In August I did my first 100-mile cycle, and it very nearly broke me. I suffered horrendous saddle sore, had a huge calorie deficit, and pushed my knee over into injury...it really wasn't pleasant. I'd quite obviously ramped up my distance far too quickly.
Yesterday I did 100 miles again, and coped far, far better. It was a combination of factors...partly I have strengthened up my legs, and had continual physio and massage work on my legs to keep injuries from settling in. I also approached the entire day far better, by keeping a far closer track of how I was feeling, and managing any needs. I was taking part in the first training day for Ride Across Britain. Due to the utter in-eptitude of the rail system I couldn't take my bike to Hungerford (about 25 miles away) on the train, so decided instead to cycle there and back. The weather was overcast, witha level of humidity that constantly threatened, but never quite delivered rain. I started the day with a steady session along the A4 to Hungerford...the lack of geography meant that I was able to settle into a good rhythym. I arrived at Threshold Sports, the people running RAB. They pretty much nailed all my requirements by welcoming me with hot tea and chocolate cake!
Once everyone had arrived (about 40 people were there), we all headed upstairs to slouch around on beanbags for a talk from Prof. Greg Whyte, where he covered some of the main challenges we were going to face. It was good stuff, and there were some real eye-openers to what can happen if you let a problem lie too long before you fix it. 1997 Ironman Womens Finish...this is either hilarious, or horrendous, and I'm still not sure which, but as a result of it I'm sure as hell going to make sure I keep myself well fed and watered.
We then had a quick chat from Mike Veal of Bike Dynamics, where he quickly covered the basics of bike setup...he was a man much in demand, and he stayed behind after the ride later to get people on a turbo, and do some basic adustment. I had a 10-minute session with him, and a couple of tweaks to saddle position later and I'm feeling a little smoother rolling along.
For the ride itself we were split into 3 groups roughly based on claimed abilities from phone calls over the last week. I'd obviously said something bad, as I'd been put in with the experienced riders. We started with a group of 14, led out by a pleasant chap called Tim. The route was a 19-mile circuit around West Berkshire...no big hills, but plenty of undulations, and the wet weather and leaves made some sections "interesting". We set off at about 16mph average, which is well with my ability levels, and for the most part stuck together (a couple fell off the back, however there were chaperones with each group, so they formed a new group behind us). This was my first experience of group riding, and it's going to take a little getting used to. On the plus side sitting in a group saves a huge amount of energy. At the end of the second lap Tim said we could fit in a 3rd, but the pace would have to go up...he reckoned about 18mph. I was feeling pretty good at this point... I'd been keeping topped up on gels and bars, and had also remembered to drink occasionally!, and again 18mph is within my pace. Five of us went for the 3rd lap, with the others heading back to base. Throughout the 3rd lap we started to fragment, and I'm pleased, and fairly relieved, to say that I didn't drop back. Eventually 3 of us finished on pace, with Tim dropping back to bring in the stragglers. I was really pleased with my performance...I kept up with far more experienced riders, and the work I've put in on hills paid off, as on the rolling sections I was keeping good pace, and not burning energy pointlessly.
After the ride we had a de-brief (which involved more cake for me), and then I had the 25 miles back along the A4 to do, and to add fun in it was getting dark. I have some decent lights (on both the helmet and the bike), so I prepped the bike and headed off. As I came into Newbury I started to feel fatigued. Normally I would have pushed on, and maybe taken a break once I was out the other side of Newbury, however taking Prof. Whyte's words into account I pulled over, had a food bar and a good amount of drink, and gave myself a 5-minute break...once I started up again my energy was back, and I was able to tap out a good rhythym back to Reading and home.
Really enjoyed the day...great to meet other RAB'bers, and was also good to crack out 100 miles without feeling like death the next day, and with no noticeable pain. It's still a long way to go to being able to do 115 miles a day for 9 days, but yesterday was a good milestone to hit...