SERRL Kenardington 15 Aug 2010

 

My third road race of the year – and third ever for that matter.  The other two went really well and I scored 5th and 2nd places overall.  After an indifferent – at best – run in circuit races there was a little bit of pressure to a) score a couple of points and b) prove the other outings weren’t flukes.

Outset

No doubt about it; the SERRL races are fantastically well organised and run.  Support vehicles, motorbike outriders, rolling road closure – the cycling peasants can briefly ride like kings.

So I line up with 59 or so other riders who are variously better trained, in better shape, have better genetics and physiology, aren’t pushing 40 and have more time to train.  You get the idea.  Getting a result is somewhat against the odds.

I promised myself I would not repeat the mistakes of yesterweek and respond to and try and get in to every break.  If I was going to do something it would be in the last 10km – the last thing I wanted was a repeat of last week which was a severe arse-kicking at the start of the race with nothing to show for it at the end.

First Half

Four other Bigfoot riders were also at the race; DaveM, ReubenE, PaulS and recently crowned 2nd Cat veteran SteveS.  Steve got in an early break whilst I was quite content to stick in the peloton and generally chill,  barely getting a workout.  One of the cruel travesties of cycling is that riding in the bunch is largely un-taxing at this level, but getting and staying away is very hard work indeed.  There are no prizes for doing something in-between these two extremes.

I was finding time for regular doses of “humour” directed at my teammates.  Average HR for the first half 155bpm.  Tempo at best.

Second Half

This all stopped abruptly when I ended up off the front of the bunch.  I can’t remember what precipitated this madness – it was only half-way through the race and the very last thing I wanted to do was spend the last hour killing myself.  I did my oddly normal trick.  Have half a go off the front.  Realise I’m not going to make enough gap.  Back off.  Realise that the peloton hasn’t made an impression and think ‘fuck it’ and have a proper go.  Weird.

I spent about 25 minutes in no-mans land.  Between a breakaway of two riders and the bunch.  At one point the game was nearly up as a furtive check behind revealed a looming shark of riders.  However I pressed on and caught the two-man breakaway. 

I got my breath back and we started working.  One of the guys was shot and couldn’t contribute to the pace-setting so it was down to me and a guy from San Fairy Ann CC rider to stay away.  We took good turns and at one point I thought I might be able to take the win feeling pretty decent on the small climbs on the circuit.

We had about 40 seconds gap for the last lap; not enough to relax and enjoy the moment that’s for sure. I had one last push on the last climb to see if I could put a gap into the other rider.  No chance.  And no chance of me producing a sprint at the end either.

So second place over the line.  I get the nasty feeling that, in my confusion, my celebration crossing the line might have been a lame thumbs up – I hope there’s no photographic evidence!

Average HR for the second half – 174bpm.  Threshold.

Conclusion

SERRL road races are great.  It was terrific to get another decent placing.  It would have been nice to have got the win of course and it did cross my mind.  But much better to guarantee 2nd place than take big risks and end up 25th.  First of the losers again!

Great to ride with the other Bigfooters who finished in the bunch.  SteveS did a job for me apparently marshalling the bunch but alas out of my sight.

Fowlmead 7th August 2010

It’s been kind of quiet round here for a while.  I had a couple of chilled weeks after the Marmotte – eating a lot of what I fancied and generally recuperating whilst I considered my strategy for the rest of the season. 

Problem…

I’ve had very little joy going round in relatively small circles (ie crits and circuit races) and after a fractious but productive meeting with my some time coach Jo McRae I confirmed my plan to have a proper go at this type of riding.

I have a pet theory that I need to dispel; or at least confirm either way. I have a seemingly limitless capacity for endurance riding which makes me believe that I’m blessed in the Type I fibre department. Which would mean that I’m less well blessed in the Type II fibre department which is precisely what I need for shorter races.  However, I have not trained at intensities much beyond threshold – ever – so who knows?  Maybe I’m a brilliant all-rounder that just needs to adjust his training slightly. 

