#PruRL2013 Recap

Monday, August 12, 2013

I can't believe Prudential Ride London has come and gone.  We have been talking and training for it for so long, and it was over so quickly (well not really as it took me just over 8 hours).

The night before the race, we crashed with friends in Hackney Downs who lived closer to the race start than we do.  Our lovely hosts helped us carb load with a HUGE bowl of pasta, Mexican corn, grilled Portobellas, salad, and several glasses of water.  The boys also had grilled chicken.  Earlier in the day, I had pasta for lunch and 3 Guinness cupcakes.

We headed to bed just after 10pm as we were getting up at 5am, leaving at 6 and at the park by 6.30am.  My start was at 7:58 but my husband's was 7:30.

On the way to the park, we kept picking up more and more riders on the empty streets of Hackney and Newham.  We could see how eager everyone was to start their ride.  As we approached Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, we passed people already out on the course, heading the 'wrong way' on the A12.

As I was so early, it gave me time to find a toilet, pack my snacks and soak in the atmosphere.  I also watched my husband start off.  Minutes later I got a text that his friend got a flat tire at Mile 1.  Bummer!  The start area was very organized, although they ran out of toilet paper.  I love the fact that there were also port-a-loos in the start pens.  What a genius idea!  The volunteers were very friendly and even watched my bike while I popped to the loo.  Wiggle was there for last minute repairs and purchases.  There were a few snack carts as well for coffee, juice, and light breakie.

We had to line up in our pen 30 minutes before our start time.  It was a little chilly by this point over it was overcast and the sun was just peaking out.  All my gear for after the race was checked at the bag drop.  The gentleman in line next to me was from Bristol and we had a nice chat about the race and course.  Neither of us had either ridden 100 miles in one go and were both excited and nervous.

As the horn sounded for my wave (the last one) we set off with some whoops. As I am rubbish at remembering specific details of rides/games/etc I will give you my thoughts on a few things.

Route:  Very cool riding along so many roads free of traffic.  We spent a lot of time in London, as well as the Surrey countryside.  And yes, 100+ miles is a long way.

Hills: 3 big ones, many little ones. Leith Hill killed me as I had to walk up it.  I have conquered it before though and hope to again some day.  I discovered I had a flat at the top of Leith Hill, so mabye that is why it was so tough?  Unfortunately, due to my flat and feminist pride, I was diverted around Box Hill this year.  This hill I have climbed twice and know I will do again.

Rest stops:  Amazing! Every 10 miles there was water.  Every 25 miles was a (free) food stop with bike mechanics and first aid.  Very well stocked and organized.  Free isotonic drinks too.

Volunteers and marshals:  Everyone was cheerful and happy to help.  Well stationed along the route to keep riders on the right track and offer assistance when needed.

Organization:  As my friend Mark said, like a military operation.  You could tell a lot of time and thought went in to all aspects of the race from pre-race prep (aside from shortage of toilet paper) to post-race festival.

Bag drop:  The bag was quite large but the drawstring top wasn't very easy to cycle with.  Next year I will carry everything in a backpack and then put the pack in the official bag.  Very organized drop off and pick up.

Spectators:  THANK YOU to everyone who was along the route cheering us on.  I definitely would not have finished without you.  Thanks also for letting us shut down so many roads for this experience.

Bling:  Well-deserved and weighty.  Already proudly hanging on my race bling rack.

After party:  Lovely goodie bags (although the salad cream was a bit random) and picnic area with food carts and a giant TV screen to watch the professionals race to the finish line.  There were many tired riders but all were content with their performance.  A fantastic feature was a secure bike parking area that required matching your bracelet to the tag on your bike before leaving.  It was much easier that lugging a lock all over town.

Here are my tips for next year (as ballot registration is on MONDAY 12 AUGUST. The registration system will remain open until 6 January 2014 or until 80,000 registrations have been received):

1.  Say you are going to ride faster that you think.  It will give you a bit more time and help you avoid being diverted.  There is a rolling start with plenty of time for the faster folks to get in out in front.

2. Know how to change a flat tire.  Seriously.  I would like to thank my tattooed guardian angel, Mac, and his metal spanners for assisting me at the top of Leith Hill.

3.  Put time into your training.  Not just on the bike, but cross train with strength training and yoga too.

4.  Get involved with a charity.  As you are going to be talking about your training for several months, you might as well an organization benefit.  You don't have to officially join a team, but adding a cause will be motivational for you to complete the race too.  Rod's Racing is a big reason why I  didn't give up during my training.

5.  Ladies- get in!  Only 1/4 of the finishers this year were women.  I am not sure if this was due to ballots allocations or charity participation but we need to come out in full force next year.  To gain confidence on your bike, check out the Breeze Network which offer local guided rides. I will be leading rides in the London area in late September.  Stay tuned for more details.

If you took part in Ride London, leave a comment below and let me know what you thought, as well as any advise you would give potential riders for next year.

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