Saturday, 16 August 2014

'Soak my shorts': Clare's rainswept ride for rhinos with perfume-assisted pedal power

Source: Prudential RideLondon via Clare
My friend Clare seems to have been popping up on Bonkers quite a bit of late, between my post about her perfumista protege progress, a couple of posts on Cake Club, and coverage of her cycling feat last year in a London to Brighton charity ride. Despite a bandaged knee, she gamely made it round the punishing 50 mile course, spurred on by whiffs of Sarah McCartney's scent, Time to Draw the Raffle Numbers. This eclectic perfume - featuring notes of marmalade and Shimano gears - was famously inspired by Sir Bradley Wiggins' podium moment when he won the Tour de France in 2012.

In hindsight, 50 miles now seems like a leisurely pootle, for last weekend, my indomitable - and some might say completely loopy - friend took part in Prudential RideLondon-Surrey, a whopping 100 mile circuit that covered most of Greater London before meandering through large swathes of Surrey.  For months she had been following a rigorous training schedule, but until last weekend she had never ridden more than 65 miles in one go. So when last Sunday dawned (wet and stormy, as the remnants of Hurricane Bertha lashed The Home Counties), I was concerned that she might have bitten off more than she could chew this time.

Shortly after 8am, Clare posted this status on Facebook:

"On the start, in the rain. Feeling sick. Vanessa Musson will let you know if I've been taken off the course in the comments below. Fingers crossed!"

For Clare had sent me a link to a whizzy GPS app, which enabled me to follow her progress every step - or revolution, rather - of the way. This was important, as any riders found to be lagging behind risked being intercepted by marshals at one of half a dozen check points and removed from the race.  I kept logging into this app on and off through the morning and all was well in terms of Clare's mileage and average times until 13.57 when the route updates suddenly stopped around Epsom. This prompted me to call her husband in a panic, who reassured me that the battery had probably died on her phone.

Source: Prudential RideLondon

And so it proved. For at 16.13, four minutes short of eight hours since she set off, Clare arrived in The Mall, and understandably burst into tears when she saw the finishing line, in a heady mix of relief, joy and pride. For the conditions in which she had covered the course were nothing short of diabolical - at several points riders had to carry their bicycles aloft through flood waters, and two hills were taken out of the route altogether, as it would have been too dangerous to have people whizzing down a wet road at speed. This actually lopped 14 miles off the total distance, but to cycle 86 miles in such hostile weather took unbelievable grit and determination.

Source: Clare's equally proud husband!

Here was Clare's Facebook update on Sunday evening:

"Thank you everyone. I am totally and completely shattered. We went through crazy floods, thunder and rain like I've never seen. I only lost my temper once. There was a very plump girl just in front of me who, like me, had carried her bike through the floods and trundled on. Two yobs by the side of the road pointed and laughed at her. If I could ride one handed I would have slapped them. Instead, I suggested they get on their own effing bikes and try it. The rest of the people along the way were wonderful and definitely kept me going in the headwinds. Nobody tried to take me off the course. Had they done, I would have decked them."

I wrote back that I was 'proud to know' her, which I most certainly am. In fact I have been a bit tearful writing this post, which isn't at all like the Bonkers you know. ;)

Source: Clare

So...obviously, having given Clare a few days to recover this week, I had to pop the question about whether wearing Sarah McCartney's 'Eau de Wiggo' perfume again helped her focus.

"I couldn't smell anything at all. Throughout the entire route I was sniffing, but the tissues in my sleeves had soaked through. I wrung them out, but blowing your nose on papier mâché is limited in effectiveness.

I did inhale at the Start line before the downpour and felt invincible. That lasted about 20 miles. Then I just felt wet and a long way from the Finish.

I didn't get a sniff of Bradley."

Source: Cycling Weekly

Ah, too bad then, but most understandable. And would you believe Bradley was also cycling in this race? Though he will have started well ahead in the pack, so there was no chance of his catching Clare's sillage during that first section, and wondering about the identity of this olfactory impostor.

I found this amusing quote in The Guardian from another prestigious participant, former Olympic track champion, Chris Boardman, describing the weather on the day:

"It went from torrential to biblical and then just to horrendous."

And what of the rhinos, you may be asking? Well, Clare decided to raise money to protect the rhinos of Pilanesberg in South Africa, and at the time of writing has already exceeded her target by £160!. This is not a fund raising post by any means, but if anyone particularly supports wildlife causes, the link to her fund raising page is here.

Source: Prudential RideLondon via Clare


Tara said...

Wow. Well done Clare! What a triumph against the odds. Biblical weather is never good. Can't believe she was cycling for nearly EIGHT hours. I had no idea you could be removed from the race either.

I'd say one sniff at the starting line making you feel invincible for 20 miles is a pretty good ad for Sarah's scent!

Really hope the plump girl finished too. Rotten yobbos.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

Didn't she do well? And yes, I reckon the initial sniff of Eau de Wiggo will have set the tone nicely, even if all huffing was off for the remainder of the course. I think her actual ride time was even less than that, because she was riding at speeds of 12-15 mph most of the way round. I guess she needed to stop to carry her bicycle across the unridable bits, wring her tissues out and eat / drink at some point. Though I know she was 'carbo-loading' in advance to keep stoppage times to a minimum.

Yes, I hope the plump girl made it round. The crowd was mostly a very positive influence on morale I gather, so the chances are good. You would be crazy to enter if you weren't pretty fit to start with.

Unknown said...

What a lovely tribute post for a friend, Vanessa. Makes me feling all warm inside, despite the torrential rain pictured in the photos.

Vanessa said...

Hi Sabine,

Thanks, and glad it had that effect. We were out for a curry tonight which was also pretty warming. :) Clare says she is looking forward to getting back in the saddle next week!

Carol said...

She is my inspiration!!!! Denise and I will be riding 20 miles next month for a breast cancer fundraiser. Clare is my champion!!!

Vanessa said...

Hi Carol,

It is an amazing feat, for sure! And good for you for taking part ina charity ride yourself - for another worthy cause.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Vanessa! Thanks everyone else, too and good luck Carol - remember, NOTHING can stop you! Clarexx

Carol said...

Thanks Clare!!!

Vanessa said...

Clare, as Carol said, you are a total inspiration to us all!

If it would just stop blowing a gale I would have ridden to the shop today, but I am an absolute wuss compared to you, and like perfect conditions for any exercise I undertake. ;)

Undina said...

I'm impressed! That distance, regardless of the weather conditions, sounds like from a fictional quest, not a real life.
I'm sure that the perfume played a positive role: even though Clare couldn't smell it any more in a while, she thought about it - and it gave her an extra topic to keep her mind away from the hardship of the race.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Clare would like to ride for our team next year? CQ x

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Hardship is the word, and I think as you say that the thought that she was wearing the scent may have been enough to boost Clare's morale further than the first 20 miles.

Vanessa said...

Hi CQ,

Haha - I can always ask! X

AustralianPerfumeJunkies said...

That is a cool story. Particularly how riled your mate got about the hecklers.
Portia x

Vanessa said...

Hi Portia,

Isn't it just? I also enjoyed that part! Nice put down...;)