SDW in a Day: A Girl’s Perspective

14 08 2007

3.00am !!! I don’t do 3.00am, except today I was having to to fit in the longest, hardest ride of my life (so far!). Raising funds for my poorly nephew Connor was my motivation and I had to do my best. However, not being at my fittest I didn’t want to ruin it for the Boys so I decided to do the original SDW route, starting from Petersfield not Winchester.

This gave me the luxury of a bit of a kip in the car, The Boys rang me when 1/2 hr away, I raced into action and got going on my own at about 8.15am. 100mtrs down The Way I bumped into our newest Muddy@rse member, Rob from Hayling Island, who had decided to provide some company along the way. Rob stayed with me for 17 miles making me feel safe and secure and the company was really welcomed. Thanks Rob for your support.

So now I was on my own but feeling good, dodging raindrops and trying my hardest not to look at the black clouds all around me, it wasn’t working very well, I was worried because stupidly I’d left my waterproof jacket on the van to save carrying weight ! I just kept pedalling. 7mph was my decided average and by now I knew how to pace myself. Spin up the hill saving as much energy as possible, bomb down the other side as fast as I could. Great formula. I was having fun.

2nd pit stop and no crew, oh no the girls were stuck in traffic, it was spitting, I had no coat damn! Luckily their fantastic map reading skills meant I only had to wait 10 mins, so I had a quick pit stop of pasta salad, water refill, energy gel and I was on my way again to Washington and starting to leave the dark clouds behind me. Hoorah !

The SDW was unbelievably quiet today and I was really enjoying blasting the peaceful trails without many interruptions. The Boys still hadn’t caught me up, I was surprised I thought they’d have winched me in before now, but they had stuck to their plan of not going to hard too soon and I was pleased they were conserving energy. I was beginning to think I might do the whole thing on my own though which could have ended up a lonely struggle near the end.

No worries there Washington CP we met up at last, now the sun was blazing down and it was hot, hot, hot. Sun and @rse cream slapped on, fill up on more pasta / energy gel , quick kiss to the hubbie and I was off again on my own. My initial goal was to get to Devils Dyke and see how I felt.

We all grouped together just before the monty great climb up to Truleigh Hill Youth Hostel (through a very unhelpful and rude group of Ramblers!) and blasted to Devils Dyke, where we had our first casualty. Unfortunately, Ollie had been suffering with knee pain from almost the beginning and now it was too much to bear, but with 65 miles under his belt (and no training in the bag) this was no defeat. Well done Ollie, there’s always next year 

I’d made Devil’s Dyke, what now ? New strategy – take it hill by hill. So that’s what I did I focused on each section all of which had at least one killer climb in it (the SDW saves the worst for last) and decided I would get off and push if necessary to save energy. The sun was starting it’s final decent so we took off towards the A27.

This is actually quite a long section and we now had only 3 hrs before it’d be dark (note to all: plan your ride around the longest day). Still keeping to my 7mph average we blasted and spun up and down hills, down the ‘Steps of Death’ and popped out onto the cycle path running parallel to A27 Nr Lewes. Very quick pit stop here, light was fading fast. Cheese sandwiches yum ! Energy drink – now making me feel sick yuk !

Felt good, energized, I’d do the next hill, it was huge and we had just over an hour of light left so we cracked on. Climbing the hill we were overtaken by the myth that was ‘The man doing the ‘Double’ on a white Whyte bike’. He was trying to break the current record of doing SDW both ways in a day (now that’s what I call showing off !) he had only 1 ½ hrs left to get to Eastbourne. After a bit of encouragement from us we urged him onward to his goal. Wonder if he did it?

Southease, I’d made it to Southease – flippin hell! For the first time I realized that I could actually finish this, I got excited but kept it to myself because I wasn’t home yet. The biggest and worst hill was staring me in the face and it was now dark. Sally (Ollie’s gf) joined us here to try out her new nightlights and to keep us company. Changed into clean warmer clothes and we were off again.

The minute we hit the climb I was knackered, all energy just sapped out my muscles. Not good. Sally stuck with me and we chatted our way up the hill (like girls do) until I had to get off and push, I was beginning to feel really really sick. Oh dear ! Got back on bike and spun to the top feeling worse by the minute. Onward and upward though, managed to keep it together and we eventually dropped down into Alfriston. (Scene of the Muddy@rse invasion on our last ride out)

Cheese sandwich to settle the stomach, muscles starting to seize so off Sally and I went ahead. I pushed the climb out of Alfriston, the July rains had ruined this section and it was full of ankle breaking flints the size of your head. Once at the top some stunned meteor watchers silently watched us climb Long Man Hill to Jevington Holt. Here I saw my first meteor, just like you’d see in a cartoon. Big ball of fire, followed by a long star-filled tail, magical. No-one else saw it but I knew it was real honest !

Only 2 more hills to go and we were home, one hill at a time, one hill at a time… then my lights decide to fail completely. Damn ! We were at the bottom of the hill known as ‘Eastbourne Mile’ in the pitch black under trees and I couldn’t see a thing. Sally and I tried to share her light but it was difficult although we did nearly manage the mile but then Rick donated me his battery and he shared with Mike and Alec. It was now about midnight. Just keep going.

Through the rut filled golf course and Rick’s battery went couldn’t see a flippin thing, Alec joined us which made it better. Over the road, Alec’s light now failed. That left 5 people, 2 lights but with only the last, fast, grassy decent to go we just kept pedalling. Rick was leading (why he had no lights !) and then all of a sudden it was over. We’d finished, Ollie & Kerry waiting there for us cheering us as we cruised to a halt at the support vehicles. We’d done it – high 5.

Finishing was weird, I almost wanted a fanfare to herald my arrival, I almost wanted to keep pedaling but was too tired to, I also wanted to take off my crash helmet but couldn’t be bothered. So I sat down and had a slurp of bubbly to celebrate instead.

What an achievement, me, I’d done the South Downs Way in a Day. Can’t believe it. I only started biking 8 years ago and here I was completing a truly epic ride. I didn’t cry but I could’ve very easily. My thoughts were with Connor and how we’d raised enough money to get him his adapted trike (£1,250 so far big thanks to everyone). I was full of pride for myself, for all of us. Not a bad day’s work …now all I wanted to do was go to bed…

Vital Statistics (the ride not mine!):
Start Time: 8.15am End Time: 1.10am
76 miles
5636 calories burnt
10,000 ft of vertical climbing
11 hrs 8 mins actual pedaling time
17 hrs total completion time
Average speed 6.8mph

We couldn’t have done this ride without the support of Kerry & Sally who followed us all through Hampshire & Sussex in van & car with enough food & equipment to sink a battleship. They were fantastic, enthusiastic & supportive, thanks girls we owe you big time.






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