Sarah Rose took an 8-year break from cycling. Health issues, including minor surgery led her back to something she loved years ago. Sarah suffered a fainting episode at work last year where she works as a doctor. Her colleagues walked her down the corridor for blood tests that revealed she had half the red blood cells she was supposed to have. She was chronically anemic.
Fibroids are non-cancerous growths and share a common link with anemia. Sarah had treatment to reduce the size of the fibroids and then surgery to remove them. It was this experience that made her appreciate health again. "It brought home to me how important it is to have your health and if you're healthy, you should do something with it," she said.
She started riding her bike for recovery. The first ride after surgery lasted 30 minutes and she was exhausted but loved the feeling of riding again.
She started wondering why she sold half her bikes when taking a break from the sport. She started riding more and the bikes started accumulating again. A gravel bike and mountain bike were added to the collection.
An event in her future
A friend told her about the Dales Divide, a 605 kilometer (375 mile) self-supported race across the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks. A keen mountain biker, he told her he believed she'd do well in the race. It was six months from the event and she'd only just started cycling again.
The seed now planted, Sarah got a coach. As an avid cyclist in years gone by, she was used to racing between 100 - 200 kilometers. But as she says, she's not one for fun runs and sprint triathlons but revels in major challenges.
Her training started with gym work to quickly build up muscle mass. It then progressed to turbo efforts. In January this year, the sessions became long endurance rides.
"I remember doing my first 140km ride and just dying. I felt it was too hard. But then I got out there again the next weekend and did 180km followed by a 200km ride."
The biggest preparation ride she did was a 300km off-road ride in the Peak District.
"I had a camp out and slept for 2 hours in the middle of the ride as a test run for the event, practicing packing my tent and all that. After that training ride, I didn't know how I was going to double it up to 600km."
When the Dales Divide finally arrived, Sarah's first challenge to overcome was dehydration from sweating too much. She quickly realized she'd packed way too much and the weather wasn't as cold as she'd anticipated. A spare derailleur, too heavy, a sleeping bag and a massive waterproof jacket she never wore was weighing her down. She persevered.
Sleep? She planned to sleep on the first night and tried for 2 hours.
"I chose to sleep on the terrace of a cafe in the middle of nowhere. My Garmin started beeping every 5 minutes and waking me. Then this extractor fan kept coming on and woke me. That wasn't all, there was a security light that flashed on and off. To top all that, my mattress deflated because I hadn't put the valve on properly. I decided I was better off just riding and not wasting any more time. It felt surreal to be riding with hardly any sleep."
One of the lowest moments on the ride happened when she missed a planned supermarket stop. The stop was 200 kilometers into the ride and with 5 kilometers to go, she realized she was not going to make their 10 pm closing time.
"The terrain was tougher than I expected and we'd had a lot of rain so a lot of it was knee deep mud that slowed everyone down. It was off road too so there weren't many options to restock on food. The moment almost broke me as I was exhausted at this point. I called my boyfriend. He suggested, I go to a 24-hour Mcdonalds. I don't eat junk food but I went and learnt to eat junk food. It was a great pick me up and afterwards I was craving pizza and other fatty foods".
Heading into the second day, Sarah was seriously sleep-deprived. At 2 am she started having distortions.
"There would be a tree up ahead and I'd thought it was a person. Every time I closed my eyes everything started swirling so I realized I needed to sleep. I managed to sleep for an hour and felt so refreshed. It was like a power nap. I remembered that from doing shift work in the hospital in my younger days."
The finish line - so near yet so far
With 60 kilometers to go, the terrain threw up a technical ascent which took Sarah almost 2 hours to conquer.
"It was a 12% rocky climb. Then with 40km to go there is a great descent which felt amazing. With 20km to go we got another off-road section which was hideous. The farmer had locked the gate and I needed to climb over but I was so tired and could barely lift my bike over. I was so near yet so far. A friend of mine had been dot watching. She doesn't live far from the finish and at the end of this hideous field, I saw a family standing in the distance and thought I'd give them a wide berth. I didn't notice her until I got closer and realized who she was. I gave her a huge hug and it just lifted my spirits. It gave me the energy to push through. The last 10km were on quiet roads and I got on my aero bars and time trialed to the finish. When I crossed the finish line it was surreal. Had I just done that? On no sleep?"
Two days, 8 hours and 25 minutes. She was the third female to finish and 25th overall.
Sarah had thoughts during the event of telling her coach endurance cycling wasn't for her but the minute she crossed the finish line, she knew it was something she wanted to do next year again.
- Do you scan over or under? I’m team under
- How do you take your coffee? In the morning I have a ridiculous latte that’s really frothy and then the rest of the day it’s espresso.
- Highest glucose score? 75
- Lowest glucose score? 30
- Favorite Prime meal? Pasta and cheesy sauce
- Post race meal? Always a protein shake then a big steak and potatoes with lots of green veg.
- What day is Sensor Day? Wednesday