8 x Days, 7 x energy gels, 1 x energy bar, 2 x mini pork pies, 3 x mini sausage rolls, 1x Snickers, 1 x puncture, 2 x through the washing machine for the waterproofs, and 500km later it’s all done.
I have to admit it’s been harder than I thought it would be, mainly due to the weather and the festive period just generally always being busier than you imagine it will be. It has been a nice little personal adventure though and I have a few great memories to take away from it:
Commuting for Christmas dinner. Realising the hard way Christmas dinner isn’t sports nutrition. Almost meeting the Man with The Hammer on a misty and atmospheric evening. Riding through the countryside that inspired the Watership Down novel on a beautiful day. Washing my hands in a bucket of freezing cold windscreen cleaning water on a garage forecourt at 6.30am in epic weather after having to fix a puncture all the while wondering if it was all a bit insane. Almost being blown off a bridge onto the A34. Getting spooked by a huge Deer bounding out of the hedgerow. Watching in awe as the pre dawn glow from the sun began to magically light up the sky on a cold and frosty morning.
And I guess that’s what these challenges and experiences are all about, the memories we take away with us. Sometimes people of a less adventurous nature will ask what the point is in going out and doing crazy things when you could take the safe and easy path and put your feet up in front of the T.V? And I think the answer is because we can and therefore should. Because one day we will all be old and laid on our death beds and unable to do these things, and when that moment comes the only things that you will have are hopefully your loved ones at your side and the memories of a life lived to the fullest. And as you draw your last breath I can guarantee you that memories of sitting in front of the T.V. will not be the ones that bring a smile to your lips and joy to your heart.
Happy New Year, and may 2014 be full of more adventures and great memories for you all.
As I lower my head and brace myself as the umpteenth juggernaut thunders by, water droplets cascade from the peak of my cap. I have a micro second to marvel as they are carried away at a gravity defying angle by the 25mph cross wind, before I am enveloped by the vortex of backwash from the passing truck. For a few seconds all I can do is place my trust in the cycle gods to guide me a safe path past any potholes, as in layman’s terms ‘I can’t see shit’. Welcome to the joys of the A4.
In 1956, the legend you’ve probably never heard of, Ray Booty set a new benchmark record on this very stretch of road for the 100 mile time trial of 3hrs 58mins 28s. The first man to average 25mph over this distance, the cycling equivalent of Roger Bannisters sub 4 minute mile. That was on an old steel frame, with a single fixed gear. No aerodynamic aids, scientific training, sports nutrition, support cars, or ‘marginal gains’. Oh yes, and the day before he cycled 100 miles from Nottingham to get to the event. Damn they bred them tough back then. 25 miles per hour average! Today in these conditions and with the cycling pedigree of a 9 year old girl I’m struggling to hit 25 kilometres per hour!
Inside my wringing wet gloves my hands are black with road filth, the result of a fairly soul destroying puncture only 10km into today’s outing. Yes, today is not my best day ever on the bike. But on the bike it is and that can only be a good thing, so as I plough on in some of the most epic weather conditions I can remember riding in I try to silence the constant inner dialogue of negative self depreciating crap, place my mind in a happier place, and contemplate in wonderment the feats of the super-hard ‘wheelmen’ of the past.
I didn’t break any records today but once back in the warmth and comfort of home, and with a coffee in hand, I was fairly pleased that after over 4 hours out in these conditions I had managed to knock 100km off the festive total leaving just 39km remaining to finish out the challenge tomorrow. Happy days.
Well that was two very hard busy days. Little one turned two today and what with preparing and organising a party, building her present, family time, and squeezing in some miles I am absolutely frazzled. I guess no one ever said it would be easy, but there have been some moments to cherish on all fronts and that is priceless.
Today I thought of you. I passed the place we used to sail plastic toy boats when I was young and memories flooded in. As I battled on with headwinds and hills I had much time to think of the fun and laughter we shared. My childhood, my character, the person I have become all shaped by our times together. The amazing stories you told me of the war and your life are as vivid in my mind now as when I first heard them.
As I pushed on familiar place names sparked more memories and conversations long since past. Although a fierce wind blew the sun shone lighting the downs. You would have loved it here today. I realise now more than ever where my love of the countryside was born. The wild weather walks, scrambling up and down sea cliffs and the cheeky swig of ginger wine back in the comfort of the car as we marvelled at the views. Yes, without you the landscape of my childhood would have been a very different story.
Turning for home with a tailwind now on my back I could almost imagine your hand on my shoulder helping me home, just as you had always been there subtly guiding the way. You were more than just a Grandfather, you were my rock, my touchstone of normality and strength. And even though it’s several years since you have passed away I still sometimes feel a knee jerk reaction when the realisation hits again that you no longer grace this world.
Managed to squeeze in 40km today by opting to ride to and from the mother in laws for the whole family Christmas dinner malarky. Had a fantastic day all barring the last climb on the way home. We live at the top of what Strava apparently tells me is a 4th category climb. Now in the height of summer when I’ve got my climbing legs on this is all well and good, but at this time of year when I climb like an asthmatic sumo wrestler, and after feasting big time festive style I almost died. It was definitely all worth it though, had a great day and it’s now time to put my feet up with a malt based recovery beverage.