A trail ride at full speed!

My last ride was good training with 5 full out laps of a circuit. Each lap took just under 10 minutes and I gradually increased the effort on each lap to try to keep the lap time consistent. I needed to increase the effort as I became more tired. Today I wondered what differences I’d find if I rode a longer trail at full speed, trying again to keep increasing the effort to overcome exhaustion. On my 5 lap ride I’d stopped for a short time after each lap to check and memorise my lap time. Even a short break probably changes the nature of the ride but today there’d be no respite, I’d keep the effort up for the whole ride. I planned the route in advance and it’s all familiar stuff.

After a mile on the road, climbing almost 100 feet, I rode the steeper access road to a golf club. Across the golf course is a descending, rough gravel track where I was held up by a maintenance vehicle. A short tarmac section took me to the crossing of the small but steep sided valley of the river Yarrow. It’s very hard with such varying surfaces and gradients to keep an even effort on the pedals. I was listening to my breathing and feeling the work in my legs. I’m aware that you need to feel some serious resistance in the pedals to keep the highest speed up. I was ensuring that I changed up a gear or more whenever the gradient slackened to achieve this. After another short stretch of tarmac I was climbing the south end of Healey Nab, aiming for the trail head. I started to realise that I’d already done the great majority of the climbing so dug in, achieving my second fastest ever climb despite the damp trail. I’d crossed the river valley in my fastest time ever.

There was no time to relax at the top so I started straight away on the downhill red graded trail. From the lowest point I was feeling the effects of the ride so far. From the north end, where I’d started each of my 5 laps last time, the trail has been driven over by a 4X4, leaving it barely rideable. I slithered up, continued to the summit and descended again. This was my finish point from where I’d cruise home. I tried to stretch my legs, especially the calves, as I rode gently along. Cycling is notorious for shortening the calf muscles so it’s important to do some post ride stretching if you want to retain any flexibility. If you cycle regularly can you touch your toes with straight legs? Be honest!

It was uplifting to put a big effort in during the whole ride, though I do enjoy a few moments to relax and philosophise on the average ride. It did need a slightly different psychological approach when there were to be no breaks, no matter how short. After 2 committed rides I’ll probably do something more chilled at the weekend.

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