On Saturday 28th September I went, along with my support team, up to the Peak District for the British Heart Foundation charity ride. My support team consisted of my wife, two daughters and my parents; a special thanks to them all!
This was my first biking event of any sort, having never raced or ridden any organised ride in the past so it was quite an adventure for me in every way. Most importantly, I managed to raise a decent amount for the British Heart Foundation; £160 through my JustGiving page (+ £35 gift aid) and an extra ~£60 through sponsorship the traditional paper form way!
But I’m sure you’re mostly interested in the ride and trails so read on…
For those of you who know the Ladybower Reservoir area of the Peak District already then the trails will be familiar and for those who don’t let me just say that at any point that the trail goes beyond a certain degree of steepness it becomes rocky. So all the steepest descents are rocky and so are the climbs that aren’t on the road or paved in some way. The route was drawn up by the guys at the Rough Ride Guide and they did an excellent job of creating a multi-loop route which meant that riders could ride one of four distances (15, 24, 32 or 39 miles) but still only ever ride any piece of trail once even if riding the full 39 miles.
Having never ridden any sort of event before it was all new to me; presumably there are many of my readers who are in the same boat too. This particular event had several hundred riders and we all set off in groups of around 50. Out of the college car park onto the road where, for some reason, everyone set off at a fair pace. Next couple of turns and we hit the first hill along with the fantastic sound of ~50 dérailleurs shifting across 7-8 sprockets each! From here the groups started to spread out as people either took the hills slowly or more quickly depending on their fitness level and/or intended route length.
For me these first few hills meant a nice confidence boosting ride past quite a few other riders, up and around Mam Tor and that old broken bit of ex-road; it’s impressive what landslips can do to tarmac! Then I managed to have my only ‘moment’ of the day; on a fairly un-technical section of trail I managed to loose my front wheel in a rut and go flying bike-less onto the trail ahead. Fortunately I got away with just grazes to my left knee and elbow and no damage to muddygoose (the tyre touching the chainstay wasn’t due to a buckled wheel, it had just shifted in the drop out; nothing a quick fiddle with the QR wouldn’t correct!).
From there we got into the really rocky stuff, the true ‘meat’ of this ride and although I rode the majority of it, a couple of wrong line choices at the wrong times left me pushing my bike down over a few odd bits. The only section of this ride that I had never ridden before was the extension part for the ‘extreme’ route, that takes you up onto Whinstone Lee Tor. Wow, what a view!
In an event like this, it seems that once things have settled out you tend to find yourself riding to the pace of someone else. Not anyone you know of course but there will be someone that for some reason you notice. For me there was a lady rider in bright blue and we rode at a similar pace all the way up to this point. Don’t know what happened to her at the top of the Tor but heading through the gate was the last I saw of her. I then got into my next flow and found myself following just behind a group of riders from a club wearing green crocodile t-shirts. They would stop for a rest, I’d catch up and stop and they’d head off ahead again etc. This was the status quo until the finish, I didn’t see them finish but my band of supporters did (after all I was behind them!). Not sure of the name of their club now but they sure were snappy dressers!
Fuelling: I’m no serious road rider or anything but if you take on a ride like this you do have to plan. There’s no way you will get round and enjoy 69 km of Peak District trails and hills without considering energy. All in all I took in 2 or 3 SIS energy gels, 4 slices of malt loaf, 2 Eat Natural cereal bars and I took 2 water bottles which I filled at every water stop; one with SIS electrolyte and one with plain water. I then had a ham roll and a ready to drink Maximuscle protein shake while packing away at the car. I never found myself lacking and was in general very pleased with how this aspect of the ride went.
The problem with going straight in to the longest route is that I now don’t have a way of stepping up next year. I could of course be tempted to just ride it again anyway, after all it was excellent fun and I was very pleased with my fundraising too. Maybe I can convince a friend to ride it with me? The only downer to the whole day was a slight niggle just above my right knee that turned quite painful late on in the ride whenever I pushed hard (seated climbs or out of the saddle). So I think I need to read up on quads, glutes, IT bands… and find some complimentary exercises.
So maybe again next year, or maybe the South Downs Way event instead? We’ll see…