Sunday, 29 May 2011

Tour of Wessex - Day 2

Yesterday had gone so well that I wasn't entirely sure that I hadn't dreamt it. I woke up as fresh as a daisy and checked that it was definitely Sunday, it was.. bonus! Pacing and hydration were definitely the successes of day one (two things I am normally rubbish at) and so today I had planned for more of the same. The plan didn't quite come together...

I started steadily, but was trying to pace a little quicker than yesterday as I was conscious of time and today was a long day mileage-wise. After a good warm-up I hit the first long, draggy hill that was made better by the scenery of some very picturesque Somerset villages and eventually, Sherborne Castle. This led into a brilliant rolling route where I was powering down little country roads and generally loving life.

At the first feed station I was feeling good. I was just slightly disappointed that the only sports drink on offer was strawberry. Who would ever choose strawberry flavour?! Citrus, orange or generic berry, maybe. Nonetheless I filled up with the pink gloop and went on my way.

A couple of miles later and a small group of cyclists went past me. Usually little packs whizz past at such a pace that there is just no chance of even attempting to draft them, but because I was feeling so strong I thought I would try to jump on the back of these guys and just see how long I could hang there. As soon I was behind them my pace shot up, I've not really done a lot of drafting before and I could not believe how much of a difference it made. Whilst I was hanging on for dear life and pushing the pace a bit more than I had intended, I was getting way more speed for my effort.

I did have one slightly near-death experience today. Flying along a singletrack country road at some unthinkable pace, I heard a shout from the front "CARRR!" It was a bit late notice and the guy in front of me (right in front of me) hit the brakes pretty hard. I was braking but in that instant I knew I wouldn't be able to slow enough to stop myself from going straight into the back of him. I had to veer out to the right and into the path of the oncoming car which thankfully, had stopped. However, I still hadn't. I managed to swear just enough to stop in time, and all the guys I was riding with breathed a huge sigh of relief. It actually was a bit of a bonding moment and afterwards they all really tried to look after me!

The route went up and over some great hills and I was up out of the saddle doing little sprints to stay with the pack. The tough hill up over Lulworth Cove came and went, offering incredible views of the Jurassic Coast.

I managed to stay with the guys until the second feed station, at which point I realised I had been so busy keeping up I had forgotten to do much drinking or eating. Luckily we had arrived just as the chicken and bacon sandwiches were being put out, it was meant to be! Several sandwiches and jaffa cakes later (read 'several' as 'dozens') and we were ready to hit the road again.

About ten minutes later I realised I was actually completely exhausted. I hit a huge low and realised that I had been pushing the pace much too hard. I tried as hard as I could to hang on but I just had nothing left in the legs. I told the guys I was going to drop off the back and watched them shoot off into the distance. I felt totally knackered. I just tried to keep spinning, keep drinking and get myself to the third feed station.

The boys were there when I arrived and checked if I wanted to hang on the back again. A combination of not wanting to slow them down and wanting to eat my body weight in fig rolls had me hanging back and having a little extra rest.

When I set off again I just couldn't pick it up, my whole mind and body was tired. I was even taking it easy on the downhills as I felt so tired I didn't want to have to focus hard on controlling a fast descent. I ended up setting myself a little target of doing 5km every 15 minutes - a really super steady pace that I could just keep ticking over. I thought if I could just keep doing that for the last 30 miles I would make it.

Then with around 20 miles to go, a very nice lady named Claire sidled up beside me and asked how I was doing. I told her I was absolutely knackered and just trying to spin my way to the end. She said the magic words, "You can hang on the back of us if you like?".. I did. Turns out I did have a bit more in the tank, I just needed the group motivation. My pace pretty much doubled and I couldn't thank them enough for towing me along as we arrived back into Somerton.

Unlike yesterday, I hurt today. I can definitely tell that I've pushed hard and the muscles are aching. My 'welcome home' tea and cakes helped though, as did the enormous roast dinner and rhubarb crumble. Now all I need is a ten hour sleep and a new pair of legs to tackle the Exmoor hills on day three!


  1. Forgot to say the time!! I didn't get my official time today (or yesterday for the matter) but total time on the garmin was 8 hours and 5 minutes..

  2. Compelling reading - don't tell your Mum about the near death experience! Well done for today, take care tomorrow.

    Nicky :)

  3. Glad I found this. Heard a lot more from you Egg than from my son! I suspect he's saving his energy for tomorrow. Good luck on Exmoor - it's lovely, believe me.

    Rob's mum

  4. I hope Rob made it home safe and sound!!