So, guys… I’m not even really sure where to start with my experience of the Tour of Cambridgeshire a few weeks ago but I’m pretty much recovered now and I figured it was time I put the experience into words mainly so I could look back and remember but also to share what the event was like and what I got up to over the whole weekend.
The weekend actually turned out to be warmer than expected which probably was the biggest hurdle that I had to overcome to be honest. Cycling in warm weather can be enjoyable if you’re prepared for it and after reading a post on the VeloVixen blog I can kinda understand why I had such a tough time out there on the Tour Of Cambridgeshire route…
#1. Keep On Top Of Your Hydration
This was my second weekend camping in a row and luckily I learnt from the first and packed some 5l bottles of water. However, I don’t think this was ever going to be enough. I filled my two bike bottles up with water and added a nuun hydration tablet to one. in hindsight, I probably should have consumed a bottle with the added nuun before I even set off.
#2. Stay Protected From The Sun
With the weather turning out to be unexpectedly hot, I hadn’t packed any suncream. I always wear a cap though and my sunglasses are clear if there is no sun and then darken as the sun gets brighter. Needless to say, you can imagine the tan lines I have been sporting since this event…
#3. Your Kit Will Make A Difference
To be honest, I don’t think I would’ve worn anything different had I known how warm it was going to be. The outfit I chose was one I took for my ride from London to Paris so I was confident it would do it’s job – all my kit was technical and kept me feeling cool and dry throughout the entire day.
One tip from the VeloVixen blog is to dunk your cap in water to help keep you cool… oh how I wish they’d posted this before I rode in ToC! Fingerless gloves are a must have too if like me you suffer from sweaty hands. They help to keep your grip on the handlebars and i find them useful for the odd occasion I need to wipe sweat off my nose!
#4. Your Body Always Knows Best
Not long into the start of the ride, I realised that I probably wasn’t best prepared nutritionally. For the previous 3 weeks I had been doing a Whole30 and nailing this while camping wasn’t too bad but preparing for a 56 mile / 90km ride was a whole other level.
I packed some Nakd bars in my pocket but it became evident that I would need more energy than this if I were to make it to the finish line. Not too far into the ride, I was joined by Ian (pictured above) who helped take my mind off the discomfort of the heat by chatting to me and when he offered me one of his gels I kindly accepted.
I figured at that point that I needed to give my body what it needed rather than being restrictive… At the feed station about half way through, I refilled my water bottles with water and their electrolyte drink ready to take on the second half.
#5. And Eat, Even If You Don’t Feel Like It
Now this is the one where sometimes your body might not be sending you the right signals. Last year, I learnt how important it is to eat especially when doing endurance events. It’s best to eat little and often and having tried some carbohydrate drinks I find they work really well to keep your energy levels up even if you can’t stomach too much more food.
At the feed station, I restocked my banana supply but chose not to go for anything else that wasn’t quite Whole30 in order not to shock my body any more than I had already by taking part in the ride and using a few gels to fuel myself.
#6. Maybe Don’t Ride In The Middle Of The Day
Now this one was out of my control as the race (Mellow Vèlo) started at 1pm! When I rode the sportive in Barbados in similar temperatures we started at around 6am I think so we were done and dusted before the sun got to its hottest.
The route was mostly flat (by most peoples standards) and often in very open areas so shade was non existent. I’m in no doubt that this made the ride so much harder than it would’ve been on a cooler day or at an earlier time of day.
I think the combination of the heat, not having trained long distances and not fuelling well were what resulted in me suffering from some of the worst cramp ever… in my life. Initially it started off in my right calf, then moved into my left hamstring and glute.
I had to stop the first time for some quick stretches and honestly, I couldn’t fit anymore water in my belly at that point. The second time, the worst, I had to take a long, long break before rejoining the route where the Medio (medium route) joined the longer Gran Fondo route to complete the final 10 or so miles.
#7. Get Familiar With The Route
I actually only signed up to the event about an hour before the start. There was a lot of confusion over whether I was actually going to ride or not so I’m using that in my defence for not having trained or prepared properly for the event.
In normal circumstances I would’ve downloaded the route onto my Garmin and read up on where the feed stations were located along with all that other vital information. Lucky for me, Ian was a bit more prepared and had most of this info. One thing they could’ve done on the route was signpost it with some distances… even if just every 5-10km.
I remember seeing a guy about 2 miles from the end who had parked up his van and was cheering with his sign letting us know there were just two miles to go and honestly… he made me SO HAPPY!
#8. If There’s A Chance, Get Wet
In the recent Adidas One Hour event, they had those mist showers on the route which were glorious to run through in hot weather. Maybe these aren’t a thing in bike rides… but I think an extra couple of water stations wouldn’t have gone amiss. What I would’ve given for someone to be out in their front garden with their hose pipe…
#9. Celebrate The Wins, No Matter How Small
…do you know what? …this wasn’t my strongest ride… at all. But I did it. And damn am I proud and happy. I had plenty of time on the route to wonder what on earth I loved about this but nothing about this day put me off.
I got to enjoy the camaraderie and community that the cycling world brings. I got to learn about myself and learn to handle struggles in less than ideal situations. I enjoyed cycling through the towns close to the end where people were out in the beer gardens drinking and also supporting the riders that day.
Their support was IMMENSE and literally kept me going to the very end… I also got a tiny medal which I made look bigger by holding it closer to the camera for the photo I shared on Instagram here. lol.
Would I do it again? ..well, I think I have some unfinished business with this event.