29. December 2014 · Comments Off on Beasting the Big 100 · Categories: embrace the bike, Weekly Roundup · Tags: ,

We all have one.  A scary number.  Something that looms large.  For some it might be the 10K, the half marathon.  For others, the marathon, the Ironman, the ultra.  Whatever it is, the size of the number isn’t the issue – it’s the fear factor that matters, the associations with that number.  For me, it’s the 100 MILE CYCLE.  The Century ride.

Fear of the number isn’t bad.  It creates motivation and drive to train, and the sense of achievement that comes with completing the challenge.  But I will admit that I’ve had a bit of a strange relationship with the big

Why?  I mean, I’ve done an Ironman, and I’ve cycled the 100+ miles quite a few times now.  So why does it still make me anxious?

Because it’s a bloody long way!!!

And I’ve failed a few times.  And here’s the thing.  I’m not good at failing at things.  Nobody likes to fail, and if you work hard, push hard, try hard, it’s hard to accept that sometimes things just don’t work.  But there you go.  Sometimes they don’t.

First Attempt – Fail!

With friends Dalia & Jojo, at the start of the ride

With friends Dalia & Jojo, at the start of the ride – our first 100 mile ride

May 19, 2013.  This was the Wight Riviera Sportive, around the Isle of Wight.  Now, I should say – the Isle of Wight is really really beautiful.  It’s a stunning place to cycle, and it has non-stop hills.  Welcome to cycling in the UK – May 19, and it was barely above freezing, and raining off and on.

This is not me. You can tell because I was NOT smiling that day.  But you can see the route was stunning.

A view of the Needles



Stunning.  Except it was cold and raining.  Cold, raining, and 101 miles /163 km and 2219m of climbing.  Gulp.

I suffered.  I wasn’t ready for it.  Jojo quickly disappeared off with a speedier pack, while Dalia kindly stayed with me throughout my suffering.  Dalia had some mechanical issues, so we had to wait for a mechanic to fix those while the clock ticked on, and then when we did pedal onwards, it was pretty much at snail pace.  Yes, so slow that when, chilled through, nearly delirious, we finally arrived back at the finish some 7 hours later, my GPS showed that we had only done 145km, not 163km.  What happened?  I was just so thankful to be back that I didn’t dwell on it, but on the ferry journey back to the mainland, a kind official explained that the broom wagon crew had altered the route at the end to bring us back a bit quicker.  Thank goodness but….  my first failed attempt at 100 miles.  Wah!


Second Attempt – Success!

Sunshine makes me happy!

Sunshine makes me happy!

What a difference sunshine makes.  Second attempt was while on a (highly recommended) cycling training camp with Andy Cook out of Club La Santa (sport heaven), Lanzarote, in January 2014. We cycled in a group, it was warm and sunny, we had a couple of stops where we drank coke and ate cheese sandwiches and it was, point blank, a fantastic experience.  We took it slow and steady and I survived the 2700m elevation.  It was awesome.  (Strava link here.)


Third attempt – fail!

Don't be fooled by the smile.  I was frozen.

Don’t be fooled by the smile. I was frozen.

Sadly the third attempt was back in the rain.  Except no, it wasn’t so much rain, as snow, sleet, and hail. C’mon, seriously?!  There isn’t much wore than sleet while cycling.  It was the Lionheart Sportive in Wiltshire.  Again, long and hilly (there is a theme here…).  I was so frozen that when I got to the halfway point, I turned my bike and followed the signs to the 100 km route, saying goodbye to my dreams of getting another 100 miler under my belt. (NB – friend Dalia, mentioned above, soldiered on and did the 100 miles.  Beast!)  I drove home shivering and then ran a frozen miserable 17 km, cursing Ironman training.


Fourth attempt – Epic fail





Just to make sure my confidence was well and truly shot, my fourth attempt at the 100 miles was the one where I had the mega-crash and totalled my bike after 105 km.  Read this to hear more about that.  I won’t dwell on it here.  Moving on!

Fifth Attempt Success!

