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

Lacock Loop #2, Jan 25th 2020

A week after blowing up somewhat on this 56-ish mile route I decided to revisit it and ride it differently - loaded up with bars and gels so there would be no need to stop, and following the route the right way round so that the navigation off Bike GPS would be easier! It was a milder day at 5 degrees C and with no overnight ice and frost there was no problem getting an earlier start. I was out at 7.23 with a few slices of toast and an energy bar inside me - a definite improvement on last week's effort of 2 small bananas. I was aiming for an average of 15mph which would need a steady 18mph on the flat, hard efforts on the hills and not too much faffing at the junctions.

I had little company on the ring road path and the only things holding me back were lack of warmup, a little fatigue in the legs from a marathon training run and the many crossings/roundabouts that you have to negotiate before you escape on to the open road. Once off on to the dramway I cut loose a little but Coxgrove Hill was a challenge - it was drizzling very slightly and hadn't been raining hard for a day or two but the road was like a stream and that meant staying in the saddle to grind out the climb rather than attacking the hill on that slippery surface. I was surprised to see Pucklechurch ahead of me after only half an hour or so - last week that stretch had seemed to take an eternity - but that reminded me that I had to practice feeding on the bike so I ate most of an SIS energy gel and squirted a bit of it around in an attempt to consume it without stopping or dropping any litter. Gel packs are easy enough on the run but I need a better solution on the bike!

Next came gorgeous lanes out to Hinton and the proper climb up to the Cotswold Plateau and the crossing of the A46. It was grey, dull, chilly and beautiful among the wintry fields and ragged stone walls. Climbing past the Bull at Hinton I noticed the ancient barn alongside it - an amazing building that I must have ridden past many times and not noticed its timeless charm...

Once over the A road I began to pick up the pace on the lanes around Marshfield - there was a deep descent into a valley with a causewayed bridge at the bottom - the fields around it probably gave Marshfield its name - then more rolling efforts and digs until I descended again to Ford and tackled another proper climb the other side. The "lake" I had dismounted to ride a week before was still there but I managed to roll through it with my shoes unclipped and keep my feet dry - sticking to the slight ridge in the middle of the lane.

After rolling straight through Lacock with the average speed still a disappointing 14.4 I kept up the effort levels and kept taking a gel and then a bar every half hour. I hadn't done this for a while as the Audax rides usually involve stopping at a shop or cafe to get a receipt, so I knew I needed to get used that rather disgusting process of munching a bar while breathless, snotty and sweaty - not an easy gig. The route took me into Gastard and through the driveway of a manor house where I paused to get a photo of the lovely tree-lined road but lost time on the soft gravel. 15 mph had seemed a modest target but how was I going to hit it with all these slow roads, junctions, and above all climbs?

Riding through the Cotswolds is always an experience - it's charming, beautiful, bleak and forbidding all at once and as the weather changes and as you turn each corner there are constant shifts in mood. I'm acutely aware of the consciousness of everything I'm seeing and hearing on these rides and the different atmospheres and spirits of each village, town, lane, hill and valley. I always get that feeling of timelessness - the city I live in has changed so much in the time I've been there and you can see the constant cycle of demolition and development. Out here in the fields (to quote The Who) it's a different story and you ride stretches that feel they are still Georgian or Mediaeval or even Neolithic. The same must be true of hidden corners and old streets and buildings in the city, but it's not so often I sense it - maybe the noise, the constant activity, the endless motion of city life obscure the stillness of those places? One of the things I love about my life is the fact that I get to experience all these different places, each with its own unique spirit. Before I practised meditation I wasn't so aware of "consciousness" and how it manifests differently in every locale, but now, in the hours of a bike ride or a long run, there's plenty of time to tune in to all these things.

Soon came the descents to Bath and the toll bridge, the route switching first to cycleways (there are signs asking riders to give way to pedestrians which is fair enough - I took the opportunity to take on more fuel at the lower speed) and then city streets. I took a couple of wrong turns as the GPS makes it hard to distinguish parallel cycleways and roads, but I was treated to an awesome view of the river and the Abbey and some magnificent regency streets. On the B&B path I tried to claw back all that lost time - I started it with an average pace of around 14.2 and soon it was .3 then .4 - it was a major effort keeping up the 18s and 19s I needed to really bring the average speed down and get on target pace but I was slowly making progress and enjoying the challenge. Once back on my love-it-but-hate-it-too ring road path I managed to squeeze the pace up to 14.9 but lost it back to 14.8 in the road crossings near my house.

All in all a wonderful ride, 15 mins quicker than last week and with the added challenge of riding a race against imaginary numbers.

Sacred Steps Home