14km Bridge to Bridge Swim NON WETSUIT for Sarah

I love a challenge and this year was bridge to bridge. This is 14 k from Henley to Marlow. Last year I loved it but this year I decided to go non wetsuit. The training was fine at the lake and climaxing to just the cossie and I loved the fact no hassle of getting wetsuit on and off!! But they longest swim I had done was 5k and really did not know how I was going to feel with no buoyancy and tiredness.  In training, work and 3 kids you can only do what you can and that’s life. Packing the car for a family holiday straight after B2B was really not the best preparation but then did put my mind elsewhere. 

5.30am wake up and all family into car for the quick drive to Henley. Arriving and registering and sorting out tow float thankfully as husband to order about. I really should have read the info as standing (with my warm dry robe!!) I questioned why another non wetsuit swimmer had a silver band on. Oh this is proof of non wetsuit!! Quick find husband and missing part of the briefing to put my band on, I wondered why these were in pack!!
Into the water, a mere 19degrees (I think this temperature as I tried to ignore that part) I waited as long as possible to enter. But once in my goggles steamed up. Too late to dry them and it was the start. Of I went but bang goggles started leaking and couldn’t see. But had to keep going as I was in the washing machine start. After a k it had all calmed down and goggles adjusted.
The first stretched was 4 k. I tried to get into a rhythm and felt ok. It didn’t help a twinge of cramp in one of my calves. At a weir stop there was fluid, bananas, jelly beans and energy bars. A fantastic concoction of food. A silly mistake was eating jelly beans just before going back in. They stuck to teeth. No chance of trying to dislodge them and had to stick there and naturally fall off. The next stretches was the longest and 6k.
This was tough and after 2 k I was struggling. But it’s weird how it goes in cycles as at 3 k felt great and stretched away from the natural pod I was in. But them at 5 k I was desperate for a wee!! I had to stop and then catch up the pod again. This was annoying but it made the last k if this section something to concentrate on and get into a rhythm and chase people down.
Another feed stop and fuelled up. This one I was shoved a drink in face. Not quite sure why me but then I got hold of it and it was a warm drink for non wetsuits. Oh this was lovely and needed!!!
The next section was 1.5k although short it was hard as you got tired and wanted to get quicker as a short section.
The final section was 2.5k this was by his time around 1100 and most people are now on the river in their fancy boats. So us swimmers had to battle and negotiate them (a strange feeling with a large boat coming towards me at speed and there is me with just my tow float to say stop I’m here!!) It was also the engine fumes and worst the wash from them. This last section was just awful. I was exhausted. No buoyancy and arms like lead just had to swim each stroke and get there. I knew slower time than last year but I did expect it (only 13 minutes!!) but 3 hours and 19 minutes and it was done.
Seeing family there to see me in was wonderful. Fuelled up again with as much hot liquid as I could and quick massage I was ready for a family holiday.
If you are wanting a great race to push you this is one. It is extremely well organised and the support crew was brilliant. Most likely be back again next year!!
Sarah Hempenstall

Viceroys Ride London 100 2017

It was a wet start in Wave A on Sunday, with a 3:50 alarm going off only shortly after the last clubbers in the Hoxton Hotel noisily found their rooms.

‘Kona’ Steve Hobson & I joined Adam Buck & ‘6 Million Dollar Man’ (we can rebuild him?) Andy Curran in Wave A with about 200 others.

For Steve and I, as some of the elder riders in the testosterone-charged pack of young Bucks (Adam included) the biggest worry was:

Cb we go 4 hours without a pee, unchartered territory for me as some of you will find out as you get older.

The organizers joyfully announce severe flooding will make the first few k’s hazardous, so be prepared to stop at any time. Great!

Nerves were creeping in, but nonetheless they did a great job to get us away on time at 05:44.

The first 10k is pretty feisty at 50 kph+  so Kona Steve & latched onto any train that came thru – Onyx, Regent’s Park Rouleurs (RPR) & London Phoenix pushing up to the front. I sat behind Kona Steve, whose V8 thumpers were pumping out bursts of bonkers watts to bridge any gap and get us on their wheels – even my skinny little legs were hitting bursts of 500+ watts for 20-30 seconds 4-5 times in that early part of the event. Bizarrely this is the way to go, you have to vomit to stay in the pack. At all costs if you want a good time.

