2018 is going to be a very strange year for me. There is one big item looming, and it’s going to have impacts across the board. While the rest of the world is focused on a wedding in May, key thing for me is to turn up to Hurley in October...mainly for Gill’s sake.
In the cycling area, I’m now a relegatable rank (in that if I don’t perform to a certain level this year, I get knocked back down to a lower category on the 1st December 2018). I’ve never had that pressure before, and I’m keen to demonstrate myself as a reliable 2nd Cat rider, not a yo-yo’er who cannot hack higher levels.
Finally, it will have been 5 years since we bought the house in Addington Gardens. The fiscal world is in the process of changing, and we’ll need to re-mortgage with a view to stability in the next 5 years.
Where there are specific deadlines and targets, I’ve bolded them up. Some are more general rules for the year, but may gain some specific dates later on.
1) Retain 2nd Category License
I need to score 25 points...the actual deadline is by the 31st November, however with the wedding in mind, and the slight incident last year which left me in a cast for 7 weeks, I will need to stop racing by the end of July really.
Last year I was racing as part of a team (the GS Henley ORRL Team)...this year I’ll be mainly flying solo, as I’m no longer eligible for ORRL (it’s for 3rd and 4th Car riders only. I’m the only 2nd Cat rider in GS Henley). I know plenty of other riders, and so will have some “frenemies” in races, however I’ll need to adapt my racing tactics to account for not having support in the pack. I also won’t have the same selection of races generally, and most races I do will pit me against full-time/semi-professional riders. Scoring points will be harder generally. I’ve had some remarkable early season success, with 8 points/2nd place in a local crit race (I was beaten by a chap called Jake Hales, who was the top-ranking domestic rider in the UK in 2017, to give you an idea about what I’m up against). I’ve also had a 5th place, for another 5 points...so somewhat surprisingly I’m halfway to keeping my license before 2018 has even started!
2) Top 5% in Closed Road Sportives
Only got one planned this year...RideLondon at the end of July. This will effectively be the end of my pack-riding events for the year, and will mark the transition from racing to riding.
3) Avoid the Performance Dip
I’ve spent the last quarter of 2017 living reasonably healthily...certainly not a monk-like existence, but I’ve been calorie-counting, and keeping a focus on macro-nutrients as I did a 10-week fitness program. What tends to happen once racing kicks off in April is that routine goes out the window, and I slowly lose fitness as I eat badly, sleep poorly due to late nights, and start to miss training sessions through fatigue. With a shorter race season next year, I need to keep very focused on maintaining my fitness and strength into the end of July...there is also a ego part to me that wants to turn up to the wedding in good shape, before relaxing on the honeymoon.
I’ve identified a few specific areas I can focus on to help with this;
a) Weight and Nutrition
When I’m calorie-counting, I tend to plan my food more, and eat better. In 2018 I want to be a “prepper”, and have healthy food to hand. As a general rule, the less planned food is, the worse it is for you. I have a good idea of what I need to eat, I just need to ensure that suitable food is around. Part of this is good shopping, the other half is ahead-of-time food preparation. Early in 2018 (January/February) I’m going to have some new plug sockets installed in the kitchen on some currently unused work surface, and then buy a slow/pressure/electric multi-cooker. We have 2 freezers, and I’ll endeavour to have a good supply of meals always available.
I need to eat more protein...one thing that has come out from calorie-counting and the food diary is that I don’t eat enough (as a general rule of thumb it’s 1g per kg of body weight per day for maintenance, and intense exercise puts that upto 1.2-2g per kg a day). A lack of protein leads to muscle degradation, and fatigue. I need to be eating 100-120g of protein a day.
b) Follow the Training Plan
When fatigue creeps in, one of the first things to suffer is the training. When I feeling good, and eating well, I can jump on the bike and smash out a great training set...however if I’m tired and worn out then it’s easy to say to myself “I can skip this one”. One becomes two, and suddenly you’re sliding off a fitness cliff, and motivation goes straight down (a similar thing happens with injury and illness, though again the primary cause of that is going off-plan, and probably overdoing it). Realistically, once you’ve started your body will wake up, and you can get it done. In June this year I started skipping sessions, and if anything my fatigue levels increased. This year I need to be much stricter with myself. Nutrition and sleep can help, but ultimately I need to get the training done. What’s the point in paying for a coach if you ignore his guidance?
c) Build to 2019
Once I hit the end of July, I almost need to start thinking about the 2019 season. In a good scenario I’ll be patting myself on the back at retaining my 2nd Cat license, and looking forward to doing it all again. The bad scenario is that I’ve failed to hit 25 points, and I’ll be back to racing 3rd Cat races. Either way, the final quarter of this year has made me realise that I can do great things in the early winter, and I should be looking to do that again. Once I’m back off Honeymoon (end of October) I want to do a hard, 8-week build program in the same vein as this year.
