|Pic: Dave Haygarth|
I realised the other day that I'm lucky enough to have two 'cross mentors. They'd been there a while but I hadn't quite noticed the impact they were having for the good, on my 'cross endeavours.
Now I'm no elite athlete - I had some success with 'cross in the early 90s when a full time student, I mean athlete, winning quite a few local League races and getting a top 25 position at the Nationals - but although the results have significantly tailed off of late, 'cross is still my passion and I want to improve simply for improvements sake. A big gap in 'cross particpation from 1993 till a few years ago has meant a steep re-learning curve, as well as a bafflement as to why my body does not respond the way it used to. The first point is easy to document, the second is a little harder toe explain but that's for another day.
Anyways, I've been fortunate to hook up in recent years with the effervescent Dave Haygarth, who whilst nearly wrecking me many times with his superior fitness, technique and ability in countless training sessions together, has been kind enough to pass on much of his hard earned race-craft and technical skill to my benefit. Don't underestimate the value of riding and training with someone who is better than you, particularly if they share what they know. My ego crumbles at times but I bounce back, determined to get a little closer to him next time. And it's coming....
My other 'cross mentor is Greg May - a (not-for-long?) Dublin based exercise physiologist and coach with a no nonsense, slightly old skool approach backed up with heaps of science. Greg and his partner Pauline (a talented IronWoman) have been regular guests at mine on Greg's racing forays outside Ireland and during these trips, and between he has regularly passed on nuggets of training advice around intensity, structure, technique and a lot more.
Greg's approach can be summed up in this superb article on 'cross training. I won't repeat it in full - go read it for yourself - but a couple of bits jump out for me:
CX is not a pretty sport. If you don’t train in the suck you won’t be able to race in the suck.
'I can’t corner in mud' – Well no one can…you just get less bad at it. Practice...
Sometimes the best advice is the most simple - you can dig out an entire seasons success from that small article but better still, go find yourself a mentor, a training partner, a 'cross soulmate and learn together the only way there is - by getting muddy.