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Read Lichaba's story below.
Training. That’s a word I used to hate. Probably because I was still young and yet I was doing my training alone which meant I had to think of all the questions while I was riding. Which way should I go today? Am I pushing myself hard enough?
Dig Deep coaching laid the foundation for me while Ciara MacManus gave me the plans and all I had to do was follow the instructions to build myself up to prime condition. I was given well-structured training blocks that I found easy to understand and were well within my limits but I would have to push hard to complete some of the tougher sessions. I started the program while I was still in Wales but I did not like going out onto busy roads or in the rain so the majority of my training was done on my indoor trainer. I thought it was still doing me some good as I felt stronger each time I ended up going to the MTB trails (mainly at Cwmcarn). This wasn’t the case however, as when I arrived back in Lesotho I was the slowest in the team even behind our junior rider and far behind the leaders.
I still kept with the program and was periodically joined by my U23 teammate/friend on my training rides but the majority of the time I was still training alone. I felt my weakest point was hill climbs (something I used to consider my greatest strength as a youth) and I knew the cause of the problem. I had been spending my time on and indoor trainer which had no climbs. I told Ciara about my weakness and she made sure to tailor in some hill interval into my training. I also found myself scared to do downhill technical sections that I used to be the fastest at and often opted to walk down instead. So within my training blocks I always made sure I could go to a route that would either help me push on my uphill strength and my technical skills. My teammates soon said they could see I was getting much better at hill climbs.
I continued to push hard towards my goal of doing well at a big MTB marathon race that I had my eyes set to. During my long training rides (3h30-4h) I could really feel myself being strong and was very pleased with my progress. The week before that race the team went to a race in South Africa and our best rider (Monese) became ill. He still raced hard and was in the lead group for a long time while I was behind (3rd in my team) pushing to get to two riders in front of me as a couple of riders were drafting behind me. After reaching the two riders I decided to rest a bit as I was tired but soon afterwards the group put me in front to lead again (I guess they felt like I was the strongest) this was a bad decision for me as I was quickly getting tired and nobody wanted to come and pull so the pace kept getting slower and slower. Then I realised the group took me by surprise going to the other side of the road and pushing hard so I couldn’t keep up. I kept pushing as hard as I could though and still had them in my sights but not close enough to catch up for about 20km before the cramps started to catch up to me. I had to slow down and let them get ahead of me and then, after a while, I got a huge surprise as I saw Monese coming up the road the other side from me. This gave me the strength to ride harder and not too far behind him I saw our second rider Teboho. I was lucky that a group of riders caught up to me so I could work with them to push hard and was going at a good speed. The group was broken at the last water point as some stopped while other decided it was a good time to push as hard as they could and I ended up getting caught in the middle. So I was alone again but still feeling much stronger that I could have hoped at this point in a race so I was pushing hard and soon went “flying” past Monese (as he put it) and kept up a good pace till the finish where I wasn’t too far from the first group I was in which Teboho managed to get himself into. Afterwards I felt really pleased with my performance in that race and it was the first time I had beaten Monese in a race.
After that I got a flu and so I did not have the energy to race in the big Lesotho race but I was still pleased with the race before. The flu stuck with me for about 3 weeks making me lose a lot of fitness but after that I started to get strong again with my eyes on the National Cross country Championships. Unfortunately I got the flu again a week before that and I was so bad on the day of the race I could only complete half a lap. This meant I had one last chance to prove myself, the Marathon Championships. The route was still TBD so I couldn’t do anything but while I had the flu I decided to take an easy day and just explore a new route that I might train on. Then as I was going along I realised this was a great route and I pushed for it to be the National Marathon Championships route. I don’t know if it was fortunate or unfortunate that the Lesotho Cycling Association had to send most of its members to a Coaches and Commissures training course for 10 days so they didn’t have time to find/prepare a course. This meant my course was obviously favoured as there would be no time to find another one. I tried to get the last Lesotho Cycling Member to help me by riding the course and then marking it together the week before. He was busy though with another race that he was marking and was to take place the weekend before. I decided to participate in the race but then before the race briefing all of my cycling buddies kept warning me that he has a reputation of making the worst marking and liking the marking to a “treasure hunt”. Some of them had ridden general route before and it was the 3rd year the race had been done so from the contending riders I was in the most unfortunate position of being the only one who hadn’t done the race before. I just assumed it wouldn’t be that bad though and went on. I soon got lost a couple of times and got called back as there would be corners with no markings whatsoever and so I would have to waste energy turning back and catching up with the others again. Soon enough I felt cramps coming up so I decided to take it easy and I would push hard later on. Probably the worst decision as I soon got horribly lost and when I did find my way back to the course I was far behind so I took it easy. Turns out most people got lost too and I somehow ended up fifth.
I arranged to meet up with the Member on Tuesday (as he had spray paint) to ride the course and mark but he did not show up and so I did I quick ride of the short course to measure the distance. Wednesday waited all day for him then went out at 3pm with a bunch of stickers as I had no spray paint (bearing in mind it gets dark at 6 and I had no light for going on the road). I did a bit of the course but had to go back as it was getting dark. On Thursday I went with a fellow teammate around town to hardware stores looking for paint but after about 15 stores we gave up and went to mark the rest of the course with stickers which took us about 6 hours. Friday, (day before the race) still no signs of the member but my teammate ended up finding some spray paint after we left the course so we started marking with that and after a while the member caught up with us and was riding the course for his first time. He liked it. This took us 6 hours to do even though we wanted to spend it as a rest day for the championships tomorrow. I was upset that it had turned out like that but was still determined to do my best as it was the last race in Lesotho
Race Day, I kept myself calm and did my warm ups as everybody else was waiting near the start/finish area for cable ties. I told myself I would push hard from the start (not quite a sprint as I knew I was the best starter in the country but I usually used a lot of energy if I sprinted too hard.
Go! I quickly found myself in the lead and eased off a bit but still pushed hard enough that I was started to make a gap from the start. Monese kept with me and we kept exchanging places at the front. Soon enough we had quite a big lead and kept increasing it. We quickly got into a rhythm and he would be pushing hard on the uphills and straights while I would go in front on the technical downhills as I was much faster and knew the best routes. After about 2-5km we could not see anyone as we looked behind but made sure we kept that pace as we were still feeling strong. 15km in and we were able to take it easy to recover but also keep pushing hard to make sure nobody could get us in our sights. We were also able to converse a bit.
Then it happened. Around 25km I was in the lead on a technical section but I felt my back wheel spongy so after getting to the bottom I stopped and noticed I had a puncture on my sidewall and had no plugs. My CO2 pump wasn’t working well either and I quickly wasted my two bombs and had to wait a while for the next rider to show up. Another teammate, he gave me his pump and what was left in his bomb but the air just kept going out of the side wall. I took some sticks from the ground and tried to plug the hole with them but even with the sticks in air was coming out. Next rider comes up and its another teammate who gives me his pump and same thing again so I decided to call it quits and just walk to the next water point via a shortcut.
Although I didn’t finish the race I had had fun and could see how much progress I had made thanks to Dig Deep Coaching. I also got lots of praise afterward about how good the route was and how well it had been marked so I was happy that people appreciated the work I had been doing over the last few days leading to the race. Overall I was really happy with the progress I had made with Dig Deep Coaching as I had gone from a turtle to a racehorse. Being able to keep up with the strong climbers while pushing them hard on the Technical downhills and altogether enjoying my racing experience much more than when I was unfit.