The 7 Summits Blog - Cycling/ Running posts

The Hurt half marathon
05th June 2017
Saturday 3 June



Quads now recovered from the race in the Surrey Hills, I still can't stop thinking (and laughing) about how I managed to get lost on a marked route (in the second lap!) :)

Wandering off the course during a half means that you quickly realise something has gone wrong, the downside is that it's very easy to loose position in such a short race. (6 in my case)

What I learnt from this event:
1. have a rest day before race day..nope, not even a cheeky 10k allowed
2. just because a runner looks the part doesn't mean I should follow him blindly :D (and hereby I'm sending my apologies to the other runner who followed me.. we did have fun doing extra 2 hills though didn't we?)
3. turn back sooner and don't carry on hoping a sign would turn up if I have a strong feeling I'm lost
4. a bit more hill/ steps training won't hurt (because those steep ascents during the race did) so train more in the Surrey hills!
5. finishing a tough race is a good experience and a great mental prep for other races and endurance events

I would love to hear about how others deal with getting lost during the race and how to push on, please get in touch & share your story! alex.photography@hotmail.com

I wish you all a summer full of adventures, smiles and happy moments!

Alex
X
And the winner of the Revolve 6 hour race is…
19th September 2016
Tan lines slowly disappearing from my legs and arms and the Prudential Ride 100 (MILES) behind I needed a new challenge. I googled ‘ endurance cycling race UK’ and the first result was a race called Revolve 24 Brands Hatch in September. Endurance race tick, racing on a famous motorsport circuit tick. I signed up in mid August so four weeks to the race I knew training had to be all about spending hours upon hours in the saddle.

Another member from my cycling thought he would join the madness and signed up to the 6h race too. (and another club member turned up on the day) We drove down the for the 24hour start (we both wanted to hang out in the Paddock too!) Possibly not the best night sleep in a freezing tent but with the first light the sun came out too and the 4.2km circuit started drying up from the mega shower from the previous day & night.



Race started and classic Alex, I couldn’t clip in properly so found myself at the back of the pack before crossing the start line. Couple of laps later I managed to catch up and started overtaking the slower riders. I was pleased when I reached a 6h lady racer, just don’t come last I said to myself.
A lot of people asked me how I spent 6 hours. I guess the secret is to break it into smaller sections and focus on getting to certain points. For example, I only checked my watch for the time. Every hour I would reward myself with a piece of flapjack and energy bite and half an hour a couple of sips of water. When it was time to eat/ drink, I made sure I caught up and overtook the rider in front of me on a good section (uphill mainly) so I could gain a bit of advantage and kick back on the flat (which didn’t last too long).

A couple of things I will always remember:

A guy overtaking me on the inside on Surtees (a short sharp and sweet hill before Pilgrims Drop) and me not happy with that so I raced him to the top. I had to slow down to pick up my water bottle from a marshall that’s when I realised it was the 6 x Olympic Champion Jason Kenny. Where’s a photographer when you need one! ☺

Spending the last 5 -8 laps chatting to a guy who was racing the 24hour event. We talked about everything in life and we laughed, sweated and pushed hard as we crossed the Finish line together feeling ecstatic.

At this point the three of us from the triathlon club had no idea where we finished. You drive round and round the circuit, seeing people, passing them but you never really know who stopped to rest/ fuel(I didn’t, get in!) but we decided to stick around for the prize ceremony. I won the ladies 6-hour race and came 10th overall which I was very pleased for. There were some seriously strong male cyclists there!
Riding for 6 hours, in the sunshine on a circuit which has a phenomenal motor racing history and really experiencing those hills riding Rocket was an experience out of this world. Next year, I’m signing up to the 24hour race either solo or in a team. ( well, there is only one way to test endurance right?)

Super Summer
25th July 2016
E’tape du Tour – Col de la Joux Verte – Mont Ventoux – Alpe D’Huez in a week

As summer was approaching I planned for a different climbing experience but I simply can’t complain.
It all started when my Land Rover broke down half an hour down the M25 as we were driving towards Dover, the gateway of 2.5 weeks of fun in Switzerland in France. As we were being towed back to Wimbledon we wasted no time come up with a plan B.
We rebooked our ferry tickets for the night, had a couple of hours kip in the evening and drove straight down to Grachen in the Swiss Alps (near Zermatt).
My friend did the epic Zermatt ultra marathon and me still having a running injury, I opted for a partial course run which meant we run up (walked / crawled) upto Riffelberg 2585m together. To my friend’s delight, I suggested we rented mountain bikes the following day and boy we had some fun on the trails. You simply can’t get bored of the views of Matterhorn.



