Since the summer I’ve been focusing on ticking off the cycling challenges, so this blog gives a short summary of each of them, but like the bike rides it is quite long too! Some of them have been very tough and involved a serious amount of mileage and hours upon hours in the saddle! I really enjoy riding my bike, but some of these have really tested that love!
The first cycling challenge followed the Three Peaks Challenge and the London to Paris cycle. The challenge was to cycle to work and back in a day, uifortunately I live 35 miles away from work so it meant a total of 70 miles to be ridden with a normal day at work in between! There were basically two sections to the ride, the quiet country roads out from East Grinstead, and the busy London streets up to Wandsworth, these were split by a giant hill at Woldingham! I had allowed two hours for the ride, but things didn’t go too smoothly for me! I got a puncture in Whyteleafe which is almost exactly half way, then had to stop again and re-inflate the new tube a few miles later. I eventually got to work at about 10am dripping wet! When I got my bike to ride home, it had a flat tyre again so I had to walk to the shop and get a replacement tube before setting off. This meant I would be riding in the dark, and whilst I had lights suitable for lit roads, they weren’t the strongest and were probably not appropriate for the unlit Sussex countryside roads. Riding home was a proper slog, I was tired from the morning ride, and the hill nearly finished me off! Then about 10 miles from home I felt like something was slipping around on my bike – I thought maybe my rear wheel had come lose after I changed it earlier. I pulled over and checked the back wheel – nothing wrong. Then I noticed that my pedal shaft was moving from side to side, essentially my pedal cranks appeared to be undoing themselves! I had no idea what to do about this and was just preparing myself for a long, dark walk home when a hero arrived! The only passing cyclist for miles pulled over and using his bright light helped to work out the problem, and then fixed it for me! He then escorted me for the next 6-7km allowing me to make use of his lights! I finally got home at about 9pm, had a shower and went straight to bed!!! Not sure I’ll be repeating this challenge, certainly not in one day!
A couple of weeks later I was back on two wheels having not been on a bike since the last challenge. I was to ride the BHF London to Brighton Off Road 75 mile cycle with JC, an old friend from university. To make things a little tougher for me I was riding a borrowed bike which was slightly too small for me, and in addition to this I had a strict cut off time for completing the ride as we had tickets for England v Wales in the Rugby World Cup! To ensure we started as early as possible we stayed with Grazby and Sam in Tooting and got ourselves over to Roehampton for about 6:30am. The ride was really good fun, there was some decent sections of off road but generally we were riding on bridleways and tracks which allowed us to go at a decent speed. There was a comedy moment when I got the wrong line and ended up cycling through some deep rutted puddles, having got through one the second went half way up my forks before stopping me in my tracks. Cue very wet feet and plenty of laughing from the other riders! It wasn’t long before we arrived at the aptly named ‘Tourettes’ Hill, the off road version of Ditchling Beacon (you swear all the way up it!). We knew this would be the final climb before we could descend into Brighton, so gave it our all….and then got off and walked!!! To be honest there were only 3 riders I saw cycle up it, the ground was very lose and very steep which meant keeping any traction was extremely difficult. Once it eased off we got back on and cycled up to the top, well almost…I got another puncture about 50 metres from the top! Once it was changed we were on our way and had a decent descent off the Downs into Hove, we then had a not too enjoyable 2-3 miles along the seafront into a headwind to the finish. It was a really enjoyable cycle, and a great way to catch up with an old friend! If anyone is considering it I would recommend riding as early as possible as I wouldn’t have liked to have been the 2000th person through some of the muddy sections we went through! (sadly the rugby wasn’t as successful though)
There was no rest for me, the following weekend we had the Team 30/30 Park Run which was a huge success – as many of you know! We had over 30 people get involved and run their local 5km Park Run to help raise funds and importantly awareness too. Thanks to everyone who took part, especially those who came and ran with me in Haywards Heath – all the photos are on the facebook page.
