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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Challenge One - Wiggle Super Series New Forest 100

At long last the day had arrived, Saturday 11th October 2014, my Charity Challenge was finally about to start!! It was 5am and I was awake led in bed knowing that the day ahead was what I had been waiting for! The night before I had packed, knowing how early the start would be. Spare clothes, a massive supply of High 5 Energy Gels, cycling shoes, MS Society Cycling Jersey, my new Garmin 910xt which had arrived the day before, helmet, gloves, drinks, Bulk Powders Protein shake, Nurishment Active recovery drink - surely there was nothing else I needed - apart from my bike of course. 0610 hrs and there is a tap at the window, it was Lee, a good friend of mine who had agreed to do the ride with me as support, LEGEND! We loaded my bike onto the rack on Lee's car grabbed the bags and set off.

The start of the ride was just over an hour away from home so we knew we had plenty of time to get there find our bearings and be ready for the off at 0800 hrs (ish). Training had been going well and I was more confident than ever about completing the 100 miles, in fact I was that confident that I was thinking of a time goal. Anything under 7 hours, we agreed, would be our aim! We arrived at the venue and was promptly directed into the car park, which can only be described as a swamp full of potholes. We pulled up and surveyed our surroundings. We headed off to registration where we got a free coffee and had a quick look around the stalls that had been set out early doors. Quick toilet stop and back to the car get the bikes ready and get changed. It was about to start. Bikes ready, Bulk Powders Protein drank and my jersey stuffed full of energy gels we headed back down to the start line ready to roll out with the first group at 0800. I made one last appeal on Facebook and Twitter for people to donate and help me raise money for the MS Society.

We were ready, me and Lee were at the start line. The starter was going through some rules and showing us the signs to follow on the route. I was starting to feel excited and slightly nervous now. My first challenge, my first ever Sportive and I was about to do 100 miles on a bike - Here we go! We rolled over the start line and the adventure had begun. We followed the pack down a slight hill over some speed bumps and on towards the main road, then BANG!!! 200 yards into the ride and my back tire went flat! A puncture!! WHAT!! I couldn't believe it weeks and weeks of training, the build up, the fundraising and I'd managed 200 yards! I knew there was something I'd forget when packing the night before, inner tubes!!! Thank god for Lee Weston!! My old buddy had an inner tube! Life saver. 10 minutes later and we were back on the road now tagging along with the second group but we were away.

200 yards in and a puncture! Great!
The first hour went with very little incident, we both felt good and had covered about 15 miles. No problems, mostly flat and no mishaps! I will never forget that right hand turn and seeing the first real challenge of the ride, the first climb. It was a long climb but steady. Not to steep but gradual in gradient. It was tough but I just kept tapping it out and pushed on through, at the top I looked back and couldn't see Lee. I knew I was only about 10 miles from the first feed station so carried on and decided to wait there for him.

A steady first hour.  Lee giving us a little wave!
 The first feed station came at 32 miles in to the ride. I was feeling pretty good and grabbed some refills and waited for Lee, who was only a couple of minutes behind. It was a good job that I was feeling good at this stage as the next section of the ride was really hard. There were only 23 miles until the next feed station but as soon as we pulled away from the stop we started another big climb. In fact there were a lot of big climbs! About 15 miles in my legs were feeling dull, I kept the energy gels consumption high and me and Lee stuck together helping each other up the hills and drafting on the descents. We kept going at a good pace and reached the second feed station in good time. We took a bit of a longer stop just to catch our breath and find our legs. After a couple of minutes we got back on the bikes and set off again.

22 miles to the next stop and if I thought the last section was difficult, I was wrong! This was hard! Real hard! About 8 miles down, during yet another climb and POP! There goes my front tyre! Another puncture, now the rain was coming down hard and it was as cold as ice. Now we were ruined! Lee was out of inner tubes and I didn't pack any! As we were stuck on the side of the road wondering what was next, two other riders stopped and very kindly gave us an inner tube and a pump. I didn't get their names, so can't thank them personally, but they knew how grateful I was at the time. Again we were on the road, up hill of course. About 60 miles in and the pedals where ticking over nicely, unfortunately at some point me and Lee got separated knowing that waiting at the feed stations had worked before I cracked on. I caught up with a group just ahead of me and clipped onto the back of them. Using them to draft on the flats I managed to keep up a good average speed.

