Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Avast Behind!

There is, it seems, a photographer out there with a sense of humour. Not being content with recording my plummet at warp 9 (40mph) towards Lamaload, he snapped the following "while my back was turned". Not exactly my best side.......

As for the rest of the Cheshire Cat ride, I shall just have to admit enjoying it on a masochistic sort of way.

An early start was achieved, getting off in the mist at 9:00 and a gentle pace ensued for all of 500 metres until Mike and Mark dropped the hammer, and Brett went after them. I clung onto the back of the splintered group at various lengths off the back until just before the first M6 crossing at which point (I thought) some semblance of sanity returned, with a slackened pace.

Imagine my delight at reaching the first feed in an average speed of 30kmh! Never before have I maintained such speed over such distance. If I have any sense at all (not likely) I never will again. Any groups available after the first feed were always travelling that tiny bit too fast, so most of the section was either solo or in ones and twos, not that that detracted from pushing on with brain going "good time!!!!!". Next time I will leave brain at home.

Arriving at feed 2, a scant 2 or 3 miles from Mow Cop, tiredness was encroaching on legs, and I noted somewhat belatedly that I did not need to refill a bidon, as I had only drunk 1/2 litre in the first 85km. Yes, I know its obvious now that I need to work on my nutrition strategy, but on Sunday I just got it all wrong. I still find it difficult to (reach for) drink without breaking rhythm, although some eating was done thanks to a top bar bag. On Sunday, the big problem was fluid.

Shortly before Mow Cop, there is a short climb before the canal, and the legs started to complain. Thankfully they got a small rest as the guy next to me snapped his chain, and I stopped to administer one of my spare quick-links. It got him home, and very pleased he was too.

Mow Cop was hellish. The bottom felt a lot steeper than it should, and the whole climb was a slow grind of pedals. I still harboured faint hopes of getting up at the bottom of the steep bit, but at about 100feet from the top cramp kicked in. Cramp in the legs I can deal with, you can always stand up and move around. Cramp in the ribcage is less fun. I have yet to find a different way to breathe. I got off as the fuzzy black bits started to move into the vision, and before I fell off. Defeated.

Then the hills really started. A succession of ups and downs through to Macclesfield Forest, and an absolute sod of a climb. Most hills by this point were a lovely walk, but at least the day itself was perfect, good visibility and wall-to-wall sunshine. I survived the chute downhill to Lamaload, although I stopped halfway worried about the state of the wheel rims after so much braking (hot but not red hot) and positively enjoyed Blaze Hill (especially being able to stop at the T junction).

By this point the High5 Extreme from Feed 3 was kicking in, and I was starting to feel better, speed actually increased a little. Until Swiss Hill. I couldn't get all the way up, but I did get past the photographers. Even pedalling and hauling on the wall with a free arm could not get me up it. Defeated again. In total I walked on 5 (five!) of the climbs. I wouldn't call the last few kilometers a "blast back to Knutsford" but I did go as fast as I could manage, and crossed the line in a tad over 8:24.

Disappointing compared to last year, and totally self-inflicted. Feeding/drinking strategy completely wrong, both on and off the bike. Weight on Monday 110.8kg (about 10kg more than last year) and the North Cornwall Tor is only 3 weeks away. The NCT has:
1) More climbing (1000m more)
2) Steeper climbs (at least 2 at 1-in-3)
3) Probably much worse, and windy weather.

I am in BIG trouble, as I doubt on Sundays performance I will make the time limit. I am now on an eating and exercise regime that will make Quakers look like party animals in an effort to shed at least 5kg before the NCT.

And on Saturday, I have another 200km Audax. Sane? I severely doubt it.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Taking Flight

Saturday was the 205km Cheltenham Flyer Audax, starting and finishing in Bishops Cleeve near Cheltenham, 'neath the looming brute that is Cleeve Hill.

Thankfully, the route avoided the hill itself, though it did finish at the bottom of Bushcombe Lane, in sight of what is, and probably will remain, a definite 'walker'. I had to walk in last years Tour of the Cotswolds, and having seen it again on Saturday, I don't think that will be changing anytime soon.

The ride itself started in unexpectedly excellent weather, unlike the Stratford RC Reliability Ride the day after (and am I ever glad I chose NOT to do that!), and with a strengthening wind behind us later in the day, I was hoping for a reasonable time. A reasonable time, compared to the Newport Audax 2 weeks ago would have been about 10 hours 15, given the extra few km and the additional climbing. A fairly rapid start to the first control at 25km did nothing to dispel this hope, though reality struck some 50 yards later. Turning onto the B4077 we climbed the Cotswold escarpment for a height gain of 148m over the next 3.5km. Only an average of 4.2%, but over 8% for stretches and enough to both warm me up and slow me down.

The tourist traps of Bourton on the Water and Bibury followed, with the sunshine serving to show why they are so popular. Cirencester was reached in a decent time, and bacon sandwich administered to ward off the dreaded energy bonk. Lunch was taken at 99km, and the section that followed was, for me, the most difficult, into the wind with long sections of sapping climb. The descent, when it came, was winding and so brakes were the order of the day, thus negating much of the downhill benefit.

Thankfully, the services of the Badminton WI had been secured for the third full control, and I can confirm that nothing revives weary cyclist better than WI cake. Setting off for the final section, the wind was behind, but time was already later than intended. Somewhere on this section, I noted than my light had slipped round the bars, so tried to adjust it succeeding only in breaking it off the mount. 45km to go and no light, except whatever daylight was left.

Making the jump to warp speed, I managed to tag onto the back of a couple of faster riders until 15km from the end when, inevitably, 'my legs fell off'. Stopping for a gel, I let the others disappear, and restarted after a couple of minutes break. This coincided with the final climb of the day, so it took a while to get going again, but the legs came back at the top of the Cirencester Road. A good launch at the top of the hill and I managed to pass my two erstwhile pacemakers on the way down. Sometimes being so tired you can't be bothered to hit the brakes can be an advantage.

The final few km passed quickly though not effortlessly, and I managed to sneak into the finish at 5:59 for my second successive sub-10 hour 200.

Obligatory stats:
Distance: 205.8km/127.9 miles
Total climb: 1700m (ish)
Total Time: 9:59 Moving time: 8:54
Average speed: 23.1kmh/14.35mph
Top speed: 74.7kmh/46.4mph

The pressure is now off for this month, and I can train relaxed for the Cheshire Cat on the first day of Summertime.

5/12 RTTY and counting.....................