Wiggle Devil’s Punch Bowl 2013

This was my last sportive of the season.  However knowing this did not make the usual sleepless night plus 5:00am alarm call any more welcome.  And as I ate my cereal, from out of nowhere, my insides kicked off big stylee.  From nothing to epic in very little time at all.  I have no idea why, but you have to kind of admire their immaculate timing!  The two hour drive there, courtesy of my chauffeur and guide rider for the day Chris, was not a bundle of laughs, as there’s something about sitting in that position which just makes it worse.  I kind of drifted in and out of sleep all the way there, although I’m not sure if it was falling asleep or losing a grip on consciousness, probably somewhere in between.  Let’s put it this way, it’s a bl**dy good thing I wasn’t driving!  The drive probably wasn’t very pleasant for Chris either, as it was dark, windy, and p*ssing it down – predictably.  My PMA was seriously considering going walkabout

Still by the time we reached the new HQ at Godalming College, after a little orienteering to get there, it had both dried and brightened up.  We parked up in the car park near registration, and headed over to register.  At this point I was having difficulty walking, let alone riding the bike!  At least the queue for registration was non-existent, and there was somewhere to sit and have a cup of coffee quietly whilst I attempted to get a grip.

Registration desks venue hall

Usually I’m all about the get up and get going, but this was just a take it as it comes thing.  Coffee slowly drunk, facilities used, and it was time to shuffle back to the car to get ready.  I was so busy being zoned out and mentally elsewhere that I nearly walked straight past Herbie, resplendent in Dragon ride kit on his bike just outside the entrance.  We had a brief chat before him and his mate, ready already, headed off to the start line.  Back at the car the main faffing element was that of layer choice.  It may have been sunny but it was also feckin’ freezing, with rain forecast!  Luckily I’d packed some options and I ended up wearing most of them.  Well if I was going to feel rubbish, I didn’t need to be adding cold and miserable to that mix.  It took a little while longer to faff than usual because I couldn’t think straight and kept forgetting stuff – like to put food in my pockets for example.  But we got there, and rode over to the short queue for the start at around 8:30ish.  My number was duly noted, and batch by batch the waiting riders were briefed by Martin (hello again Martin!) and let out in the big wide world, as the rain started…

batches of riders hello Martin!

Luckily, at least this time, the big horrible predicted rain that had been ooming over us failed to materialise much.  Well I really didn’t want to stop straight away just to put my waterproof on!  It stopped as we headed off into the countryside, and started as we were to continue, as it’s a fairly consistently pretty end of the world without being outstandingly attractive.

country lanes

There are pretty cottages, villages, churches, with a smattering of grand dwellings.  Mostly quiet country lanes, with the odd marshalled crossing of more major roads.  Hills that seemed to be troubling most more than me, and most of them I didn’t really consider to be hills.  Just ups and downs.  Which is saying something coming from me.  One of the hills even had hairpins, though I’m not entirely sure why, as if it was in the Mendips I reckon the road would just have gone straight up it!  Having said that, this was just as well, because my lovely little pills were still playing catchup and pushing up hills was pushing on the pain.  Not to mention the fact that when it’s like that, my legs get all shaky and wobbly, which is not ideal when trying to maintain your balance on two wheels…  I had to stop at the top of that hairpin hill just to try and get settled down, and also take some more pills.  Ever seen someone breathing through labour?  Well it’s a lot like that.  Now try and cycle at the same time as doing that.  Fun no?  Come to think of it, gas and air would have gone down a treat!  Poor Chris, having to nursemaid me around…

hill riders one hill riders two

It was so annoying though.  A pleasant, fairly sunny, Sunday ride, through autumnal scenery, could have been really enjoyable.  It had warmed up considerably and it wasn’t doing the forecast raining thing.  My legs were feeling good, so was the engine – in fact I’ve have been really alright if it wasn’t for the fact that I wasn’t alright!  I felt like the wattbike work has been helping, out of the saddle felt better, and we weren’t really hanging around, other than when I had to pootle and regroup from time to time.

Still, I was proper pleased to see the first food stop around half way.  Well, halfway now, as even though I’d loved to have done the 71 mile epic route, as planned, this was clearly not a day when that was going to be an option, so we were looking at doing the standard 50 mile route.  I grabbed half a banana and a most welcome cup of coffee and sat on a step to breathe some more.  Which also gave us an opportunity to admire the sheer quantity of expensive gear, both bikes and kit, being ridden by riders with no idea.  There was a lot of that all day.  Not being ridden badly as in rudely, or arrogantly, more as in the unfit or clueless.  It was heartbreaking to see seriously beautiful bikes being wasted on people struggling up the kind of hills that barely warranted the name.  Then there was the lack of etiquette – the sort that makes a sportive easier.  Warnings about obstacles, cars, etc .  Singling up when traffic wants to get past.  That kind of thing.  It’s a good thing it was mostly on quiet country lanes where there wasn’t enough traffic for that to be an issue.

