The sanity of the cyclist is frequently debatable…
At 5:15am this morning, GB texted me to say was I awake, was I keen, and were we doing it anyway? This makes more sense when you consider that it was already raining, all of 5C, and not forecast to be any better where we were going. In fact the forecast for B47 6AJ included a not inconsiderable wind that was due to change direction halfway through the ride (yes, headwind all day) and the possibility of snow, whichever weather website I used – and believe me I have a whole range of those at my fingertips. Despite all of this, I replied in the affirmative 3 times :). Clearly I was awake, and I was caffeine fuelled keen, and not going back to bed anytime soon, so we might as well be doing it anyway, right? Besides this was to be my first event riding and writing for Cyclosport, it was my first “proper” sportive of the season, I’ve done it three times before and it’s become my annual season starter, and I’d paid for it! So even if weather related bailing was the kind of thing I do, which it isn’t, it so wasn’t going to happen today.
The same cannot be said for around 250 of the 500 people signed up to do the event. Not so much DNF as DNA. Bunch of lightweights the lot of you ;). Having said that…
It rained on us all the way up the M5. It was raining when we parked in the large field next to the shed building that was HQ. It rained as we trudged across the long wet grass to sign in, which took no time at all. Over more muddy grass to use the portable loos – two of which were set aside for females, which was much appreciated. Back to the car to stand in the rain assembling bikes, attaching numbers, faffing around deciding on layers. GB told me, quite rightly, to stop faffing and put on as much as I could. As is frequently the case, he was right, and I should have paid more attention. I did put on more than I was going to, but as it turns out, not as much as I could have or should have.
Back to HQ to meet up with the BW, and another trip through the grass and mud to the toilet – darn that morning coffee. This had the unfortunate side effect of meaning that my feet were soaked through already – from the bottom up – not a good start. The BW finally arrived. In shorts, having lost one of his legwarmers yesterday… I refrained from the urge to tell him that this was a somewhat debatable decision, since he has one mother already, and I have my own children to tell off! But still…!
Time to get going as we were already wet and cold and not getting any warmer hanging around. Numbers and start times were noted down by the organisation and we were on our way. Oh man it was cold out there! It was clearly going to take longer than the usual twenty minutes to warm up… In fact the closest I came to warm was the first hill of any note about 12km/8miles in. I think I pulled my zip down a couple of inches, from whence it went back up again pretty darn quickly as soon as I reached the top! And that was it for sartorial adjustment for the day really. The rain continued. The cold wind blew. There was more and more standing water to deal with. Lots of concentrating and trying to avoid hidden potholes. The BW hared off (pun intended), presumably trying to keep warm, whilst those of us who are definitely older, and possibly wiser, flew along as best we could in a more measured fashion. Us tortoises turned him into a Hare for real when we reeled him in and passed him before Willersey. To be fair he looked in a pretty bad way, cold and done in.
The first big hill of the day came about 59km/37 miles in. Having been getting slowly more and more cold, I’d almost been looking forward to it, as I was hoping it would warm me up a bit. It’s a big long fairly steep constant climb up Saintbury Hill. To emphasise how cold and wintery it was, we did this in the snow. Yes. It snowed. In fact visibility became severely restricted due to the amount of the falling white stuff. Add some wind to that and it was a bit like going into hyperspace! (Those of you of a certain age know exactly what I mean and don’t pretend you aren’t/don’t!). And don’t let anyone ever tell you that snowflakes are soft fluffy things. Not when you’re cycling into them they’re not! I think that’s a first for me – a sportive in the snow. Limited novelty value it has to be said. Quite a lot of people resorted, for whatever reason, to walking up the hill which, if I could have felt my feet, might have been attractive. But I was feeling as stubborn as ever, and actually went up it pretty well and definitely with less zig-zagging than last year. Sadly due to the being wet already, and the snow, and the wind, it really didn’t warm me up much. After a bit more climbing we reached the small feed station in a layby on the right hand side, well stocked with bananas, flapjacks and free SIS gels…though hot coffee would have been more welcome ;). I ate some of what turned out to be a very nice uncoated orange Zipvit energy bar that I had, and swopped my soaking wet gloves for drier ones from my saddle bag. It was neither the time nor place for hanging around, and although we waited for the BW there was no sign of him, so we headed off on our way again. (I gather he gave in to the powers that be (aka his Dad in support car behind) and called it a day at around the 60 mile mark).
