London to Brighton Night Ride 2012

Jen's Report

The road to Brighton is paved with...potholes.

We didn't know this when we signed up to take part in the British Heart Foundation event. We were full of youthful enthusiasm and a desire to help our fellow man through sponsorship. We did some training, we ate some carbs and then we turned up at Clapham Common at 10pm on Saturday evening wondering if we had made a mistake, mostly because we couldn't see any other cyclists. We soon saw a trail of red lights in the distance though and decided to follow it in the hope it would get us to the BHF enclosure and the start line. It did. We made full use of the portaloos so we wouldn't have to do a Paula Radcliffe and go squatting by the side of the road.

By midnight, the official start time, nothing had happened. It's at these times all sorts of things go through your head...perhaps this is just an elaborate joke... perhaps they have rounded us up here to kill us... Then, after much ringing of bells to signal that the mob was growing restless (but really just sounded like lots of fairies tinkling around), we were off.

The race was split into four sections with rest stops between them where you could refuel and use more portaloos.The first section was through London, which, on a Saturday night just as people are leaving bars, is a brave place to be clad in lycra. Luckily people were cheering us on, and some even putting out their hands for a high five as we zipped past. Traffic lights were a pain, taxis were a manace, but overall it was fine until we reached The Hill. It deserves capital letters because it was massive. We struggled on past people who were walking and one by one arrived at the top, and the first rest station, after 15 miles taking us only an hour and eight minutes. We were still pretty enthusiastic at this point so we decided to just have a short break and push on because at the back of our minds we were scared about the last bus leaving Brighton without us on it.

The second section was the hardest. The temperature dropped. The lamp posts and houses disappeared, replaced by a blanket of stars overhead and hedge rows lining the road. We were pedaling at different speeds to got split up. It was a bit lonely and you couldn't see the massive potholes in the road, especially on the downhill sections, so you were taking your life in your hands. At this point your legs realised what you were making them doing and decided to let you know they weren't at all happy. So it was with great joy when we all reached the next rest stop (the half way point) and refuelled with chocolate bars and water.

Depending on your approach (glass half full or half empty) we still had half of the race to complete. My glass was half empty at this point because I was very cold and my knees hurt. But Adam just smiled, pointed into the distance and said 'the sun is comng up'. It was 3.50am and in the distance the edge of the sky was a lighter shade of blue. So off we set again and this time we were cheered by the ever lightening sky, the dawn chorus of birds, the misty fields as the sun started to warm everything up and eventually as we emerged from a tree lined section it was day light. Cycling in the daylight is more fun because you can nosy at all the big houses and the beautiful villages. It takes your mind off the pain.

Then, as if by magic, the third section was done and were were all stood at the side of the road at the final rest stop with only 12 miles left to go. This made us feel great. We were so close to the end. So off we went again, this time attempting to stay closer to each other. We eventually reached Devil's Dyke and the steepest hills we would encounter. The hill was littered with cyclists who has given up and were walking/sitting/lying down. Just as we thought we had finished, we found out that there was a final gruelling peak to scale before you followed the road down into Brighton and along the sea front to the finish line.

We earned our medals. Our little team and achieved something quite special. Kirsty gets her medal for managing to do the entire race in just one gear with her handbag in the basket on the front of her bike. Lynds gets her medal for pushing on up the steep sections knowing that it was her who organised the whole thing. Adam definitely gets a medal for smiling most of the way, which cheered us up. My medal comes from pushing through the pain of two dodgy knees and a knackered hip knowing it would be worth it if only I could reach Brighton in one piece.

We cycled, we chafed, we celebrated!

Thanks to everyone who sponsored us, we really appreciate it. You can still donate a pound or two at our Just Giving page.

Lynds's Report

Having been slightly worried that loads of people from Oxford would be doing the L2B too (and therefore the Oxford tube would be rammed), I encouraged everyone meet at 8pm at Gloucester Green ' as I have since been constantly reminded, there were so many people there we barely made it on the bus (ok that's Miss Taylor being sarcastic ' there was NO ONE else getting on with bikes at all and the driver even let us take all four on at the same time so Kirsty could have easily got on literally outside her house rather than cycle all the way in to town blah blah).

