Endura Lionheart

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I was signed up to do the 100km route for this event.  Then I looked at the route, and realised it was actually less than that, more like 93 kms, which comes in at around 58 miles.  Now, weird as this may sound to “normal” people (normal is over-rated), that really didn’t seem worth getting out of bed and making a fuss for.  That’s training ride distance, not sportive challenge distance.  So after a little deliberation, and considering that both GB and SH were signed up to the longer ride, I swapped to the 100 mile distance which, you guessed it, was due to be a little less than that, coming in at around 96 miles.  Which meant that the Endura Lionheart became the first long ride of my sportive season at rather short notice.

That brings us to this morning, and the usual bright and early start.  Up at 5.00am – which in retrospect was a little too early, since having been organised yesterday, I was ready, drinking coffee and killing time for rather too long until GB arrived at 6:30am.  Note to self – do better next time!

Longleat is only an hour or so away but due to the route setup everyone was supposed to be in and parked before 8.00am which we were.  It’s a lovely venue – plenty of parking, plenty of toilets (though rather too far away from the start), gorgeous scenery, fab little pied-a-terre…  It was cloudy and a tad nippy, but with a sunny forecast, thus leading to more than the usual faffing around with regards what to wear.   (In case you’re wondering, and the suspense is liable to get to you – I didn’t get it right ;)).

We met SH at the start line and got away sometime after 8:00am – I’m afraid I wasn’t paying attention to the clock since, let’s be honest, it’s not what time you start, it’s when you finish!  Although it’s not a race, right?!  😉 The first 20 minutes were on the estate and rather hillier than you’d think.  Not to mention demonstrating the sheer size of the place.  Well, can you ride around your garden for 20 minutes?  On top of the shock that going uphill is when you haven’t warmed up, you then exit via the long ascent that is the drive – hubby tells me it make a great hill climb – which was a pretty torturous way to start the day, and also marked the last time I saw SH!  No wheelsucking for me then…  Several people were walking up the hill as I rode past.  Now, I’m sorry and I know it’s a big hill on a not massively hilly route, but if you’re walking already, and you haven’t even got out the gates yet, I think the time may have come to go back to the car…*grin*.

GB and I both agree that this is one of the most scenic sportives we’ve done.  The scenery was stunning.  Lots of rolling hills, views, gorgeous houses, churches and the like.  There seemed to be a good few hills to start with, and then it was more just undulating, until the last 20 miles which contained the two biggest hills of the day – one with only 5 miles to go, no fair!  The biggest hill of the day, and it was a doozie, was up to King Alfred’s Tower and I’m afraid I had to stop twice.  But I didn’t walk so…it’s just that my legs were doing that wobbly thing that generally means they’re about to give way and the chances of un-clipping in time are slim, so I’d just end up in an undignified, and probably painful, heap on the floor.  Best to stop, take a breather, and try, try again.  Whilst watching GB make his way to the top uninterrupted.  *sigh*.

After that many miles on the bike, details tend to blur.  I remember some very lovely down hills.  A very colourful pheasant by the side of the road watching me go by.  A traction engine.  A large and ornate (GB says italianate) church.  A weird off the ground grain barn building.  Not to mention lots of very attractive and seriously out of my price range property.

The signage was brilliant.  The roads were mostly back lanes and very quiet.  The brief stretch on the A303 was slightly heart in mouth – remind me never to do that again!  The marshals and motorcycle riders were fab.  The foodstops were all in village halls, staffed by very friendly people, and very well provisioned by the WI who apparently make very good cakes.  (GB will vouch for this, – I stuck to curvy yellow fruit).  They were also stocked up with Torq which, being my brand of choice, was great for me.  And being village halls, there are toilets!  Which means no hiding behind bushes, and also that I could strip off and remove my base layer at the second one.  Yes – the sun came out, the temperature rose, and I was just too hot.  I do not cycle well when too hot.  So I misjudged that one slightly, but not to too serious ill effect, and besides which, who can complain when the sunshine is making everything look gorgeous?  It would be churlish…

GB and I were together to start with, and then on and off later on.  He’s just faster than me, and I always feel guilty when he gets stuck cycling with me, at the same time as enjoying the company – so there’s a quandary for you.  I think we got the balance about right today though.  I spent a stretch in the middle on my own without seeing another cyclist for hours, and we suspect that not all that many of the 500 entrants were doing the long route.  That was however the same stretch that took me through the Stourhead estate, with gorgeous views of the lake and follies, long shady forest climbs, views for miles…nicely taking care of that part of a ride where I’m a long way from the start yet not near enough the end, and feel like I’m in the doldrums.  Not today 🙂

The best bit?  After all the pain and struggling near the end, and the “1 mile to go” sign which must have been at least 3 miles out, I rode under the gatehouse and down the main drive towards the house.  Flying at nigh on 30mph, down the wide flat road, with the sun shining, lengthening shadows, and Longleat laid out in front of me.  A very memorable finish 🙂

GB was there already, though he said he’d not been there long (hm…) and I just managed to catch up with SH as well as  GW + mob who were there in support team mode.  Time for a well earned, and very good, americano.  Yes, I could have had my free hotpot, which GB did, but I wasn’t really in the mood for that.  I’m always in the mood for good coffee though!  Nice goody bag too – cool medal, new bottle, Lionheart buff, Cycling Active magazine, a Torq one shot, and amusingly, a Lion bar 🙂

Cycling time: 6:39:14 (not including stops)
Distance: 97.32 miles
Avs: 14.6 mph
ODO: 7571 miles

I had been aiming at under 7 hours, and hoping for 6 1/2 so, on balance, I think I did ok.  And it was those last couple of killer hills that dragged the average down below the over 15mph it had been up until then.  Hardly surprising – so no complaints here.

This was a medically aided ride.  My knee was strapped up.  I took my pink pills and paracetamol plus (the plus is caffeine – ‘rah!) at 7:00am, and they clearly worked as I could feel them slowly wear off as the hours passed.  So I took more at 12:30pm and felt them slowly cut in again, though not all the way, I think because there was just too much for them to be fighting against.  (Knee, shoulder, neck…such fun).   Still, they enabled me to get round without unbearable discomfort so I’m loving the combo.  I also didn’t get a stitch this time around which was good, as I’d been worrying about that.  I do worrying very well…

OK, by the end of the ride, I didn’t really want to go up any more hills, but other than that I felt pretty good.  I’m thinking my base level fitness is pretty good – doing the mileage isn’t actually a problem – which is really positive.  The main problem is the pain from my various bits, which I’m hoping to address soon.  Oh, and the additional pain from sitting on a saddle for that long for the first time in ages!  A proper pain in the arse 😉

All in all a really good ride 🙂  Two events down, five to go.  Endura Lionheart – done!  I am cyclist, hear me roar! *grin*

UPDATE: official time is 7:13:54, compared to 7:10:39 for the ever patient GB, and 6:41:26 for the nowhere to be seen SH. I can’t figure out my placing as yet – if ever – because I don’t know who did which distance etc. But I figure my time’s ok. Nowt fab, but good nonetheless.