A much better ride than last year. It was dry, the weather was great, and I did it faster and felt better at the end of it. I’ve never ridden harder in my life and I was pleasantly surprised how far I was able to keep up the pace.
I was riding this as a sort of group ride with the LondonFGSS guys. Usually, our group rides have a “no man left behind” policy, and there are lots of stops to regroup and wait for slower riders to catch up. This was a little less formal than that.
Originally uploaded by tommybrickell
We met at London Fields at around 1930 and left at 20:30. The later start meant that we weren’t riding with a big group of cyclists so we stayed in group until our first stop 12 miles in at a petrol station. Fortified myself with a Red Bull and a Mars bar. I also took the opportunity to readjust my saddle. Foolishly, I had changed the angle for the ride, and soon found the need to return it to the way it was before.
Maybe it was the sugar and caffeine, but I really picked up the speed after this point. I did a lot more drafting than usual, and it helped that I was riding with people I know as it was easier to get close to their back wheels, confident that they wouldn’t weave over the road, or change the speed much. It was a joy rolling along the smooth roads that were so much better in the dry. Just turning my cranks for mile after mile without stopping for lights or weaving around traffic. I felt discomfort in my thighs but I just kept going rather than wimping out early as I usually do. I got some good speed on the downhills that kept my momentum going for the uphills. Although the ride is flat there are some rolling sections that can catch you out. Last year I walked up some of the climbs, but I managed to ride up all of them this time.
Got to the feed stop at a quarter past two. There was a long line for food, but I was ready for this. I had a dehydrated ration pack and the line for hot water was a lot shorter. This gave me a hefty hot meal (beef and potato hot-pot). A cup of coffee and a handful of jelly babies and lots of water. We left the food stop at 0330. A little later than I wanted, but this is not supposed to be a race.
We rode in the pre-dawn light as a group for a bit and then I found that I couldn’t keep the speed up and dropped off the group. Caught up a couple of times, but I wasn’t able to stay with them. I really should have stopped and eaten the mars bar that I was carrying, but I was too tired to remember that I had it.
Saw some wildlife. Of course, there were a few bats, but also a hedgehog crossing the road and a hare bouncing around in one of the verges.
Some people waiting on a corner gave my encouragement “It’s only 7 miles now!” they said. I was in a weird fugue state – just turning my cranks and watching the road. I didn’t know what the time was and I think I was going quite slowly. Hippy flew by me with around 6 miles to go, and I woke myself up by standing on my pedals and getting my speed up to try and follow him. I didn’t keep up, but at least it got me going again. Those last few miles seemed to last forever. So close, but not there yet, and the legs burning and you pick up the speed to just get it over with. And then, almost like an anticlimax, there is a junction, a short road, and the beach is there right in front of you. I checked my mobile and was amazed to see it was 7.11 am. I thought it was more like 8. I don’t know where I made up the time because it felt like I was just grinding for the last few hours.
A big breakfast and then I thought I would have a sit on the beach. The pebbles were just warming up in the morning sun, and it was surprisingly comfortable to lie down on. I must have fallen asleep because it was an hour and a half later that I found the rest of the group a bit further down the beach.
A little cider, a little mindless chat and then it was on the coach and another nap till we got to London. We were one of the last coaches back and there was a moment of fear searching for your bike amongst the hundred or so others stacked around Smithfields.
And that was it. I was home 22.5 hours after I left. Tired and groggy I don’t even remember what I had to eat that night.
Will I do it again – absolutely.
Originally uploaded by tommybrickell