Long Course Weekend: Bike

I didn’t sleep well last night – possibly because of the adrenaline coursing around my body after the swim and also because I was really nervous about the bike ride. I can’t fault the hotel – for the first time ever, we managed to stay in a hotel that didn’t seem to have a big event on the night before a race and the room was also a pleasant temperature.

Stuart and Roelie’s 112 mile bike ride was scheduled to start at 7:30am, so they went to breakfast early. I discussed joining them for breakfast, but I realised that in order to watch their start, I would need to cycle down into town and then back again, and we agreed that it wasn’t worth it.

After Stu had left, I was unable to go back to sleep, so I had a quick look online. I went to the Long Course Weekend website and was surprised to see that Stu was listed in the top 10 swimmers:

Top 10 LCW swimmers

I never doubted Stu’s ability, but I knew that he was totally unaware of how well he placed. Being in the top 10 entitled Stu to a special TT start at 8am, so I immediately started trying to phone him. I called three times and left him a text message, before trying to phone Roelie, in the hope that she would see Stu. Sadly, I was unable to get hold of Stuart before 7:30am, so he set off unaware of his exalted position.

I wasn’t scheduled to start until 12:45, so I had a leisurely morning. I went for a delicious vegetarian English breakfast, but I didn’t manage to eat much of it – I’m not used to eating that kind of food first thing in the morning. On my way out, I met Corinne who was staying in the hotel and was also doing the short distance sportive. We agreed to meet in the lobby just before midday. This made me feel a bit less nervous that I would fail to find the race start!

The weather was looking bleak – at times the rain was torrential – so I needed to decide what to wear. I had originally hoped that I’d be fine in just my SOAS jersey and shorts, but I decided to go for the knee warmers and arm warmers, topped off with a waterproof jacket. It was quite warm, so I decided not to wear a buff or my base layer, even though I had packed them.

My charming sister (who lives on the other side of the world) keeps saying that she wants to see how ‘tubby’ I am, so I took a photo in my kit, just for her. I don’t know that everyone would recognise that I’m pregnant, but I certainly look and feel fat these days!

Cycling at 6.5 months pregnant
Cycling at 6.5 months pregnant

I met up with Corinne and we headed off towards the event start. Because of our hotel’s location, we had to cycle for a short distance on the event route. It was a little embarrassing to have people clapping when we weren’t racing. We met Corinne’s friend and then headed to the start on foot.

When we got to the start location, we were surprised to find that there were very few people around. The event instructions had been very strict about people’s start time, but we were allowed to go whenever we were ready.

The weather started out with what we’d call ‘mizzle’ in Cornwall, it quickly turned to rain and fog, which made me more nervous about cycling. I knew the course was ‘undulating’, but hadn’t realised there are virtually no flat bits. I decided to ride at a very steady pace so that I would not get out of breath or feel at risk of falling.

At about 10k in, I heard someone call out my name. I glanced over my shoulder and saw someone on a gorgeous pink bike – it was Zoe, who I know via Facebook as a 2015 SOAS brand ambassador. It was great to finally meet her. I’d strongly recommend that you watch her account of the weekend:

Because, I hadn’t manage to eat much for breakfast, I stopped at the first feed station just 12k in for a piece of banana and a piece of Mars bar. I also made sure that I drank more water. (Throughout the ride, I drank something every 20 minutes, so that I wouldn’t get dehydrated).

By 30k I was tired and by 39k, I had to stop to eat a Powerbar. I’ve never considered calling to be picked up before, but I just felt shattered and knew that the end was not in sight. I think part of the problem was the lack of sleep and the start time of the event. I should probably have tried to eat a light lunch before starting as I need to eat more regularly now.

I’m not good at descending in fair weather, but being unable to see more than 25m ahead, combined with slick roads meant that I was exceptionally cautious. I’ve also got an uncommon blood type, so I’ve been told that whilst pregnant if I have the slightest accident I must go straight to hospital, which has made me even more wary.

Just 1km after I ate my gingerbread Powerbar, I got to the second ‘feed’ station. I had hoped to have another piece of banana and mars bar, but the only food available was a bacon roll or beef burger from a van. As a veggie, I decided to keep pedalling.

At Narbeth, I was feeling exhausted, so when I saw someone else get off and do the ‘walk of shame’, I decided to join them. It was a wise move as it was a very long steep hill with a lot of traffic.

At 50k, it felt like I had got my ‘second wind’, but it turned out that I had found the only flat bit of the course! It was nice to feel better for a short period, but as soon as I hit the next incline, my fatigue came back. 5k from the end was a 16% hill climb section that had me beat, so yet again I got off for a walk.

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I was so grateful to arrive back in Tenby. I had initially expected the ride to take just under 3 hours, but it took me almost 5. It was far harder than any of the century rides that I’ve done and I felt more exhausted than I did when I got to London after cycling from Lake Windermere! Whilst Tenby is a beautiful place (when not obscured by fog), it is not somewhere that I will ever choose to do an Ironman! I wasn’t the final finisher, but coming in at 4:52, I was only 50 minutes ahead of the person in last place. I have the utmost respect for anyone who managed to cycle 112 miles on those roads and in those conditions.

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