Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Wiggle KiloToGo Flat Out in the Fens 2014

Well, that was the longest ride I've ever done by some way. But it wasn't boring, and it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be.

I mean, 152 miles was never going to be easy, but I was prepared for a real sufferfest which never happened. Good preparation? Good weather? New aerobars? Eating properly? Probably all of these. The weather I think was kind - I had expected it to be a lot windier, which would have made some of the long straight roads quite an ordeal I'm sure. Apparently last year it was like that, so again I have been lucky with the weather! It was hot and I had plenty of suncream on, especially on my left leg which is essentially now just one big scar below the knee. I need to find out whether it's OK to have it in the sun a lot, or whether there's still some risk I'm running by doing that. Anyway, I put loads of factor 50 on it so should've been OK.

On the start line, at Peterborough Regional Centre.

As I said in my pre-ride musings post from last week, I really had no idea what to expect from this ride time or pain wise. I guess I was preparing myself for the worst. Pretty early on though it became clear that I was going to finish this ride somewhat quicker than I imagined, if I could keep the pedals turning! I was using my average speed to gauge my effort, in the first 30 or so miles up to the first feed station, the average was around 18 mph. Big groups of riders were passing me, something which continued through the day, but I wasn't tempted to join any of them. I know all the stuff about effort in a group etc., but I'm sorry to say I just don't like it very much - I don't like being so close to people and not being able to see the road properly in front of me. One or two people is OK, but more than 5 and I'm getting nervous. Plus, these groups were going at about 21 mph, which even factoring in the saved effort is too fast for me I think. I kept reminding myself that my race was with myself, not with anyone else.

In terms of eating, I decided to stop at all 4 feed stations and make sure I was eating along the way. I think I ate more on this ride than I've ever done before, because I was concerned about the bit between 110 and 152, i.e. the end, and how tired I would be. I didn't want to struggle because I had been stupid and not eaten enough. I also thought that signal permitting I could send tweets and texts to Mum and Rebecca from these points.

The stops were at 29, 67, 95 and 130 miles. At all these points I refilled my two bottles, most times with OTE energy drink from sachets I was carrying. I made sure to eat two of the things on offer at each stop; small size cheese and onion pasties, sausage rolls, sandwiches, cakes, half bananas. This was on top of the 3 Mule Bars, one OTE Duo Bar, one packet of Powerbar Shots, 2 OTE energy gels and 2 OTE caffeine gels I ate on the move. The caffeine gels are awesome - I saved these for near the end and had one at 110 miles and the other at 140. They give you a nice boost.

It was the first time I've ridden with aerobars. I got them specially for this ride because of all the long, flat, straight roads. They're brilliant. Apart from anything they give you another position to be in, to be able to keep shifting around every now and again and stay loose. On top of that I think they give about an extra 1-2 mph. This ride was great because I was able to think about and test that during the day. I won't use them all the time, but on rides like this, and the one I'll do with Tijl in Belgium next month, I think they'll be really useful. They're Profile T3 Plus bars from Wiggle, in case you're interested.

The route was not boring. There really are some super straight roads in the Fens though - one of the stretches was, I think, nearly 7 miles straight as an arrow. Wow. The sky is big round there and there were also lots of villages on the way. Lots of interesting water management works too, engineering stuff that reminded me a lot of the Netherlands. Probably the best stretch I can recall without thought was the bit along the River Great Ouse up to Downham Market.

Time-wise I could see after about 50 miles that I was going to do quite well compared to my expectation. I had it worked out by that point that I would have to have a major problem not to end up with a Silver time for this ride, a bit surprising since on the other KiloToGo rides this year I've not even managed Bronze. I think the weather must have been a factor, but having said that I did feel good most of the way, so maybe the training has helped :)

I got a few comments about my Holme Moss jersey, which I wore on purpose as a sign that I'm from a place with big hills. Some guys from Wakefield passed me and let on.

At the end I was able to have a sit down and reflect on the previous 9 hours and 15 minutes. Lots of easy miles was my conclusion, just that there was 152 of them! I wasn't expecting to feel like this, but I think I might do this one again! There was something very different about it, but also very good. You are able to get completely in the zone, it is very relaxing. This is going to sound very silly, but at a couple of points I was actually fleetingly worried about falling asleep.

Resting at the end. Aerobars are brilliant.
Afterwards I had a rest, ate a flapjack, and drove back to the hotel, The Bell Inn in Stilton for a shower. The day ended with a few beers, some phone calls, internet and strava updating and a big juicy burger with stilton on it and chips. Mmmm. I checked my justgiving donation page - link to the right of this page - and it was up to about 450 pounds raised for the North West Air Ambulance. That's great!

Later, back at the hotel, a well-earned beer. Oakham Ales' Bishop's Farewell.

Here's my strava entry for the ride. I was very interested to hear what my friend Tijl would say after he saw this - "absolutely brilliant performance!" was his verdict, and who am I to argue? I won't be being hard on myself this time. My moving time was 8h 33m.

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