C2C training week 16 – another Welsh energy drain

After not managing to ride all the way to Cardiff a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d have another go for this weekend’s long ride. I had to give up the first attempt at Newport, due to exhaustion of my both own energy and remaining hours of the day. This time, the ride went better, making me much more confident about the Coast to Coast unicycle challenge, but a different kind of energy problem meant that I had to stop at Newport again.

After last week’s holiday, I was back to commuting during the week, though various procrastinations meant that I didn’t quite manage to stick to my planned regime of 15 miles on every day. To make up for that, I figured that if I actually left the house early enough for a change, I could ride to Cardiff at the weekend. Last time I tried this, I left more than an hour late, which was a significant factor in failing to get further than Newport. My plan this time was to leave before 9am, though preferrably by 8am; since I already knew the route to take, I actually managed to get out of the house at about 8:30. I did have a bit of planning to do though, as I wanted to take the most direct route avoiding busy A roads where possible.

The ride started out pretty well. I avoided the wrong turn I’d taken last time at Cribb’s Causeway, and managed a better pace overall, due to my better confidence of the route I was taking. However, by the time I reached the Severn bridge, I realised that I’d left my carefully worked out route at home. That didn’t worry me too much, as I could more or less remember the broad strokes of it, and I had my GPS phone to help me out with the fine detail. The wind blowing across the bridge was a bit stronger than last time, but still nothing to really worry about, so onward to Wales.

Although I thought I’d gone astray along the back roads of Magor, I was actually following my planned route – I just hadn’t realised how low I’d have to duck when riding under the railway. The real problem arose a mile or so later at Queensway. According to Google maps, this is a navigable road, which would cut almost 2 miles from the route I’d followed last time. However, it’s actually a private road, only open to staff from the steel works to which it provides access. I was thus forced to take the longer, but more interesting, wiggly road just to the south.

Just before reaching Pye Corner, my phone’s battery ran out. This meant that now I had no GPS, on top of no planned route to follow. I was feeling much more energetic than at the same point last time, but this was a good opportunity to stop for lunch and consider my options. From what I remembered about my planned route, I still had another 12 to 14 miles to go, but I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to remember it well enough to ensure getting there at a sensible time while avoiding main roads. On the other hand, the main road route initially suggested by Google had been a few miles longer; I’d definitely be taking too long that way, with potentially heavy traffic, too. Without a phone to call for help in case of emergency, I figured that the most sensible option was just to ride to Newport, and leave getting to Cardiff for a future attempt.

I arrived at Newport much earlier than last time, still with plenty of energy. I reckon that if I’d remembered to take my route plan with me, and managed to stick to it, I could still have reached Cardiff in better condition than I’d arrived at Newport last time, but I was still glad to have played it safe. The train back to Bristol was once again much faster than the outward journey (about 25 minutes non stop compared to about 5 hours with a few rest and lunch stops). It was a different service this time, so my final leg was riding home from Filton Abbeywood via the cycle path round the MOD, which is another new route for me. I opened my front door to find that the solar charger I’d ordered had arrived while I was out riding, so at least my phone battery ought to last for the whole ride on the next attempt.

Training this week: 109 miles. Total training so far: 1248. Only five weeks of training left, and I’m finally starting to feel confident that I’ll survive riding 35-40 miles a day.

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