I decided to sign up for this event as I wanted a challenge. There were three distances to choose from – 13, 26 and 52 miles. I knew that I could do 13 miles so that was out, so decided to go for the 26 miles (there was no way I was going to do 52 miles and my legs not fall off!).
Each distance had to complete the same 13 mile course. The 13 milers once, 26 milers twice and 52 milers 4 times. This also influenced my decision of which distance as I know I’m not keen on loops when running, so knew the same would apply to cycling (an how right I turned out to be).
The 26 mile event was due to start at 11.40 am on Jubilee Bank Holiday Monday. I decided to get the train to Manchester and cycle from the station to the start. I knew it would be roughly a 2 miles journey so a nice little warm up beforehand.
The day was bright and sunny so I felt better that the rain from the day before had gone. I got to the train station in plenty of time to find that my train had been cancelled and the next train was going to be late. As it turned out the cancelled train turned up about 15 minutes late so panic over.
Once in Manchester I cycled to the venue and arrived there roughly half an hour before the start of our event. It took me what seemed like an age to reach the back of the queue at the start line. There were allsorts of bikes and allsorts of riders. Never seen so many different bikes in one place before, from racing bikes to folding bikes you name it, it was probably there!
Everyone was chatting and looking ready to be off. The time seemed to pass quickly. Finally we started moving forward. It took around 5 – 10 minutes to just get to the start. It was chip timed so no need to worry about that getting added to the finish time.
And so we were finally off. I didn’t end up crashing into anyone and causing a massive pile up at the start (which is secretly what I thought I would probably do, me being less than dainty at the best of times).
The route was fairly up and down but nothing as bad as Newbrook Road and Millers Lane which I had used as my hill training along with the East Lancs. The only really difficult part of the route was at Salford Quays where we were filtered one and two at a time through a gate, had a sharp right turn coming back on ourselves and a left 90 degree turn over a bridge and through bollards. I was so glad I only had to do that section twice. I had read the route description and knew that this section was going to have some tight turns and were told to slow down right down. Knowing how bad my steering can be a low speeds I did some training around this and on tight turns. I was so glad that I did. I am proud of myself just for getting round that section without falling off my bike or just walking that bit. A few months ago that would have been a real challenge for me to complete.
Once I had completed the first loop (13 miles) I knew what was coming up for me for the last half of the event so knew where I could push and where to ease up. I also had a good plan in place for dealing with Salford Quays the second time round.
I stopped off at the water/feed station on the second loop for a drink and quick snack before setting off again. I didn’t realise how tired my legs were till I got off my bike. I didn’t linger for long though as I knew I wouldn’t get going again if I stayed too long. I also knew that I was, at this point, only about 5-6 miles from the end so that spurred me on.
The last mile or so was all up a very gradual hill, I tried to get my tired legs too peddle faster but just couldn’t get there. I didn’t slow down though, so that kept my spirits high. This was my longest ever bike ride and I wasn’t even thinking of giving up, no resting and walking. My official finishing time was 1:57:49. I was telling people it was going to take me well over 2 hrs to complete it which I truly believed. I was determined to take it easy, do my best and enjoy it. I did all three and came in with a time about 20 mins better than I thought I would do, so to say I am proud of my achievement is an understatement. To some this may not be fast or much of a challenge, but to me it was a big challenge that I have achieved.
All in all I really did enjoy the event and it was well organised. Would I do it again? Yes I think I would. This made a perfect first cycle event for me and I think would for anyone else too. For the more experienced I think it gives the challenge of the longer route or trying for a personal best on the shorter events.