Storm Angus woke me up at 1am, it sounded like someone pushing a wheelbarrow of concrete across my roof. My first thought was I hope the power stays on… the second was, I hope this stops before the morning and my ride!
The alarm went off at 5.30am and I could still hear the rain battering against the window and the wind howling through the trees. I got up anyway, figured I could start the journey and if it was too bad turn around and come home.
I was hoping to do this event with my Brother-in-Law Antony but he came down with nasty chest cold in the week – we hoped he would recover by the weekend but he didn’t. I was really missing him as I drove on my own in the dark along the M5 the wind and rain battering the car. It’s two hours to the Cotswolds and the weather was predicted to calm down a little by the 9am start time. I carried on.
The roads were quiet and as daylight broke at 7am it didn’t seem quite so bad. My satnav took me to an empty lay-by somewhere in the Cotswolds…Hmmm… fortunately it had taken another man to the same spot. Between us we worked out where we should really be (just round the corner) and by 8.30am I was parked up and registered.
This was a very small event – part of a series of rides that were cheap to enter and with no frills – no timing chips, no feed stations and best of all no stickers plastered all over your bike and helmet 🙂 Just a well signed route and help if needed.
It was very cold, around 3C so I threw on lots of extra layers including two pairs of socks and my ski mittens with hand warmers inside. Just as I started to wheel my bike to the start I noticed that I didn’t have my little saddle bag on my bike with all my spares in….shit! Oh well… I’d not driven for two hows in stormy weather to go home now, my bike has slime in the inner tubes to reseal punctures… I’ll take a chance. I must have taken it off my bike when I cleaned it and forgot to replace it. It was to pray on my mind for the whole ride,funny thing is, it was so cold I don’t think I could have changed an inner tube anyway. But it reminded me of a book I once owned about mountain rescues in the Lake District. It was a record of all rescues and had columns for where people were found, what the weather was like and in the final column what they were wearing. Basically …were they well prepared? Obviously it looked bad if they were found up a mountain in January wearing an anorak and tennis shoes (it was an old book – I don’t think we called them trainers then lol!) I felt like the bike rider equivalent…if I was rescued it would look bad not have the basics with me. Anyhoo… my trusty winter bike made it. Drama over.
The start was at 9am. We gathered in a muddy patch of ground by a lake for a quick event briefing. While I stood there shivering I looked out to the lake and couldn’t believe my eyes – there were people swimming! Some without wetsuits…it was 3C. Maybe I wasn’t the crazy one after all!
By this point the rain had calmed to a light drizzle and would eventually stop but the road were covered in wet leaves, tree debris and partial flooding. The wind made it seem even colder than it was. My mittens did their job but my feet were frozen.
It was miserable. I saw other riders now and then but being such a small event I was on my own most of the time. I found the cycling hard too. My last long ride was back in August and most rides since have been short and flat. I didn’t do any cycling on my holidays. There weren’t lots of hills but they seemed hard – most were long drags which I hate at the best of times. There was one section of three or fours short steep hills and these felt good as I passed a few people. A little joy in a tough day.
It wasn’t just me having a tough one, at the split point where there was a choice between the long (110km) and short route most people decided on the short route, saying it was just too cold. I had planned on doing the long route but just couldn’t face it on the day.
I usually chunk rides into 20km sections, and then into 10km sections. Sometimes when it’s hard I do 5kms…but this ride I was pretty much counting every kilometre. Playing games with myself, counting in my head what I thought was 1k and then checking my Garmin. It was a long day.
With no official feed stations and the cold weather I barely stopped. I did stop for a quick photo and a little snack but generally tried to keep moving. Fortunately the last 20km was flat as I didn’t have much in me at that point and was thrilled when the finish was in sight.
The finish was great, although I only paid £9.50 for the entry we were greeted with hot bacon rolls and cakes at the end. Oh My a bacon roll has never tasted so good – almost (but not quite) worth cycling 50 miles for. I chatted to a few other riders, who all thought it was a tough day and then head back to my car for the long drive home.
My feet finally defrosted about an hour later 🙂
As it happens the weather got much worse the next day – amber weather warning across the South West and epic rain….looks like I was actually quite lucky after all.
Two to go!