If I’m honest, I’d forgotten I’d entered the competition for the Vox Performance project. It seemed like a bit of an overreach at the time. Then of course when I got an email saying something along the lines of “Congratulations, you’ve won…” in the subject line I did what any normal human would have done and shuttled it straight to the trash folder. So I was a little late to the party, needing a phone call to convince me this was the real deal.
I’ve been riding bikes for a good few years now, whenever and wherever I can. It’s my down time, my adrenaline rush, and my recipe for good mental health. It’s not particularly easy finding the time or resources to dedicate to serious training when you’re a full time working single mum keeping two heads above water in the notoriously spicy London rental market – but people have given generously of their expertise and old bike bits and I have learned a lot about building and maintaining my own kit. One might think I could have chosen a sport that was less of a money pit – perhaps running? Or some wholesome yoga? But you can’t fly down the side of a mountain approaching 50mph on a yoga mat, unless I’m really missing a trick, and my heart knows what it wants.
I did ok, joined a club (Brixton cycles, I salute you) and I’ll be back in the 2022 racing with the Bs. Slightly bigger thighs are not going to cut it and if I want to stay competitive I need to train both harder and smarter. I can work the harder bit out for myself but smarter? That’s where the Vox Performance Project has stepped in. Hopping on the turbo and getting full access to the brilliant Zwift workouts has really enabled me to target my training and step up the intensity – it’s my only access to a power meter and also my only access to a visual distortion screen effect that sympathises with you when you’ve been riding in zone 7 for two minutes and think you might die of it. Precision Fuel & Hydration pulled a double miracle by not only helping me to work out my sodium intake requirements but also by providing to me the first gel in history that has not made me instantly want to puke when working hard.
The Supersapiens glucose monitors have given me a real insight to what’s going on when I’m resting, training and racing. Turns out I run naturally really low levels of glucose (vampire?) and by not understanding that, I had been drastically under fuelling all the time. I don’t think this is a particularly unusual occurrence for women athletes – I grew up at a time and in an environment where sport was sold to us as a means of losing weight, ‘burning fat’ and generally taking up less space. But what I want, and why I cycle, is to feel happy, free, completely at home in myself – and to absolutely CRUSH the opposition. And for that, my muscles need fuel and so, so much more of it than I had been providing previously. Sorry gals, I repent, have some glucose.
It feels like I’m still at the start of this journey and I won’t truly see the results until, well, I see my results at HHV, but learning how to fuel for both endurance and sprint efforts, thinking about preparation and recovery in the same detail as I was thinking about events, and planning fuelling and hydration into my training strategy have all had a very significant positive effect very quickly. Thanks for sticking with my first blog, expect another, more panicky one as the race season approaches and catch up with what I’m doing in the meantime on instagram @hannahraealton.