Thursday, April 5, 2012

Half centurian..!

The ride was great, it was just fabulous.  From the moment we arrived and turned up to registration until the very end and we got home, I loved every moment.  I have done some of life's tradionally grand moments, ie getting married, buying a house, having children and in terms of personal achievement, the ride was one of the best days of my life.  The sense of achievement as we came in at the end beats most things hands down!

Looked warmer than it was.. Brrr!
Our alarm went off at 05.30am on Sunday 01st April and we were immediately up, showered and eating breakfast.  The only slight mark on the morning was the ache in my back and the fact that there was frost on the car!  We collected Emma at 06.30am and arrived at the venue just before 08.00am.  We registered and had a brief chat with the people in the car next to us as we unloaded bikes and gear, they were an older couple and between us we were proof that both fat and old people can train to ride a bike!  It was much colder than we had thought it would be, -1C, and there was much discussion over suitable clothing, because the first couple of miles were down hill and the wind chill was likely to be killer..  Anyway, finally we were ready and we joined the que to start.  It was arranged in such a way that 15 riders set off every 2 minutes.  Those 2 minutes of waiting seemed to last an eternity, but finally we were off!

Two mad things happend immediately as we left..  The kind that with hindsight I can almost imagine happend in slow motion, but actually obviously didn't.  The first was with my back.  It always seems to come down to my silly back these days!  There were a few cables across the start line, inside a big black cable cover to make them safe and we had to ride over the teeny bump that they made.  I didn't angle myself very well and managed to jarr my back within the first half metre of the ride.  It was a different and very distinctive kind of pain, the kind that you know really isn't right and is much more than just an ache.  Pretty daunting with 50 miles ahead of you!!  Paul and I are still arguing the merits of my decision to ignore it and carry on, but carry on I did.  The second mad thing was the cold in those first couple of miles.  Going down the hills at speed was painful, there is no other word for it.  I had fingerless gloves on and to keep my fingers on the metal of my brakes for what seemed like an eternity took huge amounts of determination - more so than the decision to go with the ride after the jarr of my back.

Paul and I leading the peloton! (Emma is just behinid in yellow and blue)
Lets ignore the pain in my back for the duration of the rest of the story, once you're on a bike it kind of warms into the position you're in and is fine so long as you don't get on or off the bike!  In terms of physical fitness I felt great the whole way round, my legs were strong and at no point did I feel exhausted or desperate to stop.  Our longest training ride had been 34 miles, so I expected to get to that 34 miles and hit 'The Wall' and start to struggle, but it was fab all the way round.  There were some amazing hills, one of which was 3 miles long..  an incredible climb that just kept on going and going!!  Then of course there was the 2 mile hill we had frozen down on the way out that morning and therefore had to climb to get back to the finish line.. No joke after 50 miles!!  What was funny though, and Emma and I found it particularly hilarious was that we were coming in and finishing our 'standard' 50 miles with the first of the 'epic' 100 mile riders..  So we were coming back up the last hill with some amazingly fit cyclists, one of whom asked us how we had found it..  Cue more giggling!  Paul was amazing, as he always is on his bike.  He took the whole thing in his stride (pedal?) and on the longer of the hill climbs he kept going up and down again between me and Emma (we had become seperated) to check on us both..  So he must have done double the climb we did!
On the homeward stretch and it had finally warmed up!
The finish line was amazing, my parents had brought the children to see us in and 2 of Emma's sisters were there with her nephew and some pom poms and I don't know about anyone else, but I felt like a returning warrior and totally invincible!  At registration in the morning we were given a timing chip for our helmets and my official ride time, incuding stops was 05hrs 07mins. According to Pauls bike Garmin, which didn't include stop times, we did it in 04hrs.  We averaged 12.6 miles per hour, which astounds me given that we didn't really get above 11mph on our training rides and the size of the hills on the day!!

I am so hugely proud of myself.  Emma and I reminisced on the way home in the car about our little 9 mile bike rides last autumn and my mad suggestion to cycle in a sportiv and set ourselves a big goal.  Doesn't seem real now.  What is real is that I now want to do 100 miles.  Scrap that, I need to do it.  50 miles wasn't as hard as I thought it would be (get me!) and I know 100 miles would push me to the limit.  Thats for next year though.  The rest of this year is about triathlons and RAB, plus I'm not in a rush, the challenge will still be there when I'm ready for it.

Sadly 4 days on I'm really struggling with my back.  I have pins and needles down my leg into my foot and shooting pains down my thigh.  I can't lift Niamh and don't trust my leg to hold my weight.  I have injured my L5 (5th lumbar) disc and it is bulging onto the nerve which is creating all the pain.  I start physiotherapy next tuesday.  On the bright side I have 12 weeks until my triathlon and I now understand the joy of completing such a challenge and barring amputation or similar, there is no way I won't be ready!!

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