• Lulworth Cove Ultra Marathon Trail Race 2018

    Lulworth Cove Ultra Marathon trail running 2018

    Lulworth Cove Ultra Marathon was not only my first ultra marathon, it was my first time doing trail running. I had signed up for a different team event but it was cancelled at the last minute due to safety reasons. I was determined not to let my training go to waste so I went on the hunt for a replacement race. A friend of mine introduced me to the Trail Events Co Lulworth Cove Ultra Marathon trail running race and without hesitation I signed up! Registering very late (three days before the race) meant that there was no time to get apprehensive about it. I just packed my stuff and got down to the south coast. 

    As the horn sounded at the start of the race, my naivety shone through and I hit the front with another chap, albeit at a pretty modest pace.  By about 5km we had settled into a rhythm and a group of about 5 or 6 of us had formed and broken away, inter-changing positions with each km that passed. 

    By 8am the sun was already beating strong and the air temperature was climbing. I had slapped on a load of sun cream before I left but I wasn’t sure it was going to be enough. 

    Lulworth Cove Ultra Marathon running race 2018 trail running

    As soon as the race started, we were into the climbing. I remember laughing out loud at a scramble up from the beach. “I thought this was supposed to be a trail run,” I said to the guy in front of me when we got to the top. He asked me if this was my first trail ultra and when I said that it was, he simply smiled and said “you sure picked a good one to begin with!” I took that to mean I was in for a hard day and he wasn’t wrong!

    The route itself was varied, from coastal path, beach (sand and stone), steps, steep climbs and descents to forest and open country, it had it all! By 21km I felt good and was in about 6th position, which was totally unexpected and I was just waiting for something to go wrong. I didn’t have to wait long!

    At about 25km something didn’t feel right. I had planned on fuelling with solids as they had worked in training and out cycling so I thought I would stick to what I knew. However, in the heat, I just couldn’t face the dry oat and energy bars. So I stuck to blocks and gels which is not an unusual fuel source for me and I was used to them, but something wasn’t quite right.  Whether it was the direct sunlight, high air temperature, or something else, my stomach was in turmoil by 30km from which point I couldn’t keep anything other than water and electrolytes down. But as long as one foot went in front of the other, I kept moving forward: walking up the hills and jogging down and on the flat. 

    And so the kilometres ticked by, unrelenting inclines and unrelenting declines, the downs hurting as much as the ups. Being passed by a few other runners along the course went to both demoralise and spur me on in equal measure. 

    Aside from a couple of navigation errors, the finish line was quickly approaching and with 55km (34 miles) and 2,050m of cumulative climbing complete, I crossed the line and felt an incredible rush of both exhaustion and elation. I haven’t felt that sensation since my first Ironman back in 2014 and the sense of achievement still hasn’t faded... I want more of this!

    ultra running finishers medal

    Having no real benchmark to hit for that type of run as it was my first, and knowing that I wasn’t going to be competitive, I wasn’t too fussed about my result. I finished in a touch over 7 hours and was told I should be pretty happy with that. As it turns out, of the 74 starters I came 11th... I was over the moon!

    Overall, this is a brutal race with some very hard climbing and descending, over a great course through beautiful countryside. I would recommend this race to anyone wanting to really challenge themselves. I know I will be again!

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Transpelmo Sky Race Italy 2018

    Transpelmo Sky Race Italy Race Report Sundried

    Collecting the race number, mainly to be somewhere dry! Monte Pelmo in the picture.

    So here I am at 8am on my holiday sat in our car in the campsite. It’s uncomfortably cold, grey and absolutely hammering it down, and had been since we set up camp yesterday afternoon. Palafavera so far had not screamed ‘holiday’ instead a little eerie, misty, and deserted. The ‘Transpelmo’ signs around the campsite and looming mountains seen during the odd break in the thick cloud reminded me of why I was here.

    tent camping outdoors adventure fitness training running

    Our drizzly camp just before the rain and cloud really came in.

    In that moment looking out the car I had lots of feelings:

    Why did I sign up to a race on my holiday?

