Ride London – my first ever 100 mile ride

Fitness blogger Tess Agnew reaches the Ride London finish line on The Mall

Wow. Ride London.

What a ride. 100 freakin’ miles! Thanks legs, love you babez.

It was a ride I needed to do for a few reasons, not least the fact that I’d been signed up to two 100 milers in the past few years and never made it to the start line. For Ride London in 2016 – I thought it’d be a good idea to go and break some bones instead. And Velo South 2018 got called off due to bad weather.

After a full on few weeks of work and family-wise, this was a seven hour moving meditation I was excited to do – however much of a sufferfest it was going to be.

Ride London Surrey Hills - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

There are a few things you should do when training for your first century ride

Not all of them I did.

Number one: Follow the training plan helpfully provided by the race organiser. I looked at it a couple of times, panicked about how much more I should look at it and then promptly didn’t.

Number two: Follow a healthy and nutritious diet, practicing fuelling on long rides, including eating and drinking whilst on the bike. I have no problem with eating in general (it’s the healthy bit I need to work on atm),  and I can eat on the bike so this wasn’t a problem for me during the event. Egg mayo sandwiches and nakd bars ftw!

Number three: Get some good long rides in to get used to long hours in the saddle. My ‘training’ consisted of lots of 30/40 milers, the best of which on our gorgeous cycling holiday in southern Spain, some with the club, some shoehorned into family commitments for a quick endorphin fix en route.

A 10 mile time trial, my first crit race, the whole 100 miles of the South Downs Way on a mtb over two days (all of these I’ve yet to blog!), and a bunch of off road therapy sessions in the woods on the full sus was what got me to the Ride London start line last Sunday.

Ride London start line - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

FitBits Ride London closed roads Tess Agnew fitness blogger

The 100 mile course was pretty flat, actually, apart from the three or four peaks mostly around Surrey Hills, with a few undulations in between – Newlands Corner (fine), Leith Hill (not so fine), Box Hill (lovely gradual incline), and Wimbledon Hill, 90 miles in (who put that there?!), with its BLOODY AWESOME crowds.

I felt like I was in the Tour de France on that hill, with people cheering and screaming and clapping their hearts out to get us to the top.

Nice one Wimbledon.

The one thing you don’t want to forget…

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Eat, sleep, ride, repeat 🚴🏼‍♀️ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Can we just take a moment to appreciate the monumental organisation, chaos & confusion that goes into getting ready for #RideLondon 😂 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The bike is ready, kit is ready, fuel sorted, carbs in, sleep imminent. We won’t talk about the forgotten kit & emergency trip to the bike shop 30mins before closing… ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ We will be a bit smug that it wasn’t me this time tho 😇 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Good luck to everyone riding 46 or 💯 tomorrow, let’s be having that medal🏅 . . . #jfdi #ridelondon2019 #prudential100 #ridelondon100 #london #ridelondon2019 #eatsleepriderepeat #oneinamillion #prudentialridelondon #100mileride #happinessproject #thisgirlcan #centuryride #fitgotreal #roadcycling #womenscycling #ridelikeagirl #socksfetish #sockdoping

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I was riding ‘alone’ because me and Chris had put such different estimated finish times (Chris put five and a half hours for his charity place on advice from a friend, whilst I played it safe when I entered the ballot months earlier, guessing seven hours), so our start times were nearly two hours apart.

The faffometer was high for the night-before and ride-morning logistics because of this – getting up a couple of hours apart without waking each the other one and making our own way to the start was one thing. Then packing for the same event but separately, and making sure we left Brighton to stay overnight in London with everything we needed, each having all the tools, food and kit to hand was chaotic to say the least.

Ride London Leith Hill Tess Agnew fitness blogger

The faffometer hit the roof when at 5.30pm, the night before Ride London, Chris realised, after spending the whole day at the Expo where ALL THE BLOODY KIT BARGAINS WERE, that he’d FORGOTTEN HIS WHOLE BLOODY KIT. As in all of it. Shoes and all. The whole bag – left on the sofa with the cats, probably making a nice comfy bed for Fred & George.

