Two events this weekend!
Just before Christmas last year, travelling on a train from Edinburgh to London (a successful trip this time!) I got a call from Ian wanting to know if we were free the first weekend in June 2016. He wanted to do a bike Time Trial in Peterborough. Funnily enough my train was just passing through Peterborough as we spoke, so I knew exactly where it was. It was on the opposite side of the country to the other event I had booked that June weekend. The Dragon Ride in Wales.
Hmmm… “ok” I said. Things seem different when they are six months away. So this past weekend, as we tried to load three bikes and a lot of kit into the car, it wasn’t seeming such a great idea.
Our first drive was from Somerset to Peterborough. It didn’t start off too well. There was already a queue on the A303 at the end of our road, and the queues and heavy traffic continued on the M5 until after ninety minutes and only about thirty miles we deiced to ignore our satnav and go rogue.
I won’t bore you with all the details but the six and half hour drive was just about saved by a lovely pub meal in Stow on the Wold in the Cotswolds and Ian gamely playing the Plane Game (usually only played with Zoe and Heidi), which he won 4 – 0 by the end of the weekend 🙂
So… as I was in Peterborough anyway I decided a parkrun was in order. Ian wasn’t riding until just before midday so I had enough time to do my event and then get back and cheer him on.
Fortunately I could walk to the park, which was about and mile and half away, as all the surrounding roads were closed for the Time Trial. The walk was along a very pretty trail, which soon brought me out at Ferry Meadows park. The start was at a cafe – there were two cafes!!! A nice lady saw my running gear and asked it I was going to parkrun and pointed me in the right direction. I mentioned that there weren’t many runners around. “Give it ten minutes” she said. Ten minutes later 400 people had appeared!
I chatted to another nice lady before the start, hoping she could tell me a bit about about the course. Unfortunately I chose someone who was visiting from Scotland lol! We had a chat about other parkruns and headed towards the start line.
It was a lovely two or maybe three lap course – I really couldn’t tell quite where I was at times, but I do remember passing a marshal in a wheel chair at least twice. There was a pretty lake and the path was fairly flat. The path was also quite narrow so it seemed very busy. My time was under 30 minutes which I was pleased about. I think I could have gone slightly faster but due to volume of people my first km was slower than I would have liked.
A very enjoyable morning. I was running out of time though, if I wanted to get a quick shower in. So I ran back along the trail to the hotel. Ian was waiting in the room in his speed suit and pointy hat, TT bike at the ready. He gave me twenty minutes to have a shower and start resembling a normal person instead of a hot sweaty mess. My triathlon transition training certainly helps at times like this. I can get ready very fast 🙂
The TT was great fun and apparently the biggest in the world. It was a 16 mile course – longer than the usual ones that Ian does. We met up with Ian’s friend Marco, they got their timing chips and queued for the start. Usually TT’s are held on some random A road with the start in a layby, but today’s start was a big show off affair with music, man on a mike and a push down a ramp! Fancy stuff. Best of all it was on closed roads which Ian loved.
Then it was off to Wales for the Dragon ride. A four hour drive. I’m going to brush over our night in Swansea as I have nothing nice to say. Fortunately the ride itself was fantastic.
Ian had agreed to be my domestique for the day. He would carry my spare water bottle, all my food, a pump and a light jacket. He would also ride just in front of me if I needed sheltering from wind 🙂 We had 95 hilly hot miles in front of us so I was very grateful for his support. It would also be really nice to ride together, something we rarely do due to him being so bloody fast!
There were 6000 riders doing various distances, from 100km to 300km! Our’s was called the Medio Fondo and was 153km. With 2500m of climbing that was far enough. The start was very well organised. We had all been given start times so although we had to wait in pens before setting off it wasn’t too long and it was all very jolly. Loud music, man on a mike…..sounds familiar, no ramp though, just a countdown in French – the organisers are part of the Tour de France group – and the blast of a horn.
We set off at 9.30am and after about 10km or so of dual carriage way and small towns we started heading up into the Brecon Beacons and spectacular views …..of course to get the views you need to climb. The first climb was around 7km long and a steady gradient of 5% up and up and up. It was already very hot but I enjoyed it. Half way up we passed my good friend Sarah who had started a short while before us. She doesn’t really like climbing but was going well, and keeping a steady pace. It wasn’t really the place to stop for a chat so we headed on.
A long descent followed, which was wonderful and cooled us down, but before long we were climbing again – similar kind of hill to last one but at the top of this one was an ice cream van 🙂 I couldn’t resist and also fancied a rest. We had a lovely chat with some locals, enjoyed the view and then carried on.
The third big climb of the day was Devil’s Elbow – it was a timed closed road climb so I knew it would be tough. They had all the King of Mountain flags out and drums beating at the top. You could see it zig zagging up as you approached and I could already see people walking. 1.8km with an average gradient of 10%, the bends were around 16% and with the heat it was hard going. But I made it!!! Passed quite a few people (not just the ones walking – in case you were wondering). Ian with his heavy touring bike and little bag on the back sailed up making it look easy. It wasn’t.
We then headed off along the bottom of the valley to the feed station. There were a couple of feed stations. At the first one, Domestique Ian stopped to get me some more water while I cycled on and he caught me up further down the road. We had a wobbly moment while we swapped my empty bottle for a full one while on the move – glad no one was filming it lol! The second one we both stopped at. Great food, lots of pasties and croissants and sandwiches as well as the usual gels and bars. Very impressive.
Although there were only three signature climbs the whole ride was actually very hilly, many of them kilometres long and it was on one of these other climbs that Ian’s bike which had been making a horrible noise from the beginning started to make a worse noise. He hadn’t seem too concerned up until then so I didn’t worry about it, but now he was concerned and decided to call the bike shop in Taunton for some advice. I watched from behind as he cycled along happily chatting away on the phone, at one point putting the phone by his wheel (so bike shop man could hear the noise) AT THE SAME TIME pedalling quickly past some poor guy who was obviously on his last legs, huffing and puffing and sweating up the hill. Oh dear.
After eight hours of cycling we were nearly back at Margam Park and the finish. I still felt quite strong as we retraced our steps along the dual carriage ways and roundabouts into the park, but when we finally got off our bikes I was shattered. The heat was very draining, not to mention the hills. We sat down for a while in some nice deck chairs and had a cold drink and some food.
A great weekend. Lots of driving, lots of lovely weather, lots of good company. 27 events done!