Well what can I say! What a day it was. I didn't sleep very well the night before, I think I was just too excited. Its only 54 miles, I know, but its to the seaside! The edge of Britain, and I was to ride my bike there. Up till now me and the Old Boy have only ever done loops, or our first long ride included a train journey first!
But first off, I must say a huge thank you to my hubby, Old Boy, he was up with me at 5:30 this morning, driving me and my bike to Clapham, and then was going to meet me in Brighton later on. And also to all the sponsors who have sponsored me loads of money for this ride, and for my Cancer research run. I shall let you all know how much was raised for both charities.
By the time we got the bike on the back of the car and had everything else ready I was already late for my start! But that didn't matter. At least I wouldn't be going to the back of queue to start my ride! So after the Old Boy dropped me off I joined the queue for the loo, well there is no need taking extra baggage is there.
Then I went to the next earliest start gate and got my card stamped and joined the throng. I was excited, I was smiling, my belly was full of butterflies!! And I was thinking I hope I don't get lost! Then the count down began, and off we went.
Here is a pic of the start.
The ride through London was slow, just because of the sheer number of bikes on the road. I knew there was going to be loads, but wow, hundreds of bikes! So I just went along with the flow, and thought to my self that I would be able to make up the time when it had thinned out a bit!
The 'expert' riders, with their matching hats, shirts pants and shoes, all co-ordinating with the bikes were just buzzing past me. I knew I couldn't ride at their level, on the right hand side of the road!, so I had to stay on the left hand side with the 'I want to ride to the seaside' bunch!. So I used this time to 'acclimatise' myself with the whole riding in a huge bunch. Get the measure of people, and how they react, and ride, and practice my overtaking skills, etc. Because surely once we were out of London then I shall be zooming past people, on clear roads!.
There were so many bikes, and I worried about getting lost on the way! All I had to do is follow the line of riders. And its all marshaled along each road, and crossing, and the police are on hand to stop and direct traffic, just to keep the throng moving as much as possible. About 5 or 6 minutes into the ride I realised that I hadn't set my Garmin, so I quickly did that and then settled back into the flow of bikers.
I was wondering how long it will take to get out of the city, out of the huddle of cyclists so that we can start to peddle with some conviction. Still the atmosphere is good, and everyone is happy and chatting, and laughing and joking. Yup, this is going to be a lovely day.
The weather is chilly, and a bit windy. I am glad of my fleece. And I do have my raincoat in the backpack, just in case! The forecaster predicated that this is the better day of the weekend. Lets hope they got it right! I knew working hard peddling will also keep me warm.
The first Official stop was about 10 miles into the ride. So I took this opportunity to have a cuppa. Well, I managed to eat my porridge this morning, the Old Boy had made it for me, but I just couldn't get a cuppa down me as well, and I do need my caffeine intake! So we pulled into Fannys Farm. Seriously! A great place, there were bacon butties, or sausages, bread pudding if you like that, tea and coffee. And they wasn't demanding tons of money either. 50p for a cuppa! brilliant! So I had my cuppa and I gave the Old Boy a call to let him know where I was. He told me he will be on his way shortly, and he had made me a lovely salad for when I got there. Such a diamond bless him.
Then it was back on the road. And let me tell you, the bike traffic hasn't eased off! There is no let up to the amount of bikes on the road! Oh well, looks like my dreams of a 4 hour ride is down the chute......ok 5 hour ride has gone down the chute. But there is still plenty of time to catch up. I decided that the next official stop I shall go straight through. But there was a hill before it, and I had a tiny break there, mainly because I can't ride my bike as slow as that of the throng. I just tend to topple over!
By now I had made a decision, the ride today is not going to be any faster than this speed. There is not going to be any records broken by me for covering this distance, so I shall just have fun and enjoy the whole experience, and if there is a chance that I can go faster I will take it! No doubt the Old Boy will be calling me to see where I am, and I can just hear him now "is that all you have done"
For the next twenty miles it was uneventful, the throng never seemed to thin out. And when it did then it just came together again at a bottle neck or traffic lights. We were in a place called Lindsfield, another official stop. And they seemed to have the whole village roped in to doing something. They were cheering and handing out water, or they were just sitting outside the pubs and houses watching the riders go by. Just a lovely welcome. This is the time the Old Boy calls me to check up. I had to ask a local where I was, I just didn't see any sign posts. It was her who told me I was at Lindsfield. The Old boy thought I said Lingsfield which is nearer to our house than Brighton! But I soon assured him I wasn't on the way home! Then the local lady made me smile. She said "only 15 miles there abouts and you're in Brighton" Well my Garmin was saying another 20, but I had forgotten to start it again after tea, and toilet stops!.
