After completing the Evan Ride It Chedder Sportive with a couple of friends from work earlier in the summer, a couple of us decided to do another event before the weather closed in for winter.
Checking the Evans events site it was decided that we would take on the Wiltshire short course. This was a great choice for a number of reasons: It was geographically central for both of us, a medium course in terms of elevation and the date was early enough to have a chance of beating the winter weather.
The date also coincided with my leaving date from my job at Vodafone, so I figured it would be a great social event before I left the following Wednesday.
I was looking forward to riding through a new part of the country as I have never ridden in Wiltshire before. Cycling is a fantastic way to explore new places as you can cover more ground than walking and you are more connected with the area you are in compared to driving.
Saturday before the ride, I get a message from Chris. ‘Oh great, it’s probably a reply to one of my weather updates I sent him in the preceding week,’ I thought.
But no, it’s Chris saying he won’t be able to make it after all. A little dejected as I was really looking forward to the ride with Chris, I take a little time to think about how I can change my plans to get the most out of the ride.
Ok, I thought, ‘so I will be riding on my own but Rachael has offered to come support me at the start and finish of the ride which is fantastic’. I also decide to treat the ride as a training and time trial test ride. I decided on this as I haven’t been on the bike much recently and compared to running I’m not so dialled in to my condition.
Due to the short time scale on the change of plan, I haven’t done as much prep for the ride as I had done for recent running races.
However, if you have read any of my previous posts you will know I like to check the weather forecast an inordinate number of times. So I knew the expected conditions were going to be pretty favourable for a late October ride: not too cold, limited wind and dry. I couldn’t ask for much more than that.
Even though it wasn’t going to be too cold, wind chill can be biting anytime of the year, especially in the morning. Couple this with my new go fast short hair cut, I needed something to keep my head toasty.
I haven’t done much cycling over the last few years, so I don’t have a whole lot in the way of winter attire. Realising this on Saturday, a quick trip to the local bike shop was much needed. Off I headed to Fred Baker Cycles in search of a solution.
Thanks to a very helpful shop assistant who demoed the Altura Neck Warmer with expert skill, I found what I needed and made the purchase. The neck warmer kept me lovely and warm as can be seen by my smile in the photo above.
After registration which was really straightforward and quick ,I headed off for a last minute coffee with Rachael.
Well, I asked for a coffee and some how ended up with a tea with sugar. Maybe it was the early start or my mind being more focused on the ride ahead but I didn’t even notice until I was halfway through and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Coffee/tea finished I picked up my bike and rolled to the starting pen. A waved start meant that it wasn’t overly crowded at the beginning of the race – which is great as it’s a pretty low key and very friendly. Quick safety briefing, a couple selfies a wave to Rachael and I was off.
As I hadn’t prepared or trained as much as I had been for the running races I have been entering, I decided to take the start of the race easy and just rolled along with the other rides. It was really nice to ride with other people as I’m normally out on my own, so this made me look forward to a ride I have arranged with a friend in early November.
The guys in my group were having a good old natter and as a couple of other riders zip past I decide to follow the wheel and warm up the legs a little.
These riders are going at a decent pace and I stay with them for a a few kms. Another rider, quite a tall guy, goes by. I want to see how I’m feeling, so I decided to head on with him. This guy is cycling pretty strong and the first real test of a hill I’m working hard to stay with him. On the way up we pass a few other riders which gives me some comfort as I’m really having to put some effort in to keep the pace.
I’m now in one of those situations where you realise you are turning into a bit of a wheel sucker. I feel like I should be pulling on the front or at least show willing but I’m pretty much only able to stay on the his wheel with some effort.
He seems pretty easy and happy so I leave the effort to him. If this situation was nearer to the end of the ride I would have been more positive and headed to the front. However at this stage I’m still not sure how my legs are so decide to sit tight.
A few kms further down the lanes and after another shorter and sharper ascent through a town I didn’t catch the name of the route splits for the short, medium and longer routes. The rider I have been hiding behind splits of for one of the longer routes and I carry straight on for the short route. The fact he has gone gives me a little relief as I don’t need to worry I’m not pulling my weight now.
The route is varied and heads through the Wiltshire countryside and through small villages, the gradient is up and down with few flat sections but never anything to challenging as can be seen in the profile recorded on my Strava activity.
Roadkill is ever present along some of the bigger roads; I think I must have seen one of every type of woodland creature. It’s not pleasant, but it does make me happier that I’m on my bike, compared to in a roadkill-inducing car.
I’m traveling along at a steady pace and have let my heart rate creep up since the split in routes. This is partially due to having no windbreak in front and upping the pace a little. I decide to keep this steady tempo until the food stop and reassess how I’m feeling after that.
As experienced at the previous Evans Ride It event in Cheddar, the feed stations was excellent. Admittedly I have ever only done the Evans events so can’t compare to any others but they had everything I needed and more.
There was plenty of safe space to rest my bike and lots of happy looking cyclists to keep an eye on it for me, a loo without much of a queue which is very welcome after keeping hydrated on the bike, and food aplenty.
