Well, I have done The Wild Wales Challenge twice before. After each time, I have said never again. I don’t like steep, gnarly hills, and they are de rigueur for WWC. However, they do take you around beautiful parts of North Wales that I would otherwise not get to.
When Mark suggested in it in March, it seemed a long way away, at its traditional time of August Bank Holiday Sunday, so I agreed. It was also long enough away from the last time, to fade my memory of the pain, yet remember the spectacular views over the Mawddach Estuary.
This year has not been a hard year’s cycling for me, so I did not think I was fit enough for this years challenge, 97 miles and 9000 feet of climbing. So with trepidation the weekend arrives. I was sort of hoping for the usual bank holiday weekend weather, rain, as we had agreed we would not do it if the weather was poor. Well, lo and behold, the weather was set to be OK.
There weren’t many Melyd riders at the start, so Mark, Sally and I set off at 8.30 am. Sally left us, when the road started to climb! That first climb was tough, and long. I had descended it before, but never climbed it. The scenery was stunning from this direction, and the descent was good too!
Then, it became lumpy; steep short climbs through some forests. I started to think about bailing, as the route crossed the main road back to Bala! However, when we got there the road was very busy, so Mark persuaded me to carry on to the first control point, where we could look at route options! So more climbing, some on the A470, which was unusual for WWC, and very busy. But, what a great fast descent, to the control point, for a welcome rest, drink and cake!
We met up with others from the club there, but most importantly for me Greg and Paul. They just smiled when I groaned and said ‘I can’t do this!’
Unbeknown to me Mark had warned them, and asked them to persuade me to ride with them!
After we all refuelled, we went outside. The sun was shining and Greg made it clear him and Paul would ride with us, at a pace that would help me get round. So, I agreed to try.
Paul talked me through it, Greg paced me. Paul has a lot of experience of pacing, having completed the triple ironman last year, and he can talk! Paul was suffering with the heat, so I was climbing faster than him, which psychologically helped me (sorry Paul!). Greg and Mark set a nice pace. Greg said it is only 25 miles to lunch, which didn’t sound a lot, but did take a while, with the continued undulating course! However we were riding through stunning scenery, on quiet lanes, so was living up to what I expected!
After lunch, we climbed over a never ending hill! I don’t know if it has a name, but it caused me to have cycling Tourette’s, as bend after bend revealed more hill to climb! Eventually we got to the last control point, nearly at Lake Vrnwy. Another coffee, and cake!
I was now feeling happier. I knew the roads we had to cycle to get back to Bala. Round one side of the lake, and up to Bwlch y Groes. Then a fast descent down to Llyn Tegid, and a short ride back. Tactically, I had saved my gel, so had it on the flat road by Lake Vrnwy.
Fortunately the last big climb was I remembered it, having done it before. Some steep ramps, with easier sections in between, even some downhill!
As I was approaching the junction, which heralds the last steep section before the summit, I saw Mat, Sally, Greg and Mark! Photo opportunity! Wow, what a view. So we all posed for the obligatory selfie, then I set off for the last challenging section of the day, made worse as the road had recently been tar and chipped. It was like wading through treacle! There was a photographer there, if I see the picture it will not be a smile on my face, I was grimacing!
The last bit was as thought, easy, knowing the challenge was in the bag.
I can honestly say I would not have done it without Greg, Paul and Marks help. As I was cycling I reflected on this, and this ride made me really appreciate being in a club. The support that we offer each other, helps us improve and overcome our fears. As a coach with VC Melyd for women, I try and do this for others, and have been privileged to see lots of new women riders improve and feel confident enough to join our club. I also reflected on a recent article I had read, about how our attitude can affect us, and hold us back. This was certainly the case for me! I looked at the numbers and thought I cant do that! The WWC reminded me of the help and encouragement I have received since being part of this great club.
VC Melyd, a great club to be part of!