The Day I Became A Cyclist

Today I achieved something that just six months ago I would have laughed at the mere suggestion of me being able to do.

It began about 6 weeks ago when a good friend and teammate of mine said he was going to do a 50 mile bike challenge at Goodwood race track if I wanted to join him. With a cut off of 3 hours 15 minutes. Hahahaha! I can’t cycle 50 miles, I haven’t ever gone further than 22 miles! Let alone in that time! ‘You can so do this’ he said.

He truly believed I could do this even if I didn’t but I trusted him…I had no reason not to given he has rarely been wrong in his belief of my abilities in the past.

He messaged me Friday asking how I was feeling, which I am sure he regretted as it opened a flood gate of (most probably stupid) questions which he patiently answered (with a little mocking) and settled my concerns. He picked me up at 7.25 this morning (I know, don’t ask…I’m sure he chose a random time just to unnerve me), we booked in and got ourselves ready for the briefing.

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‘Are you OK’ he asked about 10 minutes before the start. The way he asked made me wary…’yes, why?’ ‘You’ve gone quiet’ he said, ‘that’s not normal’. Cheeky sod but it made me laugh and settled my nerves a bit. He reassured me for the umpteenth time that I would be fine and shortly after we were off.

The first two laps were tough…the wind was really strong down the back straight and I struggled to get above 12.5mph in places. I had worked out that I would need to average just over 15mph to get 50 miles in within the time which I thought might be possible given I could average 15mph on hilly routes near home and this was a relatively flat track but I began doubting this right from the start with that wind and that the track was a lot less flat than I thought it would be.

With each loop being 2.3 miles long I was expecting Keith to pass me pretty early on but was quite pleasantly surprised this wasn’t until mile 7 along with a welcome shout out asking if I was OK. A probably less than convincing ‘yes’ was about all I could manage before he was gone again. I expected him again about 7 miles later but again was reassured that I didn’t see him until gone mile 15. I could tell by my pace that I was speeding up a bit as I was settling into the ride rather than him slowing.

Given it takes a good five miles for me to get into my running and at least half a mile before I am settled in a swim, it was no real surprise that I was a good 6 or 7 loops (about 15 miles) into the targeted 21 laps before my legs got the hang of what they were supposed to be doing…the tightness in my knees faded and my pace along the windy back straight settled at a respectable 14ish mph. This combined with an incredibly fun and sheltered section just before the grandstand where I was able to reach speeds of up to 23mph was enough for me to believe that maybe I could complete the 50 miles in less than 3 hours and 15 minutes.

As I completed lap 18 I heard Keith shout out asking how many laps I had left…he had already finished, had a medal round his neck and drunk his finishers smoothie! And before I knew it he was back on his bike and alongside me checking how I was doing. I will point out that even after 50 miles he made it look so easy and pretty much just coasted round (often free wheeling) the last few laps with me.

My legs felt fine but I was starting to flag a bit energy wise…he could instantly see I hadn’t touched my fluid carb mixture on my bike as the bottle was completely full and suggested I stop and switch my bottles over…what?! Less than three laps out and you want me to stop?! No chance!

He ascertained how many jelly babies I had left and told me when to take them to get me through the last two and a bit laps. It was at this point that he said how impressed he was with what I had achieved and admitting that whilst he knew I was perfectly capable of doing this it could have gone one of two ways: crash and burn because I was feeling pretty shattered yesterday after this week’s training or smash it.

With a lap to go I was about 7 minutes away from the 3 hour mark…I was going to do this! However that was now not the target and somebody decided I should go for a sub-3 hour! This was clearly not going to happen but that didn’t stop me giving it a bloody good go! I pushed it all the way round the last 2.3 miles and reached my fastest speed just before the finish of 23.1 mph! After a panicky ‘where do I go now’, I finished in a very respectable time of 3:02:27!

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I was over the moon and was told in no uncertain terms that there was no way I couldn’t now not call myself a cyclist. I still have a long way to go but given I exceeded all my expectations AND I drank a whole bottle of water AND ate without stopping or falling off I think I have to agree. Although I was kicking myself for only being 3 minutes off a sub 3-hour time…typical athlete!

The next challenge is a 4-5 hour training session in a couple of weeks which will hopefully be the final test before making a decision on whether I am ready to do a middle distance triathlon in September (although I think after today the chances are pretty high!)

Thanks Keith, you are truly nuts but equally inspirational and even more encouraging of what I and so many others in the club want to achieve. I couldn’t have done today without the supp ongoing support from you and HERC Triathlon.