5 Weeks to Go

Training Round (9 days to 2nd August)

  • Distance cycled: 362.1km
  • Time on bike: 16 hours 3 minutes
  • Total elevation gained: 2,654m

This is my first week of dedicated training for Ride Across Britain. This is easily the most I’ve cycled in a week in my life, but this will only increase in the run up to September. My body is already feeling it with slight aches and pains which I’ve never felt before and general fatigue, which is a bit concerning. The longest ride I’ve put in is 100 km and that in itself was a real struggle, so knowing I’ll be averaging about 175 km a day for 9 days straight is really daunting.

Saturday 25th July

Cycled nearly 75 km today, up into Hertfordshire and back home, which took just over 3 hours. This was one of the toughest rides I’ve ever done (although I reckon that’ll start to become a common phrase soon enough) even though it wasn’t that long. This was just because it was my first proper ride in 3 weeks and my longest ride since May. The first 25 km unsurprisingly I felt sluggish, the second 25 km I was flying, but that cost me massively in the last 25 km, where I was really struggling and contemplated a couple of times about stopping and just getting a taxi to the nearest train station. In the end I ended up taking a few breaks (I normally never stop on a ride shorter than 100 km) and just persevered.

Sunday 26th July

It was pouring down all day today and I didn’t fancy mixing it up with cars with the conditions so poor, so I drove down to Regent’s Park and cycled some laps. With each lap around Regent’s Park around 4.5 km, I decided to do 11 laps. The first lap I warmed up. From the second lap I did intervals sprinting on the slight uphill on the east side of the Outer Circle for about a km for 9 laps, taking it relatively easy between the intervals. On the last lap I ‘warmed down’, I was completely drenched after about 10 minutes so I was quite cold for most of the ride.

As a resuly I probably saw at most 5 cyclists actually training in 2 hours, when you’d normally see easily 50 in Regent’s Park on any given Sunday. Even though the weather was abysmal, most of the cyclists had massive smiles on their face and that’s one of the pleasures of riding a bike. You feel the freedom of being a child again, nothing to worry about, just the joy of flying around on your bike, with the wind blowing in your face – especially in the rain, it just feels like being a kid again, putting on to Wellies to play and splash about in the rain.

Monday 27th July

I’ve never cycled 2 days in a row, let alone 3 days since university (and even then I’d never cycled more than 20km in a day). Still the commute on Monday, wasn’t too bad. My legs felt slightly heavy and I felt a bit uncomfortable sitting on the saddle for the first 5 minutes, but I was fine after that.

Wednesday 28th July

I was absolutely flying this morning (or at least it felt that way) with green lights most of the way in, minimal traffic and the legs felt great. I nearly always feel brilliant when I get into work after cycling in, and the same when I get home, it’s the endorphins and adrenaline speaking. Still it’s so much nicer cycling to work than being crammed on the underground, especially in the summer.

Friday 30th July

I took it relatively easy today cycling into work. I’ve quickly realised there’s no point in rushing on my bike in London, taking unnecessary risks as often I’ll just end up having to stop at a traffic light anyway. At most I’ll save a couple of minutes. Also when I cycle a couple of times a week it’s fine to go hard, but when I’m cycling 5 times a week I need to cycle at a sustainable pace or I’ll pay for it in the following days (especially when I know I’m doing 3 relatively long rides in the coming days). It’s the same with Ride Across Britain where it’s crucial I cycle conservatively or I’ll really struggle.

Saturday 1st August

Today was just a short quick ride up into Hertfordshire, a route I’d done quite  a few times before, in total 54 km. I cycled at a good pace (over 25 km/h), but I didn’t push myself knowing what I had in store for the next day. However it wasn’t a pleasant ride for my ears (and probably more painful for my soul), as the lubricant on my chain had been washed off after last week’s ride in the rain, so my drivetrain was squealing and screeching for the whole ride.

I cleaned the bike when I got home and lubricated the chain. I also noticed that my tires had some serious cuts in them so decided it’d be a good point to change them. The tires had been brilliant (Michelin Pro Service Course 4) and really flew and I’d only ever suffered 1 puncture (would have happened to any tire as I went through a massive pothole). The only problem was they’d only lasted about 1,500 km, but that is the trade-off if you want quick tires. The new tires (Vittoria Rubino Pro Slick) aren’t supposed to be as comfortable or quick (but still not bad), but they look awesome (blue side walls which match my bike) and they’re supposed to be highly durable, which is perfect as I increase my mileage for training.

