Category Archives: london

cabbage patch 10

When my sister booked a trip that came through London last weekend I immediately looked for a race for us to do. I conveniently forgot that small detail that she had just come from running the Budapest Marathon 30k the week before. Sorry legs!

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The Serpentine 10 mile Club Championship race was the Cabbage Patch 10, and seeing it’s route went along the river in Twickenham I figured it would be a nice 10 mile sightseeing route if nothing else.

I signed us all up for this popular race before it sold out and set out researching recipes for cabbage in case we won one of the trophies.

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It was easier than I expected to get to Twickenham for the Sunday 9:30am start (thank you 24-hour Victoria Line) and we made it in plenty of time to set up in the corner of the pub near the cucumber water (!!) while the rain poured down outside. A quick trip up to the nightclub to leave our bags and use one of the many toilets made available for us, we walked the 5 minutes to the holding street start line.

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The race isn’t on closed roads so it’s a bit of a mass hurry-up-and-wait start until the volunteers lead you out to the busy road to start. I thought of it more as a parade and cheerfully waved at everyone out on their Sunday drive.

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Having the sidewalk and 1 lane to run in for the first few miles was fine and it wasn’t too crowded where we were running. I saw lots of friendly faces from Serpentine and especially enjoyed the speed limit warning signs giving us the 🙂 when we were “only” running 7 miles per hour.

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We ran through the lovely suburbs of Teddington, through Hampton Wick, across the river to Kingston and then through Ham even running down the avenue I helped clear back in 2015!

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From there it was along the river past Richmond Park, across one more bridge and back Twickenham. I was pretty happy to be only 2 miles from the finish.

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There were tasty flapjacks at the water stations and just after mile 9 some kids were on the side of the path telling us, “this is about to be the best day of your life….” around the corner was the Fullers Beer team giving out shots of beer and full cans if we wanted to run with them.

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The last mile went by pretty quickly (the opposite of last week’s Oxford Half) and before I knew it we were on the home straight running down the bus lane into a park to the finish line.  A quick cheers with my sister before we turned around just in time to see Helen finish super strong with her can of beer safely stowed in her race vest. Alex was right behind her and with his can of beer already open!

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At the finish we dipped into the buckets of mars bars and grabbed finishers shirts (lots of sizes left but all male style & sizing).

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We walked back to the pub with our drinks while the sun came out and hung out in the sunny beer garden for a while waiting for the prize cabbage giving. Previous winner, Mo Farah, wasn’t entered this year but this year’s winners were just as fast and deserving of their cabbages.

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We found another sunny beer garden to grab post-race burgers and shandys (holding on to summer!) and finally made our way back to North London after a little siesta when we accidentally got on the long train back to Waterloo.

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The great race photographers (gotta love one who is ready for a jumping photo)  made their photos available for £3.95 after the race. The memes of mine have already started in a few WhatsApp groups…

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oxford half marathon

It’s the Higher Education league table you didn’t know you needed. Cambridge vs. Oxford: Who hosts the better half marathon? Running both this year, I consider myself highly educated and confident to present the following dissertation as an expert in the field.

The Oxford Half Marathon didn’t have the best start. Train tickets to Oxford aren’t cheap, so after getting a spot in the race from Brooks Running I quickly booked advance tickets for £6. The first train from London was scheduled to arrive at 9:12am which I took as perfect.

The race organisers then decided to put the race village (with bag drop) at a different location from the start. I had to make a choice a) jog to the start and run the race with a small pack and make it in time to get into my starting pen or, b) jog to the bag drop, hope it was still open and then jog to the race start joining the back of the starters. Because I was going for a time goal I wanted to be in the right pen and and hoped I’d find the promised 1:50 pacer (there wasn’t one, only 1:45 – race brochure lied) to stick with. I’m used to running with a big pack run commuting so my little race vest wasn’t a problem.

Another bummer of Oxford is you have to take a train from Paddington (Cambridge departs from the always convenient and now on the 24 hour Victoria line Finsbury Park). Paddington is close to nothing and impossible to get to without 3 tube changes. Luckily early on a Sunday morning, it’s a quick 40 minute cycle along the empty canal, which turned out to be one of my favourite parts of the day.

