... Continuation in an Inundation

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Now I know what it's like to ride on closed roads and rolling hills with 24000 others!

An experience like no other - perhaps until next time?


How to do this briefly?  I'll try to give you the highlights...


The training seemed never ending at times. In the end, because ex-tropical storm Bertha decided to flood a large part of Surrey on the day, and the organisers cut out 14 miles that included Leith Hill and Box Hill, I'd have to say I was probably overtrained as I was not flagging in the slightest at the end (adrenalin?). I don't think I'd have said the same if we'd done the course as originally intended, so I still have to organise a ride up the iconic hills at some point.


But this was more than just a cycle ride, it was a major opportunity to do my bit for a good cause. That was never far from my mind and all the supporters along the way really provided sterling encouragement. It was impossible to forget about all the good things that will happen because of the charitable support ignited by this event. And impossible not to think about all of the people that sponsored me personally and put their faith in me delivering. So we all just got on with it - we are (mostly) British and since when did a spot of rain stop a major event? (apart, obviously, from a cricket match).


I made the most of the weekend and Tess and I had a great time in town on Friday night (whilst you guys were coping with your own floods in Cambs.)

After registering in the ExCel, we also had a great day out on Saturday. The three hours walking around the Tower of London was interesting and educational, if not ideal preparation for the old leg muscles, and the poppy display is coming along nicely, and the show later was brilliant. 


Stayed in the Ibis, Stratford, which has its pros and cons, but was very convenient for everything and for the short ride to the start, setting off about 6:40 a.m. The ground was damp at this point, but it wasn't raining. No problem with finding the route to the start - just follow the colour-coded signs and the constant stream of cyclists. The start was very well organised, like a military exercise. Whilst waiting to start we found out that Leith and Box hills were no longer part of the route and that we were only going to be doing 86 miles. At that time we were (mostly) so disappointed at that news. I felt a bit short-changed, and a bit guilty about seeking sponsorship under false pretences! 25 miles later I knew it was the right decision and was pleased they'd changed the route because the roads we did cycle on were severely affected by the weather, the flooding and the sharps washed onto the road. Lost count of the number of people repairing punctures.


My wave left at 8 a.m. sharp. 15 minutes late but a nice round number to remember. All very orderly, two separate streams for several miles, until we merged. A gentle start through London, with a few ups and downs at underpasses. Passed the first casualty - a middle-aged lady with a head injury being treated on the central reservation. We picked up speed nicely, it was not too windy, and we averaged over 18mph for about the first 17 miles until we'd crossed the river and approached Richmond Park. Not much chance to form nice little racing groups - people were not really riding at the same pace and there was a lot of passing going on. In fact it never really felt settled in that sense until about the final 8 miles, so very little drafting benefit overall.


Cycling through the expansive Richmond Park was very pleasant, but a bit crowded and therefore necessarily slower. I remember thinking that this looks flat but doesn't actually feel flat. And ahead we could see the road rise more steeply. However, there had been an accident ahead and everyone bunched up and then stopped, and then walked about 500 metres. An ambulance was loading someone with a broken nose. I was quite annoyed that I hadn't reached that point a bit earlier as it added about 10 or 15 minutes to my time.


Shortly after this the rain began and became relentless. It never stopped through miles 18 to 47 (all the way to the top at Newlands Corner). What with the walk in the park, rain and wind in your face, almost constant defensive riding to avoid people, spray in your face, floods that sometimes took up the whole road width, and the small matter of the incline at Newlands Corner (which was not such a big deal, though it would have been nicer in dry conditions), all of these things conspired to reduce average speed for those 30 miles to about 12 mph. We all lost more than half an hour over that section, due to the conditions. In amongst that section, Kingston was brilliant. Huge support along the way. Who cared about a spot of rain?!  There were many places where the support seemed more enthusiastic - people ringing bells and blowing whistles! (Then I remembered that they were just the (brilliant) marshalls and they were actually trying to attract our attention and get us to slow down). Quite rightly, too. Thanks marshalls. It's always good to know when we all have to fit through the two feet of road that is not under water! Shortly after Kingston, at about mile 27, came the first feeding hub. This was right in the middle of a 5-mile section of the most dreadful downpour. Everything I was wearing, with the exception of my helmet protector, was proving to me that there is no such thing as 'waterproof'! Totally wet through both layers. Even my overshoes failed this test. The grass had so much water on top that my feet were getting soaked by osmosis from below. Far too wet to use a phone and report progress or even take a photo. I tried to shelter for 5 minutes under the biggest tree I could find, but it had no effect and was just like standing out in the rain, which was like a full-on monsoon at this point, so there was only one thing to do...  on my bike and press on.


