‘Oh, you’re planning a lot of training’ the shop assistant enthused as I stopped off to get some last minute energy gels. Train? I don’t train, I ride. Although with the Transatlantic Way looming I have admittedly been riding more.
Act 1 – bitter
2pm – 8am. 225km. 3580m elevation.
An ongoing dally with the South Downs Way Double sees me rather keen to bag a sub 24 hours. It is the done thing. The women’s record is 21hours 44mins Amanda Brooks. Both time splits are highlighted on my top tube sticker. Setting off from The Adur heading initially East. All going well apart from some resident gremlins on my shoulder which I managed to give the slip at Eastbourne as I 180’d. A bit of a head wind and the discovery that my mp3 hadn’t charged was counter balanced by being escorted by two shining Boompod knights; Rich Penning (previous owner of my Pivot frame) and Richie Longball (fuelled on wine). There was also a strong presence of the Boompods on Whatsapp and Rory Hitchins was spreading the word on this attack. Numbers were being crunched and it looked like I was on track for getting within both time goals.
After midnight my speed began to drop, but I’d been going well for a long time so happy that this was just the expected effect of nightfall. Frustratingly it dropped even more until I was crawling along, walking, sitting. Overcome by a lead blanket of sleepiness that left me floppy. Don’t give up, it will pass, take ten mins power nap… nothing was working, I couldn’t shake it off. I was distraught. I tried so hard for about two and a half hours before finally giving in – even if I did have a longer nap and get going again I realised that I’d lost both of those times – it was a bitter ending. Finally I curled up under a hedge and looked up to see the most beautiful expanse of an orange tinged starry sky accompanied by the occasional sheep bleat and had to think bugger, it’s only a bike ride.
The text of defeat was sent as I spun home on the roads whilst post morteming events. Rory messaged me back offering me for a well needed breakfast, and a more needed friendly hug. The Boompodders decided to reclassify it from SDD ‘attempt’ to ‘recce’ – I could cope with that, probably better after a little more sleep. Their support had been overwhelming.
Later that afternoon, sensing I could do with it, Dad phoned and dropped a few wise gems. Arse subtly kicked, I charged my lights, my GPS and had a bowl of pasta.
Act 2 – bliss
4am – 8pm. 286km. 3858m elevation.
Today was going to be for my head. I would allow myself to faff, take photos, sit and eat custard creams whilst having a bash at the Doorstep epic Tour de France. I needed something challenging and had been wanting to do this for ages. The weather said ‘sunny’ and it is set amongst a beautiful part of the countryside. Hilly countryside. After yesterday this was going to be a smile creator, I was adamant.
Being out early enough to watch night turn into day, hearing the birds go crazy, wondering if there’s going to be a killer sunrise…
With banana and jam sandwiches packed and with Box Hill and Chalkpit Lane cherries to be pipped everything was feeling very splendid. And it didn’t stop until tea time.
I loved the climbing, the views, the feeling of flying along – finding that sweet spot, the peace in slower times, and the wondering about the stories of the people, houses and buildings I passed.
On getting home I had a dirty tin of chilli and a beer. Today I actually felt like a long distance rider. But they do day after day, I reminded myself, day after day after day…
Act 3 – grit
3.30am – 9am. 67km. 686m elevation.
Trying not to wake my Air-bnb-er (whom must by this stage be finding my behaviour and eating habits a little concerning), I slipped from the front door with a reassuringly sore body and a ‘wincey saddle settle’TM knowing that this needed to be done. I used the excuse that there was a dry bag of goodies stashed up on the Downs (in a copse westwards of the A24 ready for my return which didn’t happen) to collect. Rewarded with the sunrise again and the boost that I’d been able to push through the sleepiness to the other side this time. It’s a strange feeling falling asleep on a bike.
Turning back after a snack in the woods, there was a pretty strong headwind and I dropped into Worthing after having decided to do the rest on road, it was gritty. Good, this was good. ‘Find your gear, find your rhythm, don’t get cross’ had become my mantra. Apparently the west coast of Ireland can get it’s fair share of wind*, all in the wrong direction for the TransAtlanticWay southbound route. Time over the short distance went slowly, but I was chuffed that I’d managed to find a way to progress through the treacle like conditions. Digging deep not knowing what was left. This was probably the most useful part of the trilogy.