For the last six months I have been riding to work (nearly) every day as training for the End 2 End. I’d like to think that it was my dedication at getting fit and in race-shape that prompted the Alpkit lads to also get on their bikes to work. It was definitely my dedication to the cause that meant I continued riding even when the weather turned a bit wet and the ride to work meant a twice-daily head to toe spraying in mud! As the race date approached though I started to worry that a weekly commute of 55 miles plus a couple of long weekend rides and four days of biking in Bourg St Maurice in the French Alps wasn’t going to be enough. 75 km in less than 7 hours with over 1500 m of ascent is not something to be sniffed at.
The weather on race day was perfect – dry, sunny but not too warm. There were a few mist patches on the Manx hills but that’s to be expected as it’s said that Manannan Mac Lir, the ancient sea god who ruled the Isle of Man sweeps his cloak of mist to hide the island from invaders. Although raping and pillaging wasn’t their primary aim, a large proportion of the six hundred plus entrants for the E2E had travelled from all over the UK, Europe and some had come from even further afield.
The ride begins with approximately 25 km of flat road biking along the northwest coast of the Island. This was a brilliant warm up and allowed the initial butterflies from the start to subside. However, just as I was getting into my stride, I hit the first killer of a hill and really suffered from choosing a bad start line position as I got stuck behind a couple of hundred of hill-haters pushing their bikes up the slabs. My strength lies in my hill-climbs but I just couldn’t get a steady pace going as there were too many people in the way and in the end I gave up and trotted my way up the climb, pushing my bike. Once clear of the first hill though, I was off and had a truly enjoyable ride down some great descents into St John’s, the village marking half way. I had made the checkpoint with time to spare and so it was with a lot of confidence that I set off on the rest of the ride.
The second half of the race is hillier and as a result of a lot of rain in the weeks before the race, it was extremely muddy. I surprised myself with my daring and nerve on the downhills. I usually spend my time picking my way down ‘scary’ routes but it didn’t take much to make me realise that downhills are a way of earning back some time and soon enough I was hammering down sections that I would have usually thought twice about.
With the end of the race in sight, I was aware that any energy I had reserved was to be put to good use on the final lung-busting climb up to the finish. Head down, breathing steadily, I pedalled the whole thing, passing a lot of the guys I had been trailing on the ride pushing their bikes – that felt good! I finished in 6 hours, 29 mins and 29 seconds, well within the cut-off time.
I thoroughly enjoyed the entire race and am hooked. I’ve learnt lots from my first race: next year I’m going to get further up at the start line, I’m going to stop being such a girl about downhills and I’m going to do more leg muscle-specific training in the months beforehand. Oh and next time, I’m going to do the entire thing in less than six hours. Training begins next week.