Well the weekend arrived rather quicker than I was anticipating & with the butterflies doing somersaults in my stomach, I began to wonder if I’d bitten off more than I could chew. I knew I should have put in a few more hilly rides and maybe a few more miles under my belt but work & family life dictate the time I can allocate to my cycling & suddenly it just didn’t feel enough.
As we drove towards our hotel, where we would spend the next 3 nights, the Brecon Beacons loomed before me & I found myself looking up & marvelling at their height. They were truly beautiful but at the same time frightening.
As always my OH had picked a super hotel, just a Holiday Inn Express but we must have had the most accommodating, friendly & genuinely interested staff ever. They just couldn’t do enough for us, somewhere to secure our bikes, starting breakfast early to accommodate our early race start time, to offering us take out menus after the event. knowing we were pretty cream crackered!
Another huge plus point for the hotel, free wifi, perfect for looking up the climbs on YouTube whilst resting and pillows soft or firm, so promising a good nights sleep.
Any one who knows me, will know I struggle with energy products, whilst taking part in endurance events. I just can’t bear the over sickly taste & find everything too sweet. My OH has to mix my energy drinks for me, as the slightest change & I am feeling sick, so planning what to take before the event proved quite a job in itself. I had experimented during my training rides & had some success, with new products, so was as best prepared as I could be. In my pockets & saddle bag, I had – Bounce, coconut & macadamia protein bliss energy ball, Trek, morning berry protein flapjack, ready salted hulo hoops (something to counteract the sugar & give me much needed salt) & Clif, shot bloks, mountain berry flavour ( the only energy chew, that I can stomach). I planned only to use the feed stations on the ride for water, a banana & anything savoury that was on offer.
The night before the event we meet fellow cycling friends from our club for a carb loading, pre race dinner in Swansea. Whilst my friends were taking their diet very seriously, I still had a large glass of pinot to calm my nerves. All talk was on, start times, meeting at the end & get round safely.
The morning arrived & I had slept pretty well, a good hearty breakfast of porridge, orange juice, 2 coffees & a scrambled eggs on one slice of wholemeal toast & I was ready. Bikes loaded, we were off to Margam Country Park & the adventure would begin. We had prepped the bikes the day before, stickers, labels, chip on our helmets, so once we arrived it was just a question of getting on the bikes & heading for the start line. A quick safety chat from the race official & we were off.
We soon fell into a steady pace, making the most of a back wind & a flat section, catching a drag from any cyclist in front. The first climb, soon saw riders dropping off & my OH & I had a plan, we paced ourselves, slowing down our breathing & a steady pedal ratio. We were banking on our running, helping with the extra leg strength that would be needed to complete the 95 miles. With regular sips of our drinks bottles & checking each other was good, we soon found ourselves on the first mountain climb. I tried not to look up but focus on just ahead of me but every now & then I glanced up & down & slowly we reeled in the odd cyclist who had set off to fast.
We reached the top of the Bwich mountain, we were sweating, but we felt good. I will not lie, I am not great at descending & I am slightly scared of heights, but I wasn’t prepared for how terrifying I found the decent. It was hard not to go fast, then there were the cattle grids to contend with & the cross wind, pushing the bike violently side ways in the gusts. But I made it & at the bottom when my OH could see I was shaking & close to tears, he gave me a pep talk & told me the worst was out the way. He was right & I was feeling quite proud of myself, as I had tackled one of my fears head on & won.
After the next long climb, we arrived at the first feed station. A quick toilet break, we grabbed a banana & we ate our pack of hulo hoops, whilst other cyclists gave us envious glances. Everyone was in need of salt because of the heat & yet unfortunately this feed station didn’t have anything savoury.
The rest of the ride passed through stunning countryside, hill after hill, drag after drag but some lovely downhill sections too & we wound away through lonely country lanes. At 55 miles in, the organisers decided to add to our pain & stick in a brutal climb, locally known as, ‘The Devil’s Elbow’, & at the top was the King of the Mountain marker. It proved to be the only climb that got the better of me, with an average gradient of 10%, parts 20% & then two hair pin bends with 30%max. But my OH made it to the top & waited patiently for me to arrive.
After that it was full steam ahead & at the last feed station, a lovely helper told us there was one last, nasty hill before the end & then we were nearly finished. What was one more hill, when we had already climbed mountains? Feeling strong, I powered on & on up the last hill, when we were passing cyclists pushing bikes, I told myself walking was not an option, I was going to slay this dragon. As we approached the top of the final climb, the heavens opened, we stopped to put on our rain jackets & took the decent as slow as we could, as slippery drains were accidents waiting to happen. As we approached the park & the finish line, we had a moment to feel proud of ourselves. We crossed the line together, we were full of smiles, we had started together & finished together & we were feeling ecstatic, we had slayed the dragon & loved every minute of it, 8 hours 34 minutes, 95.84 miles & 6,887 ft of climbing.
Will I do it again, hell yes! It is too easy to sit back in life and put obstacles in your way but every now and then its good to be scared & push on through. I don’t like heights, I don’t like descending and I didn’t think I could climb hills, like I had to on the Wiggle Dragon ride but I could & I did & I came away with so much more, than just a medal.