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Tales of an endurance athlete
Duathlete at heart, but will do aything running/cycling/swimming/multisport related. Within reason of course:-)

Worthy of a race report! The Dragon Devil Ride... ouchy

tiggaby tiggaJun 11th 2014
In October 2013 entries opened and because this is such a popular sportive it fills pretty quick. At the time a 300km ride in the Welsh hills sounded like a good idea, I had plenty of time to prepare and I knew what was coming I’d done the 211km event just 4 months earlier. Those famous words… ‘What could possibly go wrong?’

Throw in a new job/job role, a major DIY house renovation from Mar-June and the new addition to family life in the New Forest by the name of Mr Wiggins our now 15 week old puppy… it turns out quite a lot can go wrong or right depending on how you look at it. Wrong because all that is not really condusive to effective training, right because I am loving life for all those reasons mentioned.

My plan was to ride long every weekend, sometimes doubling up and get in at least one 200km ride - And you know, I nearly did that… my 200km ride the weekend before which probably wasn’t ideal, but that was how it worked out with various things outside of cycling that happen. I wasn’t super confident, but I knew I was in reasonable shape having done a 6 week block of 400-440km/week. Solid, but not spectacular. A fair few of those miles were done with some pretty decent riders in my area and my ride ‘buddy’ for the event Julian Jenkinson. Jules has pedigree way beyond my ability, crikey he was national 12 hour TT champion clocking a ridiculous average speed of just under 40m/hr! So yes, not afraid of riding hard, not your average cyclist.

Jacks had entered (or sorry, I had entered Jacks â€" hehehe) into the Gran Fondo 227km event and we stayed just 5miles from the race start over night. My start was 7am so it was an early rise for breakfast and sort nutrition out for what I knew was going to be an epic day. 300km with 4800+m of altitude gain, lots of lovely Welsh hills.

As we set off from Margam Park Jules and I both had a game plan to stay together stop at 96km and again 223km for refuelling. Pacing wise â€" Although a sportive is not race, there is a competitive element to these big events but I figured it would be a race of attrition if the pace was decent enough. By the time we got to the first feed station at 48km we already had the first two big hills out the way, half the riding group of 15 or so riders stopped for a refuel and were down to six.

‘Chaingang’ for 252km anyone?

Two of the guys dropped off the pace not long after that and it was down the four of us committed to rolling on and what turned out to be a good pace. The first of the steeper climbs was the Devil’s Elbow… nothing hectic, only 90km in the legs I felt quite good. Regrouping at the top, rolled down into the next feed station for a top up and on our merry way. Spirits still quite high, but I for one was a little apprehensive about just how far we had to go. Some favourable winds and really great roads into towards Brecon we were singing along as a fantastic working group of four. Mistake number one: Not stopping for a refuel on liquids. First 100miles in a shade over five hours, a favourable wind and the worst of the hills yet to come. The Devil ride sent the riders out onto a loop from Llandovery, over the Devils Staircase, skirting a lake called Llyn Brianne, through the Irfon Forest and back into Llandovery. Four became three on the lower bumpy and lumpy slope of the Devils Staircase, by the time we reach the bottom of the real climb itself a nasty gradient changing 1mile long bugger of hill that at it’s steepest was a 30percenter, that’s 1:3… with just a 39/25 gearing and 190km in the legs, there really is only one up… Flatout otherwise you just stop. Probably the toughest climb I have ever done. After 6 hours in the saddle a 1:3 slope is just crazy… crazy. 6mins of gritting my teeth and hoping I could turn the pedals over. Over the top and into a 25% downhill and uh-oh I can feel cramps in the legs, 2mins later it was tickets for me as the legs simply seized up, literally every muscle in my both my legs locked solid that had me laid on the grass whimpering. Jules came back thankfully gave me one of his bottles and I said to just go it would eventually come right and I would make it to the finish. That was pretty much a lie, I just wanted him to get going again, whilst not a race we both to do the best we could. At the point I wasn’t sure I was going to get back on my bike again let alone ride the next 110km. I have never experienced cramp that bad and so sudden, and don’t want to ever again!!

In the back of my mind was a lonely ride to the finish… a loooonnng lonely ride to the finish and more headwind than tailwind. I managed to get going again and stopped by a local’s house to fill up both my water bottles and have a breather to let the liquid re-hydrate and the food to fuel the legs. The next 2hr30mins was a mix of not knowing when another bout of cramp was coming, the odd spate of nausea and drinking/eating as much as possible whilst trying to keep going at a reasonable pace without puking the contents of my stomach up. Eventually I re-joined the ‘shorter’ route and there were other people around and I felt better. After 8 hr 45mins my legs really did come back to me. I had a good solid last 90mins and although I admit I was pretty much spent at the finish I certainly was strong and a little disappointed I couldn’t ride with Jules the whole way. In the end he had the fastest Devil ride of the day and I was 5th across the line 20mins later, passed by two chaps who’d started a little later than we did.

I had also passed Jacks about 20km from the finish. As much as I wanted to stop and chat I was now in a nice rhythm and working well with one other from the Gran Fondo, so I passed by and cheered her on and she crossed the finish line not long after me having ridden the furtherest she’s ever done off not very much training. Both of us were well proud of finishing. If I am honest if weren’t for Jacks I wouldn’t be able to do half the training I get through… thanks hun.

Tough… tough day out. Exceptionally challenging course, great scenery, extremely satisfying accomplishment that I 'probably' won’t do again…..

The strava link here:
by guest: Effie, Jul 16th 2014 10:10
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