Monday, June 28, 2010

Dartmoor Classic

This might be quite a long one so bear with me.....I want to note everything down for my own records as much as anything!!

Yesterday I did the Dartmoor Classic, a 105.5 mile sportive with 10,000 - 11,000 feet of climbing (depending on where you look)! It is brutally hard and last year it took me 8 hours 14 minutes in perfect conditions, I had cramp, aches and pains and was sure I was hallucinating at one point! Hence my trepidations at this year!

I'll start at the beginning of the weekend because build-up is key! As you can read in my previous posts I had a little taper leading up to this and on friday night some friends came over for some beers and fajitas which was a relaxing start to the weekend - I didn't sleep great on Friday night due to the heat but after popping to town and preparing my pasta and stuff I spent Saturday morning in front of the rugby relaxing! I ate 8 salad, mayo and sweet-chili sauce wraps between about 9.30 and two o'clock to get some carbs in me and drank water constantly, we left about two and had a hot 2.5 hour drive down to south Devon, I added a nuun tablet to a 1.5 litre water bottle and sipped that all the way down!

When we arrived it was still so so hot, we pitched the tents and registered - had a little wander around the event village and then set the bikes up to check they were good to go! We then took them apart again and put them in the car (forgot a lock)! I ate half my tub of pasta at 6 ish and then some more about 7 - we then had some rice pudding and diet coke in the village! I was a bit worried at this point as I felt pretty bloated and couldn't got to the loo! Anyway a cold shower cooled us down and we chilled out in the evening sun till about 10 before trying to sleep - I struggled at first (I dislike camping) possibly due to the caffeine in the coke! Eventually I fell asleep and got about 7 hours of average sleep! My back was sore when I woke up and I was freezing but soon improved as we got everything together! Still couldn't go the loo, so just decided to worry about it out on the moor....

Before we set out I had about 4 of Tam's amazing flapjacks and a bottle of water with a scoop of infint powder! I wanted to try out different nutrition so I took two 750 ml bottles of 2 scoop infinit, two mule bars, two powerbar gels and a tube of nuun! With infinit - you aren't supposed to need anything else but in 28 degree heat and not having used it before I wasn't risking it! So off we set in the third wave just after 7 am and it was fantastically cool in the morning sun!

The first climb up to the moor went without incident, a bit of drag to get the blood pumping and a nice bit of leg burn, from there we wound on up and down through various villages before the long steep descent to Ashburton, over a bridge and the first killer climb at about 22 miles, this is 14% at its steepest and averages about 11% for 1.8 kms so you know about it! I was really worried about this because last year I had a compact chainst with a 34 tooth front ring and struggled - this year I had a double chainset with a 39........however being a stone lighter and fitter makes an incredible difference, being able to turn a bigger gear meant I was fastest up to the top on most of the hills! My friend, Gully, who I was riding with though wasn't ready and a week of illness meant he got bad cramp as the hill levelled out, he did amazing just to get up and carry on - this was to haunt him for the rest of the day!

From that nasty ol'bugger it was a long 10 miles dragging up to Princetown (one of the highest towns in the UK) and the first feed station at 32 miles! I had already had a gel, and gone through both bottles and although that last 10 miles takes it out the legs, within minutes I was feeling fresh! I filled one bottle with SIS energy drink and the other with water and a Nuun tablet, scoffed a slice of flapjack and was ready to hit the road! We then took the long descent off Princetown to Tavistock and then the steep hill out of Tavistock, once again pushing the big gear I was able to scoot up and blitz it - don't get me wrong it was hurting big time but it was easier to spin the gear faster rather than the slow plod which requires more power! It hurt more to go slowly, there were no heroics involved - believe me!

By this point, 45 odd miles in, my back was pretty sore and Gully was suffering really badly with the cramp in both glutes, quads, hamstrings, one calf and one tricep - he was hydrating well and taking on all the right stuff but couldn't shake it - his grit to keep moving was amazing! Because I was waiting for him at the top of the hills I got a nice rest every now and again - leading to dilemma, I'll explain at the end!

We then trickled on to a water stop at 62 miles, I just filled one bottle up this time with water and a nuun tablet, also polished off a mule bar and a gel - I knew what was up ahead! unfortunately I stopped my Garmin!

We then hit the beastly steep hill (which signals the start of about 10 miles of climbing to princetown) a few miles later which again is 13% steepest and 10% ave. for about 2 kms, I got half way up and there were two cars stuck trying to pass each other so I had to stop - no sooner had I unclipped than they waved me through the little gap....uh oh once stopped, starting again on a steep hill is nigh on impossible! Eventually I clipped in and squeezed pass to cheers and clapping from the cars, this was a really nice touch and spurred me on the the crest of the hill where more spectators were clapping! I rested there for a minute or two for gully (he was returning back to form now) and we carried on, I then realised my Garmin mistake so I'd missed about 5.8 miles and some 2000 odd feet of climbing!

