Verulam CC Ride for a Reason

On Sunday I took part in the Verulam Cycling Club Ride for a Reason cycling event in St. Albans. This is organized to coincide with National Bike Week and is the fifth year it has been run. Obviously it is the first year I’ve taken part given we’ve only been living here for two months.

On Friday I’d still not decided whether or not to do the 44 mile route, or attempt the tougher 64 mile version. The latter is not much shorter than the longest ride I’ve ever done. However after signing up for the Ride Around London I figured the longer route would give me a good benchmark of where I was and how much training I’m going to need to plan for before September rolls around.

Turnout was pretty good (I think about 130 people in all) and at 8am when I started pretty much everybody was doing to longest route. The weather, even at that time was very warm, and it was only going to get warmer as the morning went on. For the first 30 miles I felt great and, whilst riding on my own the majority of the time managed an average speed of about 16mph over some undulating terrain (but with no real hills) I felt strong in my legs and powered up most of the bumps I came across. I probably spent more time in the big ring than I’ve done before, holding about 20mph on the flat

However, then the sun really started to take effect and whilst I was drinking lots and taking the odd gel, I did feel my energy levels falling. This, combined with the much hiller second half of the ride slowed me down a lot. At 40 miles I hit the main challenge of the hill coming from Charlton into Preston. Whilst short, it is consistently steep with my Garmin reporting about a 17% gradient in places. Climbing remains my weakest point and I had to stop a couple of times just for a few seconds to let me heart rate go down a bit.

After that was a welcome checkpoint (all three of which were excellently run and given the low entry price of £7 very well stocked!) The run after the checkpoint then involved a few more short but not so sharp hills. I rolled home in 4 hours 17.5 minutes of moving time, averaging 14.9mph. Further gory details from my Garmin are here.

I was certainly impressed with the running of the event, and plan to attend one of the next Verulam CC Sunday runs before probably joining up. All in all this event told me that I’ve got a lot of work to do to make the 115 mile event in September enjoyable and not a long slog! At least the sun should not be so strong. Finally, lesson of the day is to remember to apply sunblock. I’ve got wicked pro-style tan lines!

London 2012 tickets once more.

A short postscript to my previous posts on my attempt to land tickets for London 2012.

I got official confirmation that of the 14 sessions I applied for (mostly track cycling and swimming – things I really, really wanted to see some of) I was allocated four tickets to a Women’s Basketball session on the first full day of competition.

It appears I made a fatal mistake in my strategy. Whilst concentrating my initial application on the stuff I really wanted, and potentially committing a significant amount of money, I also put in a few filler sessions here and there. For instance, the women’s basketball falls between morning and evening swimming sessions that I’d applied for. The thinking was obvious – we’d be on the Olympic site all day so why not maximise the opportunity to see things.

However, this decision backfired in a big way.

After the initial storm of protest over the handling of the initial ticket ballot, LOCOG announced plans for a second round of sales in late June/July. Crucially, first preference for this round would go to people who got NOTHING from their initial application. Now, whilst there was no swimming or track cycling available in the second round, there were still some fairly choice sessions, including some athletics in the main stadium. The key difference to the second round compared to the first was that it was first-come first-served.

Hence, when tickets went on sale last week the most attractive events went in minutes (not withstanding the rather bizarre problems in people actually knowing if their order was actually successful.)

The key point for me was that if you were at all successful in the first ballot, as I was, then you have to wait until 17th July to take part in the second round. By that time, it is likely all that will be left is football tickets, primarily in places like Hampden Park, Scotland.

So, by choosing some filler material in my initial application I’ve effectively handicapped myself from having a second bite of the cherry. I’m happy for friends who have been tweeting about the athletics tickets they’ve had confirmation of over the weekend, and just to reiterate, I’m happy I’ll be seeing something of the games, especially in the Olympic Park. However, had I known how the full process was going to work before I made any application whatsoever, I’d have done things differently. I’d have gone only for the stuff I really, really wanted in the first round and been happy to fight for whatever was left at the first opportunity if I was unsuccessful in the first round.

