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

Jack and Grace Cotton 100k, 1 Feb 2020

It was the first day of a new era - the morning after Brexit. As you'd expect it was blustery - turbulent winds of change and uncertainty blowing in from the southwest. On the plus side it was mild with not much rain on the cards. Perhaps others were celebrating a notion of national independence, but for myself I was celebrating only personal independence by getting out there and pushing myself round 65 miles of lanes and B roads. I was in search of improved speed-endurance and the feeling of mental clarity and inner satisfaction that comes with exposure to the beauty of the landscape and the power of the elements, coupled with physical exhaustion. The target was to ride steady 18mph where the flatness and wind direction allowed and at least wind up with something over 15mph on the average speed. After all, I'll be wanting to average 16-17 in iron distance later in the year so I need to keep up the efforts and get used to something that feels more like race pace than all-day-ride pace.

To start with the GPS was surrendering to my hard effort and giving me encouraging numbers - as I headed up the A38, under the motorway and on to the GPS route I was going to follow, I was easily cruising at 17 mph and the wind was only an obstacle when it hit me with a sudden gust from the side. That's no fun on the A road but I was soon down into Tockington and Olveston with an average of 16mph and all was right in my cycling world.

The route was familiar out to Oldbury Naite - The Naite is a great road to ride, fast and smooth, scenic too.I came through Hill, Ham and then across the vale to Berkeley, riding in the shadow of the legendary castle and straight on northwards towards Slimbridge. The speed kept climbing as I warmed up and got out of the worst of the wind, which had been at its wildest near the mouth of the Severn. The roads were quiet, wet from overnight rain, sometimes covered in gravel and dung, but easy to keep up the pace on. Other riders gave me a wave and the scenery was quietly awesome.

Around Slimbridge I found myself on an average of 17mph and wondered if I was fit enought to keep that up for the whole ride. Perhaps I was, but the wind would have other ideas. I came off a short stint of A38 (fortunately there's a cycle lane now - not segregated but that white line does make a difference) to the lovely loop section through Frampton, Saul and Framilode. Here the wind seemed to come from every direction and was gathering force, whipping up waves on the Severn as I rode within touching distance of the river. I reached half way with 17.3 on the clock and headed back homeward via a much needed stop at Stonehouse Garage - here I took the GPS inside with me and it didn't auto-pause so I was back at 16.8 as I headed off on the last leg. This included the only unpleasant section - riding the A road towards Stroud which is always busy - but soon I was off on the lanes towards The Stanleys and Frocester, passing its ancient fortress of a church.

I had managed to get a decent breakfast inside me and about 3 gels and 2 mace bars but my limbs were still starting to feel a bit empty - I was pushing myself harder than I'm used to on the bike. The expected headwinds and hills conspired to keep my speed way down as I struggled on past Dursley, over the lumpy section to Wootton, diving down into the Severn Vale again to ride scenic but exposed lanes to Cromhall. I was really hanging in the final hour and despite the feeding I'd managed, I was feeling a bit underpowered. Still, the main problem was the headwind and where I found myself on the flat, sheltered from the wind, I was still riding 18s. I stopped for a selfie at the bottom of the exquisite valley before Tortworth - I've been here a few times and the lush woodland and gushing river make it one of those special places - any time of year it feels cool and damp here and the river always seems to be in spate - you can feel that cool energy as you ride through. It's quiet too - unfrequented - not on the main route from anywhere important to anywhere else important.

When I finally came to the end of my street and hit the stop button my race against the numbers had been successful - 65 miles at an average of 16. That included the comfort stop at Stonehouse where auto-pause hadn't kicked in.

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