I am back from Peterborough. My second race of this year done. I completed Tour of Cambridgeshire last year on my trusted Pinnacle Hybrid. 2015 Gran Fondo was a first long distance event for me ever. I trained but got nowhere near the mileage I should have.
You can read all about last year here.
This year I decided to take a gamble and take my new Pinnacle Road bike with me. I was bricking it as I had only took it out ONCE for 20 km ride last Monday so 6 days before the Grand Fondo! I still was clueless about the gears, had no trust in using the breaks – my hand seemed too small to pull on the break in the right place and it was all so unfamiliar. But ToC is famously flat so I knew that if I didn’t take it out now, I would never ride it. And so it came with me.
Complete with the spare inner tube for the wheels I have no idea how to change and my sister’s new pump which I had no idea how to use, really. The only thing that was helping me to calm my nerves was that I was wearing trainers and using the old pedals – I was not brave enough to clip in on a bike I struggled to control.
My main worry however was the set up or lack there of. I did not get a chance to visit Cadence and have it set up, like they did my hybrid. As I described in my previous post about Etape Loch Ness I completed those 120 km without any muscles cramping, knee issues or problems “down there” despite keeping the original saddle. The importance of bike set up is crucial.
I met a friend, an experienced triathlete during the registration who I shared my fears with and she suggested tilting the handlebars towards me to make it easier to access the breaks which we did. And it worked like a treat.
Anyway, full of trepidation and an irrational fear of getting a puncture (gee, those tires look so flimsy in comparison to the hybrid ones!) I set off with 6,000 or so other people.
It turned out that wearing the Etape jersey was a great way to make friends and I got to chat to a few nice Scotsmen. There was also an English bloke wearing the top from this year and we had a wee chat. I have a feeling there may have been more as one of the photographers on the motorbikes shouted at me: “Oh, another Loch Ness one!”.
Anyway, the bike was riding well. It did feel like I was going faster than I would on the hybrid despite the wind. Now I was kind of riding blind as I did not swap my Garmin from the hybrid. I was using Strava but that means I had no idea of my speed. Which was another chat up line 🙂
Unfortunately about 20-15 km in I started feeling quite a bit of discomfort in the lady area… but I knew it was going to happen as the saddle was not set up properly. I was just hoping for the best and praying it would not be as bad as last year when I had to teach for a week off the bike unable to sit on one…
The race was going fine, the weather was beautiful but about halfway point it really started getting to me. The discomfort, the constant (almost) flat road and the relentless wind in my ears. I was praying for 5 min of silence. Then at the main feeding station I made friends with lovely Dina who we shared a joke with and later on a couple of pain killers.
I am telling you the riding position and the narrow handlebars of a road bike make a big difference and my shoulders were in shock. My fingers were getting numb and I had to keep switching the hand positions.
Then came the 20 mile marker – 20 to go. I can do this! Then 10. Yes! But these turned out to be the longest 10 miles in human history. Probably because it was over 15 and not 10!!! Which at that point made me question my existence and seriously consider not completing the race. Mentally it was hell. I actually was praying for a puncture to have an excuse to just throw in the towel.
But I didn’t. I completed the bugger. My shoulders in agony. My back like a guitar string. My lady bits – no comment. But it was done. Shower and off to the pub to replenish the lost calories with a Sunday roast.
I think it was a great experience for me from various points of view: finally using a road bike, confirming again how important set up is and a great learning experience what it feels like when you really want to give up but still keep going. It will be extremely useful from teaching indoor cycling perspective.
Right, off to bed! Well deserved too 🙂