Breeze Ride to Hill Climb in 7 Days

 

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Photo: Robert Riley

Hill climbs. One of the most feared events in cycling? Riding full gas up a hill for fun. A few minutes of pain for an hour of feeling sick. “You’d never catch me doing that” I always said, yet here I am getting ready for my first ever hill climb… the Horseshoe Pass hill climb.

Lucy and I were talking when she hit me with “fancy the Horseshoe Pass hill climb in a couple of weeks?” Absolutely not I thought!

1, I’ve only been on my bike a couple of times in the last month.

2, No way am I fast enough.

3, The Horseshoe Pass? No way!

Nevertheless here I am entering just a few hours before entries close.

Monday 1st October

The realisation hit me like a bus that I’ve only been on my bike 4 times since August and I’ve only got 6 days left until race day! So I did a 15 minute HIIT session on the turbo… like that was going to help!

Sunday 7th October

It’s the big day. It’s hill climb day. And it’s 4⁰C!

Warm up HPHH

Upon arriving at sign on, the sound of turbo trainers echoed like a swarm of bees. My nerves quickly erupted, my stomach was full of butterflies and I didn’t want to do it. Why? Because of the fear of coming last and looking like a fool. Thanks to Lucy who reassured me that it’s all about getting to the top and not how quickly you get there I collected my number, did my warm up then rode down to the start. With every tick of the seconds hand my start time was drawing nearer. My nerves were creeping up on me again.

Then it was time…

30…15…10…5…4…3…2…1…GO!!!!

“UP, UP, UP!”

A few minutes in and my lungs were already burning, my legs were heavy and I wanted to stop. The road felt steeper than it had ever done before. I was passed by a couple of people who flew up the hill, making it look easy. Spectators on the side of the road were clapping and roaring shouts of encouragement to every rider who passed. Over ¾ of the way up I felt like I was drowning. Trying to take in oxygen but it was never enough and the cold air made it hard to breathe.

HPHH 44 Sprint

Nearly there and there’s people everywhere! I could see their mouths moving but all I could hear was my heart pounding. Looking down at my Garmin I saw my heart rate was at 204bpm!

100m to go. So close.

75m. Don’t stop now.

50m. Keep going.

25m. Final push.

Done!

It took me a while to catch my breath and my words were few and far between. The wave of relief which was more like a tsunami washed right over me. I did it. Despite the unpleasantness of the ride to the top, I loved it and wanted to do it again. We stayed at the finish for a while cheering the other riders on.

Overall, I came 113th out of 144, won the prize for the fastest mixed team (vet, lady and junior) with Oswestry Paragons and was treated to the biggest (and nicest) piece of cake known to man at the Ponderosa Cafe afterwards! On the whole I had a great day and can’t wait until next year.

Lucy and Lucy 2

The thing I loved most about it was that it didn’t matter how fast/slow/young/old you were, everyone was given the same amount of encouragement. Everybody was so kind and helpful, reminiscing on their first hill climb and wanting you to do your best. It didn’t matter what time you did it in or what kind of equipment you had, it was all about getting to the top. Everyone suffered equally and were all praised for how hard they tried. I learnt that it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are, the fact that you just put the effort in to do it is something to be proud of. And at the end of the day, no matter how slow you go, you’re still overlapping everyone on the sofa!

Were you in the hill climb and haven’t found any photos yet? Click here

Fords and Lamb Tails

I’ve not written on here for a while and I’m really sorry about that! Being in the middle of exams my mind has been on other things, but I couldn’t leave it any longer.

I was still unsure on whether to go out when I woke up this morning. Surely I should get some more revision done? Yet waking up to more awful news, it only highlighted how important it is to find the balance between working and living is.


So I was off with the plan of going to Llangollen and back, although my legs were not a huge fan of my decision! It was clear I’d not ridden up any big hills for a while.

Thankfully it was sunny. I doubt I would have got very far if it was raining, especially with my legs aching minutes in.

It felt almost alien being on my bike with the amount of swimming I’ve been doing lately. It’s mad how the tables of turned. I’ve always loved cycling and running with swimming being ok. I could swim, but for all of one length. Now I’d say my swimming is stronger than my run!

I’ve always had an issue with one side of my body being stronger than the other, particularly my core. However, I think swimming is slowly sorting this out. Thanks to a Swim2Fit session at Total Fitness, where he coach got me breathing on both sides. 

This was one of the things that felt alien on the bike, my core seemed to be working differently than normal. Or maybe all of what I’ve just said is some random theory I’ve made up and it’s just absence from cycling being the issue! 

So I’m cycling along, legs hurting, but it was just nice to be outside. That’s the only thing with revision, it never really works outside.

It was a quiet Sunday morning and it was becoming a pleasant solo ride. Sometimes solo rides and time to yourself become rather enjoyable, whether you think you need time away from everything or not. I could change route whenever and explore places I’d not seen yet. I was crossing my fingers however that I wouldn’t get lost!

That’s why I’ve been swimming so much lately. It doesn’t require a lot of thinking. I can completely switch off in the pool. I did the same on my bike. All that was on my mind was what turning to take next! Not Airframe materials or the construction of aircrafts. I love those topics, but sometimes you just need a break! 

I was meandering through the moors towards World’s End, which isn’t all that far from Llandegla. The further I got into the hills, the quieter it became. Little fluffy lambs and their full tummies still with fur that’s crystal white. Some would dart off into the heather, others would stare at me in horror having no idea where to run. My legs were already dead at this point, so it’s not like I was going very fast!


I would have loved to take some photos of them, but I think it was a better idea to keep my legs turning the pedals…

It was soon time to start the descent towards Llangollen, but there was the tackling of a Ford to get across first…which thankfully happened with no dramas! So I could relax and carry on down the country lanes with scrag rock dominating the skyline on one side, and tall trees on the other.


The temptation to take photos was too much! I wish I could find a small enough DSLR to carry round with me on my bike though. iPhone photos never really do Wales justice!


Getting towards Crow Castle in Llangollen, I wanted to visit a cafe Ryan’s mentioned in the past. It was a lovely cafe, but didn’t take cards. And my card is all I had. So I had to cope with a banana and a Cliff Bar I’d thankfully packed instead. The kettle would be going on as soon as I got home however!


Rather than head to the Horseshoe Pass like I’d originally planned, I decided to stick to the country lanes to make my way back towards home. I just wish I could have navigated my route a bit better so I could stay on the country lanes longer. 

The route ended up being 38 miles, which is the longest route I’ve done for a while. I got home eventually…

Running On Empty

Waking up with a head cold I very nearly ended up curled up on the sofa to spend my Sunday watching films. After taking a rather long time to drag myself out of bed, Ryan and I were soon heading to the Welsh hills for an off road ride.


Ryan on a cyclocross bike and me on my hardtail. He’s bonkers…I know.


Following a natural loop I’ve done a few times before now, there was a lot more climbing than I remember. Long country lanes, a mossy ford and plenty of singletrack later the Welsh hills soon got the better of me.


With probably enough tools between us to fix most mechanicals, it was the engine that was the problem. Lack of food and cold winds…the engine was slowly giving up!


Getting back to the cafe at Llandegla it wasn’t a case of wanting food, but needing food. Sharing chilli chips (they ran out of Nacho’s) and a Burger between us, the food didn’t last very long at all. 

So despite feeling a bit rough this morning, we ended up having a great day out.