Felicity and her London Classics challenge
Since completing the London Marathon and Swim Serpentine for MS UK in 2019, I’d had my magpie-like eye on the London Classics medal, which meant I would one day have to tackle RideLondon. I signed up and was thrilled to get a ballot place for 2020, but obviously due to COVID, this never came to fruition.
I chose to support the wonderful work of MS-UK as my mum had multiple sclerosis (MS), and sadly passed away in 1991 when I was 13 years old. She was 41 when she died, and had I managed to take part in 2020 as planned, I’d have been 41 too, which seemed a fitting way to mark the 30th year since she died. I know that due to her illness she never got the chance to realise her full potential, so raising money for MS-UK to help them empower people with MS was absolutely something I wanted to do.
As the world started to open up a bit, I secured a place in autumn 2021 to take part in the new route of RideLondon in May 2022.
Now, I’m not a cyclist so to speak. I enjoy a bike ride, but usually there is a pub involved, and it doesn’t exceed 15 miles in one go. So the prospect of doing 100 miles in one go was very daunting. I also don’t particularly like the cold so training was very unappealing until the spring! However, I have always enjoyed Spin classes so treated myself to a Peloton bike for Christmas 2021. This arrived mid-January 2022, and frankly, the first two months of my RideLondon-100 training was in my front room, on a bike that doesn’t actually go anywhere! It wasn’t until 14th March 2022 that I actually ventured out on my road bike and did eight miles, and managed to do another 10 miles, and then 40 miles by the end of that week. I did this with a friend who’d also signed up and after this 40 mile ride, she was not sure she’d be able to manage the 100, as like me she’d done little cycling, and only really did two Spin classes a week! However, as the weeks crept on we managed a long-ish ride every weekend peaking at 78 miles at the start of May. And even that was meant to be 70, but we got a bit lost!
The struggle for me was eating enough during the ride. I worked out on the 78 mile ride, that I needed to eat more often or I would have a hissy fit around 50 miles. Then once the sugar kicked in, I’d get a second wind and be fine. But the 10 miles of tantrum wasn’t fun for anyone!
By the time the day rolled around, I was really anxious. I didn’t know the route, and am not very familiar with Essex so didn’t know what to expect. I had packed six gel sachets, two bags of Percy Pigs, and two rounds of peanut butter and jam sandwiches to ensure I fought off the food related meltdown. The start of the race was very busy and took ages to get to the actual start line which didn’t help my nerves, but once we got going, I loved it! Aside from doing London to Brighton many years previously, I’d never really ridden on closed roads and it was a total joy!
The route wasn’t what I would describe as ‘hilly’ – no Everest-like climbs to tackle, but there were long stretches of gradual incline which were hard work. But the equally long downhill sections made up for that. We stopped at 20 miles for a gel sachet (it’s hard to cycle and open a gel!), and then again at 32 or so miles for some sandwiches and a drink. We then powered on to the next rest stop at 54 miles (a flapjack and a drink here) where there were lots of lovely volunteers giving out cakes and snacks.
The final stop was at 75 miles or so, where I had my remaining sarnies and a drink, and then motored on to the end. As we approached Stratford High Street, I knew the MS-UK cheer point was at mile 95 and that my husband, son and daughter would be waiting there so I made sure to stop, and it absolutely made my day to see them, and have the support of the cheer team. The last few miles flew by and although the route was actually 102 miles (which was a surprise!) finishing on the iconic Tower Bridge was pretty spectacular. Collecting the RideLondon-100 medal was pretty special, but getting the London Classics medal was amazing and I remain incredibly proud of myself for achieving this.
Taking part in this event, and indeed the London Marathon and Swim Serpentine, was an amazing experience and I would wholeheartedly encourage anyone even considering doing it, to just do it. This event is totally achievable if you’re willing to do some training, but it doesn’t need to take over your life (as running does!). Not only will you feel amazing at the end, you’ll have done something amazing in raising funds for MS-UK.