Rain rain rain, always rain!

It always rains!

Ironman Lanzarote was just 5 weeks away when I had the crash, so I really needed to get another 100 miler in, if only for the sake of my confidence.  One week after the crash, I did the Wiggle Ups and Downs Sportive, a hilly 103 mile route in Surrey, with my friend Zoe.  Guess what.  It rained.  It rained like Noah’s Flood.  (Would we expect anything less of April in England?) It was torrential rain, and it was cold, a wet spraying filthy muddy clinging cold that bit into our hands and feet and sodden clothes for the full 103 miles.  That’s right, the full shebang. Zoe and I made it around.  It was misery but we did it!  I couldn’t have done it without Zoe slowly chugging along beside me, a faint silhouette of relentless support in the pouring rain!

Do not be fooled by this brief moment of sun!

With Zoe, photo taken in the brief 5 minutes of sun we had the whole ride!

Sixth Attempt – Success!

This one had to happen!  Ironman Lanzarote!

Ironman Lanzarote

Ironman Lanzarote

112 miles, no problem at all! (Other than bad stomach, but that’s a story for another day.)  Have I mentioned I cycle a whole lot better in the sunshine?

Course profile of Ironman Lanzarote


Seventh AttemptSuccess!

Sunshine = smiles!

Sunshine = smiles!

June 2014.  My friend Rebecca and I rode 178km with 2646m climbing around Kent on a beautiful sunny day.  It didn’t rain.  Bliss!  A great ride.  Sunshine makes all the difference!


Eighth AttemptSuccess!

I call this one a success, but it was a bitter success if there ever was one.  This was the White Rose Classic put on by the Ilkley Cycling Club in Yorkshire, and we rode part of the route the Tour de France would be doing the following week.  I had been warned – this one is known as hard, and it truly was.  From our start at the nearby hotel to the finish, we rode 191 km /119 miles and 3658 m of climbing.  Brutal ride.  It hurt. It hurt for some 11 hours.  I rode again with my friend Rebecca who kept saying to me, You’re an Ironman, you can do this.  With 25% grade climbs it nearly killed me, but I crawled around it at snail’s pace and made it to the end.  Magnificent.  (Yes, it was truly beautiful too.)  And yes, it did rain a bit too.  Obviously.


Ninth Attempt – Success!

Christmas Eve 2014, yes, just a few days ago.  Maybe now I can stop labelling them success vs failures in my head, given that I’ve had a run of successful rides.  But as I said, it’s hard to get a scary number out of your head once it’s lodged itself in there.

This was a successful ride in a new way, however.  Since moving to Florida, I’ve been learning how to push harder on the bike than ever before.  All the other 100+ mile rides were very hilly, and often snowing/sleeting/raining.  Here, I can focus on just the bike, riding hard on big open roads. And I thrive on the bike in the sunshine.

This was the Santa Pull 100, a fantastic group ride organised by pro team Rich and Carol Wygand of RW Training.

At 25 miles in

At 25 miles in

We rode to the ocean! I still can’t get over how amazing it is to ride along the ocean.  In total Tom and I rode 186 km / 116 miles in 6h17, with an average speed of 30 km/h.  (See the ride here.)  BOOM!  Thanks RW Training for giving me back my 100 mile confidence!


The sun rises over the beach – we started cycling at 5:30am


Drinks refill stop, around 75 miles in



Filthy happy faces after 186 km.

Filthy happy faces after 186 km

Nine 100+ mile rides attempted to date.  Six successes, three failures.  100 miles is still a long way, but I’m getting a bit less scared of it now.  And those failures would only be true failures if I had never made the attempt again.

Lessons learned:

  1. I hate cycling in the cold.
  2. I ride better with friends

Morals?  Move to somewhere warm.  Cycle with a great group.  DONE!


What’s your dreaded number? 

What scares you?


Weekly Roundup

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 10.28.44

Total Time: 16:11

Swim:  4.7 km, 1:40

Bike:  284 km, 9:30

Run:  39 km, 3:48