Nevermind - straight away we were in the really nasty Porc hill, its again about 13% steepest and averages about 8% ish I think, but we were out of the leafy shaded lanes and the 28 degree heat was baking the tarmac, this climb was hard and so so hot! I crawled over the top and saw off another bottle waiting for Gully who was only just behind me! We then cruised a bit further to the final tuck up to Princetown - last year I walked this bit for about twenty metres and I remembered why - it is tough after all that climbing but I sat back and spun the pedals, once over the steepest bit I caught up with a guy from Carlisle I'd been bantering with at various points around the course and we chatted up the rest! This was a revelation to me - this time last year I had horrendous cramp and was sure I was hallucinating - this time I was chatting and my muscles felt strong and raring to go! I cruised in to the feed station where Gully joined me. I had a banana, half a flapjack, washed my face and re-filled both bottles - one with Nuun and one slightly more water. Last year I spent about 30 minutes in the feed station trying not to be sick - this time I was ready to go again! I should mention that at every opportunity I was stretching out my hamstrings to ease my back - the back was fine on hills but the long descents tightened it up!

After that feed station there were a couple of nasty drags out of postbridge which really burn the legs and with no shade the heat was building quite nasty, I was feeling a bit sick, but more water kept it down! after that came the long long fast descent to Moretonhampstead - this is so much fun, it is undulating, but the speed you get going down (45 mph plus) rolls you up the otherside - I had a very nervous moment - I hit a steep lefthander at 45 mph which fires you up the slope the otherside, as I hit the apex I got serious speed wobbles and lost control, luckily the slope scrubbed off a heap of speed and I escaped without incident!

The final hill out of Moretonhampstead at 90 miles was the one that finally got me, its full of switchbacks, has little shade and you just don't know when it will end - we'd caught up with the 100k riders, many of whom were walking and the walking was so tempting - it was the heat that got me though - I carried on at my quick speed desperate for every bit of shade I could find and eventually crested it, not feeling good - I couldn't bring myself to stop as wasn't sure my legs would take my weight, so I carried on for a mile or so before waiting for Gully a little further on!

From there on it is the stunning descent through the shady, much cooler Teign Valley, I was hurting big time now, the heat had got to me! Another gel probably would have sorted me out but I couldn't face it so tried to sup as much water as possible, the long descent also caused serious arm and neck ache! At this point Gully came in to his own, he carried me through the next 7-10 miles and through the 100 mile mark and I can't thank him enough, it was good to have him there!

With three miles to go we returned to the flat roads and I took over the lead prepared to give it all - the last three miles of road are like glass and are amazing to ride on - after 103 miles I was able to hold a steady 23-26 mph - road surfaces make such a difference!!

Over the finish line and we were done in 7 hrs 51 minutes start to finish! I felt so good compared to last year and pretty fresh considering how I'd been five miles previously! I picked up my bronze medal, musette and piece of Dartmoor granite and had an SIS recovery sachet we were given - walked straight in to a cold shower in the sports club there too, just to reduce my body temp!

We spoke to some of our friends then packed up and headed home! Stopping off for Macdonalds a little while later (first one in over a year), actually this was really good, the salt was needed and the carbs filled a big whole! I can reccomend it as a post race boost! Back home I was hungry again so had some fishcakes, garlic bread and salad plus more water! This is only relevant because despite eating all that over the weekend and being fully hydrated, this morning I was 96kgs a full 300 grams lighter than on friday!

Today my legs are fine, I can feel the tiredness but no soreness! I have a sore throat for heavy breathing the dry air and the centre of my chest hurts - no idea why but it does! Tonight will be a gentle recovery run/walk with loads of stretching...I definitely will not be cycling to work tomorrow morning!

So I knocked 20 minutes off last years time - as I said before I wasn't going on time because I was riding with a friend it was down to how I felt - and that was amazing - I had no cramp, no hallucinations and was really fresh afterwards - so what time could I have got??? who knows!! I was so strong on the hills that I could have knocked an hour off - but did the waiting at the top allow me to freshen up for the next one, if I pushed on my own may have blown up at 60 miles, who knows and who cares - Gully got me through those hellish five odd miles and it was worth it just for that! - this is the garmin download (copy and paste in to your browser) obviously the time doesn't include stops or the missing 6 miles!

I didn't learn a lot about race nutrition as I ate a bit of everything, except that Nuun stuff really works! I did learn that lots of carbs are good pre-race and not to worry about not going to the loo - it was never an issue all day and I never felt any trouble!

Happy days - the time is not relevant to my Ironman because the course is a lot flatter and I'd be on my tri bike, the important thing is I can do 106 tough and brutal climbing miles and still feel pretty fresh - I couldn't run a marathon but could have knocked out a couple of steady miles (I didn't by the way)!!

Thanks for reading...if you still are!


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