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Thursday, 7 June 2012

CHILTERN 100: HOW TO RIDE A SPORTIVE WITHOUT TRAINING

The short anwer is....yes, so you don't need to read any further.
Cycling has been a major feature in our graphics department at work, it so happens that all four of us (and a few more around the newsroom) enjoy cycling and we always have eurosport in the monitors next to our working stations, to the annoyance of our fellow colleagues who have to order some graphics for the evening news.
Three of us started commuting 7 or 8 years ago, another colleague 2 years ago (but road bike only a year or so) and the latest 'recruit' is the news director with only a few months of experience.
Some of us belong to cycling clubs, done sportives (including Marmotte, Maratona dles Dolomites), trips to Paris and so on, but generally we stick to simply commuting to and from work.
Cycling fever being very contagious, we decided why not entering a sportive all together, so we planned for the Dragon Ride.

To prepare for it, so to speak, I didn't do any long rides, simply the 22km each way commute to work. I guess it can be considered a good interval training session, with the stop and start at the traffic lights, couple of hills, well ok, ramps, around or in Richmond Park, and longish stretches where, traffic permitting, is possible to go at sustained speed.

With my colleagues we have ventured out during some lunch breaks, an hour of training around the hills of north London, Highgate West Hill, Muswell Hill, Alexandra Palace and the notorious Swains Lane (20+%).

As preparation and to sound out how we felt riding so many miles we entered the Chiltern 100 as it didn't sound so bad...little did we know!
We totally underestimated it, didn't look at the profile, didn't prepare at all.
It turned out there were 21 climbs, all incredibly steep, long enough for that kind of gradient (some over 20%), over 2,000mt of climbing over 177km.
To top it all it was 27degrees and no breeze...lovely.

I downed two bottles of energy drink with caffeine while driving there after a good breakfast.
We met at the HQ in Amersham. The parking was plenty, there were toilets, refreshments to be bought, numbers to collect, waited by the line no more than 20mins and we were off.
The plan was to stay together for this one as much as possible, not looking at the time, just finish the distance and not die trying.
It was all going really well until about an hour and a half in I started getting pain from the sciatic nerve, it really felt trapped, shooting pain down my leg. I tried to ignore it and carried on. Then I decided I had to stop to stretch my back as I wasn't able to continue. I shouted to two of my mates to carry on and a few minutes later a colleague caught up and stopped to see if I was alright. Luckily he had a double dose of ibuprofen, which I took gladly, and was able to carry on. The tablet was only masking the pain a bit but I knew it would come back. Ironically I was enjoying the constant climbing as I had no pain then.
The first stop saw all of us 4 meeting to refill our bottles and we managed to stop for 14 mins!
After that we all seemed to split and go our different speeds.
We kept bumping into one another every now and then, and at the second stop I decided I couldn't stop anymore as I had to stop so many times to stretch my back. Waved at my colleague who stopped for refill and carried on. Not stopping was good for my time but I would pay for it on the closing kilometers as I hadn't drunk as much as I should have, but by then the pain was taking over my little brain capacity.
The two longest climbs in the middle were really really hard. The gradient getting steeper and steeper with no end in sight. I was fighting the urge to stand on the pedals but it was a delicate balance as if you stand up too soon it becomes incredibly hard to sit down again an 20%. So I waited and waited a slong as possible. It worked in the end and was glad to leave those behind.
I met up with another colleague towards the last quarter of the ride and stayed with him until the last 2 climbs where I eased off as cramps were coming out to say hello. Then there was the nasty surprise of a steep little climb at the end which was not on the ride's profile, just as well, it wouldn't have made it any easier...but there was a lot of swearing from every rider.
At the finish line there was relief that I had managed that distance with all that climbing without proper training, my time was 7:33 including 28mins of stoppage, so Bronze standard. A colleague had already arrived 10mins earlier, the other two arrived only a bit later (one had to patch up a broken chain).
The roads had not been all that good, lots and lots of broken surfaces but the views had been great.

I resolved to sip religiously every 10 mins, getting a gel or an energy bar every hour, alternating between them (swithching to caffeine gel at the end). I will need to make sure I stop more for refills at the Dragon Ride even if I'll have backache stops, as that could prevent the onset of cramps towards the end of a long ride, especially as the Dragon is over 200km.

But at least I'm more relaxed in the knowledge that it can be done (albeit not as fast) without proper training, although I'm sure I would enjoy the rides a lot more had I trained for it! And yes I will shave my legs

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