Mad March Hare

0500 hours.  “What’s the “O” stand for? Oh my God it’s early“.  And it was.  Very early.  Very dark.  But if I let the alarm go off any longer it was going to wake the whole household and nobody would thank me for that so I dragged myself out of bed, into the bathroom, and got started on getting on with getting on.  Having been, as ever, painfully organised, all my kit awaited me downstairs so I duly dressed up in my many layers, packed up the bag, sorted a picnic breakfast, filled a flask with coffee, and was sorted and ready when GB collected me at 6.00am.

I have a habit of being irritatingly perky and cheerful and chatty first thing in the morning before sportives.  It’s a nerves thing, plus adrenalin, and the whole if I don’t I’ll fall asleep again thing.  Probably very irritating if you’re not a morning person.  GB is not a morning person.  To be fair, I’m not much better after events – a combo of relief, endorphins, and not wanting to fall instantly asleep again.  I’m thinking he may well start insisting we arrive at events separately…*grin*.

We arrived on schedule, parked his car in the cowshed, and got sorted.  I had trouble getting my helmet on, and whilst pulling it on felt my right shoulder muscle thing go.  Great.  Instant pain and inability to look over my right shoulder – something which is usually quite essential when cycling.  Oddly enough the same thing happened last year, albeit the other shoulder.  I popped a pink pill, and hoped for the best…  Not the best of starts however, but hey, at least this year I didn’t have earache too!

After minimal queueing to register, and the requisite amount of faffing with kit, toilets, bikes, etc…we got on our way a bit after 8.00am, with GB’s friend Bunny.  We were running a sweepstake as to how long Bunny would stick with us…  I’ve forgotten why he’s called Bunny.  I’ve seen him “bunny hop” over a pothole.  Maybe that’s it.  (I know what would happen if I tried that…).  Maybe it’s because he’s the eternal rabbit – the cyclist in front of you that you try to chase down and fail dismally…  Who knows?  Either way, we were three.  And we stayed that way, even if sometimes in a rather strung out way, for most of the day.  I did kinda fall off the back on a regular basis and the guys were kind enough to wait for me from time to time.  I was happy to sit back and watch them half-wheel each other…

Apparently according to Bunny, who cycled with us at an event last year and therefore presumably has a basis for comparison, I have a smaller behind than last year.  Of course that implies that my behind was immense last year but I think I’ll take the high road and accept the compliment which it kind of is.  In case you were wondering he said the same about GB’s posterior. Well I guess Bunny has to think about something when he’s kicking his heels on the rare occasions when he’s brining up the rear.  (Rear…see…see what I did there? 😉 ).

I can’t remember much about the route.  It’s all very pretty and scenic in a not very distinctive way.  What do I remember?  Realising that it really was rather cold and that thicker socks might have been a good idea, and that Buffs are still wonderful.  Discovering on the first decent downhill that I’d forgotten to flip the front brake back down last time I took the front wheel on and off.  Interesting…  Lousy road surfaces for the first 20 miles or so.  Pretty houses, churches, the other half clearly living well…  Grit in my eyes – t’ain’t good to lose binocular vision when cycling in traffic…  We did the course anti-clockwise so most of the bends were left one, but the right ones went well which implies that my half-replaced headset has made a difference.  My new bottles seem to let in more air with fluid than they should so I had a massive stitch/trapped wind combo which was painful and took a good 3/4 hr to sort itself out.  Which luckily it did before the very big hill.