Swiss trip quickly over, we drove back to the UK and after a couple of days we were packing up again for a week in France.
Too many highlights to mention but probably the Etape du Tour was one of them. Despite the third climb, Col de La Ramaz was taken out of the route due to landslide, the sportif which started in Megeve and finished in Morzine was fantastic.
We were due to climb Mont Blanc a few days later (on our feet) but bad weather forced us (again) to come up with plan B. Map of France in one hand and accuweather in the other, we decided to head south and check out Mont Ventoux. We felt slightly silly turning up in Bedoin mid week expecting to find accommodation easily, not realising THE Tour was coming through 2 days!

At this point our adventure had been missing something… wild camping! Funnily enough, we both slept amazingly and I had absolutely blast riding up Ventoux the following morning.


Starting point in Bedoin. All smiles.

Fans already parked up all the way to the top, their cheering and clapping certainly gave me an extra little boost when needed. Nearing the top the wind picked up, so hard in fact that it blew me off going directly to the summit and forced me to ride around the edge and to the top. My friend failing to bring the car up due to heavy traffic at the bottom, I had to ride back down which due to the crazy wind was pretty eerie at times. Nevertheless, Mont Ventoux lived up to its’ name and I can’t wait to be back one day and ride up on different sides.


Mont Ventoux from the Summit

The weather on Mont Blanc was terrible so we decided to head for Alpe D’Huez for a last adventure of the trip. We found a cool (quite literally) campsite near the starting point and the following morning, in winter gear we headed up the 13.8km route navigating 21 hairpins.


One of the many switchbacks of Alpe D'Huez

I lost my friend at turn 13 if I remember well but after making it to the top and having turned around, he was still on his bike pushing it up hard so decided to turn around and summit with him again in the glorious sunshine.
What a finale to an incredible week, France you did not disappoint!
8 days at the High Altitude Training Centre, Iten
24th February 2016
We were half way through our 13km morning run on the dirt road when we met a group of Kenyans running the opposite way, on this section up the hill. They looked strong, determined and focused. I looked at my watch; we’ve only covered 5km and the sun was beating down already. It was day 5 of our 8-day stay at the High Altitude Training Club (HATC) in Iten, Kenya and thank god our body finally started adjusting to the altitude. Life in London seemed like a million miles away…
I was very jealous when my friend booked his trip last year but I had my eyes on a different price; it was all about getting myself up and down Aconcagua safe. However, a couple of days before his departure I felt the sudden urge to join him. This must have been my craziest last minute idea but four days later we were on our way to Iten.
After three flights and a long car journey we arrived at the training camp on a Friday night. Dinner had been already served for the athletes so we were told to wait in a different restaurant and quickly a plate of beef stew and pancakes turned up. We were shown to our room after food, a basic twin bed bedroom (sports camp style- neighbours both side) net around the bed and a small but clean bathroom with shower. It was after 10pm and the whole site was quiet so we quickly unpacked and settled in after a 27-hour journey.




The alarm went off at 6am the following morning but nothing could stop us from going out on the first run. We decided to stick to the dirt road running parallel to the main road to Eldoret, which was recommended by the security guard. We soon realised this was another “highway” and we were constantly covered by clay coloured dirt as motorcyclists, cars and trucks passed us. Must admit, this 7km run was pretty tough; heart was throbbing through our chest and lungs were pretty much at their capacity. It’s not just the long journey to this beautiful part of the world that take its’ toll but the 2500m elevation combined with never ending and rolling hills.



We survived though and turned up for breakfast. My mate decided to head back on the road after lunch meanwhile I opted for a swim at the club’s 25m pool. I was genuinely looking forward to get some swimming training done, until the top of my toes touched the water. It was frekkin’ cold! With a full swimming cap and goggles on it was too late to pretend I only came down to chill out by the poolside so had to brave the freezing cold water and get on with the swim training.



Besides the pool, HATC also has a large gym and a separate stretch area where exercise classes take place three times a week. Breakfast, lunch and dinner served on site for the hungry athletes and you can munch on freshly baked rolls with jam in the afternoon.

