The Wiggle New Forest 100 Sportive: getting across the finishing line

When I signed up to do the New Forest 100 Sportive, organised by sports retailer Wiggle, I was still buzzing from having completed the Surrey 46. I had enjoyed that ride so much I wanted to compete in a similar event before the summer was out.

And so that is how I found myself being chauffeured to the New Forest by Mr London Cycling Diary late one Friday night in September — destination Premier Inn, Ferndown, about 15 minutes drive from the venue at Somerley House, in Ringwood. (The things you do when you have a bike, a crazy idea to ride it 54 miles through unfamiliar territory and a willing enabler.)


When the next morning dawned it was warm (if not particularly sunny) and dry, the kind of conditions that are perfect for cycling. Well, that’s what I thought.



When I eventually hit the road (after queuing for at least an hour to get to the start line), I realised I hadn’t factored in the wind; this event was going to be bloody hard work. It wasn’t exactly blowing a gale, but because much of the route was on exposed heathland there were a lot of crosswinds threatening to take the bike out from under me. And when there weren’t crosswinds, there were headwinds. And when there weren’t headwinds there were blustery winds. And… well… you get the idea.

The scenery, of course, helped compensate for the difficult cycling conditions, although I could have done with a few less hills.

I loved cycling through vast open heathlands, tall pine forests, small villages and productive farmland. I lost count of the number of free-roaming animals I saw — sheep, ponies, cows and even some big black and white pigs grazing by the roadside — but by mile 40 or so I was feeling more knackered than I had expected to feel at that point and the only scenery I really wanted to see was the finish line.

I had a burning pain in my left shoulder that wouldn’t go away and my energy levels had plummeted to zero. I’d basically bonked. And I was no longer enjoying the ride.

Fortunately, I had two cherry-flavoured gels in my pocket to give me a much-needed boost. Normally, I avoid gels because consuming them feels too much like swallowing thick snot, but these got me through the last 10 or so miles. And when I eventually turned in to the Somerley estate, with around 750 yards to the finish line, I went like the clappers — if only to fool all the onlookers into thinking I’d been riding at that speed for all of the previous 53 miles!



I have to be honest and say I was disappointed with my time (the official one is a lot longer than the 4:03 my bike computer recorded because it factors in the time I spent and the drink station), but it was a great feeling to reach the finish in one piece!

And the medal and t-shirt, provided by Wiggle, and the beer, provided by Mr London Cycling Diary, at the end made it all worthwhile.



Total distance: 53 miles | Ride time: 4hr 23min 58sec (including stops) | Average speed: 13.2mph

Less than a week to go

So, this time next week I’m hoping I have a happy story to tell: of a 51-mile sportive successfully completed. But as the date inches closer I find myself worried that (1) I haven’t trained properly and (2) the weather’s going to be rubbish. It’s all well and good to cycle 46 miles in beautiful sunny conditions, but autumn has now arrived and while the past week has been unseasonably warm (it was 31C on Thursday), British weather is so fickle it wouldn’t surprise me if it was snowing on Saturday!

Just to be on the safe side, I’ve ordered some “longs” and a rainproof jacket that can be carried in a pocket. Even if I don’t need them and the conditions are fine enough to get away with wearing shorts and a short-sleeved top, they won’t go to waste — a girl can never have enough cycling kit!

On a separate note, I  got up early this morning to do a planned 20 mile cycle, only to discover that when I got to Richmond Park it was bloody well closed thanks to the London Duathalon! I ended up trundling back home, via Holland Park and Shepherd’s Bush, but I only racked up a disappointing 13.5 miles. Hopefully, I’ll be able to squeeze in a couple of longish cycles after work this week: I really need to put the miles in before Saturday’s extravaganza.

Signing up for another sportive

Logo for New Forest 100 SportiveHaving enjoyed the recent Ride London Surrey 46 event so much, I’ve signed up to do another sportive later this month (with a little encouragement from “my driver cum mechanic”, Mr LondonCyclingDiary).

The Wiggle New Forest 100 Sportive is held across the weekend of 24 and 25 September, and there are three different distances to choose from. I’ve gone for the short (and no doubt easiest) option — 51 miles — rather than the full on 100.

