As regular readers/lookers may know I was building up to a 50mile road ride for The BHF I knew this would be quite a challenge for me when I first signed up for it, it is the longest distance I’ve covered in a day so far and I am quite proud of that fact (more to follow on that).
The pre-ride checks began on Friday as mentioned in my last blog post, cleaning, degreasing, re-greasing and general fettling and faffing. Come Saturday evening, children off to bed and myself and my wife relaxing on the sofa I remember I’ve got the bike sorted and clothes cleaned but nothing organised with regards to food, fluids, tools, and anything else I may need to take.
Cue a little night time panic and my wife getting rather annoyed going back and forth into the front room gradually making piles of various items on the sofa.. Clothes.. Check… Food.. Check… Drinks… Check.. Spare inner tubes, tools, pump.. Check. That’s it I’m ready… Oh I need my number for the ride.. Time for some more rummaging and finding my number from within the pack that was sent to me. I fill in the emergency contact details on the back of my number and I’m all set. Everything ready.. Phew!
Off to bed, alarm set for 6am to ensure I’ve plenty of time to get ready, have breakfast etc. Alarm goes off.. What already, didn’t feel like I’ve been asleep for that long, oh well up and at ’em as the saying goes.
Get downstairs, breakfast eaten, everything taken out to the utility at the front of the house. That’s it I’m going. I load my clothes, food, drinks, camelbak, bike all into the van, I’m ready I’ve got everything.. I head off down the road to start my journey the 40ish miles to the event… 5 miles in I’m racking my brain.. I’ve forgotten something. I began running through what I’d do when I got there, cycling shorts and jersey on, socks, shoes… Shoes! Ahhh! I knew I’d forgotten something.. A hurried turn around and dash back home to pick up my shoes (I run SPDs so using trainers wasn’t an option for 50miles). Open the front door at home and there are my cycling shoes just inside the door staring at me. Looking at me disapprovingly as I forgot them. I shake my head at myself for forgetting something so crucial to my ride, head back to the van (shoes nestling between the seats to affirm I have them) and off I go… Again!
Journey was then straight forward, I arrive at the venue a few minutes after the gates had opened but already there are at least 40 cars, vans all laden with some seriously expensive kit on board, these weren’t your average joes out for a gentle pootle around the countryside.. There were some very keen cyclists, some doing laps of the Tarmac carpark warming legs up, others stretching and getting ready, others leaning on car doors trying to get weary early morning legs into Lycra tights without falling over.. This is where the van comes into its own, I got into the back where my bike is, perch on one of the seats in the back and get myself dressed for the ride in relative comfort. I head to the reception to see what I need to do before riding.. Time is now 7:50.. First riders set off at 8. Not much time to spare. I look through the car park as I’m walking I notice hardly any mountain bikes, have I made a grave error, will I survive.. I hear the all to familiar sound of a hope freehub.. My mind breathes a sigh of relief.. Someone else must be as mad as me!
Into the reception, get the emergency contact number and a map of the route and I’m all ready. As I exit there’s a group of very keen riders lining up for the start, there’s talk between people of their predicted times for the 100mile loop… These guys have been riding round in circles for 20 minutes and now they’re doing 100miles (considerably different class of fitness to us mere mortals). I head back to the van and hear the horn sound and the first group of riders leave.
I best get my bike out and get going. Bike out, camelbak filled and on, sunglasses on, helmet on… Ooo I best check my tyres.. Oh and chain. Time for some more faffing and I’m ready, a little nervous but ready! I head to the start and leave behind a few others, its all very laid back. I make a conscious effort to make a slow and steady start knowing I have a good few hours to go. We wind down a hill and follow a country lane, this isn’t too bad, I can do this.. I hear muttering ahead.. We’ve come to what is marked as a road but looks like a clay and gravel bridle way. The road riders are cursing.. Me I’m revelling in it, I keep my pace up and bounce, skip and bunny hop enjoying this little off road section. A lot of the road riders are walking, carrying their bikes. Logical in hindsight with their super thin lightweight tubs, but at the time in my head.. I’m laughing. This is great. That was short lived, back on tarmac and a few of the riders I’d seen walking come flying past, only to be expected! I find a few riders making steady progress and tag on with them, general mentions of distances we’re all doing and comments of bravery that I’m on a mountain bike.. Anyone would think I’d turned up on a penny farthing some of the looks as my tyres whirred on the roads. I found myself gradually catching small groups, stayin with them for a few minutes then gradually easing past and continuing. The route then splits so the 25 mile riders go one way and everyone else goes the other.. Time and miles seem to disappear, pace feels swift but not flat out, could go quicker but I know there are some hills to come.
I pass a refreshment stop, most stop, I keep going, between the corners I can see a group of riders.. They’re my target I keep pushing trying to catch them up, I’m gradually gaining, round some sharp corners and I’m not far from them.. Next corner and then a straight.. I’m really gaining on them now.. And that’s it we’re all stopped. Oops think we all missed a turn, 20seconds later another couple of riders appear.. “Oh we were following you (gesturing at me)” I reply yea I was following these guys.. A bit of jovial Micky taking that none of us knew where we were or where we were supposed to go we get phones and maps out to work out where we are. We’ve done an extra bit! We re-trace our route at a steady pace to find the sign we missed, we’ve found it! We then head on our way (the right way)!
I get past that group on a hill and proceed on, miles passing, pace still pretty good, legs still doing well, no aches or pains. We come to the next split where the 100mile riders re-join. Time for some food. A few slicked of malt loaf and I’m off and going again, the next few miles blur, just hedges and tarmac. There’s another join, we re-join the 25mile loop.
There’s now riders scattered everywhere. Where as the last part of the route everyone kept to the left or in pairs there was now people weaving and scattering themselves all across the road. This isn’t helping progress. I gradually weave in and out of them and as we make our way up a long dragging hill I pass the last of them… Well that batch anyway! We head past a church and I pass a man doing the 25mile route with his daughter who at a guess was between 8-10, I can only commend him as he pushed her while pedalling his own bike up the hill. Food for thought for my own children.
From there on I see a sign for 10miles to go. It’s all hedges and road now, nothing to look at.. This part was hard work. Like a never ending runway. It felt like a treadmill. Just the same hedge and the same road, it made it hard going but I knew I was getting there! We met a crossroads, we went straight over and I recognised the main road we crossed we were nearly there.. A little loop round and we were there. I’d done it!
I pulled across the finish and stopped to check my time.
Quite happy with that. 3:45 and 13seconds for 53.2 miles. Average of 14.17mph, all this on a mountain bike with 2.2″ knobbly tyres 🙂
I grabbed a cup of tea and a stretch. I’d done it, and I felt pretty good. I think I could of probably managed the 66mile but none the less happy I had completed. I collected my medal for finishing and headed back to the van to get changed and head home. Another successful day on my bike!