Actually, I’m not sure it was that glorious and if I’m honest, I’m not even sure how much was mud and how much was pig slurry but I suppose it’s best not to dwell on that sort of detail.
The mud-fest in question was the Gatwick edition of the Evans Ride It Series which sees the high street bike shop put on an organised ride for anyone who cares to register and pay the £12 entry fee. There’s a short route, a medium route and a long route of around 15, 25 and 30 miles respectively… I rather optimistically opted for the long route because I have the South Downs Way challenge looming and I wanted to see how taxing doing a third of the distance would turn out to be.
‘Very’ is the short answer although there was some consolation in reading the organisers blog (http://blog.evanscycles.com/ride-it-events/gatwick-ride-it/) which said “We’ve done lots of events all across the country over the last few years but this year’s Ride It Gatwick event is definitely one of the muddiest, coldest and wettest I can remember.” So I’m filing the whole experience under the mantra of “Train hard, race easy”.
For anyone interested you can find a summary of the ride (map, elevation, time taken etc) at http://www.mapmyrun.com/view_workout?w=230761312 but the basic stats were 84 starters on the long route (out of 382 riders in total riding the different routes) and I managed to complete the 34 miles in the 6th fastest time – 3 hours, 34 minutes including about 15 mins at the 2 re-fueling stations where they lay on complimentary cakes, jelly babies, energy drinks etc. To try and convey just how muddy it was, this was a picture of my transmission at the first drink stop – around 7 miles in – which as you can imagine doesn’t really make for silky smooth gear changes.
The mud was so bad that at several points you had to get off the bike and push and on one of those sections (which wasn’t even uphill) about 3 or 4 miles from the finish, my wheels weren’t even able to turn. I can only liken it to trying to push your bike through a frozen swamp with the brakes locked on. Your only options at this point being to either drag your bike or just try to pick it up and lug it up the path – although by this point I was a) knackered and b) the bike had picked up about 10kg in additional weight!
But on the plus side I managed to do a slightly better job of eating while riding to maintain some sort of energy reserve although your average energy bar leaves quite a lot to be desired. I tried the Cliff Bar choc chip variety which was ok as far as these things go although I defy anyone to actually eat a whole bar in a single sitting. One bar, a couple of gels and the two scheduled flapjack/ jelly bean stops were enough to see me through and I felt less tired than before when I did eventually finish… I’m not sure I’d have managed another 65 miles which is what the South Downs Way demands but I’m not expecting to do the South Downs Way in those sorts of conditions either. Doing the downhill bits fast is going to be the key there I think because to get round in 13 hours or thereabouts the average speed is going to have to be in the same sort of ball park as I managed on this ride … and I didn’t exactly feel as though I was taking it easy.