I’m looking forward to cycling through some pretty woodland landscapes and not having to worry about working out my own route: I can simply follow the signs and enjoy the ride.

I’ve booked a cheap hotel nearby for the night before, so I don’t have to get up at stupid o’clock to drive the two hours from London to the start line. I’ll still have to get up reasonably early, but at least it’ll only take 20 minutes or so to get there.

The only thing I’m slightly concerned about is the weather. It’s all well and good to cycle 46 miles through London and Surrey in lovely summery sunshine, but at the end of September it’s bound to be autumnal — in other words, cold, wet and windy. I supposed it’s a good excuse to buy some new cycling kit, if nothing else…

Prudential Ride London 2016: cycling the inaugural Surrey 46

Map of route
Map of the route, as recorded by my Garmin phone app

I needn’t have worried so much about RideLondon Surrey46. I didn’t sleep in. I didn’t miss the VIP breakfast. I got in my wave load area in good time and I cycled 46 miles without incident – no crashes, no flats, no energy lows to conquer. In fact, I did it so fast, I shaved more than an hour off my guesstimated finish time. All round, it was a superb event — well organised and fun — and I finished it feeling absolutely elated. Sign me up for the next one, please.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I had a few “wobbles” along the way.

Cycling too fast

The first? The pace over the first eight to 10 miles was super-fast, catching me entirely by surprise. I initially put the speed down to nervous energy — we’d all been waiting so long in our wave zones that the tension had built up and it needed to go somewhere. (For instance, my wave loading zone opened at 7.31, closed at 8.06, and then it took an hour to move oh-so slowly and in intermittent fits and starts to the line for our starting time of 9.02, by which time we were all desperate to jump in our saddles and begin turning the pedals!)


But I think the fact we were cycling on closed roads had something to do with it too. For the first time ever I didn’t have to worry about the cut-and-thrust of motorised traffic – I was free to cycle across two lanes (and often more), so if I found myself getting held up by a slower cyclist I simply moved across and overtook them without fear of being run over by a van or a bus travelling at speed. While I did have to watch out for fellow cyclists coming up from behind, I never felt that I was putting myself at risk by being on the road — quite a novel experience, I must say.

That combination of excitement and freedom meant I rode at a pace far above my usual cycle commute, which tends to average around 11mph (17.7kph). In fact, I did the whole 46 miles at almost 15mph (24kph), so the fast pace wasn’t restricted to those first 10 miles.


Profile of Surrey 46
Profile of the Surrey 46 route, courtesy of the Ride London website


Climbing hills

The second “wobble” was confronting my fear of hills. If I was a professional cyclist (you can stop laughing now), I would not be a mountain climber (nor a mountain descender). I honestly don’t know how they do it without both their lungs and legs exploding. Having looked at a profile of the Surrey 46 route (see above) in the days leading up to the event, there were two hills that concerned me: Sawyer’s Hill in Richmond Park (about mid-way through the cycle), and Wimbledon Hill, in Wimbledon (just eight miles from the finish).

I’ve cycled up Sawyer’s Hill, a long sweeping incline, many a time, but I tend to avoid it wherever possible because it’s such an energy-sapper. In recent weeks I’ve made myself go up it a handful of times while on training runs — but it wasn’t something I enjoyed. As for Wimbledon Hill, I’ve walked up it a lot on my lunch-time strolls, but I’ve never cycled it. It’s short but very steep, and there’s a little kicker at the end, which I’d been warned about. I’m happy to report that on Sunday I climbed both hills without having to get up out of the saddle. I think this is largely due to Mr London Cycling Diary giving me a mini lesson on gearing the night before, so that I knew exactly which gears I should be in as I approached the hills (rather than clunking my way through them mid-ascent and losing momentum). That preparation seemed to work a treat — or maybe the sheer “high” of taking part in this event meant I didn’t even notice the pain!

Accident on the road

The third “wobble” was coming upon the aftermath of a crash in Kingston-upon-Thames, at about the 25 mile mark. There was a man lying prone on the road and he was being attended to by volunteers. It was hard to see what had happened and how serious the accident was. I remember thinking, “I hope he’s OK”. Then, having done a loop of the town, I had to go past the man again. There was no longer any question about the seriousness of his injuries: an ambulance was in attendance and a paramedic was giving him CPR right there in the middle of the road, while cyclists cautiously whizzed past and spectators lined the street. (I can still see the up-and-down nature of the paramedic’s body over the cyclist’s as they tried to pump life into him.) I told myself not to look. And even though I caught but a brief glimpse of what was going on, I got so upset I had to force myself not to burst into tears and to just concentrate on my own race.