Feed station is well stocked with plenty of High5 products, who sponsor the event. I especially enjoyed the berry energy bars, which were very tasty and a great consistency after drinking and taking on gels.
After picking up some of the bars and electrolyte tabs to add to the water on offer, I spot some chocolate cake. It was exactly what I fancied and I munch my way through 2 pieces before even thinking about it.
I finally work out why I was given a medium sized plastic lock bag. It’s to remove the important map and emergency contact details from and store more Belgian chocolate cake for later. Or in my case, save a piece for Rachael who is sat back in what I can imagine is a rather cold car.
After the feed station I feel a little tired and heavy legged. A few kms in there appears to be a flat section, ‘great,’ I think, ‘that will get me going’.
As I progress along, I take a look at my pace and it’s not where I want it to be considering my perceived effort level. ‘How demoralizing,’ I think to myself, ‘why is this so hard? Did I indulge in too much cake?’
It takes a little while but I then realise this is in fact a false flat with a small gradient and a slight head wind. Realising this doesn’t make it easier but at least gives me some comfort in knowing I’m probably not alone in my pain.
Conquering the monster false flat and bisecting a main A road on to another smaller road I hear motor bikes in the distance. Man they rush past in a blur, going so fast on these roads is just crazy especially with so many varied road users out and about. The wind almost knocks me sideways as another couple go past.
After the excitement of the motor bikes, I roll past a couple of guys changing a tire. I slow a little and shout the obligatory “you have everything you need?” knowing I actually have very little with me that could help. Luckily for me one guy shouts back that all is good and they continue working away.
The Evans guys use local knowledge and vast event experience to mark out their routes and this really shows. The two events I have ridden have both offered varied terrain and some really beautiful countryside.
The route info has been spot on as well, when comparing the toughness of the routes.
I really start to push the effort in the last 15km or so and with about 5 to go, I find I’m talking to myself about how I could really do with a 1 or 2 kms of descent.
Lucky for me I had looked at the route profile a couple of times so I knew that there was in fact a nice downhill coming up.
It was a pretty steep descent, a fair number of twists and turns and plenty of speed to be had and I can understand why the warning’s were added to the route map.
The final few kms flattened out and covered the same route but in reverse to the start of the race. I record my race number and head off to find Rachael and present her with the cake from earlier.
The results are in and although it’s most definitely not a race it’s always nice to see what time you got. 02:29:35 which I think put me in 4th for the short route. The official time doesn’t account for the 15 or so minutes I took at the feed station hence the discrepancy with Strava. It would be handy if the results where published in a spreadsheet rather than PDF to allow data manipulation.
Perfect Sunday recipe
What a perfect Sunday! I had a fantastic ride in the morning supported by the amazing Rachael after Chris couldn’t make it. Only a 40 minute drive to and from the race, great afternoon nap, spectacular home made Sunday roast, Hatha yoga session at YogaKutir with Rory Viggers finished off with a movie at home.
I have already signed up to another Evans Ride It for February, this time even more local as it starts and finishes in south Bristol.
Rachael has decided to give it ago in preparation for another event we will be doing so I have again chosen the short course at 51km. Look out for a post towards the end of the year that will list out all my planned events for 2017. I will be raising funds for a couple of charities in the process!
Cold toes: My clip-less cycling shoes are designed to keep my feet cool in hot conditions and have lots of vents to do this. Unfortunately these vents also do a fantastic job of cooling my feet when it’s not so warm. It was a little chilly come race morning but certainly not arctic conditions. However my big toes felt like they had been nibbled by a polar bear! Before my next ride, I’m going to do a little research before my next ride on the road to find out what I can do to minimise this discomfort.
Less is more: Having taken part in more running races recently, I feel that my in race nutrition strategy is more mature than that for any bike events. This lead me to, without thinking, apply pretty much the same strategy to this event as I had been using for the recent half marathons. This was in part due to the fact I hadn’t put much effort into planning this ride as it was meant to be a social one. I will need to research cycling nutrition a little more to understand what I need to do.
Heart rate (HR) zones: This is an addition to the lesson I raised in my Eden Project half marathon race review review regarding lists. I will now be producing a list for items but, will also need to produce a list of things to check before a race too. This came about as I realised early on in the race that I wasn’t 100% on my cycling heart rate zone. I then didn’t feel comfortable pushing hard early on and didn’t want to cook myself and fall short.
Not so Belgian: Whether or not a Belgian would agree that this chocolate cake was indeed
from their part of the world, it was the perfect sustenance at the half way feeding zone. I will be incorporating this cake or something very similar into some of my longer rides in the future. I may even head to the kitchen to make some myself.
With just under four weeks to go until the Cancer Research UK – Tough 10 Box Hill I will move my training to have a little more focus on speed and hills. If you fancy a hilly 10k for a great course then there is still time to sign-up!
Also Rachael and I will be heading over to Ireland to visit her family and visit areas where she grew up. Whilst we are there we will be heading out for a couple of runs and getting to the pool: I will also be checking out Irelands biggest jacuzzi!