Sunday, 18 May 2008

I survived...

My legs are mashed. I think that sums up my top achievement for this whole week. In fact after my treadmill session on Tuesday which went very well I came down with the same chest infection that Tom's had and so coughed, spluttered & snotted my way through Wednesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday. I made all of these days complete rest days to try and get rid of it sharpish as for some sadistic reason I was eager to ride the Etape Du Dales today. Had I felt the way I did yesterday then I wouldn't have ridden today but the excitement of trashing my legs on some of Yorkshire's hilliest hills for 110 miles appears to have allowed me to wake up this morning (at 4am) feeling so much better than I had done.

I've been scared about this race since the day we entered it many moons ago. As you know cycling isn't my strongest discipline and hills aren't my friend either. So in a bid to make me feel a little more comfortable in the lead up to this we had originally planned to ride it in training first...


I think had I ridden this in training there's the distinct possibility that I would have feigned prolongued illness to get out of it.

The picture at the top is of me & my mate Ady at Race HQ at 7am this morning, minutes before we set off on what was a long day in the saddle. The smiles are clearly signs of oblivion as neither of us really had any idea what lay before us. I rode with a load of our club members and they really kept my spirits up, although I only really saw them at the aid stations as they were much too strong for me to stay with them. A few of the guys I'd not met before but as we've seen with a lot of cycling events everyone is so inclusive and friendly it's great. One of the lads Nigel was an absolute trooper and chivvied me along when the going got tough. He dusted me on the down hills (it's frightening just how fast people can let themselves go) and waited for me to catch up then we'd ride together until the down hills took him away again. At every aid station (there were four) we'd all meet up as one big group and start the next section together then the terrain would seperate us until the next station.

So, what's the actual ride like? I've spent all week as each day got closer asking people who've done it what it's really like and the response was generally a very truthful "hard". I've been on TriTalk (a triathlon forum) asking people on there what the climbs were like, was I going to cry and would I have to walk. When we were at the local Time Trial on Wednesday I chewed the ears off Carl Saint (a fantastic cyclist) and Steve Woodrupp (who runs the TT and owns our local bike shop.) Was I going to be able to do it? Would I fall off on the hills was I going to be okay on the descents? The truth of the matter is, if I didn't know how I was going to do how on earth could somebody else know. I was told the climbs are hard but do-able, the descents are fast and dangerous but at the end of the day I had to just get out there and see for myself.

If my legs could talk they would tell you that today I worked them as hard as I do when I run a marathon. My arms are sore from pulling on the bars to get up the steep climbs and my wrists are sore from the weird position I put them in to keep my fingers on the brakes on the descents. That was almost certainly a challenge but I did it. I didn't walk a single climb, and I survived the descents, although there was one particular hairy moment on some hideous hair pin bends which went on forever when I really thought I was a gonner. If I could have got off I would have but it was so steep if I'd tried to come to a complete standstill I would have gone over the handlebars and that's a scary feeling, in fact that was the worst section of the day and now I see why at the bottom of every bad descent there was an ambulance.

Today 110 miles took me 8hrs 21 mins, actual riding time without the stops would have made it 7hrs 52mins. In Ironman the ride is 112 miles (and don't forget I'll have just swum 2.4 miles) and have to get off the bike feeling fresh enough to run a marathon. Today was great training, not just for my legs but for my head too. In Germany I'm hoping to beat my bike split from Austria (5hrs 48mins) and get as close to 5hrs 30mins as possible. Today I was in the saddle for over 8hrs and the terrain was a million miles more challenging so that's got to stand me in good stead. Today I also conquered some big fears. That's not to say that had I to do it all again I wouldn't still be scared but now I know I'm capable, I can do it, the proof is in the weathered look on my face and the desperate need for sleep.

Just before I climb into my loudly calling bed I'd like to say a huge big thank you particularily to Ady and Nigel who I rode with for most of the day but also to the two Simons and Andy & Rob & John & Kev (most of whom I met for the first time today) who had great course info and team spirit it's a day I won't (nor will my legs) forget and one that I'll be drawing on in the tough times in Germany because nothing will seem so bad having ridden round that course today. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can't possibly leave Tom out of this thank you because although we didn't ride together (he had a fantastic super speedy ride) I would never have done it without his belief in
me. I push that comfort zone because you're there to help me and when I don't make it you're always there to catch me when I fall. x

So on that note me and my tired weary body are off to sleep and tomorrow's a rest day!

"Conquering any difficulty always gives one a secret joy, for it means pushing back a boundary line and adding to one's liberty." HENRI FREDERIC AMIEL

H. x

1 comment:

Jevon said...

Well done, H.... that mileage is in your legs now. You're right, it's a million miles different from Germany and all that hard work will stand you in good stead. Jx