It’s 99 miles to Eastbourne; I’ve got a full camelbak, half a pack of tangfastics, it’s dark……and I’m wearing my Fox pyjamas……….Hit it!

29 06 2011

Ming tells his tale of a true epic attempt at our local classic ride – The almost 100 miles long South Downs Way, all ridden in just one day.

It was 0100 at Winchester station; the last hour has been a sardine hell, trapped in a hot 12 car, poorly suspended aluminium tube full of grumpy, tired and drunk people.  South West Trains have designed a “racer-ist” bike rack only capable of holding the narrowest of tyres, so I’ve had to hold my bike up for an hour.

I took my time setting up, a bike check, SatNav and HRM on and off I go.  Around the winding streets of Winchester passing all the drunken people as it’s chucking out and up time.  A quick circle of King Alfred and off I go.

Ohh boy it was dark outside Winchester, but the combination of my Trout Liberator, SatNav and finger posts meant I stayed on the right track.  A quick stop at Chilcomb to lose a few layers is followed a few miles later after a brisk tarmac downhill with another stop to put my coat back on.  This began my battle with thermal regulation.

I was feeling quite pleased with myself, the mix of trail and tarmac has allowed my average speed to hit 9mph for the first hour.  I then had a slightly confusing moment at the start of the “official temporary” diversion, briefly going up the signed original route before following the diversion route I’d plugged in the SatNav.  Oh the “fun” I had negotiating the soggy field edges around Winchester hill, it was a slimey, slidey puddle fest.  This set the tone for most of the first half of the ride with all the trails being that thin veneer of mud over a harder base which was very challenging to stay upright on.  When they were not muddy the trails had huge puddles all over the place, which led to a lot of slalom runs along the track to dodge the worst of them.

Light arrives at Butser Hill

The plunge down the wet grassy hill to QECP was great, 35mph big ring stuff, what’s that coming out the gloom?…oshh….oosshhh….GATE!!!!!!  Locked back and sliding front stopping millimetres from the woodwork!

A quick water top up at the visitors centre, about half a litre, drink more!  I set off towards Buriton suffering a few navigational challenges and noticed the cold (5.1 degrees) creeping in around my sweaty edges.  I hate being cold and tired and all sorts of negative thoughts began visiting me, at this point I was in unknown territory having never ridden this far before.  It was not helped by a stiff neck that set in after a failed bunny hop of a puddle so I took a nurofen to try to ease that.  Rather than jack it in I plugged on hoping things would improve and the sun rising at 0445 really helped, followed by some chemical assistance from a caffeine gel and the nurofen starting to work.  I was joined by the skylark chorus as the sun began to climb which helped eliminate the last of the grim mood.  I had a quick photo stop near Harting Down for some weird mist that had settled before carrying on.

Misty spirits at Harting Down

This was followed by another a few minutes later for some deer that watched me plug up the next hill.

Being watched by wildlife

Whilst trying to keep the pace up I did look around me as I was riding and we truly have some beautiful countryside, coupled with blue sky and high cirrus clouds it made for some fantastic views.

Crossing the A286/Cocking Hill Barn I topped up the water and added electrolyte powder (uggh!) as well as nibbling on my dwindling stock of peanut butter sarnies.  My average speed had dropped to 7.7mph but I felt I could maintain this pace, making sure not to scream up every climb and max my heart rate out was really helping.

Knee flailing at 30mph!

The trails were changing, the mud was drier and puddles were becoming fewer. I kept the pace steady and the trail became a bit of blur.  I may have seen a wallaby or it could have been a small deer but at that point I didn’t care, it was maintain pace at all costs, Bignor and Bury Hill came and went and then the plunge to Amberley.  Flying up to another gate I couldn’t unclip my left foot, it was jammed solid, crap, a final wrench as I started teetering and it came free but at a price I didn’t yet know.  The flat valley of Amberley (half way-YES!) was a soggy marsh but allowed another water and munchies stop.

Climbing out of Amberely was HARD, my left knee began to complain about having ridden 50miles and then twisted hard to unclip, I ignored it but it wouldn’t go away.  A mix of pushing and spinning up the hill became the norm from here on.

Grumpy Ming, after the climb out from the A24 really gave my knee gyp. (I pushed most of it)

Spinning carried on and I met a group of three riders who were doing it over two days at the bottom of Beeding Hill. A quick chat and on I went, all of them passing me on the long winch up to Truleigh Hill where I had a quick water stop at the YHA, meeting two of them again (too much curry and ale the night before may have been having an affect!).  More rapid downhill’s followed, flying over the now drying chalk, coupled with snail climbs as I rode and pushed towards Devils Dyke.

Perching Hill

Clattering down towards Pyecombe I passed a walker who thought I was mad when told where I had started from!  A short bit of road across to Pyecombe Golf Club and another long push up to Ditchling beacon.

Near Streathill Farm looking back towards Ditchling Beacon

Along the high path from Ditching to the A27 the wind began to make itself felt becoming a friend and enemy as the trail dropped towards the A27, clattering down Balmer Down a large flint kicked off my front tyre straight into my chainrings smashing a tooth off the big ring and distorting the remaining stump so badly I was not going to risk changing onto the big ring for fear of destroying the chain (not that my knees would have let me use it by this point anyway).

At the A27 I finished my last peanut butter sarnie and had a few Tangfastic’s before the long demoralising push up Newmarket hill.  It was very windy all the way along the top of the Downs and I was glad to reach the shelter of Southease valley.  I had a water refill at Itford farm and took the opportunity to consume my last caffeine gel and fashion a neck sunscreen from my base layer.  The sun was beating down and out of the wind I could feel my neck cooking in the sunshine.

Itford Hill was Itford Hill, after 83 miles it felt even more relentless than usual but summiting meant I was on the home straight with only two climbs left to go.  I was going to make it!

I could have looked happier!

I was fairly blown along the top all the way to the chalky drop into Alfriston, crossing the Cuckmere before pushing up the woody, flinty, gullied climb halfway up Windover hill.  The SatNav bleeped at this point to let me know it’s battery was low and I glanced down to see I had been riding (and pushing) for 13 and a half hours.

As I crossed the Wilmington Road the SDW became more exposed and again the wind was friend and foe as I half cycled/half pushed around the covered reservoir to the top.  The open downs passed in a blur before the last gate and the jangly drop into Jevington.

The push up the Eastbourne Mile was very satisfying, the last hill, I’d done it!  The roll along the downs to the official start was a very strange feeling; almost an anticlimax and overwhelming tiredness.  I’ll do it again but make sure I’m fitter and probably not with a night start.

Eastbourne and the finish

A big thank you to the Garmin for a most excellent SatNav that only had one minor glitch, Trout for making a truly awesome light, Trek for building a light bicycle, caffeine gels and most importantly Mrs Ming for making peanut butter sarnies and texting words of encouragement.

No thanks to: Gates!

Apologies to all the people fast asleep who had to put up with an MTB with seriously squeaky brakes going through their farmyard at some ungodly hour (believe me they were getting on my nerves by the end).

Stats:

14hrs35mins, 99.85miles, 11754ft of climbing, around 6300 calories burnt, 2 normal gels, 2 caffeine gels, half a pack of Tangfastic’s, 2 rounds of peanut butter sarnies, 2 nurofen, horrible electrolyte powder (160g).  About 4-5litres of water.  No punctures!

More Photos here clicky here

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3 responses

2 07 2011
lisa

Hurrah for Mr Ming, well done and great effort – especially with a bad knee !

6 07 2011
Gez

Well done mate:)

21 08 2011
Jimxc

wicked effort Ming!

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