General blog posts Technology
K J Foxhall  

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

Click here to view the first part of this post.

Last year was a long day starting at 04:00 and ending at 19:00 which is when we got home. We, the spectators, drove, used public transport and our legs for the day, and so this year I wanted to minimise the activity slightly as it is a lot of mileage for little legs. I thought that a hotel room would be a good idea, it meant that Monster and I didn’t have to get up so early, and the husband could cycle to the start line.  

I used the app to book a cheap hotel, it didn’t have to be 5 star, it was only for one night – how bad could it be?  

Famous last words! 

I didn’t think there would be much availability given that one of the largest sporting events was happening that weekend. However, when we got to said hotel, I think we were there for under 10 minutes before turning around and going home. The reasons for this (yes there were more than one), was the strong smell of cannabis, and a clearly paid venture happening in the next room.  The husband and I would have just put up with it, but we could not subject Monster to that.  

The good luck hadn’t begun there either. Earlier that day, we couldn’t find the husband’s bike lock key and so he had to go to B&Q to find a blade strong enough to cut through it, virtually risking the bike in the process.  

On Sunday 4 August 2019, we left slightly later than the previous year, but I have the feeling that the road closures began a lot earlier. Monster and I got stuck in the road closures and ended up reserving another parking space through JustPark on the fly, as we could not make it across the river to Battersea area. We had to park near Kensington Gardens, so there were much worse places to be.  

Weather conditions 

Last year, even though we experienced immense heat, on the day of RideLondon 2018, there was rain and hail stones. I did not envy the cyclists one bit, at least as spectators we did not overheat.  This year, it was pleasant, and while it was overcast, being an outdoor swimmer for years, I still made sure the sunscreen was applied properly to all of us.  

Nowadays most phones are equipped with some form of weather notification. Since having Monster, I have developed hay fever at this time of year, prior to this I could tell you in advance what the weather would be just by sniffing the air.  

After Monster had had a morning of fun activities, it was on to St James Park which is where the finish line was for both years.  

Looking at the Strava Beacon, at the same point last year, the husband seemed to be making good progress which meant that we would only be in the park for about an hour before he was going through to the finish line, however when we got to the park, the unforeseen and uncontrollable delays occurred and we were there for several hours by the time he crossed the finish line.  

No matter how much technology one relies on, delays and issues within events happen.  

This year, I only had the RideLondon app to rely on as the Beacon was not working for us. Luckily the app was working well, although I think there was a slight delay in the results.   

If you have been to St James’ park before, you will know that it is not a small place. For both years, once in the park, we walked towards The Mall to position ourselves at the finish line and relax in the meantime. Monster being Monster I am convinced will never know when to give up, they have energetic parents so I don’t know why I am surprised. Last year they had some comfort of being carried on my back when they were tired, this year however they did more than their fair share of walking which was around 10 miles. This is a lot for little three-year-old legs.  

So, we stayed near the finish line and I let Monster go for a run around for a bit. 

Quite often at these events, you will find a nice community of spectators. Most of us are there to support family members during the ride and create a friendly environment while we wait. Last year, some nice young men taught Monster how to play Frisbee, this year, we timed getting to the park just right as we were there for about an hour before the husband crossed the finish line.  

While these events are a mass of excitement and positive vibes, it can also be a forum to attract the unsavoury, and this is where I implore that anyone with children attending these events, do not take your eyes off of the them, and keep them with you at all times.   

As the husband was delayed last year, I had to find things to occupy Monster. Typically, children of that age can find their own amusements in things we wouldn’t think of. Additionally, as with many of the London parks, it has some great facilities, like the playground. By the time we reached the playground last year, I thought Monster would be too tired to play, but they then got a new lease of life and there was no stopping them. Everything a Monster could want or need was there as well, including toilet facilities, designed for small humans which was ideal. 

I mentioned that Monster is not the type to be easily fazed, well they are also a daredevil, which meant that they did not abide by age restricted playground activities. This meant that last year, 3 miles before the husband finished RideLondon 2018, I was trying to coax my then two-year-old down from some rather high rope ladders, which I would have difficulty climbing. This year, as mentioned in the previous post I was dragging them out of the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, fully clothed.  

Some would say that perhaps there is a discipline issue at play, I happy to rebut this, Monster is just a very intelligent, very excitable and very energetic child. They will be learning how to channel these qualities for the foreseeable, what else would one expect from a three-year-old.  

Both years we nearly missed the husband at the finish line, as with all of this technology at our disposal, you can’t account for a spontaneous increased cycling pace, which is what happened last year, and the need for an urgent toilet break, which is what happened this year.  

As Monster finished up in the playground last year, I could see more people arriving with medals around their necks, so I checked the Strava Beacon again, and saw that the husband was definitely closer. We started to make our way back to the finish line and I don’t know if there was a time delay, or if the husband had recruited the use of a rocket, but I checked the app again to see that he was only 3 miles away, this was nothing in terms of a cyclist who was probably really eager to finish.  

RideLondon 2019 finish line (same place as it was last year)

My response was “Oh sh*t, daddy is nearly at the finish line, quick run!… and don’t tell him I said that word.” 

Monster ran as fast as their tired legs to carry them shouting “quick, quick, need to get to Daddy,” while everyone around us who had seen my slight outburst thought it was really comical.  

We ran and got to the finish line 30 seconds before the husband did, and he came through quickly, to the point I didn’t get a good enough picture.  

After the husband got his medal, we walked back to the car, got Monster changed into pyjamas as it was likely they were going to fall asleep on the way home (I know I wanted to), gave them more food and a drink, and the final leg of the journey was in motion, using, yes you guessed it good old Google Maps to get home.  

This year we got home earlier as the husband managed to shave at least an hour off of the time. Getting home was also quicker. Monster was still awake when we got home this year, so I packed them off to bed, and cooked a few pizzas, even though the husband had eaten several wraps on the way home.  

In summary, if you have an event coming up and a toddler that needs to be entertained for a long period of time, there are a few tips to note: 

(1) Pick your technologies wisely, it is never good to completely rely on technology, but they are amazing aids.  

(2) This kind of day is extreme, it is not for everyone and it is not to be done regularly. If you can’t do it, don’t do it.  

(3) Planning beforehand is crucial. Know the sport route, plan any activities in advance, have an idea of food outlets (as mentioned before there are plenty in London), know where the toilets are, and play areas.  

(4) Pack light and only the essential essentials. 

(5) Lots of snacks, food and drinks throughout the day. Routine meals and calorie counting should not be on the menu for days like these. 

(6) Motivation. Monster knew the whole time that we were going to see daddy at the end of the race, so this kept them motivated.  

(7) If you are delayed, or stranded at a finish line, try and make a game out of your surroundings, even when you are so fatigued that you can sleep standing up.  

A lot of people forget that while the event is an admirable achievement for those taking part, depending on the circumstances, it can also be an endurance adventure for the spectators too.  

Overall try and have as much fun as possible, and while planning is important, do not put unnecessary stress on yourself. The planning is to make life easier, not set unrealistic expectations.   

One of the fundraising ideas for both years was to guess how many sweets there were in a jar. Last year it was a demijohn, this year it was a water dispenser jar which Monster and I painted a happy panda on. The husband has supported WWF for the last two years (hence the panda).