Just like the Ironman itself, this post is all about the bike, or at least the majority of it is anyway! During the Ironman, I expect to spend about 1hr 20 in the water and approximately 4 hours running, yet a much greater time (over 7 hours!) sat on my bike…. This post is in many ways a fair reflection of that segment in that it covers pretty much everything I’ve been doing on and around the bike recently!
My last post detailed the first two of three events I had participated in over consecutive weeks, and the final one took place on Saturday 8th August, one week after the Ocean Lava Triathlon. This was a local event, part of the Abergavenny Festival of Cycling, and an opportunity for me to ride 100 miles in a more organised fashion than normal and with other people. Although I knew I could ride these roads on any given day I fancied, I chose to enter the event as it provided me with the chance to ride in my first Sportive event, as well as providing me with some good training for the Ironman itself in terms of distance, time, and climbing!
The day itself was glorious, perhaps the best day of the whole Summer. The Sun was blazing down and this made for a great ride with beautiful views at different points across the Usk valley and over to the Brecon Beacons. With B in France for her Mam’s birthday, my support crew for the day consisted solely of my parents who made the short walk down to Bailey Park to see me off and wish me luck. They planned to drive up the Tumble to see me again as I passed the halfway mark.
Before then however, (potential) disaster struck! Having enjoyed the flatter, faster section of the ride out to Usk and back to Monmouth via Raglan, my chain duly snapped on the first real “climb” of the day out of Rockfield and toward Newcastle! Although I had a spare chain link in my saddle bag and reasonable knowledge of how to repair it, I was however pleased (not to mention extremely grateful!) to see a fellow rider drop back and help me fix the problem and although I will have to deal with issues such as this alone during the Ironman, it was a good lesson in keeping calm and working through the problem! 10 minutes later and I was back on my way, albeit covered in black grease! This was to be my only issue of the day and the rest of the journey progressed pretty smoothly!
I had made a decision not to stop at the feed stations and to be self sufficient if at all possible, which also would help me practice eating and drinking “in motion”. This also provided a welcome opportunity to pass quite a number of riders at each location and make up some of my lost time! After completing the first half – the loop headed to Grosmont from Newcastle before returning to Abergavenny via Cross Ash – I readied myself for the Tumble climb, noted as 6Km at 10%, although in reality my Garmin records no more than 5.5Km!
I have climbed this mountain many times in training and quite enjoy the challenge it poses. I am in no way a fast climber but take the ascent slowly and consistently, enjoying the changing scenery and the stunning views nearer the top. The added bonus of training locally meant that I knew the gradients well and was able to pass a number of other riders on the way up! Near the summit I saw my parents parked up also enjoying the Sun and the views themselves and stopped for a photo, a chat, and to watch some of the riders I had overtaken pass me again! As always I felt very fortunate to have them supporting me and they promised to meet me once more at the finish in town after the remaining 40-odd miles were complete!
The second “loop” headed over to Brynmawr after the Tumble and then onto Beaufort and over the Llangynidr Moors, a route I knew very well from training and of course the Y-Fenni/Blaenafon Triathlon back in May! Then, once the other side, the final leg took us through Bwlch and across to Talgarth via Llangorse before the climb that really feels like a drag up into Pengenffordd. Finally we dropped down into Crickhowell and home to Abergavenny via Gilwern and Govilon. I completed the 100mile route in 6hours, 40minutes, 22seconds, which I was quite pleased with not least since it included 2 x 10 minute stops for my chain and with my parents. Overall a pretty good average speed though and an enjoyable coke and chat with Mam and Dad in the park for an hour after the event, basking in the evening Sun, and the glory that this year’s races were complete…..all apart from one very big one that is of course!!
The main reason to spend so long in the saddle is of course to do with fitness gains, however there are very often some not so positive additions! As well as getting soaking wet many times over, I also developed a rather horrid and painful “saddle sore”! Having gone months with no problems whatsoever and never needing chamois cream to alleviate chafing, I suddenly developed a huge boil on my “undercarriage”. Treatment with TCP, hot compresses and latterly Hibiclens and Rubbing Alcohol eventually cleared the skin problem, which took quite a while as training (which of course still had to go ahead!) naturally exacerbated the issue! I have however been left with a small hard lump under the surface of the skin, which the doctor describes as scar tissue, and which still makes cycling a touch painful, but should improve over time. Just one more thing to put up with, along with an aching hamstring and feet! They do say getting to the start line is often harder than getting to the end…..let’s hope that’s true and nothing else goes wrong before Sunday 13th!
The final update on all things cycling concern my recently delivered cycle shirts for the Ironman Event, which I will be wearing on both the bike and run legs of the event. These shirts have been specially made to publicise my fundraising and raise awareness of the #StayStrongForOws cause in Tenby. They have been funded by kind contributions from sponsors, which also resulted in a leftover amount that has been added to my JustGiving page, taking me over £3000!
Getting sponsors to sign up was pretty hard work, especially in my home town of Abergavenny where I handed out letters to businesses I have regularly frequented and spent money with, yet disappointingly none wanted to get involved. On the flip side however I was offered help by two people I had not approached directly.
“Mayoral Marvel” Sam Dodd very kindly helped by copying my letter and handing it around all of the businesses in town with publicity material for the Festival of Cycling, although yet again this failed to motivate the townsfolk to participate. Heather Cook of Parrys Estate Agents then made an unsolicited approach to me through Twitter and kindly invited me into her office to speak about the cause, duly donating and taking a spot on the front of the jersey. As disappointed as I was with the rest of the town, Heather restored my faith and I am grateful for her support.
Richard Lord from Bartholomew Hawkins and Lee Fisher from Blake Morgan LLP who were both in the same group as me on the #StayStrongForOws ride to Paris have also both kindly offered sponsorship, yet again going to great lengths to support the charity. And my father, Stewart, has once again done sterling work to support me by talking with Sytner BMW in Newport, who have not only sponsored but also purchased a replica shirt to keep themselves.
The companies I work with – Paul Turner Sport, Community Music Wales and Dischro Creative, have all helped out, as has Mark Spiller, a great former rugby player himself at Pontypridd RFC and owner of his own building and roofing company. Completing the set are Ottimo Digital, with whom I used to work closely, ordering large format print when we produced their toner-based products.
The training has been physically demanding of course this year, but the fundraising has too, in its own way, been quite difficult work also. I am very grateful to those mentioned above for being prepared to put their hands in their pockets to support my efforts and of course the charitable cause itself, for everyone who has donated at all will be helping Owen directly.
With the events done and dusted, peak training almost complete, my eyes began to focus on the Ironman itself, and with just 11 days to go as I write this, those thoughts are very much at the forefront of my mind……