Women's 100: Jools' Journal

One week before our worldwide women’s group ride, author Jools Walker reflects on her first Women’s 100 and what keeps her coming back for more.

01 September 2020
Rapha Women's 100 - Jools Walker Cycling Journal

Journal Entry Two:

Training for the Women's 100

Training for this year's Women's 100 is quite different to how I'd imagined it would be.

From the moment I crossed my finish line last year, I started planning how I'd build up to doing this all again in 2020. It was going to be so good! There would be bike rides with my partner Ian, and most certainly plenty of group rides with friends. I could see myself loading my bike onto trains, travelling around the country to hook-up with as many members of my extended cycling family as possible, and doing rides in different parts of the UK.

But coronavirus arrived, and it had other ideas.

All those group rides may have gone straight out the window, but the one thing that wasn’t going to get ruined was having fun while training for the event. For me, preparing for and doing the Women’s 100 isn’t about beasting myself to the point of exhaustion – although there is no denying you feel knackered after doing 100km in a day – it’s about enjoying the whole experience. This means having a laugh from the day you start prepping to the moment you’ve clocked up that metric century in September.

Mixing it up is something which works for me. I find super-regimented training programmes too restrictive, so I lose interest, fast. No matter the length or what style of cycling it is, every ride I’m doing is a training session. The recce rides to work out the route – along with plenty of pizza stops and coffee shops – are all part of it too.

I might not be with my cycling family in person but riding with them virtually on Zwift and my indoor trainer has been a joy. I’m even making new buddies online, which is a bonus and keeps me going – especially when you’re missing the human connection of cycling with friends.

Training and what it’s perceived to involve can be such a loaded term: all the talk of power, watts, thresholds, endurance... Sometimes it can seem like a bit too much. I’ve discovered I’m a big fan of being kind to myself, figuring out what works for me and, most importantly of all, having fun along the way.

Journal Entry One:

Last year was a year of big cycling-related milestones for me, and after the joy of having my first book on that very subject published that spring, I wanted to do something that would mean a lot for me personally to celebrate it.

I decided that a big, juicy bike ride – unlike any that I’d done before – would be a perfect way to mark the occasion. So, as soon as the date for the 2019 Women’s 100 was announced, I circled Saturday 14th September in my diary. This was going to be The One.

Did the thought of doing the Women’s 100 give me nervous butterflies in my stomach? Of course – I’d be lying if I said otherwise. In my nine years of cycling, I had never ridden that distance in a single day. Perhaps it sounds wild, but this was one of the things that appealed to me - it was a new challenge for me to take on.

“I had never ridden that distance in a single day, but this was one of the things that appealed to me.”

There was also another element at play in this too. Sometimes, my relationship with road cycling can be a tricky thing to navigate. There is no set requirement to do the Women’s 100 on a road bike, but I had my reasons for wanting to dust mine off for that day in September.
A mixture of self-doubt and doubts cast over me by others can often leave me questioning my ability and my sense of ‘belonging’ in that sphere of cycling.

“The thing about Jools is that she will never look natural on the drops.” I will never forget hearing someone say that about me when I got my first road bike, and how that made me feel. To this day, I still have zero clue as to what that persons’ definition of ‘natural’ even means.

Although I try to be as ‘sticks and stones’ as possible about stuff like that and just dust it off, words can hurt. Those old memories can sit like a demon on my back, jabbing at me every time I even think about getting on a road bike. But then I get on that saddle. And from the moment I start moving, I suddenly remember how much I love it and that I don’t have anything to prove to any outsiders who doubt me or try to rain on my parade.

“I don’t have anything to prove to any outsiders who doubt me or try to rain on my parade.”

My Women’s 100 was going to be the kind of ride that I knew I’d enjoy. That had to be the biggest take away from it: enjoyment and fun. It may not sound like the most thrilling of routes to some, but the day would be riding loops around Richmond Park. It had everything that I wanted – open space, beautiful scenery and a strategically placed café stop for coffee and cakes when needed.

On the morning of the ride, I remember staring out of my bedroom window. My own little doubts began creeping in but reminding myself of the reasons why I was doing this put my soul at ease and turned my excitement levels up.

“Just thinking about all the other women around the world riding together was overwhelming.”

I changed into my kit – something that once upon a time I’d have told you would never be me – and paused for a brief moment. Just thinking about riding with Sonia and Maj from the Womxn of Colour Cycling Group, and the other women around the world who would be dressed in the same colours was overwhelming. We’d all be doing this together, we were all riding as one.

With every loop of the park, there was something different to experience every time, be it a group of deer, a cluster of trees and even other women dressed in their W100 kit doing the same route. Every completed loop felt like an accomplishment – a personal achievement of sorts.

Even in moments where there was a dull ache in my body, or towards the end of the ride when it came to cycling back to East London and my legs were screaming at me to stop – something kept me going on, and whatever that was, I wasn’t about to let it go.

“Even when my body was aching, something kept me going. And whatever it was, I wasn’t about to let it go.”

It was a magnificent feeling when I crossed the Canning Town flyover – that last blue slither of the cycle path which tells me that I’m almost home. After 5 hours, 48 minutes and 58 seconds of cycling, I was back, with 101.01km under my cap.

Perhaps it was the delirium of doing such a ride in one day, but that extra 1.o1km on my GPS tracker made me smile. I’d gone just a tiny bit further than planned, but the whole thing was a lot further than I’d ever been both physically and mentally on my road bike before.

When the delirium and adrenalin wore off, my legs started to hurt me so much that I had to use my mum's stair lift to get myself upstairs to make it to the shower. Yes, there was pain, but my body had covered distances that I had never imagined it could.

As I celebrated the achievement with a glass (or three) of fizz and my favourite dishes from the local takeaway, I asked myself if I would do this all again. Was there a need for this again? Well, no two rides are ever the same and a hell of a lot has happened in a year. So I, for one, can’t wait to join the start line again on 6th September and do it all over again.

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