Hill training two up for the JOGLE
This weekend's beautiful sunny weather meant ideal conditions to get a couple of short but fast paced training rides in. Having spent a few days during the week on the bike in the gym I was glad to get back on the road and enjoy a few flats and hills feeling the sun and breeze on my face.
On Saturday I took up an invite to cycle with Anj Ubogu (wife of former England and Bath prop Victor) who has a bit of a reputation for being a pretty mean cyclist. Anj is an Aussie by birth and by nature - feeling the cold on even the warmest of days she dressed for our ride wrapped up like she was going to visit the North Pole.
As we set off down Widcombe Hill I realised with a sinking feeling that I was going to have to tackle going back up it at the end of our ride. "Keep something in the tank for this later" shouted Anj cheerily. As we cycled through Bath I was pushing hard to keep up, thankfully we chose a flat route out towards Bitton along the Bristol - Bath cycle path but I was really pushing hard to maintain a pace. As Anj chatted breezily I gulped for air managing the odd acknowledgement here and there, but as we warmed up and got into our stride I found I was actually quite happily keeping pace. As we circled back over Kelston to Widcombe the feeling of hill dread started to arise. "See you at the top" shouted Anj and set off with great enthusiasm, as I dropped a crank and started to tackle the task ahead.
Widcombe Hill is steep at the bottom, flattens a bit, gains a bit more and then just keeps going and going and going. I was determined to get up it and while I dropped down to my granny crank I kept a gear in hand and vowed not to get out my saddle - I needed something in reserve. Thighs burning, lungs bursting, I kept thinking it was about mind over matter - that and the fact that on the JOGLE there will be a need to beat hills bigger than this. I smiled to myself as I neared the end and knew I was going to make it. As I got off at the top, legs trembling I high-fived Anj who told me Victor had never made it up the hill. I was even more chuffed with myself.
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Having worked all day Sunday a late afternoon text from a fellow JOGLE participant challenging me to a Box Hill cycle was actually quite welcome. Martin Casey (formerly Major) has the grit and determination you may expect from an Army man. He is also not scared of hills and seems to relish them in a masochistic sort of way. Admittedly, I have been shying away from Box Hill for a while having driven down and up it many times, the blooming hill seems to go on forever, but having made it up Widcombe the day before I felt up for the challenge.
Riding two up is a great way to enjoy a cycle, a chance for a bit of drafting and a second pair of eyes to spot cracks and potholes and yet again a faster pace to keep up with. As we flew down Kingsdown Hill I was thinking about Box and the task ahead. Box Hill may be long but it's not actually very steep so I was pleasantly surprised that I only had to shift to my middle crank and kept the gearing high, legs going round at a steady pace all the way to the top. Mind you, my cycling buddy was nowhere in sight and as I rounded the top of the hill he had turned around to cycle back down to see where I had got to - his new nickname for me of "handbrake" is, I fear, beginning to stick.
I think the trick with cycling up hills is to look around, enjoy the scenery and distract yourself from the constant pull and push of your pedals. Yesterday's reward was the late afternoon sun over the valley across to Colerne, it was just the most beautiful view. So while the hills are hard training overall, I am beginning to look forward to the JOGLE. Although the task ahead still feels massive, my cycling partners' optimistic outlooks are beginning to rub off!
On the 8th of June I will be cycling from John O'Groats to Lands End in aid of the Bath Rugby Foundation. The ride will involve cycling more than 100 miles a day for 9 days. If you are able I would be grateful for any donations www.virginmoneygiving.com/lindadonaldson1