Peaks and troughs: a bipolar 200km

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy last randonneur event was over five years ago, before other priorities took over. It travelled out to the Lancashire coast and returned via the Trough of Bowland. On Sunday I completed the Red Rose Ride, a 200km brevet randonneur organised flawlessly by Dave Dodwell as part of the West Yorkshire SR series. Starting in Halifax, it traces a moderately hilly route out via that same Trough of Bowland, returning via flatter roads. In recognition of my adopted county I wore a lovely limited edition Milltag jersey with a white rose design.

I set out after riding to the start on my sonically-challenged steed (rattling mudguard issue) with a fairly optimistic air, and found myself able to ride in groups and even contribute to some pacemaking, having benefited from my highest quality and volume of training in years.

However, despite the adoption of an ingenious homemade route sheet holder (see here for instructions by @gypsybug) I managed to turn the ‘other’ left at a T-junction, distracted by rain and suddenly on my own. This was the beginning of a descent into one of my worst cycling experiences. Having relocated the route and first control, I became increasingly desperate about running out of time, and as the weather closed in began to lose confidence in my route following ability and stamina. I agonised for 10 minutes over whether I was taking the right way into the Trough of Bowland, famous for its Wild Boar, and began to consider packing. Having met the organiser (travelling back to the start from the next control) and told him I might pack I finally cracked at the beginning of the final climb out of the valley. The headwind and surface flooding, combined with the cold and my concerns about time got too much for me, and I decided to phone my partner and ask her to meet me on the Lancashire Coast at the lunch control. There may be wild boar in Bowland, but certainly no mobile phone reception. Having actually cried, I resolved to ride to the control, eat and phone from there, assuming I was out of time.

The next part of the story demonstrates the power of the mind. I arrived at the café d’lune to find other riders and immediately decided to continue on after a rather nice cheese roll and a sit down. Right on the edge of the time limit I reasoned that with a tailwind I could make up time on the 90 km return. And indeed I did, finishing well within the time limit, feeling incredibly positive. The high point of the return trip was riding right under a hovering bird of prey and making eye contact. Much better than contemplating being devoured by the wild boar of Bowland.

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