The plan for Easter weekend was simple: cycle from home to Yorkshire on Good Friday, spend Easter with my family, before riding back on Monday. However, like all well laid plans, things didn’t quite go according to the script.
Having packed up my gear the day before, I made a good start on Friday morning — rolling down the lane and into the dawn just after 6am. My bike was the heaviest it’s been in a while, the clothes and shoes in my saddlebag easily outweighing my lightweight camping gear. Nevertheless, it was awesome to be out on my bike and in the sunshine rather than stuck in the office.
Having looked at the forecast I knew I was staring down the barrel of a headwind the whole way to Yorkshire and had mentally prepared myself — so when the occasional gust cut my speed I didn’t mind too much. After all, it’s all good training! In the interest of getting some hills in the legs before facing the Rockies during the Trans Am Bike Race I’d planned a hilly route, taking I some steep ascents near Marlborough, a few rolling climbs in the Cotswolds, and the entire length of the Peak Distrct — including Holme Moss. All in all quite a bit to pack into a 235 mile ride.
I made good time throughout the morning, pleased with my pace given the wind, the hills, and my load. I’d clipped off the first century by about midday and stopped in Coventry for a quick lunch — taking my time a bit more than I would during a race or an Audax, just enjoying being out on my bike.
Still, after half an hour I was back on the bike, keen to make it over the Peak District before sunset. I felt great having taken on some food; probably the strongest I’ve ever felt after 100 miles. I felt like I’d just rolled out the door for a club ride, not like I’d ready been on the go for 6hrs. Call it hubris, or just a predictable coincidence, but this was the point where it all started to go wrong.
With about 130 miles in the legs I felt something go in my let calf. I’ve never had pain come on as quickly while cycling: one pedal stroke I was fine and the next my lower left leg had a shooting pain tearing through it. I jumped off the bike to assess the damage and stretch it out, although I ought to have known this wouldn’t have helped much — I’ve been cycling long enough know that I’d pulled my calf muscule and that stretching wasn’t going to undo the damage.
My options at this point were a bit limited: the nearest major train station was Derby and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get my bike on the train without a reservation. The last thing I needed was to waste time and miles only to find I couldn’t move forwards. I resolved to press on and see how my leg responded.
After a few miles I found that spinning was quite painful, but pushing a large gear out of the saddle (and keeping my leg relatively straight) wasn’t so bad. I also found that keeping it moving was key, even stopping at traffic lights caused it to lock up. 100 miles out of the saddle, over the Peak District, how bad could it be?
As it turns out, not as bad as it sounds. Throughout the course of various long bike rides I’ve learned that a positive attitude goes a long way, as soon as negative thoughts creep in the battle become much harder. I was still riding my bike throughout great scenery, doing something I love.
I didn’t stop peddling until I reached the top of Holme Moss, pulling over to take a picture just as the sun set, safe in the knowledge that I’d cracked the ride — although I still had 30 miles to go I’ve ridden them enough times before to know that it’s not a hard ride. Although I wasn’t going to finish without one last challenge — my left leg fully seized on the descent into Huddersfield and really grumbled at every traffic light through Bradford. It was with great relief that I pulled into Otley, knowing that I could give it a rest.
Since then I’ve managed to give my leg two days of RICE and it’s helped a lot, as had a bit of gentle walking. I’m writing this from the train on the way back to Salisbury and am evaluating the weekend with mixed emotions — disappointed that I couldn’t ride home, worried about getting fit enough to start my ride to Italy on the 30th, but pleased that I managed to dig deep and finish a tough ride despite some setbacks. I think training for dealing with the unpredictable is important — it helps to keep level headed and positive when things go wrong during a race.
Over the next week or so I’m going to focus on the big picture and make sure I give my leg the best possible chance to recover. After all, I still managed a 235 mile ride with some good climbing!