I’ve just gone the whole of January without a single drop of booze. Now I need to decide whether to celebrate ‘passing’ Dry January by drinking the fridge dry or whether to use the learnings from the last 31 days to become a better-educated drinker who makes better choices when it comes to booze and cycling. And who knows, become a better cyclist and even a better person?
How it started
In mid December 2022, I joined the UAE Team Emirates pre-season training camp in La Nucia, Spain for the launch of the Colnago V4RS (opens in new tab).
In the ‘good old days’ we cycling journalists used to get wined and dined in five-star hotels just for the launch of a training tyre. It was considered one of the perks of the job. But this time we were only offered water – the same as Pogacar and co. There was no alcohol allowed anywhere and that went for all team personnel and not just the riders.
So at Alicante airport on the way back, I grabbed a litre of export-strength Bombay Sapphire. Home and free from the UAE prison camp, where les forçats de la route (the convicts of the road) was a reality, I downed strong G&Ts for the next few nights.
The units stacked up even more as the countdown to Christmas began.
My Garmin Epix smartwatch (opens in new tab) didn’t like it. My heart rate variability (opens in new tab) dipped alarmingly from green ‘balanced’ into orange ‘unbalanced’, and then descended into the hellfire-like red warning triangles of ‘low’.
Meanwhile my training status became ‘strained’. My sleep score plummeted. If the Garmin was to be believed, I was in a bad way. I was feeling dreadful and was training just to make myself feel normal again.
But it wasn’t just that month of bingeing that made me take a hard look in the mirror at my exhausted, ashen face on that cold, flat New Year’s Day. It’s a bit more complicated than that. Although I wouldn’t class myself as a heavy drinker I don’t stick to the NHS-recommended limit of 14 units per week and for the last few years I’ve never knowingly taken alcohol-free days.
It sounds like a contradiction, but for me alcohol and exercise are two sides of the same coin. If I haven’t been for a ride or a run or done a Zwift session I feel on edge. And then if it gets to about 7pm and there’s no beer or glass of wine I get jumpy too. Then I’ll have a couple more glasses of wine with supper.
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