Wiggle Essex Explorer 2013 – First Century

Date: 19th May 2013
Distance: 161.2km
Average speed: 26.6km/h

I decided it would be a good idea to try a big event before RideLondon, so that I was a bit more prepared about what might be in store. Doing 100 miles beforehand would also mean I would be less worried about it, as well as gaining experience of riding in groups. So I entered the Wiggle Essex Explorer sportive.

I ended up ordering the Ribble before the event, so that I could better replicate the RideLondon experience – I had always planned on buying a new bike before, so it seemed like a good time to do it. I only had it for a couple of days before the Essex Explorer, but it rode beautifully compared to the Carrera TDF.

The ride went in an anti-clockwise loop around Essex, starting and finishing just outside Shenfield. It was a nice day for it, sunny but not too hot. I remember taking it easy to begin with, getting tows from various groups. However, I made a mistake after about an hour – I had been riding with a couple of blokes when a rather large group overtook and shot off into the distance. I was feeling pretty good at this point so decided to try and catch up. I failed miserably, and was left on my own with no-one in front or behind. I didn’t want to look stupid so soldiered on until I eventually did catch up with another group, but I had burned quite a lot of matches at this point.

It started to hurt around the four hour mark – my earlier efforts were starting to catch up with me and I slowed to a crawl at times. Thankfully there was another rider who was also struggling that I’d seen several times before that day, and we started riding together for a while to try and keep each other motivated!

After the third feed station I was feeling much better (although I had a pretty numb bum when getting back on the bike!) and was able to speed off, with my former partner’s blessing – apparently there were some hills further on which he was not going to be good at so he suggested I go ahead to try and beat the silver award cut-off at 6 hours 30 minutes. The hills were not too bad really and I was able to keep going, eventually finishing with a time several minutes inside the silver cut-off. I was very happy about this, and my companion also came home a few a minutes later also inside the time.

I enjoyed the event very much and would go on to participate again in 2014 (although it had a completely different route). I felt it gave me some much-needed experience of riding events and I think my RideLondon ride was all the better for it.

First Half-Century

Date: 17th February 2013
Distance: 82.7km
Average speed: 23.9km/h
Link to ride on Strava

After getting a place in the ballot for RideLondon, I thought I should definitely step up my training! I started off in Stanford-le-Hope at my in-laws, and did a loop going via Basildon, Billericay and Brentwood before coming down and completing a few mini-loops around Linford. This took me just over the 50 mile mark, half the distance I’d be doing that August. I remember being absolutely knackered – the route included Langdon Hill which is a steep hill and easily the hardest hill I’d faced up to that point. My average speed for the ride was just under 24km/h (15mph), which was OK but I’d have to get a bit faster as my target for RideLondon was 6 hours, which would require an average of 16.6mph. My hill climbing also needed a lot of work, what with having to face Leith Hill and Box Hill!

I ended up doing this loop a few times in training, thanks to my in-laws for helping look after the kids! Several times I was out in the rain and snow, several times I did wonder ‘why am I doing this?’!

Southend Bikeathon 2012

Date: 2nd September 2012
Distance: 59.3km
Average speed: 25.3km/h

One of my initial targets had been to complete the Southend Bikeathon, which was 27 miles in length. I thought this would be testing, but by the time I got to September I had already been on rides exceeding 30 miles. Given that the Bikeathon route was fairly flat, I was now more concerned about my performance rather than whether or not I would actually finish!

I rode to the start and there were a couple of hundred people there, of varying abilities. There were quite a few on road bikes with much more expensive equipment than me! I started in the third or fourth wave, and got going quite quickly, overtaking almost everyone who had started in front of me (which would be expected as most people were on mountain bikes).

The main thing I was looking out for was people overtaking me, but that didn’t happen 🙂 The route involved two laps of a 13.5 mile route, and I was one of the first to complete a lap. This of course meant much more overtaking on the second lap. I made very good time and when I got to the end the lady giving me my medal told me I was the first one to finish. I didn’t think that was right as there was at least one person I’d seen who hadn’t stopped at a feed stop, but it wasn’t a race anyway.

I enjoyed being on the road with so many other cyclists, even if I was a bit too fast for the event by this stage. I definitely finished in a much faster time than when I did it in 1996!

First 10 Miles

Date: 15th April 2012
Distance: 18km
Average speed: 23.4km/h

Before I became aware of The Rules, and everything was measured in miles, my immediate target was to do 10 miles. I thought it would take a while to build up to this, given how long I needed to recover after my first ride! My training consisted of cycling small loops near home, building up by going a little further each time.