    Maybe I’ll just sit this race out; it’s my holiday after all.

    But I’ve paid for it and I never back out!

    There might be a break in the rain...

    But even then do I really want to run up a mountain after 2 days solid of hiking and via ferrata, my legs are already tired!

    Wait is that blue sky….

    And out of nowhere blue sky started to roll in and the rain started to ease off. It was a miracle. The last time that had happened was when we went to scatter my dads ashes, but that's another story.

    I had already read last night that the course had been changed from 18km to 13km (turned out to be 15km) to ensure the safety of athletes and staff. I was disappointed I wouldn’t do what I had set out to, but I had said from the start I was doing this race for the views and experience and I just wasn't going to get the views today. There was still thick cloud up high where the race would come into its own.

    So I headed to the start line for a delayed 10.30am start. By the time I had got there I had stripped off my buff, gloves, hat and waterproof jacket. It was warming up. I became acutely aware that I could be the only English person there as the commentator jabbered away in, what sounded to me, his very passionate Italian.

    start line racing Italy marathon ultra trail running

    At the start line before the jacket came off.

    I was looking around at everyone wondering if I was wearing the right thing, was I carrying too much, where would I end up in this pack when I crossed the finish line? I was very happy my boyfriend was there to smile at me and look at me with utter confidence. I could do this, and I wouldn't be last.

    The Race

    And we were off! I started at a decent pace running through tonnes of mud on the start line, onto a road, through the campsite, and straight up a very steep trail. Looking ahead I could see everyone was hiking not running. It was single file with the occasional 2-3 wide. Through the trees it was wet, muddy, slippery. Tough. And this continued for around 2.5km. I hadn't had chance to study the alternative route so all I could think was when I get to 6.5km then it will be mostly downhill. During this 2.5km there were times when I thought ‘I don't think I can do this’ but I never stopped. My head wouldn't let that happen. My legs were screaming from being put to the test for the third day in a row. (You can't taper when in Cortina, too much to do and see!) But it was temporary, pain is temporary.

    Finally the terrain started to ease off, we popped out of the trees and we had a couple of kilometers of fun running! I got into my stride and we were on a path. I seemed to be running at a similar pace to one green-striped guy whether we were going up or down, and he had a good running style so I decided that I would do everything I could to stick with him. The incline came again but this time I didn't mind as we were almost at the 6.5km mark and what I thought would be halfway. All I had to do was stick with my green-striped guy. I started to enjoy the mix of terrain, leaping across rivers, mud skating across wooden bridges, jumping over rocks. My head was entertained, even if my body hurt. There would have been some spectacular views at points along here. But whilst mother nature had spared us from getting wet (bar our feet and legs), the mountain would not share her views with us today.

    beautiful mountain scenery Italy racing running

    One photo I had to take when there was a pocket of sky in the cloud.

    And then suddenly we were going down hill. Boy were we going down hill. I had managed to hold my own in the pack on the uphills and undulations, but tearing down grassy banks, muddy trails with tree roots I was not mad keen on. An injury here would put an end to the rest of our holiday plans. Seeing a guy get carried through the woods back to safety was a stark reminder of this. Don't get me wrong I went for it, even going for a slide at one point, but I stuck to my race and my green-striped guy disappeared. The pack had thinned by now and I just started to have the best time. I felt so alive dodging, side stepping, everything was happening so fast all I could do was be in the moment and react to what lay before me. This is what living is. This is what makes trail running so special.

    After some time I found myself at a feed station. Having not eaten anything yet I took some chopped up banana and at a slice of apple. After all we were 9km in, only 4km to go and all downhill, or so I thought. Back up hill we went. It felt relentless. A few guys shared some words with me which I assumed was something along the lines of ‘what are we all doing here?’. But choose to do it we did, so finish it we will! Unlike the first incline, this one I was able to deal with better with it being close to the end. I even started to overtake people by running whenever the incline tapered. I caught up with my green-striped guy. I'd given up guessing how far the race would actually be and just focussed on making it to the finish as soon as possible.

