180 Miles of Madness

When I get an idea in my head it's hard to put it to one side and save it for the perfect day. Instead I feel obliged to fulfil my crazy minded ideas and must immediately embark on whatever cycling related adventure I dream up. The latest crazy idea I had dreamed up was to ride to Whitby for fish and chips on what can only be described as the least direct route with a 180 mile loop and14,000ft of climbing needed to get my chips and get home safely. This would also form the first true training test for the Transcontinental race this summer. Saturday came around all too fast and after a sixty hour working week I was less than excited about a 5am start but nevertheless I still managed to beat the alarm and throw on my lycra in the pitch black without waking up my other half Sarah, who had chosen to ride our club's Saturday Social at the more dreamy hour of 9am. This all went well apart from the accidental use of a sock as an arm-warmer.

So with a gallon of coffee and a small mountain of oats inside me I set off into the dark and began to steadily pedal through the miles. When it's dark it's very easy to get lost in your own thoughts throughout the boredom of the darkness and so it is important to occupy the mind with other things. Thankfully however, the sun rise came relatively quickly and gave way to a stunning morning but with a rather brisk temperature of minus three degrees.

The first forty miles flew by in a breeze and I knew it wouldn't be long before I entered the hills so I stopped for some breakfast - a banana and some flapjack. It was here that I pulled out my phone and realised that @totallyfuelled had set a competition about on my ride with the goal being to guess my average speed. I knew in my mind what I wanted to achieve but either way it made me push that tiny bit harder than I would have otherwise done.

sc4 Once I was back on the bike it wasn't long before the first major climb crept upon me. This was the Top 100 Climbs No.54 - Boltby Bank; a one mile climb at an average of 13% gradient. Normally this would be challenging enough but as luck would have it the sun had not yet risen enough to melt the ice on the road. As a result it was a battle to stay upright, move forwards and not fall off - a mission which I accomplished minus a few heart stopping moments.

One big climb done it and was back to the food as I tucked into brunch. Nutrition for such a distance is tremendously important and without the right food for your body you very quickly find yourself 'bonking' which is running out of energy. Thankfully I'd packed plenty of gels and energy drink to see me along the route. Food stop over and the miles began to fly by again as I rode deeper into the North Yorkshire Moors. Here I had my only mechanical of the day when my mudguard decided to break free and bounce away. Never mind, it was a sunny day anyway!

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Soon I found myself on the second climb of day and 70 miles into the ride. Blakey Ridge is fearsome, climbing near 1000ft in under two miles and it was here that I honestly nearly gave in. I got to the top with my legs screaming, feeling breathless and a little bit wobbly but knowing the train wasn't too far away. It was hard not to just head for the station at this point but I remembered the average speed challenge and carried on.

The miles to Whitby were a blur of beautiful views and sweeping roads that made my body feel better and lifted my spirits so much that I decided not to stop for fish and chips, but to carry on along the coast to Scarborough. If I thought things were tough before, the worst was yet to come.

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Turning back inland I faced a gentle 20mph breeze in my face for the next 80 miles of the ride. The only hope of keeping going was to accept I would have to drop a gear and go slower. So I did just that and began to work my way home. The headwind certainly took it's toll on me and before long I was beginning to fade mentally. Would I make it back? Can I go this slow? I hate going slow, and hate the wind so began to doubt myself and pushed harder to make up the lost time only to end up spitting out blood and coughing profusely. Stupid or brave I carried on.

Eventually darkness fell and still in a headwind I was really struggling to see why I was still riding. It's tough on the mind more than the legs to ride that far and the only reason I had to carry on was knowing Sarah had cooked and it always tastes amazing.

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As irony would have it though my Garmin died on the 180th mile and as we all know, if it's not on Strava it didn't happen. So I rolled rather wearily into the station to catch my ride home and end the day.

If i've learnt anything it's that you need to eat a lot over that distance and that it's harder to focus the mind than it is to focus the legs. Things get tough if you think they are tough and positive thinking makes the miles fly and the day easier to manage.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/258037994