We heard there was a half marathon happening in Eldoret on Sunday so after a pre-breakfast run and some food we headed out to watch the Kenyans flying over a 3km lap seven times in about 63minutes in the punishing heat. To say they are fast is an understatement. They are bloody fast. We noticed apart from their height, their body shape was very similar. Lean overall, strong shoulders, straight bag, high knees and heels, thin but muscly legs. Some landing on their heels, some forefoot runners and a lot of drive coming from the arms. Their feet barely touched the ground and we had to listen and watch carefully to hear them running. We were so inspired by the race, after lunch we went out on another run trying to copy their moves. With not much success. ☺ At least I managed to get another swim session in that afternoon!








Monday was business as usual. We ran to the Keiro View point where we spent a good hour waiting for and photographing the sun rising over the Rift Valley. Such a beautiful sight and an enriching experience.



We ran back to HATC for breakfast and had a nice long sleep (Kenyan style!) Before lunch we squeezed in a spin session and stretching then after lunch my friend explored the old athletics track and went back to the pool for my usual 1km arctic swim.

My mate insisted we should go back to the old track Tuesday morning so we headed out onto the dirt road after a rather delicious avocado& egg breakfast. The sun was already up and strong around 9.30am as we watched the elites (Team GB, Turkish athletic team, pro Kenyans) training. Carefully waited until breakfast was digested and decided it was our time to test out the track. While he was roaming around 400 meters I opted for stairs running up & down the stadium and when the track was much quieter I ventured onto it too. There was something very authentic, old school and real about this place.






After lunch it was relax then gym time; more spinning and more running! Since it was pancake Tuesday, we treated ourselves to a meal in the club next door with a glass of red (purely for medicinal purposes..)

Wednesday was our half way point and we had already built up strength, felt much better on the hills and our bodies adapted to the high altitude. It was the day we did a 13km run before breakfast. Lovely quiet path, running past schools, children shouting “HihowareyouIamfiiiiine!” and some beautiful farmlands.



We had some rest after breakfast then lunch then my friend had a sport massage by a guy called Hillary (or brutal but very good Hilary) who apparently massed the likes of Mo. If it’s good enough for Mo! I gymmed it with the usual hour long rolling hills spin bike ride which was followed by a 1km swim in the still bloody cold pool. The HATC dinner was fish so we thought we’d treat ourselves to a meal next door (and while we were there somehow two glasses of wine appeared on our table, mystery).

Thursday ended up being half a rest day because when we got to the old running track in the morning and got an old truck tyre out to pull it, the heavens opened and everyone run for shelter. It didn’t look like it was going to stop se we headed back to HATC and called it a morning. Tim had a one on one session with a Kenyan coach and at 5pm we joined some HATC runners on their 5pm leg stretcher. There was a older guy John who was in a pretty good nick and an America girl with a 2:28 marathon to her name. We were surrounded by amazing athletes and super human beings, motivation and inspirations was always around.

We had a fab Friday morning run to a nearby pond. We found this part of Kenya being wonderfully lush!




Instead of relaxing after brekkie we decided to hail a matatu (Kenyan taxi= old minibus for about 6 people that fit it an least double that) then we got off at the junctions and hopped on a motorbike towards the Giraffe Park. The place has 15 giraffes and was opened about 15 years ago to save animals from around the world. We were told that due to the sheer size of the site, it can certainly accommodate a lot more giraffes. They are well looked after whilst ensuring a wild but safe environment. Visitors entry fee (5000 Kenyan schillings) pay for the vet to fly over in case of emergency or clearing traps. Not having time in our schedule to do a safari, we were so pleased to have the opportunity to visit that fantastic place.





Since the end of the trip was sadly in sight, we ran down to the new track late afternoon to have some fun sessions. We were the only runners there at the time and with the sun setting in the background we pulled in some fast 100m lap times although Bolt has nothing to worry about.





The big day has arrived, our last full day at the HATC. After breakfast we waited for our Kenyan pacer Ruben by the gate who turned up at 9am clearly very hungry and thirsty. Found out he ad already done 20km that morning. Ruben very kindly agreed to run with two mazungos to the stunning Torok waterfalls, with our favourite driver Jeff following. I was the support crew for the first 10km giving the boys water and feeding them then joined the last 8km to the falls. As soon as we got there about 15 children turned up showing us the way through the farms and bushed to the viewpoint. Words can’t describe what an incredible site laid in front of us. The Rift Valley, a 6000km long trench that runs through from north to south of Kenya. We only had a tiny part of it in front of us but what a magical view.



After some pictures we headed back to the training camp and to top the day I had my last spinning and swimming sessions. The afternoon was spent by the poolside already making plans of when we’d return.