    3km later we descended back into the trees much like the terrain at the start of the race. Very steep, muddy and single track. I could sense we were nearing camp. I was getting tired when I popped out of the trees and saw my boyfriend. He quickly warned me of a particular muddy trap which I skirted. I stifled the tiredness and started to hit the accelerator. There was a girl about 100m away and I wanted to catch her. My legs pushed harder, my breathing got heavier, and the gap was closing. On the final U-turn up and over the tunnel to the finish she saw me right on her tale and she kicked. Whilst I didn't make it past her, I love the feeling of leaving nothing in the tank at the finish line and mentally thanked her for the chase.

    I couldn’t help smiling ear to ear when the commenter shouted “Sophie Kennedy!!!” in a wonderful Italian accent as I ran under the clock. I had made it! My first race overseas at elevation. And guess what happened 15 minutes later.... It started to rain.

    running ultra marathon trail hiking Italy mountain

    Over the finish line.

    Lessons learnt

    1. Because of the weather right up to the start of the race, I carried my buff, gloves, hat and waterproof in my running vest. I didn't need any of them. I could say I shouldn't have taken them, but I saw how quickly the weather changed and how cold it had been. With more experience of the mountains and knowing my pace I may have been able to make a more informed decision.
    2. My legs were so tired at the start of the race from previous days’ activities. I wouldn’t have not done these activities, but I would avoid this again if possible!
    3. Less ‘learnt’ more ‘confirmed’ - I love the trails! (And sometimes the weather is on your side.)
    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Ironman Switzerland Zurich 2018

    Ironman Switzerland Zurich Running Finish

    My first Ironman.

    3.8km Swim, 180km Bike, 42.4km Run

    The build-up to my first Ironman was a mixture of emotions from nerves to excitement and a constant mind full of questions whirring round in my head.  The last few weeks training before the taper were the toughest and as my children broke up for the summer holidays, the routine became more difficult to manage.  Nevertheless, I made it to the start line having clocked up thousands of miles in training.

    My husband and I arrived in Switzerland on the Thursday and already there was an Ironman atmosphere. Zurich was beautiful but extremely hot. On the Friday, we walked down to the event village to register. I suddenly felt in awe by the whole experience.  Registration was easy enough and so was spending money in the expo shop.  I picked up my bike which had been shipped over by Ship My Tri Bike – a very convenient option and I took it for a pre-race test ride.   The roads were amazing but my legs felt like jelly, however, everything with my Argon was in working order which was a relief.  Following the ride, I somehow managed a big rookie error turning up to the French rather than English Race Brief – this didn’t help with pre-race jitters.  In an attempt to manage my nerves I decided to go for a swim recce of Lake Zurich.  The lake, although beautiful,  was vast and much choppier than it looked – very different to the lake back home.

    Saturday was a fairly chilled morning pottering around Zurich, trying to keep off the feet as much as possible.  The afternoon was spent back the event village racking my bike and hanging my red and blue bags in transition ready for race day.  Ironman events have a very different way of doing thigs with the various bags. This requires some careful planning and consideration, but works very well on the day.  I took pictures in transition to help visualise the entries and exits, and also took note of landmarks to help find my bike – transition was enormous with bikes packed very tightly and close to one another.  Next time I was going to be in transition it would be race day – finally time to take on the challenge that had consumed so much time and emotion in the prior months.

    After some sleep and a lot of awake, the alarm went off at 4am.  There was a nervous atmosphere at the hotel during breakfast. Lots of acknowledging each other but very little conversation.  After coffee and some food,  we walked the 30 minutes to transition.  I couldn’t believe I had made it to race day.  Walking down was eerie and the streets were a mixture of Lycra clad triathletes and the last of the revellers from the night before.

