It’s 5.30am on Sunday 13th April, and my alarm has just gone off. Time for the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive.
I had followed what all top quality athletes do to get prepared for this event. On Friday night I decided to drink my own weight in Jagermeister and Real Ale with fellow Grazing Saddles Triathlon Team member Bushy, my gorgeous wife Cat and one of my best and oldest friends in the world, Mr Neil Machin. Now Machin lives back home in Haywards Heath, and I haven’t seen him in a long time so it was only right that we got totally and utterly smashed. So smashed in fact, that I fell asleep in my favourite curry house, then woke up and argued about the bill (which was a very reasonable £30 for 3 people). Anyway I was hanging for all of Saturday, ate a Pizza Hut and struggled through a restless sleep to awaken at 5.30am Sunday morning. Preparation Complete!
So the alarm has gone off and naturally I have prepared nothing. So I smash and bash around the house, wake up my wife, the baby and the dog and then once I think I have everything I head down the road to meet fellow Grazing Saddles Triathlon Team member Neil Perry (the Duracell Bunny). Neil and I grunted at each other, then we got in his van, went round to pick up Bushy and Curry from Bushy’s house, and then set off. Earlier that morning Mike had messaged to say that he couldn’t attend as he had a rather nasty stomach problem, so we were feeling his loss in the van as we trundled down the M27 towards the New Forest.
|Ladies – yes he is single!|
Now in all honest I was feeling absolutely rubbish. Ate nothing for breakfast (as felt sick and was too damn early), and when we stopped for a coffee I decided to have nothing again. I was not in a good way. We arrived at the start in plenty of time, and after registering and eating one of Neil’s girlfriends homemade flapjacks I was feeling a lot better. Soon we had all of our gear ready and we were at the start line.
Starting off at around 8.30am, we rode in formation with me leading, overtaking lesser mortals with ease. It was at that point that I realised that I had set an intial pace of around 23mph, and some cries from the back (Neil) meant that I quickly slowed down to settle in at around 19-20mph. The course was relatively flat, we were riding well as a group, and it felt superb to be out with my fellow Grazing Saddles Triathlon Team members.
Weaving through the New Forest countryside we were riding extremely well, averaging 17.5 mph and things were looking great. Then I hit a minor snag, I started getting mega cramp in both of my quads (very close to the knee). Now this was painful. I dropped way back from the group. Was struggling to keep the pedals turning. A quick energy gel and some water and I felt better. The lads kindly waited for me, I caught up and we were back together, but all was not well.
The pain in my quads just didn’t go away. When I free-wheeled it felt as if they were both going to instanly spasm, so I had to just keep pedaling. We eventually reached the first feed station, and Neil advised my saddle was too low which might be the problem. I raised it up 5mm and we were off again. It felt better but still not perfect. Relatively quickly we reached the cut off point (at around 46 miles) where you have to decide if you want to do the Standard race (62 miles) or the Epic (86 miles). Now this is quite a difference, and to put no finer point on it I was absolutely done in. My quads had been agonising for miles now, and I was not sure I had a lot more in the the tank.
Now Democracy is king in the Grazing Saddles Triathlon Team, so it was put to a vote and the Epic was decided on unanimously. Admittedly I voted last, and was praying that somebody else would vote for the Standard, but peer pressure got the best of me and when Curry agreed to the Epic as the 3rd voter my fate was sealed.
The next bit of this story is not my finest moment but I must be honest. For the next 10 miles I was praying for some sort of catastrophic mechanical failure that would cause me to have to stop the race. I was in absolute agony in both quads, my back was screaming and the thought of another 40 miles on the bike was simply unbearable. As the miles wore on God did not smile on me, I had no catastrophic mechanical failure, and I knew that I would have to see this thing through to the end. Quitting was, and is not an option.
So we got to the second feed station, I raised my saddle a bit more, jumped back on and we ploughed onwards, all be it with a bit less banter than the first half of the race but still together as a team. I was counting down the miles 1 by 1 from 70 miles inwards, and the feeling when we saw the “5k to go – Finish Strong” sign was great. As we got to the final few hundred metres I felt an overwhelming sense of achievement. We had done it. I knew I was not the only one who had battled through considerable pain. This is the furthest any of us had ever ridden, and we were all suffering, but we had completed 86 miles together as a team, the Grazing Saddles Triathlon Team.
As I write this the lads have already signed up for a 100 mile event on the Isle of Wight, and as soon as I get paid I will be joining them. Plus we have added another member to our team, and the future of the Grazing Saddles Triathlon Team is looking better than ever.
Just hoping that my quads recover in time.