Why I chose this event.
I chose this race, because I have heard many people talking about it, so I thought why not give it a go. When I entered I was feeling pretty confident about the distance.
I packed up the night before with my portables and Osmo energy drink. I decided to carry plastic bags with the powder in with me, as I usually don’t like the sports drink that they give out on the course . Cycling a sportive is pretty relaxing, there are no strict timings. I was given a start time of 9:15, so I left Pembs at a civilised 7am, after applying sunscreen.
When I arrived, I realised that the event was massive, there were hundreds of cars and I needed to find the toilets, so I parked up and headed for the event village where a large queue had formed, when I turned around I saw that Rob Barker, Kat Devonald Brace and Karina Ebsworth were behind me. We had a quick chat and then I headed off to find the car, luckily it didn’t take too long, but I made a note of a few features so that I would find it later!
There was a safety briefing before we started, and we set off in groups of around 20, so even though there were more than 5000 riders on the course it didn’t feel that crowded! My plan was to ride to power, as I have only ridden up to 55 miles in training this year. My aim was to stay under threshold and keep my power around 150 on flats and 170-180 on the hills.
The first part of the course is not that inspiring, along the dual carriageway then you turn off to ride up the valley towards Afan forest park, usually when I am using this road I have a Mountain bike on the car, so it was a bit weird to be riding up there on the road bike. A fair few mountain bikers passed us on the way up.
Once we were the other side of Glyncorrwg we started up the first major climb “the Bwlch”, it was stunning, you could see riders snaking their way up ahead, and I steadily passed people keeping one eye on my power. Once at the top there was an amazing descent, I wished there had been less people on that bit, but enjoyed it just the same. I was still feeling positive at this point, probably because I hadn’t checked my average speed, when I did check I was pretty disappointed, and also a bit stressed as I knew Patrick wanted to get out on his bike when I got back, and at this rate it would take me over 7 hours to complete the ride. This was a bit of a hard time for me mentally and I thought about how I could get home, or be rescued etc!
At the feed station I looked again at my speed and it had gone down even more. I was not even halfway. I refilled my drinks bottles, had a toilet stop, and munched on a couple of salted potatoes. When I set off I told myself I would get halfway and then look again at my ETA. I got on with riding without checking the mileage, and started doing a bit of maths, (I find this a helpful distraction) I did some more calculations looked at my Garmin and I had done 49 miles, (over halfway) I realised I had been a bit negative about my speed and that I would make better time than I thought, I decided not to worry about getting back for a certain time, and just get on with riding! The next hill was similar to the first, with another fun descent which I made sure I recovered on. I also lost the go pro at this point, luckily the woman behind me saw it and slowed down to grab it for me. We descended past a fell race, and I was actually jealous of the runners going uphill while I was going down. The highlight was the last hill before the final feed station (Devils elbow?) You could see the riders coming up the switchbacks below you, as you can see I was more concerned with the view than the other riders falling off or walking up here.
The next feed station was similar to the first, more salted potatoes, doritos to keep my salt intake up, as recommended by my mum! After this feed station it was a flat (ish) ride back along similar lines to the way we came in, which was Ok, as I knew the end was in sight!
I felt pretty consistent on the ride and still had power left at the end of the ride, even though I hadn’t done the distance, so I was pleased with that. I did totally underestimate the toughness of the course.
However, I found I recovered well so I must have paced it right. I managed to keep my salt levels up well, and didn’t pee out my entire body weight in water as I did on Ironman, so that was a lesson learnt, I did miss a bit with my suncream though, whoops!!
Next up The Titan, which is in the same area, and the courses cross at some point, as I realised afterwards, so it will have been good training!