After I’d laughed / cried / told him off I thanked God it was 5.30pm and not half an hour later, so he could at least drive to the nearest bike shop in Kentish Town and throw (a lot) of money at them for a complete head to toe new kit. Rather him than me, anyway… 😏

Flying through the first 30 miles

Ride London course through city - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

People had told me that the first 30 miles would fly by, and they weren’t wrong. As the crowd dutifully counted down from 10 with the man on the tannoy for our starting wave to leave, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, or what state I’d (hopefully) make it to the finish line in.

I didn’t really care what time I finished in as long as I didn’t have to go through Bonksville to get there and I was still smiling by the end, making all of the cut offs. My plan was to try to tag onto groups to take turns at wheel-sucking and make the miles go easier, but actually I didn’t really need to as we sailed effortlessly through London’s glorious closed roads at an average of 17 or 18 miles an hour for the first couple of hours.

I didn’t take the GoPro because I wanted to focus on the ride but having all that space, traffic free, and three or four lane carriageways full of cyclists heading into central London was one hell of a treat. People around me whooped and cheered their way through the tunnels like children at play – it really did feel like playtime. Richmond Park was also a right treat and reminded me how far I’d come since the last time I’d cycled there for the 2013 London Duathlon.

A long walk

Ride London crash and congestion - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Our fun came to an abrupt end just as we entered the Surrey Hills, when the first crash ahead stopped play. We had to get over on one side of the road and wait for the ambulance to come through, and were slowly ushered through on foot by the (awesome) marshals to keep the crowd moving.

That was the first one. The standstill provided a good opportunity to have a drink, grab a snack, get to know riders around me, and hope that whoever was injured wasn’t in too much of a bad way.

We got on our way again before another crash a couple of miles down the road stopped us again for another good while. I think in all we were stood still or shuffling along for at least an hour in total.

When we finally got going again everyone was really stiff and took a while to get into a rhythm again. By the time I climbed Newlands Corner and on to the half way Hub I refilled my water, scoffed some crisps, got a photo and said to myself I wouldn’t stop again until at least 75 miles if not more, just to make some headway.

Hills for thrills

Ride London Leith Hill - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Ride London review - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

The next 30 miles were my favourite, with the rolling Surrey countryside and Leith Hill and Box Hill to tackle. I’ve ridden the Surrey Hills plenty of times on a mountain bike, but loved the different perspective of the beautiful winding lanes by road bike.

The approach to Leith Hill seemed to take forever, as we went through Holmbury (some really fun trails up there – Yoghurt Pots, Telegraphs) and the downs were just as much fun as the ups. When we finally got to Leith Hill I was ready for it and loved the slog to the top. I even saw a woman grinding a fixie on the steepest part! And a guy on a Brompton. Amazing. Then I saw a snapped chain on the floor – someone was having a bad day…

Where Leith Hill offered the much-anticipated sufferfest through the trees, Box Hill took in some beautiful views as the switchbacks snaked round the hill. I loved the branding lining the side of the road and spotted the overhead cameras taking candid shots of us all, and before that we went through Dorking who really came out with awesome crowd support from all sides.

Nice one Dorking.

Ride London review - Dorking - Fitness blogger Tess Agnew

On the hills there were no etiquette issues where I was in the field, everyone seemed to get on nicely, faster riders passing on the right (me in my element, joining them on the hills), and slower / steady riders climbing together in the middle, with the odd walker on the left.

There were some hairy moments on the steep descents – some inexperienced riders were drifting over the road a bit which is pretty dangerous when you’re all trying to keep your line downhill. A few ‘On your right!’s and ‘Coming through!’,  ‘Careful!’s later and everyone seemed to get along fine.

Later on in the ride I heard that some of the hills had been closed for some riders due to accidents or congestion (bound to happen in a ride of this size), so I was just pleased to be able to take on the whole 100 miles.

Ride London Box Hill start - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Ride London Box Hill - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Making headway

Apart from a quick loo stop (of which there were plenty), I didn’t stop again until 81 miles, pulling into the Hub at Sandown Racecourse, where I hadn’t been since the Write This Run bloggers event at the 2013 Running Show – who remembers that?!

