Less than a week after the Yorkshire Tough Mudder, it was time for some cycling through the beautiful Yorkshire countryside. When I originally registered for the event I thought that I would have been much further on with my fitness and would have spent much more time on my bike than has been the case. The last time I went for a ride of any note was the first challenge when I cycled 55 miles. Since then, and even to a degree before then, things haven’t gone entirely to plan. I’ve struggled with my eating habits, have had a couple of bouts of illness that have put back my training and there have been times when I’ve struggled with my depression and have put too much pressure on myself to not let anyone down. As a result of all that I’m far heavier than I hoped I would be and even though my fitness has improved I’m still nowhere near where I thought I would be by this stage in the year of challenges.
On the plus side, things have been picking up in the last few weeks and up until the Tough Mudder training had been going really well. I’ve also started having counselling again so have been working on the mental side of things. One of the things that has come out of the counselling sessions is that I have not been focussing on the journey but have been treating things as either success or failure. The problem with this is that as soon as you don’t feel like you’re going to achieve the success then you give up so that you don’t have to deal with the failure. I’ve been trying to put things in perspective and think about the journey and what that does for me rather than the absolute of success or failure. I’m sure Dan would have just wanted me to keep going through all of the ups and downs and that he would be proud of what I’ve achieved so far. I just need to think about that and focus on what I’ve achieved rather than what I haven’t achieved. With that in mind I had decided that there was no gains in trying the Epic ride of 103 miles as I knew that I wasn’t prepared for it and that it could then result in injury or illness which would jeopardise the upcoming events. As the only other options were the short route of 39 miles and the standard ride of 81 miles. If there had been a ride of around 60/70 miles then I would have gone for that but given the terrain around the dales, the standard ride would probably be too far as well so I had decided to ride the short route. It seemed like the sensible option given my lack of cycling and would be good training as I try and build up to being able to do 100 miles before the end of the challenges.
To match the preparations I was also having bike issues and the night before the ride I couldn’t change between the big and small chainrings which was going to cause me problems if I couldn’t resolve it. Despite various adjustments and tinkering I still couldn’t get it work but came to the conclusion that I might as well head up to Thirsk and see if there was anyone at the start who could help me. On the morning of the ride I packed up the car and set off for the start. I picked up some breakfast on the way and had an overwhelming feeling of dread as I got closer as I couldn’t see how I could ride the course without sorting out my bike problems. I was also nervous due to the lack of saddle time that I’d had in preparation. I tried to convince myself that it would be ok as I had still been training and was fitter so it should be ok. When I arrived at Thirsk racecourse there was a long queue to get into the car park and it was then time to have a look around for assistance and register. As I wasn’t doing the long ride it gave me some time before I would have to start to try and get myself sorted out. After registering I went back to the car to set up my bike and get myself ready.
After getting changed and unpacking everything I needed, I tried one last tinker with the bike to see if I could sort it out but unfortunately that didn’t work so I headed for the start and to see if I could find any mechanical assistance. I had decided that I was going to try and do it even if I couldn’t sort it out but it was going to make it even more difficult. I wheeled my way down to the start and then a saviour appeared. The service vehicle was parked near the start so I got a friendly mechanic to have a look at the problem for me. It took him quite a while to sort it out but just before the last start time I was up and running and ready to go. After a quick photo it was time for the off.
As I rolled out of the race course I was already regretting my choice of attire as the sun had burnt through the earlier cloud and the temperature was picking up. As I had my jacket on I was starting to heat up even though I hadn’t completed the first mile. I unzipped it as far as I could, put my head down and pedalled. The more I pedalled, the faster I would get going and the sooner I would get finished. I was aiming to finish in under 3 hours if I could as that would be a reasonable pace in the circumstances. I settled into a rhythm behind two guys, one of which was wearing a jersey emblazoned with ‘Fat Lad at the back’ which made me chuckle as I thought that it should be me wearing it!
I seemed to settle into a decent pace even though the terrain was undulating. The miles seemed to be flying by over the course of the first hour despite there being some challenging hills. Coming down one of them I lost my chain which meant a slight delay as I had to stop and put it back on the chainring. I was making decent time despite the slight set back but the heat was starting to build as the sun shone which meant I was working up quite a sweat and soon getting through the water I had taken with me. As we continued to head north I was still feeling pretty good and enjoying the ride. The only thing I was conscious of was that my cadence was lower than I would have liked but I just had to focus on keeping it going and it was something that I could then work on when I started training again.
Just after the two hour mark had passed I arrived at the feed station so had a brief break to fill up my water bottles and take on some food. I had a banana and some flapjack before getting back on the road to finish the route. After we had passed the route split marker and headed back towards Thirsk my lower back was starting to ache a bit and the time in the saddle was starting to take effect but I continued to press on as we made our way along the route. The last half hour seemed to take an eternity and then the race course came into sight. I pedalled past where I was parked and pedalled down to the finish where I turned into the racecourse and over the finish line. I was handed my medal and tshirt as I got off my bike. I was hot and sweaty but pleased that I had finished it and despite coming in just after 3 hours that was mainly due to the food stop as I had 2 hours 50 minutes of moving time. I took a bit of time to cool down and then had a drink and went for a massage which was as hard as the ride as they sorted my back out! After the massage I wheeled my way back to the car, hot, a bit tired and sore but overall pleased with my efforts for the morning.
Looking back it was the best decision not to try and push it too far on Saturday and I had a very enjoyable ride through the Yorkshire Dales which was nice. I should now be able to get back to training to get myself fully prepared for what is still to come. It would have been easy to give up on it when I realised that I wouldn’t be able to do the Epic distance but I stuck with it and completed the shorter course. Putting things in some perspective has definitely helped and it’s been a step forward realising how far I have come through all of this. I might not have achieved everything that I would have wanted to by this stage but I have achieved so much and there is still plenty to achieve in the coming months. The Wiggle Yorkshire Tour Sportive was a great event which was well organised and thoroughly enjoyable so if you like cycling I’d recommend checking out the Super Series as they have events all over the country throughout the year.
Thanks again to all the people who have supported me so far. In particular the following people need a special shout for everything they have done and they are:
My Mum and Dad
The triplets (for all the cuddles)
If you want to help why not like/share the Facebook page, register for updates on the website or have a look at the sponsor page. All of the support so far has kept me going when things have been tough and the money raised so far will make a difference to the Blurt Foundation and Mind. The focus now is on getting ready for the Yorkshire 3 Peaks and Leeds Triathlon to see how they go.
Onwards and upwards