I tend to find events more motivating than regular training - you turn up, people tell you what to do, they give you water, and occasionally snacks along the way, and then you often get something nice at the end like a t-shirt or a medal. I think I would have found it hard to motivate myself to run 13.1 miles back in February, so entering a half marathon had that sorted. So, thus, for trying to get myself up to being able to ride 56 miles in 4.5 hours, or at least knowing that I could conquer the distance, I decided last year to enter a sportive, where I would be forced to do it.
Today, we went over to Cogenhoe (apparently pronounced "Cucknoe") in Northamptonshire to take part in The Quattro, a sportive with a choice of 3 different distances. 50 miles, 62 miles or 80 miles. I decided that doing the 62 mile distance would help me feel confident about the 56 miles I will need to do in the half ironman. An early start, and general nausea (nerves or stomach, not sure), did not do much for my mood first thing, but we got there and we set off, knowing that we could bail out at 50 miles if necessary (or even, Mr Tuna promised, cut it shorter than that if we needed). The first 10-12 miles were pretty hard. I felt awful. The route was all up and down (I've mainly been cycling on the flat of late), and due to the way that cyclists were being sent off in waves, I had the humiliation of being overtaken about every 90 seconds by 10 or so cyclists. It was also very cold, and the route started with 2 miles of descent during which time my fingers painfully froze. But I soon warmed up, and dare I say, actually started to enjoy the thing. My back, as ever, was quite sore by 20 miles, but we managed to get to the 28 mile food stop without stopping. Because I was feeling sick, I didn't fancy any of the sweet things that we'd packed (an important lesson for next time), and because I'm gluten free, I was a bit restricted in my choices, but luckily there were ready salted crisps which did the job and cheered me up a bit. I continued to enjoy the ride and seeing the Northants countryside, and tried to work out when I wanted to take breaks. I planned to take one at 42 to stretch out, have some water, and use the facilities (i.e. behind a hedge), and then again at 52 or 53 which I felt would have broken things up nicely. Unfortunately, by 52, I was really really feeling it. Not so much that my legs were tired, more that *I* was tired, and my back, was, it felt like, killing me. So I decided that with 10 miles to go, I'd break it in half, but try to do more than half in the first go. Too bad, that when I stopped with what I thought was 2.5 miles to go, Mr Tuna looked at the route map and found out that the 62 mile ride was actually 63.7 miles. There may have been some rude words. There may have been more rude words when as I climbed the final hill back to the finish, there was a photographer positioned to catch every grimace. So I put on a "sprint" finish to get to the end. Where almost everyone else had left having finished hours ago. According to Strava [I hope that link works], our moving time was 5h08, with about 5h30 for the total, and an average speed of 12.4mph which isn't too shabby, as my furthest ride to date last year, of 52 miles, ended up with an average of less than 10mph!
Overall, it was a good experience. We were spared the usual tears. An extra food stop would have been a bonus, and next time I need to pack some crisps. It has given me confidence for the 70.3, although I know that I still need to increase my speed and endurance (but there's still 5 months for that), and most importantly for the epic and exciting (and terrifying) challenge that I and my friend Cycling Claire are undertaking next Sunday. We will be cycling from Westminster Abbey to a small village in Oxon. It's been a while since we cycled together so no idea how our abilities compare but hopefully we shall be evenly matched and able to spur each other on over what are some very big inclines and descents (the sort that may see me walking down).