Growing up, I always had hand me down bikes, whilst my peers had choppers and BMX's, I always had some crappy rust bucket of a bike, with massively fat tires, but I loved it!
Last year some friends of ours asked my husband and I to do a charity bike ride for Cystic fibrosis in June 2014, their son Billy has this condition and as I love bike riding and always love to help charities, I happily said yes. I wasn't even thinking - the bike ride in question was 'Night Rider' 100km around london at night, from 11pm!
I had a very manic, stressful week leading up to the bike ride and admittedly did not have much time to train for it- I had to submit my finished book 'The Body Rescue Plan' the night before the race, to get it in time for my print deadline!
The morning of the race I realised my racer bike I bought from Halfords, 12 years ago, needed some attention, so I took it to the local bike shop asking them if they could raise the handle bars. The assistant was horrified at the look of my very OLD bike and informed me it was for a 6ft 5 man! I actually couldn't even reach both breaks. However when I asked him what their cheapest bikes were, the price tag said £700! So, I just bought everything I could to keep this bike going for the next night ahead. We raised the handlebars by using various bits of metal, as it was SO OLD there were no parts for it any more, I bought a padded seat, padded shorts and pink trainers with a pink jacket! Oh and the lube! This actually saved my life, well saved my nether regions anyway, menthol lubrication, AMAZING!
As I packed every thing at home before the race, I looked at my underwear staring at me, lace, g-strings galore- hmmm thats going to hurt after 6 hours on a bike... so I stole a pair of my husbands Calvin Klein Y-fronts, and off I went- they are so soft by the way!
We were 5 in our team and our journey to Alexandra Palace was almost as arduous as the long event, trains not working, etc..
So when we got there we had already cycled about 8 miles! For some reason we all thought it was a good idea to eat a massive pizza just before our 11pm start, we wharfed it down- not a great idea but I was nervous about being under fuelled!
Before the start we donned our numbers, which we had to write our next of kins details on- basically in case we died! Great!
At the last minute I remembered I'd forgotten my very important menthol lube, ran back to the cloakroom ( actually just a big truck ) and squeezed a tennis ball sized mound on my hand. This mother was going everywhere! No nook or cranny fanny was being left out- every single part of me must be numbed! And it worked an absolute dream- I was singing and dancing down there for hours!
Off we went- 11pm the whistle blew and 100 other neon bibbed bike riders began ( every 5 minutes another 100 went until 12.30am, from Alexandra Palace and Crystal Palace- and in total 3500 partook in the night rider )
The first 3 hours I found really hard, thoughts of my book going through my head, my neck hurting due to the ridiculous 6ft 5 bike I had, and just generally wanting to go to bed thoughts.
We passed some fantastic sites, London is truly beautiful at night, but for the first few hrs it was hard to pick up any speed due to the millions of traffic lights- despite it being most peoples bedtimes London was fully alive!
The bridges were the most dazzling, London Bridge being my favourite, its so stunning, and riding over it felt really exciting, despite it being 3.30 am at that point.
After 25 miles we went to our second pit stop. At this point I felt like giving up, I was knackered. All 4 of my team mates were O-d-ing on caffeine and sugar- I was being healthy with my bounce bars and nakd bars- and supping my spa tone Iron drink- but I was totally sick of my fruit and nut bars by now. However as I opened my bum bag I saw the halo of light shining around my large stodge of cheese, and it was like I'd met the love of my life. Oh that cheese felt so good- after that I felt like a completely different person, my energy soared and suddenly I was flying. I also had some pain killers and a heat back on my back which really helped with my neck pain!
More beautiful sites followed, my all time favourite was seeing the sunrise behind the millennium dome- I was really looking forward to watching the sunrise anyway, but had no idea we would get this back drop!
The camaraderie amongst the other riders was fantastic, every one was really friendly, all be it really annoying when they would ask what time you started and you would say ''11pm'' and they would say Oh I started at ''12.30'' and then bomb off!
Everyone in london was really friendly too- I only got called a ''Bloody Cyclist'' by one drunk man in piccadilly, and to be fair to him he must of thought he was hallucinating with thousands of fluorescent donned cyclists flying towards him, and if he was already hallucinating then we must have looked like aliens invading the earth!
We got cheered on at all hours of the night which was really exhilarating and made you feel the connection between all of us.
The most serene part was riding through The City- it was totally calm, quiet and tranquil, really beautiful, and the opposite to what hum drum of activity it would normally be. However at this point I'm afraid I had to 'go' - not in a Paula Radcliff way, just a wee- but I found a nice tree to go by and looked up at these huge buildings staring back at me in their sleepy way.
Knackered as above- this was taken at 6.30am, medal in hand!
After that it was the home run, I had a metometer on my bike which informed me we had just 10 miles to go- great, I know that distance, thats the distance to my gym I own. 5 miles left, ok thats the distance to my parents, 2 miles, 1 mile, 0 miles.... what we are not here yet?? Actually it wasn't 60 miles but 64, DAMMIT! And the last half a mile was up a very very steep hill. Every breath up that hill I considered getting off the bike and walking, but then I heard a distance cheer for us again, and made it to the top, with a tear in my eye. I was tired, emotional and really felt like I had been through a huge journey. At 6:20am we made it!
The next few days were spent eating, a lot! But I was amazed I had no pain anywhere in my body, clearly I felt it all in my journey, and cleared it all out.
And between us we have raised over £3000 for The Cystic Fibrosis Trust-with still more donations to come in- which means Billy may just live that little bit longer.