So a week has passed and I’ve had time to sit down, calm down and take stock on exactly what we achieved at the Dulux London Revolution, 185 flipping miles on the bike. Part of me still cannot believe it! It wasn’t easy, but it certainly was an adventure and by far the most challenging event I’ve ever done. Did I mention we cycled 185 miles around London?
Firstly I want to thank Threshold Sports for the places they gifted to Sarah (my willing victim *ahem* cycle partner) and I. This is something I never would have dared to enter, so the gift of a place really spurred me on to step far beyond my comfort zone and try something completely new. However, this blog is my own words, from my own experience and not influenced/edited/crafted by the organisers or any of their sponsors. It’s my own tell all review of the event….
Prior to the event I was filled with nerves. I hadn’t cycled as much as I had liked during the winter in terms of long rides, but I did what I could focusing on back to back days in the saddle and this really paid off. Whilst I still had doubts and fears these weren’t all encompassing and actually subsided once we got going. The start itself is rather low key, which is great for dealing with the nerves. With approximately 2,000 riders this wasn’t a huge event compared to my previous experiences of Ride London or London Duathlon. It was large enough to feel busy and mean you were always in the company of other riders, but small enough to feel intimate and well managed. We chucked our bags on the baggage wagon and off we went.
The first leg of the first day sees you head south into Central London, passed the sights such as the Bank of England, London Eye, Palace of Westminster and then out into South London Suburbia. This first section of the route was testing on the nerves. Impatient bus drivers, many junctions and the hustle and bustle of central London meant this portion was slow and at times a tad hairy (especially when one bus driver pulled across into the path of the cyclist in front of me). Here, I felt at an advantage, having some experience cycling in central London I knew how to navigate these hazards and make the most of the safety of pack cycling. If you get chance to do some urban cycling before the event I would really recommend it as it helps you stay calm when there is a lot going on around you. The safety support team caught up with us just before Shoreditch and stayed within a short distance for the majority of the route, giving a very reassuring presence.
Once into suburbia things remained hectic with crazy Saturday morning drivers (we think we spotted the parkrun rush hour!) but the safety cars and motorbikes were always close by with a reassuring thumbs up, some encouraging words or making their presence felt. We were soon on the quiet country roads, and then came the hills.
If you really really really don’t like hills this event perhaps isn’t for you. They’re challenging and at times unrelenting but they add variety and what goes up must come down! Many cyclists dismounted and pushed up the steeper hills, something which I joined in on day two when I was having some tightness around my knee. There’s no shame in it, you’re in this for the long haul and pacing yourself and knowing your limits is respectable. So whilst the hills are tough, they’re not impossible and if you’re determined enough you’ll find a way up.
The first of the aid stations was slow to come around due to the amount of time it had taken us to get out of London, but at just over 30 miles in we arrived and I was ready to sample the infamous Threshold aid station buffet. It did not disappoint, plenty of snacks, drinks, supplements and some chairs to relax in. I had felt a little nervy on one particularly steep descent and with the help of one of the on hand mechanics had my brakes checked and tightened slightly, for free might I add! Once we were refulled we headed back out with another 35 or so miles until the next pitstop. The aid stations on the route were perfectly spaced. Long enough apart to give you a chance to settle back into your cycling and the fact that there was only two meant you could take a proper break (I certainly felt ready to get off the bike). After some more hills, and some SPECTACULAR VIEWS, we arrived at the final aid station of the day stocked up on sandwiches before heading for base camp.
Its after this things momentarily went a bit Pete Tong. At around 90 miles in Sarah and I became separated due to a descent and some junctions. I was tired at this point, I hadn’t got my fuelling right this first day (I had made the mistake of assuming that because I was eating at the aid stations I didn’t need to eat on the bike, which was a rookie error) and a momentary lapse in concentration meant I missed a turning and deviated off the route. After about 10 minutes I realised I was lost. The route had been SO WELL signposted, I cannot stress how well, that the fact I hadn’t seen a sign for a while made me wonder if I was off course. I made a deal with myself that if I reached a junction and there was no direction arrow that I would stop and call Sarah. 5 minutes later (having reached the top of the hill I’d been battling up) I was on the phone explaining that I thought I might have gone AWOL. Thankfully using whatsapps location settings we worked out that whilst we were both stood on a motorway bridge we were actually 3 miles apart. So back I went to retrace my steps/pedals, luckily all downhill and eventually found the turning I had missed after a jolly 5 mile jaunt. Sarah had managed to flag down a support rider who helped to locate me and I was christened ‘Lost and Found’ for the remainder of the day.