For the rest of the event I kept thinking of the poor man. You attend a sportive to have fun in the great outdoors, you never once consider that you may die while doing it. It was a sobering thought. (I’ve since discovered the man, 48-year-old Robin Chard, had a heart attack and died later in hospital. He was raising money for cancer research and his fundraising page currently tops £63,000, a wonderful tribute that I hope his family can take some comfort from.)

Some high points

Putting that sad note to one side, how about the high points? Well, without sounding like a terrible show off, finishing Surrey 46 wasn’t as physically demanding as I had imagined it would be. My cycle training paid off, as did a positive mindset. The distance was pretty much perfect (I only stopped once, for a pee and a water top up at Richmond Park). My legs remained strong throughout, I didn’t get the usual sore bum and I never once wished the event would hurry up and end, thoughts which have entered my mind at other similar, but longer, events! I felt some soreness in my back at around mile 40, which worsened the closer I got to the finish line, but pretty much disappeared as soon as I entered the Mall for those last few hundred yards!

The best bit — aside from cycling on closed roads — was seeing so many spectators lining the route offering their support. Whether it was residents sitting in deck chairs on the footpath outside their homes ringing cow bells, or great throngs of charity workers in brightly coloured t-shirts, clapping and cheering us on, or the random people who spotted my cycling top and shouted “GO SKODA!”, or the volunteers waving their yellow flags like rhythmic gymnasts and blowing their whistles to warn us of danger ahead, it all added up to a rather wonderful and upbeat atmosphere. The people of Kingston should be given special mention, too, because they came out in droves to lend their support. It almost felt like the London Olympics all over again.

I must also thank Skoda for giving me the ticket to ride (and the top). And a very BIG thank you to all the volunteers (there must have been hundreds of them) and the organisers. Everything was so superbly managed — from the start line to the finish — that there was no need to worry about anything other than turning the pedals and keeping your eyes on the road. And the goodie bag — and medal — at the end was a lovely surprise! It made cycling the five miles home all the more easier…

And finally, thanks to Mr London Cycling Diary, who got up at stupid o’clock on Sunday morning to drive me to the Olympic Park so I could fulfil this crazy cycling challenge — and for that valuable lesson about using my gears properly!

At the finish line on The Mall © Marathon Photos
At the finish line on The Mall © Marathon Photos

Total distance: 46 miles | Ride time: 3hr 16min (including stops) | Average speed: 14.7mph

One day to go…


Six weeks ago I got back on the bike, after a very long absence, with a view to getting myself cycle-ready for  RideLondon Surrey46. I had planned to document my efforts here, but, as they say, life got in the way, and now here I am, just a day away from tackling a 46 mile sportive wondering what I’ve let myself in for…

I spent the first few weeks riding my commuter bike just to get back into the swing of regular cycling. Then, about three weeks ago, I dug out my road bike (below) and had to get used to cycling all over again. That’s because the whole feel of the bike is different — the position is different, the gears are different, the brakes are different — and it’s quicker and lighter and “twitchier” to handle.

My road bike

Mr London Cycling Diary even put new puncture-proof tyres on it for me (an early birthday present), which has taken away my fear of what-the-hell-do-I-do-if-I-get-a-flat? I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, but I’m not the most mechanically minded and I could just see me being stuck on the side of the road somewhere not even knowing how to take the (quick-release) wheel off!

Of course, I could still get a flat, and on tomorrow’s event I’m taking spare tubes and a repair kit — just to be on the safe side. (Not that I will know how to use them…)

So, anyway, I’ve been trying to cycle to work at least twice a week, often three times, and in the past fortnight I’ve been returning home via Richmond Park, doing a couple of mini laps, just to clock up the miles. It’s been a great way to wind down after a long day sitting at my desk editing copy. I’ve also been doing a longish cycle every weekend.


