Sunday, 11 May 2014

Jurassic Beast!


This weekend I decided to up the training a gear to really test how far I'd progressed, here's how it went.

Saturday - 50 mile warm up
On Saturday I was joined by Garts for a ride around the forest, I planned out a 50 miler that I've done before that heads from Bramshaw to Lockerley (north west of Romsey) before tracking West towards Salisbury before tracking down towards Salisbury and then back home.

A few bumps on the ride make it a nice little warm up and both Garts and I pushed it out quite hard, making 15mph average pace which is pretty good going for me.  The gusty high wind and my aching back are ominous signs for the next day, so I cut the ride slightly short to about 47 miles, but overall a cracking warm up ride.

Sunday - 101 mile Jurassic Beast
The alarm was due to go off at 5:45am, but it didn't, I was already awake wondering if the cramp I had in my thigh last night would a sign of things to come. I tiptoed around the house finalising my kit putting it in my car, nearly forgetting my cycling shoes - I'm tired and I hope I wake up properly.

At 6:25am the car is ready and so am I; I pull off the driveway and begin the drive to Bovington Tank Museum, the start and finish location of the Wiggle ride.  By the time I arrive the car park is already busy with people preparing bikes and I grab my helmet and get out to head towards the registration centre.  One thing strikes me immediately, it is very windy and the wind is making me cold.  I curse not having my cycling coat and start to worry about how cold I will be on the ride and how all he coated riders that are swarming around will think I'm an idiot.  There's nothing I can do about it so I decide all the other riders will have to make do with thinking I'm a hard nut and I'll just have to grin and bear it.

The registration area is in the tank museum itself, a cracking setting but a long way from my car which gives me plenty of time to think about the gusting wind and the ride itself.  I decide that if the going gets tough I will repeat a few mantras, think positively and even hum a few good tunes in my head.

Within no time I'm on the start line, my computer is started to record my time and off we go.  I start in a peleton of around 20 riders and as we reach about 3 miles the course splits and whilst I head right on the "Epic" course most of the peleton head left on the "Short" or "Standard" course and I curse them for having a much easier time of it!

At about 11 miles I hit the first hill at Winterborne Houghton, a chocolate box village with Aston Martin's on the driveways and a ridiculously steep hill.  One of the riders jokes to me that "it's a bit dodgy around here" and I smile, the hill is tough but manageable, I feel strong and I push on.  Another 4 miles on and then another big hill, I push on through and all is good, months ago I would have struggled with this so the training seems to be paying off.  The good thing is whilst I can hear the strong winds rushing through the trees the high banks and hedges on the side of the windy countryside roads protect us.  So far so good.

On 20 miles there is yet another massive hill, a lot of people get off and push and I don't blame them, I'm very tempted, I sterr to my left to avoid one rider who is painfully walking up the hill and my bike wheelies because of the steepness of the hill, I manage not to fall off and get back on to complete the climb.  My back has already started to ache and it's a tough climb, but I cannot give in and I don't!  It seems to take an age to climb the hill at 3-4mph, but I remind myself of the downhill that will inevitably follow and I dig in.  The downhill comes as my legs scream for relief, my lungs burning and my glasses fogged with the effort, very soon I'm well over 30mph.

All of a sudden I'm shoved hard from the left, my bike is wobbling dangerously and I'm really struggling to keep control, I can't anchor on the brakes hard, If I do I'll be off, and if I'm off I'm checking in to hospital. I'm terrified, this is seriously bad and could easily end my LEJOG dreams!  The banked sides have ended and the road is fully exposed to the buffeting gusts, I need to get the bike speed down and get in control of the bike.  I battle for what seems like an age, the bike fishtails and wobbles, this is not good. I struggle, adrenaline is ripping around my body, I'm very very scared, but after what in reality is 3 or 4 seconds I get the speed down enough to get in control.  Phew!

I've now convinced myself that all the major hills have been done and despite the near mishap, things are going well, another big hill arrives on 30 miles just after I ride past the first feed stop and I manage to ride with a group without dropping back - a new experience for me, normally I just get left behind.

At 40 miles I ride through Piddletrentihde and Piddlehinton and it's at this stage I start getting hacked off by the wind, if it's not pushing me back it gusts from the side, when I should be going 20mph I end up going 12mph, the hills become much tougher than they need to be as the wind pushes me back down them, but I'm still pushing an average of over 14mph so I keep going.

