Yesterday I completed my first 100 mile ride, but as I’ve discovered there are easy miles and there are harder miles. Prior to yesterday I’d ridden 75 miles a couple of times but one of those trips had taken twice as long as the other. Liverpool and back on a road bike was completed before lunchtime whereas the first day of my C2C ride didn’t end until 8pm.
I’d pretty much stopped commuting by bike at the end of last year and found in January I’d lost the base fitness I needed for a painless 2 hour ride so I put together a programme of a dozen rides to bring me up to 75 mile fitness again.
The training rides were completed on my trusty Saracen commuting hybrid, the bike I knew I’d be using yesterday, but almost all of the riding was on the road and straight uninterrupted roads wherever possible. I kept an excel sheet with distance, time, average speed also factored in the relative lumpiness of the rides with a ft/hour climbing ratio. I could see progress as the rides got longer in time and distance but I hadn’t made any allowance for trail riding.
So yesterday 6 of us set off from the Sage offices at 8am in glorious early morning sunshine. Ian, Chris and James are riding from London to Paris in a couple of months time so the 60 trail ride fitted nicely into their spring cycling programme. Amy like myself had set the ride as an ultimate challenge and she was going to be travelling twice as far as she’d ever ridden before. I, however, was the only one who would be riding back from Southport.
The mixed terrain (as well as the A frames and barriers along the trail) nags at you and compromises your pace in a manner that is more significant than you expect. Progress was slower than we all anticipated and the incentive of a late Nandos lunch in Southport to fuel me for the 40 mile on road return was quickly disappearing.
We paused at Hale, just short of half way along the trail and I grabbed a hot steak and kidney pie to supplement my stash of supplements. An hour later we were at the Knotty Ash Sainbury’s for another scheduled stop, but rather than wait for hot food I grabbed a sandwich and decided to split from the rest of the group. I had to be back home for 6:30 so needed to be leaving Southport no later than 3pm. I made quick progress along the remaining 3rd of the trail with Endomondo chirping out lots of sub 2 minute kilometre splits. Although I noticed it start to drizzle I didn’t appreciate the stiffening easterly breeze that was giving me a helping hand. I reached Southport just before 3pm, put on my waterproof and then turned around to face the wind. I then realised how much help I’d had during the previous hour. I shouted and swore at the elements as I took the A570 out of the town and tried to comfort myself by tucking into my supply of caffeine energy gels.
I knew I had two climbs on the way home: Parbold and Haigh. I’d done the latter a couple of months earlier and didn’t like the way it dragged on, Parbold was unknown to me and as it turns out, a bit steeper. Though feeling more mentally than physically weary, I got off to push the bike up the Parabold hill and to stretch out my legs. As I reached Haigh, again I dismounted for the initial steepest section. I was looking forward to the descent through Aspull but it was at that point my gear shifter broke and found myself stuck in 2nd gear. I still had the front derailleur to give me a choice of 3 speeds but all of them were to low to do anything but coast on the downhill sections. So the last 15 miles dragged but there were a couple of moments when I was grateful that I was stuck in 2nd and not anything higher.
I got home about 6:30 and had to be showered and out for 7pm so no relaxing soak in the bath but other than some saddle soreness from 11 hours of riding and a left hand that still feels a bit fizzy as I type, I got away without any aches in my back or legs. The bike is already at the local bike shop to have the shifter replaced so I don’t feel quite so bad about driving to work tomorrow.
Thank you to everyone who has sponsored and encouraged us, I enjoyed the challenge of the ride though next time I set myself a distance target I’ll ensure it’s all on tarmac.