Here's Charmaine's report on the race itself... Sounds like she had a great time!
Hi there! I just got back to the hotel after a full day at the races... It was a fun and exciting day!
But before details...I want to let you know that in the category of women over 50 (there were 28 ladies in this category), I placed 9th! :) :) Not bad, eh??! :) :) My overall time was 35 min., which isn't great (the winner did it in 24 min.), but for my category, I'm pleased. :)
There were a lot more hills than I expected....some rollers, one good downhill, but more uphills than down. So I was huffing and puffing, believe me. Fortunately, it was only spitting rain (yea!) - but the road around the palace that we rode on, was wet and there were wet leaves all over. This made things a bit scary going downhill and around tight curves! I only heard of one person falling, so that's good, and hopefully he was okay. A couple other people had some mechanical difficulties (chain breaking, pedal breaking off, flat tire!). That would be VERY disappointing to have come all the way to the race and have something like that happen! My bike did fine - though sometimes the shifting didn't work when I needed it to, but maybe that's because of all the wet conditions I've been riding in the past number of days.
When the day started, the skies were partly cloudy, but at least it wasn't raining, which I was happy about - I didn't want to get wet on riding to the shuttle pick-up spot (at the Brompton factory). There were 3 large tour buses waiting to load everyone's bikes. Brompton provided cardboard boxes for everyone to fold and put their bikes in, and their names on the boxes. So this kept things orderly coming & going. About halfway to the palace, it started to rain, but then stopped when we got to the palace. We picked up our registration packets, applied the race number to our bikes and the "timing chip" (which was just a label!) to the side of our helmets. The label had a radio frequency in it (don't know how!) and once you passed under the Starting Line, it would time you. We folded our bikes in a field that was sectioned off according to your race number. We had an hour or so before the race start, so we got something to eat/drink and walked around. They had some guys who were showing their jumping expertise on their mountain bikes, jumping up and down stairs, and other items. There were also some antique bikes to see, and some interesting road bikes that had 3 full-size wheels (2 in the back)! That was interesting and I heard they are popular over here. It was fun to see all the different people's creative costumes. :) There was a TV crew interviewing various people also. :) (No, I didn't get filmed!). ha.
At 11:45, we all were told to gather near the field where our bikes were, and we were given racing/safety instructions. The guy giving the instructions was funny and telling various jokes along the way. :) So everyone was in a jovial mood. My group was the last in the lined up groups, so we got to watch the other groups set off every 2 minutes, as they raced out to the field area and unfolded their bikes and ran out to the road and took off. There was a long line of spectators next to the road (at the start and finish) as they cheered people on. :) Yeehaw! The race was on! :) :)
Two laps around the palace grounds turned out to be about 8 1/2 miles each lap...so a little longer than I expected also. There was a couple of semi-long hills, so everyone was huffing. There were some photographers posed at the top of the hills to take your picture - - NOT a nice time to take your picture, in my opinion! (as you're tired and out of breath!). Some people even were WALKING up the hills, which surprised me. At first I thought they were having mechanical problems, but then I realized they weren't used to riding hills. I had my business attire on, but also wore rain pants and rain jacket, and had the hood up under my helmet. After the first lap, I was starting to heat up and wish I could stop to slip the hood off, but of course, I didn't stop. My legs seemed to have the energy to do the hills, but my lungs weren't keeping up and I was out of air. I was glad I had brought my Camelback water pack to have a sip of water from time to time!
I poured on the power right near the finish line - but I was pooped when I got off my bike and could barely walk and was SO hot under my jacket and stuff! Everyone was given race medals (saying they participated) and a goodie bag with a cheese & egg sandwich, and scones with butter and jam, and then you could go in a Brompton tent and get free coffee or tea. I definitely didn't want anything hot! Whew! :) They also gave you a bottle of Gatorade, which hit the spot. There were some other vendors there for food, which I got later. There was another tent where there was a computer you could put in your race number and see how you did....but they were having technical difficulties, so I didn't find out my information til hours later, but glad I finally did. :) You're just so curious as to how you placed, you know?!
Afterwards, we walked over to the palace to walk the grounds, but we didn't go in the palace (it cost 7 pounds - which isn't much, but by the time we thought of going in, we didn't feel we'd have enough time to do the palace justice). But in another exhibit room off to the side, they had a film about the palace, so they showed the inside of it, so I got to "see" it that way. Then we took a SLOW lap on the race course again, to stop and take pictures, since we couldn't do that during the race. There were sheep in the field, and pheasants running around like chickens. :) It's a pretty place. Evidently Winston Churchill was born there and spent a lot of his spare time there, and is also buried there.
The return shuttle ride took a half hour longer due to traffic, but everyone was resting or chatting, so that was fine. :)