lunes, 19 de julio de 2021

600 de Yepes - A day in hell

 A ride worth recording, but flat

That was a real day in hell!!!!

You’d be excused if you look at the ride and you were thinking it was a 600km ride in less than 29 hours, of course it was a day in hell!!!

You’d be wrong. As far as 600km rides go this is a fairly “easy” one. What made it a day in hell was the temperature. If you think you had a warm weekend in the UK, think twice.

Average temperature for the ride was 28°C (82,4F)

12 consecutive hours of the ride were on temperatures above 30°C (86F)

Within those, 5 consecutive hours with temperatures above 40°C (104F)

Peak temperature was 46°C (114,8F)

I can’t think of any ride I have ridden that fits better in the description of a day in hell.

The day didn’t start well. I had been told we could get breakfast at the start but it turned out we couldn’t. Had to eat a banana and an energy bar for breakfast. Not ideal when you plan to ride 600km.

Only six riders in the start line. We rode together to the first control. But they were riding a bit slow and stopping a bit too long for me so I decided to go ahead solo. 550km to go.

All went very well until km 268. By then I had already been riding 4 hours with temperatures above 40°C. I stopped at the control and my focus was on drinking lots of Aquiarus (a drink similar to Gatorade), I also ate a bunch of olives, conscious of needing to get salt. I wasn’t feeling hungry and with my stomach full of liquid I decided not to eat anything else. That was a mistake.

In my defense I have to say in the routesheet I saw there was another village in 3km and another one 22kms after that one. Plenty of options I thought.

What I didn’t realise was I was in the middle of a national park. Those two villages were merely a couple of houses with no signs of life around. I was on my own in the middle of nowhere.

And then a 11km climb appeared. First 7km were gentle but that was only the slow cooking. Literally. In the last 4km I was fried alive.

I had water with electrolytes, although it was so hot I had to keep it in my mouth for a few seconds to cool it down before swallowing it. 

I tried to eat a small pack of Haribos but they were completely melted. I decided to get a gel, I still felt how hot it was as I was swallowing it but a hot gel was way better than nothing. 

It took me almost half an hour to climb those 4.5km. Half an hour of climbing at 9km/h. Half an hour of temperatures ranging from 43°C to 46°C.

That was it. There and then I sold my soul to the devil in exchange for a resque. 

The resque appeared 2km into the descent in the form of a village, the village had a bar and the bar was open. A soul well invested if you were to ask me.

But the devil being the devil made it the bar had the worst Spanish tortilla I ever tasted (no onions), the 4 cupcakes (yes, 4) I ordered were so hard the landlady, embarrassed, said she wouldn’t charge me for them and when I was 15 minutes into a nap someone decided to wake me up to ask me if I was feeling alright. I showed a huge amount of autocontrol eating the whole piece of Spanish tortilla, the 4 cupcakes and not killing that person. Long distance cycling certainly has points where it is more psychological than physical.

Drinking, eating, not napping and not killing took me one hour and ten minutes. A huge amount of time for a not-control stop, but it was the right thing to do. I was still at km 290. Recovering at that point was critical if I wanted to finish the ride. 

And it worked. 

Not that I was feeling super strong but when the next climb came, the top of the ride at 1032m of altitude, I managed to pass it without much fuss. It helped that by then the temperature was around 35°C. It is amazing how these things are all relative. When you are climbing the Angliru and you see a sign saying the gradient is 14% you think “fantastic, I can recover here”. Similarly when I saw 35°C in the Garmin I tought soon I would need the arm warmers I was carrying in my bag. A bit of an exaggeration yes, but you get the point.

By km 375 I was back to Yepes, the starting point. I had a proper dinner and reconsidered my plans. I had a room booked and the idea of stopping to sleep for a few hours and finishing on the next day was very tempting. On the other hand Sunday was forecasted to be even warmer so I decided to go to my room, get a shower, sleep for 30 minutes, get changed and hit the road again. I wanted to take advantage of the cool temperatures during the night. It was still 31°C at midnight when I started to pedal though.

