Ride London 2018

Its funny how things work out. I had spent the last few weeks training for a long, hot day in the saddle. As the ride got nearer it became apparent that this was very unlikely to be the case. Lots of rain was forecast. It turned out lots of rain is what we got.

Still I had arrived in London the day before feeling confident, if a bit frantic, rushing to get my ride number etc. However that night as me and Em sat having a meal, she asked how I felt. “Good” was my reply and I really did. I didn’t have the usual nerves before a ride. I didn’t I was eager and looking forward to it. That didn’t change the next morning, as I rolled out of bed, had my porridge in a pot and cycled to the Olympic Stadium enjoying many people doing the walk of shame at 6 in the morning!

37917083_10160766516460338_2299150956245286912_o

As I queue to start, amazed at the number of people, the time thankfully went quickly. There was a breeze and I spent 20 minutes debating whether to proudly tough it out and where my jersey for Winston’s Wish or to put the jacket on. In the end the rain won out and the Jacket went on. I didn’t have time to dwell as soon enough it was my turn and the start countdown was done and I was off. What I had been training all year for had finally begun.

I quickly got into a groove. The first thing was getting used to riding in amongst so many cyclists. You ended up battling for space, having to weave into gaps to overtake and fining a spot you could maintain a pace. I got used to this quicker than I thought and actually quite enjoyed it. The main thing was having the whole road not worrying about cars it was exhilarating. I spent the whole ride like a big kid, enjoying the freedom and recalling how it felt when I first had a bike.

Before long, I was passing Trafalgar Square and hardly noticing due to the heavy rain keeping my head down, seeing someone crashing on the slick road was a timely reminder to go steady and be mindful of the conditions. Still I was pleased with my progress, whilst trying to ensure I held something back for the hills that would start from 40 miles in.

orig-PRME8407 - Copy

At the first stop I checked in with Em, who helpfully told me she was having a lovely cup of coffee, cheers for that. I stocked up on food and got going. I was surprised how quick I was going, but at this point a personal best was not on my mind. I was just going to enjoy the ride and see how I went, being mindful of the weather. Having cycled in weather like this before I rather enjoyed it.

That changed on the hills, the first hill wasn’t that tough but the conditions were appalling, and descending it was tough due to the wind and road. I feel like i’m ok at descending without doing anything special, but the speed some went down shocked me.

I think this was one of the few rides I scouted ahead on and I knew Leith was going to be the toughest hill. It was hard but not the hardest. Having to weave through the cyclists made it harder, but I feel I got a good pace up it and again the descent was worse, a particular nasty crash at the bottom causing us to have to slow up abruptly.  But I was clear knowing if I got over Box, the hard work really was over. The conditions were still bad, but getting better.

orig-PRMJ9409

I looked at my watch and saw I was doing ok still, not amazing but ok. If I could get over Box ok I’d have a good chance of coming in under 7 hours and maybe getting close to my pb of 7 hours 47 minutes. But that was a while off.

Box Hill wasn’t tough but was a fun climb, I got up and over in a steady pace and the crowd cheering at the top keep us going. A short while later I rolled into a water stop at 75 miles. It had stopped raining and I made a decision.

orig-PRMI3086 - Copy

My time wasn’t bad, but I felt good and had a focus. I had a think and took the jacket off and stuffed it in the bag. I was here for Winstons Wish and I was going to give it everything in this last bit. I wasn’t going to stop now, I could finish and get a good time I was sure of it. I was still going to enjoy it, but something came over me I couldn’t quite explain and I was going to give it absolutely everything to get a good time. I was feeling fired up and emotional and I really can’t explain where it was coming from.

orig-PRML13698 - Copy

And I felt like a man possessed for the last bit. In truth it was easy cycling, but I was really going for it with all I had, there was no let up. The crowds were amazing all the way, lots of cheering, support and what a difference it made. I was flying passed people and before long I was at Wimbledon and over the last hill, but I wouldn’t let myself ease up I kept on pushing the miles were rolling away and I was texting Em to keep her updated. “We are at the Finishline” that was it, no letting up now, With the in-laws and others there I wasn’t going to look bad.

orig-PRMF2125 - Copy

I was looking at my watch and realised I was well about my time, I was going to do it! IT felt good, but I didn’t ease. The last bit was a blur of noise and awe. Riding up the Mall, as fast as I could (admittedly not that fast but still) was such a rush and I’ll never forget going over the finishly hearing Em shout me and raising a hand of acknowledgement.

orig-PRLJ7847 - Copy

I’d done it and it was an amazing feeling. Quick the watch, I was stunned 6 Hours and 6 Minutes, I hadn’t just beaten my time I had destroyed it!

lhRZ2I11mLLraZmNDzZ_Vmfoi-cbri1K0dVTABKVhPM-576x768 - Copy

But the important part, at my last check I have raised £840 and Team Winston in total have raised just shy of £10,000 I can really believe what such a small group of us have done.

orig-MEDI1708 - Copy

And Dad, that was for you. I will admit to getting a bit emotional as I came round the Mall thinking of him. I wish he could have been there, but he wasn’t and I hope I did him proud. Instead I had my amazing wife and her family to greet me which was wonderful and I cannot thank Em enough for being my biggest supporter. She puts up with a lot with my training, stressing and stupid ideas.

