cycling 8:21:10  206.0 km (2:26 / km) +3300m 2:15 / km
shoes: Focus Cayo Team 2010
wiggle dragon ride
(note - garmin ran out of juice after 112miles)
at 130 miles (206km) this is the longest single days ride i have ever done, and quite easily the toughest. after my experience at the King of The Down's sportive a couple of weeks ago, i went into this feeling confident that i could last the day, but at the back of my mind was aware that an extra hour on the saddle could easily be the breaking of me!
i only took this event on when i was offered a late place; I was already due to be in the area as I was on a stag do over the weekend in the gower. I set myself the target of only having 3 pints the night before, however i ended up going to bed at 11pm having had 5 pints, a shot of sambuca and a rum and coke. hardly ideal, and of course i was then woken up by my room mates coming in wrecked at 3am, one of whom it turns out was a crazed sleep talker and championship snorer. so not the ideal preparation!
left my hotel at 6am and drove the hour over to port talbot; it was immiediately obvious that this event was a fair bit bigger than the King of The Downs; its the 9th year it has run, and this year there were almost 4500 people taking part.
I set off with a group at around 8am, and settled into a flow straight away. The standard of rider was much higher than two weeks ago; there weren't so many testosterone heads, and over the first 35 miles of undulating riding, everyone seemed to be holding something back for the big hills to come.
Once these hills did start, it was pretty much relentless. As opposed to the short sharp climbs that I have got used to in the north downs, the hills in this ride were long and drawn out. I just tried to grind out a rythm. generally i was overtaking riders, but every so often a solo rider or a small group would cruise past. there were definitely some riders out there who were at a totally different level to me. the downhills were technical and super fast. very exhilirating, but no time to relax as you had to keep a keen eye out for other riders and poor road surfaces. there were times when it definitely felt like i was in a race.
i had a bad patch between 80-110 miles; strangely i was finding the undulating, flatter sections harder than the ups and downs; i would get passed by groups on the flats, and then pass them all again on the climbs. i think i was just lacking in motivation. the final feed station was sat at the top of the final (and biggest) climb, the Bwlch, which went pretty well. this was well timed, and i really got my mojo back after this; the final 20 miles were pretty much all downhill/flat, and i ended up riding at the sharp end of a peloton of around 20 riders; this blew apart with attacks in the last 10km, and i ended up slugging it out with two guys off the front who i got away from to ride the last 5km solo with both of them around 100m off my tail. a great way to finish the day.
i placed 355th in 8hrs 21 mins; i'm not sure how many people rode the full distance but it felt like most people were riding the longer split. the fastest time of the day was 6.29 by a Wiggle Pro Rider called Ben Simmons. fast as fuck, i got passed by his group (one of whom was a team GB youth rider) on a hill and they were just cruising.
So I've done two of these big rides now; I'm not sure how I feel about them compared to running; i've no doubt that they are just as challenging, and perhaps psychologically even more so than the marathon; i think a lot of it is down simply to the sheer amount of time that you are working for; there were times during the ride when i just wanted it to end, and there was sometimes a voice in the back of my head telling me to just pack it in and wait for the broom wagon. you have a lot more time to think about these things on a bike race than you do in a marathon. a positive is that these rides are far less intensive on your body. the week after the marathon i was in pieces; the day after the dragon ride i was happy enough to play half an hour of football. that being said, i definitely feel more passion for running, and at least for the moment, improving my marathon performance will take precedence over cycling challenges.