Tuesday, 13 January 2015

TRAINING UPDATE: Cycling 40 miles

At the weekend, I accomplished my biggest cycling achievement to date - cycling 40 miles! A year ago, I would have never predicted I'd be spending my Sundays heading out of London on bike rides but after arranging a ride with my fellow triathlon girls, I felt confident I could give a long cycle a go. I had already reached 20 miles (which you can read about here) and we were predicted to do around 30 on this ride.

We headed from Finsbury Park out of London up through Enfield to Epping Forest. A lot of it was very urban with lots of busy streets, weaving in and out of traffic. Luckily we had a leader, Beth (who is an incredible cyclist!) who knew the way and so we stayed close (well as close as we could keep up) behind her. The course to the forest was relatively flat and by the time we reached the edge of Essex, the country roads started to open up. 

It was nice to finally be on quiet roads surrounded by countrysides and after turning off a main A-road onto a little narrow lane, Beth said we were near Epping Forest. We just had to take this track to the forest and she did warn us of a short steep hill near the end. Beth was clever here by stating 'short'. In actual fact, for me who is a wimp when it comes to hills, it was a long, practically vertical climb and definitely the steepest hill I have tackled to date. Halfway up, my quads were starting to burn and the hill just got steeper and steeper! I was wheezing so much when I reached the top I had to stop for a break. My legs were shaking but I was secretly super proud of myself for actually get up it.

Soon after this mega slope, we reached Epping Forest and were quick to park our bikes for a break at a little tea stop by the car park, where apparently a ton of cyclists stop for snacks!
By this point we had reached roughly 15 miles and I personally was relieved to have this break. I stupidly only ate an apple for breakfast and so I was absolutely famished when we had reached this point. Not to mention bloody freezing! Cycling in the winter months really takes it out on your toes and fingers. Mine were all numb and painful. So we all took a pew and had a nice hot cuppa with a Snickers bar (as you do).
After our much deserved refreshments, we were off again and this time we cycled around the forest, taking in the beautiful scenery. Beth is really familiar with this area and took us on a lovely course along a secret path and through some really scenic trails. The weather, albeit it icy cold, was absolutely divine so I got some great pictures!
I really enjoyed this part of the route. I felt a million miles away from London and as it was such a bright, sunny day I felt like I was on a weekend break somewhere. Going along this particular route took us back through some small villages where we were back on roads but this time very undulating roads. We zoomed down windy slopes to then be met with a steep hill at the bottom which we would push on up. Ascending and descending was great practice for me in terms of speed work and I did secretly enjoy using the speed from the down-hills to get up the up-hills quickly. 

By going through the villages and residential areas, we found ourselves back on track for the road to London and Beth lead the way. Sorry to share what could be perceived as too much information but by this point my bum was killing me! I don't own cycling shorts and without the luxury of a padded butt, I was beginning to bear the grudge of not wearing a pair. Each and every push on the pedal ached and what happens when I start to feel this fatigue? Oh thats right, another massive hill! This one was dead straight and you could see all the way to the top. It was long but a tad less steep than the previous hill. I'm glad Beth didn't warn us as I would have thought about it all the through the cycle and so when I was faced with it, there was nothing to do but go up! It felt like it took light years but we struggled to the top, with me again collapsing at the side of the road huffing and puffing. Hills are so tough!

It was really hard to gage my whereabouts at this point but I kept looking at road signs where I could and we were in the E10 area of London heading for Hackney. It was these last few miles that were probably the hardest as I was feeling really tired, not to mention so hungry and absolutely frozen from the icy cold winds we faced. They literally made my eyes water. Being back on the busy streets with all the buses and cars also meant 200% concentration and so mentally I felt pretty pooped too.

We however made it safely back to Finsbury Park, with Beth using her Garmin to gage a route of just under 40 miles. I couldn't believe it! I set out to do 30 and I added on another 10 without it feeling too much. I was on cloud nine! After bidding farewell to my friends, I then had to troop back to my house which was another mile or so and rather unfortunately, uphill. By the time I got home, I devoured all the food I could get my hands on instantly, including a banana and cinnamon smoothie which was super yummy! I also added in a scoop of my fiancé's protein powder to help aid muscle repair. After cycling this distance, I wasn't sure how I was going to feel the next day!
That night, I had my first full nights sleep since I caught a horrible chesty cough on Christmas Eve. It was bliss and I can definitely thank this mammoth bike ride for it. The added bonus was that I didn't ache one bit come Monday morning. Hurrah!

Knowing I have the potential to cycle 40 miles has reassured me for the triathlon (which is a mere 13 mile cycle but obviously with swimming and running either side). I am also really keen to get out there again and explore more cycling routes out of London. Next time, I am thinking some down south. 

Are you a London cyclist? What are your bike ride hot spots?

Lipstick Runner.


  1. It's amazing how quickly you get converted to lycra and proper cycling shorts when you start riding longer distances! Try them on before you buy though - some feel really strange. Good luck with the training, I'm quite jealous of you signing up for a triathlon, but I'm not a strong or confident swimmer.

  2. Hi Becci. Thanks for reading! I think I will definitely look into cycling shorts - they were much needed towards the end! You should look into triathlon. Don't be fearful of the swimming! I have been slowly building up my technique and distance and can now swim 750m without stopping. When I started, just one length knackered me out! It's definitely achievable :)