And to anyone who has read, supported or donated thank you!

This isn’t the end, I have a few other ideas of fundraising I’d like to do, and I have a Dragon to slay next. But for now I’m going to enjoy a few weeks of cycling with no reason other than cycling.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Sometimes its more than a bike ride

I miss my dad. I miss him everyday. I miss the opportunity to talk to him about rugby. To take the piss and have him take the piss. To tell him I love him. Most of all I miss never getting to go have a pint with him.

When he took his own life he left us a note. I haven’t read it for years. I can’t remember it, I don’t want to remember it. But the gist of it was how much he loved me and how proud of me he was and how he knew I’d make him proud.

When you read that at 11 Its a lot to take, it puts a chip on your shoulder. It makes you strive to reach an unobtainable goal. I’ll never know if he is proud of me. Now none of this is meant to be self-pity, its  just how it is. I’m aware of it, I’m ok with it now. Thanks to love, help and support from my amazing family, Wife and Winston’s Wish.

But I’m always going to try to make my dad proud and I’m always going to take that statement literally. If I do stuff I try to always give my best. I may not be the best cyclist, the fittest, the best rugby player, the smartest, the person things comes easier to. But I’m a stubborn sod, who will always give 100%. Or at least I like to think so. Cause I take after my dad and that statement gives me a chip on my shoulder.

Not that said, there is a time when that rolls away and I can enjoy pushing myself. On the bike is one of those times. I feel a connection to my dad, I can’t explain it, and it might seem odd. But its there, in the same way it is if I go up Robinswood Hill. Its not like I can pop round to talk to him, so i’ll take what I can get.

All of this is blessed by the fact that I get to pay if forward to the charity, thanks to all of you amazing lot. Today I’m looking at my total and am blown away to have raised £722. And the whole of Team Winston have raised over £7000. That’s mind blowing to me.

When I agreed to speak to the TV and radio for Winston’s Wish about a year ago, I knew it might have moments of being tough, of taking me to raw memories. But seeing stuff like that brings a smile to my face. Its reconnected me to some happy memories. Its reminded me that cycling can just be fun.

I don’t know how fast I’ll go round on Sunday. It could be hot as hell and its silly to try and push myself beyond my limits. All I can promise you is that I will do my best to earn every pound people have raised.

So I hope you can all see that this is much more to me than a bike ride and its very special to me. And thank you for helping with that.

I’ll be back after the ride with more of an update.

Russ

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/russell-brookes4

 

 

 

One week to go.

This time next week I should be well on my way around Ride London. I’m nervous and excited by the prospect. I am eager to go and I feel like I’ve trained well for it.

This week is all about getting ready. I’ve trained as hard as I can allowing for life and everything else. I think cycling wise I am in the best shape I have been. We will see how it goes. I’d like to get a good time, but the ride is so much more than that. So all i can do this week is eat right, taper, be ready mentally and make sure i enjoy the experience.

It has obviously made me think of dad a lot preparing for this and I am keeping that in my mind and making sure I enjoy this.

I want to say thank you to everyone. For following me on this journey, for sponsoring me and for reading.

I will be back with an update after the ride but till then, once again thank you!

The Dragon Ride 2019

As much as I have learnt to appreciate and reflect on my accomplishments, I realise also that sometimes Its easy to get stuck in the past. Looking forward is also important. I am excited by the Ride London. But The Wiggle Bournemouth Ride has give me the confidence to kick on. I want to really challenge myself and see what I can do on a bike.

So I’ve signed up next year for the Dragon Ride. Its a ride I’ve long thought on doing. But I’ve always held back fearing it would be beyond my capabilities. Its time to stop hidding and give it a go.

It won’t be easy its 130 mile route and over 3300 metres of Climbing. This is going to test me and I am certainly going to give it some respect. But I’m looking forward to giving it my best and seeing what I can do. I’m glad to have signed up to it. I am much more driven when I have a target to aim for and this will certainly be that!

Wiggle Bournemouth AKA me vs Impostor Syndrome.

 

If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm 

Then v now.png
On the Left is me 6 years ago doing my first ever century ride. The Right last weekend at the Wiggle Bournemouth. 