Planned Solution

So my plan is to do a bag load of HIT (high intensity training) specifically targeting my MAP (max aerobic power).  So I did an arse-kicking test and confirmed this to be about 420W or so.  Ever since then my training looks a little like this.

intervals

If I’m racing then so be it, if I’m not then I do blocks of HIT followed by rest.

Anyway, the race…

Fowlmead’s a nice little circuit.  Not much in the way of altitude changes but a good, long, well surfaced, fast lap.  And windy.  And you can see the sea.  After a bit of a tedious pre-amble; the race was delayed by about 30 minutes without warning, we were off.  My first ever 3rd cat only race.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect so I set off without too much hope although anything resembling a Cancellara-style solo break would have sufficed.  DaveC was also doing the race which was a bonus – “stay off the front was his advice”.  Two minutes later, who was engaged in a heroic solo effort off the front?  DaveC.

When Dave was caught another break went.  For some reason I went with it.  The pack bought us back in.  Then another, stronger break went immediately.  Still out of breath from the first effort I doggedly got involved in this one too.  And so we stayed; 3 of us for 30 minutes.  It seriously hurt – post-ride analysis showed that my heart rate averaged 180bpm for the duration of the break.  My max is meant to be 185bpm although after this race this has been revised to 189bpm.  But still.  Hard work.

And… all this was before Rach, Annabelle and an old (and wonderful) family friend turned up to spectate.  Eventually we were caught and absorbed back into the peloton. Great.  Half an hour killing myself for nothing and surely having compromised any hope I had of a decent finish.  And still 40 minutes of racing to go!

Still, best put on a show.

paul-fowlmead

I then switched to my standard strategy of endlessly working  on the front of the bunch.  Unwittingly chasing down breaks and generally exhausting myself.

Naturally after all of this nonsense I didn’t place very well.  A successful break went at some point and I trailed in probably around about 15th or so – comfortably out of the points.

Result

Consolations.  A very good workout.  And it was great to see DaveC – who had a good energetic race but with a similar result to me. 

dave-fowlmead

In the end, as I routinely find in these races, I was strong but unable to translate this into a meaningful result.  But what I do know is that it’s easy to convince yourself you are strong when you’re pissing around for the first 95% of the race – strong people actually do well in the last 5%!

Liege Bastogne Liege 2009

The LBL is my last scheduled ride of the year so it was important it was a good’un as it marks the end of my season to all intents and purposes.

And on paper it was going to be.  Not least as the pro event is one of the five ‘monuments’ of the sport and the oldest of the ‘classics’ as it was first run in 1894.  The race route runs from the unglamorous town of Liege to the unglamorous town of Bastogne and back again; a flattish 95km there and a hilly 163km back.

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As you can see DaveC is looking good but Liege is doing a mighty fine impression of Croydon!

Oddly the amateur event is organised by the Dutch largely for the Dutch – in Belgium.  The route was either 235km, 245km or 260km depending on where you looked and there where no reliable maps or GPS downloads available from the organisers website.

The ride normally has an entry limit of 5,000 riders but this year this was cut to 3,500 and I think that the normal route was revised.  Both of these changes were down to the ‘local councils’ in Belgium – I think.

The ride kicked off at 06:00.  That meant setting the alarm for 04:50 which felt like 03:50 as we’d lost an hour due to the time difference.  I actually awoke at 04:20 and decided I might as well get up anyway.  I tucked into a nice plate of fruit laid on by the hotel and set about trying to find enough places to hide energy bars, powders and gels to fuel myself for the coming 9 hour marathon.

We made our way to the start in the dark which was a couple of kilometres from the hotel.  It became obvious that the bulk of the 3,500 riders had not opted for the longer route.

Off we set.  No timing chips.  Instead they had a card-stamping operation.  DaveC got his card stamped, I hadn’t even bought mine along.  We navigated our way through the town with the help of fellow riders.

