Bonking on the Wiggle Dragon Ride

Bonking on the Wiggle Dragon Ride
8 June 2015 Janine

Wiggle Dragon Ride – Gran Fondo (142 Miles), my first ‘proper’ bonk…

Last year, when doing the Welsh Castles Relay with Southville Running Club, I had a little secret. When I was sat there in the van (And we accidentally ended up on the wrong side of the road when hundreds of cyclists came past!) I thought oh my goodness, I want to be doing what they’re doing! And so, the next year, as soon as Wiggle opened its booking system for the Dragon Ride, I parted with the best part of £70, and was on the list for what was unbeknownst to me going to be the hardest day of my life (in terms of physical endurance anyway. Being stuck in a power cut in flooded Thailand came pretty close!)

The ride was on it’s 15th year and 5000 people came to ride in Wales for the event from apparently all over the world. The Gran Fondo ride was going to be 143 miles long, and take in over almost eight thousand feet of climbing. (7,660)

As is usual for me, I didn’t look at the profile. I was in for a shock. Meanwhile co-rider Kate had drawn out the climbs on a little piece of laminated paper, with mile markers and food stops marked out, illustrated by tiny bananas. 
In all honesty I’m too tired to write about this ride, even though it finished 24 hours ago (just!). I’ll just say that it really was the hardest ride I’ve ever done. Harder than any run. Harder than my half iron even with the tummy cramps and ambulance break. Words sprung to my mind yesterday like gruelling and phrases such as this is not fun. And Urggggh. The views were beautiful, but 142 miles of them is really a lot, you just push on and on and on and on and on. Still, I wouldn’t swap experiencing it for anything. Here’s a quick recap of what happened…

Wiggle Dragon Ride Start. 7.30am! I’d been up since 4.30am.

Mile 0-35:

Settling into the pace. Went off too fast. Enjoyed the first fuel stop. Stuffed my face full of potatoes and jaffa cakes. The first hill and descent was epic. My hands were hurting so much from squeezing the brakes on what felt like a downhill that lasted forever. It was a little scary but I have stopped having to sing on descents now. I’m improving.

Check out the lady stirring energy drink vats and all those salty potatoes at the first fuel stop!

Mile 35-60:

It felt quick and was enjoyable. It included apparently infamous Devils Elbow (20% max, 33% on the inside of the bend) and was full of warm country sunny lanes that were cute and undulating in equal measure. At the second stop I was all smiles and I had hopes that if all the 25’s were like this then the day was going to be a breeze, ok medium wind. As we wheeled away, bellies too full of flapjacks, Kate commented that a friend had found the second stop a bit mentally challenging because it wasn’t even half way. This was a reminder of just how my brain blocks out the facts like the one about us not even being half way yet at mile 60!

Mile 60-96:

OH MY GOODNESS. Hello bonk section! As we wheeled off on this section, we passed the fork for where the shorter ride went off to it’s 95 mile end. We sailed past it, commenting on how good we felt. Just after passing, there was a long long slow and rather dull main road climb that seemed to go on forever. We stopped for a wee. I chatted to a doctor who was going to take ‘tomorrow off instead of listen to screaming women on the labour ward’ which passed a few miles.
wee stop!

Shortly after the wee stop, Kate was ahead, and she’d found someone to chat too. In my head I was miles back, although the reality was only a minute or two. Tiredness was setting in. Around mile 70 it got rather bad, and by mile 80 I was really struggling. My eyes kept wanting to close. I was running out of fluids, which I had completely finished by mile 90 with still a few to go before the food stop. It was on these middle miles, where I passed half way, and depleted my glycogen stores that morale was at an all time low. I was having fantasies of bailing at the next stop and being home in time for tea. Kate was waiting for me at around mile 85, with some men who fed me a caffein gel. We cycled the remaining 10 to the food stop together and I felt very odd, a combination of tired and a bit shaky from the gel. At mile 95 the food stop finally arrived and I took off my helmet and shoes and lay face down in the grass. The day was over at that point for me, at that moment, I felt. I turned over and lay with my face in the sun, opened an eye to look at the dazzling blue sky above which was moving like a whirlpool. I was dizzy. The sweeper came around and I said I might need it. I groaned.

I ate jaffa cakes. Got fluids. Ate a banana. Ate potatoes. Licked salt. And finally agreed to eat a warm mis-shapen marmite and peanut butter sandwich being offered to me by a man. Something happened, and I had a change of heart and decided to gently go onto the next stop at mile 120 and see how I felt.

And so, off I wheeled. The food and drink and rest had worked its magic, I felt pretty good and was starting to smile inside again. The magic of marmite and PB.

Mile 95-120:

I bumped into Kareem from Bristol Road Club as I cycled off, and we chatted for a bit. He headed off and I took it nice and steady. I was starting to pass a few folk and caught Kareem a little later. There was an incredible climb awaiting – hard but beautiful and sunny. I chatted to people that I passed, the Brixton riders were lovely. I passed them on the up and jested, I’ll see you when you whizz past me on the descent! Which of course, they did.

At the last food stop I felt elated. I knew i was going to do it!


The last few miles were tough because they had laid on even more tough climbs for us! But I knew I was almost home. By mile 130 the light was drawing in and even the marshals were looking tired. When I saw the industrials chimneys of Port Talbot I couldn’t have been happier. 143 miles, and a medal around my neck. There were free noodles to be had and then just a small matter of a 90 minute drive home.

Check out the ride. (You know you want to.) Oh and there’s a Dragon Devil – 189 miles. Yeah maybe in 2017!

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