There are many times in my life I feel a Fraud. I get it at work, especially now I’ve been promoted. But nothing gets it gnawing at me like sport.

I love sport, I love competition and competing. I’m probably over competitive. But I like pushing myself. The problem is I’m not very good at sport. I’m an average rugby player, I’m an awful runner and a middling runner. But i’ll always keep plugging away at stuff. I find the more people doubt I can do something, the more I want to do it.

But this competitive streak is infuriating when I think I’ve achieved a good time or done well at something to then go and look on Strava or Garmin to see one of my friends do a much further distance or something much quicker than I managed. It then gnaws at me and makes me wish I was better. What I’ve got better at is using that to drive me. Its not anyone elses fault, no one is doing it to get at me, they are just out pushing themselves. So I try and channel that energy into a positive and to make sure I’m pushing myself as best I can.

So when I arrived at Wiggle Bournemouth I tried to keep that in my mind. As I collect my race number and look at how much more professional and prepared everyone around me looks, I start to get the same question in my head I always get at these things. “What in the blue hell are you doing here?” Its just gremlins, those little bits of self doubt trying to get at me. Everyone has them, the key to beating them is accepting them and to a certain degree embracing them. In the past they’d win, now I just think, “Pay attention and i’ll show you.” I remember that i’ve trained for this, I’ve eaten well, I’ve looked at the route, I’ve paid close attention to the little details. I belong as much as anyone else, and what they are doing, it doesn’t matter. I’m here to enjoy myself and the only person I’m competing against is me.

Before we continue this story, I want to flash back. To my first ever century ride. It Took me close to 9 hours I think. At the time I was chuffed to have finished. Since then, I’ve pushed myself to get in under 7 hours, because for so reason to me that’s been a good time to get round. It became an obsession. Then lately something changed. I stopped focusing on the time, I became at peace with how I was as a cyclist. I wasn’t the fastest, but I was enjoying being out on the bike. Really If I could just enjoy myself have fun, I figured the rest would come and fall into place.

And that’s in my mind as I set off. Its not the worst weather in the world, the conditions are good and its a nice flat start. Before I know it I’ve clocked up 30 Miles and at the first rest stop. I top up my water get some food on board and off I go again. A quick look at my watch and my time is ok, not great but not ok. Average speed above what I though but at this point nothing to get excited about, I know all the hills are to come. I hit 52 of the 103 miles and its top number 2. Same process as before knowing the hills are to come. They aren’t the toughest i’ve done, but i know that I need to get through these before I get to excited by the possibility of a good time. I try to keep a steady pace, Not over do it but not be too laboured as I peddle. And before long the hills are gone and I get food on. As I hit mile 65 I know the worst hills are over. My average speed has dropped a bit, but its still above what it needs to be to get a sub 7 hour time.

This is where the battle begins, I fight the gremlins and the doubt. The idea that it won’t go to plan, that nothing has changed and to keep enjoying myself. Because so far its been a good ride, the views are good, the roads are nice, and my legs are feeling good, i’m enjoying the roads and the miles are ticking by nicely. So the message I mentally give myself “Keep doing what you are doing, don’t get eaten up by the time!”

So I just keep peddling, I ignore the soreness and just keep pushing on. Soon I’m into the 80 mile limits, normally my breaking point. Around here is normally when the back hurts, the knees are sore and i can’t kick on. I normally sit up and accept i gave it a good go and roll on. Not this time,  The feeling is not there. Nor at 85, 90 95. Soon I’m approaching the 100 mile mark and it hits me I know I’m going to do it:

And you can see below what it means to me:

Sportive Photo Ltd/Andrew Hobbs Photography

That photo is just before I hit it and somehow i’m smiling! I’ve done it and I role into the finish 103 miles in 6 hours 25 Minutes and 58 Seconds. I’ve done it. The feelings of impostor syndrome roll away and I feel like a proper cyclist. I know that won’t last I will need to push myself more because that’s how I work. But something important has changed. I’ve remembered that the cycling is supposed to be fun. I’ve gone back to that feeling of a boy of the first time Dad takes the stabilisers off the bike and i’m keeping myself upright. Its liberating, I can go anywhere on my bike it feels.

That’s why I cycle, that’s what I need to remember and take into Ride London. I don’t care about my time, I just want to go there and enjoy it. Because whether I think it or not I’m a cyclist.

 

Sportive Photo Ltd/Andrew Hobbs PhotographyWBS01Borunemouth

Update 04.06.18

Money Raised so far: £505

Where can you sponsor me?

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/russell-brookes4

Goals set:

Cycle: 2000 Miles to include 2 100 mile rides

Complete Ride London and Wiggle Bournemouth Sportive

So far: 510.20 Miles

Mileage needed each week to hit target: 49 Miles

Rides planned: Ride London, Bournemouth Sportive and Cotswold Autumn Classic

Run: 750 Miles to include 2 half marathons.

