When: Sunday 17th June 2018
Distance: 54 miles
Time: 6hrs 10 mins
Hills: plenty, including one ginormous one
Tl:dr – I did a bike ride. 54 miles. One very big steep hill at the end. Got a medal and a sore backside. Oh and a film was made.
First of all let me say a big massive super thank you to everyone who sponsored me and donated to [British Heart Foundation]. I’ll be keeping the donation page up for a bit longer in case anyone else wants to donate. I couldn’t have done it without your help and the donations really helped push me up that hill!
BIKE RIDE PREP
I’d been preparing for quite a few weeks, doing little bits here and there, getting the supplies in: energy bars, flapjacks and a nice big bag of dolly mixtures (I know!).
I’d also been training hard for a few months. Up hills – lots of ‘em. Working out the best way to cycle up big hills. My training distance got bigger; starting from 10k, rising to 20k then 30k. The last practice before the big day I wanted to cycle further than full distance. I planned an 80k route to be cycles slowly. I got lost! (Thanks Google maps). I did manage 70k though and the next 2 days afterwards I really did suffer.
I’d been thinking of getting a pannier rack, so that I could take a spare wind jacket and extra bananas. I was struggling to find one that fitted my bike. I got desperate so I went to Halfords (Those who read my last bike ride post will remember I vowed never to go to Halfords again after the jobs worth sold me the wrong inner tube – thus, when I got a puncture, I couldn’t repair it). Halfords failed me yet again! – I bought a pannier that the guy said is a ‘universal fit for all hard tail bikes’. After spending the best part of two hours failing to fit it on, I had to take it back. After all – it was a Halfords bike, you can’t expect a Halfords pannier to fit on it can you?!
THE DAY BEFORE
I eventually settled on a rack that clamps on the back of the seat post which kind of worked ok so that will do.
Bike cleaned and oiled, the last step was parking arrangements. I’d bought a ticket to get a coach from Brighton to the start on Clapham Common and a Facebook tip advised there was free parking in zone S- 15 mins away from Brighton promenade.
Saturday evening I ‘carbed up’ with two bowls of pasta and went to bed at 930pm – I had 2 hours before I needed to get up. I couldn’t sleep. My mind was racing. I got up at 1130pm and got my stuff ready, packed it all in the car and left Whitstable at midnight, knowing I probably wouldn’t be getting any more sleep. M2 was closed – yeay, that meant an extra 30 mins driving through to Ashford.
ARRIVAL AT BRIGHTON
I finally rolled up at Brighton at 230am. This gave me a few hours to have a reccy and get my bearings and maybe some rest. I parked in zone S – a downhill bike ride away, I spent the remaining time looking for the meeting point and the loo). Finally, I got to the coach meeting point on Hove Lawns at 420am.
They gave me bubble wrap to wrap the bike, which went into a truck and we all bundled into a coach. Not only was it freezing cold at 430am in Brighton, the coach had no heating, so by the time we reached Clapham Common we were all frozen. I had to wait about 15 mins to get my bike from the truck. It was 627am and my start time was in 3 mins! Also the rubber band that help the pannier to the seat post had gone missing and the pannier was flapping about unsecure. I need to find some gaffa tape.
So I rushed to the start line which was a mile away. I arrived exactly at the countdown. 3.2.1 go and I was off.
I managed to find some electrical tape from a mechanic to wrap around the seat post to secure the pannier and now the panic and stress was over – I just had 54 miles to ride now – easy!
Then it started raining! But with the wind jacket and the rain being quite light I was ok. After a brief stop to buy bananas I was off weaving my way through the streets of London.
Weirdly, the move from London to countryside seemed instant. And as soon as we were in the countryside it stopped raining and the sun came out a bit.
The first refreshment stop appeared and I stopped, had a banana. I realized due to the urgency at the start, I hadn’t done any stretches. I could feel it, so I stretched a bit and made my way.
So for most of the way along the ride I stopped often, ate bananas, flapjacks and dolly mixtures and drank water and Redbull. There was seemingly refreshment stops after every corner. My seat wasn’t comfortable at all so I chose to stop often but only for a few minutes at a time – just enough to stretch the legs and have a much-needed short rest from the seat! I don’t know how the pros can sit on a bike seat for hours! I realized afterwards that I hadn’t adjusted my seat into a comfortable position – things were hurting!!!
HILLS, FAST RIDERS, BANANAS…
It seemed the countryside route mostly comprised of hills. There was lots of them, with steep descents. One think I’d never experienced before was racing down hills alongside other riders: dodging the slow riders – exhilaratingly good fun! J. In order to go down a hill, first you’ve got to go up it. There were endless ascents so I made sure I took plenty of time going up them, trying to conserve energy for the final biggie.
I managed only a few selfies. I missed a selfie at the Curious Pig pub, and I also missed pics of Ditchling Beacon – more of that in a bit. Throughout ride there was a ridiculous amount of very very very fast riders, zooming around, overtaking as fast as possible. Unfortunately there were quite a few of them that overtake you extremely closely and then push in front of you, cutting you up; close enough that makes you have to slow down. Quite rude methinks.
More stops, more leg rests, toilet breaks and more bananas. They seem to be helping.
DITCHLING BEACON (THAT BIG HILL)
I stopped at the last stop before the hill. One more banana and two cans of Redbull (Well one was Red Thunder, I’m not sure what the difference was, they both tasted gross). There was a corner on a village road that shows the true height of Ditchling Beacon:
Yes you really have to cycle up that!
OK, here we go then. All my preparation kicked in: preserve energy and only push when you have to; ignore the height and just concentrate on being methodical; keep breathing (deeply) and in syncopation with pedal rotation; don’t run into anyone – keep an eye just ahead in front of me for people swerving and stopping in front on me; remember when you get tired to keep on pushing; dig deep.
So the hill is about a mile long. A very long slow painful mile, with around 7-11% gradient – for those who don’t know – that’s very steep for a very long way. It’s ridiculously steep. A lot of people were walking, some tried and failed, some pro’s wizzed up it. I slowly but surely made my way up it. When I needed to push I found energy. Up and up and finally to the top.
There were tons of people at the top all cheering you on (and themselves resting). Perhaps it would’ve been nice to have stopped and took in the phenomenal view but I was buzzing from the exhilaration of getting to the top without stopping, so I carried on.
DOWNHILL TO BRIGHTON
So onwards to Brighton and I really let go and go full pelt and really push to get some speed. Something I hadn’t done prior to the hill. I was buzzing. A lot of it was downhill headed to Brighton and it was enormous fun – very fast in places.
THE FINISH LINE
And finally I sped to the finish line – having very big grin on my face. I got a medal and a selfie and trundled slowly to the ‘village’ – the area on the seafront that BHF has made with food stalls, a stage for live bands, a chill out area etc. I fell onto the beach, the sun came out and I was motionless for about 15 mins.
So there we have it. If you’ve managed to read until here well done to you too!
And here’s the vid.
Lastly, again I must say a massive thank you to everyone who donated. I raised an amazing £215! (£90 online and £125 cash).
Donate here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DanJohnson5
I’d definitely like to do it again next year and thoroughly recommend it to anyone. Just make sure you get your seat in a comfortable position!