Thursday, 24 January 2013

The long cold bike ride

I started writing this blog post because one of my few readers requested it - they know how to keep a fundraising blog going! But as I started writing it, I realised that I was indeed Very Proud of Myself and so this ride indeed meritted a blog.

Last Sunday the mercury dipped under zero. According to the Met Office the conditions were "like minus five" due to the wind. The roads were wet and lined with snow but they looked rideable. It was two hours 50 minutes on the spin bike at the local high testosterone gym or out on the road. So open road it was.

The Beardy Guy had put together a route the other night that consisted or pure left hand turns but it did go down a particularly large hill which I wasn't keen to tackle till I had seen the state of the roads, so I went in the reverse direction (Mossley to Stalybridge first) trusting my ability to now know the road rules. That was to be shortlived as I forgot to give way to a truck in Stalybridge and I am not sure who was more scared as I swept towards it.

Of course, the flip side of avoiding a big down hill is going uphill but in such cold weather, an uphill effort is a real joy as it warms you up. Unlike running, you just don't get warmth in your feet cycling and your hands become more and more frosty as the cycle progresses. However the promise of warmth from an uphill exertion was limited; the hill was nothing compared to the Mossley - Holmfirth inclines and my calf was still sore from a swimming cramp so speed was just slow and steady.

The top of the hill brought me to Harts Head Pike which is a nice thing to look at as an incentive to the top. The land around was lovely and white and I would have loved to have taken a photo if it wasn't so cold that I couldn't stop.

(Taken from the car afterwards)

The route then went across top Mossley to Greenfield through Grasscroft and it was there that the wind hit me. I was going downhill and pedalling and barely getting anywhere. When the bike jumped on a corner I realised I was winding my way through a cross wind / head wind. While I had thought about reversing the route for my second lap, I decided to stay on the same direction as the thought of facing a cross wind on the big descent was less than favourable. The Grasscroft descent seemed to take forever and especially taunting was that this section of the route passed my house twice. I rounded into Mossley from Greenfield on the section of road I knew best - that took me again past the house and prepared for the second lap.

Reaching StalyVegas for the second time, I realised that icicles were on my jacket and by the time I reached Grasscroft again, there was a sob stuck somewhere in my throat. As a 21km route, I should have been able to fit 2.5 loops in 3 hours but in this weather I was happy to end with two laps in 2.5 hours and called it a day. I passed a local landmark and realised I didn't even know where I was, so I didn't feel comfortable making up a half lap in that state. My drink was freezing and it was too cold to fuel.

My feet and hands were solid when I got home and Beardy had to pick me up off the floor as I couldn't quite stand on them. I knew I was feeling normal once I started shivering but that took a great deal of time to come on.

I wasn't at all fast on that ride and I don't think I even cycled well given that one calf would have been compensating, but what I lacked in speed, strength and technique I gained in mental toughness on that ride. I know that Mallorca will be the opposite weather wise, but sitting under a persistent sun, crawling up a hill with sweat in your eyes can be as unpleasant as the bitter cold. Doing a ride when everyone else was using snow as an excuse or using their indoor turbos was a choice, a tough choice but one that I feel gave me an edge for race day. Some days you have to do things you don't want to do but it's so rewarding once you have done it.  As the saying goes "Today I will do what others won't so tomorrow I can do what others can't".

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