>Well, after all the build up I failed to finish. A disappointing outcome. I lasted 75 miles and I don’t think I could have gone much further. I DNF’ed because of back soreness and saddle soreness, but also I was psychologically weak.
Pat and I travelled up to Norwich on Saturday. This gave me a chance to ride a stretch of the course. It’s a busy, fairly flat dual carriageway. The most significant things were a tail wind blowing towards Norwich and the heat, which was stifling. The ride and the long car journey left me dehydrated and I don’t think I drank enough to compensate. Our evening meal was in the Little Chef adjacent to our Travelodge. There were no big vegetarian pasta dishes available, so I opted for a ride pudding as dessert.
It was a fairly torrid night – a headache, probably caused by the lack of fluids, and consequent sleeplessness. The heat was oppressive – I was dissolving.
It was a surprise, then, to drop off to sleep about 1am and wake up at 3:40am feeling rested and ready to go. I had a breakfast of a Müller Rice and orange juice. After a small sat nav adventure we found the HQ in plenty of time for those last minute nervous cloakroom visits. I built the bike up, packed my pockets and headed for the start.
I was off number 19 – start time 5:49am. This gave me the best of the days conditions: cool and fairly still for lap one. The course is nearly four laps of a 26 mile circuit. I went through 25 miles in 1:03:48 – 12 seconds up on a 4:22:00 schedule. Maybe I got too involved in chasing riders down though.
The start of lap 2 was great – but this was because the wind was getting up again. The southbound stretch was much harder this time and my second 25 miles took 1:05:58 – hmmm, I’d scheduled for 1:05:00. Not too bad.
My back was beginning to hurt, but I was pretty sure I could at least finish from 50 miles out. I took the precaution of easing right back on the tailwind section – riding a lot of it on the bull horns and frequently easing out of the saddle. Despite this the tailwind meant that this was my fastest passage on this section!
The fast 10 mile times on that northward stretch are interesting: lap 1 – 24:00, lap 2 – 23:49, lap 3 – 23:20. The last done with minimal effort and zero attention to aerodynamic efficiency. That gives some idea of how the wind rose.
The turn into the headwind was as punishing as expected, but I kept low and measured my effort. For 5 or 6 miles this worked and then I blew up – I was crawling along at 15mph and couldn’t pick it up. My third ’25’ was a 1:08:36, but I had no more in the tank. I slunk off the course and packed.
The conditions were getting harder, but plenty of riders finished and the winners did amazing rides – Michael Hutchinson only 19 seconds off the competition record with a 3:23:04 and Julia Shaw smashing her own women’s record with 3:45:22. There’s a blog account of the race by Tejvan Pettiger here. He rode a personal best 3:52:18 for a fine 15th place.
So what do I need to change?
In all honesty I’m not sure that I can ride the longer distances any more. It’s a shame because my ‘engine’ is not designed for speed – generally I perform better the longer the races go on. My back is weak and once it starts to give me acute pain I begin to slow down. I should do more (i.e. some) core strengthening exercises. Maybe a Winter of Pilates would help?
My hydration before the race was poor – I shouldn’t have got dehydrated the day before. During the race I drank three 500ml bottles of energy drink, a couple of gels and ate two breakfast bars. I was picking up a 500ml bottle every lap (thanks, Pat) and had a spare 500ml bottle on board, but there’s a limit to how much I can drink on the move. I should have made sure that I could carbo-load the day before the race.
I need to do the training. I missed too many long, hard rides four to six weeks out from the event because of saddle sores. I might have got away with this on an easier day, but that headwind was always going to find me out. Having said that, I can walk today, so the maybe I couldn’t use the legs enough.
Psychologically, I am what I am. I will try and be realistic with goals and processes, but I have a negative streak that gets wider every time I ride past an event HQ in pain. More work to do here.
Race stats: Time (for 75 miles): 3:18:22 (22.69mph). Top speed: 32.4mph. Slowest mile (57): 3:28 (17.31mph), fastest mile (60): 2:06 (28.57mph). Average HR: 150bpm, maximum HR: 159bpm. Average cadence: 75rpm. DNF. Winner: Michael Hutchinson (In Gear-QuickVit) 3:23:04.