So a week after completing the Wiltshire 100 ( YES I completed!!) I am finally getting around to do the round up. I’ll be honest, this week has been pretty busy which is part of the reason it has taken me so long, but equally I have been putting it off because I am sad that the Wiltshire 100 is no longer a goal in my life! Although I am sure, soon enough I’ll find another one to focus on.
On Sunday morning my alarm went off at 5.15am. Unlike I had imagined, I didn’t leap out of bed ready to go but instead snoozed my alarm clock until 5.30a. I was exhausted – having barely slept the night before. I wasn’t feeling good and it wasn’t looking promising for the cycle in terms of my energy and motivation. In fact, getting ready and having breakfast in the cold and dark that early in the morning, the whole prospect of the cycle felt incredibly surreal.
I had my standard go to cycling breakfast which I have had many times during my training, a wholemeal bagel, hazelnut spread and a banana, with a cup of tea. It always worked a treat and tastes good too – although eating that early in the morning was certainly a challenge to say the least!
Standard cycle breakfast!
Once I was fed and watered I jumped on my bike and cycled to my car which was parked nearby. I loaded up and got driving out to Devizes where the ride started and finished. It was freezing cold but on the drive out the sky was absolutely beautiful as the sun rised. I was going to stop and take a photo but I was quite eager to get to the start and get going! I was feeling a little uneasy about the colour of the sky, with the saying ‘red sky at night shepherds delight, red sky in the morning shepherds warning.
I arrived in Devizes, parked up my car and unloaded my bike. Got everything ready and whipped off my warm clothes down to my cycling Jersey and shorts. I made sure I had everything I needed and after being positive I did, I took a photo and headed off to the start line.
Ready to go!
After a quick toilet stop, a photo from one of the volunteers from Bike Events and checking in, I was ready to go. 20 minutes later than my planned departure of 7am.
About to head to the start line!
Cycling across the start line felt very strange but it felt good to get out on the road. I followed a group of people on road bikes for the first few miles until we got out of the town and onto the more quiet back roads. It was weird, all the world was quiet and asleep except for a few crazy people decked out in lycra and ready for a day of cycling. Starting out felt quite heavy, my legs took a little while to loosen up and I was only too aware of how many hours I had ahead of me. Not long after cycling a lady also on a hybrid tucked in behind me and we were to keep each other going and well paced for the majority of the ride.
I pulled into the 25 mile rest stop after 1 hour and 36 minutes of cycling – the quickest I had ever done from what I can remember! I was buzzing and felt great – I was positive I was going to come in a lot quicker than I had planned. A quick loo break, phone call to mum, text to a friend, filling up the water bottle and a bite to eat and I was back on the road.
I quickly realised that those first 25 miles were definitely my easiest and had perhaps lulled me into a false sense of security. The next 25 miles were a lot slower, but rest stops along the way broke it up and I came into the 45 mile rest stop feeling alright, but knowing that my original pace would not be held for the rest of the ride and the hills that followed made sure of that.
45-75 miles were probably the most testing part of the ride for me. I wasn’t starting to hurt or feel like it was difficult as such, it was just the slog whereby I had done over halfway but knew I still had a long way to go. My legs were feeling heavy and I was so determined not to bonk that I made sure I ate A LOT whilst riding. There was no way I was not going to complete because I had run out of energy. Between about 60 and 75 miles my shoulder started hurting, and I decided that when I reached the 75 mile rest stop I would take a couple of Ibruprofen to relieve the pain. Now, here we refer back to when I was unloading my bike and getting everything I thought I needed into my Jersey and my bike bag. This was were I discovered that I hadn’t packed my Ibruprofen and I knew exactly where it was. Sitting in the front pocket of my rucksack in the boot of my car – 75 miles back or 25 miles ahead! There was nothing to do except eat some flapjack and just battle on!
The next few miles took me out through Marlborough, and rumours had been spreading amongst the cyclists that this was where all the hills began. Thankfully, my training on big hills such as Bathwick, Widcombe and those down in Cornwall had prepared me for these climbs and in comparison were rolling hills as opposed to massive hills. I managed them OK. Around the point that the hills started – so did the rain. It was slightly unpleasant but didn’t last long and was in some ways quite nice to cool off.
About 12 miles before the end I texted my friend Nadia who was due to meet me at the finish line and also had something else to eat as I was starting to feel tired. In either of those moments I failed to see a sign and missed a turning – meaning that a few miles down the road I was facing a huge hill that I didn’t remember seeing on the route map. Sure enough, after looking at my route map I realised I had cycled a few miles out of my way and had lost the main route. Before heading over the hill I decided it would be a good idea to pop into a pub right next to me and ask for directions. The staff at ‘The Bell at West Overton‘ kindly obliged and wrote down some directions for me and offered me a water refill which I was incredibly thankful for. (A side note – if you are ever out there – it’s a lovely looking pub and on any other occasion I probably would have stopped for a drink but the finish line was so near!)
Kindly written directions to get me back on track – note ‘over hill’.
My detour to get back onto the main route involved a horrible climb which normally would have been fine but after nearly 90 miles of cycling my legs certainly didn’t appreciate it. I was strong though and was beginning to be fueled and powered by the sheer determination to just finish this event. A couple of miles later I was back on the main route, about a mile away from where I had missed the turning, meaning I had added a few extra miles to my ride and also a big hill I hadn’t accounted for – doh!
