The Newent Loop is a 45km cycle route, starting and ending in Newent (funny that).
We discovered its existence when we spotted a few signs on a previous ride, so for last weekend's Sunday evening ride, we went and rode the full loop in an anticlockwise direction. The big car park in the town centre has a large map on the side of the toilet building, but the entire route is very well signposted - we didn't need to stop and check directions at all. There's also a signposted shortcut that splits the route into two smaller loops.
note to self: try and hold phone still until it's actually taken the photo
The roads were quiet with generally good quality surfaces although it did get a bit 'countryside' in places with mud and plants growing up the middle! There aren't any major hills, which was good for me as it turns out going uphill is annoyingly slow when your front derailleur has decided it doesn't like the middle ring and you end up granny gearing it (yes, I ride a triple).
The only non ideal part of the route: as you come back into Newent the "cycle" path gained some "cyclists dismount" signs and we had to walk for a short distance. Boo. Having looked at a map afterwards, I now realised this could have been easily avoided by turning onto Gloucester road, but I guess the route doesn't do that because it gets busier with traffic in the daytime? Certainly something to remember if I find myself riding this again!
Obligatory 'bikes leaning against something' photo - in this case Newent market hall
If you wanted to stop along the way and visit any places of interest (churches, chapels, maybe even a detour to Hartpury bee shelter), or for a picnic and general enjoyment of the surrounding countryside I think this would make a nice half day out. I'd certainly have stopped to take more photos if I'd been riding by myself.
As I drove over to Moreton-in-Marsh, the rain got heavier and heavier... to the point where I was almost considering turning round and going home. I usually avoid cycling in the rain, and it was looking very much like my first sportive was going to be Type 2 Fun.
Luckily by the time I arrived the weather had upgraded to 'light drizzle'. I optimistically stuffed my waterproof into a jersey pocket, where it stayed for at least 20 minutes before I caved in and put it on.
At the food stop I stuffed myself with flapjack and banana, refilled my water and grabbed a large handful of sweets for future hills. The rain jacket went back into my pocket at this point, and stayed there until the end. Phew.
The hill out of Chipping Campden (on the B4081) seemed to go on forever, but I made it all the way up without getting off and walking, and even overtook some people. I guess I'm finally getting better at hills, yay. A marshall at the A44 road crossing: "are you enjoying the hill?" me: "urgh, is it over yet?" "no! enjoy!". And he was right, it kept going up towards Snowshill. I stopped at the top for a well earned drinks break.
Apparently soon afterwards I cycled right past a trig point without noticing it - how does that even happen?! I'm a bit annoyed about this and am considering logging it anyway... However I did stop to take photos of lavender fields, along with several other riders.
not the lavender fields
I managed to use my full range of gears on this ride - from crawling up the never ending hill to swooshing down a lovely descent - which I'd probably have gone quicker on if it had been drier, but that's ok.
I crossed the finish line at around 3hr15, having done the 'short' 60km route. I'd hoped for closer to three hours and think I'd probably have managed if it had been dry.
Treated myself to a short sports massage afterwards, as my shoulders and upper left arm were feeling rather tight. I'd lasted about 2.5hrs before my fingers started tingling, which is an improvement on earlier rides
Despite my whinging about the rain, I really enjoyed my first sportive and will definitely be signing up for more in future! I'm determined to build up to longer distances too.
I took this photo a couple of weeks ago before heading out for a run, to show how my funky new running leggings clash with my shoes. And our newly block paved driveway.
That was the last time I ran. I had to cut my run short and limp home because the gentle ache in my left shin that I'd been ignoring for a few weeks suddenly got a lot worse and turned into a stabby pain. Roughly where that badly doodled black X is. Ouch.
Dr Google convinced me it was either a shin splint or a stress fracture, and it turns out the actual doctor/physio agrees. I've avoided having to go for any diagnostic scans as it had already started feeling better by my first appointment (after four days of rest).
I've had two physio sessions now, involving some evil calf massaging on both legs. Apparently my muscles were very tight, so potentially causing extra strain in other places. I hadn't suddenly changed running frequency, technique, or speed and my shoes aren't badly worn, so this has probably been building up for a while.
I'm now on a regime of stretches several times a day, and avoiding high impact exercise. I never thought I'd miss going for a run! I've had to resort to swimming, though I was pleased to discover last weekend that road cycling doesn't seem to cause any pain.
There are two important lessons I should learn from this:
don't ignore niggly pains in the hope that they'll go away
when people say stretching is important, listen!
Sadly this means I'll be missing out on Gloucester 10k this year. I'm aiming to find another race later in the year when I'm up and running (groan) again, so watch this space...