I wouldn’t usually blog about a cycle sportive but the Chiltern Challenge 100 was different for several reasons. It was to be the first time I have ridden 100 miles (lots of 75-85 milers recently but no century) and it was also one of my final dress rehearsals for the bike leg of Ironman UK.
I chose the Chiltern Challenge 100 because of the timing. It took place exactly four weeks to the day before Ironman which would give me time to fit another one in if I wanted to and it was also quite a challenging ride with over 4,000 feet of ascent. I also chose to do a sportive rather than a ride at home because it imposed a “race day” discipline on me. I had to be at registration by 7.30am which meant I had to get up early which all added to the sense of dress rehearsal.
Fast forward to 8.00am and there I was waiting under the starting arch with about ten others listening to a safety briefing and then we were off. I should point out that there were more than ten of us doing this ride, it is just that they set us off in small groups for safety reasons.
The first ten miles were pretty straight forward, a few introductions and a bit of chat but any ideas that this was going to be a six-hour social were dispelled as we hit the first big hill at about 15 miles. It may have been the first hill but it was the biggest hill of the day reaching 12% at it most spiteful about half way up. I was grateful for my compact crank set which meant I never struggled with my cadence while others around me almost ground to a halt – literally.
The climb gave way to a long and satisfying descent which got the average speed back up and was only interrupted by the first feed station at about 20-miles.
Part of my dress rehearsal plan was not to use or do anything that I couldn’t do on race day. I had a slight challenge here as Ironman only gives out Powerbar products on race day and The Chiltern Challenge 100 was sponsored by High Five and so only dished out their goods. I was very keen to see how my stomach reacted to 100-miles of Powerbar and so I had to carry it all with me, including energy drink mix. I lingered at the feed station just long enough to fill up with water and mix a fresh bottle of energy drink.
The next 30 miles or so were unremarkable apart from a long hot climb out of Henley, the appalling condition of the roads, one or two impatient local drivers and a small navigation error which cost me a few miles. Once back on track I was soon at feed station two which was more like a banquet with a full on buffet! I momentarily ignored my dress rehearsal rules and had a spot of lunch.
The second half of the ride was hot but not quite as hilly as the first half and what hills there were came right at the end – thank you organisers. Other than that it was all pretty routine and almost exactly 6.30hrs of riding time after I started, I crossed under the finish arch at race HQ. My Garmin was showing an average moving speed of 16.2mph (26.0kph). I don’t know who measured the route, but my Garmin, which is pretty reliably accurate was showing 106 miles (170km).
The others riders finishing just after me all quickly discarded their bikes and headed for the free massage or the bar, so I got some strange looks as I swapped my bike shoes for running shoes and set off on a 1-mile run around the playing fields in front of the finish area. I was pleased with how easily I knocked off a mile – just the other 25.2 to worry about now!
All in all a good day. My nutrition strategy for the Ironman bike is now decided and I was pleased with how I felt at the end 106 miles on a course that has more climbing than Bolton. I plan to repeat the exercise on another 100-mile sportive this coming weekend, this time in The New Forest. This one has a bit less ascent and I plan to use it as a full dress rehearsal which means I am on my TT bike this time. It also looks as though the weather man, having given me hot last weekend, may give me rain this weekend – so all bases will have been covered – deep joy!!