A few months ago Tatia, myself and a couple of friends were round Emma’s house talking about this year’s Relay for Life . If you don’t know about Relay, the idea is for teams of up to 8 people to spend 24 hours with one of their team members walking round an athletics track at all times. Of course it is about a whole lot more than that with the main aim being to raise as much money as possible for Cancer Research UK. Dan, Emma and Julia were on the organising committee so Tatia decided that she would put a team together. Of course I would be on Tatia’s team. Or else 😉
After having had one glass more than was good for me, I came to the conclusion that walking round an athletics track was awfully boring and not much of a challenge. I then hit on the great idea of riding 100 miles instead. Well, great idea it seemed at the time.
The longest ride I had done before was 60 miles and had no idea if I could add another 40 to the total. Still, I had 24 hours to do the ride in so could always do it in two chunks of 50 miles.
As the day approached I would have liked to have been able to say that I had upped my training miles. But no, I plateaued at the 52 miles done in the London to Southend bike ride and 65 miles cycling to Malden back in May . I even took the weekend before Relay off from training. Ah well.
Now being the shy and retiring type that I am, I thought that I would get in touch with the Southend Echo, both to get some publicity for the day and maybe raise some more sponsorship. Well, I didn’t get any extra sponsorship, not sure about the publicity, but I did get my photo in the local paper. So there you are Mr Warhol, my 15 minutes of fame.
On the day itself we arrived at the planned time and struck camp, putting up our tent for the weekend along with the rest of our team, the Rainbow Warriors. I then had to head off and do a bit of last-minute shopping, go back home for something I forgot, then go back home again as I had left my wallet behind. I was finally ready to hit the track at about 4 o’clock. Then the penny dropped, if I was to ride 100 miles in one go, I wouldn’t finish until about 3 o’clock the next morning. So that was it then, it was definitely going to be a ride of two 50 mile halves.
Finally I got underway, thinking the ride was going to be nice and easy as it was all flat with no hills. What I hadn’t taken into account was the headwind along the back-straight gradually sapping my energy and the sheer boredom of cycling around an athletic track more than 400 times.
By the time I reached 50 miles I was really struggling. I had covered the distance in 3 hours, 41 minutes at an average speed of 13.6 mph, which was way down on the time I had ridden the London to Southend ride . I can think of no reason why it took that long other than having to go slightly slower than normal as people were walking around the track as well.
And so it was that I decided to stop for a rest, have something to eat (Tatia’s chilli) and a shower. Everyone would be coming off the track at 10 pm anyway to take part in the very moving Candle of Hope ceremony. As night falls, teams gather together to light the candles and pay tribute to loved ones. It gives everyone a special opportunity to remember those who have been lost to cancer and to celebrate the lives of those who have survived the disease, and is the only time that Relay stands still.
After the Ceremony, I decided to hang out with friends and then get a couple of hours sleep.
And so, at 2:30 a.m. I woke up, trying to drag myself out of my sleeping bag. I just did not want to get back on my bike. I seriously thought about throwing the towel in there and then. All that got me out of bed was the thought of facing the people who had sponsored me and how I would have to tell them that I had wimped out, only having done half the distance I had promised to.
And so I ate a couple of energy bars, washed down with coffee, before getting back on my bike.
I was dreading the moment when my sit bones would hit the saddle, but thankfully it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. A silent disco was being run throughout the night with music being played through wireless headphones and this made a big difference and helped no end with the boredom factor. It was also nice and cool and there was something strangely uplifting, almost spiritual, about cycling in the dark of the early hours of the morning.
When I went through the 60 mile point, things started to ease up. My leg muscles had warmed up again, I only had 40 miles to go and suddenly actually doing 100 miles seemed to be an achievable reality. I had though tried to keep count of the number of miles I had ridden and failed miserably. And having lost count my brain was too numb to calculate how many times I had ridden round the track based on the distance I had covered.
Our friend Liz, crawled out of her tent at about 3 in the morning, asked if I wanted a break and when I said “no thanks”, crawled back in again. After about 70 miles the sun started to rise which was an amazing sight. I can honestly say this was the first time I have the sun rise riding a bike.
As the day continued to break, I went from strength to strength and knew that I was going to finish. Yes my legs were hurting like f*** but it was bearable, I could visualise myself finishing. The energy drinks and bars were doing their job feeding my aching muscles and keeping me going.
Then with five laps to go, Matt and Tom arranged for an announcement to be made over the PA that I had nearly finished and Richard got the crowd to applaud me round the remaining laps. And finally, with a punch in the air I screamed out “100 miles” and slowed to a very grateful halt.
That didn’t last long though as Dan was egging me on to do a final victory lap. Full of adrenalin, I agreed on the condition that he sponsored me for £5, which he did.
And so my first 100 mile ride came to end. I was choked up with the emotion that I feel whenever I complete a long ride like that, but the tears were shed on the final lap out of sight of the finish line. I am sure that I couldn’t have finished without the fantastic support of those who knew why a middle-aged madman in lyrca was cycling endlessly around an athletics track, and offered words of encouragement, asking how many miles I had done and how many I had to go.
The total time in the saddle was 7 hour 38 minutes (excluding breaks) which works out to an average speed of 13.2mph which, I am pretty proud of over 100 miles. I also burnt off an estimated 6,013 calories. This is what 100 miles around an athletics track looks like:
But the thing that really mattered was that I raised £420 in sponsorship money to which the tax man added £110 in gift aid – fantastic grand total of £530.