We reached the village of Pitton, about 65 miles in and knowing the area well I knew that White Hill was approaching. White Hill!! A 14% gradient climb over 127 feet and 0.3 of a mile. Doesn't sound a lot on paper but believe me it is without doubt the hardest thing Ive ever done on a bike. Out of the saddle and leaning so far over the handlebars I thought the bike would tip over I pedalled for all I was worth. A few in front of me couldn't make it and one person even snapped their chain, it was the type of climb that if you stopped you were not getting going again! At the top it felt like I had conquered the Alps d'huez. With only 12 miles to go to the last food stop I sat back in the saddle and enjoyed the little descent out of Pitton and rolled on to the stop.

The arrow to White Hill!!!
The stop was just ahead and I slowed down to pull in, I looked up and saw another rider coming towards me going the wrong way and not looking, I had to swerve to avoid him and braked hard. My front wheel went from underneath me on the wet surface and I couldn't unclip my foot from my pedal fast enough. Down I went like an anvil out of the sky crashing on the floor. A few of the support staff ran over asking if I was ok, I replied with, 'Yeah Im fine. Just get me a pillow and I'll be even better.' A heard a few laughs and hoped it was at my comment and not the fact that I had crashed. One of the staff unclipped my foot and I got up and instantly noticed that all the other riders looked concerned. I told them I was ok and limped over to the food and drinks. I'd grazed my leg and fell onto my knee. It wasn't too painful, for now. I waited for Lee and a few moments later he showed and instantly commented on how hard White Hill had been! I agreed and told him of my little crash, he laughed!

23 miles to go now and we knew from the profile that it was mostly flat or downhill all the way. We stayed together with about 10 miles to go when we tagged onto the back of a group that I felt were slowing us down. I powered on past them and just put my head down and went for it with all I had left in my legs. The miles on my Garmin were ticking over mile after mile I could feel the end approaching, I looked back and couldn't see Lee, I had inadvertently dropped him in that group. I was gutted I really wanted to cross the line together but knew that if I started to slow down know I would lose my legs. So I carried on.

10 miles and I was still at it! Legs pumping and I was catching group after group. Not slowing down and keeping the cadence high. I was so close now and knew that time was now my enemy! The final few miles approached, I tagged onto the back of a group and used them to pull me over the finish line. About 1 mile to go and I broke away from them. I could now see the line, a big orange and black inflatable with the words FINISH emblazed all over it! Never before had I been so happy to see the end of a ride. I crossed the line and stopped my Garmin.

 For the first few minutes I didn't look at the time, I was handed a medal and a t-shirt by some very happy support staff. I unclipped my pedals and got of the bike. I'd done it! 100 miles on a bike - the time - 6 hours 23 minutes! I'd broke the barrier we had set too. As I turned around Lee crossed the line too, 2 minutes behind! Lee had done it as well.

The sense of achievement was some what overwhelming, the whole concept of the challenge year had started with the idea of doing a 100 mile ride and now the first of my challenges was complete! After a massage, coffee and a hog roast roll, the world around me seemed to come back to normality. Not being sat on the saddle of a bike felt a bit odd. At the car I drank my Nurishment Active recovery shake which, in itself, is a meal in a bottle. A much needed shake at that. I had one for Lee too who happened to say how good it was also.

My wife and son had also arrived , I was so glad to see them both. The support my wife has shown me during the build up to the ride was second to none and still is during the build up to the next challenges. To have them there at the end made such a difference and brought it all into perspective for me. We sat and chatted for a while before they left and me and Lee packed the bikes up and got back on the road home.

Medal, t-shirt, mug, scars, cuts, bruises, sore bits, dirty bike, dead legs and a tired feeling that Ive never experienced was all completely worth it. I logged onto my Just Giving page and the donations had been rolling in all day. By the end of the weekend I had raised £424. I couldn't have asked for more.

So now challenge 2 approaches, a mere 80 miles around the Wiltshire Downs, and training continues. I'm still on the fundraising march so if you have read this and feel compelled to donate please visit my page or text KOMS99 followed by your donation to 70070. Its all to raise money for the MS Society. There will be more blogs to follow - one after Sundays ride too. I hope you've enjoyed reading this. Below is a link to my Garmin Connect where you can see the ride have a look and see if you could have a go yourself.

Thanks again Martyn

Garmin Connect