    Arriving at transition, I quickly heard that it had been confirmed as non-wetsuit. The size of the challenge ahead suddenly became very real and it took all my efforts to control my emotions at this time. My husband and I walked to the swim start where the atmosphere was surreal.  One thing that was very noticeable was the ratio of men to women – I suddenly felt very small.  I seeded myself towards the back of the normal swim pen, adding an extra 10 mins to my expected time to reflect the non-wet suit swim.  My goal for this event was to complete (not compete); and being non-wetsuit I wanted to find my own space.  The race quickly started as the athletes were allowed in the water 8 at a time at 5-second intervals.  Off I went into the water.  I broke the swim down into the individual marker buoys and soon I settled into a rhythm.  It was a one lap course and the back straight seemed to go on forever.  As I made the final turn I have never felt more relieved – I had almost made it out of the water!

    3.8km swim time: 01:31:43

    Ironman Switzerland Zurich swim Lake

    As I exited the water, I ran into T1,  changed into my bike stuff, found my bike, oh dear the chain was hanging off….  It had obviously been knocked as someone had taken their bike.  I managed to get it back on and off I went.  I had been looking forward to the bike the most in the build-up.  The course was 2 laps and started off flat before taking on some climbs in some of the most stunning and picturesque scenery I have seen. 

    Unfortunately for me, I just couldn’t settle into my usual zone and I quickly became very uncomfortable.  I was struggling to stay aero as my chest felt restricted and my neck was very tense.  This wasn’t going to plan.  The support on the course was fantastic – especially on Heartbreak Hill which was like cycling through a section of the Tour de France.  It was also where my hubby was giving me a much needed boost. 

    As I entered onto the second lap, the temperature was rising (35 degrees); and it became more of a mental battle than physical.  I felt nauseous and was having to force nutrition down to try and stick to the plan.  The next couple of hours were brutal and after 6 hours and 18 minutes on the bike I made it back to T2 feeling pretty awful.

    180km bike time: 06:19:46

    bike cycling Ironman

    I am not 100% sure what took so long but after 8 minutes in T2 I set off for the marathon.  Up until recently, the run has always been my favourite and strongest discipline.  This was not the case on race day.  Every time I ran I felt sick, not helped at all by the heat.  The support at the aid stations was superb and they were 100% geared up for the blistering temperatures, giving out ice and cold sponges.  Despite this, my body had different ideas and I was sick every few minutes making it very difficult to settle into any rhythm. 

    I knew now it was going to be a very long afternoon, but there was no way I was giving up – I needed to revert to a different strategy.  Walking in a race was alien to me but I knew that I had to find some strategy to get me round, so I settled into running for as long as could and then walking for 3 minutes  (whilst throwing up)! 

    Eventually I made it round the first of the 4 laps which rather cruelly takes you past the red carpet and the finish line.  Seeing that and the atmosphere at the end gave me the motivation to keep going.  My husband was incredible on the run and kept surprising me by appearing in places which kept me going.

    Finally, after a very long and painful few hours, I made it to lap 4 and the end was in sight..  Off I set for my final lap of Zurich…  the last couple of kms felt like they took forever but in the distance I could hear the finish line music and being able to collect my fourth band was an amazing feeling.  I managed to run the last few kilometres and as I entered into the finish shoot the emotions came flooding in.  I saw my hubby in the crowd and heard those famous words – Leanne James – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.

    42.4km run time: 05:26:42

    I had made it, finishing in 13:32:46.  It was a long way from where I had hoped to finish but I didn’t care.  I burst into tears as I met hubby while the events of the day sank in.   We then enjoyed the finish line party and it was extremely emotional watching everyone finish their race… all with their own stories and experiences.

    A couple of weeks on and it has been great spending time with family and friends with only light training before starting the next block in the build up to IM Weymouth 70.3 and also the ETU Duathlon Championships in Ibiza.

    Would I do another Ironman? Absolutely.  I learned so much from this race, especially as I am still relatively new to the sport, but for now I will stick to the 70.3s.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Alpe d'Huez Triathlon 2018

    Alpe d'Huez Triathlon France Triathlete

    As the T-shirt says: 2.2km swim, 118km bike, 20km run, 21 bends, 1 legend. The legendary race – Alpe D’Huez triathlon.

