the turbo instead. I think all the sunshine of Lanza was making us soft so it was good to be taken back down to earth with some good tough, unpleasant winter training. Perfect prep for UK 70.3 J