I was not able to get a route for the Garmin for the ride so it was important that the signage was good.  Which, in honesty, it was not.  Don’t get me wrong – I do not underestimate the effort required to sign a 260km/160 mile route.  The signs were too small and often were only visible when you were right on top of a junction.  By the end we missed 4 turns; two trivial, one relatively minor and one worth about 10km including a massive climb!

We found a couple of Dutch guys that were setting a reasonable pace on the early climbs as we dropped the rest of the early starters.  We ‘sat in’ for a bit until I decided that I should do my bit.  Which was weird as as soon as I got to the front the Dutch chaps seemed to deliberately fall back a few metres – seemingly unwilling to take advantage of my un-aerodynamic clearing of the way.

The weather was, well (Belgian Tourist Board look way!), shit.  Coming from the UK saying this means something.  It was like a ‘warm winters day’.  A horrid mist persisted for the first 6 or 7 hours of the ride.  It was wet, the roads were wet and it was just a bit dismal all round.  A times it felt like we were cycling through a a scene from Lord of the Rings.  There seemed to be miles of quiet roads through bogs and fallen trees.  Visibility was very poor.

Contrary to expectation the first part of the ride down to Bastogne was really hilly.

chart

(Apologies for the missing legend – miles on the X axis, elevation on the Y axis)

At one point DaveC lightened the mood (or rather lightened my mood) by saying “this is like torture”.  Endlessly climbing with no end in sight.

The feed stations, if not brilliantly stocked were at least frequent – every 50km or so.  I think Henry Ford was in charge perhaps as the options were a tad limited.  The first offering only a (albeit delicious) waffly, caramelly biscuit thing for sustenance.  The second yoghurts and rice pudding.  By the time we got to the fifth there were thousands of people around with 10 minute queues just to get tap water and only ‘tuc’ biscuits and bananas to eat.

And so the ride ground on.  We couldn’t see that much beyond the misty bubble we inhabited.  In some ways the ride reminded me of long turbo sessions.  When you ride for an hour indoors time really seems to drag.  Doing a two hour session in some ways is easier, because it feels like there is no hope.  And without hope there is no disappointment.  Still, the poor signage kept us alert – at every junction we meticulously scanned every sign to make sure we hadn’t missed anything.

We did do a couple of impressive climbs both in terms of length and gradient.  By this time we had caught the riders doing the shorter routes and they were doing a terrific job of boosting my morale.

La Redoute was terrific and is the ride’s last most famous climb where attacks normally take place that can decide the outcome – for the pros that is.  Three times I was lulled into thinking the climb was coming to an end by the presence of spectators and put on a bit of a show, and twice I was wrong.  When I say ‘put on a show’ I mean humiliate myself by thrashing around all over my machine like the mediocre old man that I am with 230km on the clock.

And so the ride finished.  I was amazed how good I’d felt throughout the ride.  It was the by far the furthest I’d ever ridden in one go (by at least 50km) and I felt really good throughout.  I was concerned that my seemingly good endurance would dessert me but I held on really well until the end.  (edit – I should point out that almost as soon as the ride was over I was completed fucked :-) ).

As ever it was a pleasure and an honour to ride with DaveC who, in his un-pushy and modest way, has done so much to encourage and educate me over the last 18 months.  He’s not the club legend for no reason!

Some stats
  • Ride time – 10 hours (!)
  • Length – 260km
  • Climb – 4,200 metres
  • Full stats
Good things
  • The Dutch – how did they get to be the cool ones?
  • 160 mile ride – awesome challenge
  • My sore legs the following day – it’s nice to be reminded :-)
  • La Redoute
Bad things
  • Signage
  • Route – what happened to the famous climbs in the second half
  • Feed stations – charge me €30 instead of €15 and get some good stuff in!
  • Belgian weather – even we’d turn it down
  • Organisers website/lack of information
  • Lack of timing chips
Addendum

DaveC summed the first part of the ride up more succinctly that me here

“As we climbed the hills surrounding Liege, daylight revealed mist/drizzle covering everything, reducing visibility to about 100 metres. This torture continued for several hours, with the road ahead always climbing towards an invisible summit followed by brief descent then up again.”

