A few weeks ago, I suggested to one of my cycling buddies that we do a ride to celebrate the solstice. He’s usually tied up with work and family, so I was thinking we might squeeze in a 100 or even a 200 seeing the sunrise. Of course, he upped the ante, suggesting a 400k all day expedition. He had selected the target as Weston-super-Mare and I’ve been thinking about doing a 400 for a while, so it was time to commit!
The plan was to start just after midnight and try to complete the whole ride before the next midnight, taking full advantage of the longest day.
The route (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/526374734) was predominantly big A roads to start with to take advantage of the graveyard hours with no traffic. This worked well, with another sun worshipper joining us for the ride to Winchester before returning home. We put in big miles on deserted dual carriageways to Yeovil. The only downside was that not getting much sleep the day before left me feeling pretty odd until we got in a big breakfast at Yeovil. This wasn’t helped by the temperature dropping to 7 degrees through the countryside. I was really glad I’d gone for 3/4 length shorts and a long sleeve top option. Wish I’d had full gloves too!
Then, what should have been the easiest part of the ride, Yeovil to Weston on dead flat back roads. However, I found the rough surface (more washboard than pothole) hard going with a saddle sore (more on that later) and a mild headwind added to the exertion. By the time we got to Weston I was looking forward to a rest and big lunch. t
There was some sort of event going on at Weston, involving air displays, parachuting and mini tanks.
At this point it was good to be on a bike, because the queue for the car park was huge and the roads gridlocked. We however had the freedom of the promenade.
We must not have looked to respectable though because some scouts came round collecting money for charity and avoided us! Must have been told about odd men in Lycra.
The next stage from Weston to Bradford-on-Avon was the toughest on paper, with the afternoon heat and a fair bit of climbing. There was indeed much climbing, but only two hills were a big challenge, being > 15%. However, we picked up some good pace by racing roadies. We passed a lone rider on a stripped down carbon bike up a big hill, to find his friends waiting at the top for him. They preceded to give chase, but we managed to break the pursuit and they evidently decided to wait again. Almost immediately, another roadie appeared in our mirrors. We assumed this was a runner sent out from the group, but it turned out he was on his own. He almost caught us, but we managed a team TT to break him, only to make a navigation error and end up with him on our tail again. This was on a steep hill, so we had a chat and he disappeared up the road.
The roads on this section were a little rough, and rather busy for their size and gradient. We would quite often end up with a queue of cars behind us, especially crawling up a hill at 5mph. Most were very courteous, but it did mean that there was very little break in this section.
It was about this time that my friend started obsessing about getting an ice cream. I started obsessing too and from that point on every sign we saw looked like an ice cream parlour! This went on for 20k or so until we finally did make Bradford-on-Avon. There, we found a cycle friendly cafe that did indeed do ice cream (I can’t find the cafe on Google unfortunately, or I’d recommend them). They said they were closing up so couldn’t do hot food, but evidently took pity on us as said “we could do something simple like a baked potato with beans and cheese”. I took my second selfie so you can judge how haggard I look.
The food boosted our spirits as we headed onto the A4. This was, as we had planned a nice high speed section, with Dave taking big fast turns on the front. So fast I could only barely hold onto his wheel. My knee had started to twinge at Weston and I was trying to be a little cautious without resorting to a crawl. The only interruption to our TT effort was the fact that several miles of the A4 had been torn up, leaving something akin to a strada bianco. Not only was this rough, but a few drivers passed us without slowing down, showering us with stones. Apart from this, the A4 was again excellent, so wide for the volume of traffic that someone was happy enough to cycle on it with their 5 year old!
The final section from Newbury to home I again found hard going. Newbury seems so close, but it’s still a 2 hour + ride to get home. The stand out moment was the setting of the sun heralding our descent to winter. I also somehow managed to get 2nd fastest personal time on one of my regular commute Strava sections. Not sure how I managed that.
The colours in the photo don’t really do the sunset justice.
Yet again, I suffered with saddle sores. Things started hurting around Salisbury, only 100k in! Things didn’t get better, but they didn’t get much worse either. I was able to mitigate the problem somewhat by shifting my position on the saddle and hanging a buttock off the side. This may however have contributed to my knee twinges as my legs weren’t quite symmetric. I think I can rule out heat as a cause, because the problems started through the very coldest part of the ride where I was shivering uncontrollably! Time for more messing about, or recumbent training. Recovery has been excellent. I wasn’t able to walk down the stair the morning after, but I was able to cycle to work the day after that!
Despite all the discomfort, I’m very glad I celebrated the turning of the year by breaking myself physically and mentally.