Documenting my attempts to cycling #Ridelondon as fast as possible and many other stupid fitness based efforts, by a man who is clearly not built for this type of thing. Raising Money for Winstons Wish https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/russell-brookes4
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!
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!
If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
So in the next few weeks I have a few more blogs that I will be releasing but right now, I have a very simple one to say and that’s thank you.
Today I hit my amended fundraising target of £500 and I chuffed to have hit that. It has coincided with getting my Winston’s Wish Jersey, which I think looks fabulous. Me, not so much but still I love it. (The new Helmet looks pretty spiffy too!)
So thank you for getting behind and helping a charity that means the world to me.
But i’m not done yet and its time to go hard or go home!
I’ve now got to push on and so I’ve set a fundraising target of £1000. Is this ambitious? Maybe, but to hit it would be fantastic. So please if you have yet done so donate to this amazing charity and I promise in return to cycle my little legs off, and suffer for every penny you all donate:
Now having done 20 Miles and a ton of climbing, I’m going to sit back enjoy a mint tea, listen to the new Snow Patrol Album which is a great album and rest. But not for long. Because on Sunday 10th June I’m cycling 100 miles for the first (but not the last) time this year.
So in typical fashion for me, this ride didn’t start out in the best of circumstances. On Friday I got hit by some horrific bug that had me enduring a horrific headache, head cold, aches and pains and stomach pains. At that point I was strongly questioning the likely hood that I would be able to do the bike ride.
Luckily as quickly as it came; it went, and an early night (thanks to Gloucester losing in a cup final) had me feeling much better. And I woke up this morning feeling much better and raring to go.
And what a good days cycling it proved to be! It was just gorgeous weather for it and well how can you not like cycling in the Cotswolds? I honestly think I’m blessed to have one of the most beautiful places in the world on my doorstep.
And having found myself feeling a bit nervous about having been ill and not sure if i’d done enough long distance training, after getting over the “tough” hill I felt confident and never looked back. Which was a good confidence boost as with the ride to and from the startline to home thrown in I achieved a distance of 67 miles average 15.2 miles an hour, which is about the pace I want to try and be at. Admittedly I need to get that over 100 miles, but today felt like a good start. I kept myself well hydrated and ate well and sensibly too. I also tried to minimise how long I stopped for. Making sure it was a case of off, loo, water top up, food and go. That really seemed to help with the seizing up I often experienced. And running over the winter also seems to have helped my cardio. So as it stands I feel pretty good. And for once after a long round I’m not sat around feeling utterly exhausted and sorry for myself. Which means I have more in the tank and am where I need to be at this point.
Next up its the Bournemouth Wiggle ride in June and the first of 100 of the year as I keep building towards, Ride London. Still lots to do, but for now I’m feeling content and pleased with where I am.
Got to have tea and cake on a ride!
Smug git at the finish
how can you not enjoying cycling with scenery like this?