I finally managed to ride a 100 mile time trial. It wasn’t an entirely pleasurable experience. Matt Burden from Severn RC was also riding; he said afterwards, ‘I feel like i have been hit by a train’. He’s not far off the mark, maybe add in a second train, with the rider in the middle of the train sandwich, then a fully-laden aircraft landing on top, just for accuracy. in short, a 100 is a brutal, depraved, nightmarish four hour clusterfuck on 2 wheels. i’ll attempt to explain why, but the basic premise is this: riding 100 miles is doable, with a nice stop for lunch, maybe coffee, take some pictures, chat to the locals, that sort of thing. racing against the clock for a 100 miles is a cruel joke played on the amateur sportsperson by the prankster god of cycling. here’s a neat summary of competitive ‘testing’:
My initial plan to ride a 25mph pace was undone within about 2 miles; the lumpy start and the sheer effort involved in getting rolling put paid to that. i also realised a 10 mile lap split was ridiculous, as no ten miles on the course were the same. a schoolboy error. all of this was compounded by a horrid realisation that i did not have the legs. of all the days to not have the legs, i chose the day of the 100.
to carry my food (a sort of astronauty mix of gels and bars) i was using a wierd top-tube mounted box thing to store food in so i could take two bottles. this was great in theory, but in practice, if i lifted my knee on the pedal stroke too near the top tube, it was abruptly lacerated by the sharp edges of the nasty triathlete-esque box. so not only did i not have the legs, but the legs i did have were being sliced and diced by a triathlete’s box. it was fast turning into a shitshow. i had my reservations about using anything linked to the nefarious world of triathletism before buying it. i have learnt my lesson.
you’ll have to forgive the litany of woes to follow. there’s a lot to say about this one. fairly soon after getting onto the dual carriageway i began to experience pain in an area where it is best not to feel pain. no matter how i rearranged myself i was beset with an incipient rawness, probably like a steak feels when being gently tenderized by the spiked boeuf-hammer. my chammy felt like high grade industrial sandpaper, diamond-tipped, tearing inelegantly at my elegant parts. 15 miles in, this was not a good sign. furthermore, i had pain in my left ankle. i can honestly say i have never had pain in my left ankle whilst cycling. after a further few miles, i had pain in my right instep. i was fast becoming a sort of leprous victim, goochular region rubbed raw, every aspect of my body complaining by proxy, wanting in on the pain game. in hindsight, i have a theory: it’s too much for the brain to take into account the fact that you are riding 100 miles when you haven’t done it before, so it just wobbles and plays deadly mindgames.
at about this time i began to equate the process to a form of purgatory, a time that must be spent on the bike, riding up and down a dual carriageway in wales, where the only way out is to serve your time, to continue. i was perilously close to packing at this point, the only thing that stopped me was the unavoidable fact that i was about 30 miles from the HQ. added to this was the sense that riding up and down a busy road between abergavenny and monmouth was a strange and futile thing to be doing. it harks back to the anachronistic age of timetrialling, when men were men, and the “10” was an event for juniors. i was also overtaken frequently by superfast chaps, for whom distance is nothing. it was quite chastening.
then things suddenly got worse. my bottle cage started to rattle and shake, before finally bursting free of its moorings and dangling from the top bolt. at this point it’s perhaps prudent to mention that i attempted to fix this with some budget superglue the other day. clearly, i failed spectacularly. i’m not surprised. i once removed a sticky chainring bolt by putting it on the stove for half an hour. i took the bottle out, drank about half of it, then had no option but to throw it in the hedge. i then stopped to undo the errant bottle cage. this took about 3 minutes. luckily, and as a further tribute to my mechanical skills, the remaining bolt was only finger tight. i held it in my sticky, gel-coated fingers and pressed on, before hurling it at a marshall in deckchair with a muttered apology.
it was only after this point, with one drinks bottle and 60 miles to go, that i began to settle down a bit. after 50 miles of riding i almost felt good. i attribute this to being able to comprehend the distance, i’ve ridden a 50 before, and now there was only one left to do. it’s slighty chopt-logic, but there you go. it was still painful. riding for 4 hours amplifies any niggles you might have with regard to position, comfort, and so on. after a while, simply holding the TT position for that long was really tricky, and i found myself riding in the drops for the odd space of time, just for a change.towards the end i mentally began to add it all up… with 50 miles to go i managed it mentally as 2x 25s, then down to around 28 miles, i figured it was a hardrider, then at 20 miles, it was 2x10s, before finally one 10. the last 5 miles had me a bit stumped. i struggled, i felt like i was somehow no longer connected to the bicycle or my body. it was startlingly odd. the 2 miles back to the HQ was tackled in the 39:25, at around 3 mph, and even that hurt intensely. i was seeing small pinpricks of light at the periphery of my vision.
to summarise, it’s all in the mind, 100s are bloody long and hard. only experience can help with this endeavour. hats off to Dan, Giles, Penny Matt, and all the West District riders who lined up at the start because of the strange compulsion to ride time trials of ridiculous length.
on a positive note, i finished. and every cloud has a silver lining, and now, with a broken bottle cage screw, it’s clearly time for a new bike. the old one is broken. and lastly, on a busy day for epic rides, kudos to Ferris and Leary for their seaside jaunt, to Belle, Suzi and the others for blasting along the Strawberry Line, and to Alec for equalling my 10 pb with his shonky plastic wheel cover thingy.