I went through every emotion the week prior to this ride. Nervous, excited, scared. It was a bit of the unknown from the riding in the night, the distance was by far the longest I'd ever ridden and going without any sleep which I hadn't done since The Boy was born.
It started pretty badly as the restaurant Grant had booked for us to carb load prior to the start wasn't actually open. Plan B came into effect which was pub meal under massive umbrellas trying to avoid the torrential downpour happening around us. Following that, it was up to Hackney to firstly avoid having our bikes stolen and secondly, start the ride.
The first 30 odd kilometres are through East London and out through Epping. Most of the drivers are fine but there are a load of angry little tossers leaning on the horn and shouting abuse out of the window. Also, I saw a mother driving her young children and allowing one little girl to lean out of the window and shout abuse. You must be a very proud mother and I'm sure your daughter will grow up to become a fine upstanding citizen. Or a politician.
We planned to stop at 50km whether we wanted to or not to refuel and get some energy on board. At 47km and 11pm, there was a lit garage in a little place called Leaden Roding so we ate and drank a little, put our jackets on as the temperature was starting to drop and after 10 minutes, headed off again.
The next 40 or so KM's went by with no major dramas and off we cycled through a few Essex villages from which we received a mixture of high 5's, abuse, flashing drunk 'ladies' and general pub chucking out rubbish. We headed to the closest thing to an official stop point in a village called Sible Hedingham at around 87km to be met with such horrendous queues that we sat on the curb and ate and drank some bits and pieces from our bags instead. I would have actually killed for a cup of tea though.
The next bit was going to be the hardest and the bit I'd feared the most so and about 1.15am, we headed off into the darkness for the next 50ish km run. 5 minutes later, what could have been complete disaster. While riding at a reasonable clip alongside Grant, I suddenly saw, and then yelled to warn those behind me, 'GLASS!'. Instinct took over and knowing Grant was on my right and the left hand side was clear, I quickly went left. Unbeknown to me, a curb had started only a few metres before and I hit it pretty hard and was flung from my bike but luckily just onto a lot of grass. No aches or pains and landing on the soft damp grass was VERY lucky. The bike seemed to be OK too and using a stopped passers by headlight, gave it the once over. All seemed good and we were off within a minute or 2.
5 minutes later I called for Grant to pull over as something didn't feel right and it wasn't. While avoiding the puncture from the glass, the force of hitting the curb with the sidewall of the tyre had caused a puncture. Time for what Grant described as his worst nightmare. Mechanical problem on an unlit road at 2am. No need to thank me buddy, that's what I'm here for! A new tube and a compression CO2 pump later, we were away again with only around 15mins lost.
This part of the ride was tough though. The downhills were scary as you couldn't see much, my eyes were very tired and wanted to shut a couple of times and in general, the feeling that apart from some strange people who's lights you can see in front and behind, no one else is stupid enough to be awake. Not quite true but that's how you feel. The uphills were better as you had to work harder and therefore get the blood flowing around your body again. These helped to keep me awake. Then 3.30am arrived and the very first glimpse of light on the horizon. It gives you the perfect little boost and at 4am and with 136km completed we stopped for 10 minutes to refuel and attempt to stop Grant's cranks making the most annoying creak and squeak that had been going on for the last 100km. In case you're wondering, it didn't get fixed.
At around 4.15am, the sun was starting to rise and we were met with this lovely sight. This is why people do these rides.
I was through the worst of it mentally and now it was just time to plug away. Nothing really to report about this part of the ride. The backside was sore, the thighs burnt just a little bit more with every incline but it was all good and to be expected. At 6am, it was rest backside, go for a pee and snack but were back on the bikes within 5 minutes and this was to be the last push. We had in the region of 22-25km left.
At 6:23am, we saw this. I cannot describe the utter joy that this picture brings.
From then on, we picked up the pace and went for it as the end was in sight. All the while, passing numerous riders that were cycling another 50km in the opposite direction to get the train from Ipswich. We're not the mental. We arrived at Dunwich Beach at 6.50, had a post ride hug, locked the bikes up and went off to get some breakfast. Though unable to even start or hold a conversation, after 3 cups of tea, a little food and a dry and warm complete change of clothes, we felt human again for the first time in a while and headed to lie on the beach to await the coach journey back.
THE SAME BEACH IN THE OTHER DIRECTION A LITTLE LATER
All in all, it was fantastic. It was a massive sense of achievement to complete the ride and I'm pretty sure I'll be back next year to complete it again. These little notes are for me if I do it next year.
Take an extra cycling top - A change of top around 2-3am could have really sorted me out as putting the bag on a cold and sweaty top is nasty.
Long socks - Again, pulling them up through those middle of the early morning hours could have kept the chill off the legs (tights would be too warm).
Ipod - One headphone in one ear through the traffic free and quiet hours of 1-4am could have really helped me along and kept me alert.
Lift - Pay someone to drive up and meet me OR take the car up the day before. Waiting 5 hours for a coach for another 3 hour journey is a killer!
Lights - Buy a better set. Although bright enough, lose connections of the cheapies meant going 'dark' just when I didn't need to on a couple of occasions.
Crash - DON'T!