On the train with a few other time-confident runners who chose to ignore the race organisers warning of delayed trains. The one hour train ride was the perfect amount of time to eat, drink and use the toilet before arriving and jogging the 1 mile to the start as a warm up.

made it to the start!

made it to the start!

I made it into my pen with 2 whole minutes to spare, and then waited another few while the start was slightly delayed. Starting right in the city centre was beautiful and there were loads of people out cheering the runners on.

Right away I turned my watch off the pace screen. I knew I was going to have to push the pace to get to my goal, but for the first two miles I wanted to run at a sustainable effort and not start worrying about pace right away – that would make it a long long two hours. The first few miles felt fast but eventually I passed the two hour pacer (who was running very fast 8:45s to start) group and finally felt settled in to the effort pace. Being the first time I’ve raced in a while I got used to the “This is hard but I’ve got to keep going” feeling. I used a mental tip from my friend Laura to say to myself a few times, “You can slow down but you can’t stop”

I passed the 10k in 53:21, a bit fast but knowing I didn’t have the endurance base from consistent training this year I was happy for the bit of a time buffer in the second half.  I kept slowing down a little bit when it all got a bit too hard, and then pushing again when I felt OK (confession: or decided to pick someone off ahead of me!)

Just after 9 miles though after a long out and back that felt uphill both ways I didn’t need to look at my watch to know my pace had slipped down while my effort was still sky high. I think at that point I quietly accepted I wouldn’t get my goal but also felt OK (just the normal hard effort tired) so would keep pushing to the finish to see how close I could get to my goal.

The course went through lots of lovely neighbourhoods of Oxford and surrounding villages, and then the last 2 miles were through a park. The dirt path was welcome to my pavement weary feet, but it did get quite narrow and being a solid mid-pack runner this meant that it was almost impossible to push ahead even when I felt like it. The route snaked around the park too which, at this point in the race, you couldn’t help but feel like, “Ohmygod another cut back loop to here?”

I saw this guy at the end of the race. If I could have caught up to him I would have had some choice words about his interpretation of 400m

I saw this guy at the end of the race. If I could have caught up to him I would have had some choice words about his interpretation of 400m

Once out of the park it was half a mile to the finish but about 5 or 6 turns on to different streets. Again, since it’s been a while since I raced a race I forgot how badly you just want to see that finish line (no matter what your watch says). I had a few choice words for the 400m to go sign that was at least 800m from the finish (!!!) but made it to the finish without anything left for a sprint.

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After the finish we got our medals, race t-shirts, and a goody bag. All you can carry bananas and lucozade too. Wrapped in the foil cape I shuffled out past all the spectators and found a sunny patch to de-race and get some dry and warm clothes on. The goody bag had a wet wipe in it which was ace. I love actually useful items you need post-race.

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Suitably wet-wipped, my friend Katie took me to the most amazing brunch after at Malmaison. I almost want to keep it a secret for myself but I’ll just say that an all you can eat brunch buffet is EXACTLY what I needed before my train back to London. Cycle > Train > Run > Brunch > Train > Cycle and I was home with my legs up the wall by 4pm. It was a great half-marathon day trip from London if the organisers can figure out the train situation.

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So, even with an all-you-can-eat brunch right at the end trying to sway me, I have to say that Cambridge wins top spot in the 2016 Half Marathon League Table. Oxford Half was a great race and I don’t have anything bad to say about it at all. The only thing is that as another Vitality race it all seems a bit samey-same. The same branding, similar t shirt design, almost identical medals across the series. It just doesn’t entice me to go all the way to Oxford to run a race when it will be super similar to the Hackney Half in my neighborhood. Cambridge was a great race, great organisation, great course, massive unique medal, and overall just that much better.

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Brooks UK gave me entry to the Oxford Half Marathon, these leggings above and a sports bra to wear for the race. It was too warm for the leggings but I wore the sports bra and loved it so much bought a black version as soon as I got home.  

 

performance kitchen

A few Saturdays ago I woke up and began the epic journey from NE London to SW by bike. Not something I normally do on a Saturday but I was invited down to Clapham Studios to watch a morning of filming of Performance Kitchen. Only 2 stops (one for coffee and one for directions, Battersea roundabouts you are HUGE) later I made it to the kitchen studio.

