Garmin Ride Out – 2015

Garmin have held an annual Ride Out in the New Forest with their professional cycling team for at least the last four years.  The ride out is invitation only, after expressing an interest through links on Garmin’s social media channels, every year I have entered and every year I have been unsuccessful.  Its a very popular event and is always over subscribed, this year over 6000 riders applied for one of the 500 places.

This year the rider announcement date came and went with no notification, so I thought there’s always next year to try again.  Then out of the blue in early August I received this email from Garmin:-

Good news – we’ve been able to create additional places at this year’s Garmin Ride Out and you are invited to attend.

I was over the moon and couldn’t wait to sign up!

This year the ride out was on Friday 4th September, luckily I was already on leave from work so would be able to attend.  It was to be an early start to get to the New Forest from the Midlands so I had packed the car the night before.

The alarm went off at 04:55,  I made sure that I had everything I needed for the day, had a quick breakfast of porridge and a mug of freshly brewed coffee.  I was out the door and heading south for the motorway by 05:30 thinking I had plenty of time to get to registration at 08:00.

Turning onto the M5 I saw the dreaded “ROAD CLOSED” signs for overnight maintenance work, I quickly tried to workout a different route in my head to avoid the closure, ending up going down the M42 and A34.  As a result of the diversion and the normal queues in Lyndhurst I was one of the last to arrive at about 08:30, I parked up and headed straight to registration.

Having arrived late the majority of the other riders had already registered and were tucking into the free breakfast (bacon or sausage roll) and a hot drink, so it was quick and easy for me to sign in and collect my rider number, goodie bag and free jersey.

RideOut Jersey
Garmin Ride Out Jersey, supplied by Primal

The jersey is one of the best quality free jersey’s I’ve ever had as part of a give away at a sportive/ride and is now a regular sight around my local training routes.  It’s an Evo custom jersey from Primal and fitted me perfectly – looking around it appeared that everyone else had a perfect fit as well.

After getting my bike ready and having my second breakfast of the day, this time a bacon roll and coffee (5 hours after my first – so it’s not that bad) it was time to gather in the main marquee for the team presentation.

The morning was hosted by Daniel Lloyd and featured interviews with sponsors and the Madison Genesis and Cannonade-Garmin professional cycling teams who would be competing in the Tour of Britain that started on the Sunday.  I only had my phone and now wish I had taken a better camera with me.

Cannondale Garmin - Tour of Britain 2015 Team
Cannondale Garmin – Tour of Britain 2015 Team

After the interviews the raffle was drawn by Daniel Lloyd and Frances Benali (from Southampton FC).  The prizes were fantastic – Garmin Edge head unit, Cannonade Bike, Boardman frame, Southampton FC shirt signed by the entire 1st team to name but a few.  I had bought several tickets, but unfortunately didn’t win.

DL-FB-Raffle
Daniel Lloyd and Frances Benali draw the raffle

Now that the presentations and raffle draw were  complete it was time to take to the road.  With the increase of cycling popularity the New Forest has developed a cycling code to ensure the safety of not only the riders, but equally if not more importantly the wildlife and other users of the Forest.   The code does allow for large organised events of this type, but asks that riders set off in small groups rather than a mass start as seen at other types of sporting events.

Knowing that it would take a while to get all the riders off in small groups and rather than rush to the start, I took a look around the sponsors trade stands and got my bike ready.

At 11:30 I headed off into the Forest on the fully signed and marshalled 47.5 mile ride.  Unfortunately, being one of the last to set off I didn’t get to ride alongside any of the professionals (always next year!) but that didn’t spoil the day in any way.

As it was a Friday the New Forest roads were nice and quiet which made riding on them even more enjoyable.  The route took us to Brockenhurst, up the lovely Rhinefield Ornamental Drive and over the A35 to Bolderwood.

Video taken with my Garmin Virb (sorry I’m slow up hills!)

Crossing under the A31 we soon turned right onto the old RAF Stoney Cross runway, as we left the trees of the Bolderwood Aboretum behind us the breeze started to pick up, causing a headwind to cycle into, why do I never seem to get a tailwind?

Turning onto Roger Penny Way (every time I see that road name I think of the Beatles song Penny Lane – so much so that I’ve now got the tune going over and over in my head) I notice the clouds starting to build and I’m convinced I felt a drop of rain, looking down my Garmin Edge my thoughts are confirmed as I see little droplets of water on the screen.  Luckily, it was just that and the rain did hold off for the rest of the ride.

Garmin Rideout
Riders 353 and 394 on Roger Penny Way @ approx 20 miles (still taken from my Garmin Virb Elite)

From Roger Penny Way it was down through Godshill and on towards Blissford.  Having done several rides in the Forest I was expecting to have to climb the short but sharp 25% gradient of Blissford Hill, however today the ride took the easier route round and up to the feed station.

