As I sit here on the train watching the Spanish countryside pass, I reflect on my first week in Girona and my first 2.5 weeks in Spain. Where am I going on the train? To the Barcelona airport for my first race, Giro di Sardengna (Italy), starting tomorrow, February 23.
What have I learned? Well, I know that learning or knowing the Spanish language would be incredibly helpful! Nonetheless I have managed to get by. At camp in Calpe I was fortunate enough to not need much else besides what was given to me at camp. We woke up, went to the cafeteria, trained, relaxed, ate, repeated. Calpe was a great time, a good introduction to Spain and a good learning experience. We had good accommodations, great training and I really felt like I became more integrated into the team. I never felt excluded, but I certainly felt as if I got to know my teammates/staff much better and they knew me better. That is certainly something very important for this sport. You can’t be a member of a team and feel like an outsider. Feeling as if you belong is a necessary component to your success.
At camp I also learned that jet leg can kick your butt and although you might not feel like you are doing much work when training with the group, you may actually be doing more than you think. I have not really ever experienced jet leg that I know of for sure. I am certain that my travels to Ghana and New Zealand provided me plenty of jet leg, but those were in my younger years… so I didn’t feel the effects so much! I don’t think I suffered too bad at camp, but as I arrived in Girona this last week, I felt quite tired and realized I needed more rest. What I learned about training with the group is that although I felt as though I was slacking pretty much the entire time except when I was on the front, the sheer volume/distance of the training was still taking a toll on me. It was a bit frustrating actually. By the end of camp, my legs were sore and I couldn’t figure out why. I really felt like I hadn’t done much work besides those couple workouts/tests, which were not incredibly taxing. But as I said, I think a combination of jet leg and volume of training, which I hadn’t been doing because I was riding with more intensity prior to camp, were certainly taking a toll on my legs. I left camp feeling tired, but knowing it was a great week of training and team building.
I arrived in Girona on Monday afternoon knowing very little of the area or Spain in general for that matter. Thankfully I had a few experienced teammates with me who helped me to figure some stuff out. My housing situation here in Girona is nice. I am staying a little outside of the city, which is nice although sometimes more inconvenient. Obviously I can’t just walk or ride my bike in for groceries or for a coffee, etc. Still the set up is nice and everything has been pretty easy going. The riding has been wonderful. I have seen some beautiful country and enjoyed some great training, as well as a few days of feeling like I am dragging a semi. This week has actually been a good lesson for me in learning to listen to my body. An incredibly important part of this sport is knowing your body and learning what it is telling you. Your body is the only true measure or “device” that can tell you how you feel. No power meter or heart rate monitor or coach for that matter can tell you exactly how you are feeling. Only what you feel while on/off your bike tells you how you are. There are many factors which influence this: training volume/intensity, diet, sleep, etc. so you have to do your best to monitor those (the controllable). For me I think I have never paid very close attention to all these, opting to ignore them as signs of potential weakness or excuses, but I am slowly learning that the saying “rest is as important as work/training” is very true. There are certainly times when you need to push through but there is great value in learning when you need to listen to the signs.
This week I experienced the “rest adage” first hand. I was struggling with my rides and felt as though I simply had to push too hard to ride my bike, I just wasn’t feeling it. I tried an interval workout and although it went ok, it didn’t feel like it should have. Normally I will finish a workout and feel good for the ride home or tired, but still fine for the ride home, this time I just didn’t want to ride. I thought about the factors and realized that all the travel compounded with camp compounded with more travel and stress was certainly affecting me. I made a decision to postpone my long ride with threshold intervals for the next day and rest instead. And although hindsight is 20/20, I would say it was a great decision. I had a great ride the day after rest and felt as though my legs were returning to me. The last thing I wanted to do was go into my first race drained and set myself up for a miserable week and dig a bigger hole to try and climb out of. So I guess I learned to listen to my body.
Ok, enough “philosophizing” for me. Boring stuff. As I said I am on my way to my first race. I am a bit nervous, but I think that is probably natural. I will report as the race goes. An update: I FOUND SALSA! It is only Ortega or Ol’ El Paso or something like that, but in a pinch it might do. I am still in search. I actually found a sauce/salsa I like, so I might be ok!
Oh, one other thing I found about Girona that is awesome is the farmers market(s). I experienced the one on Saturday which was probably the biggest and coolest market I have been to. It was in a big park in town and had probably a miles worth of stands offering everything from clothing, to pots/pans, to watches, to food. And they have a huge variety of food stands with fruits, veggies, candies, breads, meats. It is awesome. Supposedly this market takes place on Tuesday as well and then on Thursday there is a similar market held in a different part of town. Pretty sweet stuff.
Briefly, yesterday I did my first ride to the coast and it was sweet. The beaches are nice looking and I can’t wait to see the business of those beach/coast towns in the summer. And as usual the towns seemed to have nice character with many small shops and cafes to stop for a bit to eat or a coffee. Alright, I am out. Check back later!