Wow what a tough day that turned out to be!
The day started at 5 in the morning, much to Em’s delight. She particularly enjoyed my bumping around in a semi-coma trying to get dressed. A quick shower, breakfast, brew, load up and I was off to Bristol. I was surprised how relaxed I was compared to the week before. I think it helped that I’d had a busy week at work and the new job to think about to keep my mind off the ride.
I arrived at Bristol and it was so easy to get signed up and out on the road. At 6.50 in the morning I was on the road and off towards London. I needed to be there by 3.49 to get in, under my 9 hour target. The ride out of Bristol was pretty uneventful and a good gentle warm up. The weather was good,but fresh and the shallow hills helped wake the legs up. It wasn’t long before I left Bristol behind and by 7.50 I was passing the Bath rugby training ground.
Twenty minutes later I was approaching the first rest stop at Box, how ever I felt good and had been eating regularly, keeping hydrated so it was on to Box hill and the first real climb. The hill wasn’t tough and I was over it quickly, with only a bit of effort. 20 minutes later I was in Chippenham.
After Chippenham, the flat roads gave way to a long substained hill, which was to be the first real test.
I struggled a bit with the climb, but I kicked on and maintained a steady rhythm. Then something strange happened I felt good. I was confident and not struggling. This is most un-Russ like! I can only attribute this to the intense hill training I’d done; the hills on the route were tough but none were like the hills me and Ash trained on around Gloucester. Then my favourite moment of the ride, I was coming up to a photographer and was getting ready to pose for a pic. Ahead was a lady clearly struggling with the hill, surely I wouldn’t be that much of a knob to time my overtake just as I passed the camera:
At the top of the hill there was a welcomed rest stop, which this time I utilised. At this point I’d covered 28 Miles in 2 hours 14. I was keen to keep pressing on, so a quick Brew, top up of water and I was off again within 5 minutes.
The roads continued on nice and flat and it felt like I was eating up the miles. Before long I’d passed the next climb at Cherhill, which was pretty flat and uneventful. Then a tougher climb into Avbury but again nothing that had me struggling too much. 3 hours and 20 minutes in i’d covered 43 Miles as I entered Malborough, for a tea and flapjack break. I also gave Em a quick ring to let her know how i was getting on. She was great the whole ride texting encouragement and support that got me through some of the tougher parts. We made the decision before the ride that I was not going to announce on Facebook how I was getting on, which really helped take the pressure off. So she was the only person who knew how I was going and her kind words help me more than she knows.
At this point I was feeling good. I’d been taking on food and water really well, something I feel I had down perfectly on the ride. I didn’t ache (yet) and felt I had a good time in me. With that in mind it was time to kick on.
Most of the ride I rode alone. I wasn’t able to get into a group and its much easier when you ride with others. However, it drives me on when I’m alone I think. My attitude is ‘f**k you world; its me against you; bring it on.’ So I just stuck the ipod on and got on with it.
The climb just outside of Malborough was tough, mainly because of the break and not expecting it. Thankfully it was pretty short and I recovered quickly. Then we went into a longer, fairly steep hill, a few miles later, which took a bit of effort to get over but nothing too strenuous.
I really enjoyed the next bit of the ride. It was a good mix of flat, curving roads and climbs. It really helped keep the mind on the ride and the focus on it. I thought about dad as i rode, what he would have thought of his former couch potato son, riding 100 miles across the country.
At 11.21 I rolled into the next rest stop. I’d now covered 55 Miles and done so in 4hr.30. I was not on the pace for a sub 9 hour time but wasn’t worried. I felt pretty decent. I was starting to feel aches in my legs, but nothing I couldn’t get through. I had now also ridden the furthest i’d ever ridden in one go, i was entering uncharted territory.
The next phase of the ride, into Newbury and then towards reading was really dull. It was just flat urban road and I found it tough to concentrate. The weather was uninteresting and it was hard to focus. Thankfully it soon gave way and it was back into countryside. I arrived into theale and the lunch stop at 12.34.