I decided not to stop and went straight past the feed station as I had an almost full water bottle, a pack of jelly babies and a couple of gels in my jersey pockets – I always end up carrying too much food, either that or I don’t eat and drink enough whilst riding – after the feed station it was a nice easy spin to Ringwood, Burley and then to the finish.

I was very pleased to roll over the finishing line in a time of 2 hours and 55 minutes, as with my current form I was expecting to be somewhere around the 3 hour 20 minute mark.  I had averaged just over 16mph over the 47.5 miles!

You can view the full route and my stats on Garmin Connect 

Overall an excellent day, extremely well organised and supported – I can’t wait to enter next year!

Shimano Neutral Support Car
Shimano Neutral Support Car

If you are interested in taking part in 2016 follow @GarminUK on Twitter and keep an eye out for the details (it’s usually around June) and good luck if you enter.

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Why Coeur Cycliste?

18th April 2011 – A day etched forever in my memory.

I was 38 years old, eighteen and half stone (260 pounds) in weight, living a sedentary lifestyle, eating far too much, smoking too much, not doing any exercise, sitting behind a desk and computer screen working often late into the night.  All of this and not thinking anything of it.

On this particular Monday morning I was working from home, instead of the office in London, as I was due in Scotland the following day.  The plan was to work from home in the morning, fly to Edinburgh in the afternoon, hire a car, stay in a hotel overnight, work Tuesday and then fly back that evening.

I got as far as the hotel… 

I’m a keen photographer and that weekend I had bought myself a Panasonic Lumix GF1 Micro Four Thirds camera.  My flight arrived in Edinburgh late in the afternoon, leaving me with an ideal opportunity to grab the new camera and take some photos.  I hired the car and drove off in search of something to snap, it wasn’t long until I saw a signpost to the Pentland Hills Country Park – sounds good I thought.

Having parked the car, I took out my cigars and lit one up.  Whilst it’s only a short flight to Edinburgh, it had been at least four hours since my last smoke and I was craving my nicotine fix.   I set off camera in hand, puffing plumes of smoke into the atmosphere.

The view from the country park towards Edinburgh and the large rock formation known as Arthur’s Seat was looking great and I set about taking photos.

Edinburgh from Pentland Hills
Edinburgh from Pentland Hills

It wasn’t long after this that I started to feel some pains in my chest, thinking it was indigestion I continued onwards towards a reservoir in the distance.  As I got closer the pain was increasing, damn indigestion, I shouldn’t have had that all-day breakfast panini and large latte at the airport…  I was now starting to sweat.

Reaching the reservoir the sweat was pouring out of me, whilst I am normally a heavy sweater I didn’t think it had been that much of a strenuous walk up to the reservoir.   With the indigestion getting worse I started taking photos of Torduff Reservoir

Bonaly Country Park, Pentland Hills
Torduff Reservoir, Bonaly Country Park, Pentland Hills

The chest pains were increasing in intensity and the sweat was pouring off my head whilst I took the photo above.  Now starting to think this is something more than ingestion – “and why am I so hot” – I decide to head back to the car, with thoughts of getting to the hotel as quickly as I can.

Denial… 

As I walk back to the car, I start to think that I might be having a heart attack – now at this point I should have phoned 999 and got to hospital there and then – no not me!  Still in denial, I go back to the car and drive myself to the hotel, check in, drop my bags off and lie on the bed fully clothed – I’m still sweating, even after having the air-con full in the car?  It’s only now that I admit to myself that something is seriously wrong and I ask the hotel receptionist to call an ambulance for me.  The chest pain now feels as if an elephant is sitting on my chest and I look like someone has poured a bucket of water over my head.

I spent three nights in hospital (at the other end of the country from home!) and a further eight weeks at home recovering.

I had a suffered a Myocardial Infarction (MI) at the age of 38. An MI is generally referred to as a heart attack and occurred when the blood flow to part of my heart was blocked for long enough, that part of my heart muscle was damaged and died (the human heart is incapable of repairing itself).

That was four and half years ago and there have been some major changes to my lifestyle – I haven’t smoked since that day and I lost nearly 55 pounds weight mainly through dieting and cycling over 7000 miles.

Even though that day is etched into memory, I’m starting this blog as reminder to myself of why I cycle and the need to eat healthily.  It also serves to document my experiences, cycle rides and show everyone there is a future after a heart attack.

Coeur Cycliste is French for Heart Cyclist – I’m cycling to improve my overall wellbeing and keep my heart as healthy as possible.

Hopefully this is the first of many posts on my new blog …