We departed for home on Sunday with wet eyes and big smiles after saying goodbye to all the wonderful people we met and looked after us while we stayed at the HATC. It’s been almost a week since we left but there hasn’t been a moment I didn’t wish we were still there. I think I left a piece of my heart in Iten..

An honest confession about injury
04th October 2015
Just reaching mile 9. Easy-peasy so far. It is a beautiful morning; crispy air, sun shining and I’m still buzzing from racing the Ironman 70.3 in Zell Am See, Austria the week before.
I’m back in the UK for about five days, already run a half marathon distance training two days before this race so I know legs are doing all right.
I want to beat my previous half marathon times, 2 hours. Even if I just come in at 1h 59 minutes. Don’t care, I want to know that I can do it before rolling down the summer season shutter. This is the Richmond half marathon and I'm loving every minute of it.

Hang on.. there’s something wrong.. Why is my pelvis in so much pain? How do I stop it? Well, I can’t so I carry on. Soon the pain is in my right groin too moving towards the leg. And very soon, my right leg feels very heavy. I do a body check and realise it’s a pain I never experienced before. But I’m doing so well in this race and the mile signs disappear one after another. Only a few to go anyway so I keep on running!


[Sunday 6 September 2015 , Richmond half marathon]

I’m on crutches for days after the half marathon, but it was worth it I tell everyone! I did it in 1h 46min, I’d do it again! Ahh the pain? I’m sure it will go.
Three weeks later the physio tells me I have torn my hamstring and my quad muscles at a number of places. She digs her elbow deep into the tear and goes in deeper when I moan loudly. I’m in agony.

4 weeks today since the race where I injured myself. 4 weeks of constant pain, hamstring and glute strengthening, guessing, hoping (and hopping) and waiting.
The first week was bearable because I didn’t realise how bad the injury was.
Second week it hit home. It was now clear another week would pass without cycling or running.
And the third week, well, it was hell. My body and mind were longing after a decent workout but I knew deep inside I’d only make things worse. I had tears in my eyes every time I got on the bus passing happy cyclists and runners. Another lovely and dry day, instead of riding my bike to work I’m sat on the bus. I told myself it was the last week to travel to work on public transport because I have to. Sadly it wasn’t.

The main battle however is to convince myself that it is OK to take some time off. I’ve had a busy summer for sure and since I have over two months till the Aconcagua expedition I know I can build up the muscles again. But why am I in this gloomy, dark place?
Body is suffering too. Having taken all the adrenalin and endorphin away, it's happy when we exercise in the bedroom or go for a swim but I can hear it talking to me.. "is that all you're going to do to me" and my brain joins in "are we seriously going to bed without feeling completely exhausted physically?" So I try to smash my lap times in the swimming pool. It doesn't satisfy me as much as probably the Ham Lake swim race would have earlier today (enjoyed being a support crew though) but it takes the edge off and keeps me focused.

I wanted to share my story with you because there must be others out there who experienced the injury blues. You’re certainly not the only one! One thing is certain, it will pass. May take longer than we think but if we ever want to do a PB, get back on the bike we need to wait it out. And make sure what we do in the meantime is helping the recovery. So here’s a list of how I’m surviving ☺

- books - take it to work with me every day. Since the injury I’ve read eight to be precise and every single one gave me something. A running book gave ideas, a good crime was entertaining. Anything to temporary forget about the injury right?
- friends – spent so much time training for various things in the last two years but luckily a couple of friends stuck with me during the rough times. I thoroughly enjoy my extra time now I can spend with great people and write to my family more often.
- exercises: a good friend of mine once told me when I had the IT band problem that I should focus on things I CAN do. How true. What’s the point of pulling myself down into this deep, bottomless crevasse when I can still do things? And I don’t have to think hard; my swimming certainly needs improving so I go to the pool twice a week. And I religiously do the hamstring and glute strengthening.. Found a youtube video called – ‘How to get Victoria Angels legs’ I pick the exercises I can do and crack on with it. If it works for the ‘Angels’ will do for me I convince myself hah!
- experiment with healthy recipes: I had no time to be creative in the kitchen during the hard core training period. Now I have time to play around with ingredients. Make a healthy dish you haven’t tried before or a cheeky chocolate brownie with no sugar, you’ll love it. Note to self, don’t burn the house down.
- plan a race/ event WELL ahead: having something coming up can give you such a boost during the recovery. Ok you may not be able to go out and do your usual morning run but you can concentrate on some core work? Upper body strengthening? Everything helps and you’ll be surprised how much your fitness will improve when you’re fully recovered. It also helps mentally to focus on and look forward to.


