Friday, 20 May 2011

Part 4! The bike....

I had thought I wouldn't be able to sleep much during the afternoon as it would be warm and sunny but after a cup of tea, I decided I would just go and lie down at least to get some rest. Ad shut all the shutters and the room remained pretty cool and actually I was soon out like a light. Obviously I was physically tired both from the exertion of exercise and no doubt from not having had a proper night's sleep for two days. Ad and Ed also needed a rest after having been up all through the night before with me so the house soon became still and quiet.

I woke up about 5pm ready to have a shower and stretch, eat a decent meal and get ready for the cycling. Lynn as always did superbly well for us, providing tasty, filling meals with salad and bread and I felt the energy returning after the break. I had a stretch and tried to decide what I wanted to wear for the first leg of the cycling. I would still be warm at 6.30pm but would get cold reasonably quickly as the sun went down after the first hour or so. I was nervous about the cycling as traditionally it is my weakest discipline and I hadn't done any real training for it. I think Ed was a bit shocked when I told him I hadn't been on my bike once since the Double in August. It may seem foolish to some people but I knew I had a good base of cycling fitness from the Double and, as I wasn't fussed about time, so long as I kept moving forward I would eventually get there. I was a bit concerned that I wouldn't have any strength for the wind or power for the hills as I hadn't done any specific training and Lanzarote is notorious for both of these factors!! As 6.33pm approached our little party headed slowly down the driveway to ready for the off. Ad carried my bike down the drive to the amusement of Ed who made some 'under the thumb' comments but I was extremely grateful and couldn't have asked for a better support crew than my wondeful fiance! At 6.30 I gave Lynn a hug, Ad a last kiss and clipped into my pedals. At 6.33pm precisely I pushed off and headed off down the road to Yaiza with the Endurovan trailling slowly in my wake. The first part of the bike course was familiar to me as I had cycled it many times with the RAF Tri team during our training camp the year previously. We headed through Yaiza and then onto the road into the Fire Mountains and the Timanfaya National Park. The road up Fire Mountain was straight into a quite hearty headwind but I knew the landmarks I was looking for and kept my head down and pedalling on. I think Adam was a bit amused at how slowly I was making progress as he hasn't been to Lanzarote before and doesn't know of the notorious wind. About halfway up the drag up Fire Mountain he got out of the Endurovan to bring me down a new water bottle. As he reached me he turned and was nearly immediately blown backwards by the wind. I think he was shocked at the force and said, 'Oh, now I understand why you're taking such a long time!!!' It was tough but like I said to Eddie, 'I've done this hill once so I'm not scared of it, I know I can do it again!' So I started off with a positive attitude to the cycling though still apprehensive about the notorious Mirador that leads up to the highest point on the island which I've never attempted before so couldn't approach with the same confidence.

The climb up to the top of Fire Mountain was a lot less strenuous than I remembered (the last time I was here I had a massive bonk* at Yaiza before the return leg and people had to pour Coke down my throat just to get me to start peddling again!) which I was pleased with - maybe after all this time my cycling is actually improving a little?! And the descent down the other side past the Timafaya National Park entrance was also not as white-knuckled as I remembered from previously either. I think the fact that by now it was almost totally dark probably helped as I couldn't see the steep descent or corners approaching!! The road then rolls on for 10kms or so into Tinajo which was a part of the ride I really enjoyed. The Endurovan had left me to it to leap-frog on to Tinajo and prepare me a hot drink so it was just me and the amazing sky full of stars. It was lovely to arrive in the lit-up but totally deserted town of Tinajo and to stop for the first of my ham sandwiches. It was funny, I thought I would really like them on the run but they didn't work for me at all whereas on the bike they were totally fabulous. I wish I had made more than two as they had to be rationed as the Pepperami had been on the run!! Funny how food can be such a big factor on your mental state! After a swift cup of tea we rolled up through more villages beginning with T (Tiagua, Teguise) before hitting the route to Haria where I knew my biggest challenge lay ahead. I don't remember much about this part of the route (hmm, maybe I was sleeping!) except that each village triggered vague recollections of being there last year with RAF Triathlon and how much I have improved as a cyclist since then!

I was starting to get quite tired as the road started to wind its way more and more steeply through switchbacks to the village of Haria. I couldn't quite work out where on the route we were now and whether I had started the infamous climb up the Mirador yet. I was starting to get quite tired both physically and sleepily and struggled to stay awake whilst plugging away up the hills. It seemed to go on for ever and the camber on some of the switchbacks was extreme. Ad and Ed had had to go on a few miles up the road and I felt very alone. I remember shouting out-loud at times in the frustration and probably for sheer tiredness. I believe I used some very choice language and I was glad Ad and Ed weren't around to laugh at my silliness! Ed had warned me that at one point it became very steep but it was just for a short while. On reaching that point I pushed and pushed and ground the pedals round until it got so steep I was hardly moving. I thought at that point it would be best just to clip out and walk rather than try and push on and maybe get to the point where I wouldn't be quick enough to clip out in time before I toppled over. I had just got off the bike and was starting to push up the steepest part of the hill when I saw a torch bobbing out of the darkness. It was Ad and I was so relieved. He told me I had literally a few metres to go to the top where Ed was waiting for with the Endurovan and I could have a rest. I was so happy to see Ad but slightly annoyed that I had got nearly to the top of the hill when I had decided to get off. I could have definitely made it over riding but it in the darkness you can't tell how much longer up the hill you have to go! Despite this being good at some points, it does make it difficult to gauge your effort and know when to dig in. I could definitely have got to the top of the hill being, as it transpired, about another 50m but had it been another 500m I think I would have struggled!!!

