Sunday, July 09, 2017

Big Peak, Big Learning

It's been a while since I've done long long hilly rides but I was quite looking forward to my final Peak ride before Alpe d'Huez Triathlon in 2 weeks time.  I plotted myself a Peak District ride which was 80 miles based on last week's ride (70 miles) plus a variation around Buxton which would add another 300m to the total climb and 10 miles to the distance.  Whether an extra 10 miles for 300 m was worth it was a moot point since it took me into the Goyt Valley which I have been wanting to ride to for some time.  It always seems so far away though.  Like when I get to Chapel en le Frith I am crossing a border into my childhood training grounds and therefore it's a step too far - like I'm closer to my old home than my current home.

Anyway, I was confident I could push 80 miles and happy with the test of 2300m.

The first thing I did was drop into the Rivelin Valley below my house and then climb straight back out again up the steepest climb I know - Hagg Hill.  Over the top and back down into Hathersage via Stannage Edge.  Two couples passed me - both mere whippets in age.

At the bottom I caught up 5 riders crossing the main road to the back route to Hope.  I instantly got frustrated as I sat on the brakes behind them until I could surge ahead and get going again.  Two of the guys came back past me and I expected to see them some time later waiting for their friends.  Sure enough, they were waiting at a junction and I rode silently on.

In Hope I stopped in at the adventure cafe but it was closed for the village carnival so no lunch for me there then.  I'd get something after Mam Nick.  I continued on, now behind this group again, with them asking if I had been bitten on the narrow road.  They don't like the horse flies down there.  Oh well, suits me.  I stayed on the front of their group this time, knowing that I didn't want to sit on the brakes around the S-bend bridge or through the bends in the hamlets along this road.  Again, the same men came past me then sat up and rode at exactly my speed for the rest of the straight.

I put some effort in here and got around them before the next set of S-bends.  They sat on and then rode around me before sitting up for the straight.  I tried my best to get around them before the turn up onto Mam Nick but one of them came by me then sat on his brakes as we passed the second young couple to pass me earlier.  I got stuck behind him around the corner and under the bridge.  FFS!

Mam Nick was enjoyable, despite my deflated state.  It took until the last steep section for the young couple to catch me up and they weren't enjoying themselves nearly as much as me so I win.

Needless to say, I was knackered by the time I got to the top of Mam Nick.  The old dudes were sat there, waiting for their friends and planning to return to the bottom before going to Bradwell. OOoooooo.

Still, I felt OK so decided to boot in some extra climbing by taking a detour down Whinnats and up Pindale.  Got cut up by a Land Rover on the approach then sat on my brakes behind him all the way down the hill before he turned off into the car park.  Still, I cleared Castleton without killing any tourists and shot off up Pindale, happy to finally be away from the Honeypot.

It occurred to me that the Pindale road diverges from my pre-ordained route and i realised the only way back to it was to retrace my steps and re-climb Whinatts or use the Dirtlow Road track to access the A625 to Chapel again.  I opted for the second since I thought the first option might jeapordise the rest of my day.

Still, 100m were climbed over 2 miles on rough, loose stones with my 100psi road slicks bouncing all over the show.  It did eventually improve to gravel and then tarmac after I'd passed a few duke of edinburgh groups who opted to queue to climb stiles instead of open gates for me - and them.  Finally I was back en route and crossing over towards Peak Forest.

At Doveholes I started my traverse towards Chapel en le Frith.  First climbing the hill I so enjoyed last Monday, with crags above and no room for more than one vehicle on the lane.  This time I recognised it as Coombs, enhanced by the grey beardy men walking back to their cars with ropes... I remember this place...

Down the other side towards my Buxton loop now but with a massive hill climb to get over to the section I had been looking forwards to.   The only vehicle I met was a Derbyshire Outdoors bus driven by a lovely lady towing a trailer.  She not only gave me room to pass but encouragement.  By the time I got to the top of the hill I let out a huge bellow of relief.  I was so close to having to get off and walk with a sustained grade of over 12% for half a mile and up to 22%.

My Garmin then mixed things up by throwing me down another off-road lane.  Better than the last one but still sketchy in between the 10 inch wide slither of tarmac down the centre of the lane.

I was getting tired as I climbed up to the Buxton Road and zoomed out my Garmin to see just what this loop was.  The thought of dropping into the Goyt valley and having to climb back out again started to fill me with dread.  So much easier to turn left into Buxton and have some lunch and head home but what climbing and what solitude would I miss out on?  After a substantial wobble in determination, I turned right and plummeted into the Goyt Valley.  Litterally, down a 10% slope.

At the bottom I was relieved to find myself at Errwood Reservoir.  At least I now knew the climb out was long but steady, no surprising steeps.  Also, in at 1:30 pm and still not having eaten any real food, there was bound to be an icecream van somewhere.

