Sunday morning and despite a good night\’s sleep I am a zombie to the world. I get some breakfast – but not as much as I\’d like to load up with; forget my granary bar backup breakfast and get ready.
To ease us into the day\’s work we have a bike maintenance session. Although it is many years since my student bike maintenance days I remember a lot even to the point of adding to the inner tube replacement part a couple of tips (pushing the valve back into the tyre before resetting and letting the inflation reposition it – thus avoiding a nip on the inner that punctures it again). \”Oh yeah\” says the instructor, \”my Dad used to say that – I\’d forgotten\”. I feel older.
Whilst contemplating the day ahead, I was thinking over the previous day, I recall feeling that my legs were under-stretched at the bottom of the cycle rotation. Remembering that the service my bike had on Thursday involved lifting the saddle, I wonder if it was lowered too far. The rear reflection position seems to support that. Out come the tools and the saddle is raised. That\’s better.
Off we go. It isn\’t long before we are off the main road and heading through some lovely (if slightly fresh!) countryside. Before too long a couple of running repairs are required for others where I help out (thankful for a break), and we then climb onto the top of the heathland in the New Forest and cycle the same route that the Help For Heroes Ride to Recovery team are doing. It\’s bloody windy up there, but it\’s more like home in the Fens!
Disappointingly I spot quite a few used gel sachets on the road side that appear to have been just thrown down by the R2R riders (there were none on my training route yesterday or today). I religiously take a sandwich bag and store all my rubbish to take home. What a shame.
We split from them after a few miles, and turn into smaller roads (filled with New Forest ponies!) and reach the pub.
Again, it is outside, but this time I make a better choice of food, and feel a bit better and feel full without a leaden filling.
So we\’re off again. After only a few miles I realise my body is telling me something – I forgot my pain killers. Damn, I stop and take them and hope they kick in quickly.
By now, I am pretty damn tired and drained. It\’s not so much the mileage, but the relentless \”up\” yesterday (a few 1000 feet of elevation a fellow participant says their Garmin reported). My flat fenland training has simply not prepared me for that. I still need to strengthen up.
The tired and drained and drawn feeling only increases despite gels, granary bars, jelly babies et al. I\’m operating on fumes more than anything.
The last 10 miles are a bit of a dreamworld. A colleague has a puncture and the chance to stop, get off and help is welcome, the van catches us up and more jelly babies are taken. We set off, I\’m soon further back but keep plodding on.
Suddenly we\’re near the dual carriageway just a short way from home (my phone has had no signal since I looked about 5 miles ago, so I have no satnav intelligence today – it turns out a full power off and on was necessary). I rejoice in the thought I am nearly there, but remember the long freewheel down the hill to get there. Damn.
By now, one of the course leaders has come back (on two wheels) to check on me, we keep going, but on the hill I find walking better, and leave her to get on ahead. At the top we meet up, and it\’s the last run, downhill, to the hostel. As I turn in, I change down, and the chain jams. Perfect ending.
A very slow hour follows where I gently pack the car, shower, get changed, have a cup of tea with my new cycling buddies, and then set off for home – 3 1/2 hours away.
Home. Crash. Sleep
Lessons learned this weekend?
* I can cope with the distance, but not the \”up\”. I will have to manage that next month. But to be fair, this was specifically a hill training weekend, so I am hoping that the real ride will not be so severe.
* I have to assume I will supply most of my on the road food needs (either with me, or from cafe/bars en route).
* I really will need to take the painkillers at the right time
* A good night\’s sleep is essential
* I\’m not 21 anymore, and need to accommodate that!
This probably sounds like an intense moan, it really isn\’t – it\’s a record (as much for me as anyone else!) of how the weekend felt. It was a serious part of my preparation after only a few months back on a bike after several decades off. I have no illusions that the main ride next month will be very challenging, perhaps (at times) more than I can cope with.
But in the end, it\’s about the blokes who\’ve come back from Afghan, Iraq, and the other theatres no longer 100% in body and/or mind. They need all the help we can give them. Even if never get on a bike again after May 26th, for me it will be all over and I can get back to a normal life. They cannot, and deserve our thanks and help.