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Paul Jackon: Race Across Italy Update

Following on from last month’s blog, the official route for Race Across Italy (RAI) has now been confirmed and although the route is very different from previous years the distance is the same at 480 miles with just over 40,000ft of climbing. The goal remains the same though and that’s to complete in under 34 hours and get the qualification for Race Across America.

Training is going well and Gareth my coach has been busy working out the best way to prepare me and to get me in the best possible shape for this unique event. This is the fourth year that I’ve had my cycling coaching with Gareth and we’ve worked well together in the past for 12 and 24 hour events but the preparation for an event such as The RAI is new to both us and involves a bit of thought to get the best out of my training surroundings. We’re paying particular attention at the moment to my climbing strength and technique and this is something that we need to get a bit creative with as my home of Guernsey is only 23 square miles in area and the longest hill takes around 4 minutes to climb. I’m currently doing split rides at the weekends where I’m doing them partially on the road and partially on the turbo. It’s not ideal but we’re working with what we have in the best way possible and doing it this way also gives me the opportunity to get a feel for quickly swapping between the two different bikes as I’m using the road bike to simulate climbing on the turbo and the TT bike on the road which is similar to what we plan to do in the race where I can swap between the road bike for climbing and TT bike for flat sections.

The other aspect of training we’re focusing on is time in the saddle (or TiTS as it’s become known). Any time spent off the bike is time lost so I need to train body and mind to get used to long periods in the saddle and to develop coping strategies on how to get through the times that will inevitably come when I want to step off of the bike. We’re progressively building up the duration of my longer rides at the weekends and I expect this will continue up until March. The Guernsey climate and the fact that it’s an island gives us slightly milder winters than mainland UK which means frost and ice on the roads is a rare occurrence and the likelihood of snow is very slim so this aspect of the weather doesn’t really affect training here. On the flip side of that it does seem like wind and rain are constant training companions at this time of year and there are many occasions where we have to keep clear of the coast roads during the winter months due to high winds and tides.

From a coach/rider perspective we’ve had a good solid couple of training blocks and I’ve managed so far to avoid all the coughs and colds which seem to be prolific at this time of year and invariably interrupt training. Midweek training is usually on the turbo and is a mixture of high intensity sets and strength building, nothing longer than an hour and a quarter as the longer rides at the weekends tend to take their toll and I need time to recover from them and to make sure I’m in decent shape for the next weekend’s rides. That said, it’s important to maintain the high end sessions as they help to build my strength endurance. It would be easy to just do the long steady miles but that’s not an efficient use of time and doesn’t help to build power and speed.

The coach/rider relationship is definitely a two-way one and as much as I rely on Gareth providing me with a plan and his daily feedback on sets I’ve completed, he also relies on my feedback following each session to allow him to monitor how I’m feeling and what I think is working and what isn’t working, this allows him to be more effective in setting my sessions in the coming weeks and is essential when we live as far apart as we do. He gives me sets that he knows I hate (high cadence work….what’s that all about?!!) and I complete them knowing that although it’s a partnership, he’s in the driving seat as far as my coaching goes. It also helps that there is a good deal of “banter” between us and that we share a similar sense of humour.

As usual I’d like to thank everyone who is helping me with the opportunity to race in Italy and to prepare for it, Matt Bottrill Performance Coaching, Ian Brown’s Cycles, Vanguard Power, HSS Hire, Endura and Cyclon UK

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