The Day After
I did it!
I did it!
What a brilliant day! The weather was good, the company was friendly and in good mood, the organisation was fantastic (lovely bananas!), there was some unexpected kindness from strangers, oh, and I cycled 26 miles. Actually I cycled 34 miles by the time we factored in the journeys to and from stations. And a couple of hundred extra yards where we misinterpreted the green arrows.
The day started inauspiciously enough. Nicki drove up from Sussex with her bike, and we set off from my house just after 7am to get the 7.25 train. What I didn’t factor in was the level crossing being closed 2 minutes before the train was due on the opposite platform. A mad dash ensued to reach the footbridge, hoick the bikes upstairs (Nicki doesn’t do hoicking, as I discovered), run across the bridge, hoick bikes downstairs, run back into the station and on to the platform just in time to watch the train pulling out. Half hour wait for the next one, but we would still arrive in time.
Arriving at Clapham Junction, we obviously needed to change platforms – more stairs. I was halfway up before I heard an exchange behind me which suggested a random stranger (#1) was carrying Nicki’s bike. “He just said ‘Let me help’ and picked it up”, she smiled innocently as we walked along the bridge.
Waterloo Station was overrun by red t-shirted cyclists in search of loos, breakfast, and the way out. At least we had no problem finding our way to Coram’s Fields. Just follow that red t-shirt. “Have we missed Guilford Street?” “Um, yes, let’s all go down this road instead”.
And there we were, coffee in one hand, map in the other, watching the last of the 52 milers leaving. “26 milers can start when you’re ready”, from the Tannoy. “Let’s do it”, and off we went. 100 yards. First set of traffic lights, and ten other cyclists already sitting at them, with more coming up behind. As a pedestrian you don’t realise just how many traffic lights there are in London. As cyclists, it took us half an hour to cover the first 2 miles, mostly spent looking up at red lights.
Five miles later and riding round Docklands was far more interesting. “How far to the first water station?” “No idea,” (all maps having long since disappeared into inaccessible backpacks, saddlebags, etc), “why?” “Well, my back wheel is making rather alarming noises and seems to be, er, wobbling”. Eek. Shifting the brake pads didn’t stop the wheel catching on them with each revolution. “Let’s carry on, but keep an eye out for one of the techie marshalls”. Fortunately, Nicki spotted an open Evans Cycles shop, and they very kindly loosened the brake so that I could carry on with a still wobbly but now free-spinning wheel.
After an age, we finally came across the water station at Shadwell. Loos! Water! Bananas! Having taken advantage of all three, we were about to set off again when I spotted the mobile cycle repair van doing brisk business (voluntarily – they were only charging for parts). “Hello, I’ve got a wonky wheel, can you do anything about it?” “No problem, all your spokes are loose, we’ll tighten them up for you, but you probably need to replace the wheel after today”. What a difference that made! A set of tight spokes and the second half of the ride was completely wobble free!
Crossing Chelsea bridge and Nicki was put out by a fellow cyclist (yes, a MAMIL – as described in a previous blog) asking if she knew how to change gear. She knows perfectly well how to change gear, but didn’t actually need to. To be fair, the rude fellow wasn’t aware that she was going slowly because she was following me and I was setting the (at that point slow) pace.
Coming back along the Embankment and I was still feeling fit enough to overtake a number of slower cyclists. Not until we reached the final slog up Farringdon did I start to flag, and it was a huge relief to arrive back at Coram’s Fields. Medals! Loos! Energy drinks! Bananas! I’d done it!
On the way home we were standing on the platform at Clapham Junction (Nicki had to hoick her bike upstairs by herself, snigger) when random stranger #2 came up to us, said “Have you just done a charity ride for Leukaemia Research? Well done. My father died of leukaemia, can I give you some money?” and handed us £10 to add to our sponsorship. A huge thank you to that kind lady.
Huge thanks also to all my friends and family for sponsoring me, and especially to Ellie Dawes at LLR for setting the challenge in the first place. What can I do next?