I am a bit of a fair weather cyclist. Cold feet in the winter are a deterrent so I prefer my winter exercise to be in the gym. This is not a bad thing; the variety: weights, rowing and other aerobic workouts are great preparation for when one braves the elements which in reality are seldom too unpleasant in our corner of the world. Including gym work in training can help with the aching shoulders and neck of long rides.
When I last did the London 100 miles I said never again. I was fitter than this year but having seen so many accidents along the way it felt too unsafe. We had a lengthy delay at one stage while an air-ambulance was called to help. 30,000 bikes back up quickly causing crowding.
However when this year’s London-Essex Ride was announced I forgot my promise to self and so with friends I signed up.
This year brought another fitness challenge, covid. Training began well if a little late but unfortunately the opportunity to train in the fabulous weather of March was lost due to a bout of covid. Once I felt fully recovered I returned to training but the effect on my fitness and stamina was amazing. The fitness monitor which I wear showed this and explained the tiredness after attempting longer rides. This effect has thankfully passed.
We have been sensitive to this in planning the Channel ride by enabling the choice to change to shorted routes on the day and even while on the ride.
For the first time in my life I was quite anxious, because of fitness, on the day before the event. After all, we do these things for pleasure!
Parking for the C100
Getting to the London Ride posed many challenges. There was no parking arrangement so to be at the start at 7am took some planning. The first train from here is 8am. Not having a car nearby at an event means that one has to travel dressed for the occasion suitable for the journey out and home as well as the ride.
This difficulty was compounded by there not being a baggage drop either.
Having overcome those challenges the ride was extremely well organised. The roads are closed for the entire route and never felt crowded. There were fewer accidents and when there was, help was always nearby. Everyone I saw with a puncture seemed to have a marshal to help them. There was an army of marshals spread throughout the course. When I had a puncture the person who lived beside where it happened came to my aid.
There were four refreshment stops and there were toilets approximately every 5 miles or so. It was also possible to shorten ones ride to 60 miles depending on how it felt.
I have never trained more than 65 miles for a 100 event. Somehow fitness seems to kick in for the rest of the ride carried along by the spirit of the event. This was the case this year. I need not have been anxious. Recovery was also easier than the training rides. Thankfully the residue of covid has passed.
Would I do it again? Although I had said never, I think I would. It is a great fitness goal and as one gets older one does not like to let go of fitness.
The Channel 100 Challenge is certainly easier to get to with free parking near the start. You can change when you arrive in the car park and dress suitably for the day knowing that you can change again at the end.
We also have cut-off where you can do 30 or 50 or 80 miles but 100 miles is a great challenge. The C100 is also on a very flat route. The London-Essex may not have very challenging hills but there are many long low gradient climbs. My monitor showed over 8000 calories burned and heartrate over 80% intermittently for much of the time. This either means that I am still not fit enough or it shows that the route was challenging in parts.
Training is about listening to your body. Too many long rides in quick succession bring a risk of injury. Aches are warning signs so stretch when they appear. In any exercise, improvement is about stressing and recovery. Stress without recovery will lead to injury.
Is it necessary to train beyond 70 miles for a one-off 100? It is, in my judgement, more important to rest for the week before the event.
8000 calories burnt needs to be replaced. Proper nourishment during the ride aids recovery also sufficient fluid intake is essential to replace that lost over a long period especially on a warm day. Electrolytes are lost in sweat and need to be replaced. Regular and early intake is the best way.
But above all, it is important to listen to your body and if it is not up to the challenge on the day, shorten the challenge.
Long rides do not just involve the legs. Arms and neck tire as well. This is where the winter training in the gym helps.
The C100 is a great motivational goal for fitness early in the season. We hope you enjoy the day. Marshals will have spare inner tubes should they be required. There will be two refreshment stations on the route and the Star Inn at the finish for a relaxing pint if you like!