One good thing about these organised rides is the social side of it, people ride past and gee you up or briefly chat about the conditions, they also tend to point out potholes and warn of oncoming cars or let you know if the junctions are clear when ahead of you.  If nothing else it helps break up the ride, those few seconds of conversation make all the difference when you are otherwise on your own and for once I feel able to speak to fellow riders rather than feeling like I'm struggling to utter a word.  For the first time on one of these rides I feel like I'm a part of it rather than an outsider who doesn't belong.

On 56 miles is the second and my first feed stop, huge butts of energy drink and all sorts of food.  I gulp down a banana, jelly beans and some flapjack.  My two water bottles are empty and I'm very thirsty so I gulp down some energy drink and fill the bottles back up, all done and dusted and I'm back on my bike in a few minutes - a quick time check shows me at just over 4 hours in the saddle, I'm a bit behind where I want to be time wise, it's not too bad and I blame the wind for holding me up.  The good thing is I've done all the major hills so the rest is easy......

No it isn't.  It definitely isn't.  Just 4 miles further at 60 miles my hopes and dreams of a nice flat (or downhill) remainder of the ride are absolutely shattered as I head to West Lulworth, a massive hill takes the wind out of my sails, but I stay in the saddle throughout the agonising climb. When you hit a big steep hill it gets tough pretty quickly, road bikes don't have the gears that a mountain bike so you can't sit there and spin your legs, you have to push through.  Very shortly your legs start to burn, your breathing rate increases and the sweat starts to pour.  The steeper the hill the more quickly the going gets tough and you get worn out, after that it's a case of how long you can tough it out for, it's mind over matter.  I manage to dig in (just) and I give myself a pat on the back as I enjoy the decent into West Lulworth, as with all the descents the gusty wind means I can't go full pelt but it's nice all the same and the scenery is absolutely fantastic.

At 65 miles we head towards Corfe Castle, an amazing site as it towers over the road, a circular tour out to Swanage follows and I'm expecting cramps at this stage, they normally appear around the 70 miles and make life agony, but they don't, yet.  I'm not too concerned, my back is agony, what started of as a murmuring dull ache has grown to full scale shouting pain, I try to shift around position, occasionally standing to pedal but ultimately there's not too much you can do about it and I just have to grin and bear it.  Thankfully my legs still feel strong and as the clock ticks over to the 6 hour mark I'm on 76 miles, less than 10 miles to the next feed stop and some sweet relief as I can allow myself to get off the bike again and stretch out my back.  The thought of getting off my bike and lying flat on the floor is incredibly seductive, but I must resist it, the ride will get more difficult if I do and I will just prolong my agony.

At around 80 miles someone in front drives straight off the road and in to a bush, going head over heels.  I would laugh if it were in any other setting but it's not, I know how he feels and why he's done it.  Tiredness is creeping in and it affects your concentration,  it's easy to make a mistake and the incident is a warning to me. I stop to check and thankfully he's fine if a little embarrassed.  I manage to remain in a group of a few riders and whilst my legs are starting to feel a little tired and heavy, I feel like I have enough left and apart from my screaming back, I'm in good shape.

The next feed stop is at 86 miles and I'm delighted to see it, I gulp down some more food and fill up on drinks again before heading off - 15 miles to go, the end is within touching distance and I cannot tell you how pleased I am.  But not so fast, one last huge hill climb sees more people off their bikes, I'm tempted beyond belief but manage to hang on and stay in the saddle.  I've had a stretch at the feed station but getting back on the bike just reinstated the pain and discomfort, I can't wait to get to single figures for miles left to go.

I count down the rest of the miles with glee, soon I can get off the bike, 7 miles, 6 miles, 5 miles....  My legs feel good, but they are now more like lead, I've now gone through my entire vocabulary of ride words to describe my back, my back and I are struggling to be on speaking terms, but I just need to hold on.  The thought of getting off my bike and walking the rest is seductive, I repeat my mantra and sing some tunes in my head desperately trying to distract myself.

Soon I see the Wiggle flags and I know I'm very close to home, then the emotions hit me just like the blustery wind earlier in the wide, I ride past a Wiggle marshall and she congratulates me, I gulp down and somehow manage a smile, I'm really struggling all the way to the finish line to control my emotions.  I know I'm being daft but I can't help it, after 8 hours of cycling (bar a few minutes and the feed stations) I'm exhausted.  Finally I get control of myself as I pass the finish line and get my finishing medal and I beam with pride, a really tough ride, over 7,000 ft of climbs and I did it!

So how did it go?  Better than expected, training is well and truly on track - although I'm glad I don't have to get up tomorrow and do it all again - come July 26th I will not have the choice, so I need to keep plugging away at it!

Thanks for reading