The Loneliness of the Long Distance Rider

Posted on April 28th, 2010 by Tim Bell in Cycling Training around London, The Road to Tourmalet

After missing a weekend of training because of the ash cloud travel chaos, I was keen to make up for lost time. I met up with Andy and John on Saturday 24th April for another Essex run on the back of 3hrs sleep thanks to a party the night before. I wasn’t the only one waving pre-ride excuses around, thankfully all three of us were feeling more ‘satellite linkup’ than ‘in the studio’ – there seemed to be a slight delay on everything… But it was a perfect day for cycling; clear skies, warm but fresh air and barely a breeze. I was still not prepared to ride with unprotected knees, so gave my new knee warmers a try. On my short legs, the gap from the bottom of warmer to top of sock is only about two inches, a look which attracted some ridicule from the boys, but I’ll have the last laugh when my 2-inch tan ringlets net me my chav bride.

Anyway, we had a good spin and to my surprise matched the average speed we had last time out. Despite the hangovers, progress is being made.

However the title of this post refers to my Sunday ride, which was altogether less enjoyable but, looking back, incredibly satisfying. I had been planning a ride with a business contact out in the Chilterns, but he was laid low with a cold and the rain was coming down so it made sense to postpone. However I still wanted to get some miles in the legs and set out to do some laps of Regent’s Park. The two days of training in Nice had been an inspiring experience and a huge increase of work in a weekend, but my knee paid for it with ten days of pain. Now I wanted to see if I could ride a greater distance, albeit much flatter, and come through it without those knee problems. I clocked 51.39 miles riding the Col de la Madone, and 78.85 the day we tackled Col de Vence. Essex on Saturday was 53.95 miles so I was aiming for around 80 lapping Regent’s Park on a rainy, windy day.

To describe this ride as monotonous would be as flattering as a pair of hotpants on John Prescott. The only real entertainment was trying to hold the wheels of various cyclists coming into the park for their 3-5 lap burns, and I took a short break at around 25 miles to take on some food and stretch the legs overlooking a boating lake.  At around 1.30pm I was on 55 miles and wondering whether to have a bacon sandwich in one of the park cafes, or head back to my flat for a big lunch and some dry clothes. For some reason my mind wandered to the fact that I hadn’t had a puncture so far on this bike, and started wondering if I ever would. My legs started to feel heavy and I thought I was running on vapours, but obviously I had suffered my first puncture at that very moment. I was feeling sorry for myself, so at this point I challenge you to click the ‘player’ function when you go through to the Garmin site from the map below, and not get dizzy…

Having a nice gnochhi lunch at home let me catch the second half of Hull Liverpool, during which my beloved but faltering Reds scored four times, and warm up a bit after a miserable morning. I also caught some coverage of the London Marathon which got me fired up to finish off my own challenge of the day with a fresh set of riders to pretend I wasn’t racing against. It was a lot tougher, pyschologically, than riding with a group of friends in ever-changing scenery bathed in sunlight, and it felt like that was sapping strength from my legs – but I still managed a long sprint on the lap which finally brought up the 80 miles after 28 mind-numbing circuits. I’d managed 81.68 miles at 16.8mph, when I’d done just 15.48 miles on the same circuit in early March at 16mph. My average heart rate was 145 on that earlier ride which lasted just under an hour, but on this wet Sunday I was doing 148 over nearly five hours. Most importantly, there was no reaction from the knee, so this feels like an important milestone; I’ve moved my fitness on significantly and can now ride long distances back to back without any niggles. Next stop, 100 miles.

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