Friday, 1 June 2018

I Would Ride 100 Miles...

And I would ride 100 more, if only my head and legs would get in the game at the same time. My last big milestone before Lakesman is the 100 mile bike ride. I've done 82 miles... how hard can 100 be? Um, very, as it turns out. I had signed up to the Surrey Hills Cyclone Sportive, epic distance (102 miles) on Saturday 26th May. The benefits of this were that I would have a route planned out for me, people to ride with, aid stations along the way and a medal at the end. The downsides were that although I could plan my own route and save myself £40, I would have had to borrow a bike computer again and potentially have no one to ride with. I could have tagged on to a social ride that day, there are plenty about at the moment, and added more miles to the end but I have very poor will power when it comes to these sorts of things and usually slope off home instead.
Ready for the off!
So it was that at 7am on Saturday morning, I slipped out of the house whilst everyone else slept (even the cat) and drove down to Lingfield race course, the start of the event. Dean and I had taken part in this event last year, at the 30mile distance, which at the time I thought was pretty tough, and so I was a little apprehensive about the "hills" aspect, but nothing ventured nothing gained and I'm much stronger this year than last. If I could do this, then Lakesman should be a breeze and at the very least I would get to practice my nutrition strategy. Registration was satisfyingly easy and at 8:30am I was on my way.

There had been threats of rain so I was carrying my rain jacket in my back pocket, my arm warmers were on and I had on the bike and about my person an array of energy bars, peanut M&M's, flapjacks and cheese sandwiches in bite sized pieces, dates and energy gels. I was NOT going to "bonk". There were three feed stations on my route and I intended to make use of them all to top up on flapjack, energy drinks and tortilla chips.
I would have had more flapjack with me had the cat not taken a liking to them!
The first major hill happened at about 12 miles. It was the biggest on the course and boy was it a killer. I managed to cycle up around half of it and joined others in pushing my bike the rest of the way. A few hardy souls made it all the way up but they looked like pros. The downhill was epic! I think I got up to around 34mph without freaking out. But the hills just kept coming; a mile or two of uphill grinds at a time, which scenery just didn't help to distract from. I managed to get up all the other hills I encountered without getting off and pushing but it was energy sapping. I was doing relatively well at eating little and often but as I found I needed to pay more attention to the roads, so the frequency of my eating slowed.
Looking bright at feed station 1
I was hyperventilating my way up one hill when a fellow rider, who looked remarkably better than I did, announced it was only 3 miles to feed station two. Hurrah!! I pulled in, dismounted rather inelegantly, and promptly started sobbing into the fig rolls. A lovely chap, Jez, who was helping to man the feed station, sat me down, topped up my water bottle and had a little chat with me about how I was doing and what my options were. I hadn't realised I was feeling quite so depleted, and the thought that I was only half way filled me with despair. We talked through the elevation. I'd done the worst of it, nothing was as bad now, but I had options. I could get a lift to the finish now if I wanted, or set out to feed station 3 and call for a pick up if needed, or get "bumped" to feed station 3 and carry on from there. Reader, I could have hugged Jez.
The specs hide (some of) the emotion at feed station 2
I mentioned my poor will power earlier and I'm afraid it came into play here. I felt absolutely certain that I wouldn't make the remainder or the route under my own steam. I wasn't even sure I could ride the 30 miles to feed station 3, and the indignity of getting a lift to the finish was just unthinkable, so I opted for option 3... get a lift part of the way. At least then I could ride over that finish line and still have 70 miles in the legs, effectively the standard distance route. And that is what happened. I waited about half an hour for a lift, during which time I ate a lot of snacks and regained my composure. I crossed the line, got my medal and collapsed on the grass. I had not done 100 miles, but I had done a lot of hills, spent several hours in the saddle and learned a lot about my mind can completely sabotage things.
Another medal but not for 100 miles.
The day after my 100 mile attempt I had a review with Ellie. We talked about how I'd been feeling, physically and emotionally, what the last few weeks might have in store and my strategy for Lakesman. I explained how tired I was, how the training was a chore, how I wasn't enjoying anything much any more and I just wanted it all to be over. Apparently all perfectly normal. Next on the agenda... was I going to attempt the 100 miles again? Apparently yes... by signing up to the 3 Counties Cycle Ride, doing the 54 miles distance, then sneaking back on to the 33 miles and tagging on miles by riding to the start and home again. Although a flatter course there are some hills, but I've already done them on other rides so I know I'm capable. Dean will also be with me to haul me out of those dark moments and I also get a certificate!

Otherwise most of my sessions now are much more manageable; some swim and run brick sessions and a couple of run-as-you-feel days. I also got a whole day off on Bank Holiday Monday! I specifically asked for this so that Dean and I could spend some much needed quality time together. We did everything on our own terms, no appointments or demands. I didn't train at all but when Dean decided he wanted to swim at the lake I went with him to sit on the bank with a magazine. It was utter bliss.
Throwing in some fun things is so important. Dean and I managed to get out for a run together recently, something we've not done for goodness knows how long, and I ran 5k with my mum recently too. That along with keeping on top of my general well being (the osteopath appintments,  massages, supplements, epsom salts, diet and stretching) is just about keeping me sane.

I WILL be on the start line for Lakesman, but what the day holds, I don't know. What I do know is that this will be my one and only attempt at iron distance triathlon and even when my head has gotten in the way, I have done my best during training. Sometimes that best is a physical best, sometimes a mental, and every session has made me stronger in at least one of those areas.

Week beginning 21st May
Swim : 1,200m
Bike : 92 miles
Run : 7.14 miles

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