I’m writing this feeling fairly tired but otherwise very good after the 54 mile ride from Clapham Common to Brighton. Just over a year ago I hadn’t been on a bike for about 14 years, and I’m not sure anyone would really have described me as sporty. After a 20 mile ride around the Lake District (including some nasty hills!) I got hooked, and have been regularly cycling for leisure ever since.
In the run up to the event I started taking part in long rides, usually broken into 15-20 miles each way with a rest stop. In March I was able to manage this easily, but then I had a bit of a setback. My plans to start longer training runs were stopped by an accident, where I got the back wheel caught in a tram line and ended up on the tarmac, having bent the brake lever on the bike with my thigh, as I shot over the handlebars. This left a nice handlebar gouge in my thigh and I hit my knee hard on landing. The net result was a knee – as it happened, the one which usually gives me grief – which wasn’t capable of sustaining more than a 10 mile ride for a few months.
Last night it looked like it would be even more challenging than expected, as on the ride to the station I could barely move thanks to the wind!
Thankfully this morning we woke up to blue skies and lower winds. The weather was great and there was a brilliant atmosphere as we set off from Clapham Common. The run to Brighton was mostly straightforward – a couple of mechanical failures on Matt’s tandem caused us to stop for a bit, and my bottom bracket started grinding half way through, presumably due to a knackered ball bearing race. It seems that Matt and I can’t go to Brighton on any form of transport we’re responsible for without needing some running mechanical repairs during the journey.
Around 8 miles from the end I started feeling a twinge in my legs and they started to cramp, so pulled over for some stretches and to try and shake it off before the big one – the steep ascent up Ditchling Beacon. I was wondering whether the bike or rider would fail first, but the climb seemed to be going well. The advantage of dragging a mountain bike all the way is that it’s got the right gears to get up the hill! Unfortunately my legs cramped when I was close to the top, meaning I couldn’t pedal any further, and nearly couldn’t stand either. Nearly quite nasty! In the end I managed to hobble up to the top, stretch again and then gently coast into Brighton, but sadly I couldn’t quite keep the section times I had earlier in the day.
I crossed the line about 1pm, 20-30 minutes after Matt and Mark on the tandem, but as they’re both super fit and sporty I’m not too ashamed. Must do more leg training before next year!
It was all worth the leg pain for a fun day out and to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. Thanks to everyone who’s donated. If you haven’t yet and would like to, there’s still time here:
(Despite the fun, a quick post-script to say that my thoughts are with those who were injured in a couple of serious-looking accidents on the ride. Hopefully they weren’t too badly hurt).