Tuesday, 5 August 2014

60. Road Cycling: Road Race

Event: Road Cycling: Road Race
Date: 3rd August 2014 (Sarah), 19th August 2016 (Ellie)
Location: The Essex Countryside (Sarah), Aquatic Centre Gym, Stratford (Ellie)
Cost: Free 
Rules:  Riders compete with each other on regular roads to complete the course in the fastest time. All competitors start together for this long-distance race where tactics and stamina are vital. Due to the length of the race, competitors are allowed to consume food and drink and receive technical assistance in the event of medical problems. The women's course in London 2012 was 140.3km, or 87.2 miles.

The Event:


London 2012 Olympic Gold: 3:35.29, Marianne Vos, Netherlands - (87.2miles). 
Sarah: 6:54.29 (without breaks) / 8:35.23 (with breaks) - (87.2miles) 
Ellie: 5:50.00 - (100km)

Sarah: I've spent the past few months since my Time Trial event, training hard on my new bike. I've been really lucky that a few of my good friends have also caught the cycling bug lately and we've been out for some brilliant rides together. We've been gradually increasing our distances, and even purposely doing a bit of hill training (seriously, what's wrong with me?!). I can't quite describe what it is about cycling that's so addictive, but I'm amongst thousands of recent converts to this amazing sport. For me, it's the freedom, the effort, the achievement, the fact you can get somewhere (anywhere) under your own steam, and travel through some beautiful countryside along the way, seeing things you would normally miss (for us, on one cycle, a giant fibreglass gorilla).

The week before I tackled the Olympic distance, some friends and I took part in the Essex Castle event; 75 miles of constant, horrible, painful hills. It gave me some confidence that I could pull off a longer, flatter ride, so I hit the road at the start of my Road Race feeling good. I had decided to time myself over the Olympic distance of 87.2 miles, but actually ride a century. I mean, I would be so close, it'd be silly not to do the 100 miles, right?! Greg kept me company for the first half of the route, and it was an absolute delight. We left early, so the roads were quiet and the Essex/Suffolk countryside was stunning. I felt really good for the first 50 miles; fresh legs and only marginal bum pain. I had decided to break the distance down into 10 mile chunks in the hope of not getting daunted by the overall huge number and that seemed to work well, giving me lots of little targets and benchmarks. However, as the miles crept up to 70 I started to really feel it, and everything was much harder. My back and hands were starting to hurt, and I began to mentally struggle. I couldn't quite understand how I still had 30 miles to go?! I forced myself to keep my legs turning, and slowly started to approach the Olympic distance. Reaching that target of 87.2 miles was a relief, but I also felt really despondent. Over the last ten miles, I had convinced myself to call it a day at 90; I just didn't think I could go any further. Although I'd achieved the Olympic distance I felt like I'd failed as I made my way back as I hadn't reached the full 100. But, luckily, I misjudged my route, and as the odometer clicked over to 91 I just couldn't quit! Looking back on it now, it's crazy how it was all in my mind- my body could always do it, but it was my mind that was struggling and had given up. As soon as I'd got my head in gear and set on finishing the 100, everything was so much easier; the last nine miles sailed by and were so much fun! I felt giddy (that might have been due to dehydration) and euphoric watching the distance creeping closer and closer to 100!

Two days later, the achievement is just about sinking in and I feel incredibly proud to have tackled 100 miles, and with over half the distance on my own. I had a little picture of my Dad stuck to my crossbar and the thought of him helped me through so many of the harder moments. I just dearly wish I could tell him all about it. I can safely say I will never attempt that distance again, and I'm so glad it's behind me. I can now go back to cycling for fun! I think around 50 miles is my perfect long-distance cycle!    

Ellie:  I elected to do my long cycle in the gym as I don't have a light weight bike. Both the velodrome and the triathlon cycling events proved to me that without one I'd probably be struggling to make the distance in one day the way I cycle! The upside of this is that I had access to TV, music and to WiFi throughout my event, the downside, and ultimately why I only managed 100km was that I was thoroughly bored. I just didn't have the mental stamina to keep going and once I thought about the fact that I didn't have to keep going I stopped. The distance that I managed was good for me and achievable under the circumstances, I'd be really interested to see if I could manage a similar amount out on the roads. 

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