I got on the tube today … scruffy old jeans, muffin top, faded t-shirt and the odd few uncontrollable wisps of grey hair! I’m most def the wrong side of 40 but my life, I feel invincible! At the weekend I cycled 84 miles in the gran fondo Tour of Cambridgeshire with my incredible Angus Active team mates and haven’t been able to stop grinning since!
This blog is about how I got it wrong! Totally wrong! I did everything imaginable wrong for this race … But do you know what … It really doesn’t matter because despite it all I did it! I competed and completed an 80 mile race alongside future pro’s!
So here goes ….
Just over three weeks ago I broke my elbow falling off my bike on the Wiggle Jurassic Beast Sportive. Three days before the Gran Fondo TOC I took my sling off and was just about able to stretch my arm out straight without feeling any pain. Should I have risked it? Probably not!
Normally I eat well the day before an event but my team at work thought they’d treat me to lunch … So we had KFC!
Dinner kept evading me due to various issues at work but I promised myself I’d at least eat bananas when I got home. Good thinking – but when did I last buy bananas? Looking at the brown soggy mess in the empty fruit bowl I’d say at least a month ago!
Vagner was really well organised having already undertaken a Hudson Bay Start. I, on the other hand, tossed an imaginary coin – heads load the car, tails go to bed and load in the morning. Of course it was one of those pesky trick coins with both sides being tails! I didn’t stand a chance!
The weather had turned and it was incredibly warm and humid that night. I woke at 4.00am so hot … And not in a good way! I had forgotten to turn the heating off and the house was now attempting to bake me alive. I should have checked I suppose, after all, we all knew the weather was set to hit highs of 26 degrees the next day!
I guess I should have gotten up at that point .. But instead I clock watched as I tried to get back to sleep! And isn’t it always the way that 10mins before the alarm went off I fell into a deep sleep! So when the alarm finally went off I had to carefully peel my nails from the ceiling!
I skipped breakfast and quickly packed the car. I had to leave by six … And typically, at 6.10 I was searching for the now lost keys! I started driving, having thrown a pair of scissors into the passenger seat to cut my hair. By the way – trimming your fringe at a set of traffic lights is never going to give the best results.
Finally on the road, I made good time and we all arrived at Peterbrorough services within 10mins of each other. Vagner was stood at the front of the station waving me in but there was no sign of Michael! ‘He’s eaten 16 bananas and fallen asleep’ says Vagner. And sure enough, there in the front seat, with a roaring snore and sleeping soundly was Michael!
We arrived at the Peterborough Arena, East of England Showground at 8.05 and were parked in a relatively small car park next to the entrance.
Like true nobbers, we stood next to the Gran Fondo sign to get our photos taken.
We then set to getting our bikes ready. And the mood in the camp … Well there was a definate testosterone high, mixed with mild hysteria!
MK was determined to get ‘well gel’d up with High 5’s! This caused smutty laughter from both the boys whilst I just tutted and rolled me eyes. Vagner who was diligently blowing up all the tyres … Yelled over to MK ‘how hard do you want it’ which sent both the boys off into another fit of pant wetting laughter! So much so that MK had to sprint off the relieve himself of the 17bottles of power water consumed in the car. That’s one for each banana and one for good luck! No way was he going to dehydrate!
We began to change and of course this prompted self inspection and comparison with the boys both eyeing each other up and down and then choosing to discuss the merits of leg shaving. A gorgeous guy cycled past and MK stared at his legs pointing. A little embarrassed but also giggling and taking the opportunity to check him out as well, I reprimanded MK. It would appear our smooth legged friend wasn’t phased as he turned, flashed a smile and said ‘number one’ before cycling off as cool as!
‘Guys – Did anyone read the instructions?’ The race started at 12.00 so we headed towards the start at 11.45. It transpires that the gates opened at 11.00 … And there were five of them.
As we arrived we realised that out of the 8,000 people cycling we were actually amongst the last 50! And you remember I said we were in a small car park … Well it turns out that there were several car parks surrounding the main arena and all of them huge!
The queues extended as far as the eye could see! And so we waited and waited and waited! And what do you do when you have time to kill …. Yep …. Take selfies! Lots of them! Infact, the bloke infront of us was so bored that he even took a selfie … On my phone!
