Revelations, disappointments and lessons learned

I promised that I would come back to Blueberry soup and Cinnamon buns. In the information about the event both Blueberry soup and Cinnamon buns were mentioned; I thought the latter sounded great – the Blueberry soup, not so much, since I don’t like blueberries and soups are generally savoury. Reality, however is that Blueberry soup is a complete revelation! It’s lovely!! 

The cinnamon buns on the other hand, were a complete disappointment, partly due to my own stupidity. Each stop had bananas, bread rolls and gherkins laid out. And most had blueberry soup as an option with the drinks. Ollie had many a gherkin sandwich, but I mainly had my own food, supplemented with a blueberry soup every now and then. However at every single stop, I looked for cinnamon buns, and never found any. It wasn’t until the penultimate, or possibly even the last stop that I realised the bread rolls were the cinnamon buns, and that they were quite nice dipped in the blueberry soup!!! Even so, they were very subtly cinnamony and still a disappointment. 

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Blueberry soup

 

I learnt several lessons from the Vatternrundan experience… 

  1. Jelly babies are evil.
  2. Ollie is allergic to Sweden (I don’t think he’d appreciate me sharing the photo of his swollen face).
  3. The Swedish are amazing at languages and I am quite ignorant.
  4. If rain is forecast, it will probably rain, and thus waterproof shorts are a must.
  5. I’m more determined and competitive than I thought!
  6. Don’t let two hungry cyclists loose on a supermarket

 

 

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It was not the turn of the century.

The long awaited 10th August 2014 was not the day that I had planned for, trained for and certainly not the day that I have been imagining for the last 6 months. I suppose it was a cyclist’s nightmare, but a blogger’s dream. Where to start?

I think to start I need to mention the fantastic support I have had over the last week in particular: to my parents for travelling to London on the train for a mere glance of me crossing the finish line and for the pleasure of buying me an ice cream to help my recovery; to my brother for organising them (!) and for cleaning my bike; to Ollie for spending an entire week cooking for me and looking after me, for putting up with my nerves, for driving me, for getting up super early and for travelling around London alone to catch photographs of me; to Sammy and Jean for putting up with me and keeping me going; to the Public of London and Surrey, who were frankly amazing and to London Ride 100 for making the right decision. There are many others but it’s beginning to sound like an Oscar acceptance speech.

Setting off

Setting off

Shortly after I posted, first thing Sunday morning, the organisers of London 100 made the decision to cut out Box and Leith Hill making the route just 86 miles long. Initially I was extremely disappointed, having spent 6 months training and preparing for the century and avoiding completing 100 miles so that London could be the one, however having completed the 86 miles I am convinced that the organisers made the correct decision. There were several accidents along the way most probably caused by the poor conditions, Leith Hill descent would have been Leith-al!

The main cause of the day not going as planned, and resulting in me naming my ride on Strava as ‘Hellish’, was named Bertha; ex-hurricane Bertha. The Met Office describe the horrendous rainfall and wind speeds within their blog, but of particular note was their comment about the amount of rainfall:

The highest hourly total was 18.4 mm at Wisley in Surrey between 9 and 10 am this morning

As a small, novice cyclist I am yet to develop the strength or discover the skill to cycling in wind, even the most unassuming of breezes upsets my cycling and slows me down, so although I knew that the rain wasn’t going to be fun, it was the wind which was really concerning me. I couldn’t really have imagined the amount of rain which came down though, or the subsequent conditions which we would have to endure. I remember wondering, while cycling through Richmond Park with a disorientating stream of mud running diagonally across the road, whether this was a course better designed for Mountain Bikers. It was shortly afterwards, in Kingston, that we were asked to dismount in order to walk through or around the largest flood that we had faced to this point.

Flooded under the Kingston Bridge.

Flooded under the Kingston Bridge.

Having carried our bikes around the flood and remounted, we were captured on camera by Ollie:

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

I heard the course being described as Toughmudder for cyclists by two girls on the TV, while Chris Boardman described the rain as being

Torrential and then Biblical and then back to Torrential again. 

There were points within the course, while cycling in the centre of the road, that I was unable to see the curbs at each side of the road, let alone what was in front of me. Although I was wearing my cycling glasses water was still pouring into my eyes; so it is from this experience that I learnt that my left eye lid is pretty inefficient… I constantly had to wipe/rub the water from my left eye or cycle with my left eye closed. 