My legs have really been feeling the extra exercise…especially my quads. I also have a (minor) problem with my left calf that seizes up overnight, but I’ve been massaging it with oil from Neal’s Yard, so it should be OK tomorrow (I absolutely swear by the Ginger & Juniper Warming Oil, which loosens everything up almost immediately, and it smells gorgeous too).

There’s not much more I can do now to get ready… I’ve got my rider number, helmet and frame stickers all in place (I had to collect them from London Excel, out in Greenwich, yesterday). I’ve packed my little under-seat saddle with the aforementioned tubes and repair kit, as well as eye drops, spare contact lenses, medicated wipes, lip balm, anti-chafing gel, electrolyte tablets (to put in my water bottle) and nutrigrain bars. I’ve got my outfit ready to pop on in the morning, including a VIP pass, courtesy of Skoda, that entitles me to a free breakfast at the starting line at Queen Elizabeth Park.

All that’s left to do is to try to get a decent night’s kip and not sleep through my 5am alarm clock! Wish me luck.

Getting my cycling mojo on once again


On Sunday I got back on my bike for the first time since last September. According to my Garmin, my last cycle was 15 September 2015 when I cycled home from work. Little did I know that when I put my bike back in the “shed” that evening it wouldn’t be used again for nine months!

I stopped cycling because I was unwell: I went to Australia for a few weeks in October and when I returned what I thought was a really bad case of jet lag turned out to be something else. I was constantly light-headed and felt on the verge of fainting 24/7. I also had heart palpitations and felt discombobulated and “foggy” most of the time. It was so bad in the morning that I changed my hours at work so that I could get a seat on the tube. It was horrible.

My GP ran a series of blood tests and the results showed I had a severe vitamin D deficiency (I was “bone deficient” — vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium). I was prescribed a three-month course of mega-high dose of Vitamin D3, but it took at least six weeks before I felt “normal” again.

By that time it was early January — and the middle of winter. My job was also up in the air and I lacked motivation to get the bike out again.

Fast forward five months and I finally found a reason to start cycling again: RideLondon Surrey46. This is a new event — a 46 mile round trip from London to Surrey — being run as part of the Prudential RideLondon cycling festival at the end of July. When I was offered a free place by Skoda in exchange for blogging about my experience I figured it was a brilliant opportunity to kick-start my cycling after such a long hiatus.

With just six weeks to go until the big event, I got my hybrid out of storage on Sunday and plotted a route to my new job (I left my old one in Southwark at Easter and now work in Wimbledon). It wasn’t easy. The cycling itself was fine — I’m relatively fit given I walk a minimum of five miles a day — but my sense of direction is crap, and I kept taking wrong turns or missing turns so that it felt like I spent as much time at the side of the road checking Google maps as I did on the saddle turning the pedals!

And doing it on a sunny Sunday afternoon probably wasn’t the best timing. The traffic was bumper to bumper on the busy A roads and because parking restrictions are relaxed on Sundays, there were cars parked on the (few) cycle lanes along my route. What should have taken me about 40 minutes took me an hour.

The route back was slightly quicker because I now knew where I was going, but I have to say it wasn’t exactly pleasant. Cycling in the suburbs of south-west London isn’t quite as cycle friendly (and enjoyable) as heading from west London into central London. At least a third of my old commute was through parkland; my new commute (which is roughly the same distance) is through narrow suburban streets. It’s going to take a little while to get used to…

But still, I’m pleased I’ve taken the plunge. Now to get back into the habit of doing it regularly. I’ve got to get myself in shape quite quickly if I’m going to successfully tackle 46 miles on 31 July.

Total distance: 16.7miles | Ride time: 1hr 54min | Average speed: 8.7mph

Crafted Classique: a 100km sportive through the Suffolk countryside


Am I heading in the right direction? Where is everyone?

These were the thoughts buzzing through my brain as I cycled along a relatively straight and unusually quiet stretch of road. I hadn’t seen a soul for the past five miles and I was beginning to wonder if I might have taken a wrong turn.

I was about a third of the way through the Crafted Classsique, a 100km non-competitive sportive through the Suffolk countryside, and the road ahead was completely empty. Ditto for the road behind.

But no sooner had I stopped to take a photograph (see above) and to check Google maps on my iPhone, than six cyclists whizzed by. It seemed I was on the right route after all.

