"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own"   Sri Chinmoy

Jack & Grace Cotton 100k Perm - June 25th 2020

As ever I was keen to clock up some kilometres towards Sri Chinmoy Cycling Month (which happens every June) but my recent running renaissance had been all-consuming and my bikes hadn't seen much of the road. With the Midsummer 10k behind me and a few days before my only remaining race of the month - the 3x1 Mile relay - I saw a window of opportunity.

Lockdown had eased, with zero restriction on length of exercise (apart from a rule that you can't stay away overnight) so while Audax events were still not resumed, I was able to ride a well-liked Audax route without the brevet, self-fuelled and supported so that I didn't need to make contact with anyone or anything. My only stops were to eat a couple of bars by the roadside and switch my bottles around in their cages. A few months ago considerations like these would have seemed bizarre but we're all learning a "new normal" as the media keep reminding us.

One great british institution - hysterical headlines about the "hottest day of the year so far - was alive and well. In fact temperatures did "soar" (that's the official verb) to the thirties which is something I'm still not used to. It was way below that when I started out before 8am though, with 2  bottles of electrolyte, an emergency stash of 500ml water as well and 4 energy bars. I had my new wheels on my racing bike and freshly indexed gears. 100k was the perfect distance for easing myself back in to riding.

I began with the slog up the A38 to Almondsbury, picking up the GPS Track of the Audax route at Aztec West and then leaving the main road with a sigh of relief at Fern Hill. There were lots of ups and downs past Thornbury then the flatlands began and I was making a decent speed on silent lanes towards Berkeley. The heat began to intensify and the skies were a deep shade of lockdown blue.

I stopped for a few seconds in Berkeley to unwrap a bar- I wasn't prepared for a high-speed feed - then kept rolling northward through the lanes to Slimbridge and over the canal to the side of the Severn. There was a brief interlude of A38 - thankfully over after just a few minutes - then the delightful loop through Saul that I remembered from my winter ride on the same route. One nice aspect of this ride is that you don't have to tackle Gloucester. It's a lovely city but not fun on a bike. Instead I swung eastward to the busy road into Stroud, before the lanes took over again around Frocester and the Stanleys. I was really hot, and trying to find the right balance between speed and exertion was a challenge.

My plan is to get in good enough shape to tackle Ironman distance - 180k - at 28km/h. My training book tells me I should be riding at 70% effort to have any hope of running a marathon after that distance on the bike, so my training needs to be at 70% to get myself used to that effort level, with the hope that the speed will come as I build endurance, fitness and general conditioning. On this ride I was able to stick at 70% most of the time, occasionally drifting up to 80% on the hills which may or may not be the right way to go about it. Also when I came down on to the tri bars I seemed to find my HR rising - is that a case of unconciously accelarating when I'm into that aero position or is the effort simply harder in that posture? If it's the latter I'm better off riding more upright but that seems counter-intuitive. Oh well for now all I need to do is ride the 70% rides and see what happens. What was happening on this occasion was that I was drinking in the miles quite happily and maintaining around 27 Km/h as an average speed. 28 would have been perfect but you can't have everything!

The second half of the ride included the long uphill drag at Cam/Dursley and then it was mostly flat on the lanes back through Cromhall to home. My favourite section was Damery/Tortworth, with cool forest and the sound of the summer stream running under the bridge. I climbed past Tortworth church and between the lodge houses which bookend the road, then I was on home turf and focussed on speed and heart rate for the last hour.

I finished with an average HR of 65 and speed of 27.2, so I have a little work to do to get race fit. Mind you, thanks to the pandemic I have 13 months to train instead of 1 month. Like so many races, it's been pushed back a year. I hope we have a gorgeous summer in 2021 when events will, hopefully, resume in a more recognisable form. Mind you temperatures like these would not be perfect for a race!

I weighed in at 9 stone 5 the morning after this ride, having spent much of the afternoon drinking every kind of cold drink I could get my hands on. I clearly didn't replace fluid nearly enough, so that's a learning point for me. Perhaps we need to get used to it being up in the thirties on a regular basis. I was well satisfied to have ridden a decent distance after a long gap since my last 100k - months in fact - and to be part of Sri Chinmoy Cycling month is always something special.

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