Norwich 100 2014
How fortunate were we riders? Very, it was perfect weather. While last year I could barely make out the sea through the mist as we cycled several miles of coastline, this year the panoramic scenery was full-on spectacular. From old-world villages and lines of red poppies, the gorgeous deep blue sea against light and clear blue sky, to the windmills and lighthouses – what more can a ride offer? Well, some drama perhaps. It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security as the first forty miles to Holkham Hall were fast and steady effort; however, the coast road to Sheringham and just beyond (the next twenty to twenty five miles or so) has, guess what… hills!
One of the hills really didn’t look as hard as it actually was, except for the few cyclists dismounting to walk up or take a break. And of course there’s the headwind, which, given the sun this year, was a welcome cooler, but not to be underestimated for the extra effort needed to pedal. The journey back inland has the context of physical and mental fatigue, but then, if it wasn’t hard it wouldn’t feel like the achievement that cycling one hundred miles is. Within the last twenty miles I had one specific moment in which I feared that my legs would jellify and that my body and soul would give way – I dug deep and it felt good to find willpower from somewhere.
The real pleasure of an event like the Norwich 100 is the fact that Bike Events and British Heart Foundation put the infrastructure and support in place to afford someone like me the confidence to cover such a distance and delight in such a landscape. I feel so grateful to all of the volunteers for what was a truly and deeply contented day.
Norwich 100 2013
Firstly, I must say that this is a really well organised event run by Bike Events (http://www.bike-events.com) that fundraises for British Heart Foundation. I totally recommend it, with the proviso that you train well, and have both a decent road or touring bike and a stubborn mind for the endurance!
Well, I arrived just before 7am on Saturday 1st June 2013 at the grounds of Norwich Cathedral to an abundance of lycra-clad men and their expensive carbon toys. Yes, quite a sight. “Oh good grief!”
When I registered for the event back in January, I had to select one of three time brackets: 6 hours, 8 hours or 10 hours. I put myself down for a realistic 10 hours. That said, I then worked out the maths. If my average speed was a reasonable 10 mph and I stopped for regular breaks including a decent lunch, coming in at under 10 hours was actually impossible. So, I was prepared to go faster. Now, speed is not Anaemic On A Bike’s thing, neither is it my touring bike’s thing; rather, we’re a happy combo of steadily-paced endurance. For sure, I was feeling a tad apprehensive – was this time frame possible?
I set off amidst the lycra-clad men and their expensive carbon toys at around 7:10am. There was an array of cycling teams and jerseys. In short, ‘packs’, yes, like in-the-wild. Indeed, this event had the feel of a wannabe leg of the Tour de France. It wasn’t a race apparently, but most of the cyclists were out chasing time. It’s worth noting that the very few female cyclists I saw on this ride looked impressive athletes, which was inspiring to see.
Swish swish swish, the sound of peloton after peloton after peloton overtaking me. I could hear them coming, I saw them pass, and soon enough they disappeared on the horizon before the next came up. I did try once or twice to catch the back of a peloton… still.
It certainly helps to be able to share a ride with others in order to slipstream. By tucking in behind another cyclist, you can save yourself up to an estimated 30% of energy expenditure. In a well organised peloton, the saving can be greater than 30%. Yes, that’s a BIG deal!
The ride took us, in the main, through quiet countryside lanes to and from the coast. The landscape was like none I’d ever cycled through before because it was, to the eye, flat. However, Norfolk is not technically flat (well, maybe parts are, but this route didn’t include The Broads, for example). The coastal sections had ascents that, on tired legs especially, did require some significant effort. Also, there was the persistent nagging headwind. I had never quite appreciated before how much additional effort is required to pedal through headwind.
Psychologically, headwind can be tough, since it’s not like a big hill which you can see, prepare for, and (in a calculated way) conquer, yet physically its effects are similar i.e. demanding higher energy expenditure. Headwind is the invisible beast that comes and goes and then comes back again harder. My top tip for cycling in headwind is to get right down into your most aerodynamic position and click into a slightly easier gear to maintain a regular high cadence. Of course, if you can, slipstream too. Most importantly, have a good attitude to headwind – don’t worry about it, accept it, and therefore just get on with it.
From Norwich we headed to Reepham and then on to one of the highlights, a route right through the grounds of Holkham Hall (pretty special). After that, it was onward to lunch at Sheringham, and through Cromer (gosh, I did thoroughly enjoy the crashing waves and seawater stray) and Walcott. We headed back inland to Norwich through Horstead. All in all, lovely scenery, but, here’s the thing: this was actually a speed endurance cycle, so there was little opportunity to just pause and soak it all up. I was conscious throughout of my progress through the miles, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, lunch, 70, 80, 90, dig deep, 91, 92, oh you’re making me work for it, 93, okay fine, let’s do this…
The sight of Norwich Cathedral on my return was glorious. I beamed a smile to the generously clapping moderate-sized crowd as I crossed the finish line at around 4:10pm. Having had 80 minutes worth of breaks, and a cycling time of 7 hours 40 minutes, the journey was complete in 9 hours.
Gosh, I was really chuffed to have made it: the magic 100, bagged! 🙂