Rapha #M2L – Manchester to London
#doyouevendistancebro // The night before I could safely say I was nervous. I new exactly what was ahead and the suffering that would be experienced. It wasn’t all nerves though, it was excitement too, the opportunity to experience new roads and chat with fellow riders undertaking the same task, the same suffering.
Muscle memory, that’s what I was counting on. I knew I could do the distance but I was more worried about my body keeping up then anything. I’m not in the same shape I was when I departed for the TransContinental Race (TCR) last year.
A lot of people at the start were asking if I had done anything like this before, when I told them I’d done the TCR they were like ‘Ahhh you’ll breeze this then!’ but I reminded them it’s not quite like that. Like the well known quote from Greg Lemond “It never gets easier, you just get faster” but in this case I certainly wouldn’t be faster, just more aware of what’s to come.
When asked for tips/advice I simply said eat loads often, don’t stop eating and pace yourself (and then EAT MORE). Don’t be tempted to pick up the tempo as it will speed up the fatigue you’ll experience closer towards the end of the ride. Finally, don’t be tempted to hang around at the feed stops, stopping wastes time and it’s good to be really wary of this.
I arrived in Manchester at about 5:15 after missing my 3:30 alarm and waking up at 4 AM in a mist of panic thinking I’d missed the start time. It was absolutely throwing it down on the way over, total down pour on the M62 over the peak district, didn’t settle my nerves with what was to come although I was confident it was going to pass at some point during the day.
There was a good vibe all around at the start. Sign on, quick coffee and banana and I was lined up on the start line. It took me be surprise the amount of expensive bikes lined up at the start, carbon upon carbon with crazy deep section wheels, seemed a little in appropriate for the 220 miles ahead not to mention the typical Yorkshire weather that was currently hanging over us.
The organisation at the start including the briefing was fantastic, if there’s one thing about the event it’s super organised and every base has been covered and everyone working the event was really helpful/friendly upon arrival. We were set off in groups of 25ish after the briefing about signage and emergency details. During this time I was sat at the start with a bunch of Manchester RCC lads whom one rider had packed a small boom box in there frame bag, pumping out some classics which bumped everyones mood up before we started!
I’d signed up on my own for the event so and didn’t really have any time to mingle at the start to ride with anyone so I did the first 10 miles on my own pursuing this monster audux guy who was on his 3rd year as they mentioned at the start. Admittedly it was also a lot easier following some one then it was being followed as I hadn’t quite woken up to be confident in what signs I was following!
My pace was pretty good through out the first 2 feed stations and having had past experience on these long rides I wasn’t too keen on hanging around. The first feed stop had the Rapha coffee van and although I was dying for a descent coffee I decided to crack on after toping up with water, sausage rolls & jelly babies.
The roads were stunning.
Manchester was as tough as imagined but the steep climb’s made up for it in moody scenery and stunning descent’s. A feature point of the M2L is the Monsal Trail tunnels that go under the peak district. The gravel tracks caught a few bike out with more then one puncture but luckily for me I didn’t have a problem
Up to feed stop 3 I was feeling relatively good, better then expected to be honest. All though it was still quite overcast it had become relatively humid which I wasn’t complaining at given the rubbish weather we started with.
As grew more and more tired throughout the day I found myself slowly loosing concentration and missing a couple of signs adding to the length of my journey. Luckily the signage was quite often within the route so I cottoned on pretty quick when I didn’t see anything for a while.
From stage 3 to the finish, things began to slow down quite considerably. I noticed my heart rate wasn’t really going above 150 yet it felt like it should be. My body was now going into that very memorable state of shut down I experienced from day 3 to day 11 of the TCR!
I was unfortunate enough to be one of the first riders to get diverted due to a WW2 bomb having been dug up near some ones house along the route – this added maybe another 5 – 10km’s to the total. Again it’s worth while pointing out that the organisation was fantastic, it seemed there had already been a contingency plan assigned for situations similar to this. The ambulance motorcyclist diverted us back up the road and told us to keep going until we saw one of the marshals who would then re route us (which again was really straight forward). A situation like this can easily have a real knock on effect to exhausted riders who already see 350KM as a challenge let alone any route amendments that might happen along the way so having some swift organisation and re assurance meant no one was lingering around wondering if they were on the right route or not.
Feed stop 4 was the feed stop of all feed stops. As if the incredible sauges roles I wolfed down from feed stop 1 weren’t enough, feed stop 4 had cornish pasties and they were totally dreamy and exactly what my body was yearning for. At this point it was SUPER tempting to give it 20-30 minutes to re gain some strength but I was quite strict with my self. Pastie, coffee and top up of water and I was on my way.
I bumped into a chap called Chris from Manchester who I’d sub consciously played cat and mouse with from the last couple of feed stations. Chris had experienced a mechanical which separated from his friend. Both of us were suffering to some degree now and although we weren’t necessarily being over taken we were both quite happy to steady it out and complete the ride without falling to pieces. It was also really nice just riding with someone & sharing stories etc, seemed to make the hours fly by.
It was only by station 4 I’d realised how bogged up me and my bike were from the earlier weather and gravel tracks. I’ve always thought clothing/shoes look better worn in anyway!
I was really feeling it now – more weary then anything. My body simply didn’t want to compute what my mind was telling me. But with the last 60 KM left I knew it was the final push! In to the darkness we went – again another reminder of how much I appreciated having some company. Through out the TCR and training rides the darkness has always made me feel extremely lonely.
As we started to get into the suburbs of London we both picked up a little as we could practically see the finish line, continually looking out for the Anish Kapoor sculpture in the olympic park. I always forget how vast London is though so when we began to get into the think of it I felt like we were just around the corner sort of speak. Sadly this wasn’t the case! Eventually we made it though…
Although the TCR was a much larger task to complete, I always regret not physically being able to complete the race. So I was absolutely chuffed to bits when I got to the finish. Particularly given this wasn’t a personally endeavor, it was for Ambitious abut Autism.
For those still wanting to sponsor me, you can do so here
For those thinking about doing the Rapha M2L next year I couldn’t recommend it enough. Sure it’s a hell of a challenge but for anyone it’s totally manageable and given it’s cut into chunks, so long as you eat well and pace your self you won’t have a problem.
A final thank to the entire Rapha team who co-ordinated this event and made it so enjoyable!