I still can’t believe that I cycled 100 miles on Sunday. I remember crying so much when I finished my first ever 100 kilometres less than 2 months ago, and then on Sunday I somehow tacked on another 60+ kilometres. And I cycled all of it by myself, as Sye hadn’t trained enough and decided to drop out of the event. That seems crazy, and yet I did it. Me. Cycling-hating, up-hill-hating, down-hill-hating, corner-hating Julia. Madness!
Even more shocking is that it took me less than 7 hours, whereas I was just hoping to finish within the 8.5 hour cut-off. I have no idea where that energy and speed came from, especially given that I’d raced the London Triathlon only one week beforehand. That being said, those seven hours passed in a strange blur, and I can’t quite remember everything that happened. So instead of a full race report, here are a few memories I do have from the event which stand out.
- Meeting Paul, a lovely bloke from the Midlands, on the ride to the start-line. We (slowly) covered the 15km together, chatting about our lives and hopes for the race, whilst only getting slightly lost following other cyclists in front. He later found me on Strava, and said he had had a great Ride London and loved the event. Our commute there together put me in such a good mood for the rest of the morning, even if I did arrive waaaay too early for my start time!
- Paying an extortionate £2.50 for a cup of lukewarm instant coffee whilst waiting to start.
- The wave before mine choosing “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen as their kick-off song. I had a brilliant time singing along, and was still singing it 7 hours later! (Unfortunately, my suggestion of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” wasn’t chosen for our wave ?)
- A shaven-headed kid (?) cycling in the middle of the group for most of the first 10miles, despite clearly not being part of the race. They put up a valiant effort to keep up with all the lycra-cladded men around, even whilst carrying a large backpack. Oddly enough I think I saw them coming out of Clapham Leisure Centre on Tuesday morning as I left… small world!
- Stopping at the first aid station at 26miles after 1.5hours of cycling. It was so well stocked with food, drink and toilets that I would have loved to stay longer and chat with people. Oh, and had another coffee!
- Riding through Richmond/Kingston and seeing some fast cyclists on their return journey, some 60 miles ahead of us (I didn’t realise that at the time though!). A lady next to me commented that you could tell they were the fast ones because their kit was so shiny and there were no women, which unfortunately rang too true.
- The first hill climb up Newlands Corner. During training rides, Graham and I had had to stick to country lanes, which were much hillier than the main roads Ride London goes along. As such, the event was much flatter than what we had trained on, and that first hill was a real shock. But made better by the thought of a second snack-break coming at the top.
- Descending down the other side of Newlands Corner. And Leith Hill. And Box Hill. And any hill really. Those descents were glorious!
- A young boy yelling from the side of the road “it’s all downhill from here!”, after which his sister yelled “it’s all uphill from here!”. THANKS KIDS
- Being stopped at the bottom of Leith Hill because of a blockage further up. As we waited a lady in front said that although she’s ridden this 100mile event 3 times, this was her first time making it to Leith Hill due to accidents and re-routing in previous years. This sparked a discussion about whether the event was actually safe, given the number of participants and size of the roads. Many we had cycled along were highways and suitable for the 26,000 riders, but other Surrey country lanes were more problematic. I can see where she was coming from, but was lucky enough never to see or be involved in an accident myself.
- Grumbling and swearing my way up Leith Hill, accompanied by another woman who kindly put up with my inappropriate comments. She was also the one who told me “that’s the top up there” to which I replied “I *huff* LOVE *puff* YOU”.
- The crowds at Dorking who had come out to support the ride. Also, Dorking is a really cute village and I want to go back there for lunch sometime.
- Overtaking so many people on the cycle up Box Hill. Wheeeeeeee I’m glad we covered the zig-zags in one of our training rides, because I knew I could do it and it wasn’t something to be afraid of. YAY
- The guy missing two front teeth at the Box Hill water stop who kindly took a few (stupidly posed) photos of me although he didn’t know how to use a smartphone. He was riding a heavy mountain bike, and yet had covered the last 100km in 5 hours – impressive!
- Reaching a point where when I saw a hill coming up in front, instead of following my natural reaction by this point was to swear and cry ‘not another one!’, I just powered towards it, knowing that it was easier to just get it over and done with.
- All the wonderful supporters in Richmond and Kingston – my smile matched my hat for a good 5-10km. Legends!
- Making it over an entire hill without pedalling once because I had gained enough speed on the previous hill to carry me over. I kept waiting for the moment when I would need to stop coasting but it didn’t come.
- Realising with the 10km-to-go sign that I was on course for a sub-7 finish if I could just push through the last 20 minutes. I was so determined to have a 6:xx:xx that Mile 94-100 was my second-fastest split of the day.
- Slowing down in the finish funnel to ensure that I crossed the line all alone, because photos you know ? (but then not actually buying any of them because I spend too much of my salary on race photos).
- Having a little sob to myself after crossing the line, and being too overwhelmed to ask someone to take a proper photo with the finish. All I could think about was collecting my medal and drinking a celebratory beer. 100 miles is a long way, I was wrecked.
I really enjoyed Ride London. It was a fabulous day, and even the weather decided to be nice to us. I know that many people have concerns about the safety of the event, and honestly I was thanking my lucky stars that I made it through every mile in one piece. I did see a number of people at the side of the road being looked after by volunteers, know of one person who broke her wrist, and read that one man died during the event. There were a lot of bicycles on the road travelling at different speeds, and it could have all easily gone wrong.
The ballot for Ride London 2018 opens next Monday, August 7. If you own a bike and want a challenge, consider entering the 100 mile cycle. There is also a 46-mile option which takes in London and part of Surrey if you’re not keen on the full distance. You’ll find out in February if you’ve been lucky, which should leave enough time to train for the event.