London Triathlon Afterword

Well, the results are in and the official photographs are available online.

The good news is that I was the only finisher in the top 20 that was on a regular road bike (even my ego couldn’t drive me to check any more pictures!).

The bad news is that I still look a dog’s dinner on the bike.

The countdown begins to the Liege Bastogne Liege this weekend…

LONA09_DJB_005608

London Triathlon 2009

I had the pleasure to compete in the London Triathlon again this year at the Excel centre.  I’m still a complete spaz in the water and can’t swim so I’m confined to doing the Team Olympic event – but it’s no less fun for that.

We managed to put together two intuitive (the company I work for) teams that would compete against about 400 others on the day.  The event consists of a 1.5km swim, a 40k bike ride and a 10k run.

tristats

The positions are shown out of 385 which was the total number of teams that completed the event.  Some terrific efforts, not least ‘occasional swimmer’ LesD managing a not inconsiderable 31 minute swim and DaveS rocking up without any specific training and running a 40 minute 10K.

Alas the pictures didn’t come out very well again!

PS Les has a justgiving site if you fancied donating some money to his chosen charity – not least as it involves men’s bums – an intuitive favourite!

Marmotte ‘09 Stats

So, before I forget, some final stats of the ride.

Position Time

Pos

Pos (cat)

Pos Gain

Glandon 1hr42

381

174

Telegraph 3hr35

300

140

+81

Galibier 5hr09

281

135

+19

Alpe D’Huez 7hr27

262

119

+19

Alpe D’Huez Ascent 1hr10

244

110

 

The figures fortunately bear out my story :-) .  I had a bit of a disaster on the Glandon followed by a steady improvement in position as the ride went on. 

Overall I finished 262nd which is pretty good out of 5,300 finishers – not least as I was ahead of a considerable number of the 400 ‘elite’ starters.  Within my category (ie 30-39 year old males) I finished 119th out of 1,600 riders.

Not a staggering ascent of the Alpe – though there’s a couple of extra minutes in there for the stop at the support vehicle.  Either way, Pantani can breathe easy.

Amazingly the fastest time of the day was 6hr09 which puts my efforts into perspective!

The full ride details are here.  In summary

Ride time 07:27:15
Total Distance 175km (108.8 miles)
Total Climb 4927m (16, 165 feet)
Average Heart Rate 156bpm
Max Heart Rate 176bpm
Average Speed 23.3 km/h (14.5 mph)
Max Speed 70.5 km/h (43.8 mph)
Calories (est) 8,650 kcal

And the best official picture

Marmotte ‘09 Ride Report

Thursday

We decided this year to skip the extra day on the Alpe, nice though it was to spend time there last year.  AndyC and I were driving down at an obscenely early hour via the Eurotunnel and the fantastic French road system.

We were meeting up with a bigger group of guys organised by the excellent Paul Martin – 28 of us in total.  In the back of the van we had 3 other bikes; Bigfooter DaveM and two renegades CliveH and SteveF who were flying together from Stansted.

The plan was to get to the Hotel Pelvoux in time for tea which we managed no problem.

Friday

Friday was a nice day to chill, plan and enjoy the surroundings.  After a briefing in the morning we wandered round the town and I picked up an absurdly expensive jersey (€150).

We gave the bikes a quick shakedown by riding up to the lake.  It was the first time I’d got in the saddle for ages and frankly it didn’t feel that great.  My legs felt tired and my pedalling laboured.  The views were terrific though!

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The other chaps picked up their race packs and we headed down to Bourg for a spot of lunch which was fantastic.