We arrived at basecamp just as the final ultra runners were coming in. It was a sea of noise, colour and very welcomed. Thanks to my detour I had cycled just under 172km for the day and I was ready for food and rest. We racked our bikes in the superbly organised bike park and headed straight for dinner. The food was great, the dining tent was warm and there was plenty of cake. I had the strangest mix of beef stew and pasta but I just didn’t even care I wanted the carbs and gravy is always a bonus. After polishing off two slices of cake we headed to collect our bags and be allocated our tents. The organisation was flawless. Rows upon rows of neatly laid out two man tents, self inflating padded roll mats and HOT individual showers. There was a drying room which was gloriously warm and a massage tent which I managed to get a quick five minutes on my upper back and left quad. Longer massages were available but these had all been booked up- I wish I had know that booking was essential as the race guide had given us the impression that you could just turn up, but hey it’s a tip for next time.
One thing I loved about basecamp was how friendly and helpful all the volunteers were. They couldn’t do enough for you. Everyone was in such good spirits and after donning some warmer clothes we headed for a pint to celebrate the day. The beer bus had been the first thing Sarah spotted when we arrived and there was a lovely area with chairs, beanbags and fire pits where everyone was congregating.
I was wiped out but definitely didn’t get the long nights sleep I had hoped for. It was absolutely freezing, and not being dramatic but I was debating camping out in the warm drying room. I was awoken by the glorious morning tones of the man two tents over repeatedly coughing (who needs a rooster!). The sun was up but it was still chilly and there was a lining of frost on the tents. We headed for breakfast and hot drinks. The breakfast offerings were as generous as the dinner the evening before. As a runner this horrified me, I was used to living by the mantra of ‘nothing new on race day’ and having boring porridge. But cyclists are a different breed, they’ll pretty much eat anything and everything and my lust after a bacon sandwich and some hash browns got the better of me (it was divine), they even had vegan options for Sarah.
We were soon on our way, 85 miles to do on this second day, and getting back on the bike was no where near as grim as I had expected thanks to my trusty and well padded decathlon shorts. As we left just before 8am we were in the latter half of the riders but still got to enjoy the quiet, wide country roads. The first 12 miles was flat, we warmed our legs up and enjoyed the sun on our backs. The hills did make an appearance but before we knew it the first aid station had arrived. Again we stocked up on food, caught up with some friends we had made along the way and headed back out on the road. The country lanes on day two were magnificent. At one point we were going down a narrow but well surfaced road not a car in sight, just hedgerows, birds, horses and cyclists. It felt a world away from London even though we were cycling around it!
Aid station two seemed to come quickly too. We arrived and were met with a sandwich crisis (they had run out) but the hardworking volunteers were already on it! Soon a van filled with food arrived and we feasted on sandwiches, wraps and pork pies. I cannot tell you how good a pork pie tastes after 160 miles!
Leaving the aid station we had only 24 miles left, that was less than a marathon and totally dooable, just less than 2 hours left on the bike. The roads began to get busier you could definitely sense we were heading back into London. The final part through Enfield was sketchy. By now it was the afternoon, traffic had significantly picked up and all the riders were spread meaning we didn’t have the safety or presence of the pack. We kept the pace the best we could willing the finish to come quickly. And it did and just like that we rolled over the line and into glory. All the colour, all the noise and filled with pride and happiness we had done it. We had just cycled 185 miles- or in my case over 190 haha!
So what are my lasting thoughts on the event? Firstly it was exceptional, one of the best organised events I’ve ever done. I cannot praise the organisers and volunteers enough. The safety/support team out on the road really made the event. Their kindness, encouragement, banter, humour and empathy kept the riders safe, motivated and in good spirits. They were never far away and their presence was very reassuring. One female volunteer seemed to pop up at every cheer station, she was crazy, easily the best supporter we encountered and we loved seeing her out on the course. The food, camping, amenities, aid stations were all flawless. My only one criticism is some food at the finish would have been welcomed. There were two stands where you could buy food, but it was pizzas or burgers. The jacket potatoes had run out and as Sarah was vegan this meant she couldn’t eat anything. Just some snacks would have been great as usually you do get a race goodie bag.
The route for 2020 is going to be slightly different at 155 miles and a reduced mileage on day two. I think this is a fab idea as it will make the event much more accessible and mean you have less mileage on day two when your body is tired. There’s also an ultra option where you can cycle it all in one go!
Overall I LOVED it. I’m so grateful to have taken part. I’m certainly considering it next year. My whole experience of a Threshold event has been superb and exceeded every expectation. It has seriously left me considering an ultra marathon as you are so well looked after, the atmosphere is great and the company just know how to put on a fantastic event. My friends who ran the trails from Marlow to Windsor on the Saturday all had similar positive experiences. If you’re considering taking part, don’t let the distance put you off. The way it is broken down with the aid stations and camping overnight makes it feel less daunting. The atmosphere is relaxed and you’ll be surrounded by supportive riders and helpers. I’m still on the biggest high! Definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but something I am immensely proud of.