Rain all the way through Walton, Weybridge, Byfleet, Ripley, West Horsley, and up the bank at Newlands Corner. Didn't pay them a lot of attention, but appreciated support from all who stood out in the rain :-)


After the food stop at Newlands Corner the rain was less constant, being on and off for about the next 15 miles. However, this stretch was where we had more wind against us. Through Abinger Hammer, Dorking and onto Leatherhead down some fair descents was good fun. We missed out the two big climbs, but the substitute climbs were good to ride. Nice little testing rolling hills for a while, but still very wet conditions with big puddles and floods frequently hindering us. Most annoying was the need to ride defensively down what ought to have been exhilarating descents. Dorking was good - lots of vocal support out on the streets. The general public really were showing their appreciation for the riders, and what they were achieving on behalf of their chosen charities. 


Somewhere along here was the road that narrowed to about 5 feet in width. Crazy! More whistle blowing. I smiled later when I watched the Classic elite race and they had a small crash there  :-)


It was somewhere near Leatherhead that conditions improved. For the final 25 miles we had no rain, the wind was with us and the sun came out and began to dry us off slowly. By far these final 25 miles were the most enjoyable. On drier roads our speeds picked up, often doing 22 or 23 mph for long stretches, with the knowledge that we had a mostly straightforward run in from there. In fact my average speed from Newlands Corner to the finish was over 18 mph and would have been better on drier roads. The only slight little test ahead was the annoying hill through Wimbledon, when we had about 7 miles remaining. This was when the training (and the avoidance of Leith and Box) paid dividends - I was storming past riders at this point and getting into the swing of things. For some reason adrenalin kicked in for those around me and we were suddenly storming along at 23 to 24 mph. We went through Kingston again and the support was even better now the sun was out. Approaching Putney our wishes were granted with a beautiful descent that required not too much effort to hit 35 (that's mph, not spectators). Unfortunately this descent concluded at traffic lights where marshalls deemed it necessary for us to give way. Drat! Still, only about 5 miles to go now. Legs still strong, people flying along at about 22 and keeping this up. All determined to finish strongly, no doubt, and we did. Pushed 22 until about half a mile to go and then eased down to about 20 to give the legs a breather, and before you knew it it was all over and we were queuing for a medal and goody bag. Ten minutes later the bright sky quickly turned grey and the heavens opened to give all those who had been spectating a dose of what we'd had to ride through. Justice!


So, a brilliant event ends. I don't think we really minded the rain as it eventually changed for the better. The stops were adequate but I avoided most. Too many people around, better to keep making progress, so use the nourishment you brought, stopping just to fill bottles and consume a banana or two.


Overall, an amazing experience. Probably averaged about 15.3 overall, but on a fine day it ought to have been over 17. Still, there's always next year. Ballot entries open 18th August.


And there's still time to contribute to British Heart Foundation at    https://www.justgiving.com/ken-dunn/

Spread the word, and thanks so much to all who have sponsored me. It was all so worthwhile.


You really ought to do this ride next year!!!!!!!!!



PS total raised for BHF :  £1,011 inc. gift aid. Thanks to all who contributed and motivated me.

1 comment

Admin's picture

by Admin on Wed, 08/27/2014 - 19:15
Well done Ken!
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