So I set myself a mini challenge: 20 miles a day, every day for a week. I had a feeling I wouldn’t be able to manage it, and at times maybe I should have taken it easy, but it’s Sunday now and I’ve done it. Given that up until now the most I’ve ridden in a week was 77 miles, and I’ve now more than doubled that, I’m pretty chuffed.
Why did I do this? I suppose because it was there. I had a week at home, it was achievable, and all I had to do was get on my bike and put the miles in. I’ve been a little unnerved by the fast approaching reality of a 55 mile ride in the Peak District, especially when a relative of my fiancée spoke of ‘such-and-such pass’ being particularly tough. I’ve heard that as a rule of thumb if you intend to do X miles in a single run you need to be able to do that mileage regularly per week, so I’ve ticked that box, handsomely. I learned from cricket that the most important preparation is not just the technical side but also the banking of large reserves of confidence, and I feel I’ve done that.
I’m pretty impressed with myself, I really didn’t know I had it in me. Obviously the first couple of days weren’t too bad, as I was pretty fresh. As the week’s gone on, I can’t pretend I haven’t felt it a bit, but on Friday night I went out knowing I was 10 miles short on the day, feeling pretty tired, but I still managed to get the miles in and I still found myself pushing myself up hills at quite a clip – my heavy old three-speed, doing 20mph uphill, even after 130 miles of cycling! There was a bit of a tailwind, I admit, but previously I would have reckoned 16mph to be rather strenuous up there.
Then yesterday I rode out to Church Eaton, which is about a 19 mile round trip. Stafford Cricket Club is my local team, but over the winter a lot of my team-mates have jumped ship for one reason or another and gone to Church Eaton, so I thought I’d pop in and say hello. It was a pretty warm afternoon but I felt pretty good, I made good time on the way out, and it was just a perfect day and a lovely route. There were a few cars but they were all pretty considerate, and I’m gaining a lot of road confidence now. I stayed to watch a few overs, but I’d missed by all accounts a rather comical diamond duck* for the new captain, who was good enough to let me use their toilet before heading back.
Just shy of 160 miles in a week, and over 125 miles on my road bike without any problems. I did pick a small sharp flake of stone out of the back tire today that probably wasn’t far from penetrating through, so that’s a bullet dodged… other than that everything’s working just fine, and I’m now very at home on the bike.
There’s one elephant in the room though – my left knee. It’s been barking a bit the last few days, although curiously it seems to settle down when I’m actually riding. It’s not to do with fit, as I’ve had my saddle higher, lower, forward and back and have settled on what feels right, and while it tends to happen more on the folding bike (where the saddle won’t physically go quite high enough) there’s no difference I can detect between my two other bikes. It’s also not hurting where I would expect poor fit to normally manifest itself. It’s towards the inside, not quite at the back of the knee and in my upper leg. I have a suspicion, just a suspicion, that it’s to do with very short-lived overstressing when starting off in too high a gear, which is then exacerbating longstanding issues that arise from historic cricket injuries** and driving a manual car. Like I say, once I’m a mile or two into a ride it vanishes, then comes back after I’ve finished.
Anyway, I’m back at work tomorrow so the knee will have a few days to rest up. I’ve entered myself in a ride next Sunday in aid of a local charity, a hospice called Katharine House that cares for the terminally ill. If you’re feeling generous (and it’s a brilliant little charity) the Just Giving page is here. The ride itself is 45 miles, so about 50% further than my longest ride to date, but also a good little tester before the 55 miles of Eroica. I’ve mainly been talked into it by my fiancée, who wants a little reassurance that 55 miles isn’t too much for me. The route is mostly out to the west of town, fairly flat apart from the odd short climb here and there. Wish me luck!
*diamond ducks are quite rare in cricket. A duck is getting out without scoring a run. A golden duck is out first ball. A diamond duck is getting out without even facing a ball, usually because your partner has run you out. **cricket’s a very one-sided game, and if you bat and bowl right-handed (like me) you can put a fair bit of stress on your left knee. As a spin bowler there’s also a rotational aspect that makes this worse.