OK, I've gone and done it! I've signed up to do the 107-miles route of the Dartmoor Classic. In case you didn't know, the Dartmoor Classic is a sportive. Officially, that means it's not a race, but rather just a bike ride during which almost everybody* tries to finish first. Which, you'll have to admit, sounds rather a lot like a race!
*Some are simply happy to complete it within the maximum time.
There are a whole bunch of reasons why a sportive is officially not a race, but that's a different story altogether. Instead, I'll focus on what will be my very first sportive. I'm told that, as far as sportives go, the Dartmoor Classic isn't the natural choice for a first event, and if chosen as a first sportive, that it'd be better to aim for the shorter 67 mile route and at first avoid doing the full 107 mile route.
Now this makes total sense, with just a few gotchas thrown into the mix: 1) As I'm based in Plymouth (well, just outside it) the Dartmoor Classic is very local to me and therefore a desireable choice, and 2) I never claimed to be very sensible!
Also, I'm not alone in my moment of madness. Oh no! My friend Simon has also signed up for the Dartmoor Classic, and it will be his first-ever sportive, too. There are numerous benefits to both of us having signed up, of course. For starters, we can motivate one another, we can discuss training plans and we can go on training rides together. Most importantly, if things go completely pear-shaped, Simon will be able to blame me (and therefore be off the hook himself) while I'd be able to blame him. After all, no sensible person would've done what we had gone and done, so each of us must've been influenced by somebody else, right? Right??
I'm a geek, and therefore intimately familiar with geeky things, like FTP. FTP is short for File Transfer Protocol and is typically used to upload files to web servers. Except, as I recently discovered, FTP is ALSO short for Functional Threshold Power, which is a method to determine baseline fitness and performance figures for cyclists.
The short and long of it is that I need to do an FTP to determine my own baseline. There are two ways of doing this - using a power meter of some sort (a rather pricey option!) or using a heart rate monitor (far cheaper).
Once I've determined my FTP, I can use training programmes from British Cycling to do some proper training. Apparently, all the riding I've done in my life so far was simply that - riding, and not training. Yes, apparently I do between 4000 and 4500 miles of riding each year, none of which is considered training by some.
Now I'm not concerned about being able to ride 107 miles. I know I can do that, even though the longest ride I've done to date was 82 miles. Most of that 82 mile ride was done during a storm, with torrential downpours and it included at least 18 miles of riding directly into a headwind of up to 40mph. Despite the horrendous and energy-sapping weather I experienced, I still managed an average speed of 11.9mph.
Maintaining that average speed (which is slow, even for me) would mean I'd finish in nine hours. At this moment, I'm quite, and perhaps foolishly, confident that I can improve on nine hours by a fair old bit. In my age category, as long as I finish in a time of less than eight hours and forty-one minutes, I'd get a bronze medal. That would require an overall average speed of just 12.35mph, which (provided we don't encounter heavy winds!) should be quite do-able.
I guess all those miles I cycle each year, most of which involve carrying laden panniers, must've had some training value after all.
Having said that, I'm not as big a fool as to think for one moment that I won't benefit from a structured training programme. The plan is to not train overly hard during winter, and hit it really hard in the spring.
I'll keep you posted about how I get on.