The alarm went off at 4am and then promptly back onto snooze for the next hour as we stirred and tried to get every inch of rest that we could before what was about to come.
At 5am we woke I made our porridge and tea with the hotel room kettle which eating it as we pulled on our layers and put our days supplies in our pockets. Numbers already attached to our jerseys we headed with our bikes to the train station for the first leg of our journey.
Arriving at the Olympic park at 06.20 with a load time of 7.20 gave us plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere. Situated next to the Copperbox arena were large lorries ready to take our belongings to the finish line. The sun was just up and the park was filling with eager excited looking cyclists wearing a multi coloured array of jerseys many representing the charities they were riding for. It was truly inspiring to think about how much money was going to be raised by friends and family supporting the 15,750 cyclists who were about to start an epic journey of ups and downs, twists and turns, through London and Surrey on the same course, which a year earlier saw elite cyclists from across the globe compete in the Olympic road race.
The time seemed to fly by and although it was early morning on a Sunday I had bags of energy and enjoyed listening to the commentator as each load of cyclists was sent through the start line. It was soon our turn and what had felt like an exciting prospect suddenly hit me as a daunting one.
The furthest Martyn and I had cycled was 38 miles during training and we were about to do 100! That suddenly seemed like a large leap and I felt sick and concerned about not being able to finish. I was used to nerves at the start of races but had never felt like this before, my stomach was tying itself in knots and as we edged closer to the start line with our bikes it felt very real!
Load ‘S’ went off to the sound of The Jam playing and I knew we were next. I don’t recall what was playing as I was too busy trying to focus on not stacking it into the other cyclists around me as we all pulled through the start.
Riding up through London on closed roads was an invigorating feeling, all the worries and nerves seemed to float away and I knew we would be fine.
We had talked about needing to keep an average speed of 14mph to finish in our predicted time of 7 hours 20 minutes. As I expected, we went off at a blistering pace around 21/22mph for the first couple of miles before we settled down to a more comfortable 17/18mph, still above what we wanted, but the crowds seemed to be pulling as along and it felt effortless. We were both buzzing on the high of what a truly special occasion this was.
At 14 miles we stopped for the loo and water stop which took longer than expected due to, as always, a que! We got back on and again set a fast pace as we caught up and over took people who had overtaken us whilst we were stopped.
We carried on drafting from time to time and cycling next to each other. It felt almost naughty taking up the whole road, cycling on the wrong side of the road and running every red light. Whilst biking through Blackwell Tunnel everyone was whistling and cheering, it was a atmosphere ill never forget and we all shared the experience together.
Coming up through Richmond Park the wind felt very strong and we took it in turns to draft one another so we could rest, this worked really well and I was so happy to have Martyn there as company and support.
At 22 miles the Garmin sadly cut out, so from then on we were data blind. We kept checking with other cyclists around us on the time and distance as we had devised a strict eating strategy for each hour and had enough snacks to last us until the end. Our snacks consisted of peanut butter and jam sandwiches, Eat Natural bars, High 5 and SIS energy drinks, bananas, Clif energy bars and most importantly jelly babies!
Leaving London and moving out into Surrey we talked about the hills to come and decided to take it slow and steady and then give it another burn once we were back in London. The view changed from streets lined with houses and spectators to open fields and trees. As we meandered our way through small villages there were crowds of on lookers shouting and spurring you on up the next hill, the landscape had changed but also the road surface, we were now on pot hole watch and passed lots of people with punctures!
We turned a corner and were greeted by a large hill. Not knowing what to expect we were puzzled as to whether this was Box Hill, it turned out to be Newlands Corner which we found out at our stop at the top at the Hub where we again refuelled and used the toilets.
This was also nearly the half way mark at, 45 miles and at 11.00 put us an hour ahead of the broom waggon, which was the bus coming along to pick up people not able to make the 9 hour window to finish the race, this was a relief and meant we could take it easy for a little while knowing we had time.
The next large obstacle came in the form of Leith Hill nick named ‘lethal’ by our fellow cyclists. The hill was narrow and full or weary cyclists now on two feet pushing their bikes. I stayed in the middle pushing upwards, Martyn’s tactic was to cut up the gutter, this was working well until the person in front of him stopped forcing him to also stop. I carried on up and soon Martyn back on his bike was motoring up the hill to the top. Leith Hill was steep and seemed to go on for ever, it was a relief to get to the top and was thrilling going down the other side, it felt so fast even with my brakes on the speed just seemed to gather!
Going down was fantastic, but I was very aware that all this down meant there was a lot of up to come, in the form of a three hair pin bend called Box Hill. I had heard people talking about the three bends and relayed this to Martyn. We decided to go at our own pace. The start didn’t feel so bad as the large decent carried you part way up the first of the three bends that was until yet again we were met with a wall of cyclists! I lost Martyn as he seemed to have a boost of energy and sprinted away up the hill. I soon caught and over took him but waited after the second bend and we rode the last one together.
At the top we took a quick refuelling stop and admired the view before making our way onwards and again upwards. After Box Hill I felt sure London was not far away, we had covered 70 miles and were feeling slightly weary but generally good.
At Esher the refuelling station was at Sandown Park race course where we got High 5 Mojito flavour energy drink, my now personal favourite, it seemed to give me a spike of energy and again we picked the pace up. The sign for 90 miles eventually came just before Wimbledon. The scenery once again changed to houses and shops and spectator’s waving flags and shouting, this perked us up and we rode faster carried again by the crowd. The JDRF supporters were great and really screamed and shouted it was an awesome feeling.
The last 10 miles were a blur. We pushed the pace and kept each other going through each corner, now out of snacks the conversation, when we could catch a breath to speak, turned to what we should have for dinner?
Coming into the Mall was incredible! I remember watching the road race in the Olympics and seeing the crowds on the TV and this looked just the same, We agreed to sprint and it was like all of the last 99 miles had fallen away and my legs felt fresh and raring to go. We crossed the finish line together emotional and full of pride, we had done it! 7 ½ hours ago we had started on a journey together in the Olympic Park and now it was over standing in front of Buckingham Palace.
Our total riding time was 6 hours 28 minutes an hour quicker than we had estimated.
We collected our medals and goodie bags and sat in Green Park, soaking up the atmosphere for a while before making the journey to the Thames Clipper. This turned out to be a two hour wait so after cycling 102 miles we decided what’s another 10! And cycled back to the hotel.
Our first 100 miles and we are hooked! We want to do more and are hoping to again take part in Ride London in 2014. London to Paris sounds quite inviting too !! Watch this space….