The ride of my life - Edinburgh to London in one ride.

Erm.........where to start.........

I'll avoid the the performance detail side in this post, because that'll be equal in length.

In short:  I did it!!!   725km / 450 miles from Edinburgh to London in one ride.   My ride time was 29.5 hours, with a total elapsed time of 35.5 hours.   I fought extremely strong headwinds, have numerous bits of bodily damage but I did it and in the process raised over £3,000 in money for charity when including gift aid and the money raised from Fisher.



For more details:
  • The last ride before heading North.
  • Friday road trippin', the last supper, a wee dram and Edinburgh.
  • The long ride south
  • Sprinting on the Mall
  • Starting recovery
  • The aftermath

The last ride before heading North.

Casting my mind back to last Wednesday feels like a long time ago.  By now I think everyone knows that although this whole blog and project was/is about riding Eds-London, I still enjoy just riding a bike - any type, any distance, any time.  As I was on a rest week, I avoided using the road bike and did a casual spin on the mountain bike.  The bounce around on fat tyres was fun as always and I found out a few local bridal paths that I hadn't ridden before.  Rather good fun!


Friday road trippin', the last supper, a wee dram and Edinburgh.

Thursday going into Friday were the days where things were supposed to get more serious.   It was more serious (kids off to grandparents, boxes of foods, lists, final pre-ride check-in with Lynsey, bikes checks etc) but by the time we were on the road on Friday, the day seemed more relaxed.  We had music, Costa coffee stuff with cream and a billion calories, Sun and a party atmosphere in the car so the prospect of riding the next day wasn't daunting at all.  We sorted out various bits and pieces while driving up and Anna and Chris got control of my blog.



As we'd been weather watching for the weeks on the run up, things weren't looking good, but we were in high spirits (apart from Em coming down with a cold).

In Edinburgh we were in the SYHA so sorted out kit and headed to the Mash Tun for burgers and chips followed by a dram at Jeremiah's Taproom and ready for the challenge.  I certainly didn't get a chance to sample the tourists spots, local beer or much else, but it was nice to be there!





The long ride south

Yeah, this is the important bit.  Saturday morning went pretty smoothly.  I was the first down in the YHA kitchens and eating summer porridge before most alarms clocks had gone off and feeling relaxed, fresh and ready to ride.   It had been wet through the early hours but drizzle to start the day so not bad.  We worked as a team for the logistics of who would walk where, drop off what and when and headed up to the Castle.  While Chris, Anna and Em walked, I rode up the Royal Mile paranoid about slipping on the wet cobbles, but all went well.



As the Castle doesn't open until 9 am, we were there at 7 am.  We chatted with security who allowed us to do start line photos (MASSIVE thank you to the gate guard for letting us do this!).  We got plenty of shots, chatted and at 7.14 am, there was only one thing left to do.........ride to London.




I headed down the Royal Mile and started to leave Edinburgh.  All the normal processes kicked in as I settled into the ride.  Leaving Eds wasn't too bad and I did a good power and average speed on the section out towards Leadburn, Blyth Bridge and Tweedsmiur.  We had planned on meeting at Tweedsmuir but as the support team were still trying to work out their way from Edinburgh, we missed each other.  When the gradient started to kick up more going over the tops between Tweedshaws and Moffet the ride started to a very different turn.

On this section the roads became a lot more exposed to the head winds and hill fog and mist enveloped everything.  My glasses had a sheen and I had to really work hard on the climbs and descents to try and keep a pace while dodging potholes.  The ride was only 130 km or so in and getting tough!

Crossing back into England wasn't with a fanfare and dancing girls.  I had hope there would have been a minor notice on the roadside, but as I was on the minor roads, I never noticed crossing over apart from the occasional flag.  Once I had got to Brampton I knew I was in Cumbria so a mental milestone was ticked off - I'd left Scotland and onto the bit where I knew it was going to get tough.

In my mind, I knew the section of Brampton to Middleton Teeside was going to be hardest - it contained the highest point of elevation on the route.  The climb shouldn't have been that difficult - I've ridden steeper, higher and longer climbs before so in the grand scheme of things, it should have been an effort but not much more.  Except......

On the climb up, the winds became a very harsh southerly wind which strengthened as I climbed.  On a climb like this I should be able to hold 15 - 20 kph without much trouble as the gradient isn't hard, the road surface is good and the climb is steady without any kickers.   As I left Alston, there were two more cyclist up the road who I should have been able to close on and ridden with, however the winds took all my effort to stay on the road.  As some points my speeds was less than 10 kph as I tried to force power through my legs to overcome the wind resistance.  By the top, I was literally blown off the road and went into the verge.  Over the top and starting the descent, the wind started whipping around my front wheel leading to oscillations and speed wobbles even at low speeds - the combined forward speed and headwind speed.  In 3 or 4 instances I had to use all my experience of riding to really fight the bike to keep control.  The images from this section really don't give justice to the conditions!


Once off the exposed moorland roads, the miles started to tick off quicker and we skipped a couple of meeting points as the roads flowed.  I hadn't realised I was going to ride past High Force which was a bonus!

By the time we'd reached Moulton, things were going well if off pace.  The food routines were becoming more normal, the support team were working well with driver shifts, food prep, motivational messages and everything else a rider could want.


As the ride went on, there were a couple of progress checks and one matter which is a little-----delicate.  For the route, I followed a breadcrumb trail on my Garmin and previous knowledge where possible.  In one or two sections (and for motivation) it was good to see a map and know how far I'd come/how far to go.  The other issue was chaffing.  That length of time on a saddle has the effect of causing some damage so the support car carried additional Assos chamois cream.......and thanks to my brother for the glamour shots........

