On Fathers’ Day I cycled 54 miles from London to Brighton. This was in aid of the British Heart Foundation. This was fitting: My Father was diagnosed with Angina several years ago and, thankfully, the resulting surgery was successful.
I was part of the Jobsite team and my thanks go to the company for their support (which included paying our entry fees and sorting out the minibus travel). They were just as supportive several years ago when I last did this ride.
I did no training this time around. I rode my bike around the car park a few times to check everything still worked but that was it. In fact, the last time my bike had been used for anything more than a couple of miles was the last London to Brighton that I did! I am active in other ways, mostly running, so was confident that I had the cardiovascular fitness required to do well… but what about my poor thighs?
I got up at 3am in order to meet the rest of the Jobsite team at our offices in Havant. We were then taken up to Clapham Common ready for our 7am start. It was a little cold so I was thankful I had remembered to bring something warm. I munched on an oat bar and enjoyed the entertainment: Various performers were mingling with the crowd, typically of a Victorian bent, although I was particularly impressed by the girl cycling around backwards… including being able to stop motionless for photographs and conversation.
At 7am we were off! It’s fun cycling through the London streets… mainly because they are closed to traffic for this event. The buzz of the event was fantastic and I quickly forgot that about the fact I had to climb out of bed at 3am.
The ride was a little stop/start at times due to accidents on the hill descents. I was probably stopped for about 40 minutes total as a result of these. There was a sadder event though, which occurred after I had finished: A man suffered a heart attack on the final hill climb and died later in hospital. (BBC News link)
I was doing great to begin with, really sparkling as I rode, but hit a wall at around 25 miles. This was where my thighs really began to suffer. It wasn’t helped by the grouped hills at this point. My head was down and I was watching my cycle computer more in slight disarray: My average speed dropping, my distance travelled not increasing as fast as I would like! I had slipped out of the zone.
When out of the zone you concentrate on the negatives. Pain is a good one. Thighs burning. The early stages of cramp catching on. That leads to further negative thoughts: Have I taken in enough fluids? Have I eaten the right things? I’ve not even quite half-way yet!
You don’t get back into the zone by magic. Positive steps were needed. I turned off the cycle computer display as it was no longer encouraging me. I brought my head up. I took on a stronger posture on the bike. I was going to complete this ride in under five hours, arriving in Brighton at mid-day.
I wasn’t in this alone though: So many volunteers make this event a success. I am so thankful to them. There was constant support from them and the spectators along the way. Not to mention the villages that make a real occasion of the ride: Churches are giving out free water and cakes, brass bands are playing, pubs have the BBQ going… I smiled at a sign saying ‘Nearly there! There’s time for a pint!’.
To keep myself focused, when I stopped (for a jam tart or a slice of carrot cake as opposed to a pint) I kept it short. Probably five minutes at the most. Cycling 54 miles starts to get a little…uncomfortable in certain areas and I didn’t want that to set in too much as stopping really makes it worse!
There were nearly 30,000 people on this ride. I was riding along when someone comes up alongside me and says, â€œAre you Tristan?â€. Yes, I am. It turns out this is a guy that has been following my updates on Twitter and he recognised the Jobsite-branded cycle top that I was wearing. What are the chances? That provided a pick-up all of its own!
I’ve explained how this event can be a little gruelling. It probably isn’t the best time to be giving declarations of love. Someone tried. A husband trying to win back his wife had put together some very impressive looking banners throughout the course: “Unite us and our family so we may love, laugh and grow together. Why take advantage of us, let’s take advantage of life. I love you Zoe! I always have and always will x.” It was like cycling through a Hallmark card. This last one was on the final hill ascent which the ride is famous for: “Come on Chicken. Flap those wings and shake that tail feather.” At this point, I wanted to divorce him! (Daily Mail coverage)
The final part of the ride is all downhill so it is an amazing feeling. Especially the finishing straight along Brighton’s Madeira Drive. 54 miles in five hours… and ten minutes, I never did hit my five hour target. Ultimately it doesn’t matter. I made it and earned that sponsorship money for the British Heart Foundation.