|Not my pic, but you get the idea: PBW, it's remote-ish and there are lot of big hills. Perfect!|
The current record is held by Steve Heading and talking to him about his ride I was sure of two things:
1) I was going to have to ride well to beat his time which he is, rightly, chuffed with
2) I was going to need half decent weather conditions for this to be a pleasant experience, let alone possible!
Steve has previously warned me that an attempt at this time of year could suffer horribly due to the weather and reading an account of another rider's attempt, he offered one piece of advice to other riders: Choose your weather as this will dominate your ride.
Gleefully ignoring the weather, I assembled my bike from the back of the car and headed out to see whether my shoulder was up to the job and to see if my interpretation of the map was good enough to provide me with appropriate stream crossings to enable me to refill my water bottles! When learning the route, I went for a ride with Jenn Hopkins and although it rained all day (and we made woefully slow progress, nattering all day) I had a ball, so I wasn't too put out by the prospect of a bit of drizzle. As I cheerily said to Jenn at the time, during one of our many stops to look at yet another amazing view "All I need to do is sit on the General Lee all day and eat pies"
|Learning the route and having fun, dreaming of eating pies and riding miles with all this to myself|
Pic: Jenn Hopkins
|Look out for the PBW signs, easy to spot as they're generally in the direction of the biggest hill on the horizon!|
I started at Summit and headed South, meaning I had a steady start over reesrvoir country, up and down steep sided valleys that seemed never ending. Eventually, and two rain showers later, I'd ridden far enough South to get into my favourite part of the ride, the Dark Peak, and had the great pleasure of riding past Kinder Scout as the sun was setting and was treated to an array of colour both in the sky and reflected off the heather hillside. Stunning. I was having a blast and felt like a truly lucky individual. A quick refill of my bottles at Roych Clough and I was off again.
At this point it was now truly dark so my lights were turned on. I was over the worst of the hills so my pace stayed pretty constant. Another shower saw the altready sticky trails trails start to get significantly wetter and stickier. Great, they'd stay like this until morning and sunrise. Just stay upright and push on in the morning I thought to myself.
|The way out on my ride, a "brutal but beautiful" first 40miles I think you'll agree|
This was not to be however. Not long after I passed Parsley Hay, it suddenly all went a bit wrong however. The rain came down again, but hard, then the wind picked up and really started blowing a gale. The trails turned from sticky to quagmire and I was hauling at the bars to keep the wheel turning. Hunkering down into the wind and increasingly sideways rain was killing my shoulder and the occasional "moment" on the limestone made the shoulder smart. By the time I reached the rocks of the Dark Peak my originally "just a bit tired" forearms were shot.
I watched my pace slow increasingly as conditions worsened and, but the time I got to 100miles, it was clear that my pace had slowed sufficiently due to the conditions that I'd miss the record by some margin. I had a big ride and a holiday planned in 10 days time and, without the carrot of a record to keep me going, I decided to ease back and enjoy the rest of the ride, and to make sure I could enjoy my holiday and my grand holiday plans, as I could see the sunrise ever so gently starting to peer on the horizon I would come back another day. It seems Steve was right, I would need at least a half decent weather window to have a good tilt at his record.
Another 15miles and I had to turn off the trail and instead I got my map out and followed the minor roads parallel to the PBW to get back to the car. My arms, and my shoulder, had had enough of the little moments that soaking wet trails bring.
As I got near the car the skies cleared and I was faced with a big final climb before I dropped back towards the car. To prove to myself I still had the legs I looked down to check I still had the "big ring" selected, locked out the suspension, dropped down the cassette and pushed hard all the way to the top. the legs were still there and I enjoyed the final moments of a great sunrise across the hillsides. I stood out the saddle, in my largest gear, a grin from ear to ear, in the last mile to the car.
|One big night out in the hills|
Can't wait to get out next year and finish off this ride
So I didn't break the record, but I did have a really great ride. I also found all my water points and they all worked well, so I now feel full prepared for this ride. This time I made two silly little navigation errors and spent a little too long looking at the map, but this too is good learning for next time. I will come back to this when the weather's right and I can't wait for that weather window to appear and to be compatible with planned races and not forgetting work too. My water plan is now organised, and the couple of fiddly bits of navigation bare committed to memory. Bring on 2012!