After about an hour we finally started to shuffle forward and eventually we got underway.
The roads were jam packed and as you can imagine, 8,000 cyclists all jostling for the number one spot meant for some pretty hairy moments. There were about eight accidents within the first five miles but then the pack thinned and we started to fall into a pace.
My arm was a little tender and so every time I hit a bump I lifted my arm off the handlebars. Not ideal.
The countryside was amazing and the supporters were incredible. The residents of all the quaint English villages were either sat outside, drinking pimms under umberellas or had created a summer fete complete with bunting and cheering committee.
Two young lads stood by the side of the road and jeered ‘get a move on’ to all the male cyclist and ‘you’re awesome’ to all the female cyclists! Big thanks to their mum – you’ve done a cracking job – girl power! I cycled all the faster for it!
At around the 30 mile mark we entered an airfield and cycled along the run way. The huge expanse of Tarmac stretched out before us whilst a small dot of a Cessna crossed the vast blue sky with a banner steaming unwillingly behind. Alongside us a motorbike pulled up with the black leather clad photographer riding in reverse pillion so he could capture the purposeful faces of the cyclists.
I was counting down the miles to the feed station … 4 … 3 …. 2…… Should be soon 1 …… Any minute now ….. -1 ….. Where the hell is it? -2 …… You have got to be kidding ….. -3 ….. I’m going to die! -4 …. And finally there is was! Some 9 miles away!
I limped into the feed station and was a little disappointed to see chocolate energy bars, bananas and flapjacks! I was surprised to see MK and Vagner still waiting for me although I wasn’t at all surprised to see MK eating more bananas!
We had done 48.2m in 2hrs 42! Not a bad time considering although we were all starting to show signs of wear and tear. Vagners foot was incredibly sore to walk on … So he leapt on his bike and set off. My arm was a little sore and my legs were empty. MK persuaded me to take a gel. And don’t be fooled by the description lemon zest … It tasted like puréed prunes!
We set off and MK stayed with me encouraging me on with each mike. But my back started to ache and my arm was giving me jip so I tried to sit up to relieve some of the pressure. Of course at this point the gel hit my stomach and gave me an instant stomach cramp which sent me crunching back up again.
As I alternated from upright to crunch every few seconds I got slower and slower and whilst Michael was so lovely and stayed with me, I honestly didn’t feel I could go on. I would never quit infront of any of the team even if it was killing me but on my own, I knew I would seriously consider the options. So when MK had put some good distance between us I stopped and sat on the side of the verge. As an emergency vehicle pulled up so did a marshal.
For some reason though I didn’t quit as I’d expected. I just couldn’t find a way to get the words out of my mouth. Just then a team of three girls doing a good pace passed me. I decided to grit my teeth and keep up. We only had 20m to go! I ignored my arm and settled into a lovely rythm which was surprisingly easy. The next ten miles just dropped off and there we were at the last feed station … And oh me! It had an ice cream van!
My arm was too sore to open the water bottle so I had to get some help but then there was only 10m left! Easy .. I can cycle 10 miles easy…. Heck I can run 10 miles! So head down, arse up, I went for it!
The final ten miles was lovely … There were no other cyclist around and as I passed though each village I got a huge cheer off everyone! I’m sure they thought I was last so in my embarrassment I cycled away quickly shouting ‘there’s more behind me’!
Now I don’t know if it was my mileage counter that was wrong (for the first time) or the route markers but as I approached 80m there was no sign at all of the finish.
As I continued the streets started to line with glum, shamed faced cyclist who were all waiting patiently for the broom wagon! Again, I dug deep … I hadn’t battled this far to be swept up at the end!
A marshal shouted 1m so I gave every last ounce of effort. As the finish line approached my little heart leapt! I got my medal and quickly scanned the edges of the finish line … And there they were! Grinning and waving!
Both had been slowed by external factors … A spoke blew on Vagners bike buckling the wheel and sending him wobbling over the finish line.
It was amazing day …. But as usual I must finish with some wise words … And my advice today is
A big fat beaming ‘Thank you’!
A big fat beaming thank you to everyone who has donated so far. We are blown away by the extreme kindness, support and generosity!