The Cheshire Cat
So yesterday I took part in the Chesire Cat sportive, essentially the start of the sportive season on the first day of British Summer Time. Unfortunately, as it was the first day of British Summer Time, it meant we lost an hour of sleep, so cue a very early start, feeling very tired waking up etc – a perfect Ironman race practise!
Going in to it, I was feeling pretty confident. My riding recently has been good, and I am in a good shape for this time of the year. It was also the end of my rest week, so whilst not exactly the best thing for a rest week, it meant I should be fresh and recovered from a good solid block of training (the next blog post!).
I was riding with Mike from my old job, and arrived at about half 8. Once I had eventually found a parking space, we made our way to the massive queue, which was snaking in all sorts of directions around Crewe football stadium. After queueing for about 45 minutes, we eventually rolled over the start line, and started on our way.
The first 20k involved mainly riding through big packs of people who had more sense than me to pace properly, but I was feeling good and wanted to test my form. We soon hit the climbing and the pace slowed, but I was still climbing well. Fairly soon, we hit the major climb of the day, Mow Cop, which is a nice little 25%. With the Fred in my legs from last year and having done plenty of hill work on the bike recently, I got up fine without stopping, so got my medal, but it was hard work on a TT bike with pretty big gears! It’s time like that when I miss my road bike with easy shifting and a compact chainset!Plenty of people were walking, and with no choice to push a massive gear, I was climbing quicker than most people when I could get past. It was certainly more crowded than climbing Hard Knott as it was so early on, and made for good track stand practice….
With my excellent preparation for the race, I had read people comparing Mow Cop with Winnats Pass and the Cat and Fiddle, so naturally assumed they were part of the route (especially the Cat and Fiddle given the name of the ride!), but neither featured. There was more climbing up til about 50k, but nothing any where near those climbs, which was all a rather pleasant surprise! At around 50k we hit a big group and got pulled along to the 2nd feed station, somewhere around the 80k mark. At this point my legs were starting to go. Stupidly I had hardly been eating for the first couple of hours, or drinking much, so started to pay for it as we went past my usual riding distance on bananas and squash, and I started to struggle. I hit a big low patch at around 90k and legs were dying. Mike had picked up a group just up the road and was soon flying off into the distance. Thankfully, a big group came past me, and I managed to tag along and sit in the bunch, reduce the work, take some nutrition on board and get the legs back. 30k of riding in the pack and I started to feel good again, which was lucky because Mike was beginning to string the pack apart and gaps were beginning the form. The benefit of having a TT bike soon became apparent as I was able to put the head down, and TT it because gaps to hold onto the front group.
The final feed station came with about 30k left to go and we went straight past. I was feeling good again, and had plenty of stuff left with. We pushed it hard and soon realised, that if we kept up a decent pace we would be on for a 5 hour 40 ride time, which was a ‘gold standard’ ride. A few of the quicker riders began to come past and we had a good pack forming until at 145k, with 15k to go, we hit a canal bridge which was just being raised! Extremely frustrating! A 5 minute wait, and there was a big number of people waiting to go, so once it was clear to carry on, we had about 40-50 people riding in a big pack with some very good club riders on the front pushing a good pace. With 5k to go, we hit Nantwich town centre (very odd being so close to home in Wales at this point!) and hit the traffic, big roundabouts and traffics lights. The big pack soon split up and once we were finally through it was just a case of hammering it as hard as possible to the finish. We had a good pace line, and I was pulling at the front, down on the TT bars at max effort to get to the finish. When the line was in sight, attacks started to come, but I was spent and rolled over the line in 5 hours 53, and then spent a minute queuing to get my transponder scanned at the finish line, for a finish time of 5 hours 54. Slightly frustrating not being able to make the gold ride with the bridge and traffic but a good ride none the less.
Overall I had mixed feelings about my race. I was disappointed to mess my nutrition up so badly, and it really put doubts in my mind about my current shape, but once I had recovered, I managed to stay strong. I also managed a good run afterwards, ticking along at 4:17/km pace pretty well. It wasn’t sustainable for a marathon currently, but maybe a half marathon?
My ergomo also randomly died on me 15k into the race, which is extremely frustrating. I am hoping it was something on the day, and will fix itself, or I can fudge it myself as I can’t afford to send it off to Germany to have it fixed if it is dead. Whilst it will mean I can return to having normal crank lengths again and the choice between standard and compact, it means my hopes of training and racing with power this year will have to be postponed, which would be a big shame.
So lessons from the race:
- I need to practise my nutrition, both actually taking it on and getting used to it again. After a many months of squash, bananas and some malt loaf if I’m lucky, trying to fuel a race on gels and energy drink meant my stomach was not happy when I actually got round to taking it onboard! I get fed up of the sickly taste, but now I can cope with it when used to it, so need more practise in this area.
- I need to get used to that high intensity for long durations, as well as doing long rides again without big stops and breaks during rides. This is going to be a main focus for the next block of training.
- I need to sort my saddle out! It was great for climbing and sat up in a pack, but trying to hold a TT position, just felt like it was digging in! Not good if I plan on holding that position for 180k…
It was a good race though, and nice to be back at events. Definitely looking forward to hitting some triathlons in the near future (when I get some money!).
Update: Here’s the Garmin file from the ride – http://connect.garmin.com/activity/75762114