‘War Stories’ are moments in your life that stay in the mind for years to come. They are often centred around an unforgettable experience (which is not always memorable for entirely good reasons) and serve as something to learn valuable lessons from. So, for this thread, we’d love to hear your ‘War Stories’ in cycling. I’ll start with a couple of mine that stick in the mind particularly vividly…
For riding outdoors, there are two episodes in particular. The first was a 300km charity ride I did in 2018. I had never ridden that distance before and, 6 hours into the 10 hour ride, realised I had got my pacing and fuelling wrong. I hit the point where I was starving, devoid of energy, yet too full of food to physically eat anything else. So, I resorted to having double espressos with two sugars at every café I passed on the way home as I crawled through the final few hours. This all happened because my route had most of the hills in the first 160km and I went up them too hard (above lactate threshold 1) so used carbs rather than fat. For a ride that distance, it’s impossible to consume enough carbs without a lot of gastrointestinal training - which I hadn’t done. I also ate all my carbs as solids rather than liquids so consumed too great a volume. These were lessons I learned and put into practice for another 320km charity ride I did last year, which was far more successful.
My second outdoors War Story was Stage 2 of the Tour of Bihor in Romania. I underestimated how hot it would be (40 degrees with high humidity). A combination of dehydration and a less than ideal dinner and breakfast beforehand (cheesy pasta, then deep fried cheese and red peppers) led to some dodgy stomach side effects. I nearly missed the start thanks to an unforeseen desperate need to visit the toilet which although left me significantly lighter than before, I also had no energy whatsoever. Fortunately, the stage was only 100km long. Unfortunately, it was a summit finish of about 1200m. Thanks to not keeping food down, I couldn’t push out any power on the climb so finished well down on the stage winner, one Ivan Sosa now riding for Ineos. The lesson learned? Heat adaptation training is extremely beneficial for hot events, as is making sure that you have nutrition that you are used to and that you know works for you.
The indoor War Story was a more recent one. After a bit of time off after the Tour of Britain last year, I got back to training 7 weeks later. I decided to go in for a lighter session, SUF Idol. It’s only 30 minutes after all so how bad could it be? However, I failed to adjust my 4DP metrics at all after 7 weeks off and, for a session with a fair bit of MAP/VO2max focus, this was not ideal. VO2max has been shown to drop as much as 7% after just 12 days of inactivity, with a further 9% or so after another month or two off. The first few efforts were fine, but then my heart rate refused to go down during the recoveries. I needed to stop after each of the final 3 efforts and very nearly threw up twice. I spent the rest of the day feeling like a bulldozer had run over my legs and lungs. After a couple of weeks, I felt normal again on the bike, but for the future I will be dropping down my 4DP metrics and power zones to a sensible percentage when starting training again after a period of inactivity.
So, what War Stories do you all have to share and what lessons have they taught you?