Hello Guys! This is my post on my recent, gruelling adventure to Paris. If you’re looking to do a London to Paris ride or any long ride in fact then reading on may be useful 😉
To set the scene….
I’m not a natural cyclist. I’m relatively fit, I’m bendy and can run a decent 5k time, but when it comes to cycling I’d probably never ridden more than an hour or so straight before I signed up for this event.
A road bike? Eugh! I’d never ridden one of those and as for having my feet strapped into pedals? Not keen. Oh, and I get super scared going fast, especially down hills so I tend to brake a lot. So, why on earth would a woman saying all of this choose to get her feet strapped into a road bike and make her way from London to Paris in under 24 hours?
In December I decided to take part in this 24 hour bike ride event, known as the ‘Duchenne Dash’ after hearing stories from my bosses Tom and Ben who have completed it a handful of times in the past. Ben is an ex Olympic Gold medallist and Tom is a very experienced cyclist and the other two team members who were joining were Jamie, an ex professional cyclist and Leanne, a 3.5 hour marathon runner….so I certainly had my doubts about going with them.
I hadn’t heard of Duchenne disease beforehand and am always a bit sceptical to take on the job of fundraising, as us millenials are statistically more hesitant to part with our dollar in the spirit of charity. Therefore, I knew I’d have challenges in raising the cash. Fortunately Tom and Ben put me at ease by allowing us to combine our fundraising targets together, so we would be making a joint effort to reach our £4K individual goals.
Duchenne Disease – What Is It?
In Lehman’s terms it is a tragic muscle deteriorating disease which affects young boys. Sufferers typically show symptoms as a toddler and rapidly decline, leaving them in a wheelchair by 12 and could be dead by 20.
The charity is operating in a race against time – there is a time limit of 10 years on it to find a cure. We are currently at year 6. After doing some research and learning about what the charity was doing with the money I was confident this was something I wanted to support.
Starting in Twickenham at 1pm ish, we cycled 104k to Newhaven where we showered and had dinner. We then boarded the overnight ferry at approx 10.45pm
Waking up at 3.30 am UK time we cycled for about 10 hours. It was beautiful, it was at times fun. It was at times hot. Overall it was gruelling! The day finished with 160 cyclists reaching the Eiffel Tower together as a peleton (recently learnt this is the word for a collective group of cyclists #cyclejargon) which was pretty amazing.
Did I make it? Just! I had several obstacles on the way (a bad knee, a puncture, dehydration, exhaustion), and lots of thing I wish I’d known beforehand. About 2/3 through the ride I felt completely wiped out. My eyes just wanted to shut (not surprising after only a few hours sleep) and my knee was giving in. Fortunately a few ibuprofen, energy bars, electrolytes and a new tyre later, I was ready to cross the final hurdle and get to the Eiffel Tower!
What I did between March and June is as follows:
- 3 x 100k approx cycles in Surrey- e.g. box hill
- 1 x very hilly cycle from Plymouth to Polzeath, Cornwall (100k ish)
- 1 x cycle London to Margate (147k)
- 4 x spin classes (usually 45 mins)
- Commuting 30 mins each way 80% of my week (90k total ish)
I pretty much did what was recommended on the guide we were sent and felt that my training was sufficient. However, despite this adequate training there are numerous things I could have done differently (I share these later on in the post).
Highs & Lows
There were many many high points and learnings and I met amazing people and feel that there is nothing quite like the atmosphere after finishing a sporting event. However there were many low points too. In particular;
- Only a few hours sleep on a stuffy ferry
- I’d never used cleats on a proper ride before (totally my fault)
- The heat
- Keeping up with people who were MUCH more experienced cyclists than myself
- Cycling for 200k on only a few hours sleep on Day 2
- Break stops were short and going to the loo/drinking/eating/seeing doctor or mechanic were nearly always on the list to be compacted into 10 minutes
- I had very little sleep the few nights before the ride due to nerves and actually wasn’t feeling too well on the first day of the ride … very anxious and nervous about what was coming up
- 2 fingers on one hand are still numb – 96 hours later….
What I Learnt (hoping this will help some of you in the future…)
1. Electrolytes are crucial – I’m so glad the ride captains kept popping them into my drinks despite me thinking water would suffice
2. I’m pretty good at sorting what to eat and when. Having studied nutrition this is probably the thing I’m best at sorting so no excuses. I ate lots of sweet potatoes, packaged lentils, dates, bananas, energy balls, oats – this gave me good sustained energy. My weekly Abel & Cole order made this super easy! Eating often is key and providing your body with solid glycogen stores in the week prior to the event also is essential. Feel free to pop me a message on more info on this point.
3. Sugary snacks during the ride really helped me but I didn’t take any sugar blocks as I fear the come down from these. I used a Cliff bar, deliciously Ella/Nakd style bars and sweet & salty popcorn
4. Be comfortable with using cleats not just ‘I’ll wing it’ before the ride – this would have taken a weight off my shoulders
5. Alter handle bar positioning every 10 mins or so to prevent finger numbness
6. Natural sleeping aids – take lavender oil for pillow and reishi mushroom tea before bed on nights pre ride and the ferry to help sleep
7. Hydration! Simple we all know it. Hydrate loads the few days before too and limit caffeine
8. Ibuprofen is magic. I don’t typically take over the counter drugs so it kicked in so quickly for me with my horrid knee pain
9. Stretch hips tonnes beforehand – find my yoga for cyclists video here. Unfortunately I didn’t practice what I preach enough!
10. Being part of a group pushes you along so so much.
The gala dinner to celebrate at the end with the 160 or so other cyclists was fun and the champagne made me giddy after only a few sips!
Send on your questions, I’m happy to help xxx