I spent ages mulling over my packing options.  The team of chaps we were riding  with do a brilliant job offering support at three places on the route.  However, the number of options this gives  and the fact that the weather conditions can be so variable makes the decision process strangely complicated.  Anyway, I packed up three bags with bottles, powders, potions, bars and gels ready for the morning.

My preparation in the last week had been far less than ideal.  A spot of gastric flu the weekend before meant that I’d been unable to train as planned (I barely had the energy to climb the stairs let alone ride) but also left my body depleted so that when I did a little training on Tuesday I suffered terrible cramp during the night that I was still feeling the effects in my calf muscles 3 days later.  This was cause for concern so I went to the pharmacy and the nice lady gave me some magnesium tablets and French ‘deep heat’ which smelled pleasingly of lavender.

Saturday

Despite getting an early night and sleeping well the alarm at 5 o’clock was still pretty shocking.  Up we got and forced down some breakfast.  The day starts with a chilly descent of Alpe D’Huez which was much more fun this year than I remember.  It was really exhilarating and great to get back on the bike after so much rest.  We were herded into the town – luckily were were in the first group (after the elite riders) and would be starting at 7:00.

Last year I managed 8hr20 which was a reasonable first attempt.  I’ve trained hard this year and was hoping at least to beat the 8 hour mark.  Last year I rode my bike a lot and in the process got pretty fit.  This year I’ve cut out a lot of the ‘fun riding’ and had a much more focussed and structured plan which has involved a lot of hard sessions on the turbo.

I thought that I probably had a 7hr45 and maybe even a 7hr40 ride in me this year but that was before my compromised preparation, aching legs, inability to train in the last week and mechanical problems with my bike had dented confidence.

To the Glandon

The first bit of the ride is a half hour blast along the valley dwarfed on all sides by mountains.  Everybody is pretty pumped up as the 1,600 riders in our batch burn off some adrenalin and it’s the perfect way to get the legs going cruising along at 45kmph almost effortlessly.  AndyC, DaveM and I set off together but in the melee Dave dropped off the back somewhere.  AndyC was displaying his usual ‘leave nothing on the road’ mentality and we ripped up the first couple of undulations.  Not content with sitting in on a fast moving group were were straight on the attack and swiftly got to the foot of the Glandon.

Glandon Ascent

The first test of the day; a 25km climb.  Only 5% or so on average but a tough and inconsistent climb.  It ramps up pretty quickly and Andy and I set about making our way through the crowds.  Probably a little quicker than I would have liked as my heart rate was a bit high but I thought we’d settle in.  After half an hour into the climb we got separated and I backed off slightly.

Unbelievably I had cramp in my calf muscles already!  After the first little test.  To say I was a bit gutted was an understatement.  I backed off completely when I hit a small town and rested my legs.  I was half tempted to turn round and head back there and then.  The Marmotte is a murderous day even when on the finest form.  The idea of spending 8 or 9 hours enduring cramp for a poor time did not strike me as a great way to spend time.

“6 months training for this!”.  Anyway, I stopped moping and decided that I’d ride to the top of the Glandon and see how I felt.  If I thought I would be able to survive the ride then I’d do it, otherwise I’d turn back.  Once past the summit there would be no going back.  I felt that all thoughts of a good time had gone, instead I would ride to finish if it was going to be possible.  Any number of the riders that I’d past on the initial climb were now streaming past me which was humiliating.

Just before the summit at least a friendly face appeared.  DaveM caught me up and was going well.  We made the first support car together, stocked up and went on our way.

Glandon Descent

“Fuck it” was what I actually thought.  If I can’t climb well at least I can have a good go at the descent.  I dropped Dave instantly and set about making the most of the downhill.  I remember last year relishing the views.  Not this year.  I was totally focussed on the next corner and maximising my speed.  The top section is a bit dicey and there’s always a few crashes each year, some fatal, but I negotiated them well and felt good.

