My fantastic coach Vicky Begg was kind enough to write about my progress in this guest post. I’ve been supported by her for the past 2 years. Vicky is a very supportive, positive and realistic coach, who helps me and others to achieve our goals, while reminding us about why we got into the sport in the first place- because it’s fun! Thanks to Vicky for her kind words and her support.
Here is what Vicky has to say:
Paula has been an inspirational young lady to coach. Originally from a non-sporting background, Paula has gone from strength to strength as both a triathlete and cyclist.
From learning ‘how’ to ride well and how to progress without (too many) injuries or illnesses, this has been a 3 year journey which will culminate this coming year with Paula’s attempt at the Round the World solo female record attempt.
Every individual has their challenges to face and Paula has successfully completed a PhD in Psychology along the way. Clearly for the majority of us, this would be a big enough challenge in itself, but seeing the PhD to its conclusion has been the light at the end of the tunnel allowing Paula to plan for this next big thing.
Much of my role recently has been to pester Paula about her plans, her finances, her sponsorship, her blog, her state of mind and any other thing I can think of that might be relevant to riding round the world.
What am I listening for?
Key words or indicators that let me know how Paula is feeling about this awesome task.
To be a part of this task is a responsibility. What is my experience of riding the world? Well, I haven’t done it. Does that matter? I really hope not. It’s not about me, it’s about Paula and it’s about what she can do.
Is riding over 200km a day within Paula’s abilities? I believe so. She believes so. The more of us who believe she can do it, the better. Strength from within, strength and support from those around and the confidence to keep going are more important than physiological evidence and ‘number crunching’. The fact remains that the literal challenge of completing this task and beating the current World Record requires physical stamina and a careful arithmetical sum based on hours in the saddle and km’s to cover.
What have we done to get Paula this far? Kept it interesting. Kept it real. Worried a bit about not putting in enough mileage. Worried a bit (quite a lot from my point of view) about safety. The world is different now to what it was, say 4 or 5 years ago. The numbers of transient and desperate people in the world are on the rise. This bothers me. Does it bother Paula? Not enough to stop her. And I certainly won’t dissuade her, that’s not my role.
Paula literally rides her bike a lot both indoors and outdoors; as often as she realistically can whilst working, living in Scotland (in winter) and trying to pull together sponsorship, equipment and make plans for her trip. We have to consider what is practical and this means literally looking at how many hours of free time Paula has and how many hours of good riding (light conditions and weather conditions) are available. Within this, we put together a varied programme of turbo training sessions (that’s the indoors sessions where you attach your bike to a static device and get sweaty in the living room) and an accumulative build of hours at the weekends. As the weather improves – which of course, it will – these rides will become more focused on outdoors riding and riding on subsequent days. If possible, Paula will include long weekends, a trip abroad and any other endurance or extended riding she can get her wheels into. Paula needs to ride in such a way that she conserves her energy, or rather, doesn’t deplete herself or tap into negative reserves. This is a difficult thing to get right.
Going back to the key words or indicators I mentioned earlier, here’s a little example of some feedback Paula had written following some long rides in Southern Spain,
“Starting those long rides is always the hardest for me. Thoughts like: ‘Why the hell am I doing this?’, ‘Maybe I could cut this ride short?’, ‘I can cut this short if I turn around at location X.’, ‘Ok let’s see how I feel when I get to location X’, ‘What!? I’ve been on the bike for aaages and have not even done 20 km.’, ‘I’m so slow!’, I’m only allowed to stop to take off my jacket or pee if I do 30km., ‘Oh I’m going to feel so lonely on my trip!’ So yes, in the mornings I’m never feeling particularly confident and I probably feel the loneliest.
Around the halfway point, I usually just think of what food I could have, where to get it, what I’ll do when I get to my destination or who to give a quick call when I get there. In general I feel a lot more confident about the ride that I’m doing, as well as my trip”
Words like, ‘confident’, ‘motivated’, ‘feeling’, ‘lonely’, ‘why?’, ‘what?’, ‘honesty’, these are all buzz words for me. If I can turn any negative comments associated with these words into positives, then I’m doing my job. I need for Paula to see the challenge and to see the solution (or a number of solutions) and to know that whatever the outcome is she won’t ‘fail’, she’ll just have to rethink and try again or find a better solution.
So, let’s all be believers. Just like Paula. Give her your support, whatever that means to you.