What a day that was! Easily one of the toughest but most rewarding events I’ve ever put myself through. There were plenty of high points I won’t forget in a hurry and plenty of low points that I was able to get through. The memories of it will stay with me for a long time.
It started the night before and I’m glad it did. I was reluctant to stay over to start with, but after some persuasion from Em (who as always tends to be right on these things) I found a hotel that was 15 minutes drive from the start to stay over the night before and after. This was definitely the right move and after a leisurely drive down, the b and b was perfect and after a meal and getting everything ready it was an early night as I still had an early start:
After waking and eating plenty of porridge it was off to the start, where given it was Wales it was of course raining and it became clear I have the wrong kit. Oh well, nothing I could do about it, I just had to get on with it. So it was a coffee and before long it was my turn to roll up to the start line and get going:
The first few miles were, drizzly but not to bad, and before long we’d passed Tata steel and were entering our first climb, which to start with wasn’t too bad, but then it went on and on. However we were soon over this and it was then a bit of descending and onto the second climb. And that’s when the Welsh weather really decided to open up. As you can see from the pic before:
Still I’d be through worse last year at Ride London, but this was a reminder that in all my stressing and being organised I should have brought a coat and my backpack instead of worrying about travelling light. Still if i was cold now it was going to get worse. However the climb was spectacular and the scenery made it enjoyable. It wasn’t a particularly hard climb just long.
After that it was onto the first rest stop, where a bit of food (the potatoes were as good as hyped!) a wee, and water top up it was back out there, knowing the toughest climb was on the horizon, the Devil’s Elbow. The weather cleared here and it was a lovely ride over the Penderyn Moor and my pace was reasonable. I knew the ride would be long but I was not wanting to be swept up by the broom wagon so I was focused on maintaining a pace over 13mph and honestly before the Ride I wasn’t sure I could. For now though it was going well.
So of course it started to rain as I approached the Elbow which was the steepest Gradient. And at this point the bike started making a nice rattly noise. So I did what any good cyclist would do… I ignored it. Thankfully after crawling up the Elbow… it went quiet. I stopped checked the bike and couldn’t see anything. So I rode on knowing rest stop 2 wasn’t far off and I could get it looked at. But as i rode in I hadn’t heard any other issues so I filled up quickly and it was back out.
And this section would prove to be the toughest mentally. As it really opened up and the temperature dropped. It really got under my skin, literally and I was shaking and shivering and just hanging on mentally. I was doing ok pace wise but the next section just went on and on. But I got through the long climb eventually, but it took a lot of digging deep and as I rode into the third rest stop, I was freezing. I knew I had to keep moving and i looked over to the first aid to see people in foil blankets to know I wasn’t alone this was a mentally tough moment. Thankfully, I ate and just got on with it, I had to hope if I kept moving i’d warm up.
And boy did I! straight out it was a very steep hill and i couldn’t stand as I cramped, still I got up and thats when the spoke went ping and the noise really ramped up. So I was cold, with a dodgy wheel now. But a couple of things happened. The hill had warmed me up, standing up and cramping made me realise I’d not eaten enough so I scoffed some gels. And the weather broke. So on I Rode hoping the bike would keep it together. And the next bit became some beautiful scenary. Just endless moor land and the sun out. I was now burning! It just shows how much the conditions change on a ride like this.
Then it was Black Mountains time and this was going to be a climb at 7.1 km long and a 5% average, which you could see coming a long way off, it was strap your self in time. I got into a steady pace, and got on with it. The legs were heavy, but i knew get over this and the hard work is done, you just had to peddle to get the last 70km in. So I didn’t break any records but It was a lovely climb, my favourite type, stunning switchbacks, beautiful scenary, it was one of those moments you took in what you were doing and it was just a great moment. Until you went round a bend and saw there was more bloody climbing to do!
Still before long I was at the top.
Then it was an amazing descent, and It felt good to be out on the bike, the previous low spell all but forgotten and just a fun fast few miles beckoned before rolling into one of the best feed zones ever. There was coffee, seats and the friendliest volunteers ever.
From here it was just 45km and a small climb, so I was buzzing, all the doubt and worry was gone I was going to do this. I was going to cycle 140 Miles and double the climbing i’d ever done. The last hill wasn’t hard just a slog and i knew get over this its done and sure enough the last 23km were ok before long I was rolling in.
And I was over the line in 9 hours 15 minutes which i thought was respectable, I had 11 in my head.
It was a celebration of Steak and Ice cream later that night.
So challenge 2 is done. And I guess I can safely say that was harder than the Marathon but equally as enjoyable. I’m very chuffed I did it, clearly I must be as I’ve already signed up for next year. And I’ve decided another marathon will be on the cards too, I’m waiting to hear if I get into London again, if not i’ll find another.
But for now, its a bit of a rest, and just running and cycling for fun. Next up is Ride London, but before that I’m looking forward to a holiday with my lovely wife in Barcelona. I think i’ve earnt a rest.