Monday, 6 April 2009

The Denmead 400 Perm

It is telling that on Sunday I wrote: "Finished the ride in time". For a couple of dark hours I thought I wasn't going to make it. But what can you do? Its the middle of the night, dark, everything closed, the odd light on - but you wouldn't knock on anyone's door. teethgrinder had given me the best piece of advice: "... don't give up, even if it looks like you wont finish. Sometimes things turn around and get better." Between 3/4AM of Sunday that kept going through my head, I gathered that by 4AM things would turn around, so in the mean time, I might as well cycle a bit. I stop/started many times, to try and warm up. The windchill generated by movement was horrible. On the Saturday morning I had already complained of painful feet, and now I didn't know anymore if they were painful or cold. Then I started to forget about the cold, the landscape flattened, there were glimmers of dawn and the end was 'imaginable'. I constantly redid my ETA (estimated time of arrival) calculations, getting later and later, but the last one sticking with about 30km to go, to arrive by 9AM.

What a day - 26 hours!

I already mentioned the highlights being Cheddar Gorge and getting into Weston-super-Mare. Going down Cheddar Gorge brought similar emotions to reaching Whitstable on a FNRttC last year, with that beautiful sunrise. There was a group of Minis parked in one of the bays. Had to take a picture for Sarah of course. The owners scuttled away from their cars, I can only think because they were eating pizzas out of carboard boxed and didn't want that to spoil the picture!

It was great to have Urban_Biker and Chillmoister as companions again. Even the full set of the Faccombe Four appeared, with LEE and keeks joining us for parts of the ride. As always, I am very grateful for their support. Although we don't ride together the whole of the time, you do have the feeling that you are in this together.

Urban_biker very kindly put up two tents in his back garden for Chillmoister and I, to have a kip at the end of the ride. I tiptoed around wondering which tent Chillmoister was in - didn't hear any snoring as promised, and was lucky to find the first one I tried empty. I unzipped as quietly as one can! Tried to muffle my gargling cough which had developed all of a sudden. You've guessed it already of course, he wasn't there, but had already gone home.
Other things of note:
Headwind: 200kms of it, all the way to Weston-super-Mare, 17kph had been the forecast.
Spoke: back wheel spoke broke (when/where was this Chillmoister?), fortunately the wheel stayed true enough.
Mileometer: stopped working, making navigation more difficult. Had lots of navigation doubts in those deep, dark hours I talked about. Used the iPhone mapping on many occassions.
Wildlife: oystercatchers heard over Frome, lots and lots of tawny owls calling - lovely. Also lots of spring nectar smells, probably hawthorne.
The Oxford Corner Restaurant: was a great, friendly place to have a meal of baked beans on toast and chips in portions none of us could finish. The staff were not at all stirred by the fact we cycled from Portsmouth, probably because it is a regular stop for Denmead 400 audaxers . I'm puzzled though why giving an 'audax receipt' was still not part of the routine.
Swarm: while at the restaurant, Sarah called to say there was a swarm happening on the allotment. Briefly I thought she was joking, because we always say that the bees wait till I've gone out cycling. But no, there is photographic evidence even! I'll check the hives at the weekend, but I would be very, very surprised if the swarm was from one of our hives.
The Bear and Ragged Staff: what does the pub name mean? Maybe this link provides some answers : clicky.
Meim ... please skip this paragraph and go to next ...
RTA (road traffic accident): after Salisbury plains when relieved to have got to the next T junction, and me being ahead of Chillmoister and Urban_biker for the one time, I stop, lean my bike against a post ready to have a little break, when I hear the unmistakeable sound of a car on car collision. I look around and saw a car tumbling down the slope. The atmosphere changes, cars stop, people get out and help the man and women out of the crashed car, alive. Soon after Chillmoister and Urban_biker catch up with me, I was pleased to see them.

... maybe skip this one too ...
Hallucinations: had three types of hallucinations
  • roundabouts and T-junctions: in stage 6, 19 out of 29 instructions were roundabouts or TJ's. No wonder I started to see them everywhere. Especially in trees.
  • people waiting to wave at me only to morph into postboxes or hedges as I get nearer.
  • and the spookiest of all are the shadows, because shadows move. They are like giant cranes, like giant arcade pick a toy grippers, ready, waiting to pick you up as you move beneath them. I imagined being picked up and being dropped somewhere ... at the finish.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

The Denmead 400 Perm

A quick touching base to say that I finished the ride in time. It was the toughest ride I have ever done but my spirits stayed up. Photos up (on the slideshow until the next ride or click here), ride report to follow

Started at 7:08 Saturday, finished at 9:05 Sunday.

Highlights: Cheddar Gorge and approach into Weston-super-Mare