June brings two challenges – one I’ve now completed, my first 10k off road race at Run the Rock. I placed 27th with a time just over 52 minutes, which I am really happy about – I now know on a less undulating course I could achieve something much faster. Looking forwards though, the 24 of June brings my second cycling challenge of the year – London to Brighton (and back).
What is the London to Brighton (and back) challenge?
As with a number of my challenges, this is self-organised and unsupported. I do it this way, rather than participating in organised events such as the British Heart Foundation London to Brighton;
- I can full support my own Charity and ensure that all of the money raised goes directly to them – it’s Make-A-Wish UK if you didn’t know;
- As all of my challenges are self-funded it allows me to keep my costs down by not paying entry fees
- I can do the challenge in my own, unique way – I’m not knocking any formal events, I’ve got lots planned.
The first leg of this challenge will be the classic London to Brighton route, which starts at Clapham Common, I’ll be getting the train in to London and aim to start by 8am. Once out of the City the route follows quiet country roads down through Mitcham, Carshalton, Chipstead, Banstead and Haywards Heath before taking on the mighty Ditchling Beacon – a mile long climb to the top of the South Downs. Traditionally the organised events all finish on Madeira Drive in Brighton, however for me this will be the halfway point – a time to stretch, refuel and rehydrate – and take in the wonderful East Sussex coastline.
A lot of my challenges have a personal connection in some way – I spent a very happy 6 years living and working in East Sussex and both my children were born in Eastbourne District General Hospital – so returning to Brighton will always bring back some very happy memories.
A younger, hairer version of me at Seaford, East Sussex
So after a brief reminisce on the beach I will begin the second leg of the challenge – a monster 90 miles back beyond London to central Buckinghamshire where I live. I’ve had to map this route myself, so I’ve plotted the straightest line possible while sticking to more minor roads. So this route will take me through Horsham, over the Surrey Hills, skirt around Windsor Great Park before finally heading up on to the Chiltern Hills for the last, brutal climb before home.
So all in all this is going to be an epic 144 mile (225km) round trip, crossing through 7 of the south east’s most beautiful counties – the sting in the tail is that the ride has a total elevation gain of over 8,000ft, which is not going to kind.
Above is the elevation profile of the complete route, courtesy of Strava
Staying on the route
I will confess to being a nightmare navigator – I don’t pay attention to where I’m going and frequently get lost in the car, on my bike or when running on trails. After some research and testing I’ve found OsmAnd, an app for Android and iPhone, that allows you to import .gpx (map) files and then use them for turn by turn navigation. So I’ve plotted the route, uploaded it and it will be placed in a case on the handlebars. What I like about OsmAnd, apart from it being free, is that it allows you to put the phone on airplane mode and it will wake the screen up when there is a turn coming, thus saving a load of battery life. So a really great low cost option for the amateur like me.
The distance and the sheer number and size of the hills is going to require a sensible fueling strategy – the aim will be to eat little and often to ensure my muscles don’t tire too quickly.
For the times when cycling I will be taking plenty of dried fruit, bananas, peanut-butter and jam bagels, homemade protein and granola bars, all stashed in my frame bag.
In terms of hydration, I will have two water bottles on the bike – one of which will be water with one or two High 5 Zero tablets added and the other will have High 5 EnergySource 4:1.
Why do I use these? I’ve been using these products for a while now as part of my training and recovery plan. The 4:1 is particularly beneficial as the blend of carbohydrate, protein and key electrolytes will help to sustain performance during this kind of endurance exercise and promote recovery of normal muscle function when done. So all in all it’s really great for when you’re going big. The Zero tablets replace a lot of key vitamins and minerals that are lost through sweat, so they help combat fatigue, headaches and muscle cramps.
I should note here I am not endorsed by High 5 – it’s a brand and product I’ve found that works for me – both in terms of performance and taste. A lot of powders often taste very synthetic and particularly in the case of protein powders I’ve found cause bloating and other related…er…symptoms. The 4:1 Citrus just seems to suit me best at the moment, everyone is different but I would certainly recommend it.
What else will I be carrying?
I’m aiming to travel as light as possible, with compromising either my health or being able to complete the challenge. So in the pockets of my jersey I will be stashing some energy gels (yes High 5 again), and easy access foods such as protein bars and bananas.
I have a frame bag that will carry food and drink sachets, as mentioned above, and lastly a saddle bag.
This is going to essentially be my spares and repair kit;
- Rain jacket
- Spare inner tube
- Quick chain link
- Multi tool
- Micro pump
- Puncture repair kit
A final thought
This is going to be an challenging, both physically and mentally, task. It’s easy to forget that I’ve only been cycling for 4 months – so I do question myself, my sanity and whether my body can truly take this while I lay in bed at night, but I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t reaching for the moon.
All of the challenges are in aid of Make-A-Wish UK, to ensure they can continue to grant magical wishes for children and young people fighting life threatening conditions.