NightRider London: A participant’s account!
One Cause 2013 Night Rider Rakhee Nathwani sent us this account of her experience in training and riding the NightRider London in June 2013 – it’s a great read!
Nightrider™London is a unique 100km moonlit ride past London’s iconic landmarks. When I signed up to the 2013 event with my husband Aashish 6 months ago, it was mainly to stop him nagging me! I had only learnt how to ride a bicycle last year, and was really not confident on the roads.
Their website (www.nightrider.org.uk) clearly states: ‘Cycling 100km at night is a challenge and Nightrider™ London is not suitable for beginner cyclists. You should be confident cycling in traffic’. Clearly, I was an inexperienced beginner! I wasn’t discouraged though- I knew that with training and encouragement from Aashish, I would be ready.
Our training didn’t happen exactly as we had hoped. With my having to work nights and weekends, and having succumbed to illness on and off for the six weeks before the race, we had only managed three long rides, having ridden a maximum of 50 km at a time.
Even though I had my doubts and was incredibly nervous, I was quietly determined not to disappoint family and friends who believed in us and had so generously contributed to our fundraising efforts for One Cause.
And so the night of 8th June finally arrived! We drove to our starting point (Alexandra Palace) in almost complete silence. We were both nervous but clearly didn’t want to start out on a negative vibe. The final part of the drive was up an incredibly steep ascent, and all I could think about was the fact that I would be riding this at the end of the challenge!
We parked our car, got ourselves ready and made our way to the starting point. Amidst the sea of Lycra and high visibility vests, I noticed that most of the riders had incredibly sophisticated bikes. I looked down at my £100 hybrid bike and brushed aside any unconstructive thoughts. I had to believe in my bike and myself if I had any hope of completing this challenge.
And so we set off, and it wasn’t long before I had my first really scary moment. The area was incredibly hilly, and atop one of the steepest ascents, I threw my first tantrum at Aashish and uttered something along the lines of ‘I am NEVER doing anything with you again!’ However, I calmed down quickly when I saw a rider retching at the roadside and thought that perhaps I wasn’t doing so badly after all.
The first 20 km followed in the same vein, with what felt like a constant uphill challenge! However, after the tortuous uphill climbs came the exhilarating descents, and the views were absolutely spectacular.
The second 20 km formed my favourite part of the race, as we weaved in and out of traffic and watched people stagger out of nightclubs in central London. As I battled my foes (my anaerobic threshold and chronic anaemia due to a beta thalassaemia trait), I finally found a friend: the humble traffic light, which I shall henceforth think of as ‘The Great Equaliser’. The numerous traffic lights meant that I could keep up with more experienced riders, and I began to feel hopeful at this point.
We kept our break at the 40 km mark short and sweet, and carried on to the third leg of the ride. This was the toughest leg, both mentally and physically, as we pushed ourselves further than we had ever done before. It was during this leg that I gave in to my doubts and was close to giving up. I called upon my innate stubbornness that has served me so well throughout my life, and pedalled on.
At the third break, I stretched my muscles and decided to focus all my energy on the fourth break point. I knew that for me, the 80 km mark would be the point of no return. Daylight had broken by this point, and I began to enjoy the experience of riding through London’s roads on a quiet Sunday morning.
When we reached the fourth break point, we were told that we were actually only 10 miles (16 km) from the finish! This information was music to my ears. I got a second wind and began to ride faster and better than before! My grimace turned into a smile, as for the first time ever, the end was a reality and not just a moment I had been imagining for 6 months. The last 16 km were almost entirely uphill though, and as we approached the steep ascent to Alexandra Palace, I disembarked from my bike and walked to the finish.
We were met with an egg roll and a hot drink, which we devoured in no time. It was only then that I allowed myself to notice the ache in my right knee, the stiffness in my right hip and the stitch in my stomach (which had been with me since that first tantrum!). I was incredibly grateful to Aashish for having stayed with me and pushed me all the way, as he would have been a lot faster if he hadn’t stood by me and crossed the finish line by my side.
I have already been asked if I would do this challenge again. I am not sure about this. Of one thing I am certain, however: I am no longer a beginner. I am a nightrider.
If you are inspired by this, why not sign up for NightRider 2014? Register your interest at https://www.onecauseuk.org/events/2014-events/nightrider-2014/