Thursday, April 12, 2012

Howgill Hammer

A bit late as it was on the 1st April, oops.

I had signed up for the long route of this Sportive, the route looked like it took in some interesting stuff around the Howgills and as I'm trying to use road events this year to ride lots of new roads (Etape Du Dales excepted, though I want to actually see some views this time) I thought it would be an interesting route and at 90 miles with a fair chunk of climbing (my Garmin reckoned around 6800ft or so by the end) a pretty stiff challenge for my lazy legs.

I did wonder if I had bit off more than I could chew as I turned up in Milnthorpe on what was a stunning but frosty morning, I'd not ridden anything remotely similar since the Etape Du Dales the year before which was quite some time ago. A small entry of what I suspected would be fairly fast riders would possibly mean a quiet ride so I took my ipod along for company, I figured it would help on the last couple of hours in particular - which turned out to be the case. There were timing standards for the ride, for women under 7 hours would get a silver and decided to go for that as a good aim and to stop me dawdling too much in my usual fashion.

Set off at a reasonable pace for me but before long people came hooning past in groups, I tried to hang on but I thought 24 mph was a bit excessive that early on! Saw a couple of fast women batter past too. However, I tried not to settle into too easy a spin, I wanted to push myself a bit on this ride to see what would happen.

It wasn't long before things started trending upwards and not too much longer before I caught some of those that had steamed past earlier, the usual happened, I catch up and overtake on climbs and they get me back on the descents and flats. I banned myself from using my granny ring (triple here) until the evil 20% and over climb out of Dent. 39 x 27 is obviously quite a low gear but it did make me not twiddle, not always convinced it is faster though, however it did get me out of the saddle quite a bit.

I tried to push on on the descents but had a serious eep moment on some gravel so reigned it back in a bit again. The route was stunning I have to say, it kind of followed the M6 crossing and recrossing and I achieved an ambition I've held for a few years now. Where the north and southbound carriageways of the M6 split at Shap there is a road that goes under and between the two carriageways, I've wanted to ride that bit of road for years so was really pleased with myself when I did.

After that, the whole bit of the ride over to the first feed at Soulby (35 miles) was absolutely awesome, stunning riding, great views and a fairly large tailwind. At the first feed I was pleased with myself again as I had drunk one whole bottle of energy drink, had a slice of malt loaf and a couple of bits of flapjack, things were going well.

Didn't bother topping up the bottle as next feed was in 20 odd miles in Dent, set off, noticed a bit of a head wind getting up. Climb up onto the moor top and its a proper headwind, have to pedal all the way down the long fast hill into Sedbergh which must have been about 10 miles. Hard work but obviously would have been worse if it wasn't downhill. Arrived at second feed with almost two full bottles and had eaten nothing else, too busy fighting the wind. Got off the bike for a serious stretch here and ate some malt loaf.

Grovelled up the hideous climb out of Gawthrop, granny gear deployed and it still hurt. Back into the wind, then my left leg started complaining. Back of knee a bit tight and leg felt like it was flailing a bit in a weird way. Had a stunning descent, pedalling hard the whole way against the wind, down Barbondale. Wasn't too fussed about the wind here as it meant I actually got to see some of it rather than whipping past in a blur.

From there it was pretty rolling across to Arnside, as I was on my own it was purgatory against the strong wind. I did remember to eat a bit and drink thinking I was overplaying the strength of the wind in my head as I do when I'm tired. Around the edge of coast near Arnside and at one point I nearly lost the will to live, headwind from hell, disintegrating road surface shaking me to bits and the most traffic I'd seen all day with the crappest drivers. I necked a gel, which helped, as did changing direction for the last couple of miles to Milnthorpe. I went from 14mph to 22 mph without any increase in effort.

Finally made it back, the last climb was cruel I have to say. 6 hours 13 overall, 6 hours and 4 minutes actual riding time, average speed 15mph so I easily got my Silver. I was pretty pleased with that, be interesting how quick it would have been without such a wind or if I'd managed to get into a group. All anyone in the car park was talking about was the strength of the wind and having to work just as hard downhill as up so it wasn't just me.

it was a great route though, already on my list of "roads I must ride again".

The downside is my left knee has not been happy since so I've been taking it easy the last couple of weeks, making good use of my decision to rejoin the gym for the pool and have been able to do some spinning and treadmill running but nothing too serious. We're flying off to Spain for a week's MTBing on Saturday which is another reason to be sensible.

On the plus side, I bought some new shiny Speedplay pedals to replace the SPD-SLs, hopefully they will help my knee. At the very least I can get my cleats far enough back now so fingers crossed.

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