It’s hard to know where to start with a recap for a race as epic as the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 – it’s finally starting to sink in that I rode ONE HUNDRED MILES, that my little legs powered me round such a crazy distance and that I have the medal to prove it! And it’s a pretty amazing medal if I do say so…
If you read my RideLondon recap from last year, you’ll know that I got caught up in some of the accidents that took place, ended up waiting/walking for an hour and was eventually diverted along a shorter route. I cycled just under 80 miles instead of 100 and missed out the two main hills, Leith Hill and Box Hill as well as Newlands Corner and generally the more challenging aspects of the course.
This year, I’d made sure that I was in a super early wave to get off and try to miss most of the congestion which lead to the crashes. This meant I was up at 5am, and left our apartment (Marlin Apartments, Stratford if you’re interested) at 5:30am in order to be in my pen just before 6am. There was then the usual shuffle towards the start line, with my wave setting off just before 7am a whole hour later.
The first 10 miles through London are amazing, and the experience of cycling on closed roads in the Capital City is incredible – my average speed was probably around 20miles an hour for that first section which is crazy fast for me, simply because there was no dodging traffic, no stopping at traffic lights or roundabouts and the momentum and buzz of the cyclists around you to spur you on.
The route then heads out towards Richmond Park, where I made my first stop at 20 miles to have my second breakfast and wait for James. 40 minutes later he joined me on the course, and we set off together – I’m so glad that he was able to ride with me as I don’t think that I would have been able to finish without his support and encouragement, even if at my low points I didn’t feel very appreciative of his incessant motivation!
Still the first half of the event went relatively smoothly, and it wasn’t until we were approaching 50 miles that I started to struggle. I remember sitting at the Newlands Corner Hub eating a Chia Charge flapjack and thinking that I was hurting quite a lot and we weren’t even at the halfway point yet. I couldn’t imagine that I had the strength left to finish, and I think once these negative thoughts entered my head, it was really hard to shake them!
I had quite a lot of pain in my left glute and hamstring, and we ended up having to stop a lot so that I could stretch it out, even so it got progressively worse as we got further along. And while we’re making excuses, I also really failed in my fuelling strategy, not eating or drinking enough at all – James was constantly trying to push food into my hands but I felt sick, and bizarrely, didn’t feel that I deserved to be eating – I felt slow and sluggish and in my negative mindset was of the opinion that I should be using my ‘fat stores’ to power me, and not taking on extra calories that I didn’t need. Totally messed up thinking but as I say, I definitely wasn’t in the right frame of mind by this point!
Still I would like to focus on the positive aspects of RideLondon 100 and I am hugely proud to say that I made it up ALL of the hills – I had a brief pause on Leith Hill to have a drink, but got back on my bike and rode to the top. Box Hill wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting, it just went on for a long time, and you can see from the official photos that I was sort of enjoying myself – there’s a small smile there!
The view at the summit was pretty awesome, and we had to stop and take some photos although it was very windy on the top of the hill! From Box Hill it was simply a fight to get back to Central London and beat the sweeper vehicle, so that we could complete the full distance before the cutoff time when the professionals would be taking to the course.
This was where James’ constant support was much needed, feeding me so many facts and figures to distract me – average speeds that we needed to do, what speed we were doing, how many miles left, what percentage that was of the course and so on. He really pushed me to keep going when I felt like giving up, and while I felt like such a failure upon crossing that finish line, I was so glad that he was there to hold my hand.
I’ve never been so far back in a race before and so close to not finishing, but then I’ve never taken on such a massive challenge and completed something so physically and mentally demanding. I felt really embarrassed by how slow I was, how much I fell apart – crying and wanting to just give up, that’s not how I wanted the event to pan out. But I have let go of the negativity that I felt immediately after the event now, and am really grateful for all the lovely supportive comments that people left on my Instagram posts. Yes, I am incredibly proud of myself! And yes, I’ve even entered the ballot for next year with the determination to go back and improve on my performance – I feel that I’ve learnt so much from my 2017 experience, both on training and fuelling better, and fighting off those inner demons.
Have you ever had a disastrous race performance and how did you pick yourself up afterwards?