As with most organised rides, once I am out on them I rarely know where I am so I can’t identify the locations of the two other significant floods which we went through, one of which I thought had killed my Garmin Cadence sensor as I had 0 cadence for the following 10 miles.  £££££ flashing before my eyes. Nor can I expose the location of the crazy , cyclist hating woman who nearly had me off. I think at this point it is important to stress how absolutely fantastic the public were; people of all ages, individuals, couples, families, pub parties all out cheering us on, high-fiving us and generally making us smile, in torrential rain as well as sunshine. But this one lady ignored, even fought with, the stewards and walked out into the road directly in front of me, with a look of rage in her eyes and shouted STOP! There would have been no chance for me to stop but I managed to swerve and avoid her. Her action was simply to make a point though – the road behind me was clear – she only had to wait a matter of seconds to cross safely.

The secondary cause of the day not going to plan, could also be blamed partly on the weather, in that within 7 miles of the start I had two consecutive punctures. It took around 30 minutes to replace the tube, twice, and to do an inordinate amount of pumping (Sammy kindly banned me from pumping due to my sore wrists). During this 30 minute stop we couldn’t believe that we didn’t receive a single offer of help, while on the Savernake Sizzler you’d be offered support by a fellow rider at the merest sign of a sneeze but on Sunday as three ladies struggled, competently, at the side of the road flanked by men standing around looking on we weren’t offered assistance, not even once. That’s London for you. Once we had set off again we flagged a Mavic support vehicle for their track pump. On the road once more, in torrential rain, barely able to see what was in front of us, we were flagged down by two lads who were on their fourth and fifth punctures (double puncture); they had run out of tubes and their pump had broken. We stuck around to help them and thus ended up at Hampton Court over 60-90 minutes later than anticipated. The day was barely recoverable – if we got to the end without being captured by the broom wagon we would be lucky.

 

Double puncture in torrential rain.

Double puncture in torrential rain.

Boys struggling

Boys struggling

Girls helping

Girls helping

And this leads to the third cause of the day being more difficult than it should have been; weather and maintenance distractions meant that I didn’t keep to my fuelling and drinking plan. Furthermore, my poor foresight and thus preparation meant that I hadn’t given my Fig rolls and electrolyte tablets adequate protection – at Hampton Court hub I found a pink mush, a combination of the tablets and the rolls. In case anyone was wondering, pink Fig rolls taste as bad as they look. At Newlands I bonked but there was a handy cafe selling chips which we each bought a portion of and ate like the possessed.

I’ve taken two days to reflect on a ride, which became my priority for 6 months and after so much anticipation it’s difficult to get over the disappointment of; not completing 100 miles, not enjoying the ride and the fact that the ride was punctuated with difficulties. However, I think it will become a fond memory – the crowds, the piano man singing ‘The bare necessities’, sprinting along the Mall (as instructed by my brother – in Cavendish style), the privilege of cycling on closed roads and I suppose even the weather added an element of adventure to it. 

My brother's comparison on me and the Pro's

My brother’s comparison of me and the Pro’s

And late yesterday my brother sent me this…

2 seconds slower than Vos

2 seconds slower than Vos

…so maybe I didn’t do as badly as I first thought.

The wait for the turn of the century continues and I remain defiantly novice.

For those of you who have already sponsored me – I will complete 100 miles this summer, and for those of you who haven’t – why on earth not?! I cycled through a hurricane – it’s got to be worth a fiver surely?

Laura

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Sponsor me here

The official photographs can be seen here but they are not representative of the day – I was soaked and wearing a waterproof for all but about 90 minutes of the 8 hour ride.

 

 

Diva

It turns out that I’m a ‘right diva’ when I’m hungry…tired…dehydrated…

 

 

Ollie and I went on a ride this afternoon but I hadn’t done any prep for the ride, I wasn’t physically or mentally ready for any kind of distance. I’d not eaten or hydrated well for the last 24 hours, I was tired and I took the wrong kit out with me (no wind gilet), plus I don’t believe that my bike fit has my handlebars positioned correctly so I was also uncomfortable.

And didn’t Ollie know it. Poor thing!

 

Once again, I hate cycling – trouble is, its less than a week to go. This time next week it will all be over!!

Nearly there

Done

The last big challenge before London is complete, and I am now confident that I can finish well within the allotted time. Our official time for today’s 94.8 miles is likely to be just over 8hrs 30 mins however, it was incredibly hilly, hot and we had many stops – our ride time was 7 hrs 6 mins.

 

Thanks

This blog post must start with thanks, again, to my Mum, Dad, Gran, Grandad and brother for their roadside support throughout the day, and to Ollie for giving up his Sunday to cycle the entire event with me. He must be crazy.

