Elspeth Storrar is a keen cyclist and Personal Trainer who relocated to Palma de Mallorca from London six months ago after falling in love with the island and what it has so offer cyclists. She is midway through her training for the event and would like to share her story.
It is seven weeks now until Mallorca312 and the training I am doing is transforming me as a cyclist. I moved out to Mallorca six months ago after falling in love with cycling in the mountains. I remember visiting Mallorca as a teenager and feeling astonished by the determination of the cyclists in masses going up Sa Calobra, as my Dad negotiated the rental car down the mountain. I feel privileged to be one of those cyclists today. I can appreciate the suffering when climbing the mountains, but also the relief and glory as I conquer them. I am happy to have escaped the long antisocial hours that my job as a personal trainer posed in London and feel grateful I can do a job I love with this environment on my doorstep.
I focus a great deal on strength training in which I program to improve my cycling. I assumed that my performance would improve through just being here in Mallorca combines with my strength. So three months ago I did an FTP test and was shocked to see it was exactly the same as nine months ago. I came to realise what can I expect, my motivation for cycling had plateaued. Other commitments got in the way and I was not making time for the things that I love doing and that I want to improve on. I needed to up my game, so I entered Mallorca 312! The distance and elevation scares me, so does the 14 hour cut off time in which I need to complete it in. I feel that I need to really feel grateful experiencing such great cycling and also make use of the strength I have built up through hours of training in the gym each week. This fear combined with the confidence in my potential is something that is driving me to get out on my bike more and challenge myself to achieve great things.
"Whatever challenge you do, ensure training is appropriate for your goals and that you are consistent with it".
It has been a long time since I completed something so challenging. I used to run marathons and got quite fast, not through any knowledge, but just through sheer determination to improve my time. To me endurance sports are a solitary game of the mind. The winner is who can keep going for the longest in training and in competition. Generally it is the mind that often gives up first. I appear to be the other end of the spectrum, unfortunately my body shut down before my mind and I cannot run for long periods now for risk of fractures. I have learned the hard way, the importance of communication between body and mind. I have dedicated the last few years in understanding and respecting my body with effective training and nutrition.
Whatever challenge you do, ensure training is appropriate for your goals and that you are consistent with it. The difficult part is understanding how much stress through training your body can sustain consistently. Being strong and having good nutrition can help relieve some of the stress you put yourself through to improve. Your body can sustain prolonged training more effectively and recover more rapidly. I have learned that effective recovery is something that we all need, we are human after all. I see it a lot in myself and in clients, the need or desire to keep going and the confusion between rest and laziness.
I have loved seeing the process of my training for 312. I am still training regularly in the gym, but maintain the weights not progressing; it’s not my focus right now. But it is important to maintain strength and also helps my flexibility and posture after hours on a bike. To ensure I get regular training on the bike, I do five sessions a week on my turbo trainer following an online plan that is progressive towards my event. It can get quite boring at times, but I am confident it will help me on the road. It’s quick and I don’t have to think what to do, where to go or worry about the weather or daylight. It gives me time to do things in my life other than cycling. Plus I can get things done at the same time, like listen to podcasts, I am a woman, I can multitask! I find moving the trainer around gives a bit of inspiration too.
The best part about the training is that I am experiencing so many beautiful places around the island. At the weekends, I head outside and I feel so inspired moving and exploring new places after a week cycling stationary. As a result of regular trips to Sa Calobra the man in the café there now knows how I like my coffee and I have visited lesser know climbs such as to Betlem Monastery. I meet great people along the way, passionate about their love of cycling and the beautiful and challenging environment the island poses, whilst they leave the stresses of their work lives behind.
I have had and expected some darker times. Last week was tough, I died half way through my ride. I was peddling and just did not feel like I was moving. I was still 80km away from home. I could have given up and got the train home or taken a shorter route, but I stopped for some food and went on my way as planned. I reminded myself that I needed to get out my comfort zone to improve, I felt energised as I reached home. A sign that a lot of it is a mental game. Quite often I don’t feel like getting on that turbo trainer again, but I just get on with it. It’s paying off, in six weeks my measure of performance in my FTP improved by an astonishing 19 watts and I enjoyed my 230km ride more than ever this weekend, I learned from mistakes of last week and decided to incorporate more food stops.
Anyone keen to challenge themselves as a cyclist does not need to start with the full 312, there are shorter distances, as long as it is a challenge it will pose adventure and glory once accomplished. My first challenge as a cyclist was getting up the hill (without having to get off and walk) to my house as I commuted home, about 10 years ago now. I was not always fit. We can all set challenges to help improve our fitness, events are a great way to do so as the buss and energy of the other riders and supporters help get you round. I see it as a party to celebrate the hard work that has come before it. Motivation, planning, consistency and a little knowledge are the key ingredients needed to get you to achieve your challenge.
To find out more about Elspeth’s training visit www.coachelspeth.com or follow her journey on instagram @coachelspeth