At the end of each school year my sonís school, Farsley Springbank Primary School, have a day trip out to Filey beach. This year I had the time available to be able to go along.
Obviously, me being me, I like to stretch convention and figured the bus journey was a little mainstream...
As it happens, Iíd recently been saying that Iím missing the personal focus of a challenge as Iíve mainly been supporting others this year. Those thoughts combined with the recent launch of SweatPledge.com made me realise I should cycle there and hopefully seed some inspiration for the kids.
So, only a few days beforehand, I mentioned (pledged) that I was going cycle there and back (around 150 miles). This meant I had no training time, as Iíd hardly been out on the bike in recent weeks. I do, however, have the confidence from previous experiences that itís completely achievable Ė if your head believes, your body will likely follow.
The day before, I cleaned and checked over the bike, including remembering to move the saddle half an inch forwards. I chose my Ďgoodí bike which I save for special rides and even remembered to tweak the saddle position Ė every time Iíd go for a ride Iíd think to myself Iím reaching too far (back ache) but then forget to tweak afterwards. On the day, the bike felt great and I had no positional issues.
The day started with a leisurely 8am kick off from the School Ė Iíd normally start these things around 6am, but Iím getting increasingly poor and forecasting activity times! As forecast a nice sunny/dry day if a little breezy.
Heading across Leeds is usually the slowest part, with lights, traffic and hills, though surprisingly it wasnít too bad for rush hour. I chose my Leeds to York route based on events last year when heading to the 10k and Marathon in York, as it always helps to be familiar. I knew this A-road route had the danger of faster cars but itís better than some other routes.
Iíd barely left Leeds when I hit a road closure, meaning a diversion Ė I dread these as I never know how many miles itís going to add. I think it added only about a mile or so, but was a little hillier. I was hoping they may have finished by the return journey (but they hadnít).
On these endurance rides, itís essential to stop and eat regularly (10-15 miles) to keep topped up. Thereís a lot that can be said on this top, but I think of the principles as:
For your muscles to work they need glucose (sugar).
Your body stores Glycogen with your muscles (which readily converts to glucose), for me, about 50 bike miles worth. Guess why people hit Ďthe wallí in marathons.
Your muscles feed off the Glycogen first, when that runs out, it feeds off body fats and also breaks down muscle for the protein. This is a slower/more expensive supply process as it has extra steps to transform fat/protein in to glucose first.
If you eat sugar based foods (gels, sweets) thereís little conversion necessary by your gut therefore happens earlier in the gut system. However, I canít bear that for much more than 6-hour events.
If you eat protein rich foods, thereís a much longer lead time and more work needed by your gut therefore occurs later in the gut system. However, that delay becomes useful on endurance rides.
Rule of thumb is that your gut converts 1.5g of carbohydrate in to usable energy every minute Ė from that you can calculate your calorie on-boarding. However, that can be increased by mixing protein and sugar intakes as youíre using more of the gut system.
Big point to make though; when working hard (same if loosing blood) your body takes blood from non-essential areas Ė the gut being the first. Therefore, youíll not process foods Ė hence rest stops give your gut optimum chance to process food.
(P.S. Iím not an expert in nutrition, this is just how I view the world from reading and self-experimentation Ė read up to get more info!)
First food stop was in Wetherby, then on to York. I quite enjoyed the concept of eating a Scotch Egg in York with its invasion history.
The next leg on to Filey was an unknown for me as Iíd never ridden that route before. I knew there was only a couple of minor hills Ė these days, I think of a few hundred feet as Ďlumpsí. In terms of following a route, the good old single line on the Garmin 510 is still going strong so I still canít justify paying for a newer model, even if I have a tech-itch.
The wind though, that was the main battle Ė while it wasnít a direct head-wind, the cross/front direction meant riding in to it was still draining. Air resistance is the prime drag factor for cyclists (they donít wear tight/non-flappy gear for fun, honest!) and itís exponential in effect. This little graph indicates how the effort increases; say you ride at 15mph, thatís 100watts with no wind but add a 10mph head-breeze that needs 300watts and 20mph head-wind needs 700 watts.
