I finished the London to Brighton Bike Ride at the weekend in four hours 18 minutes, taking two hours off my personal best and proving that, regardless of your age, weight or size, you can always improve. It just takes time and effort.
Importantly this year I enjoyed myself so much more and put a few demons to rest.
Last year I struggled on all the hills and needed quite a few “refreshment breaks” along the 54-mile route. When I finished I felt like collapsing in a ditch.
This year I pushed myself during the ride and only needed to “get my breath back” on Ditchling Beacon – the killer final hill at the end of the ride which saps you of your energy just before you get to Brighton.
But the rest of the way was enjoyable (I even managed to overtake a fair few younger, lither cyclists, who must have been disconcerted to see a MAMIL like me passing them).
After Sunday’s effort I felt tired, but I wasn’t in pieces and was able to host 18 friends for a barbeque at my house afterwards.
What also made the event so much fun was the camaraderie. About 28,500 riders took part on the day including some of my fellow “Sausages” (about seven members of my business networking group dubbed the “Sausage Club” took part).
We all headed off in a minibus in the early hours of Sunday morning making the schlep from Hertfordshire to the starting point Clapham early to beat the crowds.
Once we actually got to the starting line, at about 6am, it was every man (and woman) for himself. (Helmets off to Mike Cole for winning the Fastest Sausage Award, after finishing in 3 hours 11 minutes.)
The whole thing served to remind me of how far I had come – from couch potato to keen cyclist – in just a year. Since last year’s London to Brighton I have spent hours and hours out on my bike, regularly cycling up to 60 miles a week. I have also put in a fair few sessions with a personal trainer (the lovely, yet oh so strict Carol Quirk).
So what next? For me it will be the London to Surrey on August 4, a 100 miler taking in the Olympic Park, Dorking, Leith Hill and the infamous Box Hill. The route profile for the race shows lots of inclines diplomatically called “more physically demanding” which basically means plenty of big hills.
But I am looking forward to the challenge.