Thoughts from riding the SDW

Eastbourne Travel Blog

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This was my last week of training before the transportugal, the overload week as planned with Torq. Monday was a recovery day after the lord of the loops in the peaks last Sunday. Tuesday / Wednesday / Thursday I gave it plenty and Friday was a bit more delicate as a kind of recovery ride / scrounge some extra miles compared to normal. Also gave blood at work Friday afternoon so probably not a good idea to hammer it on the way home. To be honest the blood donation left me feeling hung over & a bit second hand over on Saturday morning, apparently you are supposed to take it a bit easy after donation, so Louise and I went for a gps assisted ride round Leith hill, quite pleasant and reasonably hilly. The Sunday was the biggie, the plan being to do the South Downs Way with a return journey planned for Monday, either on the road or back the same way. Weather was forecast to be wet and windy and didn’t disappoint, also had a minor bottom bracket issue when I got to Winchester (it was in the process of seizing) which necessitated a return to Basingstoke for a new one. This resulted in a start an hour later than planned, which gave time for the rain to arrive and keep me company. I’d done the SDW before with skedaddle over 3 days and remembered it was quite tough, however then it was dry most of the time, definitely not this time. It rained for the fist 90 minutes (I was averaging 12mph for the first hour), eased up for about an hour almost enough for me to slip off the rain jacket, wisey I gave it an extra 5 minutes and my companion was back, this time for the rest of the day. I’d built various ‘bottle out’ points into my plan:

  1. don’t bother
  2. ~40 miles : turn round and go home
  3. after half way : go for it
  4. later on : hit the road

Then for Monday

  1. Ride back via the SDW
  2. Ride back on the road
  3. Ride to Brighton and get the train back

Naturally being me 1) was never going to be an option, 2) came and went when I realized this would mean riding back past all the walkers I’d passed earlier so wasn’t going to be happening either. So despite having to stop under a tree in a car pack to squeeze down cheese and ham sarnie and a chunk of malt loaf and slip on an extra cycling top (short sleeve Mernio mix + arm warmers were not going the business under the waterproof, so I stuck on the skedaddle top and also a buff, zipped up the pit zip and set off again, feeling somewhat warmer. Then it was grinding onwards, 40 miles came and went and I decided to carry on, despite my buddy continuing to cover me in love. At about 50 miles I met the saddle skedaddle team running a weekend trip. Apparently I was a bit grubby and Graeme didn’t recognise me, they were suitably incredulous when I told them I was heading for Eastbourne. Pottered along with Graeme then put the hammer back down as I’d not get there otherwise, plus I’d probably freeze to death, not that putting the hammer down resulted in a particularly dramatic change in pace, more removal of stops as much as possible. And so it went on, and on, and on. Getting through the 50’s seemed to take foever, the 60’s even longer ( I can remember the 60s and I was definitely there). The 70s were a decade I can’t really recollect and the 80s was one I could barely see. By this stage the weather was shocking and the tops of the downs was covered in cloud, very atmostpheric loosing site of civilization down below (interestingly the SDW is like a thin roll of wilderness in southern England, you just don’t go through anywhere along the way) then only being able to see 20m in front of you. Eventually this obviously led to a bit of topographic misplacement when my course deviated by 45degrees from the prescribed one on the gps. The up-shot being a stoll up a hill and across a field towards where the line said I should be. Coming across a field I ended up following tractor tracks since they must lead to a way out. Eventually I ended up tracking the SDW without realizing it until hearing voices in the gloom as a couple of walkers pottered past, bringing a signpost into view in the gloom. This is where option 4 started to become favourite, reinforced when I missed a fork which was clearly signed, if you can see more than past the end of your nose. A descent into a village (civilization!!!) finalised things as a torrential downour came through, this was at 90 miles on the gps and I was in the process of putting the lights and pro-pedal on plus locking out the forks. The tarmac was a bit of a respite and re-acquainted me with people as car after car whistled past, various small towns crept past and no sign of a chipshop to be seen anywhere ( I guess it is the south of England), after stopping for a piss in a handily placed golf course I gained sight of sacred eastbourne, probably not a moment too soon as I was feeling somewhat the worse for lack of food and exertion, cramming down as much energy drink and scoff as I could in the last 20 minutes or so. After  phone call on the hurricane hit front I reached the Alesxandra hotel and the true extent of my condition became aware to me, I was buggered, the phrase “dangerously cold” coming to mind as I stripped off shivering in the room and enjoyed a particularly long, warm shower and the radiator on max. on emerging it was 9:30, my shoes were still soaking and I decided to skip dinner, settling for week sugary tea and recovery drink, but since I’d settled on option 7 for tomorrow this wasn’t really an issue. After a fitful nights sleep and a pathetically small fried breakfast (1 sausage, 1 rasher of bacon, half a tomoato, half a slice of fried bread and a bit of garnish) I was off, into a headwind and glad that I’d not be riding 100 miles into it. In fact I kept it company until reaching Newhaven (14 miles of an alledged 25) and saw a sign saying Brighton 17, with only an hour available to me, so it was train to Brighton, and with my bad guts a particularly well time visit to a BR khazie. In Brighton I met a couple of other bikers who were heading to Winchester to start their journey back, after a convivial 90 minutes on the train I bid them farewell and pottered off to my car praising the joy of public transport, and glad that at 7 degress I was not spending time on the bike. Its probably a bad thing when your finger ends are still tingling a day after finishing.

So what did I learn:

·         Getting lost on a big hill in the clouds shits you up, although makes you feel a bit alive.

·         When out in the rain for 12 hours you burn off a shed load of calories

·         Have dinner in the evening after a big ride

·         My legs can handle this sort of abuse

·         Wear more clothes when its cold, you can only keep warm from burning energy for so long (about 4 hours based on past experience)

·         The hours all blend into one after about 6

·         Trains are great

·         My hub gets quiet after 8 hours of being doused in gritty water

·         Check your bike out the night before

So what’s next, taper until the 10th, wonder what I’ll do without trying to spend 15+hrs a week on the bike, need to remember not to eat as much and take it easy. Should give my body the chance to rest up and all the aches and pains to go away. Must remember to sleep as much as possible as well. And do some work to get ahead of things. Hopefully I’ve done enough and will be ready on the line, if not then it’s a week of suffering for me.


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photo by: Vikram