On Sunday 23rd March 2015 I rode in The Eden Valley Epic Cycle which is a 60 mile Sportive.
I hadn’t trained nearly enough for this event as life, dark nights, bad weather, family and illness seemed to get in the way! The furthest I had cycled in training was 32 miles so I was expecting a lot from my body to do double the distance.
The start was a staggered start with groups of 20 cyclists being set off every 10 minutes or so and they recommended that slow riders started early and fast riders started late.
With this in mind I had planned to get to the start line just after 8am which was when the first riders set off. I hadn’t wanted to be in the first batch as my navigation skills are appalling and I wanted someone to follow!
I set my alarm for 6.45am and when I got up I was feeling extremely nervous! I peeked out the curtains to see what the weather had in store for me! It was a bright clear morning but I didn’t like the fact that the cars were iced over and the grass was white! I really didn’t relish the thought of riding on icy country roads!
Anyhow, I forced myself to put all my negative thoughts away and get dressed in my cycling gear! How many layers would be enough ... and how many would be too many? I am a very cold person and suffer the cold on a bike quite easily so I did feel slightly stressed about getting it right!
I somehow managed to eat a bowl of porridge and have a coffee before going out to check my bike over and pump up the tyres ready for the adventure ahead!
I had packed the essentials such as a spare inner tube and tools into my saddle bag the night before, and had put some emergency food and a waterproof in my bumbag!
With the car loaded we were ready to go at about 7.30am to travel the 28 miles from our home town of Kendal to the starting line in Penrith.
I was pleased to see that as we got closer that the sky was brightening and the frost was disappearing! Phew, at least that was one less thing to worry about!
We arrived at Penrith Leisure Centre at just after 8am and got parked easily. I went inside to register, where I got a wrist band to wear to enable me to get food at the half-way point and a timing chip that went on the front fork of my bike (I was pleased I had my husband with me at this point as I wouldn’t have had a clue how to attach it!).
The time had finally come to get on my bike and give it my best shot!
I purposefully stayed at the back of my batch of riders so I could follow them to stop me getting lost! The instructions did warn that the first mile was the most difficult to navigate so I really wanted to be around other riders for this part if at all possible.
I would say half my group were super elite riders and were off at break neck speed with no hope of me keeping up but thankfully there were some other “slower” riders that I was able to follow.
Once I was a couple of miles in I started to settle into it and felt a little more confident about things!
One thing that did really shake me up periodically was the super fast riders who came charging past me in large groups with absolutely no consideration for the less confident rider like me!
They might have been confident in their cycling abilities but passing me so closely and cutting in front quickly was just asking for trouble ... all it would take would be for me to wobble and they would all be down!
I witnessed one such rider nearly come a cropper when he hit something in the road that made him skid all over the place but thankfully he managed to save himself! If he hadn’t I would have ended up on top of him too!
The route was very scenic if a tad hilly and we passed through some very pretty places such as Maulds Meaburn, Crosby Ravensworth and Orton. Although I seemed to climb numerous big hills at least there was also some biggies to descend although these scared the pants off me when I felt I was going too fast for comfort!
By the 25 mile mark I was starting to feel hungry and a little weak.
Although I had a banana, flapjack, Mars Bar, energy gels and jelly babies in my bag I didn’t want to stop to get it out! I thought the lunch stop was at 30 miles and I didn’t think it was worth stopping with just 5 miles to go.
I eventually arrived at the lunch stop, situated in Appleby which was actually at about 36 miles! By this time I was feeling a little waffy and desperate for food! I think I should practise eating and drinking whilst still on the bike to avoid a similar situation in future!
Appleby was heaving with cyclists and it was a difficult task to find somewhere to park my bike to enable me to go into the hall for my food! I came out clutching a plate loaded with a sandwich, gingerbread and flapjack and perched on the kerb to eat it! I didn’t want to rest too long in case I started to seize up and would then find it difficult to get going again! At least I knew I was more than half way at this point!
After about 20 minutes I decided I had better hit the road again. !
For the first 10 miles after lunch I felt awful! My legs felt tired and sore and my thighs were burning, my bum ached and my back was beginning to object! I thought “There is no way I’m going make the 25 miles back”!
Thankfully, the second part of the course was a little less undulating and at around the 45 mile mark I got second wind and started to feel like I would get to the finish line after all!
That was until I came to a massive hill at around the 55 mile mark!
I could have cried! I gritted my teeth and slowly wobbled my way up ... and up ... and up! Just when I thought it was leveling out slightly there was another uphill section! By now all humour had left my body and I was cursing my stupidity in entering this event in the first place!
My body was tired and my spirit was broken!
Just as complete exhaustion was taking over I had a lovely long downhill section to aid recovery! The only problem was I must have been so anxious and uptight, holding onto the handlebars for dear life that my left hand cramped and my fingers seemed to go into a complete spasm! I couldn’t have put the brakes on even if I wanted to I was in agony! Thankfully I made it down the hill without incident and I was able to move my hand and fingers to release the cramp! It wasn’t a pleasant experience.
It was only another mile before I was safely back in Penrith Town Centre and heading to the finish line!
I felt complete relief that I had actually made it!
On reflection it was perhaps a little ambitious of me to enter this event. My main reason I did was to encourage me to get out on my bike whatever the weather to give me more cycle confidence for the Keswick Mountain Festival Triathlon!
I’m not sure where my cycle confidence levels lie at the moment but with only 6 weeks to go I had better knuckle down!