At the bottom I felt okay but started to wonder where everyone was.  With 7,000 other people doing the event it would seem impossible that there could be no other riders in view but that was the case.  At other points in the ride this isn’t a problem but with the ‘boring flat bit’ coming up the last thing I wanted to do was ride on my own wasting precious energy.

Road to the Telegraph

This is the only slightly unpleasant bit of the Marmotte route.  Slightly uphill, 25km or 35km, unglamorous single and dual carriageway. It’s not the organisers fault of course that the mountains don’t all join up perfectly but still it is a shame.  There is a very simple strategy for surviving this part of the ride; find a group to sit in and eat and drink like crazy.

Simply put trying to consume  anything whilst either climbing or descending is very difficult.  When you are climbing even taking a quick sip of a drink can leave you hopelessly gasping for breath, let alone trying to eat.  Descending at pace requires a good deal of concentration and hands on handlebars!

I pressed on alone for a while and actually felt pretty good on the flat-ish roads.  The cramp was long gone and I was setting a good pace.  Finally a group caught me and I joined them.  I ended up doing a couple of turns on the front which was not really the plan but anything to hasten the arrival of the next climb.

Telegraph Ascent

I was the only one of our immediate circle of 5 that had ridden the Marmotte before so I was in the position of dispensing various bits of my acquired ‘wisdom’ whilst trying to make clear that I was extrapolating from a single ride.  One of these little gems was that the Telegraph was a nice little climb.  Mainly as it is, compared to the Glandon, a consistent gradient.  What I had forgotten in the year that had passed was that it is consistently bloody hard.  And really hot and exposed.

I was heartened that I was climbing OK and I dropped some of the group I’d been riding in.  My legs were cramp free and I made steady but sure progress.  With about 3km to the top I could feel a few twinges in my legs in my quads and hamstring but not in my troubled calf muscles which was a great relief.  I backed off a tiny bit and continued to mix in efforts out of the saddle.  I hit the top of the Telegraph and pressed right on.  I’d been promising myself a piss for some time but I wanted to save it for a treat, however mad that might sound.

Telegraph Descent

Something odd happens when you push your body hard physically.  It affects you mentally as well.  I started singing, not out loud thank god, the chorus of White Lies’ Farewell to the Fairground, the bit that goes “Keep on running…” over and over again with tears in my eyes.  Very odd.  But motivating and I tore down the hill.

Valloire

The short descent from the Telegraph takes you down into Valloire which in turn, after a brutal little kick, brings you to the Galibier.

Galibier Ascent

I started the Galibier as planned with a nice piss by the side of the road.  I managed to get on and off the bike without any cramp which was a good sign.  My back was holding out too on the climbs was was good news – I’ve sold out and started stretching since my trip to see Jo McRae and I reckon this was paying dividends.

The climb starts innocently enough with a playful 5 or 6% gradient that softens you up a bit.  Then at Plan Lachat you cross a small bridge and it turns nasty.  Straight away you’re faced with a wall of a climb which sets the tone for the next 45 minutes or so.  It’s a brutal ascent which gets harder and harder.

It was on the Galibier that the memory of suffering from the previous year returned.  It seems that the brain, probably for reasons of kindness (or more likely as an ardent evolutionist – survival advantage), is incapable of recalling exactly what pain and suffering are like.  Climbs like this really hurt and go on hurting for a long time which is very hard to relate.  The thought “I’m never doing this again” goes through your mind countless times.  The roadside markers counting down the kilometres are a mixed blessing.  When it says 3km to go but you can see the summit towering above you it means nothing.

The last few kilometres are particularly tough.  Road traffic is directed through a tunnel and only the crazy carry on to the top as the gradient stiffens to 10, 11 and 12%.  Though not for me the horrendous cramp of last year, of being bent double over the bike.  I was straight on to the big ring and into the descent.