    What made me do it? Heaven knows. My friend Simon said he had signed up. But then again many of my friends regularly signed up to similar stuff and that has never really swung a decision for me to do, for example, an Ironman.

    I had been thinking of spending some summer training time in the Alps. I knew I was nowhere near adequately prepared for it since I’ve only been training for standard distance triathlon. However – I had completed the Marmotte cycling event and therefore knew what it was like to climb the Alpe D’Huez after a long bike ride, albeit 6 years ago. And I have recently completed a long mountainous sportive in the Pyrenees, although I would never even have considered a run afterwards. My longest run since Brighton marathon in April 2017 was about 13km, and certainly not at altitude. 2.2km swim – well that should be the easy part although apparently the water could be very chilly.

    So I entered the race a mere 3 and a half weeks before race day. For most people, that would be nearly taper time. I managed to fit one long hilly bike ride in and a “long” run of about 13km.

    Alpe D'Huez Triathlon

    Race Day

    It was HOT in the Alps. Temperatures were over 30 degrees Celsius. We were lucky – as we racked our bikes they announced that the water temperature was just over 18. Perfect – I won’t start the bike course with numb feet.

    Amazingly as I was racking my bike I saw an old triathlete friend – which really made me appreciate what a small and wonderful community this is.

    After racking my bike I went for a last minute loo stop – only 6 portaloos for about 1000 athletes and no chance of loo roll. So I gave myself a 10 minute before race start cut-off for queuing. Still had to get the wetsuit on, so was one of the last to enter the water.

    By then the start line was 8 or 9 deep at least and there was literally nowhere to “go wide” for a clear swim, what would be my usual strategy, so I just had to suck it up.

    French Alps Triathlon 

    The Swim

    Well, it sucked me up, almost literally. It was near impossible to even start swimming, and around the first buoy I had to just stop and lift my head up, and find my way out of the crowd, because I was going nowhere, the washing machine had taken over. Arms and legs everywhere, in a very disorganised fashion. Which made me think I should remind my head coach that this is why we need to teach people to swim properly with good technique, because everyone will have a much better day for it.

    So I swam wide, very wide. A fellow swimmer decided to draft on my inside, side-by-side, and in doing so he kept pushing me further out, clearly not looking where he was going. I found it very annoying to say the least, I guess it’s a free for all, but he clearly wasn’t thinking, just doing. So I lifted my head up and bizarrely he did too and I said angrily shouted at him to get off me, which I think miraculously worked, or perhaps he was just getting tired. After that ordeal I found myself swimming side-by-side with a fellow athlete going at exactly my pace, good technique all round, holding his line, joy, until we lost each other around the last buoy.

    Swim done, up the very steep blue-carpet-over-big-rocks ramp into transition, still undecided as what I was going to wear. My tri suit alone would be pretty uncomfortable for a 6 hour plus bike ride in the heat, I’ve only ever worn well cushioned shorts on long rides, and nope, I’m not an Ironman athlete. So I put on a pair of shorts over my tri suit, and decided it was worth digging into the wetsuit bag again for another layer of sunscreen! Didn’t have tri shoes since I preferred the comfort of proper cycling shoes, but I did put on a pair of running socks in anticipation for the run, since I only brought my normal trainers which would most certainly give blisters without socks.

    The Bike

    So off I went on the bike. Knowing that this was my worst swim in a race ever, I was very surprised as I climbed the little hill out of transition to look into the lake below and see many many swimmers still in the water and some only starting their 2nd lap of 2.

    But, as usual on the bike, it felt like the WHOLE of the field came past me in those first few kilometres, perhaps 100 overtook me for every 1 I overtook. The first bit was quite fast downhill and flat, but knowing how ill prepared I was for the race, I was never going to push too hard, at any point. So I just let them go.

    Then we hit the first climb. Beautiful, lush, green, overshadowed by tall trees, we passed a beautiful waterfall twice. It was a long climb though – 14km with a gradient of 7% in most parts, no mean feat.