 

Today, I yet again, took on some advice which I had been given during the week – inadvertently I think – by my Uncle, who said he used to use his water bottle to squirt down his back for cooling. Today, I used this strategy – not to the detriment of my hydration I must add! – to keep cool and try to keep my headache at bay; though not necessarily down my back, over my head was a favourite. 

And finally, thanks to Kelli at Dame cycling for bringing us together as a big group.

Talking of which, here we are at the start:

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IMG-20140727-WA0017 The Dame team and I at the start

We started off together, but had signed up to various lengths and agreed to various speeds. Sammy, Mandy, Ollie and I signed up for the 94 Miles and agreed to take the route at a steady pace, so after around 5 miles we broke off into our group and set the pace for the day. Until…Sammy got a puncture… and then we hit this:

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Slowly making my way up Ramsbury Hill

Slowly making my way up Ramsbury Hill

Thanks to my brother for the encouragement, photos and also the push up the hill! 

 

Sadly, at around the 40 mile point, the heat, hills and mechanical problems forced Sammy and Mandy to change their route and they swapped onto the Medium route (around 57 miles), so Ollie and I continued alone and saw hardly any cyclists for the rest of the day! At several points later on in the afternoon I wished I had joined them, but on a positive note I really noticed the improved power and position following on from my Bike fit yesterday with Colin the Bike Magician. I can only assume that this is the reason that my performance on the hills was significantly better than normal. 

 

But the real highlights of the trip were:

  • Finally reaching the Windmill, which my brother and I have been attempting to visit, or intending to visit, for sometime.
  • Using a urinal!!! (With my Shewee obviously) – We found two solitary porta-loos in the countryside, and went in one each – it seems however that I went into the ‘Mens’ and Ollie went into the ‘Ladies’ – lucky really as it was a new experience for me, although they were pretty disgusting toilets.
  • And of course our names written on tarmac, like the pro’s.

 

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Finally reaching the windmill

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Passing time and conversing 

Towards the end, as the mileage began to kick in Ollie and I had a conversation about clouds; “Oh look there’s a cloud elephant”  “Yeah, and there’s an angry monkey” “Erm… no, can’t see that..”. Shortly after that an old guy on a very old, rickety bike raced past us..”and that’s when you know you’ve been on your bike for a very long time”.

 

Feeling prepared

The nutrition, hydration and kit all worked a treat, I wasn’t uncomfortable and I wasn’t sick… it seems that I am ready.

 

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The end

 

And so it is… time for tapering. Two weeks from now, it will all be over. 

 

 

The mathematics of hills, horses and food

This long, dragging week has been plagued with sore legs muscles and an overwhelming realisation that the sportive on Sunday, in preparation for the Big One, is actually going to be harder. It has a 17% hill and three White Horses…White Horses are generally found on hills… and those are just the ones I know about. London 100, as this great blog explains, is flat then ‘bumpy’ then flat; a course split into three and within the bumpy third there’s three hills, two of which I have done – one of which was simple.    Sunday is going to be hard!   Sammy sent me some supplement advice earlier in the week which got me thinking about what I eat and drink on the bike. I think I take the right drinks out with me; one electrolyte drink and one bottle of water, however in this hot weather I need to get much better at drinking them. I also do my best to hydrate the day before… so Saturday will be all about water drinking and bike fitting.

As for food; I tend to take a banana, fig rolls, digestives and jelly babies then I will buy a packet of crisps about half way round. I haven’t had a gel for months – they are, frankly, disgusting. So, this runner’s blog made me very happy. It’s worth a read and advocates the use of Jelly Babies as opposed to gels; I don’t really feel I need to research the opposing arguments – what he writes is clearly absolutely correct. Jelly babies are therefore, here to stay. Or at least in my jersey pocket to stay, which actually considering how sticky they get in there, I may not have any choice about!

The blog made me think more about what I should be eating and I came to the conclusion that I should have 58 grams of carbs per hour of exercising. According to Google, which is also always right, fig rolls contain 11.9 grams each, digestives 19 grams and a medium banana 30 grams. Baring in mind my 20 minute rule, I should be eating just under 20 grams of carbohydrate every 20 minutes. I love this kind of maths!!! In order to keep the maths simple, I will just eat three digestives an hour!!! 

Maybe not… they are pretty crumbly and overly sweet. Fig rolls however are great for iron, carbs and they are bite sized! Therefore, I think if I stick to my current regime, which hasn’t made me sick, but become a little more regimental with it and with water drinking then I should be okay. The twenty minute rule worked great on the track but it hasn’t been put into practice very much out on the road (too many distractions). Sammy, you and I are trying this on Sunday! A Fig Roll every 20 minutes and half a banana an hour…

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