200 Miler

Managed my first two hundred mile bike ride of the year on Saturday. Followed it up yesterday with a hilly 135 miles in Surrey followed by a 1 hour run. Really felt strong but last night started getting a sore throat and this morning I didn’t feel great but was motivated enough to get up early to have time for an hours run before swimming. Ran about 3 minutes and came home deciding I was too ill to train today.

Thought I’d attempt to give a detailed description of what a 200 mile bike ride is like.

Alarm goes off bright and early – 4.30am in this case. I need to be back home by 6.30pm at the latest and 200 miles is going to take at least 12 hours ride time. It’s  pretty important to be away early. So 5.30am and I’m on the road. It’s just getting light as I ride through North London. It’s nice but the thought of the distance ahead makes me slightly wary, I try not to think too much about it. I get some funny looks from people meandering home after some late night club and have to keep my eye out for mini cab drivers rushing for that final fare. The further north I go the less busy it gets. The sun starts to approach the horizon and the colours are awesome. It bursts above the ground and I can immediately feel the heat. I’m thankful for this as I’m slightly chilled. Knowing the day would get hot I’d worn only what I could carry in my back pockets. It was slightly too little for the first 30 minutes or so.

Out of London I now need to start to push. To get this done I need to average something like 16.7mph – that’s 100 miles every 6 hours and is good going for a single 100 never mind a double. Focus now is not on the full distance but getting the average down – it’s easy initially since my average speed is under 14 mph as I came out of London. At this point motivation and spirits are probably lowest. I think how I’ve now done 20 miles which means my ride WILL be 40 as I have to return. Thinking like this doubles the distance and keeps the spirits up. I decide that at Ashwell I can have something to eat. This is a slight change of the plan to get 100 miles done before stopping as it’s probably only about 50 miles in but it keeps me motivated. 25 miles, that’s 50 with the return, must be getting closer to 2 hours in. Not looking at ride time or my watch since this helps me ‘lose time’. Currently just focussing on the mileage. Ponder how this changes … sometimes I like to just see elapsed time on my bike computer – this gives constant progress irrelevant of speed – but recently I’ve found seeing the mileage ticking over has been better.

30 miles in – that means a guaranteed 60 miles, that’s getting to be a half decent ride. I could even turn back now and not be massively disappointed. Chuck that thought, you’d be gutted. It’s still quiet. Not even 8am and I’m well out of London. Spirits improve as the light comes up and I see more people.

Now I’m feeling strong, when I look at my speedo the speed is over 18mph all the time. Must be doing my average good BUT don’t look. Keep it secret, something to look forward to. Need to pee – stop. Back on the bike I feel so much better. It’s always the case after the first stop however short I feel great. Should I stop earlier ? It’s like you are starting again but with massive miles in the bank. It feels good.

Can I make Ashwell in 3 hours. That would be good. I push along. Heavy breathing the whole time. 45 miles, that’s nearly 100 by return. Ashwell is close, it won’t be 50 miles. Can I stop even if I’ve not done 50.  Don’t know where the next bacon buttie will be. I stop. Under 3 hours but under 50 miles still pretty pleased.

Sausage and bacon sandwich, butter, no sauce. Sit on the pavement outside. Get lots of smiles and hellos from the locals carrying the Saturday papers and getting fresh and croissants. That would be nice. Yes it would, but this is nicer.

No messing, straight back on the bike. Only have about an hour of stops to play with if I’m going to get this done. Focus on hitting 50 miles, that’s like a 100 and is also quarter of the way. Seems to be an eternity to reach 50 miles, that’s the problem with focussing on a figure so close.

Now we’re in the 50+ mile zone. This is where I normally start to get ‘flow’ – that feeling of total loss of time. Just pummelling the pedals, listening to my breathing, mind free and time whizzing by. The road ahead opens up – I can see it curving and underlating way ahead. Onto the drops, head down, ripping at the pedals – I can’t help it. There must be a tailwind – 25.6mph – that’s gotta be a tailwind. I have to return into it. Should I really just head north for best part of 100 miles and turn back ? How far should I go before heading back. Do I fully commit ? If I go 100 then it’ll be well over 200 by return. I can’t go crazy as Jo is coming over. It’s not like the days of a single man where overcooking it and getting back at 9pm instead of 7 was ok and satisfying. I want to see Jo. I want it all, the thrill of completing 200 miles and getting a relaxed evening in. Have to keep pushing on.