Galibier Descent

The second support vehicle is just the other side of the summit so a couple of turns later I was forcing chocolate brownie and diet coke down.  I’d said to the chaps that it would be a good idea to have a ‘treat’ to give you something to look forward to during the climb.  Actually it was a pretty shit idea I think and I didn’t really enjoy either of mine.  I was very quickly on my way, water bottles replenished and jersey stocked with bars and gels.

I set about the descent in much the same vain as the Glandon.  Singing away to myself I was taking no prisoners.  It’s an amazing descent but again I had no time to enjoy the views.  During the descent there are 7 tunnels of varying lengths and illumination – or rather un-illumination.  Going from the glaring sun to a pitch black tunnel with no time to remove the shades is a bit of a hazard.  You can just make out the guys in front as they are silhouetted against the darkness.

I’ve never been so inclined to take risks and I overtook cars in the tunnel on blind corners and lorries without plain view of oncoming traffic.  But having come this far and worked so hard I didn’t want to compromise my time.

As I started to see signs for Bourg D’Oisans I started to think that, actually, after all, I might be on for a reasonable time.  In fact 7hr45 was looking possible.  I kept my head down and worked in a small group as the kilometres ticked down.

Alpe D’Huez Ascent

I was feeling pretty good at the bottom of the Alpe.  Not brilliant.  But good.  7hr45 was still on which was awesome and motivating.  Unfortunately this year the weather was not so kind and the sun was beating down.  The first couple of turns on the Alpe are brutal.  12% easily at points.  The final support car was placed at hairpin 18, or three long turns up the hill.  The guys were brilliant and turned me round in no time with a fresh drink and gel to get me up the hill.  I stripped off my helmet and gloves, poured cold water over my head on got on with the climb.

And so the climb ground on with a succession of relatively flat hairpins followed by walls of tarmac of varying levels of intensity.  There were a couple of water points on the way up and it was such a relief to have half a cup of cold water to drink and the other half on my head.

I was not climbing brilliantly but steadily and there were plenty around me off their bikes or in a worse state than me.  With each kilometre marker I was trying to do the maths to see what time was possible.  7hr40 looked about do-able.

As I came out of the trees another of my absurd nuggets of wisdom came to get me.  Who was it that said “it’s really nice when the climb opens up”.  This is absolute bollocks.  It’s really steep and it hurts like hell.  Slowly the hairpins counted down until I got to the last one.  I’d been getting stronger and stronger as time went on and felt good as I got into the town.

I crossed the line at 7hr27 which I didn’t think at any time was remotely possible.  I stopped at the drink station and necked 5 cups of brightly coloured liquid, one after the other.  I spotted AndyC and went to congratulate him.  Legend.  It turned out he’d finished only a minute or so before me!  Simply amazing.

Roundup

What’s great about an event like the Marmotte is everyone has a story.  It’s not possible to have a boring day of it.

I was, well, thrilled and relieved in equal measure.  Thrilled with my time.  Knocking 53 minutes off last years time is ridiculous.  Finishing in under 7hr30 exceeded all expectations. But also relieved.  I’ve made no secret of how seriously I’ve taken cycling this year, made no secret of how hard I have tried to train and that the Marmotte was my main goal of the year.  If the ride had gone badly, as looked so likely early on, it would have been a very public-feeling failure.  Excuses are just that.

AndyC is a legend.  His ‘leave nothing on the road’ philosophy, his ability to push himself hard and his level of fitness are a real motivation for me.  There is a level of friendly competition between us but I was nearly as pleased for him as I was for myself at the end of the ride.  And, one day maybe, if I actually beat him at something, that would be good too :-) .

DaveM struggled in the end after a blinding start.  Well on target for an 8 hour ride after the first climb, cramp came after him in a big way.  Much as it had for me the previous year.  I don’t care what women say about child-birth, cramp is a killer! In the end, and despite the travails, Dave completed the course compromised and emotional in a very credit-worthy time of 8hr36 – inside Gold time and only 16 minutes slower than my effort from last year.