As I refilled my water and topped up on electrolytes I rang Chris and he’d just finished by that point, so was gonna take a nap in Green Park and wait for me. (Alright for some, eh!) By then I was feeling it but could taste the medal so pushed on for as strong a finish as I could muster.

The last five miles went on FOREVER and I swear the wind picked up!

Ride London review Tess Agnew fitness blogger

The last push

Coming back into London and approaching that finish line was an experience I’ll never forget. I’m sure it’s just the same if not more emotional for London Marathon (one day I’ll do it – 10 years in the ballot without luck!). The crowds picked up and the cheering carried us through to the turn onto The Mall and then I was hit with it.

The flags, the tree-lined finish line and wide open runway to Buckingham Palace. The cheering, the atmosphere, and the knowledge that I rode strong with no visits to Bonksville – not even close. MAGIC.

I’m glad I didn’t take my GoPro, and I’m glad I didn’t focus on getting that ‘finish line shot’ on my phone, instead soaking up the feeling. I think the pro photographers did an awesome enough job of capturing it.

Loved every second.

And NO BACK PAIN! Or leg pain, or anything apart from achey shoulders from leaning on the bars too much in the last 10 miles – some core training will sort that out. Thanks again to Giant Shoreham and Cadence Performance for working their magic to make my road bike fit me!

Read the blog on my bike fit here.

Ride London approach to the finish Tess Agnew fitness blogger

I finished in a daze, got my medal and somehow found my way to Chris in Green Park event village. I *really* wanted a can of coke (best post-ride treat EVER) but the queues for the food and drink stalls were too busy so we had a quick sit down and then rode through horrific traffic back to Tufnell Park where we were staying with friends.

6:53 Strava time, 7:44 official time. 

Could I ride 100 miles? Of course I could. When can I do it again?!

Ride London medal - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

A few thoughts on the event organisation 

Congestion

I know a lot of people have complained about the congestion and yes it was annoying to be held for an hour and have to shuffle along on foot – but with a ride of this size accidents are bound to happen and it’s how they’re managed that’s important.

The volunteers, paramedics and event team did a great job of dealing with everything, managing riders through alternative routes, keeping the flow as best they could, and really, I just hope that the people injured are OK because I know what it’s like to come off your bike and do some damage.

Imagine being that person and knowing that you’re holding up 20,000+ cyclists?

Expo

The expo at the Excel was really good and nice and easy to pick up our race numbers once we were there. Yes the Excel is a bit of a faff to get to, yes the car park is obscenely expensive (£20 for the day whether you’re there that long or not!), but the stalls were great, with a massive Evans Cycles shop to pick up last minute essentials, as well as other retailers too.

I got myself one hell of a bargain on a new Gore Shakedry Trail jacket which I’m so stoked about as have wanted one for ages – perfect for rainy mountain bike trips to Scotland and Wales. We also picked up some sunnies and socks, as well as the usual tubes etc, and checked out some of the talks too.

Hubs & feed stations 

Plenty of toilet stops both in and out of the Hubs – which were brilliant, by the way. Great mechanical support, plenty of toilets, lots of food – bananas, gels, packets of crisps and pretzels, electrolyte tabs, friendly marshals and clear flow of people traffic to keep the crowds moving.

I’m glad someone gave me the tip of taking savoury snacks with me as there would be predominantly sweet things on offer – my peanut butter and egg mayo sandwiches served me well! I can understand how people not in the know about this may come a little less prepared though – for a long ride like that it’s always good to be as self sufficient as you can.

Mechanical support 

There seemed to be mechanics driving the course as well as Evans Cycles roaming bike mechanics, which I saw plenty throughout the race helping riders, and in the Hubs mechanics were provided by Silverline Tools, so all bases covered. I still carried a tube, tools and pump myself so I could fix any punctures myself if they happened (which they didn’t, YAY!)

The ballot is now open for Ride London 2020. And don’t forget, if you’re not ready for your first 100 mile ride there are 46 and 19 mile options too! 
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