Sunday 2nd August

Sunday as always is usually the big ride of the week. The plan was a 100 km ride into the Chilterns. It’s North London’s answer to Surrey/Kent (who’d want to venture South of the river anyway…) and a lovely part of the world, with part of the area designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and barely an hour from London.

It was a glorious day for cycling, slightly too warm for my liking but still lovely to be outside. I started off from home and before I’d even warmed up within a couple of kilometres I faced a sharp climb up Bittacy Hill towards Mill Hill Village.

I soon noticed that the new tires didn’t have much of a negative impact and rolled well with the bike sounding much happier after I’d cleaned and lubricated her chain (I’ve just decided to refer to my bike as a female, especially as I consider her to be my baby/wife).

Through the Woods
Through the woods

After about 25 or so km I started noticing a consistent thudding in the back wheel after each revolution and this quickly became unbearable. I stopped in Bovingdon, had a quick PB sandwich and noticed that my tire had deformed near the valve of the inner tube, with the tire starting to come off the rims. I deflated the inner tube and re-inflated it again which seemed to have sorted it out.

The only real challenge of the day in the form of a hill came as I left Berkhampstead, where the hill ramped up to over 10% at some points. I thought I’d got to the top, but as I went round the corner, I realised it continued going up for another half a km. It’s a matter of pride to never get off a bike to walk up a hill.

Around the 60 km mark my back tire felt soft so I stopped and realised I’d got a slow puncture. I really should have changed the tube the first time. I spent 5 minutes changing the inner tube, only after I noticed I’d been standing in the middle of an ant’s nest… I did my best impression of a skinny Rambo on a bike wrapping the old inner tube across my chest and I was on my way again.

Five minutes later I came across two ladies, one who seemed to be having some trouble, so being a gent I offered my help. The chain had come off her time-trial bike (no idea why she was riding that), but it was an easy fix. However her bike continued to make noise near the crank-set, and I tried to see if I could sort it out, but quickly admitted I wasn’t certain what was wrong. I do most of the work on my bikes so I’m not too bad around them, but I need time (and a lot of patience), which I didn’t have, as I still had 40 km to ride at that point. The bike was ridable though, for which they were grateful.

It's not all bad
It’s not all bad

I really struggled in the last 20 km and I ended up stopping in Radlett (lovely little town by the way) for a rest. I’d done almost the same ride back in May and had not stopped once, but clearly the distance I’d rode this week had caught up with me. Once I was in Barnet the last few km were easy as I motivated myself with the ice cold Pepsi Max and Doritos that were waiting for me at home (weird cravings).

You can find the route I took on Strava.

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The Challenge

When I first received the email (26th June) stating a place had opened up on Ride Across Britain (RAB), I was genuinely ecstatic. Friends at work even commented on the massive smile on my face that afternoon, something which isn’t seen very often. RAB is something I’ve wanted to take part in ever since joining Deloitte, 3 years ago.

I accepted my place within minutes. I hadn’t got a place in the original ballot last year, but I’m incredibly lucky (or unlucky) that people had subsequently pulled out; I was in the mid-20s of 50+ waiting list!

By the next morning though, the sheer size of the task hit me for a number of reasons:

1. Distance to cycle
In total I’ll be cycling over 1,500 km (just under 1,000 miles) from Lands End to John ‘O Groats. In the first 6 months of 2015 I’ve cycled just over 1,000 km (per Strava), so I’ll be cycling 1 and a half times that in just 9 days in September!

2. Amount of climbing
The RAB route isn’t the shortest nor the flattest route between Land’s End and John ‘O Groats as quiet roads are used where possible, to ensure the route is scenic and to make it challenging. The UK is surprisingly hilly, the total elevation gain during RAB is around 15,000 metres (under 50,000 feet). In other words I’ll be climbing nearly 2 times the height of Mount Everest on my bike over 9 days!

3. Time to prepare
RAB is incredibly difficult regardless of the time taken to prepare. However as I only obtained a place last week, I have just over 2 months to get into shape (most participants have known since late 2014). Moreover I’m running two 10ks in July and early August and need to prepare for an exam in late July so won’t be able to dedicate much time to bike training until August.

Plan of Action
After stressing for a bit, I’ve come up with a training plan. It’s not perfect, but it makes the best use of the time I have left. I already eat relatively well and my general fitness is decent so I just need to build on that. By taking some days off from work in August, I reckon I can get 20 days of riding in, including some back to back rides, which should prepare me for the long days in the saddle come September.

This is going to be seriously difficult, however it is doable if I stick to the plan.

The Challenge