Tuesday 15 June 2010

Rough riders

I feel so broke up today
I feel so broke up today
Lord, I feel so mash up today

Likewise, Prince. Likewise. Sunday's last long-distance sortie before the big day saw me tackle the 127-mile Magnificat on the variable roads of Berkshire, Wiltshire and Hampshire.

While the scenery was beautiful, breathtaking even, the terrain was rough. Save a relatively flat section after the first three climbs, almost the entire course was a series of annoying, morale-sapping ups and downs. This provided little opportunity for getting into a rhythm and tapping out the miles and instead made for a frustrating afternoon. After a 20-mile stretch of just such undulating terrain, I laughed at the ridiculousness of yet another crest and slough. Through gritted teeth, of course.

And despite the weather doing its bit and staying dry and fairly warm, a blustery wind did its best to hamper. But nothing - nothing - hurt more than the road surfaces. Dreadful. It was almost like I didn't have any tyres and was riding on rims of pure granite. With an iron seatpost. And an anvil for a seat. The great Sean Kelly would no doubt describe them as 'heavy roads' and I wouldn't disagree for a second.

Then there were the mechanical problems, with the front mech proving unreliable again. This meant having to scale the odd hill in the big chainring as well as riding the last 10 miles on the small chainring when I could have done with the speed afforded by the bigger one. I thought this had been sorted out by the bike shop at the beginning of the month, but alas no. So straight back it goes on Thursday. If there's one thing I'll need in three weeks' time, it's the certainty I can switch reliably between the two chainrings. It'll be bad enough climbing more than 5,000 metres as it is, without the added anxiety of potentially unsuitable gearing.

But despite all this, I did the 127 miles. Those hard, rough miles are in my legs. They're in my backside. And my hands. Feet. Ribs. Bones. All the slog and pain is now firmly implanted in my body's memory, where it'll need to stay up to and including 3 July. When my brain is ordering me to stop and is threatening to shut down various bits of my body halfway up the Alpe d'Huez, it'll be that memory I'll be calling on to remind my mind to mind its own business.

And that's pretty much it for the distance training. I know I can do the miles now, so there's no longer a need for that kind of exertion. Certainly not with the race so close anyway. I'll be carrying on with the silly commuting racing, though. And will be getting some early morning hill repetitions in as well to maintain sharpness on the inclines. A sharpness I definitely felt on the ascent of Stoner Hill near the aptly named village of Steep.

So all that then remains is to get out there and do it. And to hit my target of raising £1,000 for Macmillan Cancer Care, which is looking more likely than it was two months ago. By the looks of things, I think the amount raised is as good a barometer as you'll get for how ready I am for the Marmotte.

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