Yesterday was my first Manchester to Blackpool “Bike event” can’t call it a race as most people their where only there to raise money for charity and hoping to just finish but for me it was a race and that’s what I will refer to it as such.
I first found out about the race when on a sky ride and we found ourselves having to bob in and out of 100’s of what seemed random cyclists. Some on road bikes others on mountain and even a few BMX’s, it was only later on I found out what they were doing and as soon as i could signed myself up for the 2012 race.
unfortunately the month before the race I was suffering from flu like symptoms and going to the gym became too much after a long day at work so was forced to take some time away, and that week off the gym turned into weeks and even to-date I’ve yet to return to the gym, but hoping to get back soon. So one week to go before the race and having done no time in gym for a month, the weather was against me being some of the worst flooding for years I started to get a bit nervous about my achievable time. Some searching on the internet threw up stories of past cyclists who have done the same ride and from reading could tell roughly their fitness, and it seemed it ranged from 3 hours to 5 hours even one story where they took 7 hours to complete. So from this and past cycle data from SportsTracker I estimated anything faster than 4 hours would be good but 3 hours would be epic.
The preparation, well we have already established I’ve not done any gym work so with only a few days left I only had my nutrition to get right. From past work and research I was aware that glycogen stores need to be toped up so carb loading it is, planned my meals according. Replacing meals with pasta and race, but keeping in mind you can over do the amount of carbs and instead of doing good can impede ones performance and lead to digestive problems. Next few days looked like this: oatmeal cereal for breakfast, potatoes at lunch and pasta for dinner, adding a few things to flavour such as simple tomato source with the pasta…and to aid in hydration a little extra salt.
It’s not just about food it’s also hydration. Apparently loosing just 1% of body fluid can decrease performance by 10%, not figures like this must be taken with a pinch of salt as they are more than likely pro athlete’s tested on but it still worth keeping in mind and as such I made sure I cut down my 10 a-day coffee addiction to a couple and replaced it with water and odd sports drinks to replenish any electrolyte loss.
So, it’s 0500 the day of race, to ease myself I grab a shower to relax before getting breakfast of Cheerios and watered down sports drink. I get my gear together, putting my number on my jersey (Number 658 btw) and back to bed for a rest. When I booked my place I had to choose what time to start, 0700 to 0900 30min in 30min increments so opted for a nice 0800 start.
Got a lift to Manchester united football stadium (thanx mum) and greeted by literally thousands of riders taking part. My 0800 start put me nicely towards the middle of the race just before the prearranged busses… I did some pre checks on bike: breaks, wheals… check, all working. Decided what things I might need during the race, although there where race pit stops but for a 60mile race it’s not worth stopping and resting losing momentum so would need to eat on the bike. I opted for science and packed 4 powerbars offering all the nutrition I would need, but also water supplement powders one for the water I have and another just in case I need to stop or for the end to stop me crashing out after the race.
Time is 07:57:06 and I’m off, find myself from the off overtaking 10’s of riders many of whom were riding cheap mountain bikes with heavy knobbly tyres and suspension, I know this isn’t officially a race but I have to think to why are they punishing themselves more than they have to, few quid get a cheap £100 – £200 hybrid bike and they will not only have a lot more of a comfortable ride but a speedier one.
I soon got into a rhythm and was speeding along at a respectable 20mph (32kmh) quite a lot of the route was through built-up areas and as its not a closed off road event the traffic started to build up in places and tailbacks of cars and cyclists started to form up. As said before most of the riders clearly where not frequent riders and didn’t have much or any group riding experience and I saw many examples of crazy riding and I’m amazed I didn’t see any accidents though they apparently did occur.
10 miles in and having to watch out for other cyclists pulling out without any courtesy for other cyclists and often cycling in middle of the lane for no reason I also had too many traffic lights to deal with, well it wasn’t the traffic lights that where the problem it’s other cyclists, with thousands of people also riding a stop of 30 40 seconds this has the effect of bunching 10’s of cyclist together off all abilities, but I found VERY QUICKLY that breaking the rules slightly buy nipping in front via other side of road I guarantee being at front and have the room to power way. This carried on until I exited Manchester, then it was few up and down hills in county side, this is when I reached my fastest speed of the race 41.56mph very pleased with this, I even managed to give that Le Tour de France downhill madness (IMAGE) and sat on the top tube, in hindsight it was potentially deadly move 40mph downhill I would have no change moving out of way if someone pulled in front, but it was fun.
For the next 30 miles I found a good rhythm of finding a bunch of fast cyclists and tucked in behind them giving me a slip stream. This has the effect of reducing the amount of energy I would have to put in compared to if I was solo. Once recovered or had something to eat or drink I would ether move the head and offer assistance to the group or would push on.
Pushed though home town Preston and onwards to my goal, but then my nemesis was in front of me. I remember this road and what’s in front of me, at end of Carr LN is a 3% incline and a quick right turn, not on paper sound ok but after several miles it’s a hill in my book. But feeling better than ever now thanking my pre-race meal preparation. I picked a nice yet high gear and with help from the race marshall I powered down and raced to the top shooting past other cyclist and some even walking with their bikes, and at the top turned right and was awarded with a nice downhill through Kirkham.
I got back into my rhythm and powered on. I was using my phone and satnav to monitor my progress and listen to music when out of town and my pace was dropping, I could feel my lower back starting to give way, my legs and everything else was remarkably feeling good so had to readjust my position on the saddle to relive my back, so moved up from my drops and shifted back into the saddle. Even on downhill’s stood bolt upright, just the trick.
I was forewarned from a cyclist who wrote about his experience in 2011 to expect when getting into St Anna a sudden head wind, and sure enough on que I was hit with gusts of wind. Although on this hot day it was a slight relief to have a cool sea breeze this was not helping, so the first peloton I came across quickly made myself at home, repositioning myself according to the direction of the wind.
Lucky for my the peloton I found was going at a nice 19-20mph. At this point I was starting to feel the pace and embarrassingly I was not able to move up front and help and carried my all the way into Blackpool. With only few hundred meters to go I powered down and crossed the line 3 hours 20 minutes after starting.
The welcome was amazing, Blackpool promenade was lined with spectators all cheering the cyclists and PA man shouting out congratulating and encouraging the crowd to cheer. Immediately after crossing the line I had a bit of paper handed (Turned out to be a certificate) to me a small bottle of water and a small Soreen, bit confusing to begin with but my mind soon caught up with what was happening and I walked away from the finish line and ate the fuel provided.
You can find my SportsTracker results below, but key information is:
Moving Time: 3h 22m 41s
Ave Moving Speed: 18.22mph
Ave Moving Pace: 3m 18s
Max Speed: 41.57mph