Tough Mudder... Dragon Ride... One tough weekend!
by tiggaJun 21st 2013
So many people I have spoken to have done the Dragon Ride¬... This is a tough sportive with a special recognition from UCI (cycling governing body) with some or other label saying it¬'s the mutts nuts of sportives. I had it on my radar for a while but seeing as it¬'s so popular, you have to be fairly quick off the mark to enter. Committing to a 211km hilly cycle ride late last year when I was commuting two hours each way to work from home to London seemed near impossible so I did not bother, riding 20km seemed like hard work at the time and if I¬'m honest training mojo at an all time low. We had just bought a house, our first¬... and it was time to settle in and do a little bit of DIY.
Fast forward ten months and the Dragon Ride was only 3 days away and I saw someone selling their place to start the Dragon Ride¬... Hmmmm, not many would decide to ride two hundred and eleven hilly Welsh kilometres just three days before the day! Jacks made a call to a contact at Humanrace, the event organisors to see if it was possible to swap names¬... To my surprise they agreed to the change and I was in. Although in the official results, my name is still Ian Loxton, my alias for the day
I had the small matter of getting around the Tough Mudder on Saturday with a group of friends from Help for Heroes. The Tough Mudder, for those that don¬'t know, is a 20km off road obstacle course based on an army assault training course. I¬'d done the Kettering one in 2012, so I knew what I was in for and it was a fantastic day out. Not the best to be on your legs all day the day before I knew I was probably going to ride one of the toughest rides in the UK, but still it was a unique challenge.
Tough Mudder was awesome. Fantastic weather, brilliant fun with a great group of guys and we jogged around the bushes with ten thousand other guys and gals jumping obstacles, crawling in mud tunnels, jumping into ice (brrrrrr) cold water, leopard crawling under tanks/barbed wire and to top that day off was the thrill of getting electrocuted by 10,000V in the Electric Eel and the final obstacle of running through mud trying to dodge hundreds of dangly live wires¬... Oh, and hidden in the mud were hay bails. Jack¬'s brother James, failed to see the hay bails and tripped over the hidden bails, literally face first into the mud. It happened so fast he didn¬'t have time to even put his hands out¬... it literally was a face plant in mud whilst getting zapped by 10,000V. Bloody hilarious if I can get hold of the video clip you will not be disappointed. In fact, there is quite a crowd viewing this last obstacle for just that reason, to see someone fall on his face. It must have be a good one as you could hear everyone gasp as he hit the deck. Two days later and he was still cleaning mud out of orifices he didn¬'t even know he had;-)
Eat loads to bed early to be up at 4am to drive my way to Port Talbot. Sunday was going to be a long long day.
Luckily I knew a few friends doing it and sportives are quite relaxed with your effort timed from when you cross the start line. We had made the plan to ride as a group of three and share the work, but when one of those friends is an uber biker who has ridden a 100mile in 3hr32mins, it was never going to be easy¬... was it! On the day it turns out our biggest problem was the fact we started in last 20% and simply had loads of people to pass and were often caught by large groups with cars backed up and we had no option but to crawl along and then when we had open road, we put the hammer down. When I was sat on the front my power reading was never less than 300W. After about 2 hours of up and down we hit the first long climb of the day. About 20mins of 6%... I love climbs like that, so did the other chaps and we cruised up ticking over at 320W all the way up.
One of my favourite things to do on a bike is to descend a silly speed cornering like Valentino Rossi at full tilt on his Moto GP bike (well, that¬'s what it feels like). This descent however, was like a computer game dodging slower riders on the way down. We regrouped a little later (having descended kamikaze style I left my 2 ride buddies behind) and proceded to pass the hundreds and hundreds of other cyclists along the way. There was a steeper climb called the Devils Elbow which was a sneaky one¬... probably the toughest of the day at 16% for just short of mile. Through halfway and we were cruising along at a fair whack¬... Out first pit stop was at the third aid station at about 3hr30min for a top up of calories and water as this was warm for the Welsh countryside at 21-22degs and not a cloud in the sky. All I was aiming for was a sub 7 hour on this course, which is ¬'only¬' 30km/hr but with 3500m altitude gain and probably two pit stops to fuel up whilst fighting the masses along the way it was always going to be a tough ask.
Looking at the result, of the guys that finished under 7 hours¬... all started in one of the first two waves to start over 90mins ahead of us. Paul Matthews, one of the two I was riding with was yo-yoing off the back on the uphills from about 130-140km and at one stage we were doing a three up time trial down a 5-6km straight downhill at 50-55km/hr and we had a train of guys behind us of 120-130 cyclist who simply tucked in as we passed them. We hit the second to last long hill with 55-60km to go and hit a bit of sugar low, and although I was still able to hold 230-240W I could not eat enough and didn¬'t have enough water in the increasingly warm conditions. Julian Jenkinson is an absolute machine on the bike and he left me dead as my power readings were less impressive with now 5 hours on the legs and yesterday¬'s Tough Mudder coming back to haunt me. I grovelled my way up that climb to slight downhill and the next and final climb called ¬'Bwylch¬' (welsh¬... gotta love their language eh), still trying to get in the calorie. I knew it was a blood sugar issue and not much more. I scraped the bottom of the barrel digging in the corners of my pocket for my jelly babies¬... I had been through 2800 calories and was feeling worse for wear. At the top of the last climb was an aid station¬... it was like an oasis in a desert to me. I needed water and calories. I was aware my ride pace had slipped and breaking 7 hours was going to require a good effort over the closing downhill kilometres. All the rushing at the aid station was in vain as the ride had been stopped on the final downhill as a cyclist had apparently had a bad tumble and needed airlifting off the mountain road. Jules had put 8 mins into me and was almost first in line and I hooked up with him again as we waited 15mins for the road to be opened again. 15-20mins of riders collecting meant one big ass group heading through Afan towards Port Talbot. At times it was quite quick, but I was also aware that there were some in this group who¬'s bike skills could not be trusted.
The rest and fuel up had done me good and the legs were firing again, power numbers a little more impressive and we tanked the final miles into Margam Park escorted by an official bike¬... I put the hammer down over the final drag to string things out a bit as we entered the finish funnel and crossed for 7hr11mins.
Getting back to the car I realised I had stuck an emergency mars bar in my pocket for the expected blood sugar dip¬... great lot of good that is if you forget you have stashed it away for just that emergency, what can I say I was tired, delirious, hungry and dehydrated. I just forgot I had an emergency chocolate¬....
Epic event, I probably didn¬'t give enough respect to the course or the guys I was riding with by spending the day before on my leg. Still a course and event I would definitely do again, but I think an early start is a must for a much more even paced effort and no constant stream of cyclists to overtake. We had good fun and tough workout and we could not complain about the weather the Welsh Gods had given us.
It was a great day, and very long and tiring drive home with a pit stop for a ¬'dirty¬' burger at Burger King and lucky for me on my arrival back home a curry was on the table (thanks Jacks) for a second dinner just two hours later Finished off an epic weekend in a coma the minute my head hit the pillow!
Next up is a day in support of Jacks who takes on the Forestman¬... an Iron distance race starting and finishing only a couple of miles from home. Good luck hun