Pushing my Limits

I spent a lot of 2013 cycling on my own, going out when the mood took me and trying different things. When I started there were 3 of us, two on bikes and one running (sounds crazy now I know). Now the three of us are back together and the runner now owns a bike. The only problem for me is that the runner is still infinitely fitter than I am so I find myself between 10 and 15 bike lengths behind the others on a regular basis.

That seems to be my biggest issue at the moment, my fitness. I can ride for quite a few miles once I get my breathing right and get through the initial burst of activity, that is if I can rest a little – by slowing down or taking my foot off the gas a bit. The problem I have at the moment is the route we have been taking has meant that the initial mile up hill is then followed by another half mile up a very steep hill. I just can’t make it in one go and it nearly kills me every time.

What I need to do is get fitter so that I can get more air into my lungs and not feel like my heart is going to pump out of my chest every time things get a little hard. Some sort of high intensity or interval training might be in order I think.

Riding along ten or more bike lengths behind other people who are chatting away without a care in the world and seemingly taking it easy isn’t much fun, but what it does do is provide the motivation to get better, faster and stronger. I want to be able to keep up with the other two, not just catch them every now and then or when they stop for a breather to allow me to catch up.

I also think I may have found my limit in terms of distance. Although if we were on road bikes on a fairly flat route I think I could have gone further, but on mountain bikes, riding through mud and puddles, along roads and bridalways I think I reached the outer limit of my current range.

We rode up and over the hills behind where I live towards Winscar Reservoir which is above Holmfirth, we’ve tried this route before but my gear shift broke so we turned back. No such problems this time as we made it to and then around the reservoir, then down towards the Pennine trail (along an old railway line) heading towards Penistone. That bit was fun, riding through mud and puddles, keeping pace with the others and peddling constantly for a few miles at a constant pace rather than the quick, slow, quick of the hills we normally ride up and down.

Then it was time for the inevitable steep hill up, this one goes towards the back of the windmills route and was tough – for me anyway. Just over half way up written on the road was a message “no pain no gain” to which I smiled, nodded in recognition and made it all the way up without stopping.

The next bit of the ride should have just been a normal half windmills then home. But I was struggling, badly. There was nothing left in my legs, I tried to get myself up to the other two who were by now their customary ten to fifteen bike lengths ahead, but I just couldn’t do it, I was spent. This is the first time I’ve noticed not having anything left after a long ride. I’ve had it before when I had nothing in the legs just after I set off, but never as a result of pushing myself to the limit.

All in this was a good day out, tough on the legs and a little dull in parts when I was on my own but for the most part I enjoyed it. We went much further than I have ever been before, hopefully next time we can break the 20 mile barrier. Looking at the figures below we went much further but in a very quick time, compared to the last time that is, over 4 miles further but only about 12 minutes longer. This just shows how difficult it is to compare one ride to another using Strava or any other tracking system when you don’t ride on the same route.

Ride Details

Distance: 19.8 miles

Time Taken: 2:19:27

Elevation Gain: 1,598ft

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