Another three country day; this time by bike.
I wasn’t nervous when I signed up to the 150km bike tour event, so why was I nervous as I sat waiting for the start?
It was a cold early morning, but even in the 30minutes or so since unloading the bikes from the car, the biting mist was starting to clear and there were already hints in the sky that temperatures would soar before midday. Our pockets were stuffed with energy packs, our bottles filled with water and gels and our race numbers pinned to our backs as we rolled out just after 8.00am. The road was smooth and flat as we negotiated our way through town following signs that would lead us to the car ferry and across the lake. My start-line nerves were soon dissipated and I began to enjoy myself. Plans of riding together were soon abandoned as junctions, traffic lights, and level crossings promptly scattered our group of nine riders, nevertheless we regrouped at each of the five feeding stations along the route, and took rather longer than strictly necessary to chat, eat and replenish our water bottles. We also collected a stamp at each station, to prove we had passed through when we came to claim our medals at the end. An average moving speed of 25kpm seemed desirable if we were to finish the ride in a reasonable time of six hours, and still be able to walk at the finish. The brochure had promised us a mere 660m of climbing over the whole route, but the reality was closer to 900m by the end of the ride. We were all stung by the short but sharp climb that hit us just after leaving the security of the ferry, almost 150m of vertical climb over just a few kilometers, we naively thought that would be it for the rest of the ride, and although there were no more steep climbs, the long slow pulls uphill began to take their toll on our legs. We had expected the tour around the lake to be straightforward and scenic, so were surprised to be taken along main roads together with regular traffic through several busy towns. Bike paths along the lakeside, while picturesque, are surfaced with gravel and, together with heavy use from the general public, deemed unsuitable for use by thousands of road cyclists. But there were lake views from time to time, and several stretches of beautiful open countryside to admire. Psychology plays as big a part in endurance sports as physical toughness, but the most important role of all is that played by nutrition. Towards the last quarter of the ride, I ran out of gels and my legs stopped working. Rummaging around in the back pockets of my jersey, I finally found what was needed, a mini Mars Bar; pure sugar, not what my stomach wanted, but my muscles were eternally grateful and propelled me over the last 20km of the ride. Without timing chips, no official start time, and no finish line to cross. It was a refreshing way to ride with a group of friends and a great day out, topped off with a medal, a bowl of spaghetti, some beer and the thought that next year, we might try the 220km route instead.