I don’t make any claims to be a greatly charitable person (as those who go to the pub with me would attest!) but in recent years I have taken part in a few fundraising events.
After taking a year off from doing the SDW last I was determined this year to have a goal to aim for with my regular riding and therefore did the online entry back in January for the July Randonnée. Training went reasonably well but I didn't manage to fit in the same number of long (> 60 mile) training rides as I had done for previous attempts.
We (Dave, Chris and I) got to the registration in Winchester for 5.20am. [Thanks Chris and Sarah for the lift to the start!]. Once registered, groups of about 20 were given a safety briefing and then released. We started in the second group at 5.40am.
Dave and I knew we wanted to go for a good time this year and thus set off at very rapid pace. Between Winchester and the first checkpoint at 23 miles in Queen Elizabeth Country Park (Petersfield) we sustained an amazing (for me) average moving speed of over 11mph resulting in us getting there in precisely two hours.
Between QECP and Cocking, Dave was a great pacesetter for me, storming ahead on the climbs (stronger legs) but being recaptured on the descents (kamikazee rider on superior full suspension bike). We maintained the better than 11mph average moving speed. Up until this stage we had probably passed about a dozen competitors and were only passed by two faster riders (one alarmingly fast young whippet who passed us on the climb up Salt Hill at about twice our pace).
By the time of Amberley I was suffering very bad back pains that meant I had to fall behind Dave*, finally conceding to walk some short sections of the steepest climbs. Despite this it was great feeling to pass the 50mile mark at 10.50am.
I continued pushing through the back pain and maintained better than 10mph moving average and minimal stops to get food out my pack. By about 60 miles the back pain started to diminish (either that or I started to lose feeling) and I was starting feel I could push on the pace on the approach to the 65 mile check point at Devil’s Dyke.
Devil’s Dyke is turning out to be a personal nemesis for me. In 2009 I lost a full bottle of energy drink there and this year it was also the low point of my ride. On the fast stony descent before the grass climb to the checkpoint I was storming along, encouraged by a woman cheering and clapping as I sped past. Starting the climb I could feel the bike had a rear puncture. Quickly I had the rear wheel off and swapped out the tube, convinced it must have been a pinch puncture caused by the punishing descent I had just done. Wheel refitted I mounted the bike and started climbing again just as I was caught by a couple of guys I had ridden with about three miles before. As soon as they caught me they helpfully pointed out that my rear tyre was looking flat!!. I had done the most basic mistake of not checking the insides of the tyre for the cause of the original puncture. Pack off, rear wheel off, check tyre and yes a thorn through the tread. Worried that I only had one more spare tube I patched that one and got going again. I was pretty annoyed with myself for the stupid mistake, losing me 25 minutes and convincing me that I had ruined my chances of beating my previous best time of 13 hours.
I pushed on hard towards Ditchling Beacon (about 70 miles) in the knowledge that on sunny days (it was pretty sunny but not as hot as the previous times I had done the SDW) there would be an ice cream van. Getting there I rewarded myself by asking the guy for the largest ice cream he had.
At this stage the average moving speed on my bike computer was reading just above 9mph and when I reached the Itford farm checkpoint at about 3.35pm I realised I could still improve on my previous 13 hours. Out of Itford, a very long climb amongst the cows, I managed to pedal strong and by Alfriston I was feeling like I could step up the pace a bit. Apparently at Alfriston I was the 11th 100 miler to go through which was encouraging news. Popping a caffeine gel saw me up the Windover Hill and once through Jevington (without going the wrong way for the first time) I realised I had a a chance of finishing in under 12 hours. I sprinted over the golf course, got lost in the brambles on the descent into Eastbourne (I can never find the path even with GPS) and then sprinted to the finish at 5.37. Phew!
So some stats from the ride:
Thank you to everyone who sponsored me.
*Dave finished in about 11hrs 20mins.
We got our numbers (Number 1 for me!) at about 5.20am. In the queue the guy behind me noticed my name on the card and introduced himself as Richard, a member of the mountain bike forum I run. I reset the GPS at 5.36 am and a few minutes later Matt (with whom I rode the SDW last year), Richard and I set off together. Considering the three days of rain before the event we were exceptionally lucky to not have any rain for the whole ride. At times there was a strong crosswind, sometimes giving a bit of a push and sometimes being a bit of a headwind. The section from Chilcomb to Cheesefoot Head was very slippery but the tyre combination I had put on just gripped enough and proved a perfect set up for the rest of the route. I rode away from Richard and Matt on the way to Exton but then had to stop to tighten up a loose cleat and rejoined them for the Meon Railway section. From Old Winchester Hill we were all together to QECP.
Minimal stop at QECP at 8am, not taking on water. I was keen to push on to Cocking. On the way to Cocking, Richard and I lost sight of Matt but I stayed in contact with the walkie talkies.
Stopped at Cocking (9.30am) for about 20 minutes (longest stop of the day). Upon getting to Botolphs (Steyning Checkpoint) at 12.57 I filled my bottle with two sachets of energy drink and then got my wristband scanned.
It felt like I was going well through all this mid-section. On the approach to Devil’s Dyke my completely full bottle jumped out but I didn't notice until miles later, minor irritation. Also, despite having GPS, I then made two navigational mistakes. The first one was through not looking at the GPS – I came out of one bridleway at Mill Hill just before Itford Farm and was certain the farm was down the tarmac. Started to speed down it but thought better check GPS which showed I'd gone wrong. No worry as I'd only gone 30 metres. Backtracked and continued on.
Getting to Itford Farm at 4.11pm felt really good (last year I got there at 6.19pm, just ahead of the 6.30pm cut off) and I did the ride out of there with no problems (a low point walking for me last year). By now very low on water and energy so stopped in Alfriston and bought water, a diet coke and a chocolate bar from the shop. Not sure that top athletes drink coke on route but it was a morale boost. To give you some idea of the stupid terrain the SDW sometimes goes through this is the path just after Alfriston:
Encountering this after riding 90 miles requires some mental grit (so I walked it!). Went the wrong way just before Jevington and ended up going 100 metres down a very muddy path and having to backtrack to correct.
Once out of Jevington I couldn't remember how many more hills there were so checked the GPS. Upon realising I was on the last major ascent I really pushed my pace, getting out of the saddle for most of the last couple of miles. I bombed it down into Eastbourne and sprinted to the line.
I went straight in to have my wristband scanned and then relaxed. About five minutes later I remembered to stop the GPS tracking.
So some stats from the ride:
Thank you to everyone who sponsored me. Next year I'm going to give the SDW a rest and do something different!
At the end of July 2008 I undertook the British Heart Foundation South Downs Way Randonnée. This is probably the most extreme cross-country mountain bike event run in the UK. Starting from Winchester at 6am I rode the whole of the South Downs Way to Eastbourne, a distance of 100 miles off-road. Thank you to everyone who sponsored me and helped raise £280 for BHF.
At the end of May 2008 I took part in the Back-Up Trust Snowdon Push. This involved teams of ten working together to get the wheelchair user within the group to the summit of Mt. Snowdon. I did this as part of team with my brother-in-law in the chair. The team raised over £2500 for The Back-Up Trust. I personally raised £300 and wish to express my thanks to everyone who sponsored me for this challenge. Photos of the trip are available on the General images page
Each year, in return for my admission, I am one of the volunteers who work for Action on Disability and Development(ADD) to provide services within Glastonbury Festival in return for the festival paying ADD. Each year, each volunteer effectively brings in £100 for ADD.