Sadly, I doubt I’ll ever get the chance to put that into practice.

Ride Around London 2011

I’ve not blogged much about cycling on here (if at all) but it has been a sport I’ve been interested in and have followed for most of my life. Last year I became a fully fledged MAMIL (well, maybe not yet middle-aged) and bought a road bike. I did a couple of events in Ireland last autumn (the Wicklow 100 and the Leinster Loop) and spent many happy hours in the saddle in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains building up my fitness.

However since the turn of the year and our move back to the UK I’ve not been on the bike so much. I’ve only clocked up a total of 130 miles in 2011 so far according to my Garmin. Fourty of those were in one event at the St. Albans Charity Cycle ride, and another thirty on a weekend ride to visit my parents recently. I do ride my hybrid bike to and from the train station most days, but that is just a four mile round trip.

However, all that is about to change as I am going to ramp up my cycling. To provide motivation I’ve signed up for the 2011 Ride Around London in September. This is a 115 mile event, which means it will be my first century ride and about 40 miles further than I’ve ridden in one day. It also takes in a fair few hills including Box Hill (which the pros will be tackling numerous times on the London 2012 Olympic road races) and a stint through the Chiltern Hills.

Ride Around London route

The event is being held in support of Access Sport, a charity that aims to provide more access to local sport to children, especially in deprived areas. To that end, I’ve set up a Just Giving page on which you can sponsor me.

I’m going to blog more about my cycling here to keep track of my progress. To begin with I’m planning to enter the Verulam CC’s Ride For a Reason event this Sunday though I’ve not decided on whether I’ll do the 44 mile or 64 mile route yet.

London 2012 Olympics ticket result

I’d previously blogged about my London 2012 ticket application. In brief, I applied for a fairly large number of sessions, focussed around track cycling as well as some swimming, one athletics session, a few other assorted choices and the opening ceremony. In total the application came to between £2,300 to just under £3k as I applied for a range of session prices (and in most cases did not go for the cheapest tickets)

Well, I now know the result. I’ve got tickets.


Taking away the £6 admin fee, I’ve received £140 worth of tickets. it is clear that the only thing or combination of sessions I applied for that comes to that amount is four tickets to the Women’s Basketball on Saturday 28th July at £35 each.

Now, I am fully aware that lots and lots of people (including lots of friends) got nothing. It’s going to be amazing to be on the olympic site on the first day of full competition.

However, I also know I am not alone in being very disappointed that of the outlay I was willing to spend I’ve ended up with less than 6% of it, and only then because it is an early session in a very low demand sport that will certainly have plenty of tickets available in the second chance phase later this month.

I certainly did not hope for everything, but I longed for one of the track cycling sessions. I deliberately made applications for single tickets at the second highest price bracket for the midweek evening sessions as well as applications for nearly every other track session. I know the venue only seats 6000 people, but to get nothing is disappointing.

I do know, and understand, why the process worked like it did. On the flip-side I agree with a number of people I’ve seen argue about the imperfect information provided about the number of tickets at various price categories etc. Having moved back to the UK from Ireland recently, and started a new job, there has been some stress involved in making sure I had the funds available to cover my potential outlay for these tickets whilst juggling moving costs, rent deposits and other large outgoings before I’d even picked up my first pay packet. I would have been delighted to get everything I asked for – everything was there for a reason as the original blog post makes clear. However part of me wonders how many people played the game of making outrageous applications on the bet that their actual allocation would be of a reasonable value and worst-case if they “got” everything then their payment would be declined. In hindsight it seems that this type of gaming was the only way to improve your odds of succeeding from the system.

I’ll be applying for the track cycling preparation event which happens in February 2012 as well as taking a look at the Paralympic events. It must not be forgotten that there are truly awesome athletes that take part in the Paralympic Games. Track cycling itself can point to Sarah Storey who afterall is good enough to force her way into the able-bodied GB track team.