The 6.15 am alarm call, on a Sunday morning, made me wonder, long and hard, why I do events like this. I laid in bed until 6.30 before getting up and pulling myself together. I loaded up on coffee, porridge, toast and a banana. This is the tried and tested breakfast for a long bike ride. Too much if it was for a run event (unless there is over 2 hours for it to be digested before the run starts). But for a long bike ride event that would be fine.
My bag was all packed the night before and with varying weather predictions (the forecast was rain and wind but I woke to a nice sunny day, albeit cold) I had every item of cycling clothing I owned in my bag; normal shorts, bib shorts, running tights to wear under the bib shorts, or my extra thick and extra padded cycling tights, favourite long sleeve top, back up long sleeve top, tee shirt x 2 for extra layers, cycling top with pockets in the back, cycling jacket – oh boy I had it all. Good job it was just me going – the wife opted for a lay in and a 60 minute spin session at the gym – it was mother’s day after all.
I left late, I always do, and got to the venue at 8.15. I intended to start at 8 so I was running behind schedule. You can start at any time between 7.30 and 9.00 (I think) but the earlier you start the less traffic. Signing on was its usual easy process, got my map, my timing chip etc. I had decided driving there in the warmth of the car and with my thick jumper on that I would ride with the bib shorts but everyone there had opted for long tights, so I followed suit. CHICKEN
I quickly got changed, got my energy bars, clif shot blocks, my mobile phone and the emergency £20 note and made my way to the start.
I hadn’t really followed the route. It is always perfectly sign posted and easy to follow so I hadn’t studied it. It was a 90K ride (in fact 87K) which is my usual Saturday morning distance which I do in circa 3 hrs 15 mins. So I was assuming a similar time. This was also a ‘training ride’ so I had trained all week (see previous blog) and the day before I had done a 40 minute easy run and a 45 minute swim.
As I started it was apparent I was doing this on achy legs. The first 30 – 40 mins was a mental battle ‘it’s cold’, ‘my legs ache’, ‘why didn’t I stay in bed’. The SRS Event have a good mixture of riders with some over taking me and me over taking others. It’s always good to see a group in front and catch them and pass them – it’s better than just riding on your own as I normally do.
I did a bit of drafting to have a breather, I was drafted by others, had a bit of chit-chat as I rode along. All good.
I hit the first hill, It was hard, I went past some other cyclists going up it, some went past me, it was OK. Same on the next hill and the next – all was good.
I got to circa 20K and was on pace for a 3 hour ‘ish’ finish.
It was hard, but fun hard. I went past the first feed station at about 30K , far too soon to stop and carried on past it.
Then the hills really hit and for the next 3oK they didn’t feel like they stopped. There was hundreds of them, short sharp ones, long twisty ones, never-ending ones, they were everywhere.
You have to stop at the feed station at circa 50K to get your timing chip swiped. I was going OK when I got to this station, I didn’t want to stop, I had a full water bottle left of Lucozade drink, and one of my energy bars left (Torq) and all my clif shots. I was anxious my handle bars needed tightening as they were creaking on the hard climbs, when I was out of the seat and really pushing hard so I thought a ‘quick stop, tighten them up and on I go’. I got swiped, I looked at the loose bars (they weren’t loose) and thought I will just stop for a few minutes and top up my empty bottle – just in case. Then someone shouted ‘coffee anyone’ and the next thing I know 10 minutes had passed, I was drinking coffee and chatting like some old dear at a coffee morning!
10 minutes at a feed stop – what you doing Webb! You are in training for a half iron man – you don’t get to stop for coffee. But hang on, yes I am in training and this is a training ride. It is important to decide in advance what the event is. Is it a race, so taper down, no experimenting on nutrition, balls out all the way or is it a training event so try new stuff/products and drinks, don’t taper down so the time won’t be great and have fun.
Anyway the stop was a bad idea, mentally I just wanted it to end so I could have more coffee. My feet were cold, I was real hot in my 20 layers and the clothing was wet and that made me chilly etc, the hills kept coming and coming and coming, even at 80K when I thought it should be the nice ride to home there was another short sharp energy sapping hill.
The last 5K was hard too, I normally try and finish ‘at pace’ and really go for it but the legs were empty, the proverbial – crawling over the line.
Hard my celebratory cup of coffee and my free tuna roll and packet of crisps (you don’t get that at all sportives you know!), got changed and packed the car and headed home.
I checked the website and read the text describing the ride, it sure did warn the rider about how hilly it was and what a good pre season test it would be, it had text such as:
‘it passes through some tough terrain and some tough climbs such as Pillow Mounds Hill and Kidds Hill which is known locally amongst the cycling fraternity as “The Wall”, there is also the infamous short but steep Cobb Lane Hill’.
So I felt glad I had done it, glad I got out of bed and did this event rather than a usual training ride. Also, my first long outside ride for a while due to the past few weekends being the half marathon, holiday, illness etc so all in all a good days work.
I finished in a time of 4 hrs and 1 min. Results put that time as finishing 65th out of 138 finishers. Annoying I was over the 4 hr mark for the sake of 1 minute, someone beat me by a second and also if I had stopped for 5 mins and not 10 mins I would have come 55th.
In the blog above I have tied to be positive about the ride, but I do have a very big question rattling around in my head – ‘if at the end of that ride I was so knackered – how the hell am I going to do a similar distance ride and then do a half marathon straight afterwards? And that my friends is a big question……..
Thanks for reading.