LDN to Nottingham return

My recovery time between my first big ride – LDN to Loughborough (and back) was only 5 nights. This time flew by and I was back at work and busy catching up. My body felt pretty destroyed and I needed to find quick ways to recover. A lot of food, water, resting and stretching, as well as a trip to see the fab Mark Hokan at Purus Active Health for a well-needed sports massage.

My body was in pieces, so I was worried about a) the pain and b) the potential warning of my next ride. The good news is, he said my body had gone through a remarkable change in only 1 month and that apart from some to-be-expected muscle soreness, I was A-OK – phew! Thank you for the support Mark and for making me feel more human for my next big ride..

5 nights after I returned from my first big ride I set off for my second big ride, London to Nottingham. I was attending a work conference, CSPN Convention on 13 and 14 March. I was lucky enough to rope in my friend, Kieron Ramsay, to cycle with me from London to Nottingham (although he didn’t need much convincing) and all I needed to do, was cycle home on my own from Nottingham to London. What could go wrong? Find out about my journey…

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11 March – London to Northampton

145km > 7 hours 30 riding time > 19.3km/h average speed > 1,731m elevation

11 March London to Northampton ride

We set off early, around 7.30am after some porridge and lots of coffee. The weather looked to be OK, a bit overcast, slight wind, but dry. I confidently showed Kieron the route to Watford, having done this leg a few times now. The pace was good, faster than what I usually ride and we were averaging around 19km/h. It was great to be able to chat with someone else and share the experience and as a result, time flew by! Part of the route took us down some canal paths, which just got muddier and muddier and slowed us down. We then decided to head onto the roads, but consequently hit a lot of undulating hills, one after the other.

In total, we climbed a staggering 1,731m of elevation, that is almost 3 times up (and down) The Shard. I was enjoying the pace but also tiring a bit quicker than usual, that paired with the hills made the final few hours tough for me. Kieron lives in Sheffield, cycles a lot (as well as blogs about it, read his blog here) so is used to hill riding. Me on the other hand – I still have some adjusting to do!

Once we got to our hotel, we were surprised to meet my husband, Adam Stones! What a lovely surprise, after having not seen him for almost 6 weeks, it was wonderful to catch up and share our cycle stories with someone else. Adam’s mum, Bev and her partner Mick, came and joined us for a celebratory drink, or two – just bliss.

Read Kieron’s blog post about day 1 of riding – Mud, Sweat and Beers – Day 1 London to Northampton.

12 March – Northampton to Nottingham

100km > 5 hours 30 riding time > 18.6km/h average speed > 1,317 calories > 512m elevation

12 March Northampton to Nottingham

After an early night and a comatose sleep, we were the first ones up for breakfast. We ate our breakfast in anticipation, whilst listening to the rain clatter down on the windows. All I wanted to do was eat and eat, drink lots of coffee and go back to bed. Having my husband there and knowing Kieron was cycling with me for the whole journey, gave me the strength to put on my wet weather gear and get back on the bike!

We set off into the overcast and wet sky and headed for the Brampton Valley Way, a long stretch of off road from Northampton to Market Harborough that follows an old railway line and passes through Pitsford and Brampton station and since closing over 30 years ago, has stayed exactly as it was and kept its old fashioned charm. I was nice to not have to battle with motorists straight away, I was tired and a bit wobbly, so the calmness of cycling along a track, through greenery helped me settle into the ride a little better. That said, it was a tough track, very bumpy with lots of rocks and branches to contend with, and seriously, seriously, muddy!

It wasn’t long before we hit the first tunnel – WTF? Yes, a tunnel. We should have guessed but didn’t know how long the old railway line was. At first, it just looked like, well, a tunnel. So I ignored the signs outside and started cycling through it. Within seconds I was plunged into darkness. I couldn’t tell which way was up or down. I was so grateful to have someone else with me! Kieron wasn’t phased, chucked on some lights (he had positioned them on his bag for easy access. Smart, me on the other hand, had them deep inside my huge backpack) and carried on cycling.

I just thought, sod this, got off my bike and walked! It was scary, gruelling, seemed to take forever (it’s 0.5km long) but also exciting and interesting. And at the very least, we were heading toward a tiny circle of light ahead, knowing there was at least a way out. I had to not think of films like the Grudge and just think happy thoughts! Once we were out, we were just laughing and trying to figure it all out. Another 10km on and we approach another tunnel, but this time we knew what to expect and just went for it.

Just past the quiet market town of Market Harborough we were back on the roads. It wasn’t long before we were on quieter roads again, winding our way through middle England. We passed through Leicester and then Loughborough, where we stopped at a service station for a quick break. Prior to us stopping, we had cycled for about 6 miles down a very busy A road. At this point, it was chucking it down and the spray from the bikes and the busy cars was getting us obliterated. I remember looking at Kieron thinking I must be covered in mud and he was looking at me thinking, he must be fine (remarkably my face had no mud on it!). At the service station, someone pointed out to Kieron his face was entirely covered in mud! I mean, it was funny, but also neither of us gave a crap! We tried to clear up a bit and dry off and chucked some food and drink down us pronto.

