June 17, 2017 the longest weekend day of the year. Sunrise 4:39am Sunset 9:32pm, coast to coast, 206 miles. This year there were over 300 riders who had 16 hours and 53minutes to ride the distance before the sun goes down, an average of 14 mph. Easy peasy, right? Possibly being naive and incredibly optimistic helped!
Actually, Riding was the easy part.
How will we get our team and bikes and our mammoth amounts of food to the start before 4:30am? How will we ride 206 miles when a 30 mile club ride is pushing my endurance boundaries? How do we record a journey that long on our reliably unreliable garmins? How the hell do we keep going when we are so tired? What if the M3 is shut around London and our support misses us? When am I going to have my morning poo?
Chase the Sun is a ride not a race, just keep pedalling. A philosophy so ingrained it is even printed on their ride jerseys!
In 2013 the first female completed the event, the only female entrant that year. In 2014, the first all female team entered and completed The ride, our very own Clare Midgley, Cass Mitchell and Sheila Woolham! In 2015 there was only one entrant of an all female team and they too were KVG: Sarah Allewell, Clare Maynard, Glynis Doyle and Anna Hewlett. In 2016 KVG didn’t have representation in this event however there was one entrant of an all female team of 9.
This year, there was enough interest that KVG were able to form 2 all female teams: Sue O, Sue Y, Sylvie W, Anna B, Carole C, Katy N, Caroline N, Carolyn S, Linda E, Kary G, Bee G, Clare M and me.
It’s not like a Sportive where there are set feed stops with prepared coffee and flapjacks all cut up waiting for you. This ride is an unsupported ride so one of the most important parts of the event is having a support crew who will get you to the start line, be mechanical whizzes, drive across the country, make tea, coffee and find ice for our water bottles and be there at the finish line 206 miles later cheering us on. Who would be silly enough to do that? Our heroes of the day were Kim B, Siuling L, Andy W and Aiden O..
June 17- setting the alarm for 3:15am was a bit of a shocker, but we managed not to oversleep and our trusty support crew got us to the start line in good time and in good spirits. Day break couldn’t have been more perfect over the isle of Sheppey in Kent, it looked like it was going to be clear blue skies and sunshine all day. With our orange ribbons attached to our seat posts, off we went on our cross country journey.
We had 6 stops planned, the first and last stops would be quick ones. It was definitely a lot easier to cope with “only another 30 miles”, Rather than having the whole 170 looming. However, thanks to Clare’s impeccable time keeping, we didn’t fall into the trap of lingering longer than necessary at our stops!
Even though we felt we had everything covered, you can’t always predict everything. At mile 11 as I was taking in the awesomeness of the task ahead, I had a tyre blow out. I had fit a new set of tyres especially for the big day, but later discovered this set was faulty as I found a rip in my rear tyre a few weeks later! So this meant I needed a new inner tube and tyre, I didn’t pack enough duct tape to sort this out….. time to call in our support. Kim and Siu had just managed to get to our first check point and were already making tea and they had to pack up and back track to me! In the meantime, Andy W from the other KVG team came past in his support car, stopped and helped me swap out my wheel and in true pro style, he got me back on the road in minutes! I managed to catch up to the other KVG team who had stopped up ahead and we all worked together to get back to my team! Thanks to both KVG support crews and the power of iPhone tracking, Kim and Siu caught up with us and eventually I was reunited with my team, with little time lost!
The next phase of the ride was riding through London, which meant busy London traffic, buses and pedestrians and also meant it would be difficult for our support crew to drive through London. The m25 was choc a bloc and the M3 was closed which posed yet another challenge, but Siuling’s driving skills match her descending skills and the phrase , “Meh, it’s a rental” may or may not have been uttered during the making of that journey. With London successfully navigated by bike and the Surrey/Berkshire countryside successfully navigated by Enterprise car rental, we had lunch to look forward to at mile 100.
By this time it was quite hot, no clouds in the sky and it was proving to be a glorious summer’s day. What fantastic luck! We were getting through our liquids a lot quicker and trying to stay cool became more of an issue than we anticipated. Kim managed to sweet talk the last bag of ice In Bramley, so we had cool drinks to start us off on the second half of the journey.
The 40-50 miles after lunch were the toughest. There was a bit of climbing and it was tough psychologically with only half a ride completed. However, there were no negative words uttered and our group just quietly kept their head down and chugged the miles away doing through and off and looking forward to the next stop at mile 140. With some much needed ice cold drinks and cake we were now off onto the last leg of our journey. The end was in sight now and we all seemed to feel a bit better by this point. We continued our steady pacing which has become a trademark of the KVG riding style.
We heard a few of our tag alongs saying they rode with us during the Dragon Ride and the London Prudential, we just set a good pace. The steady pacing helped us stay as a team and helped numerous other riders tag on the back of our group for a bit of respite. We didn’t mind helping out all those men, did we girls?
With the Hilly stretch done and the Cheddar Gorge climbed we could almost taste the finish. We wanted to begin our descent and get to the coast! 15 miles to go, we were almost there and then, what? A nasty little hill at mile 194? After all those miles in our legs, this one felt like Everest. We have no idea the the official name, but Clare said it was called Cass’ hill back in 2014 so today it remains Cass’ hill.
The light was as clear as it could be across the sea at Burnham. We had travelled as far west as we could go and a crowd cheered us on at the finish line. Both teams had an epic day on their bikes and it was an emotional experience to complete this epic challenge
After a well deserved glass of wine and the best fish and chips I’ve ever tasted, the mind wanders to what next? For me, to be honest I needed a bit of time off the bike to enjoy the rest of the summer with my unfailing husband who has always been encouraging and supportive throughout all of my mad endeavours and of course my two boys. They have been extremely patient and understanding while I spent many hours away from home on training rides. I can’t wait to support them and the others I’ve trained with on their next epic adventure
A few Tips I picked up along the way:
Get a bike fit, because during the longer rides any misalignment will be magnified many-fold
Think about your contact points, sort yourself out with good quality and good fitting gloves, shoes and the comfiest saddle you can find. Most retailers will let you trial saddles before committing to buy.
Have a plan. Build up the miles but mix it up with shorter social rides to take out the monotony of counting down miles. Practice eating various foods while training and you’ll get to know what your body can cope with nutritionally.
Practice recording and charging your garmin in on the go.
Go out super early and figure out how your body reacts to the early start and when you will finally have your morning poo!
We are fortunate to have a wealth of knowledge and experience in our club, so riding and chatting with all of you ladies was not only a great starting point but a source of great inspiration. I asked lots of questions and got tips from many of you, so to all of you thank you! Thank you for being the inspiration, the advisor, the training partner and most of all team mates. I’m proud to be part of a club who just get on with it and do great things! Im happy to have completed the task of riding across the country and in the process discovered not only how to tackle an endurance ride, but how to tackle life: it’s a ride not a race, keep pedalling.