Wednesday, 13 June 2012

London Nightrider - post event.

Do you think we look like we need a nights sleep?
Previously I have written about the Nightrider event prior to doing it, and in the natural course of events there now follows a post dealing with the post event. Firstly lets get the main point out of the way - yes I completed the course and I may also, modestly state, the I think it was completed with a reasonable amount of panache.

My first draft of this post included a whole lot of info of how I managed my diabetes during the ride - but this made the post far too long and in retrospect I think it is a subject that demands a post of it's own, so I will work on that for the next post. 

The week prior to the event I completed a fast but not too punishing 30 miles ride and then rode into work two times during the week (Tuesday and Wednesday). On the Thursday I took the bike for a service, this was a mixture of a check-over but also just to get a professional spanner merchant to check over my self build. The bike ended up needing both the front and back wheel trued (I have hit a number of potholes at speed during training), also the rear mech hanger needed straightening and I needed a new front derailleur cable as I had not connected that properly when I built the bike - but apart from that error the mechanic said I had done a very good job which left me feeling more than a little chuffed! I also stocked up on energy bars, drinks and Gels and hydration powders and Mars bars.

Peter (my ride partner) and I had a 12:35 start - this was the last start of the night. We chose this time deliberately because we thought it would be better to have people to chase after as we expected to be going a little faster than the majority and certainly the last thing I wanted to do was to set off early and then feel the need to try and be one off the first people in. Whilst we wanted to do a reasonable speed we did not want to be pushing it beyond a comfortable fast pace - we are both mid to late forties and sadly I don't think either of us have got used to the idea that we cannot race everybody; a case of the mind being willing but the body wants to be in the armchair having a nap.

I spent the whole week prior to the event weather watching - and what a turbulent week it was - gale force wind on Thursday and Friday and flooding on Sunday evening and Monday, all I can say is God was feeling gracious to me and the 3,000 other riders! Saturday night / Sunday morning was rain free - a little cold but nothing too bad. How we were so lucky to get that small window in the appalling weather I will never know but I am eternally grateful for it!

So, that was the bike ticked off, weather ticked off and me half ticked off all that was needed was to get the ride done. I have never done an organised bike ride like this before so the whole experience was new - I got a couple of hours nap during the day to help me make it through the night and Peter and I turned up at Crystal Palace (our start point - the other was at Alexandra Palace) feeling fairly refreshed. I was lucky in that Peter had a roof rack for our bikes and we were able to park only 1/4 of a mile from the start.

I have to say that the whole event was well organised (as it was) but I will make my two complaints now about things that could have been done better.
1) The food at the halfway point needed to be more Carb orientated (but I brought my own anyway).
2) the second stop had too few toilets and their was a long queue (once again I avoided this by seeking out a secluded bush). The second stop is where all the water you have taken onboard at the start, suddenly needs to go away.

Apart from the above two minor quibbles I thought the event was very well organised and every element was hassle free. We turned up and registered in about 5 minutes and got our free High-Vis vest. We then nervously chatted for a few minutes and had a go a pretending to stretch. A quick visit to the toilet before I left confirmed that I was not the most nervous person who had left that day!

Once we were on the the move things soon settled into a rhythm. It was very clear within 2 minutes of setting off that people were going to be completing this event at varying speeds. Within about 4 minutes we had already overtaken 15 or so people. This filled me with joy - not because we had overtaken people but because we knew there would be a nice mix of riders out there. Through the course of the night we met riders of varying degrees, some like Peter and I who were going for a time rather than managing a distance and others who were out there and had every intention of enjoying the view and taking as long as they damned well please. One thing remain consistent though - we were all in this together. I never saw one person at the side of the road with a puncture that didn't have at least one or two people helping them out, people chatted easily at the numerous traffic lights; at the half time break I had a nice chat with a couple in their 60's (I think) who were doing the ride on a tandem.

