Ambitious about Autism, bike, Bike Life, cycling, Featured, Manchester to London, Rapha, Ride like a Girl, Women cycling

Dear Stephanie …..M2L 

So you want to ride from Manchester to London …..then my lovely you shall. (Although turns out that you are going to riding London to Manchester thanks to the team North caps excellent work this year!)

Know these things:  There will be days when you want to throw your bike in the hedge and it will seem hard. There will be days when you feel great and can see the progress. Safe to say there will be a lot of days on the bike! I strongly believe in Playing it forward so if there is anything from my experience that is of a tiny bit of help. Then that is an added bonus!

9 months before:

  • Enter! It’s not just a case of paying the entry fee its entering into a time and mental commitment that you will plan and train and complete this challenge.
  • Make a plan! We planned around BIG training rides and made sure that from May onwards we were riding 100 miles and 6,000ft + elevation at least once a month. We entered sportives, completed club rides and also arranged rides with friends to mix it up but get those big rides in the diary.  The support of friends on the road will get you through.
  • ”Ride, ride, ride your bike”…..there is no better advice! Get the base miles in. UM challenged me to get to 1000 miles by the start of April and then build from there. In total I rode 4,500 miles in training, an average of 11 hours a week and 180 training rides.
  • Read Professor Greg Whyte’s Achieve the Impossible book – He is the masterminded of all the Comic relief celebrity sporting challenges. If he can get Davina and John Bishop through their challenges then it’s a good enough for me!

6 Months before: 

  • Decide who you are going to ride with and how you are going to ride as this will guide your training. We decided on short stops and a steady pace all the way. It’s a game of averages so depending on your strengths and weaknesses on the bike you have to figure it out. I am slow up the hills so I have to make sure I am hitting a decent pace on the flat and the downs to keep the average where it needs to be. The only numbers I looked at all day was time, to make sure we were ahead of the cut off points and average speed.  As our training progressed we tried to build up to the pace and hold it for longer each time. Two years ago I would have struggled to hold 15mph average for 50 miles on the flat so holding it for 220 miles and 11,000ft took some practice! I clearly remember getting of the bike after 111 miles 8,000ft and 14 mph feeling totally broken a few months before. It takes time to build the strength but it comes.
  • Plan training miles – I started with 100 miles a week for 4 weeks and built it up in blocks of 20 so that I was hitting 180 miles a week for a 6 week block before my holidays where I focused more on bread and cheese than cycling! Peak weeks were over 250 with a few rest week. Consistency is king! Or queen!

4 months before:

  • Start fundraising – this can be more stressful than you think so have a plan and make sure you give folks lots of good reasons to sponsor you. The most popular of the 3 reasons I gave was the Bike Boss having to spend 16 hours with me on the day + all the training hours. For some reason this incentivised folks to dig deep in their pockets. (He does not realise how lucky he is!!)

3 months before: 

  • Do a recci of the course – ride a bit of it so that you are familiar. I rode the first bit four times before the day to build my confidence and work out what I needed to improve.  There were lots of things I needed to work on and finding out 3 months before gave me time to focus on those things – than you Chris. It was tough love but much needed.

2 months before:

  • Experiment with food and drink! Sadly not the fun stuff. We tried cold pizza (a top tip from the legend that is Lorna) squashie sweets (Spen’s top tip) The Bike Boss can eat a whole packet in under 5 mins.  Bagels and cheesy snacks, worked well for us.  Avoid too much sugar and find something you can eat easily and often. I eat every 5 miles so roughly 20 mins. You have to be disciplined to keep that up for 14 hours but it means you do not bonk!
  • Top tips – speak to those who have done it before and folks who have done lots of LONG cycles and build all of their wisdom into your plan. They know their shit.
  • Sort out travel and all the faffy logistics of how you will get where, when……..and if you have a faster member of the team like me sort out all that for them too!

1 Month before:

  • Dress rehearsal – ride more than half the distance and ideally two thirds of the elevation in the kit you will wear (weather dependent!)  After 8 hours on the bike things that you didn’t expect start hurting! Eat what you will on the day and ride to the pace or a bit faster so on the day it will feel easier.
  • Make a list of things that are worrying you and make a plan to over come them. For us it was power …if the Garmin had died and it wasn’t on Strava then it would not have happened right? (Answer is power banks leads and Velcro straps) Sore bum……Rapha chamois cream which as Lupo says feels like “George Clooney kissing your bits” …totally agree after 140 miles. Apply lots and often!

1 week before:

  • Have a little panic – it’s ok!
  • Plan the route – times and speeds.  Be better at Maths than I was! Although we only arrived 7 mins after my predicted time
  • Go out for a fun ride with your friends – just a leg lossener and a chance to thank then for all their help and support (Sarah and Gareth Thank you again!)
  • Have some mantras that you can say in your head when you need a bit of boost. I have “hold the wheel” it’s one of my main aims in life! “Squeeze it out” as after all any endurance challenge is like a tube of toothpaste. At the start it is easy to get the toothpaste out….as the tube empties you have to squeeze it out in different ways! And “keep the tracker moving” having a GPS tracker in your pocket and knowing that at least 10 people are watching a little blue dot move along a red line all day is great motivation

On the day:

  • Believe – you have got this. In the weeks and hours before the start line you will have doubts. Up until 5.59am I was not sure I could make it.
  • Stick to the plan – all the hard work is done just deliver
  • Remember  3 things. 1 the great cause you are raising money for 2. Why you are doing it for you – this is a day you will never forget and will always have. Sun rise to sun down you are going to be on your bike.  3. The people that got you there. Say some thank yous as you go……….

Bike Boss – we did it.  Thanks for the tow.

Jill – Thank you for your strength wisdom. I want to be like you when I grow up!

UM the Road Captain for keeping it real and telling me what I need to improve

Jonathan- for breaking your shoulder in 7 places in an attempt to help me

Gareth – an epic 90 mile turn on the front to get me round the peaks on a hot day

Sarah and Bee for Bike napping me last year and making me want to do M2L – you are my Heroes

Paul – The Ringer for riding a really long way with me and saying positive things on Snows Hill

The RCC crew for the best lead out ever and your unfailing support and belief that I could do it

My two very beautiful sons for their helpful – do you think you should be doing this Mummy it’s a long way for someone your age ……….let’s call it support

Mr R for as he says putting up with me

My overwhelming feeling on the day was of support, from the lead out club riders – you were there! To the Bike  Boss knocking out the pace on the front that meant we got to London feeling great. To all those at home sending support messages and tracking our progress down the country.

So Stephanie – we are all here and whilst you will have to turn the pedals on the day we will will be with you all the way.

**disclaimer – I am middle aged mum who is a goal oriented highly motivated nutter with singular focus on doing things well and I like a plan….so you can probably ignore most of this get on your bike and do it!

photo credit: @openautograph Chris Hargreaves

Johnathon …..on a stretcher


3 thoughts on “Dear Stephanie …..M2L ”

  1. Breaking my shoulder in 7 bits and still making in back in time to help you on the way to the first feed. My only regret is not having a picture of the x-ray for you to post on here too.

    Well done Sue, you absolutely smashed it! Super proud of you.

    Liked by 1 person

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