Today we had clear blue sky as I set off for my ride. I’d decided to ride 5 non stop laps of the Healey Nab red graded trail. It requires concentration to keep the pace even, during around one hour of hard riding. I would have to gradually increase the effort I was putting in and hence also increase the pain it was causing me! Of course pain also has it’s benefits since it releases endorphins, complex chemicals which give you the kind of high which is unique to hard exercise. Apparently it’s very similar to the effects of morphine, which is something I’ve thankfully never been in such pain to require.
So why should I push myself rather than just going out for an enjoyable ride? 2 reasons, really. Firstly, the harder I push myself on a ride, the more satisfied I’m likely to feel afterward, having had an endorphin high and assured myself that exercise is good for me. Secondly, I want to ride the Mary Towneley Loop (MTL) next year, a 47 mile circuit with 6,500 feet of climbing. Today I rode only 10.74 miles with 1,237 feet of ascent in a little over 90 minutes. That appears to be less than a quarter of the riding of the MTL but the Nab has an intensely twisty trail, not the long, open riding which the MTL will offer. I hope I will be able to average a much better speed than the mere 6.8 mph which I managed today or the route will take me almost 7 hours. I hope to be able to beat 6 hours on the day.
I really enjoyed today’s ride. I took a very standard route to the far side of the hill and started to time my laps as soon as I met the red trail. For this reason Strava wasn’t going to time my first half lap to the trail head or my last half lap from the trail head to my start point. I could see from my stop watch that my lap times were quite similar. The 4 Strava red route times were 11 minutes 12 seconds, 11 mins 24, 11 mins 15 and 11 mins 25, a range of only 13 seconds. In fact the 2 longer times can be explained away. On the first longer lap I got stuck on a slippery step up and must have lost 10 seconds. The other longer time coincided with me needing to stop to do a small bit of maintenance. The gear changing seemed a little vague so I decided to do a quick stop whilst riding a slow part only to find that the rear wheel axle was loose. I tightened it up securely and carried on. This must have taken 15 seconds so maybe my last lap would otherwise have been my fastest, by a small margin. The first 2 laps were easy but by lap 3 I was feeling the effort. Not only were my legs feeling it but I noticed myself running off line on the corners as the mental effort took it’s toll. I tried to concentrate on keeping my lines accurate but I could tell my riding was becoming erratic. I noticed that I was more jerky in the steering and just didn’t feel so dialed in to the trail. Obviously, dropping the pace wasn’t an option! This could add an element of danger to a ride, though it’s perhaps less of a concern on the MTL, which has very little technical riding.
I was very pleased to see that my laps were consistent though I might have found a sixth lap far more challenging to maintain the pace. After a road downhill on the way home, which allowed me a short rest, I still felt to have plenty of energy left. I was probably overdue some food by this time and I’ve found on previous long rides that it’s essential to feed to keep the energy up. I finished my 5 laps in 57 minutes and 47 seconds and will try to do a similar ride around once a week going in to the new year. A valid reason to train is good news if I continue to enjoy it as much as I have today.