David emailed me a month ago via twitter with a really nice invitation to come down and see the behind the scenes of their great project. I say great because it actually is a great idea. They film elite athletes cooking the food they actually make and eat for themselves during training. None of this “you should eat, you shouldn’t eat.” Nope. Just what actually gets made by athletes who are tired, hungry, and need their bodies to perform to the best of their ability.

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I arrived just as they were setting up the first guest, Katy Sexton MBE was setting up her kitchen. Katy was the first Brit to win a swimming world championship medal, so I was ready to take notes for my next pre swim race meal.

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Katy made a delicious pasta bake while chatting with the host about all things Olympics and training. What I liked most about her was that it was a really simple recipe. Pasta, chicke breasts, bacon, frozen corn & peas, and a can of chicken soup. It doesn’t have to be fancy macro this or spelty that.

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The filming was mostly continuous just taking a few breaks to get an instagram shot or two, and a bit of editing to avoid all that oven baking time. After the glamour shots of the food were done we got to dig in.

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Katy’s episode isn’t live yet, so I don’t want to give it all away, but you can check out the other videos on the Performance Kitchen YouTube channel in the meantime.

Performance Kitchen didn’t ask that I write or share anything about the day, they genuinely just invited me down to see what it was all about. I’m sharing about it because I think it’s a great resource in a sea of rubbish online nutritional advice. I also didn’t get any freebies save for a few (big!) scoops of Katy Sexton’s pasta bake. 

 

run and swim and repeat all weekend

It’s the summer of swimming.

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I can’t get enough. From my first dip in the chilly Kings Cross Pond back in May to yesterday swimming in all the ponds and lido on Hampstead Heath, I think I’ve jumped in almost all the available bodies of water in London this summer.

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On Saturday morning I joined 11 other members of my running club at the Serpentine Lido to compete in the annual Serpentine biathlon. Hosted by the Serpentine Swim Club it was started to bring the people in the two clubs together. Going for 33 years now (I could be the trophy!) at the beginning it was always won by the Swim Club, runners didn’t stand a chance in the water, but with the rise of triathlons more and more runners were able to at least float, and started winning the odd year.

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The race is a 2.1 mile clockwise lap of the Serpentine and then an 880yrd skins-no-wetsuit swim (2 laps of the members-area lido). There were a few people like me who had never done the event before, a few swimmers who hadn’t run since last year’s event, and even a speedy runner using this in his Kona training. Even at 8am the sun was out in full force so we were looking ahead to the swim.

With no transition to speak of I ran in my cozzie and shorts and kept a quick tempo pace on the run to try to stay ahead of (most of) the swimmers. Made it back to the lido, kicked off my shoes, grabed my cap and goggles, walked out on the dock and jumped in the water. The first 50 metres I think I was kicking like I was still running 8:00 min/miles. Oops. Exhausted I tried to calm down a bit for the rest of the swim. If you’ve swam on a sunny morning in the Serpentine you know it’s like trying to sight into the sun. So, I kept mostly a straight line and did extra long arms in case someone coming towards me came too close.

Winner of oldest finisher :)

Winner of oldest finisher 🙂

Finishing as a respectable 3rd female (out of the 3 ladies competing, also coming second last in the entire field) I enjoyed the post race cuppa and jaffa cakes provided by the amazing Serps hospitality. The award ceremony quickly followed my exit with the Serpentine Run Club winning the team, male, and female trophies and a box of jaffa cakes to top it all off.

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Sunday saw a few of us meet up in the morning at Parliament Hill Lido for the Hampstead Heath Pondathon (now more professionally titled Duathlon, but I prefer it’s original incarnation). With £10 cash clutched in our hands ready to register we followed our trusty captain Helen who magically made it on the email list to register us in this mysterious event with no internet presence.

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It was a bit of a hurry-up-and-wait style start, but eventually we were lined up at the edge of the lido for the start in our wave 1. A quiet “go” and we were off to lots of cheers. A few seconds in I was already behind everyone else by a few lengths which would have been disheartening if it was the Olympics, but this is the PONDATHON. The only way to lose is to take it too seriously.