I had a decent break here, taking on board a pasta lunch. I was 63 Miles in here and starting to feel it. I had a strong cup of tea, let the food settle down and kicked on.
At 1 I was out pressing on. Then the rain came, it was a light drizzle at first but soon it was chucking it down. I felt cold and cursed myself for not bringing a rain jacket. It was stupid and it is an important thing to carry in the future. I grumbled to myself but nothing I could do, but man up and get on with it. I pressed on to Reading. Thankfully shortly after that the rain stopped. This part of the ride took in a lot of b roads, a mix of long steady climbs and short hard climbs. I hardly saw anyone during this part of the ride and felt alone which didn’t help the mindset. I kicked on but was longing for the rest stop willing it to appear. My legs were burning and I was cold. Thankfully I soon rolled into Hurst and a rest stop at 2.11 and 7 hours 16 Minutes on the clock. I had an hour and 43 Minutes to cover 27 Miles to get in under 9. I knew realistically this would be tough going. Even if i was doing that distance alone, I’d struggle to do it, let alone with an extra 27 Miles in my legs. I knew I’d give it my all, but I was feeling it now, my legs hurt, in particular my left knee was giving me grief.
I took a bit longer at this stop as I ended up talking to some guys about my bike, which is a good time to talk about it. The saracen never once let me down. It ate up the miles and never once gave me grief for it, I was never worried about a mechanical failure. It definately made the journey easier.
I set off again at 2.25. I almost had a howler as I was looking at my map and nearly went the wrong way at the rest stop. Thankfully another one of the riders shouted and I quickly turned back and got on track. The roads here again were b roads and I was pushing hard, I wanted to get that 9 hour target. I keep my intakes of food and water up and rode as fast as my tiring body would allow. If i wasn’t going to hit the 9 hour mark, It wouldn’t be for the lack of trying. The shouts of ‘come on’ and the asking for a push off dad that are becoming my trademark on a ride became my constant mantra. Luckily no one was around to hear it and section me!
At 3 o’clock I hit Windsor and now I was starting to struggle, my pace slowed noticably, fatigue was kicking in. I knew it would be tough to make my time but I was trying. So when at 3.32 I saw the 10 miles to go sign with 8 hours and 43 minutes on the clock I knew I wouldn’t make it:
I kicked on to Staines, but my legs were killing me and wouldn’t stop letting me know! I had stomach cramps, back ache, my knee hurt and the tank was near empty. I entered Staines, begging for the finish line. At 3.56 I saw 5 miles to go. I had nothing left so I texted Em for inspiration, her reply ‘think of dad’ really helped. I then saw a sign for Thorpe Park. Remembering my blog from last week, I manned up, the idea of quitting went, and I kept peddling. It didn’t stop me begging for the finish line, but I knew no matter what I’d get there.
Then suddenly I was there. I had envisaged crossing the line striking a pose but in truth I turned the corner not seeing the finish line and crossing it before I knew it. It was so anti climatic. I was exhausted I couldn’t celebrate. I simply loaded the bike onto the lorry, showered, boarded the coach and headed to Bristol. Thats when what i did hit me and I felt proud of it.
A few years ago the idea of doing this would never have occured to me yet now I can say i’ve done an endurance cycle. I’ve along way to go before May and the land’s end ride, but i’ve already come a long way. I loved the ride, the challenge, the thrill of the speed, the hills, the roads, even the pain. I wouldn’t swap any of it.
Over the next few days I’ll recover, take in the lessons I learnt on the ride and make an effort to improve. I need to get fitter I know that. I’ve already decided i’ll be back at the Action 100 next year, i know with experience and more fitness I can break the 9 hour mark.
So now I recover and get on with the new job. In three weeks it’s an 88 cycle round Bristol. For now its a few days rest and then i’ll be getting on the bike again…