Follow-up to Macride 2008 – Ride Report from Steve’s blog

[ I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, immediately after the ride, but obviously forgot to post it. Oops! ]

I wasn’t originally planing to do the Macride this year, but I’m helping a friend build up his cycling distance in preparation for something exciting next year and the Macride was the right sort of challenge for him before winding down a little for the winter. And I had to keep him company, of course. I was also looking forward to doing the ride in the dry, unlike last year.

This year’s route was pretty much the same as last year’s, but without one or two diversions around the flooded bits. And as last year, it included Bakers Hill – the one hill that made me stop and walk for a bit. I was not looking forward to that!

Everything went pretty smoothly, it turns out. We made good time as far as the hill. As last year, I got about half way up Bakers Hill and had to stop and walk for a bit. We then had a 10 minute rest and re-fuel at the top before carrying on. After that I was nursing slightly achy knees and so slowed down a little, and as we were still in the Cotswolds then the roads were quite undulating still, which didn’t help the poor knees either. Finally, for the last 10 miles or so there was an irritatingly strong wind, always a headwind of course, just to make it a bit harder. Still, we made 4 hours 40 minutes for the 66 miles (note Macride organisers, not 63 miles:-) which is just over 14mph.

I don’t think I could have gone much faster. This isn’t a fast route – the Costwolds is a bit too lumpy for that. The roads around here are much flatter and I can average 16mph over that sort of distance, but not down in the Cotswolds. I said this last year and never did anything about it, but I could do with working on my hill climbing a bit. I suspect my knees might just stop me from getting any faster as I just can’t pedal much harder, but maybe I could work on my technique a bit and that would help. Maybe for next year?

For the last few years I’ve occasionally seen an old lady cycling along Westwood Heath Road on a bike with a shopping basket on the front, heading off to Tesco. She was a bit wobbly and not very fast, but still she got there and got back – a round trip of 5 miles or so. She looked about 80, and whenever I saw her I thought, “I hope I’m still cycling that well when I’m her age…”

I was told last night that she has just died. And she wasn’t 80 – she was 97! Astonishing, and most definitely inspirational. Westwood Heath Road won’t be the same without her.

Follow-up to Macride 2008 from Steve’s blog

The ride did take place on Sunday, despite the weather, and I did complete it. In fact I ended up cycling 68 miles, not 65. I didn’t manage it in 4 hours though. It turns out that the route was far too hilly for that. 4 hours was never going to be possible for me even in good conditions, but with it as wet as it was I was even slower. It took me 4 hours 50 minutes, rolling time, plus a rest stop in the middle and a couple of short stops for other reasons.

The route was this:

When we checked in at the start they were recommending skipping the northern loop from Little Alne around to Lowsonford and back to Little Alne, because that was possibly quite flooded. I didn’t really want to miss out such a large chunk so I went anyway. Fortunately, so did a few others. We did, however, end up cycling through the occasional 12” deep flood, and there was one deeper, fast flowing flood that we decided to wade through as it seemed too dangerous to cycle it. Consequently, I had cold, wet feet pretty much the whole way around.

The rest stop was in Great Alne, not quite half way around. After that, there was one diversion around an genuinely impassable section and then things got a bit drier. There was nothing deeper than a couple of inches around the southern part of the route.

What there was, though, was a hill or two, including one (Baker’s Hill between Mickleton and Hidcote Boyce) that defeated me. I got about 75% of the way up and had to stop and walk before my knees gave out completely. I didn’t want to risk not finishing at all. I don’t know how steep it was (25%, maybe, although at the time it felt pretty much vertical:-) but I was snaking backwards and forwards across the road to make it easier and still only managing to crawl up at 4mph. After that I had to ease up just a little to make sure my knees didn’t give up. Another reason for the slow time.

From there back to the start was a quite pleasant ride, in fact. Lots of nice views, and a generally quite easy ride. I was quite pleased to see the finish, though! Fot the last five miles or so I was counting not just the miles but the tenths! I’m not sure I’d have wanted to cycle much further. I suppose another couple of miles to round it up to 70 would have been nice, but no further. I think that might be my last long ride of the year…!

The whole journey was made much more pleasant by having some company. I linked up with a guy who knew the roads, having cycled them a lot in the past, and was going at about my pace (although I suspect I was holding him up, especially towards the end when I was looking after my knees), so I had some company and didn’t have to worry about getting lost! If you are reading, Dave, thanks for sticking with me!

Despite the weather, it was fun in a slightly strange way. I will almost certainly do it again next year, but I’ll do a bit more hill training first so I’ve got more of a chance of getting up Baker’s Hill, knees permitting.

Now all I have to do is collect the money! So, if you sponsored me and you didn’t do it online I’m going to be after you for money. And if you haven’t sponsored me and want to, it isn’t too late. Either come and find me, or donate online.

Update: According to my GPS track, Baker’s Hill is only a 20% gradient. I’m surprised. There were other hills on the route that were signposted as 20% gradients and that were much easier. Maybe the signposts were wrong, or just rounded up? Anyway, it was hard work:-)