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3 laps of the Lido and we were out trying to slip trainers on to our soggy feet and run up the Heath toward the men’s pond. Being soaked head-to-toe running across the Heath reminded me of cross country Nationals, but then I realised I had my swim cap and goggles on, probably wont bring those come January.

Everyone and their dog gave us funny looks as we ran by. I can’t blame them. Shoes off, into the men’s pond and while doing a lap I was passed by a lot of the faster swimmers from wave 2. They might have been fast, but had no idea about swimming etiquette and swimming over someone during a pondathon is not the way to win. Out of the men’s pond and running up to the Ladies’ pond I was excited since it’s undisputed as the best pond on the Heath.

Jumping off the lovely new ladies’ pond deck and into the water was properly refreshing and the lap too short. Out again, soggy trainers back on and I said hi to all the runners on their way down to the ladies pond. The run to the mixed pond was the longest with all the hills of the heath incorporated into the route. Finally, down to the mixed pond dock and an enjoyable lap done (“Let me stay in and do it twice??” I asked the lifeguard) I found my shoes and had a little laugh at the guy standing there barefoot because “Someone took my shoes, this is going to cost me 3-4 minutes” HA. Poor guy, no world record pondathon for him.

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Downhill from the mixed pond to the athletics track and a quick 100m sprint to the finish to meet the rest of my speedy Dizzy Dolphins team. We quickly showered the pond gunk off and then set up picnic shop right by the awards ceremony and post-race food spread. Top marks for the patisseries and sausage rolls race organisers!

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The Dizzy Dolphins didn’t win any awards but we did have the most post-race food so it was a successful race for everyone.

6 months of yoga

Earlier this year I moved. Same neighborhood, but now I’m closer to my favourite running route, the best sandwich shop in the UK, and a yoga studio that is across the street from good coffee & tasty burritos.  I started going to a few classes and really liked the vibe of the studio (literally just a room, no swishy reception, no expensive clothes on sale, just yoga mats in a room with the buses going by the giant window outside. It’s called More Yoga.

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A friend had to move away from North London and offered to sell me her unlimited yoga pass for the rest of the 6 months on her contract. The studio said it was fine, and it was such a good deal (she got in before the studio opened with a Founders Membership for £49.99/month) I couldn’t say no. So, there I was with 6 months to do as much yoga as I wanted.

It’s no secret I love yoga. I do some jasyoga meditation/yoga every day and do an Ashtanga class every Friday at lunch. I think the best part of yoga is the opportunity to move in different ways from your everyday movement. Taking the time to hold some poses, move sideways, upside down, and just be in your body rather than asking it to be doing something for you.

So, how much yoga did I do?

I averaged 2.7 classes per week in addition to my other yoga stuff. One of those was always a restorative/yin/meditation class, and the others were a range of yoga styles. I tried lots of new-to-me yoga classes (Forrest!) and found I got along with some teachers way more than others. Let’s just say I didn’t go back to the class where the teacher was militant about our pigeon poses. I went to one class that STARTED off with handstands and turned into a proper circus by the end. One class was full of American Football players from nearby Finsbury Park. I went to a challenging Asana flow class one week and couldn’t keep up on the first sun salutation, but afterwards found myself beaming and booking into that class every week.

I didn’t see this as a challenge but as a part of my life. Yoga every day was never going to work for me (even if it is a hashtag someone added the word damn to make it cool), nor was a rigid schedule. It wasn’t even about having a specific goal like stretching more or developing strength. Having unlimited access to a studio did allow me do more yoga than usual and I found myself checking the schedule if I had unexpected free time.  It didn’t hurt that I even learned you can order a burrito across the street from Street N4 before class and they’ll have it fresh and ready for you post class.

I’ve cancelled my membership for the end of this month even though I really enjoyed it. Yoga classes, pool & lake admissions, races & events all add up, and liking something doesn’t mean I have to do it all the time. I see a lot of people online trying to live up to an identity they’ve created rather than living their actual right now life. Everything has to be a big goal, a series of blogs, updates, highs and lows. I’m hoping that this can be a voice in the obsessive-wilderness of the internet that says just trying is OK. Doing something for a little while is OK. You don’t have to be the “most person to do the thing ever”. Writing a blog to talk about the yoga I’ve done might seem like just that that, but I still think there is value in sharing beyond bragging. I found a good studio, tried out how it felt to add more yoga classes to my lifestyle, and ended up feeling better for it overall.

real women in sport

I have only seen two truthful images of everyday women in sport in the media.

