Go Long: Callum and I

Filed under go-long • Tagged: Cycling, Go long

A 105km stormy ride to Glastonbury, Cheddar and Chew Valley Lake. It took 4 hours 22 minutes at an average heart rate of 140bpm and an average speed of 24km/h, leaving a 2,092 calorie hole.

‘Go Long’ are short reports from my weekend mini-adventures on bike and foot, as I continue to train for more ultramarathons and Ironman. They are most likely of interest to other endurance masochists, as well as those looking for new running and cycling routes around Bath and Bristol.

The day before

I noticed I had a rear puncture again. Balls. I checked the tire and found yet another bit of flint. I fixed and re-inflated the tyre inside the house, as Callum was already kicking off outside.

A couple of minutes later, the tyre violently exploded, leaving everyone with ringing ears, and me as the least popular person in the house.

Tyre blowout
Tyre blowout

Argh. Once again, derailed before I’d even gotten out. I did some reading online and figured out that an explosion is only possible when part of the tube is outside the tyre. The latest bit of flint had left a gash in the tyre itself, so I guessed the tube has bulged through that. As a temporary fix (I need new tyres!) I used a puncture patch to seal the inside of the tyre, before putting a new tube in. No further explosions.

Getting back to the ride itself, I’d decided to go for 100km. The only problem was that we were still mid-storm.

Saturday, 5:30 am

  1. Creep down, eat breakfast. I make these the night before: granulated coffee (so I don’t have to boil a kettle in the morning), 1 heaped scoop of Huel, some chopped banana and some chocolate sauce and cacao nibs. Mix, leave it in the fridge. Carbs, protein and caffeine sorted. Probably about 350 calories, so not too heavy.
Huel cup
Huel cup
  1. Carefully remove anything squeaky from the dog’s toy box before setting him free.

  2. Escape. I got out at 6 exactly.

Callum was waiting for me. The winds were really strong—30mph, with gusts up to 50mph—but I felt unphased and ready.

The wind and rain got dramatically worse as I left Farrington Gurney. Without any houses or hedgerows, I was struggling to stay upright against the horizontal rain and wind. The A39 is very exposed—you can see for miles each side of it. Not a great choice in this weather, but I wanted something straight and familiar.

I ended up leaning uncomfortably far to my left just to offset the wind and keep going straight. If the wind had let up for a second I’d be on my arse. It didn’t let up for a second.

I continued to white knuckle it as the wind got stronger and my visibility got worse. I had to shut one eye as the wind was making the rain feel like light hail, and also like it might wash a contact lens out of my eye. Things got so loud that I could barely hear myself think. Was this a terrible idea?

It was still pitch black, and all I could see ahead were cat eyes, lit up like a runway to the sky.

No way I’ll keep up 25km/h. That was my goal, to complete 100km in 4 hours. But I could cut the end of the route short if I needed to. It felt like I was maxing out at 15km/h.

The wind was ferocious, but it was eerily warm. Callum’s one redeeming feature was his warmth. It had been 17 degrees throughout the night and all morning. Bizarre, but welcome. Freezing temperatures would have been too much to cope with.

Chewton Mendip provided some respite from the open A39, and I was glad for it. At Green Ore, I saw the sign for Cheddar—a left turn that would cut out an awful lot of miles. Very tempting, but I carried on straight, or at least as straight as I could ride.

The descent into Wells came quicker than I thought which was a relief. I cranked my front light to maximum so I could see as much as possible whilst bolting down the hill. As I came into Wells things were getting a bit lighter, and the wind was slightly less intense.

The route from Glasto to Cheddar is lovely, going through Meare and Westhay. It’s very open and has lots of small streams running across it. It reminds me of paddy fields in Vietnam. The rain had eased but Callum liked to remind me he was still here by occasionally catching my front wheel in a gust.

I stopped at Cheddar and washed a gel down with an energy bar. It was the first food in the 2 hours since I’d started, as there had been little chance to take my hands off the handlebars.

The Gorge was the biggest climb of this ride, but I always enjoy it. The Garmin GPS seemed to be off, and it decided to auto-pause on the steepest part of the ascent, which I thought was rude.

With some food in me and the worst of the storm seemingly past, I felt great. The middle of the Mendips were looking fine, but also very exposed. On reflection, I probably picked the most exposed route possible. Oops.

Burrington was fast and fun but I nearly overcooked a corner which woke me up with a fright. I saw my first cyclists as I left Compton Martin—about 3 hours after I’d started! I usually see so many out on the weekends.

I flew up the side of Chew lake with the wind at my back and then dun dun dun… Dundry. I haven’t ridden this in ages and forgot how much worse the second part is. Not a fun hill 85kms into a ride.

The lane along East Dundry was pretty horrible. Note to self: avoid. There are nice views but it’s full of gravel, potholes, fly-tipped garbage and finishes with a nasty, slippery descent. My forearms were on fire from holding the brakes on.

I cocked up one of my last turns towards home and ended up adding another 4km. I’d run out of water, gone off route, and was now feeling groggy and annoyed. The last part of the route was a slow climb to Hunstrete, which didn’t help. Callum sensed my weakness and fired up the wind and rain again.

Either way, I finally finished up at 105km. A great result, considering how awful the conditions were at the beginning. My average speed for the whole ride was 24km/h, which is impressive considering how slow things started and how bad the wind was throughout.

All of this might beg the question: why spend 4 hours riding through a storm? Well, I like a challenge. It’s fun going on solo adventures in tough conditions. I like surprising myself when it works out, and I’m sure I’m a better athlete and tougher human for it.

I also clearly impressed my watch, which told me to rest for the next three and a half days:

Garmin Fenix recovery time
Garmin Fenix recovery time

Refuel (In Style)

It’s my birthday tomorrow, so we went to The Pig, near Hunstrete. It’s hands down the best place to take a 2000 calorie deficit. I’m not sure about 3.5 days of rest, but my legs are certainly battered from pushing through the wind. For tomorrow, at least, I won’t be doing anything besides eating and opening presents.

—Dan Bartlett
10 Oct 2018

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