Decision made, not going ever north, instead I’m going to explore. PLAN: if I’ve not been down a road go down it.  Keep doing this till about 100 miles and then relocate yourself and return. Sounds fun. Didn’t bring a map as this wasn’t the plan, so need to be careful. 60 miles. Nearly a third. What is a third of the distance ? That’s the next target.

Now into the middle third and I’m on roads I don’t know. I come to a junction,  left is somewhere I know so I go right. Now done 20 miles since my first stop and I’m over a third of the way – that’s good. Must do more miles before the next stop than I did before the first. Yes, that’s a good idea. 75 miles done, that’s good as the ride now goes into a new column on my ride graph. Not many rides in that column – rarely get over 75 miles without pushing on for a 100. No worries there since this now is at least a 150 mile. That would be good but not good enough. Where’s the average ? Don’t look, look at 100 miles. Something to look forward to.

I’ve seen a sign for that place before ! I’m going round in circles. That’s good ! Don’t want to head in a straight line and then try and locate myself without a map. Now we’re on 85 miles, that’s 170 and near my maximum for the year. 87.5 and I’m there – will be my biggest ride of the year. Still out of breath and working hard. Very pleased, feeling stronger now. Approaching the 100. What route back should I take. Must be sure of getting the mileage done – don’t want to be tagging loops on near the end. By then, I probably won’t be able to face it and will content myself with 190 miles. I’d regret it later, must ensure I avoid that dilemma.

95 miles, exciting. Nearly 100. Still get a thrill from my computer clicking on to 100. It’s like I get a thrill at all the little milestones especially time ones: 1:11:11, 2:22:22, 3:33:33, 4:44:44, 5:55:55 … when I pass the last one I really let go. I wonder what the next in the sequence would be but can never quite work it out. Probably cause by then I’m tired. It’s 7:07:06 … did that in a spreadsheet. Wonder why I can never work it out. It keeps me amused.

100 miles !! YES. We’re there. Just the little matter of getting home now. New mental arithmetic to do. 101 miles … means I’ve 2 miles less to go than I’ve done. That’s good. But remember, chances are it won’t be exactly 200 so don’t relax. Whats the elapsed time ? 5.50:00 !! I’m rocking. This is good. 100 miles and it’s not even noon. See other cyclists. Wonder how far they’ve gone today. Unlikely to be as far as me unless they got up very early. I’m feeling smug. It’s just in my head, no one knows, so it doesn’t matter.

Still pushing, still breathing hard. 105 miles, that’s 10 more than left to do. Now we’re talking. It’s also 60 since the last stop. Can I make it to Buntingford ? Like stopping there as the butchers do pork scratchings and pork pies. Trying not to eat too many carbs. It just doesn’t work for me on these long rides. Need to keep my energy levels stable and that’s better without the carbs. Only carbs today have been the white bread of the sarnie and after eating that I had to resist going in and getting a sticky bun – I know better than that now.

Small, matter of relocating myself. Last week I was in Buntingford after 115 miles and I ended up with 175. So … if I get there in 140 I can use the same route back, otherwise I have to change the route back. Hope it’s not 140 as that’s a long time before more food, I’m running out of water and it will be getting towards mid afternoon and perhaps the butchers closes early … please no! PUSH ON.

Relocate myself, no map but think this is close. 20 miles more done than to do. This is getting easy. Only 80 miles to go. ONLY 80 miles to go ! Now there’s a thought I’m looking at 80 miles having already done 120 and I’m saying only. I’m on the route I used last year when I TT’d 112 miles back to Potters Bar for breakfast. I know my way from here. Does mean that Buntingford is a fair way off. Second stop required for water.

120 miles done and I stop. 2 litre bottle of diet coke and bag of peanuts. Wolf down the peanuts as I fill my bottles and slirp down some coke. Must be quick, Buntingford is where I’ll allow myself to relax.

