Phil Kelly cycles RideLondon for I CAN

Triathlons and cycling has filled a massive void for me since retiring from rugby last year. I heard about the Ride London event through my club and was excited about a challenge of 100 miles on closed roads around London and Surrey where I grew up.

My niece Eva attends Meath School, and I was therefore aware of the I CAN charity’s amazing work, especially evident through the incredible progress she has made since attending. It was my sister in law, Eva’s mother, who told me that they had places available for the event and I didn’t hesitate in signing up. I have only fundraised a couple of times in the past but never for a cause so personal to our family. Krista and the team at I CAN were very helpful in supporting my fundraising effort over the preceding months, sending literature and collection boxes amongst other things which made a big difference. The response from family, friends and work colleagues was overwhelming and helped me to raise over £650, including my visit to the summer fayre at Meath School with Eva, where I extended the ‘guess the time’ raffle competition.

Training for the event was in fact tougher than the fundraising! Triathlons have certainly changed my physique since rugby however the cycling part rarely extends past 40km in my events. However with the help of some newly purchased gadgets over a couple of long training rides I was able to gauge my ideal pace and heart rate, but more importantly nutrition, for the 100mile/160km challenge. I never realised the importance and difficulty in planning the correct drinking and eating throughout such an endurance event to prevent the dreaded ‘bonking’ (apparently the technical term for ‘hitting the wall’ or completely running out of energy on a bike!). I decided to set myself a target of 7hrs30min based upon a previous 100mile, very flat ride over a year ago but didn’t really know how achievable this may be, especially looking at the terrain of this event!

The day of the event finally arrived, with a very early start outside the Olympic Velodrome where I have never seen so many cyclists in my life, and the atmosphere was electric even at 8am. It was a joy to cycle past London’s iconic landmarks and through closed streets in what was certainly a unique opportunity. I continued to cycle past my secondary school in Kingston and took my first drinks stop in Richmond Park, close to where my family still live, where my Dad was there to cheer me on. Around the half way point were Leith Hill and the famous Box Hill and I afforded myself a short celebratory refuelling break at the top to appreciate the breathtaking views. The public support throughout the event was staggering with almost every kilometer packed with cheering supporters and marshalls. The feeling of turning the final corner and seeing the red tarmac of The Mall was exhilarating and crossing the finish line was equally as emotional. The adrenalin must also have contributed to me achieving a time of 6hrs6min including the 35mins of refuelling stops along the way, far surpassing my expectations!

I was met at the finish by many family members including Eva and we then went to meet the I CAN team in the supporters area of the adjoining park to enjoy a celebratory drink. Before leaving, my brother in law and I were already discussing possible future challenge events with the team!

My wife and I love spending time with our nieces, and the progress we see in Eva each time we see her is heart warming. It was my great pleasure to support I CAN, and I can only echo the praise and admiration of our entire family for the charity’s work and especially the teachers at Meath School who have made such a difference to Eva and our family.