182 miles. 9 hours. 8700ft. 20.2mph average. Ouch.

I might have a go at the National Three Peaks by bike has quickly turned into, oh crap! I think this is actually going to happen. In about 6 weeks…

Am I ready? Probably. But it’s going to be much tougher than anything else I’ve ever done.

Physically, yes I think the ability is there. I’ve got five years worth of training in my legs already. Even if it wasn’t specific to this event, and despite not doing quite as much since my crash. Endurance rides have always suited me. I seem to be blessed with a good aerobic engine and can keep up a high tempo all day. Which is lucky, because I will literally have to do just that during the Three Peaks ride.

Training is going well, and overall I’m feeling strong. I’ve added extra miles to my mid-week riding, I’m mixing up how I get those miles in, as well as the type of workout I do: Longer rides of 50-60 miles at high tempo, two fast 30-mile rides in a day, or even just laps of a local 10-mile loop before dark. Some vO2, tempo, big gear strength, sweet spot. A real mixed bag. Not focussing on anything too specific though. Just a good variety. The legs feel good for doing the additional work. I’ve always said I go best with a small amount of fatigue than completely rested.

The biggest challenge I’ll face with the Three Peaks ride will be a mental one. Forcing myself to keep going even during the dark times. Of which I’m sure there will be many! You have peaks and troughs during any ride over 100-miles. Let alone 400!

The latest training ride I completed was a big test of my mental strength, and it’s given me a huge boost of confidence.

And here’s the ride on Strava.

I decided to recce part of the route from the A6 at Broughton all the way up to the foot of Scafell Pike. Then ride home again. The route was just over 180-miles. It was going to be a long day in the saddle. I was hoping for a tough ride in beautiful weather. Well, the ride was tough enough, but the weather was absolute shite.

I set off from my house in 20+mph westerly winds and heavy rain. It meant an easy first couple of miles east to Broughton. To be honest, I thought it would be quicker. Traffic was heavy at that time in the morning which meant I didn’t get a clear run. However, once I was on the A6 heading north it was smoother going.

The wind was a cross/tail. Occasionally it felt nice, sometimes it was a bit in my face, but for the most part, it was neither here nor there. It didn’t slow me down, but I wasn’t free-wheeling. During the first three hours up to Ambleside, I put out my highest average power of the whole day (just). Which was where I decided to stop for a quick leg stretch and to fill up my water bottle.

I was just over 65 miles in, average speed was 21.5mph, legs felt great. It was still raining. I didn’t hang around and soon found myself riding up to Keswick, where I would stop again and resupply.

The road from Ambleside to Keswick was slow going. The wind felt in my face a lot of the time which was disappointing. After a fast ride up to this point, things started to feel excruciatingly slow. Just outside Grasmere was the biggest climb of the day. I decided that even though I was over 70-miles into the ride and the legs were feeling fresh, there was still a long way to go and it would be best to take it steady. The wind wasn’t good, and my speed dropped to as low as 10mph. The average held though, and I was still above 21mph at this point. Thankfully after the climb, the road only undulated and by the time I arrived in Keswick I had clawed back some speed.

In Keswick, I had a quick coffee, scoffed some skittles and loaded my jersey pockets with sugary goodness. I wanted to experiment with my nutrition on this ride. Normally I would take some ‘proper’ food like a sandwich or wrap on long rides, but the last few times I’ve done that I didn’t feel great once I’d eaten them. I decided carbs that were easy to eat and digest might be better. So I grabbed Tracker bars, Rice Crispy bars, and some instant jelly cubes. Then I was on my way to Seathwaite and the foot of Scafell Pike. It was also going to be my first taste of what the wind would be like on the way home.

It was tough. When I got to Scafell, average speed had dropped considerably. For the first time, it was below 21mph. My legs still felt decent enough though. Actually probably the best they ever have done after 90-miles. The sun even attempted to show itself for a second or two, then it rained some more.

Back to Keswick was ace. I really felt as though the wind was behind me properly for the first time all day. I managed to bring back the average speed a bit (I even thought I’d manage 21mph for 100-miles) but it was just too hilly, and I fell short by .1mph.

The next stretch, Keswick back to Ambleside was probably the worst part of the whole day. I had decided to stop properly in Ambleside to grab some food and any supplies I’d need to get me home. And a cheeky jam doughnut from my favourite bakery – The Apple Pie.