4) Discover 4 new authors
Failed at this one in 2017. I have a few holidays (sort of, 2 of them may be training camps), and I want to try and assign a new author to each one as a baseline. This will mainly involve looking through Amazon, and various book reviews for something that triggers my interest. One downside to digital media (across the board really...music, games, books etc) is that there is a lot more noise, and less curation. I need to dig through the crud, and find some good stuff that keeps me hooked.
5) Complete 2 games of reasonable size
Based on my gaming experiences in 2017, I think I need something with a storyline of about 10-15 hours length. On a console I really dislike FPS controls, far prefer Third Person. Nothing sandbox-y, or with pointless RPG elements bolted on. No loot-boxes, microtransactions etc etc. I also need something that can be played in 1-2 hour chunks, as I realistically can’t dedicate time to long play sessions.
I could look up PC games as well (which would offer up FPS games, as well as sims), however it’s quite nice to chill on the sofa of an evening. I may look at setting up a mouse/keyboard option on the sofa if I’m struggling in Summer...
6) Have Good Finances
Last year was about saving, however next year is about paying for the wedding. We’ve already committed and laid out a fair sum, and while we are planning to keep it all under control, there is still a lot of money that needs to be ring-fenced.
a) Meet all targets to October 2017
I have a fairly in-detail financial plan for the next 2 years, and if I hit all the goals in that then in theory everything should be fine. We want to maintain the recommended “3 months” financial buffer for unexpected situations, and also need to assume the wedding expenses will shift somewhat, as not all suppliers have been nailed down yet.
b) Remortgage, and reduce the length of the mortgage
Our fixed rate mortgage expires in August, so I’m going to start investigating options from February onwards. The house has increased in value significantly, and in theory we should be able to get a good deal based on percentage we now have, which we will use to reduce the length of the mortgage (overpayment would achieve the same thing, but would be extra admin as the default result is a reduction in payment value, not number of payments). I want to have this sorted earlier rather than later...I’ll probably use the same mortgage advisor as last time, as she did a really good job...however she cannot work with some mortgage companies (most notably HSBC, who Gill and I bank with). Ideally this will be done by June.
c) Maintain the savings buffer
When we first started discussing the wedding, we agreed on a minimum amount of money we should retain in savings (the “3 months” value above). As it stands, we will be sailing close to the wind a few times this year as large payments come out (most notably the final payments due 6-8 weeks beforehand). With sufficient planning, I would like to ensure we never dip below that minimum threshold throughout the year...though realistically after September we should be OK.
Next year will be less about variety, and more about one very large project...the wedding cake. I’m also going to be doing favors.
I have an outline plan...a cupcake tower (~120 cupcakes), with a 20cm topper cake for cutting. The cupcakes will be 4-5 different flavours...some nailed down, some a bit up in the air. The topper will be a half’n’half cake done in a Hungarian dobos torte style of layers.
Ultimately, this is a logistics exercise. 120 cupcakes is 5 oven runs (24 cakes at a time), followed by a lot of icing and decorating. The flavours I have nailed down are;
- Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Coffee and Walnut with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Strawberry and Vanilla with buttercream frosting
- Chocolate (not fully defined here yet) with chocolate frosting
Options for the 5th one are;
- Sticky Toffee Pudding
- Savoury Pies
In terms of decoration, it should be immediately obvious what you have. The flavours will be on full display, and that will be key in determining which final flavour is brought in. I’ll be finalising the flavours in the first 3 months of the year, and then focusing on refining recipes, and working out a baking plan for 2-3 days before the wedding. The pies is a bit of a left-field entry, however I do quite like the idea of some small pork-pie’esque entries in there, and the presence of pies does have some meaning for me.
If that’s not enough, I’ll also be doing favours. 2 options here, with a chance I’ll do both.
Fudge is the easy option...it can be done a couple of weeks in advance, and can be done in volume very easily. I had one look at buying some, laughed at the price companies charge for it (£1 - £1.20 a portion...where 3 bits is a portion. I’ve costed mine up, and it’s 4p a bit), and committed to doing it myself! The biscuit option is more involved, and while I have some ideas, I haven’t yet tried any, so will hold off on determining these as yet. Again, trials will happen in the first 3-4 months of the year, and then logistics will be planned in.
Moving all this on the day will be “fun”. On the plus side, I can drive now (sort of), however I’ll need to plan a route from the house to the venue. The default route goes through Burchetts Green, with some of the worst speed bumps you’ll ever see...not what you want when you have 120~ cakes in a car!
8) Get Married
The actual day should be quite easy. Turn up, speak, forget everyone’s name and try not to kill anyone. I think about 90% of the attendees will be Gill’s family, and it’s very much for her and them...I’m really just an extra. That said, I’m quite keen to try and avoid as many traditions as possible...I suspect this attitude will be the cause of many arguments between Gill and myself in the next 9 months. The big challenge is the planning in the lead-up. Apparently I have to wear trousers??! All day?
It will be a big paradigm shift for me, I am quite looking forward to the holiday afterwards though...