I have done it. I, Vikki Stone, have cycled 102.22 miles, in one day. It's hard to believe at the beginning of this month, I was falling over sideways in front of strangers and a dog, because I couldn't get my feet out of clip pedals.
Sorry to be a map wanker, but here's the evidence:
My family came to support me on the day, which was much needed, and as I was making my final preparations, my Mum was desperate to be of use. I, of course, was busy trying to look cool in front of the other cyclists, all with their heads in the boots of their cars, and allan keys in their hands, putting all their kit together. I didn't want to be outed as a novice, and just as some other uber kitted out fellas were pushing their bikes past me on their way to start, Mum asks loudly 'do you want to take a towel?'. Yes Mum, I want to ride around for nine hours, dragging a bath sheet. No, I don't want a towel! She'd inadvertently outed me in front of the cool kids. I felt eight again.
I'm not sure if this was before or after towelgate, but I'm clearly BUSY.
At 7:45am, I gathered at the start. Other groups of cyclists had already started, and there were more to follow behind me. My plan was to always keep someone from my group, preferably a lady, in sight. That way, I'll definitely get the job done before the event closes at 7pm, and I won't have to be picked up by the safety bus. I was pleased to have got chatting to some ladies, who were here for a day out, and the flap jacks. I'll stick with them.
Then we started. The ladies were too slow, and sadly I had to let them go, but I have to admit, it felt good that I knew that someone was behind me. I picked another lady to saddle stalk, but she was also too slow. My training app was set to shout at me if I fell below 13mph, and I wasn't going to argue with it. So off I went, my plan already out the window. I was on my own.
Other riders from later groups came past me, just men actually, and, after a nod and a hello, I would briefly try to keep them in sight. This was very good for my average miles per hour, and stopped my app from getting too shouty.
There was a lot of nodding to other cyclists, and there was something very special about the nods this time from passing cyclists in the other direction. I had a number on my bike. I was 'on a sportive'. They would slow down to ask about said 'sportive' as they passed, and I would answer casually, as though it was just the sort of thing I usually do. I have NAILED this proper cycling lark.
There were three planned rest stops on route, and this meant that the ride was divided up into four, seemingly manageable chunks.
The first stage, miles one to twenty six were easy. I'd carb LOADED the night before, and had a carby breakfast. I didn't have the protein shake I'd intended, as in my 6am haze, I'd managed to spill all of this over the passenger seat of my car. It's a wholefood shake, rammed with seeds, and it's lovely, but it's not coming out of my car upholstery anytime soon.
There was a bit of light rain, and it was very overcast, but orange glasses, and overshoes (both of which were bought in a panic the day before) made the cycling imminently more pleasurable for the conditions. At the first rest stop I got chatting to a lovely man who was cycling the 100 miles on his sixty ninth birthday. He was very inspiring, and we set off again at the same time.
Over the next stretch, miles twenty six to fifty eight, I left the birthday man behind me, and found the ride fairly easy. The second rest stop had the same spread as the first, and I was weirdly disappointed, for some reason I felt like they should have upped the anti, at every feeding station. I had a stretch, a cup of tea, and a couple of Jaffa cakes. There were only 20 miles until the lunch stop, and twenty miles is easy peasy. This thing will be done before I know it.
Miles fifty eight to sixty five were boring. The weather was on the turn and I could feel my body getting tired. I hadn't passed anyone, nor and anyone pass me since I passed the birthday man. I was getting route paranoia, and was frequently convinced I was going the wrong way.
I had to take an impromptu break in front of a large country house. My upper back was in agony, but a bit of yoga in a stranger's driveway did the trick.
The fourteen miles that followed were HARROWING. They were the hardest of the whole ride. Five of these miles were through a town centre in a hail storm. I was going very slowly and people were staring. I didn't care, as long as my legs kept moving. I know, at this point, had I have got off and found shelter, I would have given up and called for the safety bus.
I was so glad of the overshoes in the hail storm - thank you to all those who tweeted me about going out to get some, my feet were dry because of you. My cycling shorts were so wet, from the rain water and sweat, I could have wet myself and not even known about it.
During this time I did a lot of shouting at hills and some harsh motivational speaking to my thighs. I even stopped, got off my bike and shouted 'WHERE IS THIS FEED STATION?' at mile seventy seven. I was getting hangry. Cycling by myself was the right choice for me.
Look, there's no joy in these eyes in this picture. That's the expression of someone who's just shouted in the previous village.
When I finally reached the lunch stop at mile seventy nine, I saw the same people from the stop before, and it was good to see familiar faces. They also kindly offered for me to cycle the rest of the way with them, but my shouting had become nigh on anti-social, so felt it was best to carry on alone.
I did a lot of my fastest riding during miles seventy nine to eight five, because I wanted to get it over with, but this burst was short lived, as by mile ninety, the crying started. The first time I cried, (oh, yes there's more than one piece of irrational lady behaviour), was when I saw a massive hill ahead, and I was properly bracing myself for it. As the beast approached, the signage told me to turn left, before the hill and it took me down a different hill. Down! I cried tears of joy as I freewheeled like an eight year old. The second cry, around mile ninety five, was at the sign to Stratford-Upon-Avon. After cycling through Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Worcestershire, I was finally back where I started! The sweet tears of relief. The last cry, was upon seeing the edge of Stratford Race Course, where the finish line was. It was finally the end. It was only about ten minutes later, when I realised I was still cycling, and I hadn't in fact reached the end, I stopped, and shouted 'WHERE IS THE RACECOURSE?' At that very moment, I got a text from my family, who were following my progress online, saw I'd stopped and texted words of encouragement. I just kept going, and there it was, two minutes later, the actual end.
Thanks to everyone that sponsored me and/or offered advice. I couldn't have done it without you!
Would I do it again? You bet. I've already got my eye on what events I can schedule around my tour dates for the rest of the year. I quite fancy touring the UK with a bike on the back of my car, as well as my piano! Am getting very tempted by a number of things on www.ukcyclingevents.co.uk, although, next time, I'm going to do it with friends, so do let me know if you want to come join me. You have to be okay with shouting.