Yesterday, myself Harriet and Aurore all took part in the London to Brighton cycle, in 30 degrees of heat. It was so difficult. I struggle with too much heat as it is, but fighting through the hills and miles on a bike was such a challenge. We set off from Ashford at 6.30am. None of the coffee shops were open that early and I can’t function early without coffee so I started to panic. Luckily there were a group of station staff all dressed in Lycra, on their day off, who were also doing the challenge. They each had a coffee cup in their hand and very kindly offered me a cup from the staff room coffee machine. I realised at that point that I actually have a real addiction to coffee.
Harriet and Aurore met me at the station and we got the train to Orpington, we then changed and got the train to Brixton. From Brixton it was about a 10 minute cycle to Clapham Common. We had just enough time to have a wee, take the ‘before’ photo and then before we knew it we were setting off.
London was quite congested because of the traffic lights. A lot of roads were closed off which helped but it did take a little while to get out of the city. It felt like quite a long time before we were pulling into the first stop at Mile 10. I kept thinking about a nice cold can of coke, it was all I could think about for the first 10 miles. You can imagine my disappointment when I got to Mile 10 to find they didn’t sell anything other than sports drinks and water. We sat and had some snacks and then we were off again, planning to meet at Mile 20.
Mile 20 was quite a big place to stop however there was no where to sit in the shade, so we decided to keep going until mile 30. There were no cans of coke at Mile 20 either, so I had given up hoping I would find one after this point. Harriet and Aurore both went off ahead of me and I decided to go at a slow leisurely pace behind. The heat was really tough to cycle in and I really didn’t want to exhaust myself too early on in the journey.
As I got to Mile 25 I heard the pop of somebody opening a can, it could have been beer, it could have been canned tuna, I had no idea, I braked so hard I think I almost caused an accident. I was so excited to find cold cans of coke that I didn’t even care they were being sold for £1.50 each(!!!)
I sat on the grass alongside the road and a group of 3 guys came and sat just behind me. I had no signal on my phone so I entertained myself by listening in on their conversation. They were saying that they each bought a bike 3 weeks ago and hadn’t done any training for this. One of them was wearing swimming trunks, so didn’t have any padding. Knowing how much us girls had practised and prepared for this cycle, it is absolute madness that others were so casual about it! I don’t think I could have completed yesterday in one piece if I hadn’t trained as much as we did. The guys all said they were not going to attempt the Beacon and that very few people manage it. At that point I decided I probably wouldn’t attempt it either.
I carried along to mile 30 where I had planned to meet the others. I didn’t have any signal to let them know where I was so had expected them both to have left by the time I arrived. The route from 25-30 was extremely hilly and it took me a while to do those 5 miles. Luckily they were both still there when I arrived. I bought a sandwich and another can of cold coke from the shop and we all sat on the grass for a while. The next stop we agreed to meet at was mile 45, so 15 miles ahead, this would be the last stop before the beacon.
I met Aurore at mile 45 and then we both saw Harriet fly past the stop, not realising we were both there. We set off again soon after and then realised we had gone to the stop just before the last stop, by the time we got to the final stop Harriet had already left. I stopped for a few minutes to have some water and cool down and then I went on to the beacon.
I expected the beacon to be a few miles down the road. I was cycling up a beastly hill which seemed to be never ending. A lady who was walking alongside me as I cycled confirmed that I was on the beacon, the adrenaline from realising I was cycling up the bloody beacon gave me enough energy to get 1/3 way up where I saw Harriet. Neither of us could believe I was still peddling and she seemed just as excited as I was about it which also gave me a bit of a push to keep going. I had no idea how long was left. I was really struggling to breath and all of the walkers were really encouraging me to keep going (but also really worried that I was about to collapse) At the top of the Beacon there was a guy with a megaphone encouraging people up, I had come so far, I felt like I was going to be sick or faint but I didn’t want to quit, so I kept pushing. I made it to the top and knowing I cycled the ghastly beacon was the best feeling ever. I met Aurore at the top who had also managed to cycle the Ditchling Beacon.
As I got off the bike my legs were wobbling like jelly, I couldn’t stand so fell to the spot next to Aurore where I was able to recover. When Harriet joined us we went to treat ourselves to an ice cream and then set off for the final 6 miles of the journey. Going through the finish line and hearing everyone cheer was the most amazing feeling. It was so emotional and I am so proud of us all for doing it. I would absolutely recommend London to Brighton to anyone.
My 7 top tips would be:
- Dress appropriately – Padded shorts are a must. I wore padded leggings and it was too hot so definitely wear padded shorts.
- Training – Get in as much mileage as you can before you go. Especially hill training.
- Take a decent bike – Strong tyres, good gears, a comfortable seat are all important.
- High energy foods – Bananas, protein snacks, energy gels, you need to be well fuelled along the route
- Hydration – I took x3 water bottles, two were attached to my bike and one was in my back pack. This was enough for half the route, after that I had to keep topping up.
- Sun block – I made sure my arms were protected but forgot about my face which is looking very red today.
- Take cash – I took my bank card and a bit of change but had to borrow some money from Harriet as most of the stops were cash only.