  1. The moment in the This Girl Can commercial where the swimmer adjusts her bathing suit over her butt. Nothing is more familiar to a woman in a swimsuit than this adjustment.thisgirlcan
  2. The photo of the sweaty neck on the cover of Eat Sweat Play by Anna Kessel. Everyone who has ever sweat knows the feeling of bits of hair sticking to your neck drenched in sweat.

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That’s not to say I haven’t seen images of professional women in sport in the media, but when it comes to real women doing real sport and exercise, these two images have nailed it.

I bought Eat Sweat Play after going to a talk by Anna Kessel at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival (I ran 10 miles to get there so had my own authentic sweaty neck to meet dress code) and after hearing Anna read the chapter about getting changed after gym class as a teenager I was hooked. The book does such a good job balancing speaking the truth about what it is like to be an active girl and woman and highlight how far we still have to go. Most importantly I think it points out that while it’s popular and trendy to be seen as active and #fitfam (ugh) on Instagram and in glossy magazines decked out in Net-A-Sporter high end kit, there is still a lot of less glamorous work to do to get all women comfortable sweating and playing.

Her chapter on periods is the best. YOU GUYS THERE IS ALMOST NO ACTUAL RESEARCH ON HOW SOMETHING THAT WOMEN EXPERIENCE EVERY 21 DAYS EFFECTS THEIR PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE IN SPORT. Like not even with elite athletes! I’m not a huge fan of the way sport tends to do things for elites then filters it down to the rest of the population, but wouldn’t UKA or British Cycling want to know a bit more what happens to their gold medal athletes bodies and how they can tailor the training to it? Forget marginal gains, we’d be talking menstruation gains!

To steal a great quote in the book from Caroline CriadoPerez, “Luckily I’m old enough and feminist enough to ignore the cat callers.” I feel the same way. The barriers to women doing sport bother me but I get more angry about their effect on women as a population rather than me, hence why my comebacks tend to include a lecture on misogyny and their male privilege (tough when you’re out of breath running the other direction…). I don’t think it’s fair for every woman to have to grow a thick skin if they want to be active and Anna does a great job dissecting what this actually means for the general population.

When I read a book I fold over the page when there is an especially awesome quote I think I’d like to go back to.  Eat Sweat Play has more than any other book I’ve read recently. Thanks Anna for writing it and thanks to the women out there eating, playing and sweating,

ride london 46

I have never said the number 46 more in my life than in the past 2 weeks. “Oh! Are you doing the 100 mile cycle?” “Nope, the 46” “There’s a 46? Why not 50?” “Not sure, only a 46”

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Ride London has put on the 100 mile sportive for a few years now, as with all big events it’s a ballot and as with all ballots I always enter *just to test my luck.* Keeping with tradition I always get the Hey Loser! magazine on my doorstep each year and don’t really think too much about it.

This year after my Hey Loser! magazine came they announced they’d be putting on a shorter 46 mile sportive on the same closed roads essentially missing out the Surrey Hills. My friend Emma, who has in the past also convinced me to enter the London Brighton Night Ride and London Duathlon, was keen so we entered the ballot for the 46. I say ballot but I think it was like the Paris marathon ballot in which everyone gets in, lucky us. Paying for a 46 mile sportive isn’t usually something I’d budget especially for, but being a part of the bigger event and the chance to cycle on closed roads convinced me it would be worth it.

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I found myself googling cycle superhighways to the ExCel centre on Friday after work trying to get to the expo to pick up my race pack. I was pretty grumpy about having to go all the way out east to pick up a race pack for a 46 mile sportive until my friend Helen suggested we make an evening out of it and after sampling the best free food the expo has on offer, jump in the water at the Royal Docks OWS for a few laps in the sun. Suddenly it was the perfect Friday night.

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Race morning saw my friend Emma and I furiously checking googlemaps and the unhelpful photo map on the Ride London website as to where our wave was to start. Ride London PLEASE create an interactive map for next year. Stratford is massive and no one wants to be cycling around in circles all morning. We ballparked it and cruised down the canal for 7 miles to our green start. Having to be “in” our pen an hour before our wave start was a bit hurry-up-and-wait but it was sunny so couldn’t complain.

