On Sunday I took part in my first cycling event ever. A 54km Audax!
Who knows what possessed me to do it. When Mikey originally asked me if I wanted to do an audax that his mate Don (a customer from work) was organising I just laughed. I didn't think much more about it, until Friday evening after a strong ride to and from Penzance. I started to ask a few questions? Where was it? What roads would it involve? The start of the route sounded OK - In fact it encompassed a lot of my usual routes. Mikey seemed confident that I would be able to do it! Hmm, whats the worst that could happen?
By Saturday, I was nervous. Mikey was in charge of prepping my bike and getting me organised. I even got to wear one of his VeloCake shirts for the occasion.
We set off under a grey sky but at least the rain was holding off after yesterdays deluge. We had just over 3 miles to ride down to the start. When we got there dozens of riders were just setting off for the 100km ride. There was a VeloCake shirt in the midst of them all. "Go get 'em Andrew!" When the last 100km rider had gone, it suddenly became deserted, it looked like there may only be a handful of entrants for the smaller event.
I think there may have been 15 altogether. When we set off 2 chaps accelerated off the front at quite a fast pace, but me and Mikey sat on the tails of the next riders (3 Tri-athletes - 2 girls and a lad.) They seemed to be setting a very easy pace (8-10mph). I started to feel confident, as although these tri-athletes were very fit, my cycling skills were much smoother. I was enjoying myself and within a few miles we had caught up with the 2 breakaway riders (without trying). So far we had encountered a few hills; all of which I knew very well and knew just how much to push myself to get up them. All was good.
After about 7miles, we reached a nasty hill I have not ridden before. It started off gradual, then became very steep for 100m and then turned back to a long gradual climb. At the first steep bit I was struggling behind the 2 female tri-athletes, who were attacking the hill really slowly. I struggled at their slow pace. It was burning. I stopped to give my legs a break and to allow myself space to ride at my own pace.
As it eased off at the top of the hill we were joined by Andy, who works part time with Mikey and his friend, Martina. I introduced myself and we had a gossip as we continued to ride. A little further ahead and another of their friends, Nigel, was waiting for them. Now we were five! (BTW, there was now no sign of the tri-athletes now - they had obviously accelerated off when they realised they had dropped us. Those competitive types, eh?) ;-)
I pretty much managed to stay with our new friends pace until I had the misfortune of riding straight through a stinking decomposing fox carcass. After stopping to rid myself of the Foxes remains I was surprised to find our pals waiting for us. Unfortunately, I was then dropped on an extremely steep hill. This has to be the steepest hill I have ever seen. There was no way I could do this! We had just climbed to get to this point and there was no way my legs could get me up there too. I got off my bike! To hell with my usual view of not pushing a bike. This was gonna be tough walking up - never mind cycling! Seriously, I struggled up on foot. When the hill eased slightly I got back on the saddle and rode, but even still it was one heck of a hill. Surprisingly again, on arriving at the top our three new pals were waiting for us. What nice folks.
We soon arrived at the midway control point. A cafe on the top of some cliffs in the stunning surroundings of Gwithian. Yay only 26km left! I had the nicest piece of cake ever - a large piece of divine chocobanana cake. Sorry, I was too tired and hungry to think about taking its picture. I was glad to hear that we hadn't arrived last, there was still a few more to come in and some had possibly already dropped out. Trouble was, I was already well out of my comfort zone. (Apart from the day we rode round Kielder lake, my usual mileage is about 10-15miles/16-24km) and I wasn't actually sure I had anything else left in my legs.
On leaving Gwithian we had a great descent where I reached 36mph but unfortunately a long climb followed and I had to let our pals past me as I struggled up. On making it to the top we found them waiting for us and we all made our way through Hayle market town and towards St Ives. My legs felt OK on these flatter roads, but it didn't last long as we were soon on the hilly roads of St Ives. Almost immediately, I was dropped. They waited. I caught up and then got dropped on the next hill. And again ... they waited. I caught up and then got dropped again. I was now seriously broken. It was torture!
I couldn't give up. I told Mikey to go ahead and insist that his friends continued without us as the pressure of everything was getting too much, but when I slowly pedalled myself to the top of the hill, they were all there waiting. Don't get me wrong, they were all completely wonderful and supportive, the issue was that I was putting myself under unnecessary pressure to try not to keep them waiting. Thankfully we were now just minutes away from the 3rd checkpoint and after some supportive words and encouragement I felt a little better. They still continued to wait for me when they dropped me on the longer climbs, but now I was calmer as it was their decision to wait.
Thankfully, reaching the 3rd checkpoint had motivated me, now we were on the homeward stretch. Unsurprisingly, the roads continued to be long and draggy climbs and as I dug deep to find any energy, I kept telling myself that under normal circumstances - during a normal ride - I coulda flown up most of them. They were only defeating me as I was tired!
We finally got back to the Control point for tea and more well deserved treats. I was pleased with what I'd done. 54km, is more than double my usual ride mileage!
After more tea and cake and a natter with new friends and old, it was time to get my weary backside back on the saddle and ride the 3.3miles home. Unfortunately, home was uphill! Somehow, I mustered up every last ounce of energy left in my body (I think a cheeky custard doughnut helped) and I fought my way home.
With a distance of 40.1miles on Ted's computer and an average speed of 11.5 I was a happy - yet very weary - bunny.
I expected to be sore the next day, but shockingly, muscle fatigue wasn't the problem - I was severely sun burnt! Despite the grey skies we set off under and the previous two wet days and a miserable weather forecast; Sunday turned out to be glorious. Unfortunately, my poor delicate milky skin, which is usually well hidden under jeans and a tee, was burnt to a crisp.