I know a lot of people can’t understand or relate to long distance cycling. I don’t blame them; I would feel the same way if I wasn’t doing it myself.
It was Niel’s birthday this week and therefore his choice of where to go for a bike ride. He has chosen some hard and awful rides over the years and he knows I can’t say no to them because it’s his birthday and his choice. So I was a little bit worried about what this one would be. His choice was to do his favorite 225km ride but in reverse so that I didn’t have to ride up to St Arnaud, but instead it would be down from St Arnaud. The ride went from home in Brightwater to Motueka, down the Motueka river valley to Tapawera, on the quiet back roads through Tadmor and over the 15kms of ‘dry weather’ gravel road that comes out on the south side of Hope Saddle, onto Kawateri Junction, St Arnaud and finally down ( but still over 2 large hills) back to Brightwater. Having just successfully finishing this birthday ride, I thought I would tell you how it feels to actually ride for 12 and ½ hours virtually non - stop.
|The old railway line with a town called 'Kiwi' used to run along this quiet back road.|
My workmates don’t really understand why I need time to recover. Well it’s not surprising really, none of them do any strenuous exercise, but I’m not writing this to show off, merely to help them and you to understand.
With all things, the more you do them, the easier it gets. A year ago, I would never have believed you, if you said I’d be cycling this far in one day, and I’ve only just begun on this long distance journey.
The first 75kms you feel magic, nothing is hard, you frequently over take other cyclist with ease, there is no need to stop unless it is a ‘call of nature’. But by 75kms you need to eat, and eat well to sustain that feel good feeling. I have allergies to lots of foods so I tend to eat gluten free muesli bars with a pottle of yogurt and a chocolate bar and a drink with sugar in it, it is also a good time to reapply anti chaff cream and pop an anti-inflammatory for my problem feet.
Just a quick word here – anti chaff cream or chamois cream is essential. A wee niggle at 75kms can turn into unbearable pain without cream in a very short time. It is very possibly my best friend and I don’t leave home without it. Constant bottom wiggles and getting down on to the drop bars can also relieve the pressure on your nether regions. And a comfortable bike and saddle is essential. (That doesn’t mean a big chunky saddle – I couldn’t think of anything worse – that wouldn’t give any part of your nether regions a break from being in contact with the saddle at any time) – I mean a female saddle that you feel comfortable on all day.
Passing the 100km mark and still feeling good is a boost mentally. Actually a lot of long distance riding is mental. How about riding for 11 hours and you get to a big hill? Well that is when your head takes over. The voice in your head is always there telling yourself you can do it. You can do that hill; you can do that gravel road.
By now my feet are hurting, from a combination of hot feet, and my bone and nerve problems. I have had this problem for many years and learnt coping mechanisms for when the pain comes on. If you can only stop for a few seconds – pop an anti – inflammatory pill, if you can stop for a couple of minutes then take your shoes off and rub some anti – inflammatory cream into your feet and change from the clipped in side on the pedal to the flat side, and ride moving your foot around into different positions and then when the pain has diminished do the same thing with the other foot, always keeping one foot clipped in, so that you don’t lose the pedal rhythm of clipped in feet.
By the time you get to 150kms, you need to eat again, it is essential, even if you are not hungry. If you ignore this need to eat you will ‘hit the wall’ big time, and be stuck in the middle of nowhere too tired to move. Always take emergency food like muesli bars and chocolate, but nothing beats real food like a hot pie (I take the pastry off and spoon out the meat filling) or cold cooked sausages, and more sugary drinks. It is amazing how much your energy returns after eating. And of course reapply your best friend of anti – chaff.
By now you should be feeling good still, but no longer ‘magic’. Use every trick to keep feeling good, use the drops to change position on down-hills and to go fast. Use small gears on the hills and simply spin your legs to prevent cramp setting in. And drink – a lot – all the time. Water keeps cramp at bay and you will simply need it due to hours of exertion and dehydration from the wind. That voice is back – you CAN keep going, you CAN go faster, and the more you do it, the more you CAN do it.
The last 20kms are when you tire, you know you are going to make it, and your body just sort of does a big physical sigh. That is when you start feeling all the discomforts and pains that you have been ignoring with the help of the voice in your head. It is a case of counting down those last few kilometers, and I often do them quite fast to get them over with, after all you can collapse on a comfy chair when you get home, the faster you ride the sooner you will be in that comfy chair. And when you get home; immediately you feel that buzzy feeling - like a freshly opened bottle of fizzy drink. A natural high that stays with you for the next few hours, until tiredness overcomes you and you can’t keep your eyes open.
And you do need to recover, all the books and magazine articles on training recommend that you stretch when you finish a ride to prevent cramp, but being the women in the house I am too busy making a meal, and stretching never happens; and therefore in bed that night I always get cramp and toss and turn and don’t sleep well – I stretch before I leave on a ride – I MUST remember to stretch on return. There are not many sports that are as full on for so long as long distance cycling. Iron man events, epic multi - sport events, mountain climbing are a few but there’s not many. And yes they also need periods of rest and recovery. So next time I get asked to cover someone at work straight after a mammoth bike ride, I hope they can see why I night say no, and be a bit more understanding.