Kirsty was quite excited about the bike ride which meant Il wasn't allowed any sleep on the bus. Adam blocked her out with his ipod, Jen somehow managed to get a little bit of sleep and the poor girl adjacent had Kirsty's feet next to her (with no shoes on). I had printed off the map from Victoria to Clapham Common but didnt want the responsibility of actually following the directions so Adam led the way (and did an awesome job). We even got to cross Chelsea bridge which was lined with old style cars. Eventually we made it to Clapham Common where there was no sign of an event on....Kirsty declared 'I dont think this is the right place', followed by me 'this is definitely not the right place!' (it was funny at the time, think you had to be there in the pitch black field). We decided to chill out by a tree for a bit whilst Adam fixed my brakes (I only had one brake pad working), we got to meet Kirsty's sister Katryn (who astounded us with her local knowledge of what the common is used for!!! She even fed us), and watched to see where other cyclists headed off too. Eventually all the bright lights of other cyclists disappeared so we thought it best to make a move and actually find the starting point.

Found it we did...I don't think I have ever seen so many florescent jackets, t-shirts and vests! We were all slightly nervous of how professional everyone looked with their swanky bikes (Kirsty's mountain bike with basket kept getting eyed up ' we put it down to them being jealous and suggested if one more person looks at it then she should just start shouting 'IT'S NOT FOR SALE!), tight lycra shorts and funky wheel lights! We were all keeping an eye out for people with similar rider numbers to us and I was even congratulated on having the best rider number some guys had seen so far (rider 1000). Kirsty's was very apt in that it was 1066 and that was what she was covering at school! The start was delayed by nearly an hour and by the time we got to the start line; our crew of 4 had already been split up! Kirsty and Jen set off in the first wave, I was in the second and Adam the third.

I was extremely worried about being really slow and the others not being able to get the bus back from Brighton because I had the tickets...I had visions of them all waiting there and having to watch the last bus go at 8.15am! Thankfully we all met up at each of the three rest stops...I think the order was pretty much the same the whole way through ' Adam arrived first, followed by Jen, then Kirsty and me. We had time for a catch up (seemed to consist of me moaning about how many hills there were), a drink and some food and then we were off again. I felt much better once I had handed the bus tickets out! It didn't take long to be split up after each stop...either other riders got in the way or there was ANOTHER hill! On our second stop, we were all very happy to see the beginnings of the sun rising ' it is really not very fun going down big hills in the pitch black especially when you know there are pot holes waiting to throw you off your bike. Thankfully none of us had that experience but Kirsty did lose a light and water bottle to a pot hole!

By 3.40am the sun was rising and we got to see some amazing views...also some funny incidents of people falling off their bikes! I probably sound really mean but when someone is on a plush bike,

wearing the full gear but is going so slowly up a hill that they literally stop and fall do feel a little smug!

By the third and final rest stop the sun was out and cycling in pitch the black felt like it had been a completely different day! We snarfed down a couple of jelly babies (an Isis favourite) for a final energy boost to hit those last 12 miles! On a normal day I would hear 12 miles and think 'ugh, what a trek' but it was like being told you had won the lottery, it seemed such a short distance, that is until you realise you've won a fiver and not a million or in terms of the bike ride ' there are another two MASSIVE hills to get up! There seemed to be fewer riders at this point (I think most must have taken longer rests) which made it easier to stick together for a while ' until yet again another hill appeared! Adam and Jen were off, hills seemingly no problem for them but Kirtsy and I had opposite problems...she is more than happy getting up them whereas I hate it... I love going down full pelt whereas she keeps her breaks on (pot hole fear)! So for the last 12 miles l would get ahead by whooshing down a hill, then Kirsty would overtake me going up a hill! We all met again at the top of the penultimate was a killer but rather impressively all three of them managed to cycle up it. My excuse for walking is that my butt needed a rest from the saddle, it felt like l was sitting on a brick!

We had a photo taken at the top and then cracked on with the last part of the ride...the stonkingly steep hill! I have no shame in saying I made it a quarter way up and walked. I could just about make Jen out in the distance powering up it, followed by Adam who looked like he was barely putting any effort in (git) and then Kirsty did her usual of overtaking me but it did mean I got to shout at support of course.

We all eventually made it to the top and had time to take in the awesome view of the sea! We were soooo close to it all being over. We all stuck together and carried on down into Brighton...six hours since we set off from London, no sleep and sore bums... we crossed the finish line with massive smiles and together.

A massive THANK YOU to everyone who sponsored and supported us... To the British Heart Foundation, your route and gradient guide is rubbish 'NO WAY there are only 9 hills!!!!!

Finally to Jen, Kirsty and Adam ' you are all LEGENDS!

Photos by Jen.