Sunday, 14 April 2013

The Igloo Sportive

It's been a weekend of two halves on the exercise front, one delightful, one hellish. Let's start with the delightful one - yesterday. Although I'm firmly back on the bike most of the time now, I don't want my muscles to forget how to run (partly because I enjoy it, partly because I might do some running events later in the year), so yesterday morning I decided to go for a gentle run ahead of today's cycling sportive.

I selected a flat route down the canal towpath, resolved not push myself and set off just after 8. By heck, what a treat. The sun shone, the lambs were out gambolling in the fields, the ducks were getting a bit frisky, the towpath was dry, conditions were, therefore, just perfect. I told Mrs M I was off to do 10 miles, but I just got into a groove and ended up doing half marathon distance. I'd have gone further, but I ran out of water - because, get this, I was sweating. Only doing moderate exercise! Outside! I'd forgotten this could happen in this country. It was terrific.

And then there was today - the Igloo Sportive, a hilly 80 mile circuit of the eastern Peak District, HQ being at Chesterfield. I think the Igloo reference relates to a bike shop in Chesterfield of that name, but the  organisers were Dark & White, who I'd not come across before. A fine job they did too - good signage, well stocked feedstations, cheerful and encouraging people at them, and an excellent route. Unfortunately, they couldn't fix the weather. It was hideous. Strong, gusting, morale-sapping, wheel-bending wind. I haven't conducted any kind of scientific survey, but I suspect a lot of cyclists will tell you it's the element they hate the most. Rain - a nuisance and tests your bike handling skills, but you can dress against it. Hot sun - sensible precautions and lots of water and in the UK at least you'll be fine. Even hills - you know they're there, but it's a system of fair exchange; work hard, you get to the top, nice descent, bish bosh, job's a good 'un. But wind robs you of that sense of fairplay - it's makes the hills harder, and the descents slower and more dangerous. It's the conman preying on vulnerable cyclists, who open their doors and metaphorically say "yes I can see my guttering is a bit dodgy in places...£1,000 to put it right you say? problem". But then we discover that they guttering wasn't dodgy, and maybe we shouldn't have opened our door in the first place.

I think it might also do funny things with your writing style. Anyhow, under normal circumstances today would have a pleasant but hard ride - 9,000 feet of ascent in 80 miles (I count any ride with 1000 feet of climbing or more for every 10 miles as hilly), and lots of pretty places including riding through the middle of the Chatsworth estate (the pretty one in Derbyshire that is, rather than the one in Manchester made infamous by Shameless). But that wind; one fellow using Strava reckoned it was between 20 and 50 mph all day, and it never seemed to be behind us - it was always a sidewind at best. I feel like I've cycled 70 of the 80 miles uphill. It was also hazardous - I saw several people blown off the road, and just staying upright in the exposed sections was the main objective.

Anyway, enough moaning - it was very nice to be driven there and back, by Neil, who very sensibly did the shorter route. That was still brutal enough for him to be doing a pretty good impression of a zombie when I got back to the car. I won't mention his time, but I will mention mine - 6 hours. For 80 miles! Even though that's my lowest ever average speed for an event, I'm not embarrassed. I would have been embarrassed had I done what I seriously considered at Castleton (the closest point on the route to Macclesfield), which was to pedal home and get Neil to drop my stuff off as he went past. But I didn't, and I don't think I regret it. It has left me too tired to accompany Mrs M to a gig today, and I do slightly regret that, as I was looking forward to it, but hey ho.

Maybe it's that tiredness, but there's not much wit and wisdom in this missive, so I'm going to call it day. Just one thing - chapeau to everyone else who was out today for any length of time; we'll all sleep well tonight.

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