The route map – which I followed for most of the way – doh!
I was so glad to be back on the right road and the relief gave me so much energy to just keep going. I joined back into the ride behind another female rider who had a fantastic pace and road very similarly to me in terms of gear changes and standing up whilst climbing hills. I followed her in for the last ten miles or so (she refused to let me return the favour of a tow!). It was in these last few miles that I spotted a man in a hedge and wondered to myself “Hmm, I wonder what he’s doing there”. Thankfully I quickly saw his camera and put on my smile for a photo – which I have subsequently purchased from the event photographers (I figure it will be the first of many, but it is the first which is important!).
Beaming from ear to ear and loving every minute of it.
Those last few miles I think I pedalled faster than I have ever pedalled before. I could feel the emotion and elation building up in my throat and my chest, I was excited and I suddenly had all this energy and power to get me to the finish line. I was beaming from ear to ear.
The end & post ride…
At this point I knew that my very good friend Nadia would be waiting for me at the finish line and I was greeted by a wonderful homemade sign. As I came around the corner and crossed that finish line I literally could not see through the tears. I was so relieved, happy and proud to have achieved what I set out to do. A lovely lady from work called Megwen also kindly met me at the finish line and after lots of hugs, tears and photos I was treated to a wonderful massage in the massage therapy tent which was superb and really helped my shoulder. Interestingly, my legs felt fine after the ride but it was my neck and shoulder that were giving me problems.
Megwen’s snapshot of me coming across the finish line 8 hours and ten minutes after going the other way.
I finished in about 7.5 hours. My heart rate monitor recorded 8 hours ten minutes, however that was about 5 minutes before starting and would have included my rest stops, detour and the time I spent in the pub getting directions. Therefore, I am certain it was sub 8 hours, but am estimating about 7.5. I hadn’t told anyone, but I had secretly been aiming to do it in less than 8 hours, so I was extremely pleased with this time. I realised something out on this ride. During my training I had noticed that so many (8 out of 10 – at least) of the cyclists I see on the road never ever smile or strike up conversation, it seems to be this unwritten rule. As anyone who knows me will know, I’m a pretty friendly chatty person and I ALWAYS smile at other cyclists no matter what and very rarely I am greeted with a smile and not a steely gaze. However, on this ride I discovered where all the friendly smiley cyclists are – HERE doing these rides! Everyone was so friendly, chatty and keeping up such a good atmosphere – it was really wonderful and has definitely made me keen to do more events.
Tears of joy and elation at the finish line.
After my massage I walked to my car whilst giving mum a call and packed up my bike. Devouring the chocolate soy milk I had bought especially for my post ride recovery drink. I had a wonderful Bath at Nadia’s flat, followed by champagne, wine and chinese take away. The perfect post ride celebrations that didn’t involve moving from the sofa.
On Monday morning I woke up and braced myself to get out of bed. Amazingly I felt no aches or pains (except for in my head which I think was probably due to celebrations) and was very glad to not be stiff at all. I spent the whole of Monday on an absolute high and was buzzing the entire time. I wanted to tell everyone what I had done and was beaming from ear to ear!
On Tuesday, the tiredness hit me. Starting my new residential warden job which involves running up and down lots of stairs as students arrived wasn’t ideal, but luckily I still didn’t get achy legs – just a little fatigued! I felt incredibly drained though. A few days of good food and early nights put me back on the right track and I’m feeling good now a week later as I would expect!
Good food getting me back on track!
I haven’t been on my bike since the big ride. But I can’t wait to go out for a cycle. This week has been hectic and I am looking forward to getting back to university with a schedule where I can pencil in rides. In terms of where I am heading next, I am going to be extremely busy with the residential warden job, other paid work and of course my masters which starts in a week or two. However, as my first ever cycle tan begins to fade, my love for this wonderful sport (it feels weird to call it that because it is so much more) most definitely will not and cycling will continue to be a huge part of my life.
I am currently in the process of researching and testing out road bikes in order to upgrade to something a little lighter and more high-performance than my lovely hybrid. I will be sad to see Nezzy go, she has served me so well and I have definitely put in plenty of miles. She will be going to my mum though – so I’m keeping it in the family (and she WILL be looked after – right mum?! Think Travis!) Future challenges that I have in mind include a yearly mileage aim, more cycle events for sure (I have the bug), a cycling holiday and perhaps, if I can get over my utter hatred for running, a triathlon. Most of all though, I am super excited to get a lovely new bike and start another wonderful relationship with a beautiful piece of kit!
Research begins for a shiny new bike.
With regard to fundraising, I am currently in the process of collecting offline donations in order to see where my total stands, I am hoping it will be in the region of £650 at present. If you would still like to donate (now that I have actually done it!) you can find the link at http://www.justgiving.com/tamsyncycles100 for the next month or so. I plan to keep this blog going now with any cycle adventures or updates, and I will love looking back over the highs and lows of my journey to cycling a century!
Here’s to many more miles in the future and the continuing of a wonderful relationship with cycling!
JOB DONE! BIG Thank You to everyone 🙂
(Also, big thanks to everyone who supported me in one way or another over the last few months. Friends, family and of course all the cycle gang on Twitter who have also been super helpful with any of my worries or queries, not to mention their words of encouragement, support and advice!)