Going well at Pru 100 is counter-intuitive. A quick time involves more racecraft than power. With smart use of your power you can easily beat riders who should be stronger on the day, & who burned thru higher TSS score to finish 20-30 minutes back! I had a low overall TSS of only 255 on Training Peaks for the day, hence feeling fresh enough to ride home later. To put that in context, a Windsor Ride in Viceroy Group 1 burns a similar amount of energy & yet the Pru 100 is 100 miles and I averaged just under 40 kph to finish in 4:09:19. Big days out like La Maratona & La Marmotte would be a TSS of 380-450 to go well – far tougher abuse overall as there is little if any group riding or sitting on wheels in alpine events.The Pru 100 is all about using what you have wisely, and that goes against normal logic at times.

Most riders make the mistake of letting fast packs go, as it looks ‘too hard’ to hang on, but they then find themselves working hard for long periods in weaker groups, or solo, to ironically go much slower. Therefore working hard for 30 seconds at crazy watts and 50 kph is actually easier overall than being dropped to ride solo, as once in the pack you can often freewheel so averaging below 200 watts for long periods. You do however need to keep up on the hills, and not everybody can.

We entered Richmond Park in 43 minutes & sadly Kona Steve double punctured on a speed bump (I had no idea as he was behind me, but I never saw him again). To make matters worse he then had a ‘kit malfunction’ with the wrong tubes, or no valve extenders, or both for his deep rims. It was a long lonely walk to the nearest Bicycle Repair Man, and a finish time nowhere near where it should have been.

Leaving Kingston towards Hampton was feisty and I had to hold 330 – 350 watts for 2 – 3 minutes to get onto the group ahead as the pack was now splitting with some riders going backwards having shot all their bullets with 80 miles still to go. It would have been easy to back off, but you have to fight that instinct.

Walton, Weybridge, Byfleet & Ripley passed in a blur as after 2 hours we approached the first hill – Newlands. I could see the lead motorbike was only 50
metres in front of me & I was in a pack of 60-80 riders. They all looked young, it was about to kick off.

As expected the lead group blew to pieces up Newlands and 20 or so got away, never to be seen again. I ended up in the second group as we took in Leith and Box and then headed towards Esher via Leatherhead. Along the way we picked up riders who had dropped out of the first group, & saw several punctures too.

Given the relatively small number of riders ahead, the numbers puncturing seemed high but heavy rain had washed all sorts of muck onto the roads.

Measage to all Viceroys:

Keep a set of new, or nearly new tyres for key events. Nobody wants a puncture to ruin their day. Never train on your race tyres if you want to lessen that risk come the big day, as you want them perfect to reduce that puncture risk on key events.

After Esher the pace is hot up to Wimbledon & Putney, running thru red lights at 40+ kph as we cover the last 10k in 13 minutes to turn under admiralty arch and race to the finish. Sprinting is not my strongest suit at age 53, but I hang on to cross the line at 9:54 am and sneak in under 4:10 – a good result given the rain meant early sections were slower going, especially the descent of Newlands where we had a downpour to liven things up.

Next year my goal is sub 4:05. I will need to chance it with that counter-intuitive extreme early effort to push at maximum effort up Newlands to stay in the lead group to do that, as that is where the main split occurs. Perhaps had I stayed with them the ongoing pace might have been manageable, given the way thru & off works, with time coasting whilst the lead rider does the work.

I will try and find out next year!

Pete Kelsey

Peter Kelsey 4:09:19

Darren Kidson 4:09:57:           ‘Really enjoyable ride, and room for improvement next year!

Adam Buck 4:30:19

Johannes Veit 4:31:19

Andrew Curran 4:40:20

Lyndsey Fitzgerald 4:59:02

Stuart Simms 5:06:13

Kevin Dargue 5:11:46

Steve Hobson 5:12:02

Nick Christian 5:27:20

Stephen Newton 5:33:05

Jamal Shakir 5:37:32

Daniel Poynter 5:43:45

Tegwynne Goldthorpe 5:54:26

Kevin Argent 7:29:31

Elizabeth Kerry 7:30:11

Darrin Mackie 7:50:06

John Mackey05:26:24 (OT), 05:07:54 (MT).

Ian Talbot  5:12

Andrea Whelband 6:20 actual ride time was 5hrs 12 (which could have been sub 5 if it wasn’t for stupid tyre problems)

Lara Clay: 5.05 MT

Andrew Tolson: 7 punctures, and set my slowest time ever