Taking the plunge

Taking part in the event was something I’d been looking forward to for about six weeks. In July I’d been approached by Crafted, the event organisers, to ask if I’d like to take advantage of free registration, and after mulling it over for a week or  two — Was I fit enough? Could I get a new road bike in time? Would I be able to get to the start line by public transport? — I decided to take the plunge.


I had the option of two routes: a 100mile or 100km (64mile) route beginning and ending in Ipswich and taking in Woodbridge, Wickham Market and Orford. I opted for the shorter ride knowing I’d successfully completed the same distance during London Nightrider in June, so I knew I could go the distance. The big question was, could I do it on a ride bike with relatively little time to get used to a new riding position?

As it turned out, I could. Despite my thigh muscles seizing up at about mile 45 and my back beginning to ache a few miles after that, and the fact I was doing the cycle  alone, not in a team taking it in turns to ride into the wind as many others seemed to be doing, I was surprised by how quickly I completed the event. According to my bike computer, which only records the time my wheels are going around — in other words, not the times I stopped at traffic lights or got off my bike to stretch my legs, have a drink and a bite to eat — I completed it in 4 hours 42 minutes.

This was far below my “guestimated” time of around 6 hours. And far, far, far below the time it took me to do London Nightrider, which was bang on 8 hours. It’s amazing the difference a road bike makes!

Beautiful countryside

There’s no doubt that the best thing about the Crafted Classique was the scenery — a real mix of scenic towns and villages, pig farms, potato fields, rolling green hills, ferny glades, woodland, heathland and lanes lined with 10-foot high hedges and deciduous trees in full leaf.

And the roads were a good mix, too, though sometimes I felt a bit exposed cycling along busy B and A roads alone while Saturday traffic whizzed by at ferocious speed. And there was quite a lot of sand in places, too, a hazard I’ve never had to deal with before. I am grateful to the male cyclist travelling behind me who told me to “pick a line and stick to it” as I approached a huge drift at the bottom of a hill. It proved excellent advice and it held me in good stead for the duration of the event.


What I really loved was cycling along Suffolk’s Quiet Lanes, as they’re called. Not only were they truly beautiful, leafy, green and very quiet — the only traffic I saw was the odd dog walker or pedestrian — but they also provided some respite from the wind, which seemed to worsen as the day went on.

Another challenge was tackling a few steep hills, but the gears on my bike worked a treat and I never felt the barest urge to get off and walk. Of course, there was the odd time I couldn’t have been cycling more than 5mph, but I made it to the top every time and felt a little surge of pride that I hadn’t even needed to stand up on the pedals. Honestly, it’s the little things.

A final push

Admittedly, I hit a metaphorical wall at about the 45 mile mark. I’d been cycling incredibly fast (for me) and at one stage I was on track to complete the event in four hours — I’d made the second official rest stop at the 30 mile mark in just two hours — but the wind and the new riding position was beginning to take its toll. I was becoming increasingly tired.

But with about five miles to go, my heart lifted, knowing I was near the end. It helped that I tagged onto a group of male cyclists (who were on the much longer 100mile route) and challenged myself to keep up with them all the way back to the finishing line. By this time it was mid-afternoon and the traffic in Ipswich was quite heavy. This meant lots of stopping at traffic lights, so if I fell back a bit I would always catch up with the blokes at the lights a minute or so later. I’m sure they had absolutely no idea that I was cycling along with them, but I just want to say thanks for the encouragement!

Thanks, too, to Crafted for organising such a wonderful event. I loved (almost) every moment of it, including the free (and delicious) espresso at the start and the free (and much deserved) beer at the end. The route was well sign posted and took in some beautiful countryside. Perhaps the only real fault was the fact that the second official rest stop had run out of snacks and water by the time I got there — not that it mattered, I’d brought along my own.

It was definitely worth the hassle of taking my bike on the tube and the train, walking 1.5miles through the dodgy back streets of Ipswich and staying in a hotel the night before.  Next year, I might just be brave enough to tackle the longer route — but only if I start training now!


Total distance: 64.1miles | Ride time: 4hr 42min and 55sec | Average speed: 13.5mph

Official ride time | 5hr 26min and 46sec

Thanks again to Crafted for providing my registration free of charge.