I was glad to reach the top of that section and the chance to have a drink and a bite to eat. And just having a few moments chatting to Ad and Ed cheered me up after I had been feeling quite alone for a while. I never felt scared in the dark which I did wonder if I would but sometimes you feel isolated and alone and having the crew to chat too makes such a difference to your mood. Unfortunately it wasn't the end of the climbing, I had thought that was maybe the Mirador done but Eddie informed me that no, we still had to drop down into Haria village before climbing up again to the peak of the Mirador. It was getting late, around 10pm by now and I just wanted to get it done so we pushed on after a short break, dropping down into Haria before turning left up a short steep hill and the beginning of the climb up the Mirador.

The actual final climb up there Mirador wasn't as bad as I thought it might have been and I managed most of the way. I got off at one point just to have a little rest from the long winding climb and refocus, have a little think about how completing the challenge would feel etc. Mirador literally means 'lookout' and I wished for a moment that it wasn't the middle of the night and I could appreciate what I was sure would be amazing views falling away below me. The road is bordered by a wall leading up to the top where a small fortress and gun battery sits. It was a bit surreal passing the long disused fortress in the last few metres before the top and reaching the isolated layby where the Endurovan was parked up. It was pretty chilly at the top and Ad wrapped me up in a jacket in preparation for the next downhill section. I had a quick cup of tea and a sandwich and headed off eager to get off the top of the chilly mountain and head for home.

The downhill section off the top of the Mirador was a bit hairy, I couldn't see very well and despite being well wrapped up with a jacket and long gloves, I was so cold that I was shaking which made for interesting bike handling. Despite it being a no work section, I really didn't enjoy this part as I was tired and cold and worried about coming off the bike if I got my speed or cornering a bit wrong due to tiredness. Half way down at full pelt my light also took the inopportune moment to fall off leaving me skidding to a halt and giving Ad and Eddie who were following me down the hill in the Endurovan, a heart attack as they braked sharply to avoid running me over! Having a car following you is a bit disconcerting but I needed the extra light and I am sure it was worse for Ad and Ed. I have followed a bike at night before as a support crew and it is no fun, you are so conscious that if you judge things just a little bit wrong you can end up whacking into the rider in front of you.

Light re-affixed we headed on down the hill to Arieta where we had a short stop before pressing on. I also really didn't enjoy the next section which was the long straight road to Tahiche. It appeared flat to the naked eye but either it was deceptively uphill or I was just getting extremely tired as I appeared to be going absolutely nowhere! It seemed to take forever before we finally reached Tahiche and turned off the main road for the final time to head to San Bartholme, our final stopping point before the final stretch back to Yaiza. I was glad to be off the long stretch to Tahiche and revived a little at this point. Our final stop at San Bartholme proved amusing. I had just hopped off the bike looking for a bush to have a quick wee when suddenly everything was illuminated! A police cruiser had pulled up next to the Endurovan with full beams wondering what a car was doing cruising around so slowly at this time of night. Eddie mustered all his best Spanish to explain I was completing a long distance endurance event and they were my support crew while I tried to creep further and further into the darkness to avoid mooning everyone!!! I've always said triathlon is not a glamourous game!

Finally the police let us on our way though I'm not convinced they didn't think we were completely mad and we made the last turning down to La Geria and Yaiza. I'm pretty sure I was going a bit delirious at this stage, alternating between very hyper (I got extremely over-excited by the sighting of a hedgehog at the side of the road which I regaled in great detail to Ad and Ed who definitely thought I was going bonkers) and very tired. I was extremely pleased to roll into the familiarity of Yaiza knowing it was just a few short miles home. I pushed on desperate to get home but also wanting a little time to revel in the achievement and soon the lights of the Endurohouse were sparkling in front of me. I cycled round the last roundabout and up to the drive where Lynn, despite the fact in was about 2am, was, bless her, waiting for us to get home. I very happily got off the bike and gave her a big hug while she offered many congratulations. I gave Ed a huge hug and I could see how pleased he was for me. I couldn't wait to give Ad a massive hug as well and he told me how proud he was which meant the world. Honestly, they were such a wonderful crew and I couldn't have done it without them.

We all piled into the house where I proceeded to eat my body weight in Cadbury's chocolate fingers accompanied by a steaming hot cup of tea before having a quick shower and heading straight to bed!

* This is not as rude as it sounds (!) - it basically means when you totally run out of energy - similar to hitting the wall in the marathon

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