Waking up at 4am on Saturday morning, nerves and excitement set in, trying to force down overnight oats while triple checking that we had everything we needed. We hit the road by 4:30am, I’ve never seen the London roads so quiet.
The whole experience was new to me having never taken part in a cycle event of any kind, so I was in amazement when we pulled in to the field to park the car watching what looked like professional cyclists everywhere getting their bikes ready, pumping up tyres, fitting inner tubes and attaching their numbers to their bikes. As we registered it suddenly felt real. I’d been waiting for that feeling all week, even travelling down to London still didn’t feel real. 187 miles was a distance that I couldn’t quite appreciate or get my head around. Receiving the registration pack was when it suddenly hit me. As I was looking around taking in the atmosphere I couldn’t help but notice that I was yet to see any women cyclists, automatically I started to worry that all the men around me looked particularly hard core and ready for what lies ahead.
My bike was ready, my luggage was gone and my water bottles were filled. I was at the start line listening to the safety talk and then before I really knew what was going on my wave were clipping in and we were off. I don’t think I’ll forget that initial feeling, the first time in my life that I was cycling in a group with other people. I felt like I was learning to ride for the first time and I actually felt wobbly. It was just nerves and within a mile I found my feet but I couldn’t help but notice that these roads were not closed, they were very much open and extremely busy.
Riding in London itself was an experience, every traffic light turned red as we approached and I got lots of practice at clipping out. When we started the ride we were given a sticker to go on the bike setting out the main climbs and pit stops. Being the girl who thought the route was flat was a little confused but accepted that there would be a few ‘hills’. Everywhere has a few hills. What this ride has taught me is that in cycling there is actually a difference between a hill and a climb.
The ride started in North London, through Shoreditch and Stoke Newingham, crossing the iconic Tower Bridge was a highlight all the way to the first climb up to Crystal Palace, I knew then that this ride was going to be a test.
Reaching the first pit stop at mile 34 felt good, I’d settled in to the ride and had got used to riding in a group of people, learning the etiquette and enjoying myself. The first stop was great, a chance to stretch the legs and refuel. Refuelling. This is something that I hadn’t quite mastered while training and I did feel a little nervous that I didn’t have a nutrition plan. It was then that I discovered Perkier, a great brand that makes breakfast and snacks out of whole foods. I had never tried the snack bars before but they quickly became my favourite. A sprouted oaty cranberry bar and banana along with more water was just what I needed to get me through the next 34 miles. Off we went making our way to the next pit stop, strong winds, pretty views and steep climbs but 34 miles later we stopped for lunch (and I must admit another perkier bar!).
Mile 64 and I was feeling positive still, I had some self doubt but could see the end in sight. A big error I made on this ride was about to unveil as I took on the final part of the ride. Dehydration. I definitely didn’t drink enough while out riding and this is something I struggled with throughout training but when I got to mile 87 I started to really struggle. My legs had nothing left, I felt dehydrated and light headed. But I kept spinning the legs and pushing forwards. The finish line was in sight and it felt amazing to cross it. The atmosphere at Windsor racecourse was fab!
That night I met the Dulux dog and then chilled out in the chill out area before retiring to ‘bed’ for the night. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not made for camping, especially after cycling 102 miles, all I wanted was a nice comfy hotel room but I was here to finish a race not a night of luxury. Needless to say it was a sleepless night, having spent 3 hours chugging water to try and ease the dehydration I also had to get up every hour and find my way to the portaloo and then find my way back again… not so easy when all the tents look the same!
5am Saturday morning and the rain was pouring down, sore legs, head cold on its way I had to reason with myself. Mr cycling buddy next door also woke up feeling poorly and extremely sore and for a few minutes I did wonder how the day would end. We were proud of cycling 100 miles, an achievement that neither of us had achieved before. But that wasn’t enough. We looked at each other and knew what the other was thinking. We are finishing this race.
We turned up at the start line and perhaps that was the hardest step, the motivation and energy around us was enough to make us forget the uncomfortable feelings we had. Sitting back on the bike and pedalling was painful and my bum was hurting from the offset, something to do with my piriformis injury I expect but every bump sent stabbing pains through me. It was going to be a long day.
I settled in and tried to get comfortable but there was nothing comfortable about it, the climbs were relentless and started early, we were exploring the chilterns filled with painful long climbs, beautiful views and fast descents. The descents made me nervous as almost each one ended with another climb. Pit stop one was most welcome and I was doubting myself, I was in pain and completely blind to what was to come. Texts from my mum telling me I could do it and positive messages from my sister along with so much support from friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. That is what got me through, so many people were watching and so many people where willing me on and to finish there was no way that I could stop now. I had people following my journey and waiting for me to get the finish. I was going to finish.
The next part of the ride was the hilliest and hardest of all, I think it was the most challenging 2 hours of my life, one hill made me sick, one made me cry but I was determined to get to the top of each. My family have been through some challenging times and thinking about these gave me to strength and determination when I needed it most.
I know my family must have thought I was crazy when I told them I was cycling 187 miles (you can’t even ride on the road yet) and I know they may have secretly doubted me during training but they supported me none the less. Every pedal of the way and that’s what got me through.
When things got really tough I played mind games with myself, I thought about problems that needed to be solved and I learnt a lot about myself.
I wasn’t a cyclist before I started, I wouldn’t ride my bike outside as I was scared of roundabouts and junctions. I was resistant to clip in cycling shoes in case I couldn’t clip out fast enough. The training has been tough and there have been challenges along the way, rides early on a Sunday morning over winter in the freezing cold, heavy winds, self doubts, hitting 50 miles and questioning whether I can go any further, missed workouts due to illness, endless anxiety and several times considering not doing it and exhaustion. There have also been beautiful Sunday morning rides in the sunshine, discovering new coffee shops, cycling over to my parents house, achieving new goals and personal bests, smilies, laughs, proud moments, bringing my new bike in to my life and pushing my body further than it has ever been before. It’s been a journey of highs and lows, and I’d do it all again for those 60 seconds of feeling amazing crossing the finish line.
The Dulux London Revolution is an amazing event. The organisation, support and atmosphere are second to none.
Thank you to Stolen Goat for my cycling kit, I felt like a proper cyclist stood at the start line with my kit.
Thank you to Perkier Foods for introducing me to the best energy snacks I have ever had. A new food that will become part of my everyday training! Also to High 5 for the electrolyte drinks, they too made all the difference.
Let’s not forget the reason I did this event, after being lucky enough to win entry I decided to raise money for The Shakespeare Hospice a charity we are working closely with at work. Thank you to everyone who helped me raise £605 for such a great cause.
I hope that I can show that you really can do anything you put your mind to. I wasn’t a cyclist before I started and I doubted myself throughout but if you want to achieve something then you are your only barrier. More is in you.
A weekend I will never ever forget.
The ultimate question, would I ever do it again?
What do you think 😉