Heading to Suffolk for the 100km Crafted Classique

So, this time tomorrow night, I’ll be on a train headed to Suffolk accompanied by an overnight bag and my road bike. That’s because I’ve entered a 100km sportive on Saturday, which is being organised as part of the Ipswich Cycling Weekend.

I’ve wanted to do another cycling challenge ever since completing London Nightrider in June. But most of the events I’d like to tackle are outside of London and because I don’t own a car getting to them is problematic.

So when I was told about the Crafted Classique, which starts and finishes in Ipswich, just a stone’s throw from the train station, I figured it was doable. When I was offered free entry in exchange for blogging about the experience, I promptly booked a train ticket and a hotel room.

I’m really looking forward to the event. I think I have everything I need: a road bike, a helmet, a puncture repair kit, a drink bottle (and electrolyte drink tablets), a supply of snacks, a bike computer (for mileage), an iPhone (for photographs, mapping and Garmin tracking), a power bank (for recharging the iPhone if necessary) and lights (just in case it gets dark and murky).

I’ve been keeping my eye on the weather forecast all week so that I can work out what to wear (longs? shorts? base layer? rain jacket?) and so far it looks like the morning might be a bit damp but the afternoon should be fine and sunny.

It kicks off at 9am — I figure I should get around the course, all being well, in around six hours. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes…

London Nightrider 2014: a memorable way to spend a Saturday night

Tower-Bridge-meCycling across Tower Bridge at 5:15am © Sportivephoto Ltd

Well, I did it: I completed London Nightrider on the weekend and I absolutely loved it.

The thought of cycling 100km, much of it in the dark, while most other sensible people were tucked up in bed — or out partying — might not be everyone’s idea of a fun night out. But for me it was a brilliant experience, and one that I will remember for the rest of my life.

London is my adopted city. I’ve lived here for almost 16 years and it’s really only in the past two or three years that I feel I know it relatively well. I can navigate much of it without really thinking about it. I no longer use a tube map and if I ever get momentarily lost above ground it usually doesn’t take me long to get my bearings.

The great thing about Saturday night’s event was seeing the city from an entirely new perspective. Many of the streets — particularly in and around the City, West End and Southwark — were familiar to me, not necessarily from the saddle of a bike, but by foot or bus, so I can’t say I saw anything to surprise me. But what was new was seeing it in the early hours of the morning, under my own steam, accompanied by hundreds of other cyclists.

Of course, there were bits I’d never cycled before — the stretch from Alexandra Palace to the West End, for instance — that made London feel exciting and new.

The worst bit was cycling up Piccadilly and through the gridlocked streets of the West End at 1am, because the roads were so congested with cars, buses, taxis, motorbikes — and the odd drunk pedestrian. I’ve never seen anything quite so chaotic and shambolic — even on my daily commute during rush hour. This meant the pace was really slow, even with cyclists pedalling in pelatons, so by the time I got to the first break point, at the Imperial War Museum, I was shocked to see it had taken 90 minutes to cycle just 10 miles.

Crystal_Palace_break_point Snack time at Crystal Palace

I was keen to up the pace from there on in. But I was hampered by a couple of things: my bike computer wasn’t really playing ball so I had no real idea of distances and didn’t want to burn myself out, and even if I did want to cycle that bit quicker it was difficult, and sometimes dangerous, to pass cyclists travelling in groups who were cycling three or four abreast. Many of these groups would make random and unexpected stops to wait for friends that had dropped behind. But instead of pulling over to the side of the road, they’d suddenly stop directly in front of you. I narrowly missed about three accidents this way.

By the time I got to Crystal Palace, supposedly the half-way mark, I stopped for a supplied snack (a Danish pasty and a coffee), topped up my water bottle, went to the loo, and texted my Other Half, who was away on a trip of his own, to let him know I was OK and having fun.

It was then a lovely ride back into town — the sky was slowly getting lighter and the birds were starting the dawn chorus, such a magical thing to experience while on the back of a bike, I must say — and as I got closer to Greenwich, wending my way through the quiet traffic-free streets lined with Neo Classical buildings, I kept getting glimpses of the Canary Wharf skyscrapers across the water all lit up in pink and gold as dawn began to break. It was breathtakingly gorgeous.