Everything about this part of the ride kinda sucked. The wind was strong and relentlessly in my face. The rain was heavy, visibility poor, and after over 100 miles I lost the fight with the wind to keep my speed up. In the end, I just knocked it into the little ring, let my mind fantasise about that jam doughnut, and did the best I could. Things gradually got easier, and by the time I was in Grasmere, I found myself able to ride above 20mph again. And luckily I hadn’t lost too much from my average. I was down to 20.5mph.

It was a relief being back in Ambleside. 117-miles now in the legs, another 65 or so to go. I popped into the bakery, grabbed a bottle of coke and – finally – asked for that jam doughnut.

“We’ve sold out.”

Heartbreak. But from our many, many weekend walks in Ambleside I’ve gotten to know the lady who runs the bakery quite well. She didn’t recognise me at first in my cycling kit, but we got chatting, and it soon clicked. I mentioned I had ridden from Lytham, up to Seathwaite and back, was 117 miles in and still had to get home and the thought of scoffing that jam doughnut had kept me going through some tough times. She told me to wait for a second and disappeared into the back, emerging a minute later with a fresh jam doughnut. I couldn’t believe my luck! Yum, yum, yum.

After a quick restock and a stretch, I was ready to get going.

It was surprisingly quick back to Milnthorpe. I think I even managed to keep the average speed at 20.5mph on some quite challenging undulating roads. The legs had come back a bit, things were looking good. The wind started to get really nasty though.

The last 40 to 50 miles were simply a case of hanging on. The average speed was dipping, but at a much slower rate than I anticipated.

This was where I was really challenged mentally, and I’m proud of myself for not giving up.

The wind never ceased, the rain never stopped. The pain in my legs only increased. My entire body ached now from wrestling the bike during powerful gusts. I found myself freewheeling the downhills more, my heart rate was continually elevated. Even though the power wasn’t huge, I was probably riding at my limit a lot of the time. There’s not a lot more to say than that. It was a constant struggle.

I hovered around the 20mph mark, but there was plenty of time spent just below. Whenever the speed dipped it was easy to think “just easy up, you can’t ride fast enough anymore so why bother?”

I took a wrong turn in Lancaster which meant riding a few miles in completely the wrong direction. I lost .1mph for that mistake which I knew I wouldn’t get back. The frustration helped me to push on.

South of Lancaster I was back on more familiar roads. I knew however from the start of my ride the last 15 miles would be the worst for headwind. As I turned off the A6 towards St. Michaels it was like being stuck in one of those dreams. The ones where you’re running as hard as you can, yet going nowhere. Time slowed, it seemed to take hours to get to Inskip. But it was at this point I thought “wow, I might actually do this above 20mph average speed”. It was a crazy thought. I would never have imaged doing over 180 hilly miles at that pace, had I not been stood there looking at my Garmin, only a few miles away from doing just that.

I held on, got tucked up as small as I could and pointed myself towards Kirkham. I’m running out of ways to describe how windy it was, but there’s a road that’s always particularly bad. It’s called Higham Side Road. It’s long, straight, and always horrible for a headwind. Today was probably the worst it’s ever been. Most likely because of the miles in my legs. I crawled along it at about 15mph. My heart began to sink at the thought of losing out on my 20mph average speed dream so close to home.

But I got to Kirkham, and I was still on 20.2mph. It was then that I knew I would make it home still above 20mph. And I did.

I arrived back in Lytham after 182 miles and 8700ft of climbing with an average speed of 20.2mph. The ride took me 9 hours exactly, and my average power was 203w / 219w NP. The TSS of 512 for the ride was as much as I had been doing in a week only a few months ago!

The weather hadn’t exactly made for a fast day with the constant wind and rain. Yeah, I had some tailwind, but it was an out-and-back course, so it was a pretty even split of good: bad.

I was still about a mile away from my front door after I stopped my Garmin and it’s only then that I realised what an effort I’d put in. I could barely turn the pedals once I’d stopped and limped home at about 10mph, mostly out of the saddle spinning up for a few seconds only to freewheel for as long as I could.

Huge smile on my face though. That was a special ride.


Nutrition:

  • 4 chocolate rice crispies bars
  • 2 tracker bars
  • 2 jordans cereal bars
  • 1 bag of skittles
  • 1.5 packs of instant jelly cubes
  • 1 jam doughnut
  • 1 millionaire shortbread
  • 1 bottle coke
  • 1 coffee
  • 3 bottles water