If you want to drop me a line and share you story or have any tips how to conquer the injury blues feel free to drop me a line.
Ironman 70.3 Zell am See 29 Aug
02nd September 2015
Registering for a half ironman without any previous triathlon experience and the lack of ability to swim might have been a silly thing to do but I actually quite enjoy the thrill of throwing myself into the completely unknown. Opportunities to challenge our bodies in various events are everywhere, just need to click on that registration button.
Must admit there was another reason I fancied taking part in the Zell Am See 70.3 Ironman on Saturday 29 August. I hadn’t seen my family for almost a year and a half and this race weekend provided a perfect excuse to get the family together in a lovely chalet in the Austrian Alps.
Since I started the ‘7 summits’ project in April last year, my life had been revolving around the mountains; making money to pay for the expeditions, training, climbing, repeat. To test my legs I did two half marathons earlier this year, surely the next step is to swim 2km, cycle 90km and run a half marathon in one go ☺

Training for the 70.3 has been rather interesting and eventful. First job was to learn how to swim. I managed to squeeze in two coached sessions with a swimming instructor in an 18m indoor pool before heading off to Denali where I spent almost the entire month of June.
Thomas asked me to show him my front crawl then when I swam back he said; ok we’re going to have to start from scratch. We had another two sessions after the climb then he said I was ready for a 90m outdoor pool, the famous Tooting Lido. Looking back not sure I was! ☺
First session was a disaster. My wetsuit didn’t fit properly and I had a mild panic attack in the pool. Everything was alien. Next time I felt a bit more confident so I signed up to do a swim relay race with the Wimbledon Windmilers at Ham Lake. Trust me when I say I had no idea the reason I was so slow because I was literally crawling in the water like a dog with my legs instead of kicking from the hips. Not to worry, I learnt that from a youtube video a week before the half Ironman (copying the guy from the video laying on my flatmate’s exercise pad). Bring on the 2km lake swim.

I knew cycling 90km wouldn’t be an issue; after having tackled the hills of the Etape du Tour, Surrey and commuting to Richmond through the park on the hybrid, a flat bike course in Austria was going to be a piece of cake. Until I found out the bike course was rated 3/5 Ironman standards. Oh even better, loving the mountains don’t we Rocket!

So far so good preparation wise except that during the previous two half marathons I ran, I couldn’t break 2 hours on fresh legs. I was careful not to combine all three disciples in the training but had to get the legs used to the run after the bike. As often as I could I dropped the bike as soon as I got home after work, changed shoes and headed out for a run. I’ve been building up the running distance very carefully since I had the pain in my knee (which turned out to be an IT band related issue) What would happen on race day though I had no idea and it was approaching pretty fast…

We left London at 5pm after work on Wednesday and arrived at a ‘luxury campsite’ (these two words shouldn’t be used together, you still sleep in your own pop up tent..) at 3pm on Thursday. My parents arrived on Friday and we all moved into a lovely Austrian style hous. Went back to the transition area Friday afternoon to leave Rocket there and sort out the transition bags. I wouldn’t see the bike and the bags until the following morning before the race.
We had early dinner that day and a reasonably early night, the alarm went off at 4am.

We dropped the cars at the nearest official car park and made our way to the start. Said bye to my family and walked into the bike transition area around 5.30am.
It was still pitch dark but the football field size area was lit up. Enjoy the cool and fresh morning air I thought, soon it would be over 30C. Went to check my bike tyres and the transitions bags before putting on my wetsuit. Decided not to warm up in the lake, didn’t fancy standing around cold and drenched until the 6.45am start.



Entered the lake of Zell am See with hundreds of other women and suddenly excitement took over, there’s no turning back now.
Our wave had a false start, which didn’t help the nervous first timers including myself. We were stopped at the first buoy and sent back to the start. After the sound of the horn off we went again. Since our wave was now slightly delayed the following wave of men quickly caught up with us and the fistfight started. Just when I finally got my technique and breathing right, someone either grabbed my ankles or kicked me in the ribs or the face. Every now and then I tilted my head slightly back to see if there were any more pink cap swimmers behind me and luckily there were; good sign, I wasn’t last! When I exited the water I heard my dad shouting my name so I threw a big smile and a wave to him and started running down the transition lane unzipping my wetsuit.