Tower-Bridge-reflectionsTower Bridge at about 5am

But little did I know that I’d see an even more gorgeous sight when I got to Potters Field, in Southwark, just near City Hall. It was around 5am and Tower Bridge was backlit by the most extraordinary sunrise.

It was low tide on the Thames — in fact, the lowest I’d ever seen it — and the surface was so still it resembled a long ribbon of mirror stretching in both directions. The reflections of the buildings and the pink-streaked dawn sky were completely surreal: it was hard to tell which way was up.

I’d been cycling five hours (with two breaks) by the time I’d got there and I’d felt all my efforts had been rewarded by this spectacular sight. It was eerily quiet and so peaceful — not something you usually associate with one of the world’s busiest cities.

City-of-London-reflectionsA view across the Thames to the Square Mile and Tower of London

At this point there were another three hours of cycling to go, but seeing this while munching on a Tunnocks caramel wafer gave me such a “lift” I felt like I could keep cycling forever.

Photo(20)The London Olympic Velodrome

Before I knew it I was actually cycling the streets of Canary Wharf, swishing through canyons of glass and steel, before entering the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and buying myself a posh coffee at the break point outside the Olympic velodrome. It was now close to 7am.

From there it was time to head back to Alexandra Palace, which meant traversing East London (an area I don’t know particularly well) and up into North London. And then, at 8am, exactly eight hours after I’d started, I crossed the finish line and collected my medal.

I was tired, not so much from the exercise but from the lack of sleep, but elated!

Truth be told, I didn’t find the event as challenging as I thought it might be. I think all my walking and quite a bit of commuting over recent months had really strengthened my legs — they never felt tired and I astonished myself by continually overtaking other cyclists uphill. Perhaps it also helped that I’m more than a stone lighter than the last time I competed in a long-distance ride so was carrying a lot less ballast.

There were certainly a good few hills to climb, but nothing too testing (I never had to get off and walk, for instance), although the final 500m — up to the top of Alexandra Palace — was a challenge. I couldn’t help but think it was a bit cruel to make the last stretch of the route all up hill, especially when you’ve been cycling for almost 8 hours and haven’t had any sleep! But hey, it was worth it.


Through Admiralty Arch and down The Mall at 1.30am © Sportivephoto Ltd


In the meantime, I’m delighted to say my efforts have raised more than £350 for Arthritis Research UK. Thanks to everyone who has been kind and generous enough to sponsor me. It’s not too late to add a contribution: my Virgin Money Fund-raising page will remain open for a couple more weeks yet. As an extra incentive, you could win a trio of Text Classics — simply follow the information on my book blog.

Tomorrow evening I’ll be tackling London Nightrider


The excitement is mounting — and so are the nerves.

Tomorrow I am taking part in London Nightrider, which involves cycling 100km (62miles) around the main landmarks of London, starting at midnight and finishing in the early hours of Sunday morning.

A map of the route can be found here.

My trusty Trek FX has been freshly serviced — and just as well, because the mechanic told me the back axle was broken, oops — and I've got my little bag packed with snacks, first aid items and my camera.

I think I'm physically prepared for the event — I've been cycling fairly regularly — up to four commutes per week, plus a handful of longer 20+ mile trips to Richmond Park — since April.

Plus, thanks to the magic that is my FitBitFlex, I've been walking a minimum of 10,000 steps (or 5 miles) every single day since January 6 — rain, hail or shine — and have lost 8kg in the process. In other words, I'm a drastically slimmed down version of the cyclist who tackled last year's London Mitie Revolution and feel much much fitter than I did then.

While Nightrider is not quite as massive as that challenge (290km/180 miles over two days), I think it's going to be a struggle to stay awake all night (I do love my bed), but perhaps the adrenalin, excitement and novelty of the event will help.

Once again I'm raising money for Arthritis Research UK (an organisation close to my heart as I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in 2008), so, if you're feeling generous, you can donate a pound or two via my Virgin Money Fund-raising page.

In the meantime, wish me luck — and do think of me cycling the capital's streets while you are tucked up in bed tomorrow night. I think I might need to put espresso in my water bottle to stay awake!