Rapha Manchester to London

I’m struggling to come up with enough adjectives to describe Sunday 6th September, which either means I have limited vocabulary or there genuinely aren’t any words. I’ll work with what I’ve got.

The climb to Disley never disappoints

Ridiculous: the number of other entrants (229 edit: 160), the various climbs throughout the first 70km and even the cheeky ones later on, the views at every opportunity, the strength of my comrade and I, the amount and quality of the food at the feed stations.

The first climb of the day was up to Disley, a beautiful part of the Peak District. While I’ve done it a few times now, it never gets easier and the speed humps all the way up are a royal pain but to say it’s worth it in the end is a massive understatement. The picture above (taken by my friend in cycling, Ben Cope) shows the very reason every climb is worthy of the sweat and swear words you scream under your breath.  The temperature can’t have been much over 7º but the sky was blue and the hills raised their beauty above the mist. It was absolutely beautiful – the best I’ve ever seen it up there.

Punishing: looking down at your garmin to see it’d only been 2km since the last time you looked, the 10% climb at 280km, being in the same position for so long, the bat that flew into my face with 20km to go, my garmin running out with 55km to go and having to switch it 1 mile from the feed station.

I waited so long to find out when I would genuinely find this ride difficult. I got to feed station 2 feeling so fresh but quickly remembered, it was only 150km from the start, which is a usual distance for my weekend rides.

Feed Station 1: Bosworth Hall
Feed Station 2: Bosworth Hall

I refuelled, chatted to my Grandma, Great Auntie and best friend’s Dad and partner for a little while and rolled out not long after. It’s so morale-boosting to see familiar faces along the way during such an event. Feed station 2 to feed station 3 was the longest section but also the point at which we’d cross the halfway mark. I spent much of my time on the front into the (tail)wind. For some reason, I felt strong, I powered through and sat on the front contrary to any pre-ride advice I was given.

Relentless: the distance, the total ascent, the constant slight discomfort.

The dark point came at around 300km by my recollection. I was so close, yet so very, very far. My thighs were starting to ache, I had a dull pain in my knee and don’t get my started on how loud my sit bones were screaming. The constant rotation of pedals across such a long distance is bound to have some adverse effects and my left knee took the brunt of it for some reason. I’m not concerned, ultimately I’ll recover and be back spinning like usual in a couple of days.

En route to London

To be fair to my body, my fit from Cyclefit a few weeks ago has obviously worked wonders. I took full advantage of the free massage at the finish line and the therapist told me I was in really good shape considering. He said I was “built for cycling” which is the ultimate compliment. The only lingering pain I’m still feeling is between my shoulder blades. I need more friends with magical healing hands.

Extraordinary: my partner-in-crime, Cat, the beauty in places I’ve never been to before and likely won’t again, the camaraderie of my fellow riders, the amount of food I ate, the nerves at the start, the relief at the end, the staff from Ambitious, the organisation and logistics of the event, the text messages of encouragement, the donations I received, my tan lines.

Cat Forrest – woman of steel. My absolute rock throughout the whole 354km. Without her, I wouldn’t have completed it, I’m sure. Can’t thank her enough! People and cyclists in particular some of the best people I’ve ever met: the words of encouragement I got on the road were so humbling: “you’re a really strong rider, what training have you been doing?”.

If anyone has any more of those jelly people in the small packets, I’d like to order a lifetime’s supply. They were magical!

I would really like to thank all the staff working at the event in whatever capacity. Their selfless contribution kept me going. The words of encouragement, which I’m sure they passed on to each and every rider were music to my ears and just what I needed to get me through.

The signposting couldn’t have been any clearer. I’m told a couple of people got lost and thanks to a grumpy farmer in Naseby, we had a marshall at one particular turn. There was never a lack of water or food (unlike some events I’ve done in the past with much smaller fields and distances). Absolutely flawless and a credit to everyone involved.

My friends in Manchester and Adelaide who sent me messages of encouragement before, during and after the event are worth their weight in gold. This was a massive challenge for me: one I didn’t think I’d actually finish! You all know who you are and I thank you from the bottom of my legs: believe me when I say you made a difference.

As I write this, I’ve raised £425 (excl gift aid) and that is seriously unbelievable. I have so many generous and selfless people in my life and that’s shown with the donations that have poured in over the last few weeks. I can’t thank you enough and I’m sure the beneficiaries of the money feel the same. It’s a truly great charity, close to a lot of people’s hearts.

For the record, my tan lines are next level especially for a ginger.

Final time: 15:33
Final time: 15:33

In the end, after who knows how many pedal strokes, I completed this amazing ride in 15 hours and 33 minutes. It was exactly on target and I couldn’t be more proud of myself for everything I did. From battling my demons up hills to doing my fair share on the front of the train.

I’m waiting to find out everyone else’s results. I’m curious how I did in the grand scheme of the event but ultimately, I don’t care for “beating” anyone. The main thing is I raised money and finished in one piece with a smile on my face. I’m also interested to see how many women signed up for the event (at a guess, I would think about 15 women took part). I would love nothing more to see more women take part and I’m going to do my best to encourage that for next year. It’s absolutely doable and even enjoyable.

I've never worked so hard for a beer
I’ve never worked so hard for a beer

If you have any questions or you’re thinking about doing it next year, please drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you and help you train. There’s a beer with your name on it at the finish line.


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