Grabbed my bag, dried my feet and jumped into the bike shoes. Rocket was where I left him and soon we were on our way to ride the 90.1km bike course.
The first 20km were glorious. Smooth and wide roads, every cyclists dream. As much as I enjoyed the buzz of the swim start and cheering of the crowd, it was great to get on the road with Rocket and do what we love. After 20km I could see some triathlon bikes slowing down slightly, sign of the first serious incline. Sometimes I had to remind myself I was racing; the forest, waterfalls, mountains surrounding me made this course a dream place to cycle. Challenging, tough in the heat but extremely enjoyable. When we cycled past some beautiful Bavarian houses along the route, locals were out on their balcony and street cheering us on. After the first dink station which I thought was the top of the hill a guy cycled past me and said: “let the party begin”. Looked up and saw what he meant. This is where the steep section started! By now I saw both men and women walking with their bikes but the challenge was too sweet, Etape du Tour again!
I could hear my heart pounding and feel sweat drops running down my tights.. Then suddenly, a guy broke the sound of the cyclists heavy breathing by the road shouted in every language he could speak that there were 50meters until downhill! We were at 1280m and the only way was down, beautiful let’s flush those legs!
I mentioned in previous blogs that my descending is far from perfect and I still find cornering scary and fast cyclists shooting by me forcing me off my racing lane. The more I do it the more confidence I gained and I realised I was far less stiff on the bike this time. Until an ambulance roomed past me and around the next bend I saw a poor female triathlete was being pulled out of the drop just after a 90 degree corner. It must have hurt because her arms and shoulder were already in bandage. Very unfortunate, it can happen to anyone and I hope she’s ok and recovered. Despite the fact Rocket is not a tri bike we thoroughly enjoyed the next section, a stretch of flat roads where I managed to push a little bit more. It was such a lifting moment when I shot past my friend and parents, all cheering and shouting encouraging and sweet things. Put a huge smile on my face and was ready to tackle the last 20km or so.
Looking back at the bike section, I don’t think I could have put much more into it with Rocket, we both raced with everything we had. My strength on the bike was most noticeable on the hills where I kept overtaking not just single but groups of athletes at once and hardly felt it.

I was almost looking forward to getting off the bike (I must try chamois cream one day!) change shoes and start the run. Again my best friend and family were there to cheer me on which gave me a huge amount of boost. That was the beginning of the 21km run but I knew they would all be there at the finish.
Lack of experience in triathlons was showing now, wasn’t sure just how hard I could push myself. Last thing I wanted was to burn myself and not being able to finish after a long day of racing. I didn’t want to have a running watch so kept comparing my pace to other runners. A girl called Mel left the transition area just before I did so I thought I could stick to her. The run course was hot but stunning. The path followed the lake then curved into Zell am See then out back onto the path to the other side of the lake then all the way back, and the same route one more time.



Lost Mel the second time at the turn around point, time to find a slightly faster runner. At no point I felt weak but picking up the pace could have been a mistake. I ended up running a time I did at the previous two half marathons, definitely room for improvement but I was pleased for not stopping once. The crowd went crazy every time someone turned onto the finish line; for about 200 meters people shouting and screaming both sides. My friend spotted me just before and I gave him a fist pump wave and mom and dad were up near the finish taking pictures and me screaming how much they loved me from the top of their voice.



What an incredible day.
This race also marked the end of a fantastic summer filled with great challenges. From next week I’ll start training for the Aconcagua climb (Dec 15 - Jan 16) and who knows, might just accidentally register for another half Ironman ;)