I don’t care who you are or what you say – it was a very big hill.  Dover’s Hill I think.  And it went on for quite a long way.  I am reliably informed it as 15% at the steepest, and it was fairly constant all the way up.  But I didn’t walk, and plenty did, which is always nice.  One day I’m going to do Alpine hills, and they’re not as steep as that, which is good to know.  OK, so they go on a lot lot longer but still…

Once at the top, at the feedstation, glimmers of sunshine started to show through, and the temperature went up a couple of degrees over the rest of the ride.  Which was a bit weird route-wise as most of it I’d done last year in reverse – it’s amazing how much you remember.  And considering the amount of that kind of useless stuff that is clearly lurking in my brain it’s no wonder I can’t always remember what I had for breakfast… The descent after the hill was FanTabulous.  Really good.  No t-junction at the end.  Wide road, good surface, no sharp bends or cars…  Such F U N 🙂

Of course after the hill it felt like you were on your way to the end, whilst forgetting that that end was still quite a while away, so it dragged a bit.  My knee went after 3 1/2 hours.  My shoulder was still hurting.  The drugs weren’t working.   The stitch was still lurking.  And my cycle computer was playing up so I couldn’t really judge how far I had left to go.  My goal for what was supposed to be 68 miles was about 4.30 and I had been feeling like I was kind of on track for that.  But without the figures at my fingertips I felt a bit lost.

Company made the time go faster throughout.  We chatted.  The boys played sprint finishes.  We compared figures from similarly non-functioning gadgets. Courtesy of being the one to give people nicknames, it would appear that GB has no nickname.  (He has no hill either).  He is the man with no name.  Or maybe the man behind the mask.  I’m very tempted to call him Zorro.  Considering that Zorro  is one “who defends the people of the land against tyrannical officials and other villains” this would be quite in fitting with the occasional rant that has been known to issue forth…  Either that or he is the “Man with No Name“.  Which would, by logical procession, make him Clint.  Hm.

Anyway, in on of my more abandoned patches, near what was possibly the end, I reached a junction where the sign had moved and there was no-one around and I had no idea where to go…  A man with a Garmin turned up and I followed him in what was allegedly the right direction, (it was), and discovered OMG (Our Man with a Garmin called Charlie) at the side of the road with a broken chain.  There was no fixing it, and nothing for it but for me to cycle to the end, 3 miles or so on, and get Bunny, who’d already finished, to pick him up.  Yes, Zorro notched up his first DNF 🙁  A disappointing end to a fairly enjoyable ride.

Cycling time: 4:43:32 (not including stops)
Distance: c 73 miles
Avs: 15.4 mph
ODO: 7351 miles

The organisation for the event was great – great signs (all bar that moved one), good parking, very friendly folk.  The only downside was that the queue for the long awaited (and free) post-ride bacon rolls was long and winding, and was much the same even after we’d cleaned up and packed up, so we gave up and headed for home via the services for sustenance (him) and decent coffee (me).  It was, though by then sunny, still too cold for hanging around.  Ah well, it’s only a bacon roll, right?  And I was a good girl and drank my recovery stuff, so it’s not like I was really hungry anyway

It was the longest ride of the season so far.  I know it’s only 23 miles longer than the 50 we did a while back, which is only a matter of an hour and a half or so, so it shouldn’t make a big difference.  However as I’ve said before, and due to my habit of repeating myself will no doubt say again, a lot of cycling is mental (or psychological if you want to be fussy, but actually by some people’s standards we’re mental for just doing such things…) and it does make a difference.  So it’s only reasonable to be a bit hyped up after and then a lot tired later.  And I was tired enough to have to get an early night – I just couldn’t do awake anymore.  I’m feeling better today.  Well….both shoulders now hurt but the knee doesn’t.  Swings and roundabouts…at least today is my rest day, and I’m off to see my physio tomorrow.

First ride of the season – done! And done fairly well  🙂

So on to the reader’s poll.  What’s it to be?  Zorro, Clint, or OMG?

(You can see a photo of GB and I on the route if you’re interested…)

UPDATE: my official time is 4:57.  There were 492 riders.  Results are here.  Looks like 134 didn’t start, and a 20 or so with no time.    Fastest was 3.32, Slowest 7:11.  Which makes me like 165 out of 333.  About par for the course.  Maybe even slightly higher up the rankings than usual 🙂