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K J Foxhall  

The Panda made me do it. Using technology during sport events vs entertaining a toddler for 100 miles – Part 1 of 2

The Panda made me, or should I say, made the husband do it! Damn that panda, it has a lot to answer for, especially this post which is likely to be a short novella, so please do get comfortable.  

In the lead up to the husband’s second RideLondon 100 mile cycle this year, I reflected upon my use, or perhaps the more accurate term is ‘reliance’, of technology during the events.  

Like others, I incorporate technology within my day to day activities to ease productively, acquire stats efficiently, and generally to try and make life easier (that is the aim anyway). Some technology gurus may agree that the latter, can sometimes yield a frustrating result. I’ve said once or twice at work that relying on technology can set one up for disappointment, yet we all do it. 

However, using technology during high mileage events such as RideLondon, meant that tracking the husband’s progress was one less thing to concern myself with, which meant that I could concentrate on navigating my small human around London.  

I have been on the other side, I used to be a long-distance swimmer and take part in extreme events, so not only can technology be used to plan your day as a spectator, it also takes the stress off of the event as a participant too. I know from my point of view, I always used to feel guilty dragging people to events, as it meant a lot of waiting around, at least with trackers the spectator can either stay and cheer you on, or go about their day and come back for the finale. 

Garmin and Strava Beacon 

The Garmin bike navigational computer has a lot of great features. Teamed up with Strava, which provides a handy feature for participants and spectators known as the Beacon, provides a cyclist with most of the tracking technology they need. The Beacon works via a text message, which is sent to the athlete’s nominated contact(s), containing a link that can be clicked on to check progress of the activity they are taking part in. 

The husband has not only used this in events, but also in training and it allows us to plan our schedules at home. 

This year the Beacon has been rather hit and miss. The husband took part in a “warm-up” Sportive event a few months ago, cycling 69 miles in the New Forest. Unfortunately, the beacon was not working that day, so I had to base my calculations on his average speed and expected time of completion. He helpfully sent me texts at rest points, and of course, it was not the end of the world, after all we survived without technology before in these events, but they do have a habit of lulling you into a comfortable sense of security, so that when you don’t have the option, you kind of feel a bit lost. 

In RideLondon 2018, the Strava Beacon app worked well, and I was able to click on the link several times throughout the day to track the husband’s progress. Given the hot weather we had last year, of course it was the only day where it actually rained, so this meant the route was subject to last minute delays and closures. But, we went about our day without worrying about whether we would miss him at the finish line.  

It was a lot to ask from a toddler, but luckily Monster is adaptable, and having worked in London for nearly twenty years, I know that when an event happens, once you leave London, do not try and get back in later on in the day, it just won’t happen. Therefore, if we were going to support the husband we had to be fully committed.  


It wasn’t just the Beacon that played its part on that day, there were also several other devices, most of which are standard everyday items that we probably take for granted.  

Last year, the phones alarms were set for 04:00am, with a departure time of 04:45 to get the husband to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which is where the start line was. Android Maps was used to check the route to the Olympic Park in case of road closures, and delays. I had also carried out a lot of research to ensure our day went smoothly. 

Monster and I then drove across to Victoria Station and parked in a reserved space through Justpark[, near the finish line which was near Buckingham Palace.  

However, I wasn’t anticipating the sea of cyclists arriving for strangely enough a cycling event during the journey to the Olympic Park. This year, I dropped the husband off on the other side of the road to avoid any awkward moments with bikes, and we then drove to a reserved space in Kensington (special thanks to the new ultra-low emission zone restrictions for that).  

For both years it meant a lot of walking, and the use of public transport to get around.   

For both events, Monster’s meal times were suspended, and they were kept fed and watered throughout the day, so they were in good spirits and had good energy levels. Last year they were even happier when they reaslised that the back of the headrest on the car seat in front, had turned into a small television, something that had not happened before. Thank you tablet holder from Amazon. 

Last year, Monster and I arrived at the parking space at the back of London Victoria station at 06:10. Of course no attractions were open at that point, organisation foul on my part, and they wouldn’t be open until at least 09:30 given that it was a Sunday. So I used the time to pack up our bags, get Monster changed as they were still in their pajamas and find somewhere for breakfast.  

Tip, McDonalds is always open at that time.  

On this occasion I also had a backpack which was a carry on for Monster, so I could transport them around on my back if they got tired. Buggies or push chairs in London during an event like this, was asking for trouble. You never know what roads are closed, and you don’t want to be carrying a buggy around the subway in heavy people traffic. 

Activities in London for a small person 

The aim of our day was also to keep moving otherwise fatigue would set in, the attractions we went to were the Sea Life Centre and Shrek’s Adventure. I had purchased some saver tickets online so we were able to skip the queue and walk right in. One thing I didn’t realise was that you walk over the shark tank to enter the Sea Life Centre building, and I had put Monster in light up shoes! Perhaps not the smartest move. 

This year, to save on costs, we visited the Science Museum, which is a fantastic facility, not only because they do late night drinks for adults during the week, but for children they can get up close to science, and engage the senses without the parents continuously having to say “don’t touch that,” and so on. 

Last year, we spent an hour or so at the Sea Life Centre, and it was great watching Monster get up close to sharks and large sea turtles as well as other creatures. Normally I do not condone any form of captivity, but the exhibits were educational and informative, especially around the import of shark fins.  

After the Sea Life Centre, we went for lunch next door, the great thing about London is that there is always somewhere to eat, and by this time, it was mid-morning, which judging by the time we got up would equate to lunch. Going by the husband’s frustrated texts and his Starva Beacon, he hadn’t got that far around the route. This was due to a later start time, and the weather hindering progress throughout the day as some of the route had to be closed. 

This year, before we reached the Science Museum, we walked through Kensington Palace gardens and Hyde Park. As Monster was older this year, they certainly engaged their independence, and a great thing about the London parks is that you can let your offspring stretch their legs without the worry of them running into traffic, however I wasn’t expecting to pull a fully clothed three year old out of the Princess Diana Memorial fountain.  

It is just as well the lady it was dedicated to loved children!,
Source: Pam Fray / Part of the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, Hyde Park / CC BY-SA 2.0,

For all events, I kept an eye on Monster and how they responded to the long hours and mass exercise. Nutritional professionals will recommend that at this age children need to be active to the point they sweat, with adults it is not the same, but there is such a thing as overdoing it.  

Last year, after lunch we went to Shrek’s Adventure, which was absolutely fantastic. There was a large 4D screen, and interactive tasks with the actors. I was skeptical about taking Monster due to their age at the time, but I read some reviews online from parents with children of a similar age, and the trick was to keep them close the whole time.  

The show was rather loud, but it meant just putting Monster on my hip at times and they were fine. Monster has never been the type to scare easy, so I was not concerned, but I would not recommend the show for children of that age who are sensitive to sound, and/or prefer more quiet settings.  

Shrek’s Adventure can take around 1.5 hours to go around, unless of course you would like to meet Shrek at the end, then that takes a bit longer. By this point Monster was fading fast, so it was another stop at a food generating venue. Monster is quite good in the sense that so long as you feed and water them regularly, they are happy.   

I seem to live and die by Google maps and utilize this feature especially when I am with Monster. To ensure that my concentration is spread evenly, I connect my earphones and only use one earpiece so I can speak to Monster but also listen to the instructions from my phone. This is something I am used to being a drone pilot. 

Please visit the second post for a continuation of this story