I entered the ballot for next year's Ride London 100. You don't find out whether you have been successful in the ballot until next February but as I will need accommodation in London anyway, I've been keeping an eye on the Sports Tours International website: www.sportstoursinternational.co.uk They offer packages of guaranteed ride entries plus bed and breakfast accommodation. It's aimed at overseas cyclists but I spoke to them a couple of months ago to check that I'd be eligible to apply. Having been reassured that this was OK, I signed up for their newsletter to find out when their places became available.
Yesterday, just as I arrived home, the email arrived. Booking was live and there was an early bird discount of £100 for anyone grabbing a place now.
I had planned to book one of their two night packages, judging by what they had available last year. This time, though, only the full three-night ones were offered, so that's what I've gone for. All confirmed. Three nights in London with my husband and a guaranteed place in the ride for me.
The advantage of organising it this way is that I have as much training time as possible. To date, the furthest I've ridden is 53 miles. I've got to nearly double that. But then, a year ago, the furthest I'd ridden was 8 miles and I covered nearly seven times that distance without too much difficulty in June. It's actually not the distance that frightens me. Sheer bloody-mindedness, combined with plenty of training will take me to the century.
The pace is another matter. I have to finish inside nine hours. It's not like the London Marathon, where you can take as long as you need to stagger to the Finish. If I'm not keeping up the pace I'll be taken off the route. Last year some people were taken off at sixty miles. Imagine that! I can't let that happen.
I'm looking around online for training plans. Most of them seem to be eight week schedules but they are probably for people who are starting with a better average speed than mine. So I'm starting today. I've got just under ten months to shape up, pick up the pace and master hill climbs. If anyone can recommend a good training schedule, I'd love to hear about it.
I'll also be collecting sponsorship. I didn't want to take one of the official charity bond places because the requirement to raise so much money would add to the fear of failure. Instead, I'm going to invite friends and colleagues to help me support a very worthwhile cause: the Rhino Protection Unit in Pilanesberg, South Africa.
Over a number of years we've spent a lot of time watching the rhino in Pilanesberg. Their survival chances are improved considerably by the wonderful members of the Rhino Protection Unit who go to extraordinary lengths to keep them safe. An indication of the impact they are having came during our last visit in December 2012. At that point, 40 rhino had been poached in the Kruger. Pilanesberg had lost none. We were leaving Pilanesberg as night fell, on Christmas Day. A storm was raging, with lightning as bright as day and rain hammering down on our car. As we exited we encountered members of the Rhino Protection Unit, about to spend Christmas night safeguarding the rhino.
If I can do anything to help the RPU stay one step ahead of the poachers then it will be worth every turn of the pedals. You can ready more about the battle to protect the Pilanesberg rhino here: http://www.pilanesbergwildlifetrust.co.za/rhino-protection/index.html
And after all...if Boris can do it, surely I can too!