At 2am on Sunday morning I was staring out of the window watching the rain come down in sheets. It was so loud it woke me up. It was the worst rain I had seen in a very long time and it was far from ideal.
Just two hours later my alarm went off, but my heavy heart subsided with a quick glance outside. The rain had stopped and it looked fairly promising. It was going to be a good day.
Just before 5am, after forcing some porridge down, I hopped on my bike and set off into the sunrise towards the Olympic Park. I didn’t really know where I was going but I soon saw plenty of other cyclists heading the same way. Following everyone else, I made the 12 mile journey to the start line taking in an eerily quiet Rotherhithe tunnel which was closed to cars.
Getting into the start area was easy, there were loads of signs, loads of toilets and plenty of space. Luckily I bumped into my friend Laura so I had a pal to share my last minute worries with. She had sandwiches and chicken nuggets…I did not. Our start time was 7:24am and, although we still had an hour to go, it flew by.
With credit to the organisers, the start was a military operation with each wave going off bang on time, I don’t know how many waves there were, but c.30,000 riders left the park at roughly 6 minute intervals over 4 hours. It was an impressive set up.
Stage 1: Miles 1-25: The Jolly Bit
For the first 25 miles I felt great. The air was cool and dry, everyone was in great spirits and I was pleasantly surprised that, not only was there more space around me than I was expecting, people were (mostly) riding considerately. There were even some Rider Safety Captains.
After riding through London, I got a big cheer from Darren in Richmond Park, and we headed to the first ‘hub’ near Hampton Court. As I’m really bad at drinking and riding at the same time, let alone eating, I took the opportunity to stop.
The hubs exceeded my expectations, there were tables and tables piled with bananas, Cliff Bars, gels, Shot Bloks and Graze snack boxes, as well as loads of water and electrolyte tablets. There were toilets aplenty, and medical and mechanical help if needed. The volunteers were all super friendly and happy, especially given the fact they had an earlier start than me!
Stage 2: Miles 26-48: The Learning Curve Bit
The next section posed some challenges. I hadn’t been eating anywhere near enough and I was feeling it. Ruth had told me repeatedly that I needed to constantly scoff my face but I didn’t realise that meant literally. A Cliff bar at the start line and a gel at the hub just wasn’t enough. Somewhere around 40 miles I was feeling ropey and decided that if I had to stop every few miles to make sure I ate something, that was what needed to happen.
The Surrey countryside, with its beautiful views, was upon us now, and just before the second hub at mile 48 there was a fairly short, but fairly steep climb. I was glad I had taken on some extra fuel (GU Stroopwafles for the win by the way).
At the hub at Newlands Corner, I took a longer time out, ate some proper food and had a little sit down with views over Surrey. I was feeling much better. Onwards.
Stage 3: Miles 48-75. The Hilly Bit
The next section brought the dreaded Surrey Hills. Leith Hill came first, it was new to me, it was the the steepest on the course, and it was bloody hard. People were getting a little narky with each other as the course narrowed and I eventually caved somewhere near(ish) the top and got off the bike. I was far from the only one.
Finally at the top, with 58 miles on the clock, I got back on my bike and enjoyed some downhill rolling towards Dorking. Soon after, we were at the bottom of Box Hill, I had already conquered this one recently and I have to say I quite enjoyed it! There were some signs every 250m or so telling you how far you had come and some motivational words of wisdom such as ‘don’t fear the granny gear‘ and, of course, ‘shut up legs‘.
I had stuck to my new fueling plan but, as we neared the third hub at Leatherhead, I was looking forward to another break.
Stage 4: Miles 75-86. The Blurry Bit
The next few miles rolled by in a bit of a blur. I was tired, my quads were complaining, and my hands were sore. I didn’t really know where I was and I couldn’t tell you what I saw, but we were heading back to London and that was all I could focus on.
Just as I was planning to pull over for more food, I saw a sign for hub 4. There was a HUB 4??
Pulling into the stop at Kingston I have never been so happy to see a bag of salt & vinegar crisps. I was less happy to see yet another banana, but I ate it anyway. After a short mental battle with myself I got back on the bike again and set off on the last 14 miles. Shut up legs.
Stage 5: Miles 86-100. The Bloody Awesome Bit
The last section was the best. The crowds were thicker, the roads were flatter, we were back in London and the finish was near. I found a new lease of life and powered through the last few miles, not even Wimbledon Hill could get me down now.
The miles were ticking down quickly, I got a cheer from Jen at Parsons Green, and we were soon riding along the Embankment. It wasn’t long before we were heading up Whitehall and swinging round for a pretty spectacular finish on The Mall. The 100 mile finish line was in sight!!
I couldn’t help but grin like a lunatic as I flew down the final few metres and over the finish line, I even made it on the telly!
I’m in the background, I’m not the man being interviewed:
And that was that, I had completed 100 miles on two wheels and I loved it! It actually turned out to be 119 miles in total what with cycling there and back, no wonder I was a little sleepy…
The Reflection Bit
In my opinion, Ride London was organised pretty flawlessly. Sure, there will always be some hiccups with the complexities of an event so big, but I was really impressed with everything, it couldn’t have been easy.