Prudential Ride London 100
07th August 2015
Exactly a year ago, I was watching those crazy cyclists shooting past the gallery in Wimbledon village in the pouring rain. I thought they were mad. Doing a 100 mile bike ride on a day like that? What’s the big fuss?
I’m talking about the Prudential Ride London Surrey 100. Those of you who don’t know why this route is so special, very simple. This event is a lasting legacy of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic games. Amateur riders like myself get to cycle on closed roads (no cars, no traffic, no lights), same road as the professionals for a hundred miles from central London to Surrey and back.
I’ve just found my registration form, applied for a place at the end of August last year. I hadn’t even had a road bike back then so no idea what I was thinking. Anyway, didn’t get a place through the ballot and my charity b-eat weren’t involved so I gave up on the idea. Until I got an email from the organisers in March, during a holiday to say there was a charity looking for riders. The amount I had to raise did seem realistic and after all it’s for a good cause so I hit the register button. With the help of my amazing friends I managed to hit the required target by June so all I had to was keep my fingers crossed for good weather.
This event was always going to be a fun, getting more miles in the legs sort of ride. After having climbed Denali successfully in June, finishing stage 19 of the Tour de France in July, all I was hoping was to cross the Ride 100 finish sign and not to come last. I’ve never cycled this distance before so I couldn’t even give an idea to my friends when I’d be crossing certain points!
There were over 25,000 riders gathering on Sunday the 7th of August at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Despite being there on my own, the atmosphere as we were edging towards the start line was fantastic. Last bike check (too late Alex too bloody late!) and at 7.10am I rolled out with hundreds of others from my pen, blue M.
Straight away after the start I realised adjusting my right shoe cleats the night before and not practising to clip in was a rockie mistake and had to ride 2.5 miles with my left foot clipped in, right desperately trying to get itself into place. Magic moment after a sweaty start, both clipped in I was back in the game. Quite a bizarre experience cycling past places like Knightsbridge, Selfridges where on a usual day you can hardly move from the traffic yet last Sunday it was just us, cyclists on the road pedalling fast and loving every minute.
At mile 20 we were in Richmond Park, I looked at my watch and I did an hour. This point I was really hoping that the field would thin out and I could ride at my own pace but I’m sure all the other 25,000 cyclists thought the same. Cycling through the park was fantastic, it’s where I train quite a bit (both cycling and running) and I ride through it almost every day to work.
Next thing I knew we were getting into the beautiful countryside Surrey; cute villages, sheep munching away on nearby hills, some smooth, some not so smooth roads. After a couple of hours of riding, I was excited to get to the real hills and tackle them.
Leith Hill was first which I found quite easy and actually enjoyable, Surrey’s highest point. The descent, as I mentioned in my Etape du Tour blog was going to be a challenge especially surrounded by so many (so and fast) riders. The opposite happened and I was flying downhill. Didn’t tense up, no teeth gritting no handlebar crunching. Couldn’t wait to arrive at the bottom of Box Hill, where I had my very first sportive last year, ‘Legs if steel’. I’ve been back a few times since and loved it. It’s such a stunning ride up on resurfaced roads and four hairpins. No back pain this point and I felt very strong.
Shouted at one of the marshals asking where the next feed station was (hadn't stopped for a break at this point) and found out there was a water station coming up, food was a lot further ahead. Did a water bottle check, all fine so I carried on.
Of course I missed the third and last feed station. I didn’t really want to stop anyway but how very typical! At mile 82 both water bottles were empty so I stopped briefly to fill one up with water, other with electrolytes, quick pee and back on the road.
Psychologically I knew the rest of the ride was going to be even more fun as we were getting close to Kingston, again roads I know quite well. I particularly enjoyed cycling through Raynes Park and Wimbledon (right past my flat) then up Wimbledon Hill, down Parkside then Putney. I was psyched as my american buddies say!
Crossing Putney Bridge meant one thing; the finish was at touching distance. This is when I looked at my wristwatch and thought I might be able to come under 5h 30mins. No malfunctions, punctures or excruciating back pain so I decided to give it a big last push and pedalled as fast as I could down by the Thames.
I remember cycling for about 10minutes thinking why it suddenly got a bit hard. No one came past me for a while and it felt like I was pulling a ton behind me. I turned back and saw about six seven drafting behind me. Then finally a guy pulls up next to me and thanks me for the speedy ride and apologised for the ‘train’.
It wasn’t a race I kept telling myself, don’t get upset instead I felt quite flattered!
Finishing at The Mall was just epic. I looked at my watch and knew I did a decent time. I called my friend Nick who was going to pick me up, he hadn’t even left Wimbledon thinking I was going to be another couple of hours, told him not to venture into central London and twenty minutes later I was on the tube on my way home with Rocket and the a finisher medal.
Later that day (after some pizza of course) found out I did it in 5:19:47 which I think places me in the top 10% of the women. If I’m lucky enough to ride it again next my goal is to come under 5hours and have as much fun as I did.
I would like to say a big thank you to all my friends who chipped in, you made it possible for me to get to start line. Love you guys, you were in my heart and thoughts all day.
Alex
X


[the look on my face when I saw my finishing time..]
Stage 19, L’Etape du Tour Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to La Toussuire, Sunday 19 July
21st July 2015
When I read the big yellow sign by the side of the road saying “Even Contador’s legs are hurting” I had to chuckle. This was one of the motivational messages the Etape du Tour organisers came up with to get the riders push through the 6.5 - 10% climbs.

