The Hilly 50

Just for a change this blog is going to feature some actual training...

"The Hilly 50" is an annual CTC sportive which is 50 km long and takes in as many of the Surrey hills as possible. In 32 miles there is over 3000 feet of climbing...

Our friend Steve ‘the Fly’ (can climb anything) mentioned that he was thinking of doing the Hilly 50, I mentioned it to Dave and it seemed like a good idea. ‘Seemed?’ There were a few little clues to suggest that we should have been a little wary;

Friend Steve decided his joints weren’t quite up to it at the moment, on the imperturbable face of Chris Holland we got a full Roger Moore eyebrow raising when we mentioned that we were planning to ride to the start, the final thing was that when we arrived at the start for the briefing they were only expecting 35 riders (and I think a few of those had bottled it in the morning).

It was always going to be tough, just doing the distance was to be a step up from our usual Sunday ride, but we had to up it at some point. On the Sunday there was a club ride at the velodrome so doing the Hilly 50 on Saturday appeared like destiny.

I had pasta and an early night, Dave had a curry and eight pints.

Malcom was brave enough to sign up which was incredibly lucky for me and Dave as he led us out and did most of the navigating (we seemed to do much better than some of the others as on a number of occasions they passed us going in the opposite direction).

We set off from the start at Rykas’ cafe and headed up Ranmoor. I kept the other cyclists in sight up the hill but lost them going down the other side, somehow managed to take a wrong turn and ended up alone on the dual carriageway. My bottom lip was well stuck out- how ridiculous to lose my way and all my riding companions within a just mile of the start.

A couple of phone calls later and a trudge back up a hill we are reunited. Dave and I are like an old married couple, he’s ‘how could you get lost it was just straight down the hill?’ and I’m ‘well I didn’t know, you just rode off and left me’ (with a bit of a tremble in my voice), followed by a few taut silences. A gradual thaw and we are back to normal, I think I should really put my hand up for that one.

As well as training for fitness we also have to practice nutrition and hydration strategies for the Ironman. Dave and I will try and remind each other about drinking but until now we really haven’t tackled the nutrition aspect. For this ride I’ve bought a cheap top tube nutrition bag, stuffed it full of a variety of bite sized treats to keep me going. Dave has a smaller more aerodynamic bag which he also filled with good stuff. A little smorgasbord of delights (to try expand Dave’s palette beyond just pork pies) which we would sample; what tastes good, does it sit right in yer tummy, too hard, too soft etc. almost like a proper experiment. As we’ve cut out long café cake stops (because, apparently they are frowned upon in the actual race) nutrition is really key. Get us- doing race prep. Just one little hitch, the race is in July , we were doing the Hilly 50 on a chilly day in early March.

About year ago I invested in a rather good pair of gloves which keep my fingers nice and toasty but in terms of being able to feed myself, absolutely useless. It was like I had gone back down the evolutionary ladder to a point before the invention of opposable thumbs. Every time I dipped my hand into the bag I had about the same success rate as a kid trying to grab a teddy bear out of one of those end of the pier machines. What the squirrels that live up Leith Hill will make of the selection of dried mango, salami and flapjack scattered over their domain lord alone knows?

I had to walk up one hill, short sharp and very steep and apparently on Strava it is called something that I can’t possibly repeat here. It was fairly near the start of the ride and it looked like a wall. It was like a scene in a dire action movie when the hero is trying to guide the heroine across the broken bridge over a raging torrent but instead of shouting ‘Don’t look down’ Malcom kept repeating ‘don’t look up’, so I wouldn’t get frightened and intimidated. I looked up, I saw the impossible hill, my heart sank, and before I knew it my foot was down.

At the pre ride briefing they had mentioned the various places where the course was flooded (White down was axed), potholes, and the parts covered in mud and gravel so conditions meant that descents weren’t any faster than the climbs- still managed to fall off and had to squeak ‘man down’ to call Dave back. As it went on I felt that I started to grow into it (no faster of course but it just seemed easier) approaching the very end my hips and thighs really started to ache and when going back up Ranmore (long way) I started to cramp (I’d gone through 2 water bottles and I don’t think that it had been enough) which made the final run up Box hill very steady. A quick loo break at the Box hill café and a trudge home, none of us keen to stop and stiffen up. The Hilly 50 is a charming little event organized by lovely people which I for one will look to add to my training schedule next year.

Dan and Malc at Box Hill

When we did finally stop at the Beeches café mine and Dave’s assessments of the day seemed to be a polar opposite to our usual points of view. I’m normally the pessimist and Dave the optimist but this time Dave was the one who looked worried. We had done 96 km which is just over half the distance we would need to complete for the Ironman and he couldn’t imagine doing double the distance. I on the other hand felt alright and was just pleased that we had spent so long in the saddle. In terms of our average speed we were well below what we needed but it was very hilly (clue was in the name) and we couldn’t make up any time on the downhill sections because of the rain, gravel and potholes, but to me it felt like a good ride.

I think that it is the first time that I’ve been more confident than him. My fear is that I won’t be fast enough and will finish fresh as a daisy sometime in the early hours long after everyone has gone home, Dave’s fear is that he won’t make it, that injuries or cramps will make it impossible to continue.

Other things that we learnt from the ride;

- Malcom needs to invest in some acting lessons as it is rather demoralising when there’s no sign of strain on his face.

- The importance of a Positive mental attitude- When we spoke about the ride we both had a similar take on the last few miles of the Hilly 50 we were fixating on the pain/discomfort and struggling, when we had got to the top of Box our attitude changed and we looked to crack on and pedal better etc, forgetting our pains.

It’s strange what thoughts go through your head. Assuming that the race does go ahead we could still be suffering the effect of the Corona virus the chief impact of which is the absence of loo role in the shops, rarer than hen’s teeth more valuable than saffron, when on the 180 km ride there is going to be the need for a toilet stop there’s not going to be any loo roll so we’ll probably have to carry our own (all ideas about how to mount it aerodynamically greatly received)

Or Dragons Den idea- absorbent race numbers

Any investors?

Injury update- still a bit sore but much better, well I was until my hip ‘popped out’ when I tried to get up on the osteopaths’ couch which did rather determine the treatment in that session.

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