As a newbie cyclist, tackling 100miles with hills off the back of 5 months training seems utterly ridiculous but that’s exactly what I did, and I’m very proud I did it.
I did what I could when it came to training for the Ride London 100. I found a lot of barriers at the beginning of my journey and I dealt with the challenges of cycling the best I could.
The morning started with a very VERY early alarm (2:30am in fact) so that I could head to the start line with Sarah. I was too nervous to go alone and sacrificing the sleep was worth it to have someone with me to calm the nerves. Plus I knew I would have gotten lost in the dark around Stratford. I ate what I could so early and took my breakfast with me to eat as we waited for the Emirates airline to head north of the river. After getting a little lost we soon arrived at the Olympic Park. As I had a different start line and time to Sarah we said goodbye and I made the remainder of my journey alone.
I arrived at my start location so early. I started off feeling really intimidated, I didn’t know anyone and all the blokes were eyeing up each other’s clearly very expensive and impressive bikes and as someone totally new to this I couldn’t have felt more out of my depth. Another worry I had was the weather was taking a turn for the worst. After months of training in glorious sunny and dry conditions the day was set to be wet and windy, my main fear being how I would cope coming down off Box and Leith hill as I had never had chance to test my tyres in these conditions.
As we moved into our pens the nerves were hitting me hard. I had so many worries about how would I cope, would I be the slowest, would people get angry at me if I couldn’t keep up, would I get a puncture, would I come off, how bad was the weather going to be. I could feel my legs shaking as I cycled into the pen. Everyone keenly moved to the front of the pen, but I hung back not wanting to get caught in any mad sprint start. I met a lovely lady called Vicky who was feeling the same and just having chance to chat to her really calmed my nerves.
Our pen was guided to the start and before we knew it we were off. All my nerves disappeared, the roads were wide and if people wanted to pass me they did, the weather was temporarily holding off and I loved it. The first 11 miles flew by and before I knew it I was at Waterloo place. I had the luck of being given an early starting time so decided to make the most of it and take regular breaks to ensure I kept ahead of my fuelling (I had been caught out on some training rides with sudden hunger and dizziness) and just to enjoy it. I wasn’t there to get a time, I wanted to enjoy every second.
As we rode through London I couldn’t stop smiling, I was so beautiful to see my wonderful home city whizz by as I enjoyed the closed, carless roads. As we began to head towards Richmond the rain started pelting down. I was so grateful I had bought a last minute rain jacket, however within minutes it was soaked through in the torrential conditions, but at least it continued to break the wind. We came into Richmond Park close to 8am, I knew my other half had his alarm set for 8am and I had said I hoped to be in Richmond by then and I had made it. I stopped at the next feed station and I was amazed.
There were bananas, croissants, clif bars, clif bloks, drinks, electrolytes and you could pick whatever you needed. As a runner I’m used to having a bottle of water handed to me and throwing it down my throat on the go so this was totally alien. I hid under a tree chatting to other cyclists and making light of the weather then headed on.
As we approached Surrey, the hills began and the rain got worse. Newlands Corner was a bit of a shock. I had prepared myself mentally for Box Hill and Leith Hill but Newlands caught me out. As we emerged at the top the weather had set in and I was feeling cold after the climb. I hid shivering in a portaloo, eating a clif bar and contemplating my life choices. Despite the weather I was having a blast, however I knew I needed to try get warm again and set off with numb hands, and very much looking forward to the next hills as they were a chance to get warm.
As I reached Leith Hill I could feel some tightness starting in knee/ITB and was losing some power in my legs. I stopped for a quick pitstop and adjusted my saddle which really helped. Leith Hill felt never ending, but I was determined to cycle all the hills and not get off. I got my head down and powered through. I tackled Box Hill in the same way: head down, gritted teeth and pushing through on tired legs. At the top of Box Hill we were in the cloud!
The downhills were a little frightening, lots of slippery wet leaves, blustery winds, puddles concealing pot holes and falling branches. Luckily lots of people were taking it slow and I just weaving my way through. I was so pleased with the performance of my bike and tyres. We had quite a few stoppages coming back towards London due to accidents which was sad, and really hope the riders are ok.
By 90 miles I was exhausted and willing to get through Wimbledon and be heading back into central London. I saw friends out on the course and had some quick hugs which helped through the heavy legged slog. The finish soon came and I was sad it was over. Coming round Trafalgar Square and seeing the finish with the Palace in the background was just as emotional as the marathon. 100 miles battled through terrible weather and a day I’ll never forget. I lingered in the finish area waiting for Guy who was completing the Surrey 19. I had hoped to complete the 100 with him but decided to keep going as all the delays around Richmond meant I was rapidly becoming very cold and hungry. He finished 10 minutes behind me; it was so lovely to share the finish line celebrations with him.
I had such a fantastic time completing the Ride London 100. It is a truly iconic event with great organisation, an incredible team of volunteers and a beautiful route. We’ve both entered the ballot for next year and I have my fingers crossed I’ll have another opportunity to relive such an amazing day- maybe with a little less rain though!
I am so grateful to Guy for all his support throughout my training. To Corey and Bella who helped arrange my bike. To Jon and Liam for answering all my bike questions and all the messages from Jon when i was out on the course which was much needed! and to Sarah for safely delivering me to the olympic park!