By the Thirsk area, I was riding pretty well, but going through cycles of food addition/depletion and eat what I could when I could.  As my body started to shut down somewhat, trying to eat became harder and certain foods lost all appeal.  The tuna-mayo sandwiches were good, but become claggy after bit.  The chip shop sausage was good and at the right time, and I used a lot of gels and energy bars.  I knew by this point I had more familiar sections coming and even tied and food fussy, I could do this ride to the end.  

By Easingwood the daylight was starting to fade so as planned I swapped out the front wheel for the dynamo wheel.



Not long after this came the mental milestone around Stamford Bridge area - half distance!!

From here on, the miles ticked off well with the support team staying closer as the light went.  The next major hurdle was the Humber Bridge which went pretty smoothly thanks to the recon ride earlier in the year (no inspiration shots here, as in the dark and now solo from the car).  In Barton-upon-Humber the support team had a good laugh at the local drunks at kick-out time and we headed into the Lincolnshire Wolds section.

This bit is a bit of a blur for a number of reasons.  Partly because riding in the dark changes your perceptions of time and distance, partly because this bit is fairly manila and partly because I've become very familiar with this section.  The lights on the radio tower gave me a sense of approaching Hornchurch, but I have no idea of what time it was.  I was glad to knock off Hornchurch, and then it was into the fens proper just short of Coningsby and the New York straight.  The support team split off near Spalding for personal re-fueling before rejoining me for the next bland section down to Kings Ripton.

Had the timing gone to plan, I should have done this section in the middle of the night, however instead I was doing this around pre-dawn.  The support car got to witness the featureless, bland landscape of the fens where the most interesting points are bacon lorries and tractors.




By the time we'd reached St. Ives, the UK had started to wake up, and I took a deviation from the route.  I had planned on using the A1198 based on the idea of doing it early morning.  As the winds had battered me throughout the ride, we reverted to the back up plan of using the quieter but more convoluted roads.  These felt endlessly pointless and not getting anywhere fast, but a lot safer than taking the major A-road as the morning traffic built up.  I had the chance to chat with a local cyclist who didn't quite believe I'd just ridden from Edinburgh.  Those last miles coming into the Thames valley are tough with sudden changes in gradient, but the km ticked down.

Finally, around the edge of Standon a familiar face met me - Ged!  Ged had been in touch with us throughout the ride and intercepted me around Standon with his friend Mark to bring me into town.  Getting through Epping, we unfortunately dropped Mark but spotted Sally and Tandy who waved us on at Woodford, and then it was just the lights of the Cycle Superhighway to do and the Mall.



By the time we'd ridden into the city and past a lot of the major landmarks, there was only a short section to do - under the arch, sprint for glory on the Mall!  I've ridden under the arch and up the Mall four times before this day, but after nine months of hard training and the practice run onto the Mall several weeks earlier, this was very different.  It was around the last section of the Strand where I got that feeling of "I can't fucking believe I've just ridden from Edinburgh in one!" and the hairs on the back of the neck stand on end.  Every emotion hits you right at that moment.   And by chance, the Mall was closed to traffic which made it all the sweeter.





After a ride time 29.5 hours and 36 hours after setting out from Edinburgh, my bike finally stopped and my legs rested with a champagne pop.  It was fantastic having the team on the finishing line and seeing Lynsey and  support crew, even through the sleep deprivation is making it a bit of a surreal blur.  It was brilliant to sit and chat on the steps to the Victoria Memorial fountain, laugh at the ridiculous feat I'd just done and recall snippets of "support crew car life."  The thought of "yeah, yesterday morning I was riding off from Edinburgh castle" while everyone else was doing selfies by Bucks Palace was very abstract!






Starting recovery

After riding this distance, the recovery process started.  Yeah my legs sting a lot!   After leaving the Mall I was bundled into a cab for Woodford.  Surprisingly I didn't fall asleep in the cab, and made a brief conversation at Sal and Ged's before a shower and collapsing out cold for sleep.  After that distance, I (and Lynsey) were surprised I hadn't thrown up.  By 4 am, I was hungry so tried to find food after having to crawl down the stairs and then crawl back up to bed.

As Monday woke and went on, we headed back to the midlands, all very tired but refreshed after bacon and egg butties and good coffee/sweet tea.  We had a kids dropped off at home and collapsed in the local pub for dinner.


My recovery is still going on - I returned to work today with stiff legs and had to take a lift up one floor, walk a lot slower but with stretching I'm rapidly improving.

The aftermath

The fall out from all this has been a lot to take in and will take time to write up.  There is over £3,000 in charitable monies raised which I have to be very thankful for and all the support I've had over the past 9 months.  I have the performance side to look at plus more lad work with Lynsey and I'll be riding in London again in 3 weeks.  I have a lot of thanks to give and will do in the coming days but first I wanted to get this blog post up (I'll add images, comments, details etc when I have time).  I posted a couple of comments on Reddit I need to chase up and my Facebook and blog postings need some attention which I'll get to in time.  But I have this mental Strava track now:



But I did it.  I can now say for the rest of my life "yeah, there was this time in July 2016, I cycled my bike from Edinburgh to London in one ride......."  I already want to get back on the bike, but Anna has already passed comment.



Comments

  1. Awesome! Crazy ride, thanks for sharing + enjoyed the read!

    ReplyDelete

Post a comment

Popular Posts