I took a big step-up in my training towards the Ride London 100 this weekend. And having taken that step-up, it will be a while before I sit down.
Hitherto, I have been aware of saddle sores as something of an abstract construct. if I thought about them at all, I guess I thought it meant a vague soreness in the saddle area, similar to the soreness I feel in my arms after wrestling my way up to the top of a hill by pulling hard on the handlebars.
Good grief! Why did nobody warn me? I have actual sores on my seat bones. And that is despite wearing TWO pairs of padded cycling shorts AND a folded tea towel. What more is a girl supposed to do and why do manufacturers not offer a rubber ring option to clip on top of saddles?
Ok. I know. Too much information. Back to the ride.
The trip in question was the 'maxi' option in the annual cycle challenge held by our local hospice. This one in fact: https://www.khhospice.org.uk/event/cycling-challenge-2014
Before Sunday's challenge, the furthest I had cycled was 54 miles, notched-up in last year's London to Brighton ride. Although I have been covering a lot of miles cumulatively this year, the longest individual trip was 41 miles. But 65 miles isn't that big an increase. Should be fine, right? Wrong.
I prepared for the big day in true athletic style with a curry and a glass of wine. Not for breakfast, I hasten to add - this was the night before. Sunday dawned fairly bright and dry. So no excuse there. Plus my cycle buddy, Angie, was coming to the house for a lift and I couldn't just pretend to be out when she called. Time to work out how to remove the front wheels off our bicycles ('quick release' isn't quite such a good description in our somewhat limited experience), pile them in the back of the car and head for the hospice.
Having listened to sage advice about 'refuelling' I had packed a picnic including egg sandwiches, two bananas, a chunk of fruit cake and a banana muffin along with the 'emergency jelly tots' which always have a place in my rack bag. In fairness, there is nearly always an emergency warranting jelly tots.
For the first 20 miles or so, I almost kidded myself that I was part of a peloton. Surrounded by lots of other riders, moving in a large, good-humoured group, I felt invincible. Everyone was friendly and encouraging and I learned some new cycling vocabulary. Some of it quite colourful. The first time, for instance, that a young man beside me shouted a warning "Car up!" I had to ask him which direction that was: "Car up means that a car is approaching from behind and car down means that it is oncoming. You can remember it because a car from the front goes down your throat and a car from behind goes up your rear," he helpfully explained. Although he didn't say 'rear'.
Later on, Angie and I had fun warning each other of approaching traffic: "Car up! No, down! Which way do they go towards our bottoms?"
It was crucial I stayed the distance but just as crucial to reach the pace required for the Ride London 100. Somehow, I've got to finish that inside 8.5 hours. It's the pace that is keeping me awake at night. So this was an important test. But boy, was the mental arithmetic hard. Trying to work out 65% of 8.5 hours, while huffing away on the bike proved impossible. At one point I fell behind on a hill. I heard an overtaking cyclist greet Angie in front: "Are you any good at maths? Help me with this sum," she responded. For the next half mile, Angie and the surprised gentleman did the totting-up before she called over her shoulder: "About five hours!"
|Glad to get off - at the end of 65 miles|
At 32 miles we reached a pub in the Shropshire village of Tibberton. Dozens of bikes were propped up against the railings and we followed that example, pausing for an emergency dash into the loos, a top-up for our water bottles and a sandwich. It was when I climbed back on the bike that I realised I was in trouble - it felt as if I was sitting on a hundred needles. The second half of the ride was not going to be pleasant.
I covered the 65 miles with a ride time of 5:23 plus a stopped time of 30 mins. My average speed was 12.03mph, which is a tad faster than the average I'll need for the Ride London but that average is measured only when the wheels are turning and doesn't take into account the stopped time. So I was shattered, hurting and worst of all, had failed the time target. That really was a pain in the backside.
Closer investigation suggests that I needed to finish the 65 miles in five hours 32 minutes. So if Id been able to cycle without stopping, my actual ride time would have been OK. It's 'just' a matter of figuring out how to last the whole distance without stopping and how to do so without saddle sores.
Next weekend it is the Newport Route 66. I've got an entry in that and will take part in the event as long as the sores have healed. In the meantime, I've bought some new Assos bib shorts, a pot of this chamois cream and two packs of 7mm chiropody felt. I am going for a triple-action attack on saddle sores and I'm also going to swap my packed lunch for things I can grab and eat while still moving - dried fruit, nuts and energy bars.
Wish me luck!