The only time I didn't enjoy the ride was just after we set off from the Alexandra Palace break - their was an initial nice downhill and then there was a long double hill climb - this was before you really had a chance to get warmed up and made the start of the second half far less enjoyable than it could have been for many. I had seen a fair few walk up the hill to the Alexandra Palace break and this was understandable - it was steep and at the 35 mile point, but the hill directly after the break was a cruel and long one and given the vary abilities of the cyclists should have been avoided (if possible) I think. Probably 1/2 the cyclist ended up walking some or all of this hill.

My bike computer has a "moment"
Peter and I managed to complete the course in 3 hours and 50 minutes ride time averaging about 17 miles an hour. This was 2 mph more than I had expected given the hills and numerous traffic lights. With respect to traffic lights generally all riders stuck to them, certainly at the start - by the end when the roads were empty and legs were getting more and more tired from stopping/starting and clipping in all the time a number of lights were jumped - but I saw no one doing this in a dangerous way and without taking care to check the path was clear.

My main regret of the night was not to have worn contact lenses! I use clear cycling glasses to keep wind and insects out of my eyes - normally on my commute I am focusing on the road and cars and don't need prescription glasses. But this ride was different - there are many sights to see - especially after 3am when the sun is coming up - I totally missed the detail of these sights - I also missed a lot of the arrows pointing out the route - I had to rely on seeing riders up front and the way they went or Peter shouting behind me to turn right or left, he was my personal SatNav.

Miles 50 to 60 of the ride seemed to go very slowly, punctuated by the strong smell of London Zoo when you ride past it (I have never noticed that before). Completing this ride makes you realise just how close all the parts of London are and how small the centre of London is compared to the hours you spend stuck on a stuffy tube travelling around it. Travelling at 20 to 25 mph around the centre of London areas just fly past. Another little favourite of mine was flying through Canary Wharf (I was having a bit of flashback to the Halfords professional tour ride that took part there the week before). I hate Muswell hill though!

The end of the ride was very cruel in having to climb up crystal Palace Hill at the end of all those miles - I think that I saw 90% of riders walking that bit - but it may have been different at other times.  Then there is a short downhill bit to the finish which is just long enough for you to gather your composure and finish with grace and speed.

I would like to give a special thanks to the people working at the event - they were supportive and clapped and cheered all riders and gave them words of encouragement. There were staff placed at various junctions throughout the ride to send people in the right direction. One of the worse sights I saw was a few people taking what looked like to be short cuts - for example you could save a mile or so if you went along Picadilly rather than go left down towards Trafalgar square, these people I am sad to say were fellow Carbon Bike warriors (or wimps) and I think they are just fooling themselves for taking shortcuts. Some of the nicest things I saw were people on tandems doing the ride together - husband and wife going up a hill with the husband telling the wife to ignore the people overtaking them and to just worry about her line and getting up the hill at a steady pace (even though I had the sense he wanted to be with the people doing the overtaking). Or the young couple about 2 miles out from the finish, the woman was obviously totally knackered and he just had his arm around her helping her muster up the final energy to completed the ride and what would obviously be a major achievement that they would remember. These are the people I like to ride with - out there doing there bit for their charity and also having a go at facing a big personal challenge and not giving in. Some people I saw seemed to be inadequately prepared in equipment and personal health, they looked like a flight of stairs would be a daunting obstacle - but there they were walking up that last hill or stuffing their breakfast down at the end of the ride like they hadn't eaten in a week, well done to all of them!

I would also like to thank Diabetes Care UK for letting me ride for them - I hope my sponsorship help with the ongoing battle against Diabetes. One small request though - next year don't give us things to put on our head! They don't fit on a bike helmet - a simple sticker to put on our his-vis vest or and armband would be better - no really it would!

I think I was having a John Inman "moment" on Westminster Bridge
Would I advise people to do the ride - yes I would - but you need to make sure you get a few good rides in beforehand. I would definitely recommend doing at least three or four 30 mile rides and one or two 50 mile rides beforehand and get some general fitness training. If you can, do as I do, and commute some or all the way into work (you would be surprised how much you enjoy it). With this minimal training under your belt - the ride will be well within your range and the fitter you are the more you will enjoy the ride, but don't forget to your glasses / contact lenses!

1 comment:

  1. I like this blog because the night riders tell about their experience and gives good feed back