Medal 1 – NightRider 2011 100km Bike Ride
So after leaving a friends wedding reception a couple of hours early (congratulations Mark and Jo!) and having possibly recruited one of their wedding guests to the world of running, I found myself on a train heading to Alexandra Palace for the start of NightRider 2011.
NightRider is an organised cycle though all the major landmarks of London, with 2 starting points – ours in Alexandra Palace and the ‘other lot’ from Crystal Palace.
Timing the arrival perfectly to just get registered and grab a coffee just before the masses turned up, we walked around for a bit to keep warm and see if we could spot some familiar faces. My father-in-law spent a bit of time talking to a couple of people he knew whilst I observed the first few groups of around 50 cyclist depart – there were 10 start times, presumably to reduce the risk of overcrowding and the chances of accidents.
At around 00:30 we made our way to the start line and after a very brief safety talk we all set off. Turning right at the roundabout and going steeply downhill that had an untold number of potholes, the majority of which I think I managed to hit, I decided that if I continued like this then this cycle wouldn’t be one I’d enjoy. See I’m a bit strange in that I prefer either riding on the flat and level, or riding up hill, going down hill scares me.
Anyway, we soon got into our stride and I was quite happy to sit with a group of 10 or so riders, leaving the navigation to them and they were doing quite a nice gentle pace. I was conscious this was the longest ride I’d ever done, my first overnighter and I’d not slept all day so didn’t want to be overly adventurous with the pace at the start. Further to this I hadn’t really had a decent meal either so was a little worried that my energy stores were probably already quite low.
The 1st stop came after about 15 miles, and I nipped to the loo, grabbed a banana and a chocolate chip cookie. My father-in-law went off nattering to a couple of other people he knew, leaving me to stand with the bikes next to the motorcycle banging out some tunes. One of the stewards came over and asked if I was alright. Confirming I was, they in turn pointed out that I must be a really big Steps fan as ‘Tragedy’ was blaring out and I was standing right next to it. Only later did I realise that it was actually the Bee Gees version.
Feeling good at this stop, the next part of the route was probably the worst part of the ride. Going through Camden at kicking out time where people were generally too drunk to see moving cars let alone cyclists. Then a bit later we were riding through the central parts of tourist London that were so incredibly busy with traffic. I was happy to meander along behind buses and taxis, but other more confident cyclists were weaving in and out of traffic. I had a choice to join them or take my time and have to self navigate. To be honest I did a little mixture of both, before getting stranded by myself and having to self navigate. No problems though, the route was magnificently well signposted although I was paranoid that I hadn’t seen another cyclist for a good 10-15 minutes during this section.
Arriving at just under halfway at Crystal Palace we got our ‘lunch’. A ham sandwich, a massive chocolate chip muffin and a chocolate bar, along with a cup of coffee. Still feeling fairly good but realising that the traffic and traffic lights had slowed our pace right down to about 10mph (normally we’re averaging 15-17mph) we realised we could be in for quite a long night unless the roads quietened down a little. After leaving Crystal Palace the sun started to come up making everything much easier to see and the roads became very flat and empty. Cycling was so much faster (after Crystal Palace average speed seems to be around the 14-15 mph mark) but still having to wait for numerous traffic, this part of the course was much more enjoyable.
There was another fuel stop on the way back but this was probably only 10 miles from the actual finish line so we decided just to plough on. These miles seemed to drag on forever, and the biggest challenge of the night lay in the wait – the massive climb back up to Alexandra Palace.
All in all, an excellent and really well organised route. Unfortunately due to the busyness of London’s road, most of these sights couldn’t really be taken on board. Provided you’re confident riding in traffic and don’t mind your ride being very stop/start due to traffic lights I’d thoroughly recommend this event – but overall personally it isn’t for me and I doubt I’ll be returning in the future. At Crystal Palace (29 miles) I felt as if I’d ridden the furthest distance of my life, but think this was probably due to the mental requirement of keeping an eye out for everything going on around you. Although having just checked my Garmin stats for the ride it appears my top speed was 153.2mph – so maybe I had good reason to be physical and mentally drained!
Medal 2 – BHF Woburn 10k Jog
Knowing that the 1st train from Alexandra Palace was due at 7:06, we timed getting to the train station perfectly with 2 minutes to spare. Unfortunately no one from the train station (or First Capital Connect) had been quite as well organised to tell people about engineering works. The train was cancelled. As were the next 6. We waited on the platform for over an hour and half waiting for the next train to take us home. My father-in-law even managed to fall asleep standing up. This put getting to the start line for Woburn 10k in a bit of jeopardy and I told the planned lift I had to head off without me and I’d attempt to see them at the start line.
Arriving back, getting showered, and darting back out the door in my running gear I’d read on the race instructions that Woburn was well sign posted from both Junction 12 and 13 of the M1. I’m familiar with the sign posts at Junction 13, but had never really seen any at 12, but with 12 being closer for me I headed there hoping to pick up signs. No joy at all, and with the start time only being 20 minutes away I gave up and used the maps and GPS on my phone to direct me there. Running across a field I could see the runners lined up ready to go. And just as I was about 4-5 minutes away, running towards them, I saw them all depart.
Getting to the start line I asked if I was ok to go and I was given the all clear to be the last runner. After about 1km I managed to catch up with most of the walkers and eventually after about 2.5km I managed to catch-up with my wife and her running friend – she said there had been some confusion at the start and they thought the race had started early slightly early whilst they’d been in the queue for the toilets.
The course was mainly a trail route (running on grass and gravel) and this was something I could have done without. Not only do I own a pair of trail trainers that I very rarely use, I had my new trainers on and just kept thinking about how dirty they were going to get. Oh and I already had tired legs and struggled mentally to keep going. Unfortunately my Garmin had only 5% battery when I finished the cycle ride overnight and so I had no way of knowing what pace I was running at. It was very tempting to peel off for the 5km single lap run, but I decided to plough on and complete the full 10km.
With no Garmin I can only make an educated guess at the time I did it in. Knowing I started approximately 5 minutes after the start time and using the clock in the car that we went to shortly after finishing, I think I finished in around 55 minutes. By parking in the wrong car park and having to run to the start line, I reckon I might have added on an extra mile to a mile and a half as well.
A lovely course and certainly a great little charity run, but perhaps not something for a serious time based race. However I wasn’t using it as a proper race so really did quite enjoy it. I did overhear someone passing the 5k marker with a watch and they thought the course might have been short as ‘not even in my wildest dreams could I do a 5k in that time’ was said.
So beginning with a mile open water swim on Saturday, an overnight 65 mile bike ride and then a 10k run to finish with, I feel in pretty good shape for my triathlon. I now need to just convince the race organisers that transitions of a few hours are the way forward and everything should be just fine.
I also think I need to point out that I’m not a complete madman and I wasn’t originally planning to the overnight bike ride. I had already entered the 10k, and then a place became available for the ride. Focusing on the triathlon and Dunwich Dynamos its defiantly bike training that needs to be centre of my attention at the moment – and hence the 10k was going to go by the way side – but it would have been a shame to have wasted the entry fee 😉
And apologises for no photos of the 2 medals. This weekend has been a bit of a mad rush – I will attempt to get them posted on here in the next blog post!