This is what it’s all been about for the last 10 months. All of the training, all of the time spent on the bike(s). It all boils down to one ride. Sounds dramatic… I can almost hear the trailer music playing.
The morning of the ride we woke relatively early. With the hotel we were staying in being only 2 miles away from the start line, we didn’t need to rush too much. Still, it was nice to have a bit of time to have a shower, get ready and ponder over what to wear as the weather wasn’t making it easy for us to make a decision. Things didn’t quite go to plan either when I picked up my Garmin. I turned it on and it flashed up saying it currently had 0% battery life. Wonderful… I’m really not sure what happened as I’d charged it up on Friday night and switched it off. Clearly, it didn’t like the idea of doing 102 miles either.
We left the hotel later than planned, mainly to give my Garmin as much juice as possible. I managed to get it to 20%, not ideal but it would at least give me the starting miles. I set Strava on my phone going to as I knew that would be able to record the ride, or at least, most of it. It wasn’t long before we were pulling into the racecourse and being directed to a parking space on a field. Looking around we were still trying to decide how many layers we should wear. A lot of people had shorts, coupled with a long sleeve base layer and a jersey.
It still didn’t really help us to make a decision, but we figured that we’d head over and register, grab our numbers and start to get ready. Bikes off the roof, numbers attached, helmets on and a decision of long sleeve base layer, jersey and shorts with leg warmers on, to begin with. I also packed a lightweight rain jacket into one of my jersey pockets. We headed from the car to the start line and waited to set off. I was still a little nervous about this ride and was keen to get going.
Off we went… over the start line and turning left out of the racecourse. Now to try and get my legs into a good rhythm to cover 102 miles. We were starting off slow, mainly because we knew we had to pace ourselves. We stayed with the group that we’d started with, however, 12-13 mph was definitely too slow even for an easy start. We began to make our way through the group and speed up to our normal pace. Much better for the legs. Hopefully, we won’t regret our decision.
We continued as we would normally, chatting to each, setting the world to rights. It wasn’t long until a few people overtook us and we latched onto the back of them, one guy in particular. He was pulling us along nicely and for a while it was great, however, I did feel a little bit guilty and decided to do a stint up at the front. After that, we took it in turns and managed to keep a healthy pace of 20-22 mph. I definitely prefer going fast. It wasn’t long until we reached our first feed stop around mile 26 and although we were feeling alright, we decided to stop and take on some food and drink.
Back in the saddle and the route meandered through some very pretty looking villages before starting to climb up towards the moors. The views were stunning, but the rain and wind decided that it would also like to join the party. Out came the lightweight rain jacket that I’d stuffed in my jersey pocket. It was the first time I’d worn it and I had no idea what it was going be like. Surprisingly it was quite warm and took the edge off the wind. However, I don’t think it was particularly breathable…
Feed stop two was just before the 50-mile mark. I have to say, actually, that the feed stops were well spread out. Roughly every 25 miles (ish), which helped break the ride down into manageable chunks. In between the second and, third feed stops was the main feature of the ride. A category 3 climb that was just under 5 miles long and total accent was just under 1000 feet. I can safely say that was one of the toughest climbs I have ever done on a bike. There were plenty of people who had dismounted their bikes and were walking up. I am pleased to say that I didn’t have to get off my bike. I was in the lowest gear possible, out of the saddle with my legs screaming, but I did it. I like hills, but that was a challenge. Oddly, part of me would like to give it another go. Maybe when the weather is better. The wind didn’t help and once at the top, I was pretty much in the clouds.
The descent on the other side was almost as challenging. We’d been warned about it right at the start and I understood why. I was constantly feathering my brakes, probably had them on more often than not. It was a twisty, single-track road, with a gradient of -9% over about a mile and a half. Needless to say, my arms were on fire by the time I got to the bottom. Still, it was good fun and I’d happily do it again.
The rest of the ride was pretty much downhill from there, which was great, as there was still 35 miles to go. It wasn’t long until the third feed station, where I decided that I’d remove my leg warmers as my legs were too hot and uncomfortable. Now with the wind in my hairless legs, yes I did shave them as promised and I’ll write another blog post about that, I settled into a good rhythm, by this point my Garmin had died, it had died around mile 30, to be honest. But that gave me an interesting challenge in itself. I had no idea of my pace. I had a rough idea of how many miles I had left and I felt ok. Nothing for it but to carry on and keep pedalling. Or is that keep calm and keep peddling?
I can’t remember where it was exactly, but I remember rounding a corner and spotting a familiar car parked on the side of the road. It was my parents. I knew they were coming up to see me cross the finish line but I didn’t realise they were going to try and find me on the route. As it turns out, it was a complete fluke that they were parked there at the time I went past. They’d literally just pulled over to check where the cycle route went and I came whizzing past. What are the chances? I almost stopped and unloaded some of my kit I was carrying that didn’t need.
They followed me for a bit, it felt like my own support car and supporters. Mum took the opportunity for a few photos too. They then overtook me on a hill, I mean they could have at least pulled me along, and headed off. I did wonder who would reach the finish line first, me or them. For the rest of the ride, the sun was out and I was trying to keep my pace under control. I did learn how to take a gel or an energy bar without stopping. I know that sounds daft but I usually have to stop. As the ride went on, I began to look out for road signs back to Thirsk that would tell me how many miles to go. The first one I saw said 14 miles.
I can do 14 miles. I was actually feeling alright. A bit tired but not horrendous. What felt like the longest part of the ride was when I passed the ‘5 km to go’ sign. It was just a straight road, with a few roundabouts, but I was just waiting to see the racecourse appear somewhere on the left-hand side. By this time, my lower back was in need of a good stretch. I was amazed that it hadn’t hurt before now, the bike fit that I had prior to the ride was clearly well worth it.
There it was, the finish line! I have to be honest, I felt a very strong sense of achievement, I’d done 102 miles, 5,500 feet of climbing and to top it all off, I’d raised a good amount of money for charity! I crossed the finish line and there were my mum, dad, my wife and Will (who’d had taken the shorter route). There were some very proud looking faces, cheers and smiles, congratulations and hugs. What a great feeling!
We chatted for a bit and then started to head back to the cars. The plan was to head back to the hotel, wash, get changed and then head out to the pub for a celebratory meal and of course a pint! Or two…
I’m very much looking forward to my next challenge.
Until next time.
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