Saturday, July 05, 2008

Tour De France

....(Or London TO Brighton to be exact)

After 6 months training on every Saturday Morning (bar 1 due to a serious hangover), and a grand total of over 900 miles cycled, 3 punctures, four inner tubes, 8lb weight loss, muscle/bottom toning, and a mass love handle reduction, i finally took part once again in the London To Brighton bike ride 2008.
As readers of the blog will know, 2007 was my first time at the event, and after that i said never again. But the truth is last year I was "Beaten by the Beacon"! - Yes I never recovered from the fact that I didn't cycle up Ditchling Beacon in one go, without stopping etc. I'd got about half way up before i almost passed out with exhaustion. (Please 'Google' DitchlingBeacon to see all about it - In summary it is hard enough to walk up, yet alone cycle. Harder still when you consdier it is located 46 miles from the start line of L2B, and only 6.5 miles of downhill/flat remain after it).
Back to the point, After much consideration I posted my "Priority" application back in December & was delighted? in March to receive a 06:00 start time for this years event.
Damn I trained hard for it this time. The highlight was completing a 100km ride around the IOW at the annual IOW Randonnee. which on the day totaled 81 miles as i'd cycled to the So'ton ferry & then home again after the ride was complete & the ferry had docked back at So'ton.
So all the preparation was done. I don't think infact i had been as fit in maybe 10 years.

To get over the mental, psychological side of cycling up Ditchling, I took the 'Clever' step of driving to the foot of the hill the day before L2B, I got the bike out of the car & then went for it.
- 9 Minutes later i was screaming with joy at the summit. I'd done it and celebrated by cycling down again in just over a minute! MAD!!!!!!!!!. Then i drove onto Brighton, parked up at the Marina & then cycled back into Brighton town Centre & caught the Train to London, Clapham.

I stayed in exactly the same place as last year, the Eurolodge, Clapham. Cheap, cheerful but right next to the start line. My Bike was kept in the courtyard & an early night was had ready for the 5:00AM start (Didn't really sleep as Clapham high street is incredibly noisey!).
I'd Got to the start line in good time and joined the first group, eager & ready to go. It is worth noting that the sort of people that start at this time know the score. They are serious cyclists, they know the streets will be empty & they are on a mission to get to the finish line ASAP!! That said there is still lots of banter & good fun to be had.

06:00hrs exactly & we're off! The weather was perfect & the pace was fast.

Through the whole London part i managed to get through every set of lights without stopping. Once I entered Surrey the roads became very empty & hardly a cyclist in sight - the fast ones had peddalled off into the distance, the slower ones left behind. No one really on the streets to wave us on at this time of the morning!

Turner's Hill is the first serious hill that comes along, but thanks to some great hill training throughout the Winter months it didn't pose me a problem at all.

- The ride did become quite lonely from here on. On the plus side I had the iPod on Shuffle and some great random 80's tunes were coming through the ear phones!

Two & A Half hours in, I still haven't stopped, my average speed was over 16 MPH and then there, lurking in the distance, was the grand sight of Ditchling Beacon.

Now it was 'Ditchling preparation time'. Get the energy snacks in, get the last bit of energy drink down whilst trying not to choke or crash. Catch my breath, slow the pace, only 1 mile to go before the foot of the hill. There is a deadly silence. We (total strangers!) all wish each over good luck. There are signs at the side of the road wishing us good luck. This is it. This is the moment. I have cycled 45 miles at an amazing pace without stopping & now I have slowed my pace to almost a crawl. I'm in the lowest gear at the lowest part of the hill. Only 1.5 miles to the top. No rush just make it up there without stopping.
I'm now Half way up. Some people are allready on foot, pushing their bikes, beaten, breathless & almost in tears. Not me. Me & my £300 bike from Halfords are as one, we're gonna do this.
Three quarters up. Nearly there, but it's tough. Tougher than last year. At this point I've allready made it much further than last year and now i'm struggling. The pace is slow & for the first time in ages i'm breathless. I'm high up a hill and i'm struggling. My body is seizing up. But come on, pull it together, it's not much further now surely?
I turn a corner, this hill has levelled off a bit. This is it, I'm almost there. I must be. It didn't seem this long yesterday?
I look up and i'm beaten. There is one last further incline. I'm drained. In cycling terms i've hit the "Bonk", "the wall". There is nothing left in me. It's either pass out or get off & push.
I'm off now on foot & pushing my bike the final 50 yards to the top. Angry & sad. For the second year running i'm beaten by the Beacon. I console myself in the fact that I did manage to cycle it the day before without stopping, but that was different, i'd had fresh legs.
No time to dwell on it. Back on the bike & now it's all down hill to the finsh. I manage an amazing 46 MPH going down the final hill into Brighton, THE ultimate buzz. Damn dangerous but great.
Then I join in with a group of Pro's and we sprint the last two miles into Brighton, through the town centre and onto the finish line.
It's now 09:19hrs & i've crossed the finish line. Total time of 3hrs and 19 minutes. There are crowds allready cheering us through & it feels great!
I've burned something like 150g of fat, 1800 calories and actually feel not too bad. There is free water to be drunk, and then a mile or so onto the Marina & find the car parked up from the day before (Thankfully no parking ticket!).
Yet to have breakfast, I find myself an hour later in a McDonalds off the A27 eating an egg McMuffin, and then it's home to enjoy what remains of a very different kind of Father's Day!
This year i made no demands on people for sponsorship. I have created an online sponsorship page, and if on reading this you feel inclinded to want to do a kind of 'post' sponsor type thing and give to a good cause (BHF), then here is the link to my online sponsorship page :-
Next post coming soon, and some good ideas about the damn tasks i've yet to complete!


K Reeves said...

Hope you make it up Ditchling Beacon on the ride one year! If you've done the training you mention it shouldn't be too difficult.

It strikes me that perhaps you aren't eating/drinking enough en route and you are cycling just a touch too hard and not having much left in the tank after 40 miles+. Your 'training' mileage sounds very respectable but you shouldn't need to have spent six months doing it. There is a difference between going for a ride and training to achieve a benefit. There is stacks of cycle training stufff on the internet dealing with how to build distance and more importantly how to get faster and stronger on the flat and on hills by doing specific rides at different heart rate levels.

Perhaps you need some lower gears too. 'Off the shelf' road bikes usually come with gear ratios which aren't low enough for all but competetive cyclists. You're going to struggle to climb long steep hills in the saddle if the ratio isn't around 40" or less.

Hope this helps.

MrB said...

Hi 'K',

Thanks for the advice. since this post I've upgraded the bike to a Specialized Allez Triple, lost another 10lbs, cycled abother 1000 miles.
Tomorrow I go back to the IOW Randonee for a 100 KM Anti Clockwise cycle round the island. Last time I bonked out at around 50 miles. Fell better prepared this time though so we'll wait & see.

No London To Brighton this year though. Gonna try the Dorset 100 Mile ride in the summer, or maybe the Bath to London Ride?

Anonymous said...

Whats the start process of the ride like, ie when do they stamp your number and stuff? well done on the time btw

MrB said...

Hi Jack,

Nice to hear from you - The start is chaos to be honest. You have to start to get your card stamped.
For a 7.00 am start queue at 6.00 am. then you should be first (ish to go). Always try & get there an hour before.
For a peacful & quick ride an early start is recommended.
At the end the card is stamped again & you get your medal.
No stamps ~ No Medal.