Ever on. This junction doesn’t look familiar. Go straight on. 45 miles more done than to go. This is wrong. Keep going, you have miles to spare. Even if it’s 155 at Buntingford you can go straight home from there.  Explore now, it’s fun, slightly risky as getting lost now could get ugly. 60 more done than to go. When will it be equal ? Only three and a third miles to go for that milestone. There’s a place I recognise. Head towards it. Looks like about 145 miles to Buntingford. 55 to do from there. Can’t use last weeks route back (too far), can’t go direct (too short) where can I tag on. I know one bit – a road near Much Hadham I never been down. How exciting, something to look forward to. Positive it will make for a loop.

Pass the point where I’ve got less to go than half of what I’ve done. I focus on things closer to home. If I was in Buntingford right now and headed straight home I’d get 180 miles done ! That’s my biggest ride this year in the bag. Need to eat into those extra 20 I need.

147 miles, I’m in Buntingford. It’s about 2.40pm, the Butchers is open and I must be back on the road by 3pm. That gives 4 hours for 53 miles…. Just over 13mph will do it. EASY.

The butcher knows me. ‘… and a Pork Pie?” For sure. How far you been? He knows I ride long so no mental debate on my part whether to tell the truth or say something vague “Nealry 150 miles’. Where you been ? Huntingdon. A young lady sounds astounded “that 40 miles from here” she clearly didn’t hear the 150 miles.

Sitting on the bench I notice how the local clock is correct. It looks so old I was surprised it works. Look again 5 minutes later and it’s 5 minutes slow ! How odd, the first time I looked at it just happened to be at the time of day it originally stopped. The pork pie is delicious.

2.58pm and back on the road. Now I know where I’m going but I somehow need to tag on about 8 miles. There’s all these roads across to Puckeridge I want to try but know most end at a dual carriageway. Nows the time to try as returning along the same road just adds mileage – that’s a good thing. First road, ends at the dual carriageway. I return. Second road, ends at the dual carriageway but I notice  a faint  foot path, I cross and get into Puckeridge. At last ! I’ve found the road marked on the map, my small pleasure is lessened by not getting the return mileage along that road. Still must be 5 miles short if I go straight back.

The old A10, nice TT road, left onto the road with the ford where I nearly broke my leg before Ironman UK. Not the footbridge this time. Through the ford, it’s mossy, it’s slippy, I’m gonna go flying, chap in 4×4 behind will get a laugh. Mustn’t fall. I’m through. Well over 150 miles now and nearly at my new little road. Into the 160s, if my average has been maintained I’m approaching 10 hours. Switch to time display, must see my computer tick over back to 0:00:00 .. it’s a rare experience and one hard earnt. There it goes. 168 miles in 10 hours, very pleased.

It’s a lovely road and it’s gone on for 2 miles, this is good. Sign for Much Hadham, left in Much Hadham, back to start point. Hurrah, it’s looped. Not only has it looped but it was over 7 miles. I can ride straight home now. That’s great, 200 miles in the bag, just need to complete it.

If I was in Hertford right now I’d get 192 miles done. Is this stretch of road a mile long? I need it to be, Longer would be better. 1.43 miles. GOOD. Getting very thirsty. Need more drink but not till I’m through Hertford. Need 176 miles by the shop. If I have 178 or more I can go direct, if 176 need to go slightly circuitous route. I hope not. Next stretch needs to be 1.5 but is 1.96. This is looking good. Flipping heck, even if I was in Potters Bar now I’d still get the best part of 190 done.

Through Hertford. Stop. Another 2 litre of Pepsi Max this time and joy of joys they have Pork Scratchings. Even better I’m on 178 miles. Means 191 miles if I was at Potters Bar. Rapid turn around and off through very familiar roads. Must be on 185 when I hit the A1000, I’m on 186.5 … that’s 199.5 if I was at Potters bar, in fact, it’s probably in the bag as Potters Bar is a little over 13 miles from home. Gotta be careful, not allowed to round up for milestone mileage. 199.9 just won’t do. That would involve riding round the block and that’s just not doing a 200 miler justice.

Potters Bar – 189 miles. This is in the bag. Relax now, ride easy, don’t rush through traffic and enjoy it. Every stop light is a delight. I’m breathing really heavily now when I stop even though I’m not pushing that hard. I’m very tired indeed. 200 miles up, time 11hr57 … NICE. Home 202.7 miles in 12hr8mins.

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