It’s the Red Bull 24 hour race this weekend… suddenly, it’s starting to look very serious.
3 weeks ago, I reckon I was the fittest I’d been for several years. I was getting close to riding 13 miles in an hour, and easily doing 20+ mile rides in under 2 hours. Then the flu bug hit. The following week, I nearly had to get off and walk after 5 easy miles; the next week, I didn’t ride at all. I’d paid ‘up front’ for a course of fencing lessons, so I attended ‘against my better judgement’, and it took my legs 4 days to recover.
Well, tonight was my first time back on the Coker, with my recovery almost complete. And what a reality check!
The plan was to ride difficult off road sections, rather than going for flat out speed. I decided to ride fast but steady, rather than as fast as possible.
And within a mile, my first UPD! A short section of compacted grit path, followed by a section of flat narrow single track, and I failed to make the transition, and wallop! And it took me 2 attempts to remount! In mitigation, I had transferred my handle from the MUni to the Coker, and this had changed the ‘feel’ of mounting. I hadn’t practised with the handle, and it took a few more mounts during the ride before it felt natural to use it.
After that, I rode around the lakes at the National Water Sports Centre, but taking the high route over the grass banks, rather than the level tarmac. I disovered a few ‘new’ tracks, and in one memorable section, I found myself trapped in a Landrover track through the vegetation: two fossilized wheel ruts through deep thistles and nettles tall enough to sting my arm when I was up on the Coker! Dismounting was not an attractive option; neither was riding deeper into this thicket of stingers. I took the obvious third way, riding until I fell off, then turning and riding back out.
The most difficult section of all was over some gently sloping banks with deep ruts and ridges concealed by dry stubbly grass. This is a section I’ve always cunningly avoided before, but with the race imminent, I went for it. The handle really helped: it’s not so much the extra leverage it gives, as the extra feel for what the uni is doing, and the extra control when you stand up on the pedals.
And when did reality bite? At the hour, when normally I would expect to have done 12.5 - 13 miles on a good day… well, after an hour of riding mixed surfaces, I had done a paltry 8.66 miles - and I was totally whacked!
I got back to the car mainly by easy tracks, but with one or two difficult sections. The total ride showed an elapsed time of 1:20, a ‘riding time’ of 1:15.17, and a total distance of 11.33 miles. Bizarrely, max speed was showing as 20mph, but we can safely rule this out!
I expect the Red Bull course to be a lot harder than tonight’s ride, and I’ll have to do 11 miles 3 or possibly 4 times!