First Solo Fifty

Last week I set off on my first 50km solo ride – I’d ridden 50km before but never seemed to get over 35 when out by myself. Since I”m planning to do 100km later this year I really need to start increasing my distance/time on the bike which means I need to take longer solo rides.

I planned my route on Komoot and set aside Tuesday afternoon to complete the ride – the total distance, according to my plotted route, was 49.8km and I figured I could just ride up and down the road a bit at the end to make it up to 50km. The problem with my plan is that Komoot is a lying lier! My ride as logged on my Garmin was only 42km! I suppose I could have added an extra loop at the end but psychologically I’d done the planned route and was finished. Not a happy bunny.

Anyway, not to be deterred I had time on Wednesday morning this week to try again. The weather was on my side and I didn’t need to be anywhere else. This time I plotted out a rough route on Strava so that I had a feel of where 50km took me and decided to just wing it rather than follow an exact route.

I was quite nervous at the thought of cycling for 2.5 hours – not sure why, I’ve done it before. It seemed silly to be anxious but I’ve only been doing shorter rides since the start of the year and I’ve been having “sensitivity issues” (but that’s a whole other post). I squashed those nerves into a little ball of excitement and got myself ready.

Checked my Bike Box:

The Bike Box (an orange box full of essentials)

My Bike Box is where I keep all the stuff I need for a ride – an attempt to organise myself and keep all my kit in one place. So, to quote Brad Pitt – what’s in the box? My helmet; shoes; gloves; in winter my shoe covers go in but these have been put away for now; pac-a-mac; glasses – both cycling goggles and proper glasses in case I lose a contact lens; Velopac* containing debit card, emergency fiver, lip balm, face mask, phone and cereal bar; chain oil; and my Emotional Support Banana. I think that’s everything and obviously I don’t carry all this on the bike.

(*I love my Velopac – it is just the right size to fit in the back pocket of a cycling jersey and holds a surprisingly large amount of stuff. And it’s waterproof so I don’t have to worry about my phone getting soaked if I get caught in a shower.)

My emergency repair kit – spare inner tube, CO2 canister, tyre levers, antiseptic wipes etc go in my spare water bottle (in summer they go in a saddle bag as I’ll need the spare bottle for water). Nails and jersey match my bike accessories – I’m ready to go.

Matchy matchy red accessories (hmmm, bike needs a clean) – My tummy looks weird, I’m not really that bizarre shape.

It was short drive to the start of the route. I used to feel weird putting my bike in the car to go for a ride. I’ve mentioned in other posts that I live at the top of a sodding great hill and there’s nothing more likely to make me delay a ride than the thought of ending the ride with a sodding great hill. So I have a couple of regular parking spots where I can leave the car for a couple of hours and it makes a big psychological difference.

The ride itself was good, a little chilly to start – glad I had my gloves. The first climb was about 10km in – there were two hills on this ride – at 10km and 48km (I know, I drive to avoid ending on a climb and instead do a route that ends on a climb!). Anyway, the first hill: Strava Segment “reservoir killer climb” – I can use this to see if I am actually getting better at hills. Chuffed to bits to see that last August this section took my 6:27 and yesterday I managed it in 5:20 – and more importantly didn’t need to stop at the top and I don’t think I’d turned purple. This set me up nicely for the rest of the ride as it really did feel like I was going well.

The rest of the ride is relatively flat and only sees a short stretch in high traffic – which of course is relative, we’re still officially in lockdown so traffic is greatly reduced. There is still the odd impatient arse who has to squeeze past but generally I find the majority of drivers round here cycle friendly.

I promised myself that I would stop and have a conversation with my Emotional Support Banana at 25km. This coincided with when I came through Carthorpe. However, I didn’t really need to stop and wanted to push on – so I went a further 3km on to Kirklington and had a little stop at the village green.

My Emotional Support Banana did what it needed to do:

ESB: We who are about to be eaten salute you!

Me: It is with gratitude that we accept your sacrifice. Now, follow your destiny.

Then I ate it.

Belly full of carbs and raring to go I flew through the next few kilometres. My route brought me back towards Carthorpe from the opposite direction, I cycle between my car parking spot and Carthorpe regularly and know that it would be approximately 8km back to the car from here. I’d only done 36km so was going to fall short if I carried on this route – I had considered adding a loop through the village of Thornton Watlass at the end but this is the way of torture – I have a strange mental block with Thornton Watlass hill, it’s not particularly long or steep but I think it hates me. Instead I decided to continue my route to Snape (yes, our local villages sound like Harry Potter characters) then do a U-turn and retrace my steps for a short stretch before going through Well and then up Snape Bank and back to my starting point. I like riding round Well and Snape – it’s quite flat, one of the farm lanes has recently been repaved and is beautifully smooth and I like to shout hello at all the animals as I pass.

Geese, cows, sheep – only the sheep usually reply so you can imagine my surprise as I rode past a Border Collie, shouted “Hello Dog” and was answered with a call of “Hello Bike” (an unnoticed farmer, I nearly fell off my bike!).

On to the home straight – not very straight, not taking me home – but I was in the last 5km. A ninja shot past me (I think with hindsight he wasn’t a real Ninja, just an apprentice) and shouted a chirpy “keep going”, which usually would have had me smiling but today I whispered a little curse because that’s what I do when I’m tired – “what did he think I was going to do? lie down on the verge and give up?”. To be fair he was passing me whilst cycling into a head wind that was taking quite a lot out of me, and I was dozying about talking to some chickens I’d just seen at the side of the road.

Final left turn, 48km – Snape Bank, 3km of relentless up. I know this hill well – I used it last Autumn for doing intervals when I wanted to improve my climbing fitness. It starts fairly gently and stays fairly gentle but drains your muscles and tries to make your glutes cry. I know how to pace myself and actually, in a strange way, enjoy this hill. I knew that I would pass the 50km mark before I got to the top and this further spurred me to keep going. Legs spinning, keeping a nice pace, watching my Garmin counting up the meters towards 50 – I was quite excited. And then the magic number appeared – I gave a little cheer, checked how much hill was left in front of me and then I saw the ninja! (This is why I don’t think he was a real ninja – just a man in ninja clothing. Ninjas don’t let me catch up.) He obviously didn’t know the hill and was flagging and I was catching him up! Could I get past him? I never go past anyone! It turns out that yes, I can pass the ninja (“Pass the Ninja on the left hand side” – my new ear worm). I was tempted to shout “Keep going” as I went by but decided that was churlish and instead gave a cheery hello. Gave myself another little cheer – inside voice this time – and pushed on up to my parking spot.

Strava recored my ride at 51.7 km but in reality it was nearer 52 – for some reason there’s a gap of about 200m at the start of my ride. I was chuffed to bits to get it done and am spurred on for taking on greater distances. I’ll have this 100km ride in the bag – one day.

Since I’m completely incapable of adding a Strava widget if you want to see my route you’ll have to follow this link:

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