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Penny Comins: L'Eroica Brittania
Posted by: Penny Comins
Posted on: Wednesday 25th June 2014


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On the road to Norseman and Kona this year, Penny Comins (@hotpen) is back from a weekend at L'Eroica Britannia (www.eroicabritannia.co.uk), where she had to keep her beloved aerodynamic Specialized Shiv at home and complete 100 miles on a 1980's Raleigh with five gears.

It also made her realise that "training for an event is all about the journey and not just crossing the finish line".


What an awesome weekend of training to complete a three week build on the road to Norseman and Kona 2014. I am usually adverse to train in different locations when there is a lot of volume to get done in one weekend, as I don't like wasting time checking maps to make sure I am on the right route. I am hopeless at ‘just getting lost' and seeing where I end up.

L'Eroica Britannia (www.eroicabritannia.co.uk) was in the diary for a long time, based out of Bakewell in the Peak District, so I just went with it. Through the power of Twitter I managed to get a great run route and ran the Monsel Trail from end-to-end, completing my last long run of the brick. While not the hills I should be climbing I kept a steady pace and didn't get lost. Meanwhile I took in the sights of the old railway line and the long tunnels.

The lanes leading out of Bakewell made it easy to get a ride in and then made for an amazing adventure on Sunday. 1,600 vintage clad riders took on one of three distances to ride pre 1987 bikes on a hot solstice day. I selected the 100 mile, of course, but when I was shown my stead a 1980's Raleigh Ace I did have doubts. A quick ride around the car park the day before had left me worried that my bum wouldn't be able to handle the old school brown felt seat, not to mention pushing the 38mm tires over 2,800 meters of climbing with only five gears. What had I got myself in to?

Penny Comins - L'Eroica 2014

There was no turning back though as we set off at 6am. The first feed station had a queue out in to the churchyard where riders waited for bacon butty's. 30% of the field were international and questioned if this type of food was normal. Laughing I scoffed mine and then realised no matter how sore my bum was I had to keep riding to burn that bad boy off.

An amazing route took us over huge climbs, many walked, as their steads didn't have enough gears for the 20% gradient or just broke. I did learn that you had to ‘feel' where the gear was when changing on the down tube and that the rear derailleur can easily get in the spokes of the wheel or the chain can jump straight off. Constant repairs from Dave meant both our bikes, aptly named Rebecca and Roger kept going.

Penny Comins - L'Eroica 2014

As the sun poured over us we rode gravel paths and tiny roads that I swore were peoples driveways. We cruised in our upright positions past huge reservoirs, through forested sections and along the all important white gravel paths just like in the original l'eroica in Italy. It was fantastic to stop at the feed stations and chat to other riders, all excited about their special bike and where it had come from. Beer was served for lunch with sausage and cheese sandwiches; a local brewery had produced l'eroica Handsome beer for all.

Continuing on the rail trails I was taught how to ride down the steep 1 in 8 inclines with water boards. I was immensely proud of my new bike handling skills. At Ilam house the National Trust put on a cream tea for us.

Dave got on the front and as the ride went on my confidence built on my bike we started to drill it. He was the Freight Train and I the Cherry Tomato because I was always trying to ketchup; a joke Dave found wildly funny. It was a real wake up call on how much I rely on a quick easy gear change on the hoods. Now I had to just pedal harder as I didn't have the range of gears, nor the skill to quickly change on the down tube and still ride at pace.

The final feed station and place to complete the required stamps on our card was glorious Chatsworth House. We were too late for the Pimms, 1,600 units were decimated by the riders on the short course, but luckily there was still English sparkling wine and potted meat sandwiches. Dehydrated and consuming sparkling wine as if was water made for the last 10 kilometres in to Bakewell easy even though there were some nasty climbs.

Penny Comins - L'Eroica 2014

Thrilled to be at the finish in the festival arena I got a bit nostalgic about my Rebecca. We had such a great journey together. It made me think of how training for an event is all about the journey and not just crossing the finish line. That moment is a mega second. Yet the months leading in to an event is what should bring the joy. Training in new locations add a freshness and adventure that makes the grind easier.

Penny Comins - L'Eroica 2014

Sure, hard work isn't always joyous, but you must be passionate and enjoy it to make the race even more appealing. The world is all about quick fixes such as abs in 30 days. To commit to the daily grind and enjoy the hard work makes the result so much more fulfilling.

The training is the hard work; the race is your treat.

My ‘treat' is now only 5 and 15 weeks away. As I head in to a rest week I feel on track for fitness and a little worried about strength for the huge climbing ahead.

Penny Comins - L'Eroica 2014


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