The long way to Kent

4 05 2010

Well, as I posted on Friday the plan for Saturday was to ride 250 miles from Birmingham to my parents house in Kent via some of the best roads in South England. I’ve been building up the miles slowly this year, having done 4 x 200km (124 miles) rides, a couple of 300km (186 miles) the next step was a 400km (248 miles).  I had planned to do this last weekend but decided that spending the night with Rachel and a couple of beers was actually what I wanted and needed to do.

So at 3.30 am my alarm went off, I heard the rain outside and I promptly fell back to sleep. When I woke up at 5.40 am the rain had stopped, I was up 2 hours behind my schedule but at least it was dry, no worries. I was out the door for 6am, well after a quick bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee. It’s cycling through town at 6 in the morning, weaving my way to Kings Heath, heading out towards the Peacock pub and crossing the M42. By 7am I could see the Cotswolds in the distance and the dry roads were telling me that it had only rained in Birmingham, and made me question if I should have left earlier as I had no real idea of how long it would take to finish.

I took a new route through the Cotswolds heading past Broadway Tower and towards Winchcombe and then on to Burford. With the first 100km done before 10am, I was going well helped on by the unexpected glorious blue sky’s and stunning views from the hills across the Vale of Evesham. The recent days rain had turned the new growth a vibrant green that is only seen in Spring!

My legs span and the miles continued to roll past without much effort and I soon climbed on to the North Wessex Downs and on past Hungerford. It was whilst following signs for Ham south of Hungerford that I hit the first hill that made me walk, no point trying to be a hero. Before I knew it, I was following the river Swift keeping a steady 20mph and heading towards Winchester. All was going well, but I could see the forecast heavy rain clouds gathering on the horizon. Well, the rain held off but following an old roman road for 9 miles from Wherwell to Winchester became a real grind as a head wind had picked up.

I arrived in Winchester at the 136 mile mark in just over 8 hours, it was then that I realized that getting to Kent before midnight was actually on the cards, but best be careful as there was still 114 miles to go. After some food I set of to follow the South Downs for the next 55 miles. Just after Petersfield the rain finally hit, but it was actually quite nice. I’d started to feel a bit tired and it helped to wake me up but I was quite happy when it stopped only 10 minutes later. The back lanes I’d picked hugged the north side of the South Downs, taking me through woodlands, downs little valleys and up my second 16% hill, and my second walk.

The 300km (186 mile) point came as I rolled in to a BP forecourt at Storrington. It was 6pm, which meant I’d managed to ride 300km in 12 hours on the fixie which was quite an achievement and equalled my fastest time for a 300km. At this point I only had another 100km (62 miles) to go and it was clear I should be able to get in well before midnight, actually 10pm was possible, but there was still a considerably hilly section still to ride for the last 30 miles.

I left Storrington at 6.20pm after a phone call, still wondering when the rain would really hit. After, Ditchling I was back on familiar roads and knew there was no more than 45 miles to go. Night time fell, on came the lights and I passed a few curries houses, ohh so tempting to stop as the final climbs started and I was felling the 350km in my legs, on I pushed dreaming of being able to sit down and stop pedaling.

The road weaved its way in to and on to the top of Ashdown Forest, a place I should come and explore one day with Rach. I passed a lot of deer on the road side and I promptly ride down a hill in the wrong direction, I was getting tired and my light was reflecting so badly of the plastic covering my maps that I could not see the route. Turn around, back up the hill and over the heath before descending down Black Hill towards Groombridge. My hands, legs and arse all complained about the prolonged downhill and I had to stop, going down was becoming a real effort, but not as much as climbing. Coming out of Groombridge it happened, the bonk! At the top of the climb I had to stop, eat the last part of a Sandwich, and rest. On I pushed in to Fordcombe, waves of dizziness came over me, the glare of the maps just too much to handle so I collapsed on a bench turned of my lights, and sat in the peaceful darkness for a few minutes. I found my emergency Sneakers bars, that went in a few seconds, half a little of water and half an energy bar. I removed my maps as I could navigate from here without them and set of again feeling slightly refreshed.

With the bonk dealt with, I span my way through the last 12 miles of hills, slowly counting them of. Finally I reached the last hill, up past Ightham mote, a 1:8 that used to strike fear into me as a kid, it got me of the bike for a third walk. From the top all that remained was a gentle downhill spin of 1.5 miles to my parents house.

I arrived at 10.30pm, knackered but not totally wiped out. But what a nice feeling to know that I had no further to go.

So I made it, still can’t quite get my head around it when I look at the map of the route I’d taken. I’d ridden all that way, in one go, on the fixie, on my own in 16 1/2 hours, I’d surprised even myself.  In reflection it was easier than I thought, and despite some low points near the end I’d not really suffered too much, no need for the mp3. What I did need to do was eat a little bit more in the final 100km, and drink a little more water. The bike, as always worked flawlessly and the rain never arrived.

Next big ride is the Brian Chapman Memorial, 600km (372 miles) from South Wales to North Wales and back again over the 15th – 16th May. Don’t really want to do it fixed, but might well do.

B12 - TN15 map

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6 responses

4 05 2010
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4 05 2010
Le Sloth

Wow! Very impressive that you made it (I’d like to say inspiring too but can’t see myself ever riding that far!)
did you chuck in the Ightham Mote climb at the end as a final challenge? Did that the other day and still a killer!

4 05 2010
jamesrach

I’m not that mad! The Ightham Mote hill was just the most direct route and a lot easier than One Tree Hill, which was the other choice.

5 05 2010
Redbike

Brilliant ride.
I was really chuffed with my 300km last weekend but it looks like i’ve just been put back in my place.

It’s my first 400km this weekend and I will probably be doing it fixed. Hopefully there wont be many hills!

6 05 2010
Simon

I’d have come on this just to see you walk up a hill!

Unfortunately i’d have been tempted by a pub after about 100k and so would have missed the momentous event!!!

Nice one.

S

6 05 2010
jamesrach

There were some good pubs at the 100km as well. Bit early in the day maybe.

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