Firstly, I’m unsure how it happened but I ended up entering a wiggle 51mile race in the new forest with my brother in law, Mark!
I guess, I enjoyed the cycle leg of the RNLI Tri and thought it would be good to have a go at a cycling thing before the season ended. This race popped up and Mark I know had been looking to do one to see how it was, how he went etc. So why not have a go!
I chatted to a few people who assured me it would be fine doing it on a hybrid not a racer and checked with Mark he was happy going at my pace for the whole thing (using the timings from the Tri) and we both entered after my daughters birthday party. Next day we got an email saying the route had been increased to 54miles because of a route change. Brilliant!
I gave my bike the usual good coat of looking at and my personal mechanic Jenny helped me check it and add the additional bottle carrier, pedal cages and a few other small bits. Gear wise, I had some padded shorts from decathlon (£2.49 in the bargain bin!).
The morning started in the traditional way
My brother in law picked me up at 7:20 and off we left of the New Forest. Quick drive and good organisation into Somerley house (which is also the venue for a number of races I’ve done) and parked up.
Wondered up to the house/start area and was shocked by the sheer volume of Lycra on display. It’s only a personal view, but some people can wear Lycra, others less so… More, was the realisation of the sheer volume of gear!!! Now I love running gear and my wife would say I own most of it, but this pales into insignificance with cycling! Wow!!!!
Anyway, we got our numbers, showed them our helmets (sorry…) and then wandered around a bit and headed back to the car to get our bikes ready and do a bit of faffing! I have to declare I was very impressed with Mark at this point. He, quite fairly, has a reputation for being the King of faff but this time there was no faffing!!! (He did admit he had performed pre-faffage on Saturday)
Anyway wondered up to the start and got in the filter and it started dawning on me there were a number of cyclists:
– Full Kit People (another term was described to me but it’s a family blog), I guess the equivalent would be a Salomon Samurai in ultra running terms. These guys had obviously full Lycra, matching clothes to their bikes with matching water bottles etc. They were very very serious and I think we’re hoping to be selected for Team GB despite their size/age etc
– Serious but hiding it. Full Lycra, awesome bikes but a pair of baggy shorts over the top to cover the Lycra and some chat about not really training but then shooting off in full Wiggins mode
– Relaxed, done a few races, enjoy being on their bike and relaxed. Still nice bikes and the right gear but a bit more chilled (not many of these)
– People on mountain bikes or hybrids being stared at a lot! I saw two other people like me…
Race kicked off and off we went. Mark and I rode together and up to about 15 miles I felt OK and was quite enjoying it really. Nice views etc. Was a bit disappointed by the lack of chat between competitors but fair enough. Mark and I were holding our own once the initial filtering had happened.
10-25miles to the first feed station was hard as I wasn’t fuelling properly. I had some flapjacks etc in my bag under my saddle but I now understood why people had shirts with pockets on the back so they could reach fuel. Might need to get one of them!
At mile 25, the feed station was similar to the ultras, loads of food and water available and we had a 10-15 minute stop which to be honest was more about not being on the bikes as I was starting to get a lot of butt pain!
Left the feed station fuelled on Jelly Beans and had managed to get some flapjacks slightly more accessible to keep my fuelling up. Our plan was to stop at about mile 40 to have a stretch etc before the final push.
The main thing in terms of pace I was noticing was that I was OK on the flats (my weight was an advantage) but as soon as we hit the hills I could just about keep up or fell behind a bit, but at the top I was unable to keep my cadence going and that’s where I really fell back to then catch up and pass on the flats. Mark was great on these and just waited at the top before setting off again in tandem with me trying to find my lungs on the floor!
The second half of the race didn’t feel that much harder than the first (apart from butt issues) but there seemed to be lots more to look at:
Horse drawn carriages:
Anyway, we got to mile 40 and we had a quick chat about stopping and I suggested we crack on to 44 so we only have 10 left. Dead on 44 we stopped here with a sunbathing horse! I can’t explain why, but this cheered me up no end
I can’t lie, the last 10 was a bit of a pain! A few cheeky inclines were chucked in, a couple of heavy rain showers and then eventually we turned down the drive into Somerely for the last mile ride to the finish.
I felt really emotional to be honest. Mark and I gave it the Tour de France hand shake and back slap as went down the road. When I first started getting into running, joining Hedge End Running Club etc, one of my ambitions was to get fit enough that I could say yes to stuff and be fit enough to just about get through them. I’d rocked up at a cycling event and done a ride in an OK time (I’m told) and survived.
Anyway, went through the finish and got our medal (not up to the running race standards of bling) and a t-shirt. The lady was very kind and said I should try a large. I did to make her feel happy, then swapped to an XL which fitted!!!!
Went through and got some bits and bobs that were offerred and then took the obligatory photos:
I have to say a massive thank you to Jess (for helping me work out what inner tubes I needed and for suggesting pedal cages), Jenny my personal mechanic, Kim and Mark for suggesting I should use a lot of Vaseline and not to worry if my chap went numb (it didn’t, so no worrying needed). Most importantly a big thank you to Mark for staying with me and suggesting in a very nice way what I should be doing in a cycle event.
I enjoyed the race and probably would do another. Not sure I would want to go to much further without doing some training and potentially getting a race bike but never say never. In terms of comparisons to an ultra, I didn’t think the competitors were as friendly but then I guess it’s harder on a bike, it was very nice to see the miles tick away very quickly and like anything there are different categories of competitors.
In summary, a really nice way to spend 4 hours amongst beautiful scenery pedalling away with a friend.