The route was really good actually, the first few miles of it out of York followed last yearís Yorkshire Marathon so it felt much better to be on a bike this time. Then it went to single track and back roads across the Yorkshire Wolds. Very scenic with some very nice looking (big) houses along the way.
I used Strava for route planning this one and Google Maps for checking the roads. But clearly I miss checked one road - I turned in to a rocky path which eventually lead to field! No way on the road bike (mountain bike would have been fine) so had to negotiate a new route, adding a couple of miles.
After miles of undulating roads, I did eventually reach the only lump Ė nicely signed as 14%. Hills give you the chance to get out of the saddle and not a problem as you use different muscles. Plodding onwards I eventually caught sight of the sea, which meant I knew I wasnít too far away, though it wasnít a direct route to the sea/Filey.
Arriving in Filey I didnít know exactly where everyone was, so ended up guessing the very opposite end of the beach. I did notice lots of other school trips there. Eventually finding ours, I had time for a few quick chats, coffee, cake and a little rest.
There had been several of the parents tracking the progress, and various children came up to me asking about things. They were generally amazed that you can ride to the coast in the first place, never mind cycle back again. My hope is that these things make them realise what is feasible (like cycling to London or commuting by bike between Leeds and Manchester) and therefore grow up visualising there are less barriers in life than you might expect.
Now the ride back was a different kettle of fish, the 10mph head-breeze had switched round to being a 20mph constant and grinding headwind (and expected for the full 75 miles). Therefore it was taking a lot of effort even to maintain 13mph (I typically ride that bike around 18-20mph). With this extra effort came extra demand for waterÖunfortunately my route ended up with no shops for 45 miles!
After about 30 miles of the return journey I had run out of water (well, last dribbles being rationed). Water is THE most important thing on activities. Essentially, dehydration breaks you down on several fronts which leads to dizziness, headaches and tiredness:
Your blood thickens, meaning your heart has to work harder to move the blood.
Your blood becomes less efficient in carrying oxygen and carbon dioxide away.
Your blood becomes less efficient in carrying glucose to muscle and waste product away.
Your sweating reduces leading to overheating.
Again, I had to drop the pace to reduce my power output (remember the graph) as I wanted to get to York without suffering.
Finally arriving in York I still seemed to have to cycle for miles until finding the first shop! A nice combination of a corner shop and a chip shop next door Ė first to the water and energy drink then on to a plate of chips, phew.
Now with confidence returned I pushed on, still tired as it would take a wee while to digest the food so it was a plodding game including up and down the hills (lumps!) approaching Leeds. Once inside the ring-road, I knew it was largely a down-hill sprint which felt great and in time for energy levels returning so a few nice 25-30mph stretches to cheer myself up on! On the whole journey I hadnít risked anything so Iíd done no more than 37mph anywhere Ė I donít like to push past 40 and on to 50mph unless I know the road surface very well.
The final stretch on to Farsley is always up hill, but I didnít even do this in the lowest gear, so clearly my energy tactics paid off. A quick selfie at the school and straight home to upload to Strava (else it never happened!) and post on Facebook so everyone knew I was safe before food.
Strava reports a 6,500 calorie burn Ė running a marathon reports at about 4,000 calories for me. Strangely Iíve not been hungry, as I normally have an insatiable appetite for days afterwards. How would you rebuild 6,500 calories? (pizza, burgers, pasta, sausagesÖ.)
A few summary stats:
153 miles; thatís like cycling from the West coast to the East Coast in northern England.
6,500 calories; about 12 big macs!
7,850 feet of climbing; Ben Nevis is only 4,411 feet.
Average speed 13.9mph; I blame the wind Ė I averaged 15mph gong to London, though less climbing and more shops!
Average heart rate 140bpm; thatís zone 2 of 5 (highest) for me.
Average power output 146W; about the same as a desktop PC and large monitor.