I knew what was coming up next. It was Ditchling Beacon. Well, I have already walked up a couple of hills! So there is no shame in walking up this one! I knew it was going to be a long, steep and narrow road full of walkers. I was impressed with the riders who was attacking the hill, not giving up. Of course there are always the 'expert riders' but even some of those were puffing. I got chatting to one of the walkers as we made our way up. He said "I wanted to give up 2 hours after I started" I made a joke, I said "I expect to see God up here waiting for us" It is a hugely steep hill, well it seems it after what we have done so far. It is a demoralising hill. One particular rider had a tee shirt say 'Dam you Ditchling' He knew from the beginning of his ride that he was walking up there too. Another chap fell into the verge. He was one of those 'expert' riders, with the cleats, and he couldn't get out of them quick enough and just toppled over. I tried not to laugh, things could quite easily go wrong for me!
The chap that I was talking to couldn't even manage to walk the whole way up, he said he was camping on the verge for the night. I carried on. I had to walk to the top of this hill at least, without stopping. There were plenty of people laying on the verges, draped over their bikes or just standing catching their breath.
I heard the announcement over the loudspeaker. Nearly at the top of the hill. Just a few more yards and I made it. I was going to use this official stop. Its the last one, and I was going to drink my drink and chillax for a few moments. I pulled in, the announcer was informing us this is the highest point in the Tour De France race, and from here it was all down hill! Yippee!!!!
I sat on the grass and drank my drink, I was going to eat my packet of crisps, but it suddenly got very cold. I looked at the sky and saw these dark clouds approaching. Here, take a look at the sky:-
I thought I had better make a move from this place. I put my fleece on and took to the road. but just a few yards down the road the rain started. Well thank goodness I got my rain coat with me! (The Old Boy said I should, I was going to be optimistic!) I got it out of my back pack just in time. The heavens really opened up. I carried on riding, hoping that it will just go away, or even just stay on the hill. But it seemed to follow me, and came down in torrents. I was wishing I had bought the Old Boys fishing wet weather trousours (again, another suggestion of his) But instead of getting down hearted I started to sing, out loud, like some demented party goer coming home from a brilliant night out! #Show me the way to go home#
Just then my words came back to me "When I get to the top I want to see God waiting there" Well, He certainly showed me whose boss! Visions of Him upstairs laughing, with tears rolling down his face, and splashing on all of us down here, filled my imagination! And I just smiled. I was riding in the torrential rain, singing and smiling all the way to Brighton. Crazy or what! The rain was stinging my face, the drops of rain felt like hailstones, and there was me with my sunglasses on! Then I had another quieter word, "Ok, God, very funny, but can we have some sunshine now". Then it broke, the rain subsided, and it got brighter. I was soaked through to my unmentionables! There were puddles in my trainers! But I was still smiling.
It has been a great ride down to here. And I was looking forward to seeing the Old Boy at the end.
Riding up the last 100 meters was a fantastic feeling. I could see the finish up ahead, I stopped and took a photo of it, much to the amusement of the on lookers. Here, look at this,
They said to me "You can't stop now, you're nearly there!" But I just explained that I wanted to photograph this moment.
It's difficult to get pics when your a lone cyclist, I just kept on forgetting to do it. Riding through the big finish time, getting my medal and my card stamped, fantastic feeling, I was smiling, freezing, shivering, wet through and not seeing anyone I know, but I was so happy!
I still hadn't seen the Old boy, after I rang him he said he was down near the roundabout before the last hundred meters, we had missed each other!
But when we did finally meet up this is what I was handed by my lovely Old Boy,
And just a couple more from the day that the Old Boy took
Geeky stats for you.