SteveF and CliveH.  I’m sure they won’t me mind saying that they are not as fanatical as the rest of us.  In training it took them 9 hours to complete the Dragon Ride which is a so-so time for a relatively unchallenging course.  I was pretty concerned what sort of state they would be in by the end.  Or maybe if they would finish at all.  I should not have worried!  Such incredible spirit mixed in with some comedy.  Not everyone would have been so blase about being sick during a ride.  Or so desperate to shed weight that they leave their mobile phone with the support car.  Or self-consciously doing up their jersey for the finish line despite being 5 hours down on the leaders.  But, if we are to be judged on the manner, style and spirit of our performance, then they both had fantastic rides.  Chapeau!

Stats and photos to follow!

Dragon Ride Photos

The Dragon Ride Photos are up.  Including this one of DaveC and I, appearing here courtesy of the former.

Dragon Ride ‘09 Result

Results in – I got 12th place, excluding Dan Lloyd.  Not bad.  Without the cramp probably would have got a top 5.  Still, no complaints. 

Great rides by DaveM and PaulS too – 35th and 36th respectively.

Crystal Palace 2nd June 2009

“Tis a beautiful night for a kicking” I twittered.

10876047 I was right on two counts.  It was a stunning summer’s (ok technically late spring) evening and if anything a too warm.  DaveM and I cycled up straight for work and got our race numbers.

Alas I was also right on the second count too – I got a kicking!  After the last outing when I felt strong in the bunch right until the end and was possibly a touch unlucky not to get a placing in the top 10 I was feeling pretty hopeful. 

Off we went – 33 laps planned.  There were so many riders that it felt impossible to make any progress through the bunch so I patiently sat in to see what would happen.

I was even more hopeful when the pace for the first couple of laps felt comfortable.  The first bad thing to happen was an involuntary trip through the shrubbery on the climb on the back part of the circuit.  A rider a couple of places in front had a ‘moment’, which caused the rider in front of me to brake hard which forced me to take evasive action.  I was forced off the track and into a bush but fortunately I managed to recover back to the track in one piece.  Though I didn’t appreciate the effort trying to get back the places that I’d lost.

From this point on the race felt hard.  The pace quickened and I just couldn’t get comfortable.  It was depressing sitting in the bunch feeling that all  I could manage was to barely keep pace.  The only place where I felt strong-ish was on the climb at the back where I seem to have better than average pace. 

DaveM did well to hang on for as long as he did but bailed after about 10 laps having lost sight of the bunch some laps before.

I settled in but could tell that I was labouring.  I expected the pace to drop as it had in previous weeks but if anything the pace quickened.  I came out of the back at about 20 laps but decided to press on in case the pace dropped.  With what felt like a herculean effort I managed to get myself back onto the main bunch.  However, this was to be my final act of defiance – by lap 25 I’d had my chips as my whole body gave out on the climb.  I coasted back to the start/finish line and packed.

So, my first DNF.  This was a bit disheartening.  Despite these races ‘only’ being for training, I do care where I finish.  And I certainly care that I finish at all although I’m not prepared to cruise round once I’ve been dropped getting in everyone else’s way!

There was a nasty looking crash on the fastest bend involving a few riders including cycling ‘royalty’ Matt Seaton.  Some poor chap had his posh Cervelo frame broken too.  Hearsay has it that the accident was caused by a backmarker which does not surprise me.  There seem to be a few riders that turn up and pay their tenner to get dropped after a couple of laps, then hang round and cause trouble – what’s not to understand of “stay right”?

Anyway, I shall not bore you with my excuses.  I rode hard – average speed was just over 39km/h and my average heart rate 176bpm which is about 95% of my max – the latter of which I also hit!

I felt de-hydrated during the race and had a headache after I finished.  So I should try and take or more fluids in the future I guess.  On the plus side my ‘cramping’ left calf didn’t  play up during the ride so that was something.

Next week will be better… :-)