8000 feet of climbing sounds tough on paper but nothing can prepare you for the sheer brutality of the North Pembrokeshire hills.
Cycing from St Davids, the smallest city in the UK thanks to its cathedral, the route circled North Pembrokeshire dipping into beaches and bays such as Poppit Sands and Newport at sea level, only to take us ascending up the highest passes in the area. Even the downhills were no respite where concentration and nerves of steel were needed to decend safely.
Personal challenges and a greulling day of cycling was shared by several hundred cyclists at the 2012 Tour of Pembrokeshire. A massive well done to Megan, Adrian, Shan, Sam and Sonia, who took on the challenge of the Pembrokeshire hills and all pushed beyond their own personal comfort zones.
Disaster struck when we missed a route marker and inadvertently ascended a major climb, unnecesarily adding half an hour to our ride. At this point, which was about 30 miles into the 100 mile loop, I had quite a low moment. I was really frustrated that we had been doing so well, our average speed was well up on the same route a few weeks back, and we had lost all this time.
In hindsight, putting this silly error into perspective it seems trivial, but in my mind, knowing i had another 70-80 extremely hilly miles to go it seemed like a big deal. Maybe I was tired going into the event, but I really did want to pootle back home at that point and it took all my mental toughness to keep going.
My feeling of frustrations were taken out on the following hills and my pacing strategy went out of the window as I put all my might into the next few hills. Had this been an Ironman event that would have been a huge mistake, and even today with no marathon to run it was silly for as the ride prgressed i sensed the deep persistent aching that will be familiar to those of us who push to the limit in high intensity interval training sessions.
Thinking a little more logically at this point I decided - had no choice - but to pace myself properly and hope to recover for a strng comfortable second half of the ride. To my surprise, i did feel better at about 60 miles in until the finish.
Hills hills hills was the order of the day and wether I am weakening in my older age, or i just no longer have the mental toughness for the hills I used to relish, but by the last third of the ride I was not seeing the funny side. Don't get me wrong, the scenery is spectacular over the Preseli hills. We call it Lord Of The Rings countryside, and your hard work on the ascents is certainly rewarded with a great view at the top. My problem was that i was ill-prepared for the ride, just rocking up without properly thinking about it and seriously underestimating the challenge.
I certainly have taken some valuable lessons home with me:
1. Fitness is reversable, and just because you have cycled 100 miles hilly ride without battering an eyelid in the past, if the training has not been specific you will suffer on event day.
2. Check your route.
3. Have a strategy or mantra to cope wih challenge or adversity. Don't let the emotion or frustration of finding something diifficult cloud your judgement. Have a plan and be clear about your goal. I was certainly unclear and had no goal on this occasion. My goal really today was enjoyment, so was an extra half hour of extremely hilly cycling really a negative? No, it was just more time in the saddle which is a good thing. If I'd been clear about my goal of enjoyment, I'd have enjoyed the ride a lot more I think.
So there we have it, a great day out in hind sight and a well organised event. Thank you for supplying Welsh Cakes at all the aid stations they were very much appreciated, as was the water and energy drink. A great training ride for the Ironman Wales in September this year.
Like this post? then like this post below. Or comment, I'd love to hear how you got on at the Tour of Pembrokeshire Sportive...