I’ve written on here before about my reasons for entering this event (Dragon Taming) and to be honest at the time it was one of those situations where you did it and then said to yourself that you will think about it later. That later was last Sunday 11th June and now as I sit here with sore knees and a small lump of metal as my medal, I am able to reflect upon the event a little more objectively than I perhaps could have done on Sunday.
It would be wrong to describe the ride itself at this point as I think photos do that so much better. Ultimately, I rode for 138 miles (224 km) across some mainly beautiful scenery and up some bloody big hills that I think I could justify being called mountains. It was hard, it was wet, it was windy but it was doable. What I wanted to do therefore was look back at it and ask myself what I gained from it and more importantly what I learned. So here, in no particular order of importance, are the things I know today that I didn’t know or fully appreciate on the morning of Sunday 11th June 2017.
1) I shouldn’t drink beer the night before.
2) Wales is beautiful. In places. The scenery was amazing and I felt I genuinely had the chance to enjoy it, to absorb it and at times to feel amongst it. As the shadows from the clouds danced across the lush green landscape I genuinely just rolled along looking around me taking it all in.
3) I should give myself some credit. Just because I was tired and knackered, doesn’t mean to say that I didn’t do well. I did. We all did, and I know, and certainly hope, that my friends are reflecting on their own ride and personal reasons for doing it with similar pride.
4) I didn’t need to worry about my bike. With a gear ratio of 36-28 to contend with the hills I was worried it wouldn’t give me enough spin to spin. On the Devil’s Elbow I could have done with the extra gear but I think I would have a higher cadence but no more speed.
5) I over-dressed. At times I was wearing a full sleeve rain coat on top of a gilet. Stopping to remove it sounds all very well, but when you ride with other riders you only really want to stop at a scheduled stop or when they did, which means you invariably sweat it out a bit.
6) Cold boiled potatoes dipped in salt never tasted so good. Ever.
7) I have some great mates. There were many people cycling alone and I honestly couldn’t have done that. In fact, I wouldn’t have entered if nobody else I know did and I’m even more sure of that now Only the rider next to you knows how you feel and whether that’s sharing a grin as you race down a hill at 45 mph, or grimacing as you go up the 10% gradient that took you there it doesn’t matter. Having someone to slap you on the back at the finish line is all very well, but the invisible hand that pushes you along is much stronger.
8) Cycling is very mental. Literally. At the end of the ride, with 8 miles to go myself, Tony & Graham probably did our best and certainly our fastest riding out of the nearly 10 hours that we were out there. Quite how and why this happens I must put down to the elation of being near the finish but at that time, as we raced along past the steel works of Port Talbot I felt unstoppable and at my very very best.
9) I felt good about raising money for charity. It wasn’t the reason I entered and it wasn’t even my intention to do so. However, sad circumstances brought about a change of view and as I stood in the MacMillan tent at the end of the ride I felt some satisfaction knowing I did a little to help people who do a lot.
11) Human Race put on an excellent event. It’s easy to find fault when you are asked to do a survey or review an event, but in all honesty they had clearly thought of as much as they could and everyone was doing their best to make sure the event went well. No doubt they have their own list of things they would change, and as long as it’s not the removal of the boiled potatoes dipped in salt I think I could cope.
12) Other cyclists can’t put gel wrappers in their pockets. I’ve never ever seen a cyclist drop a gel wrapper on purpose and I certainly don’t think that anyone did this time either. But too many people seem incapable of the simple task of lifting their gilet or jacket to put a wrapper in their pocket. My only assumption is that many of these riders were very tired or simple not used to having to navigate around their jacket to get to their pockets, but in truth I am making excuses for them as it shouldn’t happen. Even full gels were on the floor which fundamentally means people rode with too much in their pockets.
13) I love what I think is a Clif Shot Bloks. My friend Andy gave me a jelly cube type of gel and to have that in my mouth as I rode was a pleasure I very much needed when things got tough. The flavour slowly slithered into my blood stream let alone my mouth and I will be buying some of these at the earliest opportunities.
14) I like Didi the Devil. He made the start of this ride something special and I hope the organisers who did this realise just how important this is to this event.
15) I look nothing like the cyclist I feel I look when I review the various Sportscam.net event photos.