I’m aware, although disappointed, that cycling generally, and this event in particular, attracts a lot of haters, especially from those who live along the route. Sure, it’s an inconvenience, but it’s just one weekend a year. One weekend that not only brings a lot of positivity towards sport and fitness and inspires people to get active, but keeps the legacy of the London Olympics alive and raises millions for charity.
The Best Bits:
The Worst Bits:
The Thank Yous:
Like the London Marathon, Ride London is a true testament to the spirit of this City and I can’t wait to be part of it again. It was tough, it was challenging, it was rewarding, and it was a whole lot of fun!
The weather forecast was grim. Unfortunately, it was also entirely accurate and we were about to take on a muddy 3-person relay event…as solo runners. Because we don’t believe in taking the easy option.
The 3 Molehills is a race that takes in the three hills of Moles Valley – Box Hill, Norbury Park & Ranmore. Each leg starts and finishes at Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking and you can either run as a relay team, or all by yourself if you haven’t got any friends. Turns out I haven’t got any friends so I was in for the solo, all 14.25 muddy, hilly miles of it.
When we arrived at Denbies on Sunday morning it was pouring with rain, soggy, muddy, cold and just a bit miserable. Why wasn’t I still in bed?
Denbies had opened up early for us which gave us a warm, dry place to get ready with proper cups of tea and real life proper toilets (a runners dream!). Frankie and I met up with some other Chasers and set up base on one of the tables.
Whilst Ross tucked into a pile of sandwiches (breakfast…I have no idea how he can eat so closely to running?!) we discussed the benefits of making a pact to sod the run and just tell everyone we had done it anyway – you know, throw some mud around, take a few snaps running around in the rain and then enjoy the rest of the morning having a chat and a nice cuppa….
Then we remembered how badass we are and badass runners don’t let the weather get in the way of race day fun.
The before shot…
There wasn’t any chip timing but, as the race was quite small (141 solo runners and 82 relay teams), it wasn’t a problem. It took me most of the morning to decide what to wear, trail shoes? road shoes? long sleeves? waterproof jacket? just a vest?, but I was quickly grateful for the waterproof jacket and gloves I settled for, it was the kind of rain that just wasn’t going to stop.
We set off up London Road for about a mile before turning offroad and heading up Box Hill (it was so wet and misty you couldn’t even see the top at this stage). The route should have taken us across stepping stones over the River Mole but the water had risen so much you couldn’t see them so we were diverted over the bridge.
This then led to the bottom of 270 steps up to the top before a quick turnaround and down the Burford Slope to the bottom. We were warned it would be very muddy and slippy and I skated around a fair bit whilst managing to stay upright. The 1st leg should have been 4.5 miles but my Garmin clocked less than 4, this was dubbed the toughest leg so I didn’t mind!
Back to race HQ and through the handover point we were off on the 2nd leg, Norbury Park. I think this was my favourite, there was a good mix of road and trail and, whilst the hill was longer, it wasn’t as steep so I managed to keep up a jog for the most part. At the top there was maybe 1.5 miles on the flat which went down a muddy path and I had a great time running through all the puddles! I was a bit confused by the man desperately clinging onto the bush at the side of the path to avoid the puddles (maybe this event isn’t for you matey?!) so I powered past and showed him how it was done.
Back into HQ again and nearing 10 miles, I was getting tired. Little did I know at this point that Si had not only finished the whole thing but he had won the race!
This is Si collecting his winner’s prize whilst I was scrambling up the last hill in the rain trying not to cry. It’s OK, because Si’s on my team… Well Done!
The final leg, Ranmore Ramble, was a simple out and back, up and down, on the North Downs Way, it was mostly road with a short muddy stretch near the turnaround. The most depressing thing was that all the quicker runners were coming past me on the descent and heading to the finish, but it did mean I got to see a lot of friendly faces (especially Frankie…I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her as happy as she was flying down that hill in the freezing rain in shorts…must have been the beer at the finish line…)
I ended up walking more of the hill than I should, it seemed to go on forever even though I knew it was only 2 miles before I got to come back down again. I enjoyed the decline before heading back to Denbies for the final time to the finish. It took me 2 hours 35 with 14.25 miles on my watch, not my quickest run but with hills, mud, slippy paths and the non stop rain I’ll take it. I got my medal and was sent to get my beer and chocolate, just what I wanted to hear!
Back inside (I was the last Chaser to finish by a long way) I realised how cold I was when I couldn’t move my fingers to get my gloves off. I went to get changed quickly before it got worse and noticed that Denbies had now opened to the public – it was full of little old ladies trying to enjoy a peaceful day at the craft fair – sorry!
….and the after shot, I love these guys!
The 3 Molehills is a great little race with a good mix of on and off road, amazing views, fresh air, lung busting hills, enjoyable descents and, with a range of distances available, there’s something for everyone.
It was also superbly organised, with plenty of water stations stocked with sweets and Powerbar gels, and some of the friendliest and happiest marshals I’ve ever come across (much appreciated, THANK YOU). I really felt for them having to stand still in that miserable weather for hours, they must have been colder than us.
Cheers Mole Valley, I might even be up for this one again 🙂
<a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/9844769/?claim=zbktf97aacb”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>