chris and leaves first food stop

Food stop done, and off we went again, with me a little restored.  Coffee good :).  Well…  So there we were.  Going along another muddy leaf covered country lane.  Having also had a gel at the stop, in a keep the blood sugar level up fashion, I figured I should be drinking.  So I was…and then a group of riders came past on the outside a little unexpectedly, so I moved over a bit, on muddy tarmac that suddenly became just mud, and my wheel fell off the edge of the road and…oh b*gger…  Before you know it both the bike and I are lying in the middle of the road.  Marvellous.  Luckily there were no other dominoes near enough to fall over, just a degree of stopping in time to check to see that I was ok, while Chris joined the small and select group of riders who have had to pick me off the road at one time or another.  Honestly, some days I wonder why I ever got out of bed in the first place!  We went and sat down for a bit to check out the damage which, luckily, didn’t seem to be anything serious.  Thanks to the fact that I was drinking when I went down, I hadn’t put my arm out., so my collarbone was intact.  My weight went down on my right thigh/hip which, let’s face it, is a fairly solid part of me.  It wasn’t at massive speed either, so my kit was essentially intact.  Clearly there was some bruising going on, and some grazes under there too, but I was just pleased it wasn’t worse!  In fact, considering how well the day was going, it was actually pretty amusing.  Sometimes you just have to laugh…  Did I mention Chris deserves sympathy for having to put up with me? 😉

autumnal climb

He’s also pretty good with bikes too – and was able to check mine over and ascertain that it was actually less damaged than I was.  We had to stop a couple of minutes after getting going again as it turned out that the front brake needed readjusting and the saddle needed straightening but after that, it was all pretty good.  Well, apart from a tendency on my behalf to panic internally a little when riding over anything wet or muddy, of which there was quite a lot.  Autumn leaves are much prettier on the trees than under my wheels.  You’ll be pleased to hear that I managed to stay on for the rest of the ride though!  And having had that second dose of pills and made something else hurt to distract, my insides settled down to a dull roar.  More country lanes, more rolling up and down.  Less photos due to my urge to remain in contact with my handlebars at all times ;).  The scenery opened up a bit around the Devil’s Punch Bowl, and after the route split, the previously potentially annoying wind was behind us.  I say potentially because there was quite a lot of it but, thanks to the sheltered lanes, it had turned out to be much less of a problem than it could have been.  This is not to say that it wasn’t better behind us of course!

open skies second food stop

There was another food stop about 15 miles from the end, providing another chance to take a break and use the facilities.  Another time we might not have stopped, but as it was clearly one of those days, why not?  No rush right?  Another gel, and about an hour’s ride to go.  Easy.  Which it was quite.  The “worst” climb of the day was near the end, being steeper, narrow, wet, with leaf filled gullies down the side.  I have to admit to having not moved out of the way of the car coming down towards me, which had to wait, but there was no way I was putting my wheels in there, and I did thank him nicely when I finally went past.  There was also a sudden and torrential downpour about ten minutes from the end.  Chris stopped to put his waterproof on.  I didn’t, because I figured there wasn’t much point at that stage.  He caught me up soon enough, having presumably been able to ride at his natural pace for a while, ooh, the novelty value.  It would probably have taken me longer to get my waterproof out of the saddle bag and on to me that it would to have finished the ride as, in no time at all, we were back.  Over the timing mat, collecting a medal on the way, and it was time for a slow spacey walk back to the car, relieved to have survived!

After a little faffing, I left Chris to put the bikes back in the car, and headed into HQ which, blissfully, had proper changing facilities so I was actually able to have a shower, put clean clothes on, and restore a degree of humanity.  The shower revealed some grazes, and a nicely developing bruise or two, but nothing too drastic, though my right leg was stiffening up rapidly now it was off the bike.  I limped off and found Chris eating tomato and basil pasta in the hall, and drank yet another cup of coffee.  I wasn’t really feeling like food, and to be fair, if Chris hadn’t reminded me to eat today I’d probably have forgotten all together.  See, I told you, my guide rider!  😉 *grin*.

Cycling time: 3:29 hrs.
Distance: 52.2 miles.
Avs: 14.9 mph.
ODO: 16768.1 miles.

So, how was it?  Well oddly, even with all of that, I enjoyed it.  I could feel my form lurking, in reassuring fashion, under there somewhere.  It was a perfectly pleasant end of season ride, and well organised as all Wiggle UK Cycling Events sportives are.  It wasn’t particularly noteworthy – Chris reckons it was a bit like a joke without a punch (bowl) line…  *groan*.  I know, terrible.  I wish I’d been able to do the longer ride, but it would probably just have made me feel worse in the long run.  As it was I slept on and off the entire way back again, again mostly despite myself, as the whole thing had pretty much taken it out of me.  It may be time for a little recuperative resting :).

And today? I’m a bit bruised/grazed/battered, with some interestingly sore muscles that presumably got twisted or pulled on the way down.  But I’m pretty much in one piece, and thankful for that :).