www.Hypersmash.com 14 hours (400km) cycling in a day!

zondag 3 maart 2013

14 hours (400km) cycling in a day!

Last friday I had a day completely to myself as my wife and kids were in Scotland visiting 'granny'.

In a moment of madness a couple of days earlier I had decided to try and cycle the 'rondje ijsselmeer' which involves cycling a loop of the ijsselmeer, the largest lake in western europe. The course (see map below) was 280km (174 miles). I had never cycled that far in my life and in the past 12 years I had only cycled more than 100k once so it was definitely a step into the unknown!

I bought a Netherlands GPS cycling card for my Garmin and then spent Thursday evening planning a course and getting my food, drink and bike ready for the next day. I packed a few bottles of cheap supermarket bought energy drink, some bananas and an energy bar. I figured this would be enough to last the distance (oh how wrong I was!!).

Thursday evening I went to bed relatively early, very excited about the following day. I had my alarm set for 4:45am and woke up a bit earlier feeling full of energy and ready to go.

I gulped down a couple of large fruit smoothies, some energy drink, took the dog for a walk and by 5:30 I was on the bike and off.

My strategy was to break the ride down into 3 sections (marked on the map above). Up until point 1 on the map I planned on taking it super easy, keeping my heart rate under 115 beats per minute and conserving my energy.

It was quite a brisk headwind on the first section of the journey. It was dark and cold when I began but after an hour or so the sun began to rise. The most amazing sight I saw along this stretch of the journey was a small herd of wild deer who ran alongside me for a short while.

The only problem on this first section was that the course I had mapped out on my GPS device didn't work. Even though I knew I was following the right road the device still told me I was off course. I had never used a bike GPS device for navigation before so it was probably something wrong with my preparation rather than the device itself.

About 3 hours after setting off I arrived at my first checkpoint. This was really the go or no-go point. At this stage I had the option of turning back or taking a shorter route back through Amsterdam. If I kept going there was no turning back. My mind, body and bike were all working fine and I didn't even consider turning back.

However with my GPS device playing up I wasn't sure of the route I should take in order to get to Den Oever. On the map above it looks straight forward but in reality I was slightly inland, unable to see the lake and had no idea where to go (lesson = take a map!). I programmed in Den Oever into my GPS and set off. After following an extremely indirect and narrow cycle path I eventually made it to Den Oever. I was still feeling fine although I was starting to worry about my GPS which was getting pretty low on battery life.

I hadn't even considered running out of batteries and I hadn't taken a map as a back-up. So I switched off my GPS and began the approx 32km crossing of the Afsluitdijk that links Noord-Holland with Freisland.

The crossing of the dijk was awesome. The bike path was smooth, fast and as I'd been cycling 5 or 6 hours I started to get into quite an awesome zone. I was sitting on 40km/h with a heart rate of about 125 beats per minute and felt great.

Once I reached the other side of the dijk that's where my difficulties began. I had no idea what roads to take and got completely lost in the maze of water ways below Sneek. I tried to use the GPS again but it was taking me on bike paths which required ferry crossings. Unbeknownst to me, the ferry's only run from April to October so I had to retrace my steps a number of times.

Eventually I found my way to a town and managed to get directions on how I could get to my 3rd milestone and beyond. At that point it was getting late, I was out of food and drink and I was under a fair bit of time pressure as I'd promised to meet my family at the airport later that evening.

It was a matter of putting my head down and going for it. On the plus side I felt remarkably good, the bike was running like a dream, and I had a beautiful strong tail wind helping me.

The last couple of hours flew past. Although I was woefully underprepared in terms of food and drink I never once 'bonked' and over the last hour I was able to cycle easily above 40km/h. My GPS had run out of batteries by then but I was on familiar roads and going for it!

I arrived back home at 19:30. I had just cycled pretty much non-stop for 14 hours. As my GPS had died I'm not sure of the distance but I reckon it was at least 400km.

I grabbed a bit to eat, jumped in the shower and then the dog and I rushed off to the airport. I got there just in time to buy some balloons for my girls and then there they were coming out of the arrival gates.

What a day!

As I'm writing this it's now Sunday, 2 days later and I'm still very tired from my adventure. My muscles are sore but sore in a good way. I have no concerning knee or back pain, just a bit of muscle soreness.

Here a few observations and learning points from the ride:

1) I loved it!!!

I totally loved it. It was an awesome adventure and I definitely want to do more long distance cycling. I'm harbouring a desire to ride Paris-Brest-Paris in 2015 (it's a 1200km cycle event) and after this ride I'm really motivated to pursue that dream.

2) I felt fit and strong the whole way

The distance and time on the bike was a real step into the unknown but I felt good the whole ride.

3) Plan the course and take a map!!!!!!

Next time I need to be better prepared in terms of understanding how to better use the GPS navigation and knowing in advance the route I want to take. And I need to take a map!

4) Take more food and drink

I should have taken twice as much. I was riding my quest velomobile so I had plenty of room. There were not many opportunities to buy food along the way so next time I need to take at least twice as much.

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