07 August 2015

Ride London 100 (well, 50 for me)

On Sunday 2 August, I arrived at the Olympic Park in Stratford along with 25,000 other cyclists, to take on the challenge of riding 100 miles. Having discovered I had a place in February, and having started training in May, this event had loomed large on the horizon for some time. When my alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 4.30am that morning, it was hard to believe that THE BIG DAY had finally arrived. Before I talk about the day itself, I'm going to say a few things about my training (because I never got around to posting a training update - oops!).

Beautiful rides in Richmond Park

Going on some long rides in this beautiful Royal Park was definitely a highlight of my training. Richmond Park is heaven for cyclists (and indeed runners). One loop of the park is about 7 miles and there are enough undulations and hills (and deer!) to keep things interesting.

Wattbike classes at Cadence Performance
I made sure to regularly attend wattbike sessions during my training. They proved a great way to have a high intensity session on the bike without having to worry about navigating, bike handling and all the other annoying things you have to think about when riding on the road. I'm lucky to have Cadence Performance a stone's throw away from my house. It's a brilliant hub for cyclists, offering everything from bike fitting and servicing/repairs to coaching, lactate threshold testing, yoga lessons and more: even a (very practical) inner tube vending machine for those passing by with a puncture.

Indoor cycling classes on wattbikes are available at Cadence every day, and I tried to go once a week during training. Wattbikes are different to your regular spin studio bike in a number of ways... they allow you to check your pedal technique, and have a combination of air and magnetic braking which means they feel more like a real bike. The instructors at Cadence were also brilliant, making every lesson challenging and different to the last.

Indoor cycling studio at Cadence Performance

Training Nutrition
I like to use a mixture of 'real' food and sports supplements when training. A special thanks to Thanks For Frank's for providing me with some of their top notch granola bars to see me through my training. This is the sort of real food that I like to eat to keep me going on a long ride... oats are a great low GI food so they release the energy slowly over time; plus the sugar in the bars gives you the instant pick-me-up you need to prevent bonking. These also come in a number of different flavours so I could mix it up a bit and not get bored... but Salted Caramel was the best!

I also used High5 zero tabs to replenish my electrolytes whilst hydrating, and Clif Shot Blocks (these are a brilliant alternative to sports gels, and much tastier!). On the day itself, I used all of the above, plus the old classic: fig rolls.

OK, now on to THE BIG DAY.

As said BIG DAY approached, I began to worry less about finishing 100 miles (I was sure that I had the stamina and endurance to do this), and more about being able to cycle fast enough to make it to each of the hubs before their respective cut-off times. Unfortunately, my worry proved to be justified. My mountain bike frame was just too heavy to go as fast as required (on average, just under 12mph) and so I ended up missing the cut-off time at the half way point of Newlands Corner.

However, my Ride London 50 was an incredible experience nonetheless. Riding through the closed streets of London was an amazing opportunity - it felt so liberating, and it really was as if cyclists were reclaiming the streets! There was a brilliant atmosphere throughout, especially in some of the Surrey towns where they'd made a proper day of it, creating a festival/fair for the spectators to enjoy whilst watching the race. It was great to cycle through Surrey, especially parts that I didn't know as well... it has some truly beautiful parts - I just wish I'd had the time to stop and admire some of the views!

Even though I was immensely disappointed to not finish, I figure there are many things I should be grateful for:
  • I didn't have a mechanical failure or puncture (plenty of others did... I saw people every mile or so crouched by the side of the road trying to fix their bikes)
  • I didn't have an accident, either in training or on the day (there were a couple of nasty crashes on the day, mainly at tight corners. My friend's dad also had a horrible accident during his last training ride before the event, but luckily he's going to be ok)
  • It was a beautiful and warm day, with enough wind to keep cool (conditions were the polar opposite of the 2014 event's post - Hurricane Bertha conditions, which were so bad that the route had to be cut short)
  • I had a wicked time, and the organisers and volunteers took care of me and the other cyclists extremely well - I felt safe and looked after the whole time
The 4.5 hours or so I spent in the saddle where brilliant, and it was a shame to cut the day short - but at least I have lots of positives to look back on!

The ballot for Ride London 2016 opens on Monday 10 August. If you enjoy cycling even in the slightest I definitely recommend entering - just make sure you use a road bike if you get a place!!

Did you participate in or watch Ride London? Have you ever DNF'd (did not finish) in a race?

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