Ruth Fisher: Taking on the Gran Fondo World Championships

 

In June, whilst recovering from Covid, I applied for the Vox Performance Project and was surprised and delighted to be selected. It felt like the year was telling me ‘go on, just have a go and see what happens’. I was keen to see what I could do with expert support from Precision Fuel & Hydration as I’ve always struggled with a sweet tooth, constant snacking and often lack of willpower over food so working with Supersapiens too and using a continuous blood glucose monitor would be really insightful! Zwift had been a game changer through the tedium and frustration of lock-down home-schooling; my son had even learnt to read three-digit numbers by understanding the power levels I needed to hit ‘Mummy, you need to work harder…!’ and my daughter loved designing my outfits for a race!

 

I joined a race team just before Covid hit and loved the thrill of my first crit race. I didn’t know how to corner fast, ride in a tight group, use the wind, race tactically etc. but I loved the feeling racing gave me. During 2021 I raced more crits, feeling stronger, until I took a hairpin in a race too fast and crashed, badly breaking my collar bone just before my A-race of that year. A winter of slow recovery and easy Zwifting followed and four months later I raced on the track I had crashed on to show myself I wasn’t going to be beaten. I felt determined that 2022 would be the year I pushed myself hard! 

 

Long winter rides, Zwift training and racing and a TRX strength programme really helped mental and physical rehab and in March I entered my first road race in the British Women’s Team Cup, a fast paced, narrow road, tight corned race which I loved! A few more races followed then I entered the Tour of Cambridge to try and qualify for the UCI World Gran Fondo Championships in Trento, Italy and did with a 3rd in my age cat and 5th overall! Starting the Vox Performance Project in August was great timing to really nail my race nutrition and hydration strategy for the race six weeks later. 

 

Chatting to Sean from PF&H really helped to work out my fuelling; he encouraged me to go up to 75 grams of carb per hour then up to 90 grams/hr for Trento, higher than the 60 grams/hr I’d previously used. He explained the importance of sodium loading and chatted through nutrition options for Trento, in a race I wasn’t too sure how long it would take me (144km, 3900m elevation). 

 

I mentally prepared for the race by matching the elevation of 3900m doing local hill reps with my teammate; a tough day in the summer heatwave but we did it, job done! A road race also during the heatwave allowed me to thoroughly test out the PH1500 electrolyte tabs; pre-loading before and during the race and to experiment with the PF 90 gels with the bite valves – a fantastic combination that massively reduced the sticky hand/face/gel down the leg effect that ripping the top off a gel badly can create! I found the PF&H gels gave me no GI issues and loved the neutral tasting gel and my energy levels stayed high. 

 

Planning my nutrition and hydration strategy for the race in such detail was a new process; how much water v. weight to carry on the ascents, which aid stations to stop at, what to eat on the ascents and descents and doing this all unsupported. The planning helped me feel ready!

 

I pre-loaded with bircher muesli, almond milk and peanut butter and a coffee 4hr before the race, banana and 500ml with PH1500 electrolyte 1hr before the race, and a caffeine gel on the start line. 90g gel and 1l of water with beta fuel on the first ascent, a caffeine gel reward on the two summits, waffle or cereal bar bites on the descents/flatter parts and used two water stations to refill bottles, adding beta fuel and PH 1500 into bottles. 

 

The race was beautiful; very long ascents, fast flowing descents and surreal to be surrounded by so many riders from across the world. It was incredibly tough and the hardest race I’ve done! The fuelling and hydration plan was spot on!

 

 

Getting to the finish line at Trento was more than just finishing the race, it was a celebration of the highs and lows of the last year! From sitting in an A&E waiting room in my skinsuit and a badly fractured collarbone, to getting back on my bike and battling with the cornering demons as I returned to racing. I felt huge personal pride going from my first road race to my first GB race, six months and seven road races later! The laughs and immense support from my teammates Ella and Jo, and the memories we’d made will last forever. I loved showing my children too what you can achieve when you want it!

 

 

Getting back home, I was straight into my next challenge; an international move to Colorado with my family, which was both exciting and daunting! More about that in my next blog…Thank you for reading my blog this month. Huge thank you to the Vox Performance Project for seeing something in my story and supporting me. I’m so grateful and excited to learn more from Supersapiens, Precision Fuel & Hydration and Zwift as I continue this journey and learn more about myself.

Happy riding!

Ruth

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