    Then, after about an hour, I reached the summit. I stopped for water, but there were too many people and not enough water at the ready, so I decided to continue, but didn’t quite know how far to the next water point. So when we rode through a little village shortly after at the start of the second climb, I spotted a fountain and decided there and then to risk hopefully clean mountain water over running out of water. Thankfully the second climb was fairly short.

    Descents! The only part of a race where I truly overtake other cyclists – just love them. The feeling of flying, the freedom, the how far can you risk it going round a bend. Every time I saw a sign “descente dangereuse” I got just a little excited.

    Down through the valley and, have I mentioned the breathtaking scenery? Before the third climb there was a stop with sunscreen. I decided it was time to top up. So I asked the French lady who spoke no English and she literally covered me from head to toe in more sunscreen, and she did all that with the biggest smile ever! Who said the French weren’t nice?

    Then, the climb. It started out very gradually and got steeper at the top. It was very exposed and temperatures were soaring by this time. It was gruelling! People were now at the point where they were stopping, getting off their bikes, stretching their legs out; the distance we have done, the heat, the effort, starting to take its toll. But, somehow, I made it through, slowly but surely. Then, another absolutely gorgeous descent, the final one of the day, before the ultimate climb, the famous Alpe D’Huez.

    Pen on paper will never do this climb any justice. The only way to put it, is, it’s relentless, no letting off. The 21 switchbacks wind their way in one direction only – up the mountain. After 5 you look down and catch a glimpse of how far you have come in a relatively short space of time, knowing that you’re not even nearly halfway there. The big difference between this and the other climbs is – the traffic! Tourists, supporters, large trucks, all making their way up the mountain, the noise being quite disturbing, but with some gratitude to the supporters playing their music and shouting out their windows “allez allez allez” and “bon courage”. There were a couple of water stops – where the locals were quite happy to drench weary cyclists in water from the hoses, a nice relief on an otherwise hellishly hot climb (according to Garmin maximum temperature of 40 degrees), which provided but short-lasting relief. My heart sang when the signs pointed out that only 10 of the switchbacks remained – over halfway there. If I had the energy I would have done a little dance, but alas, this day was not over yet.

    And whilst climbing the scary thought going round my head was – after this gruelling ride there was still a 20km run to deal with, something I had never done before after such a ride. By this point I had made a pact with myself to make it to the finish line, even if I had to walk the 20km, so I resigned myself to start the run by walking, and see how I felt.

    Finally, the final switchback and the end in sight. Very relieved to have made it to T2 I changed into running shoes, donned a visor and started the walk. My legs were not feeling great at this point. But, after a couple of hundred metres, I managed to find the energy to jog slowly. I decided another top-up of suntan lotion was in order, this time I had 2 people tending to me.

    The Run

    There were signs at each kilometre and it was a 3 – lap run, so I just started to break it down to myself, at the first turning point I thought, 1/6th of the way there, after 5km, a quarter, and so on. I walked whenever I needed to (mainly on the uphills) and sometimes when I didn’t even need to. It was late afternoon on top of the mountain, and thankfully a little cooler. My stomach started cramping but it was bearable. Chatting away to fellow runners along the way, appreciating the wonderful French support, it all made the time pass fairly quickly even though in reality it was my slowest ever 20km by a very long way. I was surprised that the altitude didn’t have an enormous effect on me, I barely noticed it, but it could be due to the slow pace. Finally, the last turn into the finishing straight. I ticked off a couple of women who had come past me in the last lap, and decided I’d do my best to finish strong. And then, the finish line. I knew it would be emotional, and it was. I hugged a couple of fellow athletes, and was very very pleased to see my friend Simon waiting just beyond the barrier. As it turned out, he started late due to having to go back to the hotel to pick up his forgotten bike shoes and helmet, and didn’t manage to catch up enough to make it to the top of Alpe D’Huez before the cut-off time. I was gutted for him!

