NB: This journal contains embellished facts.
Okehampton: on the one hand, it is scenic and sunny, offering a glorious vista of its surrounding hills—those green and pleasant English hills; on the other hand, fuck those fucking hills.
This was mainly a good day. I set off at 8AM as part of the last group, and arrived in Okehampton at about 3.15PM. For the first ninety miles I felt fast; for the following seventeen like crying. I may have misjudged the amount of food and water required, given the amount of climbing and the high temperatures.
In the early stages though I was performing well, and even made the top ten on strava on one climb—I think this was actually due to some drive train problems. I had to change my rear wheel at the last minute, and didn’t have time to do a proper test run, so this ended up being that test run. It turns out I had lost the low gear, and that the gears were slipping under pressure. So, when I got on to the climb at Bofarnal Farm I decided just to stick with whatever gear worked and get up out of the saddle.
I didn’t realize the climb was going to last 2.6km, but I suppose I didn’t really have a choice. The Halfords mechanics retuned my gears at pit stop 2 while I neglected to take on sufficient fluids. About an hour later I was in despair.
I didn’t bother checking either the elevation profile or the length of the ride in advance. I knew it was long and hilly, but not the precise details. Also, I run my bike computer in the metric system, so even if I know how many miles it is and how many feet of climbing, it never seems to translate into kilometres exactly as I expected. So the ride ended after 172.4 km, with 2,682 m of climbing. I guess I had been expecting the finish since about 160 km. I ran out of water at about 165 km. Also, 2,682 is a lot of climbing—that’s about two times the highest mountain in the UK.
So anyway, it’s over now, and despite not so much fading away as sputtering out towards the end, I still managed to finish in a respectable 22nd place, with rolling time of 6hrs 32 and an average speed of 26.3 km/h. I am worried I might have overdone it a bit; I did try and keep my heart rate down, to take it easy, but I obviously could have stood to take it easier considering I spent almost 20% of the time at threshold rate (Strava ranked my suffer score as ‘epic’—I have only achieved this feat once before.)
I have replenished myself with soup and a strawberry protein shake and hopefully I’ll be good for some similar hills tomorrow. And for more on subsequent seven days.
I mainly rode on my own today, although I did pair up at a couple of points. At first with a guy who rode the entire Tour De France in 2012, although not concurrently with the pro peleton. Later I joined a colleague for a while, but the hills came between us. (Those fucking hills.)
I only encountered two irate car-drivers, and neither murdered me, so that is good. I saw some funny looking sheep (part dog, I suspect), and some black/white/black cows (also funny, like Neapolitan ice cream except the white sections were fluffy like sheep). I also saw a green caterpillar, which was obviously delightful.
Atop one of the hills, who even knows what one but it went on a while, I saw a sign that said “Warning: horse drawn vehicles and animals”. I am deeply concerned about these horse drawn animals. Shocked too. I had thought horses were one of the higher animals—I mean, obviously they are open to manipulation by humans, but they are definitely a step up from, say, a pig. You would never pull the Queen Mum’s funeral wagon with a fleet of pigs, despite the inherent appropriateness of such an image.
But apparently the horses are now allowing non-bipedal animals to use them in their ceremonies. What animals are these? What lazy-ass wheeled beasts? The notion makes me ill, that horses, with their funereal style, are being relegated to playing stable mate to animals that speak neither English nor Equine.
The only animal I would bless as a master of horses other than a human is a lion. The only set up I could approve would be lion chariots. But I fear this more than anything. Such are the bitter contradictions of existence. I sped on away from that sign, down the hill as fast as I dared, to the safety of the next fucking hill.