Another late update but happy to confirm that I completed the Prudential Ride London on the 30th July. I was very disappointed with the day and with how I felt so very glad that I was able to finish.
It all started badly back in June when I tried to book a train from Richmond to get to the start. The website was not working when I tried to book and would not accept my payment. Sadly the help-line did not contact me and I missed the opportunity. Pressure of work meant that I could not get back on again until about a week later when it was too late to get a train that would get me to the Olympic Park in time for my start. I was forced to get a car park space and the closest I could get was at Surrey Quays.
I was delighted that Gemma and Phil were able to accommodate us for the weekend although we had a very slow journey down on the Friday night and the journey in and out of London from Esher to register at the Excel centre was made more difficult by significant delays at Waterloo.
Realising that the location of the car park this might cause problems on the return journey I debated whether to actually cycle all the way to the start but was discouraged by the weather forecast and the fact it was dark when I would be setting off. It would still have been better than the journey in – I immediately when wrong in Kingston due to closed roads and then the sat-nav seemed to go wrong when I reached the Vauxhall area mainly by giving different road numbers to those on the signs outside. I ended up crossing the river over Waterloo Bridge and having to negotiate the Strand. I re-crossed the river only to miss the directions again near London Bridge and not being able to turn around going across London Bridge and having to make my way along the north bank and back over Waterloo Bridge again. By this stage I was late, getting very anxious and emotional. When I finally found my way to Surrey Quays the postcode was inaccurate and I could not find the specified car park. I was now already at the end of my “wave loading” time and therefore very late. I was not good mentally at all but thankfully no-one else had to put up with my difficulties.
I made my way to the Rotherhithe Tunnel and joined the crowds of cyclists making their way to the park. The journey was relatively uneventful and with a great deal of walking and moving past other groups I was able to join my wave. The start was well organised and we left on time. I was actually looking forward to the ride but immediately discovered that I had little or no energy to do more than just go at a steady pace of about 14 miles an hour. Even the flat roads seemed difficult and unlike when I did the ride in 2015 I was unable to hang onto the back of groups and benefit from the drafting effect. The ride through central London over the roads I had run in the marathon should have been easy but just seemed endless. As I approached Richmond Park I began to think about pulling out and just cycling back to Esher. The temptation proved even more as I approached Hampton Court and I pulled into the “Hub”. A banana and some energy drink provided some motivation and I decided to continue although the flat roads out through Byfleet seemed endless. Fortunately even this early in the morning there were crowds of supporters at the side of the road and some even recognised and cheered my “Heads Together” vest.
I had been dreading the hills once we reached Surrey particularly the first steep hill up to Newlands Corner. This actually proved easier than I remembered and it seemed that my legs decided that they were ok and I “twiddled” my way up. (For the uninitiated, twiddling is the cycling equivalent of plodding!). I passed the hub without needed to stop (it was packed) and made my way towards Leith Hill. A female cyclist had fallen in Abinger Hammer and I hoped she was alright. I debated whether to take the short-cut and avoid Leith Hill but decided to continue. I climbed well enough what I thought was Leith Hill and was congratulating myself on my achievement when I rounded a corner to hear the marshall shout “Welcome to Leith Hill”!!
The next 15 minutes were hard as once again I twiddled uphill. I was encouraged by the fact that even on the lower slopes there were as many people walking as cycling and as we climbed the proportion walking increased. I thought that I would make it to the top and was disheartened after what seemed an eternity to see the sign for the professionals, who would be climbing the hill in the afternoon, signifying the start of the KOM climb. My head once again overruled my legs and I pushed the last ¼ of a mile to the top.
After that it was largely downhill to Dorking although every small rise seemed to lead to people walking. However, I was able to keep going although not generating any great pace. Dorking was amazing with the streets lined with cheering crowds and massive encouragement. As we approached the turn for Box Hill once again I was tempted to take the short cut but at this point I was determined that I would complete the whole course if I could and so joined the main body of cyclists on the climb. It was easier than Leith Hill and made more bearable by the entertaining signs on each of the corners. I managed again by sustained twiddling and was pleased to reach the top.
The next few miles seemed to be what they call “false flat” and not the anticipated down-hill and we soon reached Leatherhead – 75 miles – three quarters of the way. I stopped at the hub and refuelled although I have to say that the “energy” bars took a great deal of swallowing. I sent a message to Susan to say that I would see them in Esher and set off again. For the next few miles I was conscious that someone was drafting behind me but he eventually gave up and overtook. He was riding a Brompton!!! Oh dear!
I reached Esher to see Susan, Gemma and Sophie at the side of the road. They were really encouraging particularly Sophie who was delighted to show me that she too had her bike. Phil had been waiting earlier but as I was significantly later than I said I would be had had to go and cook lunch.
Heartened by the support and encouragement I went on. I passed through Kingston faster than I had in the car very much earlier in the day. The hill out of Kingston didn’t seem too bad and indeed when I reached the last “climb” of the day I twiddled up the hill in Wimbledon. The descent to Putney Bridge was marshalled by two motorcycles as there had obviously been a couple of incidents. Once again I hoped that the cyclists were not badly hurt.
Then we were by the river and I thought of how glad the Tour de France riders must be to see the Seine as they enter Paris. We passed the Houses of Parliament, through Trafalgar Square and down the Mall. I think I even managed to smile as I crossed the finish – no great celebration possible. I looked at my Garmin to see that it had recorded 99.5 miles only!! I blame the tunnels in East London. My time was 7:38. Two hours slower than in 2015. I am not sure if was lack of cycle-specific training or the mental exhaustion following my “crisis” of the morning. I was very pleased that I had persisted and completed the course and managed to put another demon of doubt behind me.
I shall not bore my reader with the description of the journey home save to say that it was long, hot and slow as everyone got held up by the road closures. I was very glad that Esher High Street was open although as I turned into Gemma and Phil’s road I nearly drove straight into the remains of the street party.
Everyone was very pleased to see me and Sophie commented that I must have a very sore bum as she had ridden her bike a couple to days before and had a sore bum. She was really impressed with my medal. I was exhausted and sadly did not do justice to the lovely fondue that Gemma produced and made my way to bed very early.
I was woken in the morning by Sophie who again presented me with my medal and asked if my bum was any better. I think that made all the suffering worth while!!
(Footnote – despite assurances to myself that I would never do it again I have signed up for the ballot for next year)!
So my Treble is completed and I am pleased to have achieved these targets despite considerable difficulties and everyone is telling me that I have done really well for an old overweight plodder. My head is telling me other things but I guess that is the problem with a wonky head!!
A few more events to come this year and I am still determined to try and lose weight but more so to try and keep training in the winter so that the journey is easier next year.
So I am still plodding!!
I bought the official(!) video of the event which I shall edit and post on my YouTube page.