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A lot of slow-stop-start-cycling lead us eventually into a start funnel. We had chose at sign up to start in Women’s Wave 1 which was awesome as we were surrounded by awesome women with the nicest bikes and coolest kit ever. The only disappointment was that Ride London didn’t mention it or even do anything to acknowledge it. At the start the announcer even said we were the Teach First charity wave and spent a few minutes congratulating the CEO for being at the start. BORING. A major opportunity to promote women’s cycling missed AGAIN (but who’s counting… just me).

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The riders at the front got to choose our start music and even though we were hoping for Katy Perry, We Will Rock You was chosen and it was actually awesome. The almost-all-male wave beside us was totally jealous. The first bit through East London was pretty fun. Getting to cycle fast (not like really fast, but fast for a city commuter like me) was great and Emma and I couldn’t stop smiling. The route followed big roads for cars so it was almost like seeing a new part of London. The novelty of no-cars didn’t wear off the whole time, it was glorious to cycle without worrying about who was coming up behind you, if they’d cut you off before the next parked car, would that parked car open it’s door, or sticking like glue to the left curb.

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We started just after 9 so there weren’t many people out as we cycled through Central London but the ones who were had cowbells and were really sweet cheering everyone on. Emma and I got a lot of “Yeah go girls!” cheers amid the sea of lycra’d men. Unfortunately, from the start we saw a lot of accidents. More than I expected to see, especially at the social end of the 46 mile event. Staying safe ourselves we kept chatting all the way as we headed out west trying to figure out where we were (Hammersmith Flyover? What? People who drive know so many different places in London!) The sun was out and we were keeping up a decent speed and really enjoying the riding. Out of nowhere we entered Richmond Park, which was beautiful as always. Again, with no cars it is literally the perfect place to be on a weekend. Sawyers Hill was lined with spectators doing their best TdF impressions (major kudos to the guy with the massive cow bell) to help us up the hill.

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A few miles after Richmond we pulled into the first Hub stop. It was so well organised with bike parking, lots of toilets and loads of water/electrolytes and FOOD! I had at least 3 fig rolls and 2 loafs of banana soreen (with a few extra in my pockets #justincase). Probably overeating for the final 20 miles but it was tasty… We slightly dawdled at the Hub enjoying the sun and a brief break for our bottoms since we weren’t in a hurry or close to the sweeper-van time. Back on our bikes we found our legs again and endured the uneven road through Thames Ditton (ugh) back through Kingston and then on the road back to London. The speedy Ride 100 riders were with us at this point and made for some exciting whizzzz-whizzzz peletons speeding by, we contemplated how long we’d be able to keep up with one but considering they were going at least double our pace we weren’t sure we even had the gears to make it possible. Most people were pretty good with the fast groups organised into peleton groups sticking to the right to pass and the rest of us on the left. The only problem came when fast solo riders who were not in a group for whatever reason (I could say so many things) were riding fast and weaving in/out of the slower riders. But, I always remember that these people are dicks in all aspects of their life, not just cycling.

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Riding over Putney Bridge and back along the Northbank into Central London was great. Emma and I had been chatting the whole time and couldn’t stop smiling. My legs were tired, and I was glad I wasn’t doing the 100 (not like I’d trained for it though). We decided the 46 was the best event for having fun but also pushing yourself more than you probably would. Plus. Closed Roads. I can’t say it enough. They just make cycling SO MUCH BETTER.

We turned into Trafalgar Square and down the mall (opposite way of the marathon!) and I managed some no-handed celebrating (no one passed me champagne though – Chris Froome is really lucky) before we cruised over the finish line.

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After collecting our goodybags and bag check we found some grass in St. James park and met our friends for a much needed lie down and picnic. I finally had my glass of prosecco (thanks Matt!) and a McDonalds cheeseburger. Recovery of champions!

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Overall I give 10/10 to Ride 46 for a great event. I’m not a competitive cyclist, nor do I want to be, and this event was the perfect balance of challenge and fun to get out and do a longer ride than I usually would have.

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