Blog Post by Emma
A hilly 100 miles ride, that’s what the Torq Fitness training plan was asking of me last weekend. Thankfully, the weather forecast was kind…..cool, but sunny. I could live with that!
We’d already completed one century ride this year on Good Friday, so I knew I could handle the mileage, but there’s something about riding that distance alone that makes it that bit harder! Perhaps for many cycling enthusiasts 100 miles is an easy feat, but not for me. Not being the speediest cyclist, the challenge of physically being on the bike for so many hours is enough in itself!
Initially I’d had grand ideas of heading towards Thorncliffe and Flash, super hilly territory on the fringes of the Peak District. However, I put that silly idea back in the box!! Instead I settled on a lumpy route out towards the Staffordshire Moorlands, for the first part of the ride. I love the lanes in this area as they are nice and quiet, and on this sunny Saturday, for much of the ride I barely saw a soul. The terrain was hilly, lots of small climbs, taxing for the legs, but without the brutality of Peak District gradients.
Eating…..something I love to do, and so important for a ride of this duration. For distances like this I aim to eat roughly every hour to hour and a quarter. So my jacket pockets were well stocked with a mixture of energy bars and gels. The favourites we like to keep in stock are Torq, Clif Bar, Zipvit, Pedal Bites, Trek Bar and Bounce Ball. We always use Torq Vanilla Energy drink and for this ride I’d also got one of their top-up energy sachets with me for good measure.
I felt really good for the first thirty miles, telling myself “you wimp you should’ve gone to the Peaks”. However, at the half way mark, I was still feeling fine, but the hills were starting to leave their imprint, and my “inner chimp” pointed out “you were right NOT to head to the Peak District!!” On a long, solo day, your thoughts and emotions certainly chop and change!
Croxden Abbey was picturesque as always, and from there I rode towards Alton Towers, with any concerns about traffic due to the theme park, proving unnecessary….the roads were desolate. I reached the pools near to the JCB plant and was pleased to spot an ice cream van. Too cold for a 99 cone, but handy for topping up my water!
My route then brought me back to Barlaston, at around 65 miles. I’d not really planned the next part of the ride, but I was determined to hit that 100 mark! It was here that I hit a low point, both mentally and physically. Plodding up Chase Lane, the climb felt harder than it should, a headwind was not in my favour and I started to wonder how I’d cope with the next 35 miles. Emergency gel required….thanks Torq Fitness for the magic pill that is the Banoffee Caffeine Gel. I think I’d left it just a little too long between snacks, but the gel, and an energy bar not long after got me back on track. It really was like flicking a switch, and I felt so much better between 80 and 90 miles than I did between 60 and 70!
After tackling the climb we affectionately call “the Onion” (there used to be a restaurant called the Bosted Onion on this road) I was at 90 miles. I was not really that far from home now, and I figured out a suitable way back, that would give me the magic number. Acton Bank, short but steep at 96 miles; I had been dreading this, but I climbed it well, no worse than after a 40 miles ride. I totally put this down to my on-bike eating plan!
100.25 miles by the time I got back home, approximately 7 hours 35 mins of riding time. I was preparing to do a loop of the estate if I didn’t quite get my 100, but thankfully there was no need! It was knowing how thrilled I’d be with the accomplishment of hitting the distance that spurred me on. The sunny weather certainly helped too, not to mention all those energy bars! I was tired for sure, but the buzz of the achievement kept me upbeat for days.