Last week I had a fantastic long training ride, counting as a Great Ride and all the way from Dunstable in Central Bedfordshire to Weston-Super-Mare in North Somerset.
Ride in Numbers:
Distance: 137 miles
Moving time: 9 hours, 02 minutes
Elevation: 4,259 feet
Times I got lost: two (significantly)
Satisfaction level: immense!
This must count as one of my all-time great rides and one that’s been in mind for some considerable time. Last Friday it all came together in a perfect way. It started with managing to get a day’s annual leave booked, which in itself is pleasing and blooming’ lucky given the amount of outstanding work still to complete. Then there was the weather – the forecast was dry, warm but not hot and a light easterly wind – absolutely ideal. My fitness level was hopeful although I had been having difficulty in shaking off a cold (see previous post).
I’m turning out to be pretty useless at navigating these days. I think I will blame the invention of the SatNav for cars sapping my built-in sense of direction. I knew the start and finish, of course but not the bits in the middle. In preparation I had a ripped-out page from a car atlas with the proposed route highlighted on it. This meant two things:
- Every time I needed to check the map I would have to stop, get it out of my jersey pocket, find my glasses
- It wasn’t very detailed (even as a motoring map) with many villages simply not shown, no terrain (i.e. hills or other landmarks)
- There was no way it would show any National Cycle Network routes at all
So the first time I got seriously lost was at Oxford. Following the vague direction of the Ring Road (on the eastern side) wasn’t too bad as I could see or hear it as I weaved through residential areas. As I tried to get onto the road taking me out on the other side was tricky. I asked another cyclist who was eager to help but wasn’t sure.
I decided to ride slightly in towards the city centre, hoping to pick up a sign pointing me the right way. The problem got solved by spotting a bike shop and thought they would be bound to help a cyclist-in-need. They were. Thanks to Ubyk for pointing me in the right direction. I should say I felt a tad out of place as I popped my bike just inside the boutique-style place. My steel framed bike was definatley out of keeping with their high end range on offer. It had the look of those old Rolls Royce dealers where it was a case of “if you need to ask how much it costs, then you can’t possibly afford it”. They were only too happy to show me a map on one of their pc’s and point me in the right direction, after a light hearted chat about the cycling scene in Oxford.
The second time I got lost was unexpectedly arriving at nearby Abingdon but correcting this was fairly straight forward. At this point I was feeling a little stressed by the thought of getting lost on the Coast to Coast and pretty much made the decision to buy a Garmin and feel determined to enjoy the rest of the ride.
A few other times I had to take an educated guess and I think I got this about right.
I made the decision to buy a Garmin, at least for using during the Coast to Coast event – I just cannot handle the hassle or stress of missing a sign and getting lost off course. More to follow on a Garmin….
I’m feeling pleased I have got this about right these days. I had a supply of water (with electrolyte added), some gels, some dates and some Trek bars. I stopped at lunch time for some sandwiches and a sporty drink. Getting it right meant a slurp of water two or three times an hour, food normally once an hour. This seemed to give me a fairly constant supply of fuel without feeling hungry, thirsty or depleted at any stage.
There were a few times when I would feel drained of energy but this would be only for a few minutes, then I’d pick up the pace again and be fine. There’s no rhyme or reason to this, it just happens and not much of a pattern either.
This was something which I found difficult to believe – the first puncture in about 2000 miles. I heard a little ‘pop’ followed by a hiss and within a few seconds I was riding on the rim of my front wheel. All happened in a couple of seconds. The puzzling thing was I couldn’t find anything wrong, nothing obvious causing the puncture despite feeling very carefully around the inside of the tyre. I am almost certain I hit a sharp stone or something embedded in the road – sufficient to gnash the tyre, just at the join between the tread and the sidewall. The tyre was a Continental Four Season Grand Prix which has otherwise performed fantastically well, so I’m replacing it like-for-like. I was back cycling fairly quickly, with a new inner tube and a slight bulge in the tyre and okay for completing the last few miles.
This seemed to go well; the first 40 miles were completed feeling fresh. The last 20 miles were strangely good as well, almost as if the finishing line was in sight and this spurred me on, in spite of the above puncture. I think the gentle tail wind really helped me, combined with the course being relatively flat.
Yep I was tired when I arrived at my parents place, near the seaside in Weston-Super-Mare. Rachel, back home, had been tracking me (using my iPhone signal) and had tipped my parents off when I was about to arrive. A lovely precious welcome and the satisfaction of completing the ride was savoured. Arriving under my own steam, so to speak, seemed to add to the time we spent with each other. To elaborate would be cheesy.
It took me a good 24 hours to feel the benefit of resting and eating. I can tell you, I slept well that night! The following day I had a little nap in the afternoon, this is something I’d never do otherwise but I could feel my body was still repairing itself.
The following day I went for a 30 minute bike ride, just to loosen up and I found I was incredibly stiff – this too me by surprise. Even little slopes where I would not even bother to change gear had become inclines which needed some effort. Not being one to give in, I decided to give Monk’s Hill a go. Monk’s Hill is the steepest hill around for miles and one I have tackled before. Short and steep at 1 in 4, perhaps 1 in 3 for a bit. This was seriously hard work and I was gasping when I got to the top, almost tempted to get off and push! Naturally I wouldn’t do that, I’m just a little stubborn like that but it was hard going for a couple of minutes. Once I got to the stop I then realised I wasn’t in bottom gear – how stupid can I get?