    Back to T2 to pick up the bike. I could barely consider getting back on the bike, even though it was only a wonderful descent back to the hotel. Eventually I did though, and it felt like the reward to the day, cycling down the Alpe D’Huez, in a stunning sunset setting, the road to myself, going as fast as I dared, feeling the freedom. The best possible way to end the day.

    Race Triathlon Triathlete

    As I cycled and ran all the teachings from this experience were circling in my thoughts:

    • Unless you're perfectly prepared for an event – pace yourself appropriately, don’t get carried away by what anyone else is doing.
    • Good advice from a fellow athlete: “tough it out”.
    • Know your strengths and abilities, but more so, know your weaknesses and limitations, and work within that.
    • There is no shame in walking.
    • Running socks are actually not very comfortable in cycling shoes.
    • Wear sunscreen.
    • The French are actually very very nice, despite popular opinion.
    • Get to the race early enough to cater for unforeseen eventualities.
    • Find your place in the swim start, preferably before the swim start.
    • Sometimes, just sometimes, do something out of your comfort zone that will challenge you mentally, physically and even spiritually.
    • Train properly for the event you will be doing.

    About the author: Christine Lutsch is a Team GB Age Group triathlete and Sundried ambassador.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Prudential RideLondon 2018

    Prudential Ride London 2018

    Sunday 29th July 2018 was the day of the annual Prudential Ride London - Surrey 100 mile sportive. I had entered it months ago and was adamant I would still take part even though I was due to go into hospital the following day for a procedure.

    An early start time of 7am meant I had to be in Stratford at the start by 6:15am. Leading up to this day, the weather was scorching hot with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius, however race morning saw the most rainfall the country had had in months!

    Minutes before my wave started, the heavens opened. I was cold and miserable before I even started! Thankfully, once we started the camaraderie amongst the riders and the shouts from the very committed supporters really got me in a positive mood. I actually started to really enjoy myself and was pushing an easy, steady rhythm at 19/20mph. I made a decision early on that I would try not to stop due to the weather. I knew fuel-wise I was okay, but water-wise I may not be, I would just have to see how things went. 

    Leading up towards the hills of Surrey, I started cycling with a lad from Leeds who was holding a similar pace to me. This really helped as we could work together to hold onto the back of packs of other riders. Before I knew it, we had cruised through the 50-mile mark at an average speed of 19.5mph.

    Prudential Ride London 2018

    Then we started hitting the hills! Leith Hill was first and by far the hardest. There were a few nasty accidents and as we heard in the press later, a fatality at Leith Hill. It was easy to see how and why accidents happen: the roads were wet, gritty, slippy due to the lack of rain and there were 100s of cyclists - some more experienced and patient than others - all trying to get from point A to B in the quickest time. They say it’s not a race, but every cyclist out there had their own target, so it becomes a race against the clock or your own goals in some respect.

    Descending down from Leith Hill I lost my ride partner as I was more comfortable descending at speed than he was, so I held on to a few new riders as we approached Box Hill, the last of the big climbs in the Surrey countryside.

    Although my legs were hurting, I was loving it! My love for cycling has really come out over the winter when I started cycling with the lads from Essex Roads CC. They really push me over 3-4 hour rides and I literally get home and fall into a heap exhausted but the fitness improvements have been huge from this weekly ride!

    Coming back into London, the rain was still falling and the roads were starting to get busier as we approached the meeting point on the course for the merging of the 19, 46, and 100-mile courses. There were lots of stop/starting at this point and lots of nasty accidents where people had cycled into bollards or curb-sides etc. The rhythm started to get interrupted a bit at this point and the legs were starting to feel heavy! The last few miles went past in a daze and before I knew it, I could see the finishing arch on the Mall. I pushed on and found I finished in a time of 5 hours 34 minutes, which smashed my own target of 6 hours! I was so chuffed but now I suddenly realised I had to cycle back to the car in Stratford...those 7 miles really hurt!

    About the author: Louise Douglass is a Team GB Age Group triathlete and Sundried ambassador.

    Posted by Guest Account