2020: Lockdown #1

To say that the world has gone to sh*t is probably an understatement. But that’s the best that my northern say-it-like-it-is potty mouth can muster, so it’ll have to do.

The UK’s first national lockdown of the the COVID-19 pandemic was formally announced on 23rd March, 48 hours after we were due to be on a plane to our annual DIY training camp in Lanzarote’s Sands Beach Resort. We have made it a FitzRobinson tradition to go there once a year for plenty of cycling, running, outdoor swimming and sun. Not to mention our last night tradition of a meat feast at La Bohemia (sorry vegans)! Obviously we were disappointed, but in the grand scheme of things there was something more important to focus on.

Cold water immersion “recovery” post ride – Sands Beach 2019

General Practice changed radically, with all patients receiving a telephone triage instead of being able to book directly to see a GP. We started working on a rota, so sometimes all my calls were done from home. Most people have been extremely grateful (and some have relished the chance to have a telephone or video consultation), but you do get the odd few who just don’t understand why things have had to change. I found the lack of control over the situation extremely distressing, and almost impossible to keep up with the constant emails about changes to services and new guidance. Work were brilliant and signed us up to an online wellbeing app which was lovely to have as a crutch. My work at the university went 100% online with teaching and assessments, and although it has been nice to be able to roll out of bed and go straight to work/grab a nice coffee on demand/do lunch hour exercise, it has also been very much death by PowerPoint.

The local gym/pool obviously closed its doors and our numerous events for the year have predictably one by one disappeared from the calendar. Some are moaning, but it’s very necessary, and besides, we’ll all drown in the swim at this rate! Rules about exercise have been somewhat open to interpretation, but we elected to exclusively cycle indoors and only run outdoors as a compromise – partly because preparing to run outdoors is much easier, and partly as the risk of injury/mechanicals is almost negated. Joe Public have on occasion been very fearful of being passed for a microsecond by someone trying to keep fit and sane, but we haven’t coughed in anyone’s faces and there has to be a balance between general caution and our sanity.

In April we got fed up of being stuck at home and not being able to swim, so I floated the idea of a backyard pool (I’ll get me coat :D) and surprisingly Paul thought it was a fab idea. We have a great little set-up with some adjustable bungee cords tethered to the extension wall, so that we can “swim” endlessly. It took a bit (OK a LOT) of practice to get the hang of it – it’s bloody hard work! But both of us progressed from managing around 30 seconds to over 10 minutes of continuous front-crawl and it’s *just* about deep enough to avoid puncturing the floor with our nails. It is a *tad* bracing though… wetsuits deffo required!!!

Back yard pool training

April also saw Paul set up a “virtual” cyclocross league for members of the Central Cyclocross League. Most cyclocrossers are more evangelical about “outside is free” riding (don’t even get me started on this – hashtag on social most likely to make my blood boil), so by virtue of this numbers weren’t huge, however for the 20 or so of us who lined up each week it was excellent Type 2 fun and something to look forward to each week. Riders were so grateful for our weekly vomit-inducing date that we all clubbed together and bought Paul some cycling goodies as a “thank you”. I maintain that all that thrashing myself to pieces was responsible for my highest FTP – 218 watts yes please!

Bike training goes fully indoors – Zwift

In May, I wanted a challenge to get my teeth into; so when a Facebook acquaintance mentioned a 12-week six-pack challenge, I threw caution to the wind and enrolled. I’ve had the hint of a four-pack before, but it involved a lot of eye of faith and squinting, and was usually the result of existing exclusively on salad. The regimen seemed OK – 3 meals and 3 snacks a day of low carb foods, plus 1 or 2 challenges mainly centring around HIIT. I won’t go into the ins-and-outs of the whole thing, but suffice to say I really regret taking it up. Whilst there was “support” from mentors and even the founder of the programme, there was no screening for people who were potentially unsuitable that I recall, I got way too thin too quickly, my bike power crashed and I couldn’t run my normal endurance pace without my heart rate going through the roof. After around 8 weeks I packed it in. Did I get a six-pack? Yes. Did I feel well? Absolutely not. Bravo to anyone who does well and feels well on it, but I would absolutely caution against anyone with a history of eating disorders to think twice about signing up.

Typical six-pack “snack”.

So there we go. Some highlights (virtual cyclocross racing, new FTP, making the neighbours think we’d put a dolphin in the back garden), some low points (work stress, huge amounts of screen time and therefore more migraines) and one big regret. But COVID-free, still training and working, so grateful.