The Bonkers Biking Boot Camp (The BBBC)
(Don't miss the first of the series: Part 1 of Pat's training blog here).
(More excitement in store: Part 2 of Pat's training blog here).
(The tummy-jangling nerves hit: Part 3 of Pat's training blog here).
It must have been love but it's over now
We did it! We cycled just over 100km from London to Brighton on Friday night. And boy was it a challenge!
We arrived at Hackney Marshes at around 10pm, blinged up our bikes and set off on the long, long, long, LONG, LOOONNGG road to Brighton at 11pm. Weaving in and out of London traffic before hitting Surrey, the South Downs and then Brighton.
After spending close to an hour and a half trying to find the starting point - Stratford is huge - I joined my fellow ATG team mates at Hackney Marshes. I registered, donned my (extremely tight fitted) jersey and blinged up my bike and myself with fluorescent rave bangles. The exitement had by this point kicked in and my fear and dread about the whole thing were put aside. But not for long.
We weaved through the streets of Friday night London through the east, across Tower Bridge, a jaunt through Elephant and Castle before launching full steam ahead through Oval, Stockwell and Clapham. Clapham high street was particularly fun as by this point it was nearly 12am and the parties were just beginning there. Initial fear of being pushed off my bike by the best that Cla'am has to offer were allayed by shouts of encouragement and the occasional wolf whistle from the happy gays outside the Two Brewers.
First Stop High
My teammates and I had stuck it out together through London and we were treated to a feast of energy foods - cherries (much to the delight of my Digital partner in crime Imogen), bananas, oranges, hot chocolate, energy bars. SUCH a welcome delight.
We stopped for half an hour before we were all eager to get going again. No-one possibly more excited and up for it than myself.
But not for long.
38.2km journey between Croydon and East Grinstead was not as fun and light and
full of joy as the first leg. In fact,
it pretty much tested every ounce of my patience and tolerance. The main issue was the fact that the height gain between Croydon
and the âmidpoint rest' was 421.3 meters. That's a lot of meters guys. Like... a lot. By the time we'd weaved through the pitch
black country roads of Bletchingley, Blindley Heath, Lingfield and Copthorne (I've never heard of them either!), I
was thoroughly deflated. We arrived at
East Grinstead Sports Club at around 2.30am where we had a full spread of food
waiting for us. Luckily they also had
plenty of tissues as well to soak up the tears running down my withered face.
We stayed for around 45 minutes which was just enough time to stuff our faces , do some comedy exercise routines (David Rudin, dancer extrordinare managed a full leg kick whilst Imogen attempted it and fell flat on her backside - one of the highlights of the whole trip), and motivate each other with words and hugs. I was promised the next leg would be easier and that we were over half way. Only 25km to the final rest stop.
The sun hath risenI had at this point totally lost the will to live and took to being a Trappist monk for about two hours whilst my cycling buddies (for the rest had abandoned us long ago!) Diane and Dave sang iconic pop songs from the 90s much to my albeit exhausted amusement.
Truly, without those two I would have given up long ago. They kept me in check, motivated me on when I was struggling, waited for me when I lagged behind and gave me fits of laughter the whole journey. Absolute comrades in arms!
One of the loveliest parts of the cycle was getting to know my colleagues as friends in the real world. You learn so much about people and so quickly. I reckon we've got a bond that will last a lot longer than the pain in my legs for having done the cycle.
At the final stop, 87.6km into the journey, I had my bike checked with the travelling bike engineers and began gloating with them about how I'd made it this far, I'd struggled but I'd pulled through, the sun was shining and the world was a happy place and there was only another 17.1km to go before we hit the finish line!
The whole time I was on my overtly positive rant, the engineer kept curiously silent. As if he were about to deliver some dreadful news. But no! What news could there be that would bring me down at this point? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Then the engineer uttered two immortal words: DITCHLING BEACON. The gigantic hill that separates Brighton from Ditchling. The 261.2m climb up the beacon was all that stood in my way to victory. And as much as I'd have loved to say that I ploughed through summoning up all my strength, as tears rolled down my face, I got off my bike and pushed it up.
After 104.7km we arrived at Hove Recreation Ground at around 8am.It was a particular pleasure to have to cycle the final couple of kilometres uphill. Because what you want to do after having cycled for nearly 10 hours with a total height gain of 977.4m, is to cycle the very last segment towards the finish line uphill!
On arrival we were presented with champagne and medals and lots of applause. Some of the boys went and got a burger. I went for another glass of champers.
of breakfast buns, Bucks Fizz and hot showers. I have to say that whilst we weren't full of the joys of spring at this point due to exhaustion, we really were thrilled with our respite there and the hot showers were particularly welcome!
We packed up our gear, loaded our bikes into the van and began to head off back to London.
Here we are atop the Theatre Royal celebrating and giving thanks to Diane's partner Mark who followed us down from London to Brighton in his van. He was a fantastic support at each pit stop and really did bring lots of enthusiasm and encouragement to the team. He also very kindly transported all of our bikes back to London in his van to save us having to cycle back. OH GOD. IMAGINE!
The Journey Home
I think I'll let the pictures describe the journey home.... Needless to say, it was a quiet journey.
was it. Would I do it again? Possibly.
But not in the near future. My
bottom needs to fully recover and forgive me before I can even contemplate
it. But there are musings on doing
London to Cambridge. Or Manchester to
Blackpool. Or Blackpool to Paris. Dear Lord.
motivation for doing it was to challenge myself, raise money for charity (and
we have, as of time of writing, made £9773.14!!) and to do something that would
make my grandad and
family proud. I think I did it.
Since arriving back in London, I realised I'd developed repetitive strain injury on my right ankle from 10 hours of furious cycling!
I popped along to the doctors and got myself a fancy crutch to help keep weight off. I'll tell you something for nothing (although all donations are welcome via my Paypal account), you get a lot of sympathy from being on a crutch! Seats on the tube, sympathetic looks from attractive people, conversation starters in lifts.
I even finally get to say for once in my life: 'Oh this? Oh it's just a sports injury.'