Photography by Harry Dowdney for Rapha, finish line pic by Jesse Wild
As I browsed around Rapha’s Manchester Cycling Club at registration, convincing myself I needed an entirely new outfit for the 220 mile ride I was going on the next morning, I was approached by a camera man to say a few words as to why I had signed up to the event. Previous dalliances with being interviewed on film have frozen me up like a Vodka luge at a party. This time, however, I was so sure of my answer, I launched into a lengthy monologue (which probably won’t make it off the SD card).
There were two main reasons:
This ride was in aid of raising money for Ambitious About Autism. The charity works to make the everyday tasks we take for granted more accessible and available to those with Autism. In addition to imagining my own personal glory as I battled headlong through the English countryside, it was so fulfilling to be doing something that was helping and raising awareness for people with Autism with each mile I conquered.
This distance was nearly double my furthest ride to date. I couldn’t picture what would happen after the first 100 miles and this sense of unknown intrigued me. Even though it was a scary prospect and I would put my body through a gruelling ordeal to satiate my curiosity, I just wanted to know if I could crack it. And it turns out I could.
You can find all the official info here but these are the things I experienced along the way:
An early peak – As I turned out of the Manchester Ancoats Travelodge at 4:50am on the way to the startline with a heart and head full of hope and anticipation of the glory that awaited me back in London, I skidded on a wet tramline and crashed. This is what is known as an epic fail and one so chronically early in the very long day ahead. But despite landing my bike and entire body weight onto my poor elbow, I couldn’t help but see the funny side.
Eating – Fuelling continues to be my Achilles Heel on these rides. I can normally keep the wolf from the door on spins of under 100 miles but on a 220 miler, I got absolutely ravaged. It sounds so simple to eat little often but I find it really hard and always lose my appetite the more I push it. At just under half way I found myself involved in a spat with a Scotch egg that was berating me for not having the stomach to see him off.
No dawdling – 220 miles is a very long way so I would advise making your feed stop offs as swift as you can. We spent no longer than 10 minutes at each one and it helped us to make up time. I rode most of the way in a great group of four girls and we did ‘through and off’ in parts to make it a bit speedier. We also (where we could) latched onto faster pelotons and clung on to make the most of their draft. All of this ensured we got to the pit-stops before the cut off and avoided a lift back in the vehicle.
Hills, hills, hills – This 220 mile ride is not flat. There are about 3,000 metres of ascent to tackle as well as the long slog back to London. Although I was actually quite comfortable and my bum didn’t get too sore in the saddle (until the last 20 when it burst into flames), I fell short on speed up the hills. I lost time from the group on the uphills and then had to bust my chammy to catch up with them, each time cursing my very existence. This was exhausting and the gap could have been closed had I spent longer working on my climbing technique this summer.
Low points – My morale was at rock bottom between 150-190 miles. If anyone has seen Stranger Things on Netflix, during these low points I entered a parallel universe in which the version of the world I saw looked familiar except the stunning landscapes turned dark and barren as I fought the extreme desire to chuck my bike in the field and call an Uber.
“Keep on keeping on” – These words were quoted by Rapha Founder, Simon Mottram and came strongly into play during the last 30 miles. As my ride buddy Katy and I left pitstop 4, heading off into the dark night for the final hills of Hertfordshire with the far-off glare of the city lights and the finish line in the distance , I knew we had this. After the last pitstop, I flipped my parallel universe and focused on just tapping out the last 30 miles.
The atmosphere at the end as we rode into the Olympic Velodrome was electric and the realisation of what I had just achieved hit me like a scotch egg to the head. I am still coming to terms with it all as my body repairs and keep sending my cycling and fellow M2L comrade Kitty messages just to make sure it really did happen. How did these Pepperami legs peddle all that way on a journey that required 15.5 hours in the saddle?! The beautiful thing about a challenge like this is all the support from friends and family. The messages just keep coming and I feel very emotional. I really believe that if I can do it anyone can with the right preparation, mind set and curiosity.
Our fundraising page is also still open if you would like to support the cause.