Seeing as I called last week’s blog the long run and this week’s the long cycle should I call next week’s the long swim. Maybe not!

We spent the weekend south of the border in Ponteland just north of Newcastle staying with

Northumberland National Park

my girlfriend’s folks for the weekend. Before we went down I had already mapped out a 125 km route for me to ride on Saturday. The weather forecast was surprisingly good with the overnight rain dying away and the sun due out later, light winds and around 8 degrees. You couldn’t ask for much more in early to mid-February.

I set off around 11am heading northeast through narrow country lanes. The weather was still quite dull at this point. It was after around 1 hour that the mist lifted and the sun came out. At that point I realised that I was over dressed (Base layer, short sleeve top, cycle jacket, hat, helmet, gloves, cycle longs, waterproof socks, shoes and overshoes). The jacket stayed open for most of the ride and the hat came off soon. I quite regularly contemplated taking the gloves off as they were quite thick. I wish I had brought some summer gloves.

There are some really quiet roads North of Ponteland and it was only the last hour of my ride where I got into any significant traffic. Roughly I cycled through the following places: Ogle, Whalton, Meldon (north of which a bridge was shut so I diverted to) Mitford, Netherwitton, Rothbury, Otterburn, Bellingham, Wark, Chollerford, Stamfordham and back to Ponteland.

Somehow I failed to realise though how hilly the route would be that I had mapped out. From Mitford to Rothbury there were 2 continuous steady climbs, after Rothbury I spent quite a bit of time whizzing along the valley, all be it into head wind. This then did culminate into another lengthy climb. Quick descent down to Otterburn (the wind felt a bit cold here) followed by another long climb after crossing the A68. Once over this climb and past the turn off for Kielder Forest I was heading south and the wind was behind me. The descent down to Belingham was great fun and the route down to Chollerford was rolling and mostly fast. Sadly once through Chollerford I had the steepest climb of the day but at least once I was over that one I knew it was a rolling ride home. The route did total 1400m of climbing over 134km.

As I hadn’t done any significantly long rides since the Double Ironman in August last year (i.e. the longest ones were one 96km ride in October and a 70 km ride in September) I went into this ride very conservatively expecting to blow up otherwise. Although my legs started to feel a bit achy coming over the last few climbs they still felt strong when powering down the straight so the base fitness from last year is still there despite me not having put many long miles in on the bike in recent months. In hindsight I could have put a bit more effort into the ride – especially on the flat – and finished closer to 5 hours (finished in 5:22 hrs). In contrast I didn’t feel particularly strong on the climbs. This I believe can be attributed to not having climbed much recently (except on the mountain bike) and the fact that I was using a bike I had just finished building and wasn’t entirely used to riding therefore.

I would have to say though for a 5+ hour ride in February this was excellent fun and the weather forecast was spot on (and I can’t say that too often).