This was meant to be one of three, my last big weekend before Wessex… but it was almost none of none.
My problems started during the week. I had barely recovered from a hearing problem, when the high pollen count starting playing havoc with my allergies. This was followed by a more serious problem which knocked me sideways… blood in my stool.
I have a condition called Ulcerative Colitis, fortunately I’ve been in remission for a few years now, but the sight of that blood scared me… was it all coming back?
These problems affected my mood, my sleep and most importantly my appetite. Not the ideal preparation for my first triple century. As the weekend approached I switched focus to concentrate on the task in hand, banishing thoughts of my health problems to the back of my mind.
Saturday morning arrived and I was up early as usual… usual routine, usual preparation… three bowel movements. “Hang on that’s not usual” I exclaimed. “Banish these negative thoughts… I’m OK, no really… I’m OK” I commanded myself.
Fate however, had other ideas and started to drop hints. First up it was Garmin bike computer, deciding to freeze as I loaded today’s course. This was easily fixed by a reboot, but then my cycling glasses snapped… I can’t reboot them! After scrambling around on garage floor for a few minutes I found the stricken temple and crudely re-attached it with some electrical tape.
“Right, that’ll do… have you quite finished fate?” I enquired, and then I was off.
The first hour was reasonably straight forward, my average speed was hovering around the 20mph mark helped by a nice little tail wind. You see nature does like me… well occasionally. But what about my complaining bowels? They were suspiciously quiet… but not for long.
Somewhere between mile 30 and 40, I sensed all was not well. Some discomfort in the bowel region started to creep in while I was simultaneously feeling weaker and slightly nauseous .. “shut up bowels, shut up body… I’ve got a century to ride” I told myself.
Half the battle with riding centuries is psychological, so I never think too much about how far I’ve ridden or how long I’ve got left to ride. But when I whizzed passed the road sign declaring that I was now in Hampshire, it dawned on me that I had just ridden the 50 miles across the whole of West Sussex and now would need to ride the same distance back across my home county to reach home.
It was starting to hit me how weak and empty I was feeling, how sick I was feeling and the enormity of the challenge I was now facing. “Call home” I hear you cry. Can you imagine the conversation… “Can you pick me up?”… “I’m in, errr Hampshire!”… I don’t think that would have won me any popularity contests. The only contest I was entering was the battle to get home, fifty miles… depleted… into a headwind… I was destitute.
I decided to pull over, rest and consider my options. I had been riding for three hours and had the best part of another three to go. Time for a plan.
I took the opportunity to rest for several minutes. As usual on these long rides, I had brought more than enough supplies… so I forced down a double helping of a gel and some energy sweets. Not ideal when you’re feeling nauseous, but it had to go down one way or another. Although the sickly treats didn’t help my grumbling stomach, they, combined with the rest gave me a bit of a boost.
So, that’s my plan, stop every hour for several minutes and have a double helping of energy food. Forget what I had done, forget what I needed to do… just ride for one hour, rest, feed and start thinking about the next hour.
My mind games worked to a certain extent, I was pedalling squares for the first hour and pedalling through quick sand for the next, but these were soon ticked off.
Stop number three left me about eight miles from home. “I’m almost there now, maybe about half an hour, dig deep… I can do this!” I told myself. I dug so deep I was close to finding water.
The last few pedal revolutions and I was home. Bottles empty, pockets empty and me… empty! I spent the rest of the day on the sofa.
Sunday’s century was a non-starter, I just rode for a very sluggish 30 minutes or so. An improvement on Monday found me riding a slightly more sprightly twenty miler, but nowhere near the intended third century.
My last big training session ruined by illness.
Having said that, in my world there’s always a plus… the message I’m taking away from last Saturday…
If I can get through that, I can get through anything!