Temperatures were not an issue anymore but finding open places to eat and refill still was. That’s why when I crossed a village at around 2am and I saw a bar that was open I decided to take the last opportunity to drink and refill my bottles.

With temperatures and refilling not being an issue anymore, sleepiness became the issue. This long distance cycling malarkey is just a sequence of issues you have to deal with while you keep pedaling.

By the time I got to Tarancon, around 3:30am I was feeling sleepy so I decided to stop and lay down in a park and close my eyes. Temperature was 22°C. The green was comfortable enough. I slept for almost half an hour. It is amazing how much you can recover in such a short period of time. 

Being “recovered” triggered my sense of happiness. I found myself completely alone on the road, the sky full of stars, lost in my own thoughts, legs feeling ok(ish). I really enjoyed that part of the route. 

Got to Pastrana, last control, around 6:30 in the morning. Everything was close so I took a picture as proof of passage. I enjoyed the 5km climb. Yes, I know it sounds crazy to enjoy a 5km climb at 6:30 in the morning with 500km in your legs but there I was thinking sprinters got the wrong part of cycling.

That climb was followed by a 50km descent. I also enjoyed that bit. More than the climb to be honest. Those were the only roads I knew, the speed, the TT position, the illusion of strength, the anticipation of the breakfast I was going to have in Chinchon. All contributing to my sense of happiness.

A real shame that by the time I got to Chinchon, at the top of a 15km climb, I got lost and by the time I found my way I was already outside of Chinchon.That didn’t affect my sense of happiness. I’m used to getting lost and I still think I have a great sense of orientation and I’m great at navigating routes. That, and the fact that from Chinchon to Aranjuez there are only 20km, pretty much downhill all the way. So instead of riding back a few hundred metres breakfast in Aranjuez was going to be.

A quick breakfast in Aranjuez, a final 10km climb that proved I still had decent legs and got back to Yepes by 10:42 in the morning. Temperature was now 29°C Perfect to have a smoothie sitting in the shade in a terrace at Yepes’ main square.

While I was refreshing I was told three of the riders were DNF and the other two were still on the road. I felt for them they had challenging hours ahead. 

Following that line of thought I reflected on how happy I was with this ride. It was not that I felt strong or I was very fast. In fact, if anything, I’m a bit disappointed with how strong I felt. Two things made me really happy about this ride.

The first one was how my experience showed up. I changed plans to allow me to recover after the critical moment of the ride. I changed plans again and rode through the night to avoid the extreme temperatures. I adapted to the circumstances and slept in a public park, the first time I did that in the middle of a ride. My experience and flexibility took me through this ride. I’m very happy about it.

The second reason is all the lessons learnt in this ride. I entered this event as a preparation for the Asturica Augusta (1200km), an event I’ll be riding in August. Temperatures are going to be fairly similar (although I hope not that extreme). Knowing that taking Haribos with me is going to be useless, understanding the value of having a long nap during the hottest hours of the day, confirming that SIS electrolytes and Pelotan sun cream worked perfectly for me in these circumstances, realising I need bigger bottles, that the mudguard is going to be useless or that the PBP reflective gilet is too hot for the summer Spanish nights are valuable lessons that will help me for that event. I’m going to need those lessons as I won't have any soul to offer to the devil to take me out of another critical moment. I could offer him my bike but if it were down to it I’d demand the Spanish omelette with onions. When it comes to a point I certainly have a price.

The ride in Strava: 

Take care

Javier Arias González

1 comentario:

juan merallo dijo...

Javier, great ride and great post.
I'm sure that in Asturica won't be so hot, for the place and for the days are gonna be. Normally after 15 august temperatures are not so extreme. Beware the cold weather at night.
I write in english as the post is in english too.
Congratulations for this ride and I'm expecting the Asturica to follow you.
Take care.