Saturday, October 1, 2011

My first 100 Mile Ride

I decided on a Thursday afternoon at work in September 2010 that I was going to do a 100 mile ride. I had a beat up old Mountain Bike (A Muddy Fox) with a rack, lights, compass, trip computer and bar ends. The bike also had virtually slick 26 x 1.75" road tires which significantly reduced rolling road resistance, these are highly recommended for doing decent road miles. I had done a 70 mile trip previously with a couple of stops during that trip around Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire UK.

I used a similar bike to this one
I read up a lot that lunch time on what the requirements were. I decided that I needed to be physically and nutritionally prepared as it seemed a really daunting task. I had been doing plenty of riding and was in good shape as I had been increasing the distance of my rides over the previous few months 10, 20, 30, 50 Miles. I dropped 30 Lbs in my first year of riding!

The biggest thing for me that got me ready for it was a nutritional technique called Carb Loading. This is something that professional athletes do before big endurance races. I will discuss Carb Loading in a separate post but suffice to say I highly recommend it. What it boils down to is stuffing your self with high carb pasta meals in the day or two preceding your event.

The Route & The Ride
Route Map Here
Bedford to Oxford, England - 100 Mile Round Trip
I decided to ride from Bedford, England (where I used to live) to Oxford, England and back as this would give me a total of around 100 Miles and was a sensible mile stone location to ride to. After deciding to do this on the Thursday afternoon I started the ride straight after work on the Friday. I was well rested on the Thursday night in preparation for this ride and felt pretty good about it.

I broke the route down into 4 detailed maps and made it as cross country as possible to make sure I stayed as out of the way of traffic as much as possible. I noticed the B51 bike route went on virtually the same route as me. On the way back I thought I might try and pick this up as it would be safer.

The route its self was really good as it took me through lots of different and very picturesque villages and country side. I had 4 large bottles of Lucozade sport isotonic energy drink and two large packs of wine gums which were eaten at very regular intervals to keep glucose and energy levels up.

Lucozade Sport - Energy Drink
Well, my mapping worked and I followed my route really well. I got to Oxford just before dark. I left work at about 4PM and had got to Oxford for about 8PM. I was quite pleased with my self and felt really good at this point. I tried to keep my speed to around 13 - 15 MPH and not over exert myself. I stopped for 5 minutes total and had a chicken and mushroom pie at a gas station and then set off back the way I had just come.

Through most of the way back I remembered each country road and turn I had used and found my way back OK. I made a couple of wrong turns and had to find areas where there was light to read my map and compass. It is very difficult to read a map and a compass in the pitch black of the countryside so I had to keep stopping and removing my map to hold it in front of my light. Nowadays I use a helmet mounted light (see below) which is much better and makes map reading while riding a breeze.

After a couple of hours riding (around 10PM) it started to get quite cold but there wasn't much I could do about it. At this time I only had a small plastic bag with my drinks and some food in on the rear rack. Now I always carry spare warm and waterproof clothing and have several luggage panniers for storage.

After a while I came back to the out skirts of Milton Keynes at around 11:30 and I had seen some more signs for the B51 route through a couple of villages. I decided it made sense to use the B51 rather than going on main roads. This seemed good for a while but then the B51 stopped being signed and came to a T junction (intersection). There were no signs! I could here the major free way in the distance and new roughly where I was so I guessed thinking I had the right route. Well after a few miles I ended up down a farm road that ran out. Needless to say, cold and tired I was not very happy about this! I had to turn back and find the road again.

I eventually made it back home at 1 AM. It had taken me 9 hours and ended up being 111.3 Miles which gives me an average speed of 12.36 MPH. For my first 100 mile trip that was not too bad and was about what I had expected - 12 MPH was average was my goal.

It took my at least 3 hours to warm up after being wrapped up warm, when I got off the bike I could hardly open my hands from the grips. The last couple of hours shifting gears was quite painful. 

When I got back I had an enormous sense of achievement which far outweighed any of the negatives of this ride. I learned that when doing long distances there really isn't much difference between 100 and 110. What I mean there is, once you have racked up a significant amount of miles, doing an extra 20 miles doesn't seem to be an issue. It really is a case of being prepared and have a determined mind set.

Mistakes Made & Lessons Learned

Map & compass not so easy to see in the dark!
The biggest mistakes I made here were not being prepared properly. I wore only a pair of cycling shorts and a t-shirt as we had just had some decent weather. I didn't check the forecast and the temperature had dropped quite a bit towards the end of the week. As a good portion of this trip was done late at night and in the early hours the temperature dropped down to about 40 F.
Furthermore, because of this I did not perspire as much as expected but I continued to take in a lot of fluids as I thought I needed them. I ended up drinking far too much and having to stop regularly to "deal" with this issue.

Light and solar chargers for MPS, cell phones, Ipods etc
Also, I learned that it is very difficult to read a map and a compass when it is dark and you are in the middle of the country side! I mounted a light to my helmet so I can look down at my map and compass. This is possibly the single biggest and most useful modification I have made - I highly recommend it! I also use Pico Freeloader solar chargers on my helmet (Bell Avanti) now as they can keep cell phones and Ipods etc charged up on long trips without any other power source.

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