Yesterday I took on the Gran Fondo Challenge in Mallorca. A cycling challenge that cycles all around the island of Mallorca for a total of 235km with an expected cycling time of 9.5 hours at a speed of 25km per hour. Just the thoughts of that is scary enough. Was I able for it? Had I trained enough for it? Probably not. But I was determined to give it a go. The club told me that at the 150km mark there was a way to go home by train so if I could make it 150km then I would be pretty happy with that.
Looking back, I for sure didn't eat enough the night before. In general I probably should have eaten more carbs through out the whole day. In the morning I got up at 6am and had a small bowl of granola with a non dairy yoghurt followed by 2 small slices of brown toast and peanut butter. And then I drank my homemade chocolate and banana smoothie made with coconut milk. I filled my two 750ml bottles of water and added some electrolytes in them and wrapped up 4 more of these tablets in some tin foil for later and packed 4 energy bars in my back pocket. I then got dressed, put some sun screen on and went down to the garage to get my bike.
I checked my tyres and filled them up a bit more plus oiled the chain. Then I changed my shoes, put my helmet on, grabbed my sunglasses and went outside. The sun was still rising so I had to put my sunglasses on my helmet as couldn't wear them yet. I cycled the 2km to the meeting point outside the Rapha Cafe feeling both nervous and excited at the same time. There were more than 20 of us signed up for the ride. There were four ride leaders including 2 women but apart from the ride leaders I was the only girl in the group. Guys are always stronger than me so I knew this was going to be tough if I wanted to keep up.
Off we go
We hit the road with me near the front of the peloton. This meant I wouldn't get tailed off at a roundabout but meant I had to work hard to keep that position. We were going at an average of 27km per hour which is above my normal but I just kept pushing and kept my place. However at about 60km in I could feel my body tingling which is never a good sign. I drank some more but I had very little liquid left. Then my leg started to cramp. Something I have never experienced before while cycling. Then the other leg started to cramp. One of the ride leads saw and went cycled off to tell the other ride lead who came back and cycled with me giving me an electrolyte tablet to suck on and giving me some water when I needed. He said we were 10km from the first stop where we would refill and access the situation cause cycling with cramps was not good.
I made it to the supermarket stop and went in to buy an energy drink and a 1.5 litre bottle of water. I had drank the energy drink before I had reached the till. I ate an energy bar, refilled my bottles of water and drank another energy drink. The ride lead asked me what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to continue but if I got more cramps they would have to go with out me and I would stop or go at my pace. I asked him if he could share his live location through whatsapp so I could see where they were incase I did drop off.
On my own
At km 87 going up a hill my leg started to cramp and I just couldn't push to keep up with the guys. I dropped gears and took it really slow up the hill and decided to just keep going for as long as I could. I stopped at 100km to take a photo and make the milestone. I had one water bottle left so was feeling good and decided to continue and try to get to 150km. At the half way mark I stopped again and took another selfie. I had some minor cramps and it was starting to get really hot.
After 5 hours of cycling I stopped in Porto Cristo to refill at a garage. The guys who worked there asked me how I was and I said I had had better days. They laughed and asked where I had come from and I said Palma, 125km. They said wow I can't even do 20km. I drank an energy drink, filled by bottles with water again and my last electrolyte tablets. Then bought some chocolate and sweets and took 5 minutes to just catch my breath again. I checked where the guys were and they were about 16km ahead of me so not too far really.
I set off with the aim of doing another 25km to make it to 150km. For some reason my garmin had not synced the route and it was not showing me where I needed to go so I was relying on the whatsapp live location to figure out where I needed to go. I had to stop at roundabouts and keep checking if I was going the right direction or else I just read the signs and guessed. It wasn't until the next day that I realised I had taken a wrong turn and gone inland a bit and added another 15km to my ride. So instead of the lunch stop being at 150km for me it was actually at 165km. But I kept going as the lads had stopped for lunch and they were only 17km away. I could make it. I knew I could. So I just kept going, kept pushing and when the wind was on my side I was going at over 50km per hour and enjoying every second. And the views were stunning too.