Sure enough, I indulged in a mint Festival and sitting on the wall staring at the reservoir for 10 minutes.

The rest of the climb was dispensed with including encouragement from a bloke passing and I turned onto a tiny lane that I didn't even realise existed before today which would complete my Buxton circuit, dropping me out onto more familiar teritory around the back of the quarries and into Earl Sterndale where, despite my lack of lunch, I decided that the Quarryman's pub wasn't going to be my best choice for a lunch stop.  Thankfully, just on the edge of Moneyash, the Royal Oak provided me with a beer garden next to the road and easy access to a bench to lock my bike up and eat.  I lay on the grass to wait for my food and chatted to some leisure bikers who'd been bashing the railway trails.

It was 4:30pm.  Late lunch indeed.

With heavy legs, I had the luxury of Flag, Taddington and Priestcliffe, descending into Millers Dale where I finally had to pick up my feet and start climbing out again.  I gave myself until Tideswell before tackling the monster climb up to Wheeston (which had been earlier on my route but I had missed, getting caught up in the down hilling).  It was brutal to start at 10-12% but then pretty much rolled me over the tops before the thrilling descent into Bradwell, hopefully a good 4 hours after my earlier companions had been there.

Finally, I was somewhere familiar and I only had one big hill in between me and home.  Which way to go?  In the end I opted for the Ringinglow Road direct since I feel it's the most consistent and because I haven't yet used it in my hill climb campaigns.  I started to experience a certain consistency with my climbing legs.  There was a dull ache throughout my body just from riding that long and that hard and there were the pains associated with being in the saddle - sores and tight shoulders but my climbing legs did just keep delivering.  Sure I wasn't battling up hills like I had been in the morning but I wasn't just surviving them either.  When I stood on the pedals to climb, climbing still happened and it happened quite well.  The hard part became sitting down and I vowed no more long rides without my Rapha shorts.  For all the bling, they do their job.

And finally, the last climb to my house dispensed with, I cruised through Crookes and into Walkley feeling like I'd achieved the impossible... but I still have the impossible to go.  In two weeks time, I have to put it together with a half marathon and yesterday I felt like there was little possibility of me running anywhere - never mind a half marathon.  I got in and sat down and then I made a protein shake and stumbled to the bath and then I rubbed in after-sun and ate my dinner and fell asleep in front of the tour.

Regardless of how I feel yesterday, I'm thankful to the Alpe of having pushed me back into the world of real cycling.  It has to be simply years since I have done a hilly route like that.  Wild Wales Challenge?  Congleton Classic?  All around 2008? and I did those slowly and without form.  There were bits of this ride that I actually raced, bits that I sprinted up.  There were climbs that pushed me to my limits and climbs that I enjoyed immensely.

There was absolutely no chance of me going for a brick run after and I felt a little crushed but rather than feeling worried about the race, I realised I had some serious learning to make about today.

As a ride, I rode it as a single session.  I pushed myself, knowing that it was my last chance to get a good bike done.  It's difficult to mimic the Alps in the Peak district, you end up chasing climbs doing so many miles... and I'm not into laps or reps.  I hit mile 70 (race distance) with 2000m under my belt.  On race day, I'll have done an extra 1500m in a similar distance but I will have had long rests in between each climbing segment and the number of off-the-scale steepnesses is vastly reduced (I had to re-scale yesterday's map as it includes the 30% Hagg Hill and 22% grade out of Coombs).

Alpe d'Huez at the top, Peak climbs at the bottom.  The circled sections are my rests.
I learned that I only got through my bottle after 50 miles but then the temperature yesterday was only 20-22 (occasionally 26) degrees with a slight breeze to cool me down.  If it's hot at the Alpe I'll be using water to tip over my head as well as drink.

I learned that I can not do this on bars and gels alone and I will be making use of the aid stations and personal nutrition en route .  This is likely to include some jerky, parmesan (god love TNR) and peanut butter sarnies (though I don't like to rely too much on personal nutrition drops in case they get lost, I'll have to make do with whatever's on offer at the aid stations instead).

I realised I need a plan and one that I can and will stick to.  It's easy to say that I won't race people and will stick to my own pace on the day but that's not necessarily true as I have a tendency to get swept up in the moment since I'm so competitive.

I remind myself that today I was riding with race-surplus: tools, lock, keys, wallet, phone.  I will still have my jacket with me on race day... just in case!

My Peak ride was proof of what goes wrong when I ride it too fast.  What I need to do now is come up with the solution... and use my Peak weeks to prove that solution (ie. actually manage a brick run).  I also need a coping mechanism to see me through that run but make sure I meet the cut-offs at the same time.

Today, I am resting.  I may do some shopping and then, maybe tomorrow, I am going to waddle around my half marathon run and find out some more information.

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