I'm on my way home from Portugal where I've been training for the best part of 2 weeks. Mid flight and I'm sat between a casually dressed guy who's snoring and a business man with a large shiny Rolex. I've got compression socks on and it's roasting hot on the plane which is going to make landing in snowy UK an even bigger shock. I'm reading Thomas Dekker's book The Descent, it's inspired me to write another blog, it's been quite a while since i've last written something for the website.
It's been a busy winter so far, Ben Thomas Coaching has grabbed the interest of many new people which has resulted in a healthy number of new clients. I'm loving passing on my knowledge, motivating people and inspiring them to try new challenges.
I had a great November training, the weather was good, the trails were riding well and I enjoyed logging in 20 hour weeks on the bike with no pressure of having to do any structure. Gym training also resumed after a little break, the facilities at Castle Royle proving enormously useful over these months to complete gym strength and endurance training.
Training in December proved harder, various reasons attributed but it was tricky to make the progress I wanted. Searching for sponsors was a big distraction, it's always a stressful part of the year, it's great when everything falls into place but there's many months of work before that happens and when negotiations are still ongoing this late in the year it's all a bit crazy.
I had a great Christmas with my fiancee and our families and felt refreshed afterwards. Into January and things have started to fall into place again. I had some great training at home and i'm doing some structure again, I love the workouts, I love the pain and seeing the improvements week upon week. I then flew to Portugal where I stayed with my friend Charlotte, she has a place near Sintra. She's been raving about the riding here for so long and the opportunity existed to visit for a couple of weeks.
The training camp was the perfect place to finish the first month of structured efforts, log some long rides, climb some mountains and ride some great trails, all fuelled by new nutrition sponsor Veloforte. Sintra is packed with cyclists, any day of the week you'll see the uplift truck taking downhillers on their huge bikes to the top of the mountain. Some of the trails were pretty daunting, kamikaze was the name of one track, I didn't ride that one... Charlotte showed me her favourites, some with big scary natural rock gardens, jumps, drops, wooden bridges and switchbacks. I grew to like them by the end of my time there but they took some getting used to, we just don't have rocky trails like that at home. You can see all my rides on Strava.
One of my favourite trail was one called the Trilho da Pedra Branca, I finally felt like I was getting some speed up by the end of the trip although there was still one corner I struggled with. I managed to crash on this trail the last time I rode it, I came round a corner on any easy bit of the trail to see some people doing track maintenance in the distance. I was looking at them and didn't see a tree stump. The obstacle stopped me immediately and I fell on my side unable to unclip from the pedals, I had to be rescued by the people doing trail maintenance. They asked if I knew the trails. I didn't say it because I was so embarrassed but i'd probably ridden the trail 10 times in the past week and a half!
On the north side of the mountains there were some more fast flowing trails just like we have at home with big bermed corners, little drops and jumps, and lots of roots. I couldn't get enough of these trails. From either side of the mountains you can find a climb on or off road varying from 20 minutes to 40 minutes so there's plenty of training options. Riding from sandy beaches to mountain top using my new Rotor 2INpower to pace my workouts, finding a trail back down, and repeating became the order of the day. I'd train for 5 hours a day, then do coaching work until bed time, busy but productive and enjoyable.
The town of Sintra is one of Portugal's biggest tourist destinations famous for its palaces and castles, it's now a world heritage site. Tuck tucks wizz paying customers to the top of the mountain on the cobbled streets to see the Pena National Palace which was a royal sanctuary for a long time. On the south side of the mountains is the seaside town of Cascais with it's beautiful old town, sandy beaches and busy marina. I enjoyed exploring both locations on recovery days and with all this 30 minutes drive from Lisbon airport it could make for a great holiday location. At the end of the trip I was left thinking how I can persuade my fiancee to let me go back to Sintra in February but with a wedding to plan I'm not sure that'll happen. Especially as I'm away on training camp in March for over 2 weeks.
Right now I have a chilled (literally freezing) recovery week to catch up on some tasks at home and prepare for the next phase of training. Hope your training is going well, whether you're training in sunny climates, colder climates or on the turbo trainer be sure to set some goals, find your focus and start 2019 with motivation to make it the best year yet.