From the beginning of the year I've had my heart set on riding a 130 mile ride. This year the magazine is marking its 130th anniversary in a variety of ways. We've launched a heritage range of cycling kit with Milltag, heritage merchandise and published a special edition of the magazine listing 130 of the most influential people in cycling. So it's been a busy year.
And as I've enjoyed being fitter than previous years as I chase down the 5,000 mile total and do a bit of racing, the 130 mile ride seemed do-able. Covering the distance was a nice way for me to mark the magazine's history and pay homage to the 12 editors that have come before me.
The trouble is I don't do many big rides these days. A young family means my riding is kept to shorter, sharper efforts, and a lot of them on a turbo. Around half my miles have been ridden indoors this year, but as hard as those efforts are they are not ideal preparation for spending hours in the saddle.
I rode 93 miles in May with a friend and got round okay. But add almost 40 miles on top of that, take away a wheel to sit on, and it's a whole different level.
But I'd set myself that goal, and to help my motivation I also set it as a June challenge for all CW5000 riders. I try and complete as many of the monthly challenges as possible (I've managed nine out of 12 so far), so here was an added incentive.
My first task was to find a suitable route. Living at the base of the North Downs I basically had to start going uphill, but after that wanted to avoid as many of the short, steep climbs that pepper my local routes as possible. I opted to head out towards Petworth in West Sussex, then turn south east towards Brighton, cutting through the south downs at Steyning, before heading north again. I plotted the route in Komoot and linked it to my Wahoo. Having directions fed to you makes a big ride, partly on roads I don't know, takes some of the mental effort out of the ride.
The realisation of how long I would be in the saddle for hit me around 1-20hr in to the ride. I came across a group from Trinity Sport and had a couple of hundred metres sitting on their wheels, talking to one of the ride leaders. After I told him I was out for a 130 mile ride he asked how far I'd done. We both laughed when I told him I was just one hour 20 minutes in.
Several hours later, as I climbed Ditchling Road out of Brighton, was the first time serious doubts started creeping in. I was over the half way point but genuinely started to think I might not make it.
A water bottle refill in Ditchling got me going again and I managed to continue riding at a steady pace, following the route on my Wahoo heading north through East Sussex.
I knew things were going bad again when I started thinking about turning off my navigation and heading home on the roads I know. There's something strangely comforting about knowing what's coming up. I can mentally prepare myself for any climbs and know what shops or petrol stations are on route in case of emergency.
It didn't take long before I hit rock bottom. I should have seen it coming. I was out of food and drink and now knew I couldn't face sticking to the route that wasn't taking me directly home.
I stopped at a Costcutter to refuel and consider my options.
As I have to avoid gluten in my diet, I sometimes struggle to find suitable food when stopping on route. And in Sharpthorne I'd managed to find what could be the smallest convenience store in the south of England. My options were severely limited, but even then my I can't explain my purchases. For reasons that I'm still not 100 per cent clear on I went for a big back of tangy cheese Doritos, a mint magnum and a litre and half of water. When you're running on empty it's surprising what food items your eyes draw you towards.
Perhaps you instinctively know what you need.
Before my nutritional strategy had kicked in I'd made the decision to turn off the navigation on my Wahoo and head home on the roads I know, thinking that actually, I could live with a 112 mile ride.
But as the miles ticked by my legs came round. Either the Doritos and mint Magnum were a previously undiscovered refuelling masterstroke or my body was just responding to anything put inside it.
I started re-routing in my head. What other routes could I take home that weren't too hilly, kept options open for more changes of direction, and would get me nearer the distance. I knew that the nearer I got to 130 the easier it would be to keep adding a mile here or a loop there to get nearer to the total.
Eventually I got to the end of my road. I could turn left and be home in five minutes. In the shower in six and eating food a few minutes after that.
But I was so close. My computer showed 122.4 miles and I knew how annoyed I'd be if I got that close and didn't do what I set out to do. I had to keep going.
So I turned right.
My next task was to calculate my route as I watched the distance (slowly at this time) increase. Call me daft, but I wanted to do a 130 mile ride. Not 131 miles, not 129 miles. I was reminded of a Chris Boardman anecdote about how he was so committed to hitting the numbers in the training sessions that his coach Peter Keen had set him that he'd sometimes ride the final minutes with his brakes partially on in order to do so.
While I couldn't care less about my average power on this ride, that number of 130 was significant to me and this was realistically my only chance this year to do it.
Thankfully around my home town there are lots of roads, meaning slightly longer or shorter routes from A-B are easy to find. I ploughed on as I again re-routed in my head and eventually pulled up outside my house with 130.36 miles on the clock.
I'd done it. 130 miles ridden. 130 years of Cycling Weekly honoured and another CW5000 challenge ticked off the list. A good day out in the saddle. And to celebrate I treated myself to one last mouthful of Doritos from the pack I'd stuffed in my pocked just in case.
Well done to everyone who managed to complete this challenge.
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