Nottingham was a sweet 20km away and well within our reach. Moving on, we cycled down some lovely quiet farm roads, sort of parallel with this giant power station. As we were nearing Nottingham, it got hillier and hillier. At this point, my knee began to get really sore, so sore I was crying whilst cycling. Kieron was ace and tried where he could to cycle next to me uphill and push me along!

With about 2km to go, I was just ecstatic. I also knew my husband was waiting for me at the hotel, even better! We arrived, wet, tired, covered in mud and slightly mentally scarred from the tunnels, but – WE DID IT. Adam was waiting in the room with food and a bottle of Prosecco. I don’t think I’ve ever drunk Prosecco that quickly before and within minutes I was all over the shop! Kieron stayed with us for about half an hour, had some coffee and food and got back on his bike to complete the final leg of his journey back to his home town of Sheffield. I had no idea how he got back on that bike, but he did and 4 hours and another 60km later later he arrived safe and sound!

Read Kieron’s Day 2 blog post – Mud, Sweat and Beers – Day 2 Northampton to Sheffield (via Nottingham).

14 March – Nottingham to Northampton

102km > 5 hours 20 riding time > 19.2km/h average speed > 1,349 calories > 412m elevation

At the CSPN Convention itself, I received a warm welcome. Lee Mason, the CEO of CSPN did a shout out about me cycling to the convention and consequently, a lot of delegates came up to talk to me about Powered by Me and find out more! It made me feel extremely proud of what I had done so far and confirmed some of the reasons as to why I was doing it!

CSPN tweet

The second day of the convention, I snuck off a little early (I had 100km to cycle after all) and was thankful to have good weather. I felt OK, a little rested after having not cycled at all the day before and was ready for it! I was heading for the Hopping Hare in Northampton, where Kieron me and Adam stayed on our way up to Nottingham. I felt strong, confident and able.

I cycled through Loughborough (my old University) and stopped off for a quick toilet break in the Pure Gym. I also decided to drop into Halfords to get some bike oil. My chain was crunching and I was terrified it would snap. A bit further south, I cycled through Leicester, past Leicester Square (but not the Leicester Sq I know!) and also past this weird looking bubble building, which looked like a massive grub or cacoon and was the National Space Centre. Have always been interested in visiting, so might decide to stop off one day.

Doing the same route Kieron and I had done a few days before, I knew the final few hours would take me on the Brampton Valley Way and through those tunnels! I made a decision that if, for whatever reason I didn’t have a lot of day light by the time I reached Market Harborough, that I would find a road route instead. Thankfully, I made good time and was hitting the Brampton Valley Way at around 4pm. I had 2 hours left of daylight, so only a puncture or an injury would hold me back.

Two tunnels later, no punctures, feeling tired but OK, I get to my hotel! I was dry, relatively warm and not scarred from the tunnels (which I was so proud I did on my own – well, I had to)! I had a long shower, some snacks and headed down to the bar for a beer and sone dinner. It wasn’t long before I hit the sack, to get as much rest as I could for the longest leg and final day of riding the following day.

15 March – Northampton to London

15 March ride snippet

After some rest and a good breakfast, I set off at about 7.30am for the last day of riding. Knowing I was going to be home that day and that I had good weather ahead, I felt able, confident and up to the day! I made sure I paced myself, as I knew it was a full day of riding. After getting out of Northampton and nearer Milton Keynes, I must have climbed higher, as it became really cold, misty and foggy. I struggled to see ahead, so put all the lights on I had to make sure cars could see me.

A few hours in, the weather became clearer and it was the perfect temperature, little wind and continuous blue sky. It wasn’t long before several hours had passed and I had already cycled over half way. I felt happy, strong, confident and was enjoying it! At around 80km in, I stopped off at the Fred and Ginger in Berkhamsted for lunch. Some pasta, cake and two coffees later, I was ready to do my final 50km. Time and weather was on my side, so I had nothing to loose.

A few hours in and I was approaching recognisable parts of London – Mill Hill, Edgware and just couldn’t wait to see a London bus! Once at Maida Vale I knew I was so close. Another hour later and I was cycling along the super cycle highway alongside the Thames. The sun was shining, I still had the evening ahead and I was so, so happy to see the familiar Shard, which meant I was minutes away from home! I got home at about 5pm, with a beaming smile on my face and my husband to greet me, immediately followed by some celebratory snaps – it was good to be back!

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My first big ride – LDN to Loughborough (and back)

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.

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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

London to Milton Keynes 4 March

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!

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6 March – Loughborough to Northampton

55.9km > 3.26 hours riding time > 16.2km/h average speed > 906 calories > 304m climbed

Loughborough to Northampton ride 6 March

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.

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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.

Is this the way to London.

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!

If you’re inspired by my Powered by Me adventure, please like, comment, share and donate to my chosen charity for March, London Wildlife Trust, just click to donate below, or text PBME93 to 70070 to give just £5.

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