Breaking records and winning yourself

Mark Cavendish and his famous egg imitation | Photo by teloro

I didn’t have the option to ride to work in the first days of this week, so I decided to go for a ride on Sunday. My wife was having her colleagues visiting our house, so I had around three to four hours to kill. The longest distance I’ve covered in a single sitting before Sunday was 65 kilometers during the Summer which I rode with an average speed of 25 kilometers per hours, spending around 2.5 hours going around that.

Well, that was like months ago, before I got my new bike and I had had a plan if I’d had the new bike earlier. I had planned an 85 kilometer trip in my Garmin and I figured I would see how much I had actually developed during my commute. I also knew that I’d have two rest days after that, so everything should be okay. The first thing I noticed was that my waist had grown smaller as my previously ordered Lusso jersey didn’t look comical on me, but it actually felt pretty okay.

So, in my bibs and in the jersey, a Camelbak on my back, sports drink in my bottle and two bananas I set off into the darkening evening of Finland, enjoying the mild and dry 18 degrees Celsius that was the weather.

I was expecting to face hardships as I had only been riding the shorter distances lately, and barely anything over 30 kilometers in the last months. The first 20 kilometers felt really good, my muscles started to get warm and it felt like the pace was pretty good. I didn’t follow any specs from my ride as I had to look at the GPS to make sure I wouldn’t get lost (and I did get lost a bit anyway), so I was letting my body do the talking and I tried listening as well as I could.

My plan was to keep drinking one liter of liquids per hour (a quarter sports drink and three quarters water) to keep up my energy and I had those two bananas with me, planning to eat them at 35km and 60km. Since I’m quite a big fellow, I seem to burn quite a lot of energy to keep me moving at a good pace and the dumbest thing you can do is overestimating your energy need and then losing all energy 15 kilometers before home.

After 35 kilometers and the first stop things were good, I felt energetic but a bit chilly as I only had my bib shorts and a short-sleeved jersey – but I do run hot, so I wasn’t cold. After 50 km the temperature had started to go down and I started to worry a bit about cramps, but it wasn’t cool enough for that yet with the work I was doing. However, the cooling weather on a Sunday night made sure no one was on the roads, meaning the ride was quite boring as you had no clear points to fixate on to compare your speed. I had to flip to the speedometer once in a while to see if I was still moving.

At 60 km I had my other banana and I noticed the darkening clouds all around me and sure enough, it started first drizzling after a few minutes and at about 70 kilometers someone decided to clean all the filth from the streets and it started raining cats and dogs. As I was in the countryside there was nothing to go take cover so I kept going. At this point I started to worry about my legs and them cramping, so I started drinking more of the sports drink and less water. I’ve never actually had a cramp while riding a bike, so I wasn’t too worried but I did feel the stiffness in my calves and thighs.

When I was about 82 kilometers done and I recognized where the hell I was, my previously darkened mood cheered up greatly and I was sprinting home the last three kilometers which I did in just three hours meaning that I managed to not only increase my personal distance record, I increased my average speed greatly from the last long trip I did. It felt good!

One thing I missed on the trip was seeing other riders and preferably riding with someone as it’s not only more effective, but also more fun. Still, if I can ride a 85 km solo with an average speed of about 28 km per hour, I should do nicely to finish Tour de Helsinki next year!

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By Markus Sandelin

Markus is a bike commuter gadget freak who is learning the ropes of the bike world, you can find him all around the web - but you can start with his twitter at @banton.