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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.