So, 2015, what did you throw at me?! Hit 4000 miles for the year? Yeah smashed that! Lose your virginity (this is metaphorically speaking, you'll see i promise!) to the 100 mile club?! Yeah smashed that and some! Climb the Olympic Version of Box Hill 9 times?! Yeah smashed that! Cycled the furthest i have ever ridden in one day to the sum of 143 miles?! Yeah smashed that! On top of this, I cycled through the heart of London for the first time to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and survived, took part in a track session at the Velodrome whilst commuted every day on my trusted Specialized Tarmac to work and back.
The mentality to do not don't can be applied to many things in life and there is nowhere more evident in sport than cycling. The opportunities a bike can open up for you are endless. Spurred on through friendship and playful banter by my cycling companion Ali (@RouteSurreyUK) we set out this year to complete challenges set by ourselves and overcome our own demons. My main cycling gremlin was to join the 100 mile club. In the previous year at a Wiggle Sportive in the Surrey hills, I failed by 10 miles as I hit the dreaded wall (not literally obviously otherwise this would be a completely different themed post posing questions like who built that wall in the first place?!). Ali had soldiered on to complete the sportive when I made the depressing but honest decision of calling it a day and taking a short cut back to the sportive HQ. He even cycled home after to rub wet lube in my dry chain (poor substitute for 'salt in the wounds'!). His challenge to me was to become one of them, one of the familiars, those who can stroll through 100 miles as easy as Lance buying EPO from Superdrug (I assume you can get it over the counter these days!?).
As Richmond Park is very close and the 7 or 8 (depends on who you talk to, Garmin Gary or Strava Steve!) mile circuit would be ideal to brush that chip off my shoulder. Monotonous yes but continuous and I'm not far from home if I ever think sod this, I fancy a Sunday roast! Early start beckoned for the sole reason that time was on my side. Getting up 7am on a Sunday, my mind was set on proving a point, I could join this club. But I was also ready to accept that maybe my application to this fraternity would be denied because my legs just said no, its too far for us, lets go home. Now at the time, I wasn't too clued up on nutrition so I had 2 full bottles of juice, 3 gels and a protein bar. I would learn through future challenges this would need to be addressed.
Riding into the park on a fresh but sunny morning seeing many out already bursting round the park gave me a feeling this could be a good day but also reminded me that my goal was unlike any other rider in the park that day, doubt there was another cyclist about to ride around the park 14 times just to settle an old score! Settling into a comfortable pace was relatively easy, the surface of the road is generally good all round so no need to jump the pot holes of the common road, just needed to conserve energy on the lumps of the park. Broomfield Hill and Sawyers Hill are the 2 main climbs, nothing alpine or Grand Tour Level but for an everyday Joe who's been mentally bullied into feeling that 100 miles might be a bit too much for him, it will hurt at some point.
First 60 miles or so was fine, setting a pace I could maintain, not pushing myself on the 'hills, always conserving energy. It was at this point, I was bursting for a pee so thought it was also a good point to consume the protein bar I had brought with (the energy gels were taken at 1 hour intervals I believe or when ever I felt like I needed it). 20 miles left, the bricks in the wall were starting to build and I could feel the cement starting to thicken (thinking about it, it was probably the lactic acid, that would make more sense). My conservative pace though seemed to pay off as that last lap round (I had alternated laps clockwise/anti-clockwise to offset boredom) brought an inner smile to my soul. I will let you into a little secret, the 14 laps round did not accumulate the full 100 but the short ride to and from the park jumped the mileage up to the magic number.
When I arrived home, I glanced down at the Garmin (there is no twist here and the battery died so you can throw that cruel thought out of your head!) 102 miles was the final mileage count. A sense of personal pride filled me up and there was only one question remaining regarding this particular challenge; 'where's my badge Ali?!'
“The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine.”