Apologies this was a summer blog that I never published and thought I would share.
I have now been out quite a bit over the summer, and after the success of the Manchester to Blackpool I have been regularly doing 60 to 70 miles. I have also been meeting up with an informal club and although I am not by any means the fastest (that belongs to some sadistic hill climbing maniac on a Cervelo) I can definitely hold my own with others. One thing I have been reading about on cycling forums is doing a Century – 100 miles. Given my new found confidence the idea of doing this challenge in my first year really appealed. Planning wise I had a few days off work before having my holiday with the kids, the idea would be to ride this distance under my own steam not going for any time or to any average speed but just get round. One guy who I have ridden with a couple of times also fancied it, so it seemed like I would have some company too. With Google Maps as my friend I sat down and planed the route – for those that know the area the plan was as follows: Leave home in West Lancs, to Chorley, over Rivington and Tockholes to Darwen. From there keeping south of Blackburn and Burnley, took us to Bacup and then to Yorkshire and Hebden Bridge, north to Skipton and loop back Chorley via Longridge and Preston and home, this loop worked with a mixture of hills but did take the distance to 120 miles.
I set off with pockets full of home made riding cake (see forthcoming post regarding recipe – one comment to my lack of spending on gels gets answered here), a cpl of gels, jelly beans, water and an energy drink. I also had money for any additional requirements and some form of lunch. I met up with Tim as agreed in Chorley and we both agreed this was not about time and was about finishing, enjoying the ride and even a spot of food and a nice cup of tea in Hebden Bridge. Off we set under grey sky’s with a not so great forecast, but this didn’t seem to bother us especially with the challenge ahead and the optimism of chalking off a new milestone to both of us.
Of course with British weather in the summer the grey clouds deposited some light rain on us but a steady pace was maintained all the way to Hebden Bridge. East Lancs is not an area I ride in much but is definitely going to be somewhere I do more work in next year, the hills are wonderful. We got lost once but the wonders of GPS on smartphones set us right (although the appeal of a dedicated Garmin is growing stronger). We arrived in Hebden Bridge mainly dry, 50 odd miles in 4 hours, no great shakes at all but after lots of faffing when getting lost we were happy to keep a half decent pace but keeping things in reserve for later. At Hebden Bridge we stopped at a nice little pub by the bridge, with huge canopies we could sit outside and enjoy some sustenance and keep an eye on the bikes. The food was lovely and the staff also refilled my bottle. The weather took a turn and the heavens opened we sheltered for an hour by which time the worst was over and we set off to Keighley and the turn for home.
We crossed the bridge and turned left and almost immediately started climbing, this was one long climb and one I enjoyed immensely, it just didn’t stop, although I am not sure Tim felt the same. It was by no means ridiculously steep but it was constant and it was here that I realised that the training I had done and the lung busting climbs had been worth it. We reached the top of the moor, the view of West Yorkshire was stunning (and I say this as a Lancastrian) and I only wish the weather hadn’t been so poor. From here we swept down through one village on to Howarth (Bronte Country the signs said but sightseeing was for other times I am afraid) and on to Keighley. From Keighley we cycled to Skipton and then looped back heading directly for home. It was here things started to go rapidly wrong, with half the distance covered I was feeling great and the “turn for home” gave me unbounded confidence. A number of factors soon shattered that confidence the first was the weather, a sustained period of heavy rain metaphorically and actually damped our spirits, coupled with the route which included a major dual carriage way with large lorries and a ridiculous amount of spray we were soaked. So bad I had to switch my light on mid afternoon in August! Second was my own error, myself and Tim nipped into a garage, to dodge some of the rain and restock, an offer on Lucozade Sport made me buy 2, only wanting to carry one I downed the second bottle (ignoring Tim’s question of whether this was wise) – just over an hour later and with my second (actually became 4 within 3 hours!) toilet stop, never easy in bib shorts, this was a major regret. The final factor was my first visit from the P fairy. Flying down a hill near Gisburn Forest I hit some raised cat-eye heard a bang and blew a huge hole in my inner tube. I now carry a small pack with tube and a pump – with Tim’s able assistance we changed the tube and moved on. However this constant stopping and starting was horrendous, my rhythm was broken the ride had lost its intensity, both Tim and I had stopped chatting, cold, wet and a little annoyed we just wanted to get home, due to this we cut some the route down, which meant A road travel but still maintained our 100 mile target.
As we hit the outskirts of Preston I was really starting to hurt – I would love to say I was enjoying hitting a new mileage limit (in the mid 80′s at this point), but no this was now a drudge, however very familiar surrounds spurred me on. I split with Tim between Preston and Chorley as agreed he looked like I felt, although there was a smile on his face of knowing the century had been done, we shook hands and separated. My ride home, the final 10 miles, hurt my legs were good and energy wise I had managed that well over the previous hours. Nope it was another sensitive area that was taking the brunt of british roads, my derriere or ass to most of you. It was really feeling the hours in the saddle, this was not normally an issue but today it was. I could feel every lump, bump and pot hole (thanks Chorley Council, please note that spraying around them back in April didn’t fix the issue and months later we are still waiting). The last 3 miles I did mainly out of the saddle to reduce the discomfort.
However 11 hours and 20 minutes later I arrived home, a miserable time but the century (actually 105 miles) was done and the feeling of personal satisfaction was immense. I learnt much on my ride firstly that despite many posts on forum’s that a century requires a lot of common sense but hardly the amount of planning some people claim. Secondly the knack of maintaining momentum is vital, frequent stopping is a bad, bad move and needs to be avoided – don’t drink copious amounts of liquid! I wasn’t happy with the time but as I write this I realise both Tim and I just wanted the miles and completion was all that mattered. Overall I enjoyed the challenge of this more than trying to shave a few seconds off a time trial – it was hard but you count on the fact this will not be the last long distance ride I complete.