On a pretty chilly, but clear, Saturday morning I set off to ride to Barley to take part in the Nelson Wheelers Hill Climb on the L822 course. The fact that there were only 18 entrants, and that included some top class climbers, led me to believe I was going to get a rude awakening!
25 miles and 2,000ft of climbing seemed a decent enough warmup but I’d never done this climb before, so I rode up it to see what it was like. About a mile long, not too steep, and with few changes in gradient. I had a chat with the organiser at the top, who put my mind at rest by eulogising about the capabilities of the other entrants. Back at the HQ I signed on and then I saw National Hill Climb favourite Tejvan Pettinger. Now I am the lightest I’ve been for 20 years but I suspect that even though he was well over 6ft tall, he was maybe 10kg’s lighter than me. Great.
I was fourth off and as per usual I went off too fast on the shallow start. I was blowing hard after about half a mile, and again, as usual, I was hanging on at the end. As my body transferred all blood to my legs, my arms went numb, shoulders ached and vision blurred. My legs were screaming at me to stop, my lungs burning to the point that I still haven’t stopped coughing a day later. Why do I do this again? As you can see from the graph above, I spent 47.5% of the climb with my HR between 85 and 90% maximum, and 43.8% between 90 and 92%.
My time was 4 minutes 45 seconds, which was good (bad?) enough to be 10th from 12 blokes or 15 overall starters. Tejvan won with a time of 3:32, only 2 seconds off the course record.
The ride home was lovely – clear and crisp skies and warming up nicely. My legs certainly felt it though.
On Sunday morning, it was even chillier. This time I was riding to Sabden to ride the North Lancs Road Club L806 Nick o’ Pendle climb. Despite being freezing it was clear the day was going to be lovely as the sun was rising. Another 30 mile/2000ft warmup and I was due to be 19th off this time, with Tejvan off immediately after me. Fantastic.
I’d ridden the Nick on the Season of Mist audax a couple of weeks ago, and got up it pretty quickly, earning myself a 7th place on Strava’s leaderboard. However, looking at all the competitors warming up on rollers I wasn’t too confident – especially as most of them made me look like Billy Bunter on a bike. The starter, an old boy with a broad Lancashire accent, wandered over and shouted “Boots” at me. Apparently he is still a life member of the National Clarion, but the Clitheroe and Lancs sections no longer ride any more.
Anyway, at the start I was determined to pace myself more sensibly, which I managed for the first couple of hundred yards.
At around the halfway point I heard the wheels behind me and Tejvan went past me at a tremendous pace. At this point I was starting to feel in trouble and I was struggling. I didn’t feel like that on the Season of Mist – maybe two in two days, with rides and to and from the events was too much. As I crossed the cattle grid I looked up and saw that there was quite a crowd, who were now shouting encouragement to me as I tried to dig in. The last 50 yards was excruciating and as I passed the finish a guy caught me and held me up – just as well as it took me 5 or 10 seconds to get my breathing under control. And then the coughing started. I’d like to say it’s stopped now (8 hours later). But it hasn’t. This time I managed to spend 4% of the ride with my HR over 94%!
As it was I came 16th out of 19, with a time of 5 minutes 26 seconds. Tejvan won again with a time of 3:39. The ride back was again absolutely stunning, with the sun warming up really nicely.
Although I finished at the back of the field on both days, I enjoyed testing myself against some seriously strong competitors. My times were in no way embarrassing against the rest of the field (Teyvan excepted!) and it gives me something to aim for next year – when I will be back!