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

TORtoise 180k ride - May 15th - 2021

This route caught my eye for two reasons - the punningly ingenious name and the flat profile. I had ridden through Glastonbury only 2 weeks before on my last iron-distance ride, but this was a new and different route with an out-and-back setup rather than a loop. I had a pretty good day for it - sunshine and showers, with a cold start too, but winds were light and on the Levels that makes a massive difference to your riding experience.

I could see from the map that this route would take me out of Bristol on a flattish line through the City Centre and Long Ashton and then round some new (to me) roads in Weston and across the Levels to the edge of Glastonbury - then back home retracing the exact same roads. I got through town with fewer hassles than usual, having learnt from my wrong turns around Bower Ashton on previous GPS rides. Once in LA itself I managed to get a decent rhythm going. The line I took through Nailsea - on an old lane called Nailsea Wall - was scenic but very stop-start and it felt good once I was out of the urban scene completely and on to the perfect flatlands of Kenn Moor. I had to navigate around a section of Strawberry Line and find a road alternative as I didn't want to subject my tri-bike to the grit and gravel but that was easy enough.

The first lovely surprise of this ride came when I arrived in Kewstoke and then took a road along the coast above Sand Bay towards the north end of Weston. I had never ridden this beautiful Somerset Riviera before and it was stunning. There was virtually no traffic and the tide was in so I was riding only metres from the sea, through the twisted, windblown trees hanging over the bay. Apparently this is the Toll Road but there was no toll and no sign of anywhere a toll might be taken. What did catch me out was the intense rumble strip - I rode over it and it was like an earthquake - if I had been paying more attention to the road instead of the views I would have taken the foot-wide strip of smooth tarmac down the side of it. Another one came up and I made the same mistake again! Look out for these if you ride the Toll Road.

After a breeze along Weston seafront (not exactly crowded but definitely lively) I had a long section of A370 then gorgeous lanes through Rooksbridge and on to the Levels. The road across the wetlands was narrow, straight and devoid of any traffic so I made good time and enjoyed every mile. At one point I startled a huge heron that seemed to stand as tall as me when it spread its wings, then it took off, ungainly at first then graceful and elegant as it rose. The serene waters of the rhines and rivers mirrored the swirling sky.

Where the GPS route went off-road I was able to easily find a way round and rejoin it without adding too many miles. Soon the Tor that gave the ride its name came into view and I was edging up my average speed into the low 15s. I passed Sweets Tea Room 5 miles out of Glastonbury and decided to make that my feed station on the way back. The advantage of an out and back route was that I could ride until I clocked exactly 90k then retrace my steps - which meant turning at the edge of Glastonbury, just past the roundabout on the bypass, then heading back to Sweets. My stop there took half an hour which was a shame, as I want to get these long rides done without major rests. But it was no fault of the staff, just bad timing on my part hitting the queue at the same time as the whole of the Team Tor cycling club.

Heading home I managed to up my speed to 15.6 and the feeding went well at first - ride bars and flapjacks. Once back on the edge of Weston though I felt sick when trying to eat a 4th ride bar and made a decision to find some less sugary options to fuel my long rides in the future. It all gets too acidic if everything is sweet and chewy. But you need those calories and you need them in  a form that you can carry easily, grab on the go and eat even when your mouth is dry and your heart rate is up between 70-80%. Not sure what is going to fit the bill but I will try a few things out over the coming rides.

The Toll Road was glorious again on the way back north and I again got enraptured by the view and rewarded with the boneshaking experience of the rumble strip. I also had a phone malfunction when it rained for an hour and my phone refused to be put on charge due to "moisture in charging port". So I lost the navigation of the GPS but remembered just enough of the outbound route to replicate it closely enough. I did manage to clock up 180k exactly when I reached the roundabout in Filton.

The ride was half an hour faster than my last 180k but I am still not maintaining the speeds I was hoping for. On the day of the Ironbourne Tri I think I'll just have to ride at an effort I can sustain and exercise a bit of humility when it comes to the speed. Or a bit of detachment.

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