There was another similar climb, albeit a little shorter, about 7 miles later, which also went well. Descents were less fun than they might have been due to the need to pay attention to the road, and brake in the wet. I was clearly getting colder and colder…I hadn’t had feet for hours, and my hands were well on the way to joining them wherever they were, even in the drier gloves. It always amazes me how much cold parts of your anatomy can hurt! Braking when your hands aren’t all there is…interesting. About 90 mins from the end, after a rather dangerous crossing of the A46, we stopped to grab some more food, and I nearly fell over trying to stand up on feet that I didn’t have anymore! As we ate I realised I had actually started shivering, and we headed off pdq. I don’t think my body has ever been that cold on a bike, let alone tried shivering whilst riding one, and it’s a very weird feeling. It’s trying to do all the things required to propel you along, and to shiver at the same time, which does odd things to your stomach muscles. Which, considering the current state of my insides and the fact that today the painkillers dismally failed to work, is not a nice thing.
Like it or not, life got a little slower. When you can only feel 10% of your hands, gear changes are not a spontaneous thing. They are planned in advance and frequently attempted several times! Braking is a cautious thing, just in case… I was so cold that my brain stopped working properly for a while and I was tad worried that I was just going to stop functioning altogether and end up in some ungainly heap on the floor wondering how I’d gotten there! Luckily this didn’t happen. Even though by now the rain had stopped, this was way beyond too little too late. The temperature may have gone up a degree or so, GB was now ahead of me blazing a trail for me to follow, and however we did it, we got back to the start in one piece. Two pieces? ;). It turns out a lot of those who had turned up hadn’t made it all the way round – DNFs. There’s a rumour that I was the first woman home! Not sure that’s ever happened before! *grin*. Go me!
I had a quick chat with Paul Prince, who organises it, whilst drinking my soup. It being the fourth year of the Mad March Hare, it’s come a long way, though I kinda miss the Easter Bunny costume he wore first time around 😉 The new venue is a great improvement and there are plans to expand the event in the future. Due to the poor turnout this year they may keep the route the same for next year though, since it’ll still be new to a lot of people! The organisation had all gone really smoothly, and I can personally vouch for the homemade vegetable soup – very yummy 🙂 It’s still much cheaper to enter than a lot of the sportives out there and is extremely good value for money. Well you can’t blame the organisers for the weather, now can you?!
Even with warm food on the inside, I couldn’t stop shivering, and it was getting worse and worse. I’ve never had that reaction before, but then I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold and so wet on the bike for so long! Time to get back to the car, get sorted, and head to the nearest services to get changed into dry clothes somewhere warm, and drink a large caramel macchiato. Even so it took quite a while longer down the M5 for the shaking to finally stop. Hypothermia anyone?
And as we went South for winter, as could have been predicted, the skies cleared…typical.
Cycling time: 5:05 hrs
Distance: 78 miles with 1100 metres of climbing
AVS: 15.4 mph.
ODO: 12347 miles
Ish. GB says I’m over recording. Anyway… In retrospect, with the infamous 20:20 hindsight I should have warn my thermal tights under my longs, and a different combo of jersey/jackets, but even so, I think that might only have delayed the loss of extremities, not prevented it. Until I got proper cold I was doing really well, and even once frozen, my legs and the engine were feeling pretty good – just distracted by pain and hindered by lack of functionality! I don’t think I can have been said to enjoyed it, other than in masochistic fashion, but we turned up, we did it, and we are once again officially badass *grin*. First sportive of the season – done 🙂
My official time is 5:22. Looks like 179 riders finished, and I’m around 48th. Not bad 🙂 Spare a thought for those poor hardy souls who were out there for hours more – longest time recorded is 8:07!
Also – the official Cyclosport review is now up – about which I’m very excited and very proud. Lots of people have said very nice things about it too. Very cool indeed :).