Climbing challenge complete

This week I completed the challenge to climb 7000 vertical metres. Sunday started with a long ride to set me up for the week ahead. Monday involved a few hilly detours en route to work and the same back home to hit a climbing total of 900 metres. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were more of the same with just a little extra to hit the 1000 metres per day total. But by Thursday evening I realised I could save my bum, brain and legs prolonged punishment by signing off the challenge with a mega-Friday of 1400 metres of climbing.

My wife was confused when I kissed her farewell an hour earlier than normal, as were my work colleagues when I arrived half an hour late (they weren’t lucky enough to get a kiss). It turns out that “hill repeats” is an unusual but acceptable excuse for lateness.¬†These are this week’s elevations to meet the challenge:

Day 1: Sunday – 76 km, 1490 metres climbed

Day 2: Monday – 59 km, 911 metres climbed

Day 3: Tuesday – 65 km, 1035 metres climbed

Day 4: Wednesday – 63 km, 1005 metres climbed

Day 5: Thursday – 63 km, 1030 metres climbed

Day 6: Friday – 75 km, 1425 metres climbed

This gives a total of exactly 400 kilometres over the six days. It took 16 hours giving an average speed of 25 kph. All of the above sounds impressive until you remember what we were all attempting to emulate by participating in this competition:

A genuine king of the mountains

Climbing challenge complete

The climbing challenge is all over – I completed it with 2 days to spare. With 2200 metres still to climb this morning, I decided to make the most of some fair weather and finish it off before the storms return. I decided to climb the final metres in the most efficient way possible – hill repeats of the steepest local hill.

Today's route map looks decidedly lame

Today's profile looks completely insane

As well as the few hills on the way there and a small bump on the return, I climbed Belmont Hill 17 times today. It typically took me about 10 minutes to climb and descend which means I spent 3 hours stuck on the same damn hill. It was strangely hypnotic, and like most routines it became easier when I let my brain run on auto-pilot and zoned out, just focussing on turning over the pedals. On Belmont Hill, the road is well maintained so pot-holes and gravel aren’t too much of an issue. And it isn’t a major road so the cars are generally going slowly and give plenty of room for cyclists.

To make it more of a challenge I tied a road sign to the back of the bike

However, as fond as I am of Belmont Hill, I won’t be climbing it for some time now. In fact, I plan to have a few days rest from cycling altogether and then generally avoid hills for a while and get back to enjoying cycling without such a focus on slow suffering.

And from the responses on Strava from today’s ride I think I may need to adopt a more ‘normal’ approach to riding before the men in white coats come knocking:

The last 10%

Over the last two weeks I feel like I have been slowly digging myself into a deep hole with the bike. I embarked on a mission to climb an insane amount of metres which I am now too close to completing to quit. I have only had 3 rest days this month and have cycled for 54 hours according to the graphic below, with an anticipated 12 more hours to complete the climbing challenge. The majority of this riding has been incorporated into my commutes to and from work, where I have created a routine of climbing every hill between work and home, often repeatedly. The monotony of it all is starting to wear me down.

In general I find that the last 10% of any endurance activity or event is always the point where I have to fight thoughts of giving up. Recently I have noticed that every cycling Sportive I’ve entered seems to be 5 miles too long, no matter whether it’s 60, 75 or 100 miles. And so, I am now at a point where I have had enough of this challenge. The last 10%

In addition, the weather has not been conducive to a cycling challenge. It has rained. A lot. Every day. I am getting used to struggling up hills, soaked from the outside by rain, and from the inside by sweat with glasses steaming up and trying to ignore the grinding noises my poor bike has begun to regularly emit. I have taken bits apart and greased them. I have lubed as if lubing is going out of fashion but still the bike keeps making cringeworthy noises. I am beginning to think that my budget bike with its cheap components may not last much longer. But if it gets me over the finishing line of this challenge then it may have earned a good rest. I’m certainly looking forward to one.

The end of a big cycling week

I cycled over 300 miles this week. This is my biggest week ever and has seen a few notable events along the way:

300+ miles for the bike. A nominal amount for the car

The (insane) Strava Challenge continues at a good pace

A rapid blue line recovery here too. Go bike!

My first roadside puncture. There's surely never a good time to get a flat, but during a 70 mile Sportive in the wind and freezing rain wasn't great. It took me 15 minutes to replace the inner tube. I'd like to get quicker but could honestly do without further practice!

A challenge within a challenge …

I have recently embarked on a supplementary challenge which can only benefit the overall Bike V Car challenge. I use the website Strava to track all my rides and runs and they recently set a challenge to see whether people could climb 32,100 metres in 47 days, this elevation being three times the cumulative climbing distance of the five professional cycling ‘Spring Classics’ held over the 47 day period between March 15th and April 30th.

When I first read the rules I dismissed any actual hope of achieving the goal and promptly forgot about it. But at the start of last week I saw that I was a third of the way there and decided to go for it. Initially it would have required climbing 683m per day, but due to my late start I will need to average 1100m per day until the end of the month.

A new challenge deserves a new graph

To put this into perspective, my normal daily commute is a 16 mile route (8 miles each way) with 300m of climbing and takes an hour in total. For the last week (and likely for the next two weeks) I have been leaving for work half an hour earlier, and getting home an hour later in order to climb all the local hills between home and work.

My commute home from work on Friday

My initial opinion that this was a foolish challenge hasn’t changed, but I’m now unfortunately beyond the point of no-return so all I can do is hold on tight until the ride is over. Plus the prize of a “commemorative water bottle” for each finisher is an award that can’t be ignored. Over 90 hours of hard riding for a ¬£2.50 plastic bottle seems like a fine reward.