A month or so ago, I wrote a post called A cry for help. This post shared both my fear and excitement of my first few big rides. This post, tells the story of my first big ride from London to Loughborough return.
Why was I going to Loughborough?
I needed to be in Loughborough on 6 March to interview potential Marketing and Communications interns to join our team at London Sport. I was lucky enough to rope in my colleague Amy Hewick to ride with me to Loughborough, as she was on the interview panel. Amy is training for a bike ride this Summer from North to South France, so this was the perfect opportunity for her to train, whilst using her bike to travel to her destination.
4 March – London to Milton Keynes
95.4km > 5.10 hours riding time > 18.4km/h average speed > 1,758 calories > 514m climbed
I set off solo at around 7.30am, extremely nervous for my first big ride, but excited too. The weather was OK, quite windy but dry. Getting out of London was OK, as I recognised the route from London to Tring due to the training ride I had done the weekend before. After Tring, it was all new and I began to follow the Grand Union Canal during some of the ride. Parts were pleasant, others just too difficult to cycle on due to the tow path, paired with mud slowing me down.
Thankfully I got to my hotel at around 4.30pm, and when checking in realised the gym across the road had a pool, sauna and jacuzzi. I didn’t even have a swimming costume, so forked out £20 just so I could lie in the jacuzzi for an hour! After some dinner and a good nights sleep, I was ready for day 2 of my ride.
5 March – Milton Keynes to Loughborough
145km > 9.2 hours riding time > 15km/h average speed > 2,569 calories > 847m climbed
I had a good breakfast, put on my wet weather gear (forecast was bad) and attempted to set off. My bike had a flat tyre, the look of horror on my face must have been priceless. Never before had I repaired a puncture before, so I kept my cool, and began to repair it. By this point it was raining hard, which made it even more difficult. I managed to get the inner tube out, tried to find the puncture and just couldn’t. Racking my brains I checked the tyre and saw there was a small piece of glass in the tyre and part of the gel poking out of it. I didn’t have a spare tyre on me, so the next option was to find the nearest bike shop open on a Sunday and get it sorted as quickly as I could.
Thankfully I found an Evans cycle shop open inside the Milton Keynes Xscape Centre. They saw me straight away and changed it within about half an hour. I got a coffee, waited and look on enviously at hundreds of runners milling about the centre preparing for a running event. All I wanted to be was one of them, free of a bike, loads of kit and things to have to sort out like punctures! By the time I was on my way it was 11.10am, I had got up at 6am and was meant to be meeting my colleague Amy in Daventry for lunch at 1pm, for us to then continue our ride to Loughborough together. Despite the problems I had faced, I just kept on thinking to myself; pick yourself up, continue on, and you’ll get there when you get there!
The head wind was just awful and the rain just continued to pour. That paired with signs increasing in distance the closer I got to my destination (seriously, just ask Amy as she saw the same sign!) drove me slightly mad. By the time I met Amy in Daventry, it was 3.30pm, she had been there an hour and was looking a bit traumatised from her wet and windy journey from Oxford to Daventry which took her longer than she had anticipated. I had a quick bite to eat and we set off for Loughborough, just laughing about the situation to keep ourselves entertained, it was all we could do!
At about 5.30pm and at the thought of darkness hitting soon, Amy decided to cycle to the nearest train station (Rugby). Without any lights and getting colder by the minute, she wasn’t able to carry on. I was so close to going with her, but decided to continue on, on my own. I needed to do this, get to Loughborough by bike and practice cycling at dark, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to build my confidence for future rides. It was 8.30pm by the time I got to our hotel in Loughborough. Truly broken, cold and hungry, I was happy I had got to my destination in one piece, but was delirious to say the least. Amy had ordered us Pizza and I hopped in the shower to warm up. After some food and a well deserved beer, it was time to hit the sack!
6 March – Loughborough to Northampton
55.9km > 3.26 hours riding time > 16.2km/h average speed > 906 calories > 304m climbed
After our interviews had finished, I got back on the bike to make my way down south, at around 2pm. The weather had cleared up and the sun had come out. About an hour into my ride, I took this picture. A beautiful snap shot of riding alongside the canal, through a country park, without a motorist in sight. It made me feel tranquil and happy to be riding on a Tuesday afternoon.
This tranquillity lasted about 20 seconds, as I began to slow down and looked back at my wheel to see I had a flat….NOOOO…not again. To get through it I just stayed calm and began to do what I needed to do. I was so grateful that another cyclist called Mike and his grandson Alfie stopped to help. Mike must have been in his 70’s but a keen cyclist, knew what to do. It took us a long time to locate the puncture, but once we had, repaired it and put all the pieces back together. I was on my way again at around 5pm, but already knew I was losing a lot of light and had many more miles ahead of me. So, again, it was more night time riding, thank god I bought a head torch! At about 8.45pm I got to my hotel, cold, wet, tired and emotional. After something to eat I cried to my husband about how hard this challenge was, sometimes you just need to let it out!
7 March – Northampton to London
132km > 10.3 hours riding time > 17.2km/h average speed > 2,243 calories > 744m climbed
After a good nights rest I felt a bit better and ready to tackle the final day of my journey. Physically and mentally I was ruined, so did everything I could to ensure my mind was thinking positively, so I could carry on. The wind was still quite fierce, but thankfully it was dry, and knowing I was going to be home that day made me just feel great and ready to tackle the day ahead. About half way in, I was riding through these woodlands to join the canal path, and found myself heading for a dead end. I just had to put this on Instagram and ask if this was the way to London! Sounds silly, but the humour was the only thing getting me through.
At about 6pm, I finally made it home, back to South East London. I was just ruined, but was so pleased I had made it from London to Loughborough and back, in one piece. It was on hell of a ride, with two consecutive days of punctures, testing my boundaries physically and mentally. But I knew I needed to do these big rides, to ensure my body and mind adjusts for the many more big rides to come!