In numbers:
140km
4,609 meters of climbs
4 challenging mountains
15,000 riders

As you will see on Friday the 24th of July when the Tour de France riders race there, this is a stunning but brutal stage in the French Alps. Did I know this when I bought a ticket in January? Nope. ☺

I also didn’t know how much time I could spend in France après the Denali climb when I started arranging flights etc so decided to keep it a short flying trip.
At 5.30am on Saturday bike in the box, gels piled in my hold luggage and with a friend, we headed to Gatwick to fly to Geneva. Things went pretty smoothly until we got into heavy traffic in the rental car on our way to the race village at the finish line in La Toussuire but fear not we tucked into our pre-made power pasta dish my friend made the night before. Getting to village was quite exciting; we had to drive up the last hill I was going to do the day after on bike. Surely it’s a different route up?!
Just when we got there and parked the car, heavens opened and started chucking down. Still had to register, get my race pack and put the bike together and once we were sorted we didn’t hang around for too long, still had a 40min ride to find the chalet I booked. I was quite restless that night and only slept a couple of hours but Sunday morning I felt fresh like a daisy!

My starting time was 7.56am but wanted to make sure I was there as early as I could to find a decent spot in the pen. Thought the organisers did a great job letting 15,000 cyclists safely through the start!
There wasn’t much time to warm up the legs before Col de Chaussy, almost straight into (well up on) hill number one, a 15.4km climb with average gradient at 6.3%. Despite a lower back pain which developed half way up I really enjoyed the first challenge and couldn’t wait for the sprint, this also meant first climb and descent out of the way. Riding downhill felt it was never going to end but I guess if you cycle up a hill there’s only one way down!
After a 30km flat-ish part the route started curling up again, through cute little villages first. I asked for the time from a fellow rider who admitted he came back the third time to conquer Col du Glandon and Col de la Crox de Fer, the two peaks latter at 2067m. This was also roughly the time when rain was due but somehow the temperature was getting higher and the sky bluer. It was obvious then we were going to have a fab day. It helped mentally as I prepared for rain and wet roads (the weather forecast predicted heavy rain and thunderstorms even a day before!) I needed to think positively as my back was giving me a pretty hard time during this climb. I had no chance but to get off the bike and stretch my back, jump back on the bike and continue up the hill. I started seeing riders walking by the side of the road with their machines and I knew I would only do that if I was really very desperate. And then suddenly, about 5km from the top my bike felt as light as a feather, back pain gone and legs went into racing mode. I got to the top of both Glandon and Crox de Fer sprinting on the climb overtaking bunch of riders. Absolutely loved it.


rolling into the feed station, top of Col de Crox de Fer 2067m

A very long and technical downhill followed where I am not very confident (always something to improve on) but managed it without falling off the side or riding into others in one of the millions of hairpins.
We had another climb to push up to called Col Mollard, at the top fresh bottled water was waiting for the half cooked and thirsty riders. I grabbed my GPS from the front of the bike and went to fill up my water bottles, not wanting to waste time I got back in the sadly and continued riding, another descent. I heard a cracking noise and when I looked down at the handlebar about 10 minutes later I noticed I forgot to put my tracker back. Oh, so that was perhaps the crunchy noise, oops!! This downhill section went past the chalet I stayed at, must admit I was rather tempted to stop and run in to pick up some painkillers!
Still going downhill, arms stiff, toes numb I knew the next section would be the route we drove on out and into Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. Windy, technical, scary but stunningly beautiful.. I was pleased to see the 50KM to FINISH sign along with other messages like ‘What is 1km in a lifetime” or “Men play rugby, gods cycle”.
And here we go, the last climb. 18km long, from S-J-d-M to La Toussuire, physically and mentally challenging. Weirdly, my legs were feeling great, it was my back that was giving me grief.
At the bottom of this climb I decided to break it down into 6 stops so I can get off the bike and stretch but ended up stopping once or twice only. When I spotted the sign for 3km to the finish, like a madwoman I started sprinting, it just felt natural and amazing to finish strong.
In 2012 Froome famously attacked Wiggins on this climb, well 'attack' is how the media described it, Froome was clearly the stronger climber.
Having done one stage of the Tour, hats off to the Tour riders!



Pasta party was next on the menu before driving back to the chalet where we cracked open a bottle of champagne, went out for late dinner and crashed in bed after 1am. Flew back the following morning, wish I stayed for a few more days to watch the pros!

My friend asked me straight after the ride if I would do it again. Ask me in a week I said, and I will say yes!