So Far:  207.78 176.66 Miles including one half marathon.

Mileage needed each week to hit target: 18

Runs Planned: Mud Run

 

So this month I made some good progress adding on 212 miles of cycling to what I’ve done for the year so far. Not quite as many miles as I need to do so the mileage has crept up a little bit but its a good start. I managed my first sportive of the year, a cycle to work and some hill climbs. I also have train tickets booked up for the Ride London and my jersey and helmet sorted, so lots of good positive steps.

This month sees my first 100 of the year, which will be a good test of how the legs will be for the Ride London the following month. Bournemouth looks a tough test and slightly more climbing so hopefully give a good indication of where I am in my training. I feel pretty good at the moment, but I’ve not done a 100 since last September and I struggled at the end of that and also crashed, so this can only go better I hope!

Running I managed an additional 31 Miles this month so again behind where I need to be but the main thing is I’m enjoying what I did do. I’m not sure I will hit my target this way but the whole point of this is its fun and I push myself without it being a chore. The average has crept up though and not sure I can do the amount needed so may need to review my target for the year. I’m hoping I will get a bit more running in this month between bike rides but we will see. I’d still like to sneak in another Half Marathon before the end of the year to see if I can improve my time. I also have the mud run in September, so lots to keep me busy.

So in summary, I’m making good progress and enjoying myself and really thats all I can ask for.

Behind every man there is a woman (or in my case two, ok three.)

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about my dad and how amazing he was. Now its true his memory and limited time I had with him have shaped me into the sarcastic, grumpy, tosser I am now.

But I am doing a lot of people a dis-service with this. I have been very fortunate to have a ton of Family and Friends in my corner and I am fortunate to have always been able to feel loved and valued. I am very much aware of what a gift that is and hope I don’t take it for granted too much.

So today I want to talk about a few other people, mainly the ladies, who have helped pick me up and kept me going. I could also talk about my nan here, but for now I have two in particular who deserve a lot of credit.

The mother. 

She can be the most miserable and grumpy red head you can meet. She makes swearing an art form. She uses the English language as an optional extra, often using words completely out of context. You do not want to get on her bad side. But I couldn’t ask for a more loving and supportive mother.

When dad died, mum found it very tough. But me and Stu were put front and centre. She was a mother and a father rolled into one. We had holidays, day trips, presents. In short we had as normal and as amazing a childhood as two kids who lost their dad could have. And no one has her work ethic. The cost to mum was constant working, long hours, little sleep. She picked up any shift she could to provide for us and my nan and step dad were all part of a support network. But mum got her head down and got on with it. Even now shes always there for me. She pushed me to push myself academically and being the first to make it to University in my family, might not seem like a big deal in this day and age but seeing how proud of me she was, is not a feeling that is easy to replicate.

The Wife

On the face of it me and Em shouldn’t get on. I love comics. She thought Batman and Robin were the same person. I love 1980s movies. She hadn’t seen Indiana Jones until recently. (She hated it.) But no one drives me on like her. No one makes me laugh like her. She makes me smile pretty much everyday.

I can be a right shit to live with. (shocker I know) I am obsessed with getting out on the bike. She puts up with constant “should I go out or shouldn’t I” and she never complains. She’ll worry, but only that I’m over doing it. She never complains about the hours I leave her so I can romp about the hills on my bike. She has no idea how much I appreciate the simple things like a cup of tea on the side when I come jelly legged through the door.

She often says shes proud of what I do. I’ve never understood how, peddling a bike for stupid amounts of miles, dressing like a prize prat is worthy of pride. The truth is I’m proud of her. She has a heart condition. She has never let it define her. She had to give up her nursing degree in the third year. This was after have open heart surgery and beating endocarditis, a condition that left her critically ill in hospital. After all of this she went back to University and completed her degree. She never lets her condition stop her and pushes herself constantly, when it could be easy to sit back and accept how things are. She worked her arse off to get a career as a civil servant. She’ll complain like we all do. But mostly that ends with something like “I want more.” She always wants to better herself and I’d never bet against her. I’m someone who could easily sit on the sofa eating my body weigh in pizza, getting fat. Seeing her makes me realise I can be more than that. I have a better job, i’m about 5 stone lighter all because she inspires me. I tell her I love her pretty much every day. But I don’t think she realises just how much.

So I hope this shows that inspite of losing dad, I’m lucky. I have two amazing woman to keep me in line, who mean more to me than they realise.

And thats enough of the sappy stuff, because they are both going to kill me when they see this. Which is why I’m being a wimp and setting this to publish when I’m out on my bike!

If another post isn’t published in a few days, tell my wife and mother that I love them…