Caught up with the lads
After 165km I caught up with the guys who were just finishing paying for their lunch. They had done 150km and had stopped for a sandwiches. As a celiac I can't eat in places like this so there was no point in me stopping. The lads were so impressed to see me and said wow did you just do all that on your own. I said "yeh. The live location really helped as I knew you were all not too far away." So now they were all getting up to go again and I hadn't even stopped but I decided to continue with them and see how far I could make it. We stopped at the supermarket to refill water and energy drinks and I bought some walnuts and ate another energy bar. Not the best meal but hey as a celiac I really am limited in what I can buy especially for quick carbs.
I kept in the peloton as much as I could but going round roundabouts I was tailing off at the end. I wasn't tired but no matter how much I pushed my bike just didn't move as fast as everyone elses. I really am convinced that my bike is slow, it is 10 years old after all. But then again it could be just that I'm slow. Who knows. Then when we had lateral wind while cycling by the sea I was falling behind and one of the lads was helping me by giving me a push so I could keep up with the peloton. But after km 187 I told them I needed to stop. My body needed 5 mins and I told them to go on without me. There were a few small climbs and I was struggling to do them at that pace. I needed to refuel but the thoughts of eating another energy bar were just not satisfying enough so I had some more jellys.
I stopped for 5 minutes and re-accessed the situation. I had now down 187km, just under 7 and a half hours of cycling and I had only eaten 2 energy bars, some chocolate and some jellys. It was hot and my body was sweating so much salt that my cycling gear was practically white. I decided the best thing to do was to call it a day after 200km. I called my husband and asked him to come pick me up so I didn't have to wait for the train which was another valid option if needed. And off I went on my last few kms.
At 200km I put my arm up in the arm as if I had won a race. The cars going by probably didn't know what to think. I was feeling so proud. 200km. New record. So after 200km, 8 hours of cycling and a total of 10 hours on the go I got into the car and headed home. The funny thing is at that point I actually could have continued. I hadn't reached my limit. It's like reaching 200km had given me this new found energy that I didn't have when on km 187. Also the downhills really help your legs recover. But I was so happy to have reached 200km that I didn't want to push it any further.
I was feeling tired, excited, happy, hungry, sweaty, soar but most of all proud. My husband was also so proud of me. Neither I nor him actually thought I would get so far.
Comparing yourself to others
If I compare myself to the group I was the worst and the only person who dropped out and didn't finish. When we compare ourselves to others we normally have unfair comparisons. The guys are stronger than me just for being guys. The female ride leads are ride leads and are cycling hundreds of km more than me and are extremely hard core in my eyes. They all have more modern bikes than me although I have no idea if that helps or not. And they all cycle more than me cause I am away so much and involved in other sports too, I don't do a regular 3 times a week cycling.
One thing I loved while doing this route was sharing my journey over twitter. I was checking my phone, and seeing the messages of support really helped. The fact that everyone thought it was incredible that I had done 200km really helped me see my achievement. Also one of the ride leaders at lunch time told me that it was so impressive that I had kept going on my own for such a long distance and caught up with them. And at that point none of us had realised that I had actually done an extra 15km so I guess it was pretty impressive.
What I learned
My mental head space was in great shape. If you can tell yourself you can do something then your body normally can be pushed to the most insane limits. Breaking it down to small achievable goals really helps. Instead of focusing on the end goal you focus on the small ones such as the first stop, the 100km point, the halfway mark etc. Stopping to take a selfie and post on twitter to celebrate the milestone really helps. And the support from others really helps too.
Today I am feeling great like I could do it all over again. Ok a few saddle soars and my legs are like rocks but I feel great and full of energy. Taking a rest day to let my muscles recover although did a half hour swimming cause I just have way too much energy. I am now looking forward to the next challenge and I know whatever it may be I can do it. Challenging yourself in every aspect of life is always totally worth it. Creating goals and aiming for them and when you achieve them the feeling of success is just amazing. I challenge you to challenge yourself, in sport, work, whatever. Enjoy and always have fun.