My first ride back after a short break proved to be harder than I'd expected
So, I’ve been a little quiet on the cycling front for the last couple of weeks (a combination of birthday celebrating and heading away for a hen weekend). But with London to Paris just over 5 weeks away I’m back on it with the training rides. This weekend I headed down to Reading for the latest of the Evans Cycles Ride It! events. You may remember that I had intended to try them out a couple of months ago but the weather put a stop to that…
This time, however, the sun was shining when I woke up on Sunday morning and I couldn’t have asked for better cycling weather. Not too hot, slight breeze – no excuses for not heading out on my bike. I had planned on taking on the 90 mile (long) route but was worried about my speed and being able to get back to the finish line before everyone had packed up and gone home. I know now, after the London Revolution, that I can cover that kind of distance but I’m still by no means speedy, keeping up a standard 10-11mph over the distance. With a cutoff time of 5pm I realized it wasn’t going to happen and opted instead for the medium route (65 miles).
It was a very simple setup – registration was set-up in a local village hall. We were given a map of the route and our timing chip, along with some High5 energy drinks and snacks before heading to the start line. I’d noticed that my saddle had come a little loose and, being early in the morning, I couldn’t understand why my bike tool wasn’t tightening it up. Thankfully the Evans team were on hand to help me out! Turns out I was using the wrong size allen key... Fool.
A quick briefing at the start line to explain the route separations (there were arrows throughout the course, with signs clearly showing which way to turn off for the fun, short or long courses) and we were off. The ride went mainly through the quiet country roads and I enjoyed the scenery, reveling in the wildlife I kept seeing. There was a brightly coloured woodpecker, a deer and numerous birds of prey. Within no time I’d arrived at the first drinks stop at 20 miles for the usual flapjack and bananas.
The next section of the ride was the rest of the medium loop, with the short route riders heading back for the start line after the stop. It was hard knowing that the next drink stop was in the same place after 30 miles but off I went anyway. I also knew from the GPX data of the route that there were a couple of big hills coming up but nothing could have prepared me for them. At first I felt that I was struggling unnecessarily. The road actually looked like it was heading downhill but must instead have been a subtle, but increasing, incline. I pushed on as well as I could but was hit by cramps in my hips and thighs. I managed to unclip from my pedals and get my feet on the floor before the worst of it so thankfully didn’t have to suffer the indignity of falling off of my bike! Despite repeated attempts to get back on up the hills I eventually had to accept that walking up was going to be my only option. I wasn’t the only one though so that always makes me feel better. Even those that were managing to pedal uttered friendly and supportive words on their way past so overall I didn’t feel so bad for giving up.
Once back on the bike I was feeling pretty tired. The last ten to fifteen miles back to the drinks stop was a hard slog. I’d have happily given up at that point if it wasn’t for the thought that I needed to keep putting the mileage in for my training. I’ll admit to letting out a cheer when I saw the signs again for Christmas Common, knowing that I was within a few miles of a well-earned water stop. Typically, a mile or so before I got there I noticed my front tyre was slowly deflating. I nursed the bike along to the stop though before changing it as I knew there was a helpful mechanic with a trusty pump that would do a better job than me with my mini-pump! During refueling (again, more flapjack!) I took the chance to speak to a few of the other riders who had also found the hills difficult. Again, there is nothing better than knowing it’s not just you!
The last 15 miles back to the start were much more enjoyable. An undulating route (still some ‘ups’ but more evenly spaced with ‘downs’) and the knowledge that it was the home straight spurred me on even more. It’s at this point that I really love having my Garmin with me. Some people I’ve spoken to don’t like seeing it count you down with how far you still have to go, but I like knowing how much further and even second-guessing how far I’ve travelled before I look!
One final bout of cramp 3.5 miles from home forced me off of my bike again (and out of my shoes so I could finally wiggle my toes!) but eventually I made it! Back through the tent to record my finishing time of 7hours 3mins – all in all not as bad as I’d imagined after those hills! Time to enjoy a quick food stop (chilli and pasties were provided for those that needed it) and a quick chat with my fellow riders before heading home.
My post-ride routine of checking out the Garmin route on my computer certainly opened my eyes to why I’d found the route so difficult. It recorded that I had climbed 5000ft over the course – 1500ft more than I’d done on any of my previous rides! To me, this was invaluable information and it totally justified the tiredness I was feeling. I feel that I’m beginning to know my body and how it reacts to exercise, and I’m sure the 2 week break didn’t help but at least I know that I hadn’t actually done as badly as I originally felt I had. Roll on my next ride!
To find out more and sign up for one of the Evans Cycles Ride It! series, visit the Evans Cycles website. Rides cost £7.50 for the Fun route and £12.50 for all other routes. Kids (under 16) ride free!
For more information on the Women's Only London to Paris Ride, call 0870 333 1662, visit Action Medical Research or contact email@example.com
Erica is riding a 2011 Ridgeback Radium road bike (RRP £799.99) For more information, visit www.ridgeback.co.uk or join the facebook page, facebook.com/ridgebackbikes
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