1 weekend. 10k + 100 miles = three lies.
My SuperSix-riding buddy Rosie bought me an entry to the Wiggle Mendips 100 mile Sportive for my 35th birthday, which I gleefully accepted, although the amusement did not escape me that I had got to a point in my life where the gift of having to cycle 100 miles was gratefully received. And nothing, not even the promise of potential lurg, was going to get in the way of my third Century ride of 2016…
The night before the 100 miler, I had decided I’d quite like to accomplish the small matter of a 10k race, as you do. As I lay pre-race on the grass, gazing at the clouds, I felt a little peculiar, and told myself the first lie of that weekend: ah, I’m just going to jog this race. That mindset lasted all of 1km, and was eradicated anyway because I always go off with the speed of an ageing hare.
The second fibulina of the weekend came thereafter, in the small hours of Saturday morning, whereby I put my peaky throat-feeling down to pre-ride anxiety. Yes, it is true, so very often I will feel ill before a big event, sporting or otherwise. The ailing feelings typically dissipate thereafter and are quickly forgotten. But deep down, I do know the difference between a psychosomatic sore throat and two lumps on either side of my throat that weren’t there before.
I told myself that to carry on, would be the way to get through, for many times when I have been fighting off the dreaded lurg, the pesky thing doesn’t actually engulf me until I let it. And I do live by the rule: ill from the neck up, go for it, from the neck down, forget it.
So I didn’t sleep much before that century ride. I lay awake thinking of all manner of puzzles to solve from this life to the next including who would stick on my kitchen tiles, and what a peculiar idea it is not to exist; fairly typical of pre-event nocturnal thoughts. Incidentally one of my favourite thoughts on this subject is from Woody Allen from the film Whatever Works:
‘I’m dying! I’m dying!’
‘Should I call an ambulance?’
‘No! Not today, I mean one day!’
‘But everybody dies!’
Lols. (Well, if you don’t laugh…) So I rolled this way and that, felt a bit hot, got up to scoff a banana, had a pootle about. And heaviness finally found my eyelids around three hours from alarm screen time reading: ‘Wiggle 100!!!!!!!!!’ I had added the extra exclamation marks in an anticipatory bid to rid myself of potential lack of 5am motivation.
But I needn’t had bothered, for feeling crappy in bed wasn’t really doing it for me anyway. The prospect of getting in a hot power shower, sucking up a caramelly latte and heading Glastonbury-ward pumping out some tunes before the world was awake from my 107 to ride a century was far more thrilling, and provided me with more than enough motivation to thwart any sleep deprived bug incubating related issues.
Rosie was excellent company, providing, as ever, a wonderful balance of quiet times, motivation, support and gentle, in-depth conversation, in many ways the perfect cycling partner in crime. And yet, on this day – the century was a mental challenge.
This being so, I saw it as excellent mental training opportunity, recalling as I rode Chrissie Wellington’s stories of sucking up marathons in a tiny hot cupboard of a room on a treadmill – the harrowing mental training regime bestowed upon her by Brett Sutton, the infamously gruelling triathlon coach.
Compared to Chrissie’s torturous miles spent on a conveyor belt, this ride was of course quite the freedom. Beautiful rolling Mendip hills that wended their way up country hills, descents beautifully if treacherously dappled with sunshine and shade, the classic climb Cheddar Gorge, here and there, the Glastonbury Tor providing a backdrop from various 20% hill summits, and endless opportunities to celebrate my new found love of descending in the drops by admiring my pink nails against new bright yellow bar tape. Ouis.
Despite these attributes my struggling bod saw to it that I felt flat enough for this to be hard at times, and I was often cold during the morning hours; burying my face in my cycling saviour: the mighty Buff. As I did so, I recalled many a time on winter rides where upon the burying of my nose in a Buff, warm air from my nostrils would provide a tiny steam room effect about my lower face, feeling somewhat akin to climbing into a comfy bed and snuggling away from a cold room. This is not an exaggeration, for every little pleasure becomes magnified when I am cold on my bike, as it did on the Wiggle 100.
Tackling the mental challenge of 100 miles
My triathlon hero Chrissie Wellington is a big advocate of chopping down any large task into little tiny pieces. This is my go-to tool of choice and it never, ever fails to perk me up. In every single race I have ever done, from 10k to Ironman, I always discount roughly the final 10% of the distance to be covered, thus creating a half way point in my head that is far more achievable. I do this because the final 10% of the race provides me with an entirely different physical and mental reality to the rest of the task, it’s the home straight.
And so, on the Wiggle 100, 90 miles was the task – just 30 miles to the first feed station, and a measly further 15 to the faux half way point. The feed stations usually provide a great pick-me-up and goal to cycle toward, but alas, this particular event was the Sportive that the feed station fairy forgot. A sad smattering of the cheapest poundland flapjacks, some dry fig rolls and some well thumbed jelly beans (not even babies) were on offer, along with some colourful language from the mamils filling their back pockets.
Rosie and I thus sensibly agreed to have lunch in Cheddar at Edelweiss cafe, a favourite cycling lunch spot of ours. Unfortunately this meant I was sentenced to 30 miles of the ditty Edelweiss on loop in my head. I don’t get a choice in such word-song related matters.
Our long jacket spuddy lunch finally killed the blessed ditty, but it less delightfully meant that we would eventually arrive back at base at one minute past the cut off time and risk a DNF. Woah. Luckily folk were still handing out medals and t-shirts at 5:01pm, sporting tired smiles. Medal dutifully slung around our necks, Rosie and I had newly refreshed cycling tan lines; cud had been chewed, century bagged.
That night, I sucked up a protein shake and some Lemsips, lied to myself some more about feeling coldy, and decided that next time, I would not cycle 100 miles with the onset of lurg. And this was obviously the third lie of my weekend.