Monday, 13 June 2011

The Magnificat

Well anyone in the South of England will be fully aware of how wet and windy it was yesterday. It was raining heavily before I met Adie at the start line, he had cycled in from Newbury. Still optimistic we headed out in the first group at 08:00. 127 miles is a long way to ride even in good weather, so I started off spinning a lower gear than normal, just to make sure that I would still have some energy left to get me to the end. Adie started to move up the field and before long was out off sight, but I wasn't going to try and keep up, hoping there may be a tortoise and the hare situation later. The first feed station was a welcome site at around 40 mile's, by this time we were all soaked through and cold, the weather was relentless and the wind was increasing all the time. About a mile after the food stop was the route spilt, straight on for the 81 miler and right for the 127. I was very tempted at this point just to ride straight on, I was freezing, but Adie was ahead of me and so I turned right. At 61 miles there was a drinks stop and I took 5 minutes to warm up in the village hall, several riders gave up at this point. All the riders that stopped were looking tired and cold, there were lots of tales of brake failures and people unable to change gears or brake because their hands were too cold. I was feeling fine, so I headed off into the rain and wind once more. We climbed up onto a ridgeway on the South Downs where there was no shelter at all from the driving wind and rain. It was here that things started to get really bad, I got a puncture, I'd been passing people all day that were fixing punctures and thinking how lucky I was (Doh!). Fixing a puncture at the side of the road even in good weather can be difficult, but today, it was awful, my hands were so cold that I could hardly grip anything, never mind the twiddly things on the inner tube valves. It took me 20 minutes to get back on the road and by this time I was shivering violently. The next food stop was 16 miles away, so I kept on pedaling as hard as I could, trying to get warm, about 5 miles later the course turned North and the wind was at my back for the first time and boy did it help, all of a sudden I was flying along at 27 mph, with no need to pedal, it just shows how windy it really was. After 6 hours and 81 miles of cycling, I made it to the second food station. There were some very helpful volunteers there with hot cups of tea and sandwiches at the ready. I was given a hot cup of tea which I couldn't hold on too, I was shivering so hard the tea wouldn't stay in the cup, that's when a kind lady said " I think your race is over for today, its time you came into the warm", I wasn't so sure, I was convinced that I could finish, until she pointed out that there was still 46 miles to go and the wind and rain was getting worse. She led me into a room where to my surprise there were 9 other people wrapped up in blankets, their race was over too. I was given a sleeping bag and silver blanket to wrap up in and given copious amounts of tea to try and bring my temperature back up. I was shivering so hard it looked like I was having convulsions. In total 12 people ended up in this room, waiting for the broom wagon to come and rescue us and we were the lucky ones, lots of people were being picked up from the side of the road, there were tales of people who didn't even know their names by the time they were rescued. I opened my "Waterproof" pocket to get my phone and give Adie a call to see if he was OK, unfortunately my phone now has it's own wave, which rolls about inside the screen, thank goodness I was told to stop, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have made it too much further without needing to be rescued and with no phone I would have been in real trouble. I was in the hall for about two hours before the broom wagon arrived to take us back to Newbury and I'd like to thank the young volunteer who drove with her heating on full blast just to keep us warm.

Yesterday was the first time that I have had any doubt that I might not be able to complete the End to End. If the weather ever gets that bad on our ride, I think we may have to sit the day out, at least we've got some leeway with our time.

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