Unlike Team Sky on the Champs Elysées, we’d not practised this for crossing the finishing line, which is why we both look a bit worried. A week on, Annie is off travelling, and I’m catching up with my life post retirement, with a blog about the whole experience, and thanking everyone who sponsored me, on my list of things to do. So here goes.
It was wonderful being able to do something like this with Annie – and met by Maggie at the end, who’d just come tenth in a 5k run in Hyde Park. So, for all of us it was a great family day.
As a cycle ride, it was a bit disappointing, because a serious accident meant we were held in a bottleneck along with thousands of other cyclists, for over an hour, and the most challenging climb, Leith Hill, was cut from our route. My official time was even slower, because I had an earlier start time than Annie, and I waited for her to catch up, so my official time was 7′ 21”. But for the sections where we were going normally, although this included parts where there was still severe congestion, our average speed was just over 16 mph. Not too bad, I think, and as we’d both trained fairly well, neither of us had ’emptied the tank’, in the cyclists’ jargon starting to creep into my language.
I’d also done most of the course, including Leith Hill, at a similar speed, but without closed roads, a couple of weeks before, which took rather more out of me. On the day it was fun to be cycling without cars and lorries – hoping here that no motorist friends were too inconvenienced – and the spectators in the last few miles were lovely and encouraging. Of the various good causes on show on the day, I think Shelter must be one of the best recognised brands.
Personally, the training was probably the most interesting part of it all. Nearing 60, I decided to approach this more seriously than I ever took preparation for long cycle rides I did in the past. I also joined a couple of local cycling clubs, (Anerley and Penge) and found myself getting out into the Kent, Sussex and Surrey countryside again. There’s a potential digression starting here from how often these routes took us through London’s hallowed Green Belt – but that can wait.
I hadn’t appreciated how club cycling works socially, blending relaxed sections with more competitive climbs, and places where it’s possible to go fast. I’d no idea that my relative strength would be as a climber, but given my size, that should not be a surprise. I also took to cycling part of the way to see my Dad most weeks, which involved riding to Marylebone, and then through various Oxfordshire villages.
The new technology is fascinating too, with GPS and a heart rate monitor allowing read outs of how much progress is being made. It seems my completely un sporty parents had managed to endow me with some good genes as well, based on my resting heart rate. Previously I’ve always been a bit squeamish about blood and other aspects of human physiology, but I seem to have got over that. Another thing on my list of things to do is to work out how those estimates of power and energy used are made from the data inputs. I’m also interested in how this fitness related technology percolates from elite athletes to the wider population – can it make a difference to public health?
The fund raising was a bit more difficult than I expected, although I realised it would never be as easy as when I worked on an investment bank trading floor. I’m not sure that I’ll do a sponsored ride again, having now learned there are many such ‘sportifs’, but I’m very pleased that both Annie & I hit our funding targets, and as well as supporting the work Shelter does directly, helped raise awareness of the housing crisis. There’s an even longer digression possible here, starting from one of my favourite observations about housing, which is that Shelter’s foundation in the mid 1960s, and all the attention that housing got then, was also when the level of UK house building started to fall. For whatever reasons, public concern about housing does not necessarily translate into the essential requirement of getting more homes built. I’ve written elsewhere about why I think this didn’t happen, and will do so more, along with all the other things on my lists of things to do.
So also is meeting up with old contacts, especially those who were kind enough to sponsor me, and I’d love to talk more about this with those who are interested in housing, economics & politics.