I was only a few seconds off a PB despite the man flu I’d started developing! EXTRA special thanks and congratulations to my Dad & Father-in-Law who both completed the Park Run’s a great achievement for them both. I love Park Run and I will certainly be back to run a few more next year!
The man flu meant that I didn’t get any further training in before my next challenge, which was the Box Hill 100 mile Epic Sportive the next weekend. Once again I had some friends joining me, Cat, Rhiannon, and Anna were all cycling a shorter route (which still included the three main climbs), and Gaz ‘Hooch’ Turner joined me on the Epic distance! I was slightly nervous about this one as I had never cycled over 100 miles, and the serious hills were bothright at the end too – this was going to be a tough day. Once again it was an early start, with me and Gaz leaving Dorking at 7.45am. We left the girls sorting out Anna’s bike after she forgot the skewer for her front wheel (the skewer keeps the wheel attached to the bike!) – “oh Anne!”. First up for me and Gaz was the infamous Box Hill -but we were up and over it without really realising! It has a very gentle incline and although we knew we were climbing we were both surprised how gentle it was! Although there were three main climbs on the route, the whole ride was pretty undulating throughout making it a constant effort for us. Gaz was determined to keep our minds off the size of the challenge ahead and so quizzed me on my challenge top 3’s – top 3 toughest, top 3 easiest, top 3 most physical! The ride was going pretty well, we were keeping a decent pace and ticking off the miles but when we reached the third and final feed stop and realised we were going to be cutting it quite fine to reach the finish by the 5pm cut off time. By this point we had 70 odd miles in the legs and were both struggling. Long distance cycling doesn’t just take it out of your legs, its also your back, shoulders and neck that hurt too! We kept our feed stop as short as we could and got back out on the road, we knew this would be a tough section as it included both Leith Hill and Whitedowns which are serious climbs. We got ourselves up Leith Hill, but as we got to the top we noticed riders that we’d seen at the feed station coming the other way…somehow we (along with about 30 other cyclists) had taken a wrong turn and gone up the wrong side of the climb. Fortunately we hadn’t gone down the other side, so we turned round and got back on route. We now knew that we only had Whitedowns left to climb, and it was going to be a very tough climb. A few miles later we both struggled over what we thought was Whitedowns and celebrated – the climbing was over…only it wasn’t! About a mile later we went round a corner to see an 18% warning sign and cyclists pushing their bikes up the hill! The conversation stopped pretty quickly as the climbing kicked in, I was trying to keep an even pace and felt fairly comfortable (and a little bit smug), then I turned another corner only to realise that we were only half way up and the steepest section was still to come! I don’t know how, but we both made it up and over one of the hardest climbs in Surrey after 98 miles cycling. From there it was an enjoyable descent to the finish! We finished at 5.04pm, 4 minutes after the official end (exactly as I predicted!) and met up with the girls who’d finished their 53 mile ride too.
The following weekend I had yet another massive cycle, the epic Fred Whitton Round. However, that story is worth saving for another blog!
By this point I had started my month of no alcohol challenge which I’m very grateful that Cat has joined me in. I haven’t been alcohol free for longer than about 2 weeks since I was 18 so I knew it would be difficult, and seeing Cat drinking would have made it even worse. It didn’t feel quite right finishing a challenge and not being able to raise a glass in the evening, but we’ll have to make up for it at the end and cram 4 weeks drinking into one night!
I also completed my cumulative swimming distance challenge in October, finishing the final 1500m at my local pool after the Fred Whitton Round cycle. I had been getting some serious distances done when swimming outdoors at the local reservoir, however when that closed at the end of summer I was back in the pool which isn’t nearly as interesting!
Finally, I have to say a HUGE thank you to Sportswise, the sports injury clinic based at University of Brighton where Cat is studying for her PhD. They chose to support my 30/30 Challenge and Pancreatic Cancer UK in their annual cake sale – they raised a fantastic £200 in just one day!