Monday 3 July 2017

Century Riding – It’s As Much About the Head as the Legs (LGD -314 Days)
Monday 3 July 2017, 103 Miles

Click here for Route Flyby

Before we start readers I just want to share a few comments from the Tour. First and foremost my countryman and all-round Mr Nice Guy, Geraint Thomas is still in yellow. Hwre – that’s Welsh for Hooray! There was a nasty pile up at a wet roundabout on yesterday’s stage from Düsseldorf to Liege which nearly put paid to his leadership and a few other aspirants besides, including the Froomedog. The incident was caught on camera by Chris Auld who just happened to be right on the spot. Amazingly this is his first time on the Tour as a photographer. With the wonders of modern social media his photo reached a global audience in record time. Look closely and you can see Geraint (in yellow) and the Froomedog (on the left) on the deck. With his usual masterly style, when asked in the post-race interview if he had waited for the Froomedog (his team leader) after picking himself up from the tarmac his response was a short pause and a cheeky little grin followed by: “No! He’s got seven other guys to wait for him at the moment.” Given the circumstances that led to his abandoning the Giro, Geraint must have been breathing a huge sigh of relief as he got going again. Well, that’s enough from the Tour for now so let’s get back to matters that are closer to home.

Today felt like an ideal day for a century ride so I took the Impulso and set off for east Suffolk. With the possibility of rain later in the afternoon I was underway early and headed for Stradbroke, Halesworth and Beccles. To ring the changes I went a bit further east today on the way to Beccles instead of following my more usual route via the South Elmham villages and Bungay. I had spotted a place called Three Corner Hat on my map so was keen to have a look. In the event it was just a small collection of houses and nothing more as far as I could tell. I haven’t (yet) been able to find anything on the Interweb to cast light on the place so I’ll have to try and revert to more devious means – watch this space. From Beccles I headed back via Loddon and Woodton to Hapton, Banham and East Harling before turning south for the final ten miles home. As my rides go it was best described as ‘pleasant’. Light cloud and sunny intervals and cool. The only downside was a surprisingly strong west wind which made second half of the ride harder than I had anticipated.

A couple of items about long-distance riding have come on to my radar recently so I thought I would share my own take on the subject. Provided I am feeling okay the prospect of riding 100 miles doesn’t give me any difficulties from a physical perspective. My approach is to maintain a steady cadence (80-90 rpm) and keep to an average speed (16-17mph) that I can sustain all-day long, regardless of the wind or the terrain. My best indicator is my heart rate which averages around 120 bpm. The other consideration is how I feel at the end of each ride and whether or not I can get out and do another century the following day. I feel I’ve got a pretty good strategy for keeping on top of the physical side of century riding, bearing in mind that I am really just an average rider, not a racer or an ultra-distance athlete!

The mental aspect of riding centuries also needs a bit of management. Many years ago I learnt that if I allowed my thoughts to dwell on how long (distance or time) a century ride was then I was doomed to a ride of some misery. So instead of thinking about the total distance or time to the finish I break rides down into segments of about 30 miles each. For me, a 30-mile ride is like an after work outing. If I’ve made an early start (7:00am) the feeling of completing the first 30 miles before my usual start time for shorter rides (9:00am, after the end of the school run) gives me a real boost. This morning for example I was riding through Stradbroke before 9:00am. On several of my more local rides, Stradbroke is the half-way point or the place where I turn for home. So being there when the normal working day has only just begun is a great feeling.

You never quite know what to expect!
Achieving early progress is one of the ingredients in my larder. I also really enjoy looking at the countryside I’m riding through and love to see how it’s being managed or the wildlife and other sights I come across. Often these are entirely unpredictable – the sight of a buzzard being mobbed by rooks, or field of crops that I have seen from planting to harvest or just a curiosity at the roadside all add to the interest. Although like most riders I keep an eye on the data on my Garmin I am not obsessed by it and apart from watching the road surface for potential hazards, I spent much of my time just looking around and sometimes making the odd mental note to research something I have seen when the ride is over. And many is the time that when I have looked the Garmin I’m surprised at just how far I have already come.

Now readers, I’m not trying to build myself up here as some sort of Superhero. Captain Century likes to feel he’s a well-rounded, feet in the pedals ordinary sort of (superhero) rider! Like all riders I have my moments of despair and doubt. It’s just that I’ve got a bit of experience in dealing with them.

I mentioned earlier that my radar had been blipped by recent news. Well, what of it? Century riding is my thing. There is a whole other riding scene out there – ultra-cycling. These are people who ride vast distances (200 miles+) for days on end. Mark Beaumont, who is one of this species is currently trying to ride around the world (18,000 miles) in 80 days – a sort of Phileas Fogg on a bicycle. He’s got a website so you can follow his progress. For the cyclists amongst you he’s also on Strava. The BBC Breakfast Interview is well worth watching. I was really struck by his comment “My job this time round is much simpler. I just need to turn the pedals and ride the bike.”  I’m lost for words now so I’ll leave it at that! But I will be watching his progress - closely. Good luck Mark!

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