Hell of the Ashdowns. Heaven of sticky malt loafs.

It was cold.
Roads were icy.
There were hills aplenty.
It got really windy & rainy near the end.

It was awful.

Loved it! I’ll be back.

Things I learnt this weekend:

  1. Hell is not hot.
    It’s cold, wet and windy. A snowball would do very well in there.

  2. They serve amazing sticky malt loafs in Hell.
    Wonder what all the good bakers do to earn their place in there?
    I may have gorged on half a dozen of them, eating more in calories than I ever hoped to burn over 65 miles of cycling.
    These sticky malt loafs should be mandatory at all cycling events! Make it a rule.

  3. People running Hell are quite a friendly and helpful bunch.
    The devil must be a jolly good fella to have gathered such a chirpy bunch. My kinda guy. Or girl.

  4. I like hills1
    Both, going up and down them. Don’t know when this happened. Maybe after I lost 20 kilos, thus increasing my power-weight ratio by 25%. Or maybe when we moved to this house in Guildford – living on top of the hill means rides back from everywhere are uphill. There’s no escaping at all.
    Whatever the reason, I have changed. From grimacing at the sight of a hill, I’ve gone to smiling at the thought of each one.
    A welcome change given where I live, and what I’ve signed up for.

  5. Big, old2 men can climb too!
    Andy claims to hate hills (wonder why he keeps signing up for hilly sportives?), and specially Kidds Hill (aka The Wall 3). Yet, he climbed it quite comfortably – chatting with me all the way up, so probably never above zone 3! Who said big men can’t climb?

  6. There is a ‘worst’ time to get a flat.
    It is 2 miles from the finish on a 65 mile ride.
    In freezing rain and driving winds.
    Finding the tiny piece of flint on a mud wrapped tyre is excellent training for building concentration under stress. Everyone must give it a go. Regularly!

  7. Surrey drivers aren’t such a bad bunch.
    Not when compared to some of the miserable twats who drive around Kent. One woman in a Land Rover honked continuously for at least a mile, driving way above safe speed across the lanes, almost running off 2 cyclists (hand stretched out to signal a turn) at the end.
    She was the worst I saw, but not the only one. Way more wayward, angry drivers than I meet on equivalent rides in Surrey or Sussex.

  8. Running is good for cycling.
    For this time of the year, I’ve cycled less this year than most years. I’ve run way more than any of the last years. And I’m climbing, out of the saddle, better than ever across all sorts of climbs – short and steep, long(!) and steady, short bumps and bridges, and more. So well that I’m climbing better out of the saddle than in it4.

  9. Being good at riding out of the saddle is useful!
    Not just for climbing. It’s a useful get out of jail card.
    Left hamstring started cramping on the up stroke just after I started the climb of Ide Hill. Riding out of the saddle helped stretch it, while still climbing comfortably. The niggle was almost gone by the time I reached the top of that 2 mile climb. I may even have accelerated past a bunch of riders near the top ;)
    Ridin out of the saddle is also very useful, even outside of climbs, as a back-stretcher for heavyset folk like me who frequently end up with lower-back pain. Ask the guy at Woking sportive who I carried back to the finish with a broken back. And me.

  10. Commuter jackets should be kept just for commuting.
    I’m not a jacket guy. The only one I have is a commuting one – very good at keeping dry on not-hard rides, and at keeping me highly visible day and night.
    With the threat of rain looming, I wore it for the ride. It did a great job of saving me from the freezing rain all of the last 30 mins of the ride. Sadly, by then I was thoroughly drenched under the jacket from sweating all through the ride. Doesn’t breathe. At all.
    I think I’ll stick to gilets.

  11. I missed out on a good looking bidon :(
    Turns out there were a few good looking bidons for riders to take away. I saw them lying around when I finished and went to the sign-in area. By the time I returned after swallowing a load of pasta and hot chocolate, they were gone.
    I have often criticized events for passing out characterless bidons in goody bags, but here I am rueing not picking one up this one time. Shallow, two faced me! (Now hand me that bidon)

  1. NEG + well trained volunteers beats all the goodies in the world

  2. Volunteers running Hell, standing around in freezing cold and rain, are way friendlier than the folk who pay to ride through it.
    Cyclists, specially the non-pro, road-riding variety need to lighten the F up.
    It’s not a race. You’re not riding against other riders. You’re riding with them, against the elements, against the terrain, and probably against that extra pint you had last night.
    No one forced you to ride. You volunteered. You even paid for the pleasure. Behave like it’s a pleasure!
    Smile at, and thank the volunteers. Every one of them. Yes, even the one at top of that hard hill you huffed and puffed up.
    Say hello to, and exchange banter with fellow riders. Rode with someone, off and on, along the way? Ask them how their ride went. Maybe share a fist bump. Don’t sit a table in the corner and pass shameful, snide remarks on the humanity of riders trudging in from the freezing cold5.
    Someone hung on to your wheel? Feel good that you helped someone out. Not shout at them, and call them names.
    We cyclists have got a lot to learn from us runners. There are more smiles and shakes at end of a single 10K running race than at end of all cycling, not-a-race sportives I attend in an year!

  3. Not taking a cold shower can have serious consequences
    Had my first episode of lactate suffering last night and today. All because I skipped the ritual, post-exercise cold shower. No, let’s not even talk about the foam roller.
    Feeling better since today’s lunch run, which was promptly followed by a cold shower and compression socks.
    Stupid me!

All in all, the never flat, undulating route, tasty grub and friendly volunteers more than made up for grumpy grimpeurs and crazy Kentish drivers. It was a good day out.

  1. I use the term hill quite liberally here. The hill I live on top of is 140m high. The highest in the region is barely over 250m! The climbs up them are either short and sharp, or not-very-short-but-not-long-either and steady. The best would probably rank as Cat 4 in the Tour. 

  2. If I disappear in the next few weeks, Andy did it – for calling him old. Tell the police! 
  3. There must be a hill climb nicknamed The Wall in every county of the UK! 
  4. I do need to work on seated climbing. Between spinning and running, the quads really haven’t been getting much power training. 
  5. Specifically, the two rich, fully Rapha-clad MAMILs sitting on my table making unmentionable comments about all the men and women they could empty their potty mouths at. 
Hell of the Ashdowns. Heaven of sticky malt loafs.