Saturday, 5 July 2014

Bikestock 2014... Or How Many Rides Til I Sleep?

How do you inspire people to get on bikes?

That is the question that gets me out of bed every morning and out into schools and clubs around the city where I live. It is my job and my passion and to be honest a little bit of an obsession! I want to share this secret way of getting about that excites and energises me every day, 365 days a year.
How do I get people on bikes 365 days a year…? This is the starting point for my little adventure that took me to my local park and a world record…

Cut forward to 3pm on a sunny afternoon. June 26th 2014. For the previous couple of months, I had  been around many of the schools that I work with promoting my latest challenge as a Sustrans Bike It Officer in Brighton and Hove, Bikestock 2014. Bikestock is a bike festival with a challenge for schools in the area set up to raise money for Sustrans and East Sussex Association for Blind and Partially Sighted People and in the process inspire people to get riding their bikes as it is so much fun! 

The challenge: simple really, as a school, get as many people ready and able to ride as far as they can as a team to try and beat the distance that I was going to aim for as I attempted to ride around a mountain biking circuit in Stanmer park woods for 48 hours. Now here is the fun bit, I would be aiming to ride for at least 365 miles, (or a whole year’s riding if you rode 1 mile a day). I would be doing this in one go on a bike with 1 gear, for the record, a Cotic Simple 29er with no suspension apart from the air in the tyres.  This bike has been amazing, combining the fun of being rather like a 29er BMX with the zingyness of a steel frame/ carbon fork for long distance madness...
 It just so happened that if I made it I would beat the mountain bike 48 hour distance record which was 355.8 miles set by Dave Buchanan in 2011. This target was achievable I felt and it would also hopefully inspire as many young people as possible to ride and be part of something really special! So after countless assemblies, meetings, playground bike smoothie sessions, dropping off posters, pasting them everywhere, making sure that texts go out to parents, emails galore, after school training rides with families to the beach, Dr Bike sessions all day fixing bikes with pupils and parents to prepare for the big day. If I am honest, as I found myself on the start line of my course counting down to 3pm ready to start riding for the next 2 days solid, the hard part of the challenge was behind me, all I had to do now was to ride for 2 days and hope that people were inspired to turn up and ride with me in 44 hours’ time for the final 4 hours!

Back to the start and a quick chat with the lads from LatestTV and a kiss from my wife Catherine and we were off. The team from ESAB were also there to show support. I say we because in the last days before the ride, Rory Hitchens our local mountain bike legend had pulled out all the stops garnering support from far and wide to ensure that I would not be short of company and support in the low hours of the long ride ahead. So joining me at the start for the first couple of hours was Paul Winter, an incredibly fit ex teacher and a regular competetive triathlete who is fantastic company to ride with, with anecdotes galore and experience of pushing himself just that little bit too far… I can relate to that.

Writing this I can see and feel every dip and hollow, every root, every sweeping off camber curve, I know exactly when to put the power on to make it as far as I can before the lactic burn kicks in and the high gear (36:20) starts to make itself felt. I chose this course to be just about rollable with little legs on a BMX from Tesco yet interesting enough that when added together over 24 or 48 hours there would be enough climbing and descending and enough interesting bits to keep a rhythm going. 

From the start the track leads on a grassy track to the bottom of a rooty little climb through the woods, choosing the line here on a rigid bike is key to keeping the power down and carrying speed up and out into the sunshine (or moonlight) overlooking the Big Dog start field and a chain straining sharp rise through a right turn and back into the woods, the climb continues and then another right and we are swooping through a wide dirt path that levels out then up again for a 200m climb that takes you to the highest point of the course, past Stella Stump (named last year when my mates Nathan and Pete sat drinking beer and encouraging me into the night!).

Here is a lovely swoop down before a tricky but brakes off turn right over the flint foundations of an old wall, through a tight gap between trees, pumping the corner using 2 roots as a mini berm down again, past my base tent camp and around a small tree as tight as possible for a flat out fairly smooth grassy down hill overlooking Stanmer House. A slight rise and some jarring vehicle tracks set hard in the dirt and we are back swooping down, pumping twice and hopping rabbit holes to get back to the start… 1.33km. The total climbing on the route is about 35m so a profile that over time roughly adds up to the equivalent climbing of the South Downs Way in the same distance.


So getting into the swing of the ride Paul and I started slowly and built up to a comfortable pace of about 10mph using the small down hill sections to recover from the sharp climbs and energy sapping wind that hit us as we climbed over Iron Man hill (reference to a hallucination 36 hours into the ride!) Paul kindly stayed with me for a couple of hours making sure I was in good shape mentally before he headed off.  While we rode, friendly faces appeared by the side of the course waving encouragement, setting up picnics and cheering as I rode on by. 

One of my most successful schools, Coldean Primary had decided to use my ride as an opportunity to bring their Thursday Bike Club out led by teacher Andy Wilson.
The kids, staff and parents soon joined in and rode with us for a few laps, a taste of things to come! It was a real boost and a reminder of just why I was doing this, helping me to focus. It can never be underestimated the power of a positive mind on rides like this and it helps so much to have support be it acknowledgement, a wheel to ride with or a smiling face. I resolve to look strong whenever there is an audience and this in turn helps me to feel strong too! Ian Smith, our Bike It Champion teacher from Moulsecoomb Primary turned up with Kemi from the 67 Centre to add support and encouraging words as we swooped by I was settling into the ride nicely…

There is a lot of talk about mindfulness at the moment and a ride like this allows you to be in the moment, focusing on the acts of riding, tweaking your line, looking for smooth places that don’t jar, pedaling smoothly, being fluid, being powerful, being Zen like in your breathing. As the laps built I learned the best line, learned when to sprint, where to recover, where it is best to drink, where to pump the bike for more free speed. Mindfulness also allows you to process, larger thoughts in manageable chunks and to work through things in a methodical way, though when it all gets too much you can return to the breathing and the pedaling to keep a balance going. Pedaling and handling the bike was the thread that held the ride together but as people and thoughts came and went, I was able to give them time in my mind as I rode either with or past them.

Barney my 8 year old son
 and his Mum, Mandi showed up after about an hour and this was great for my head. They walked around the course popping up in various places getting a few snatched words on my progress and again allowing me to look strong on the outside to keep up appearances, which in turn helped with how I felt inside. Seeing Barney’s face each lap was a real boost and as they settled down to a picnic, I was filled with pride for my little man who loves adventure and who really understands how to get the most out of life, being excited by pushing himself physically and mentally even at a young age.

Dan Lawson, legend of the Ultra-Distance running world appeared and ran with me in a few places talking at ease while running at bike speed! He was confident in me and his parting words were “you are going to do this!” no hint of doubt in his mind. Dan inspired me to set Bikestock up as an accessible challenge after I ran with him on his own world record attempt, running 520 miles on a treadmill in 5 days with school kids from all over Brighton coming along to be part of his challenge. Inspiring them to run with him, Genius! If Dan says I can do it, I can do it, I though as I upped my speed ripping up Iron Man hill (I'll tell you later!) at the bottom of the course.

Rick McKewan a teacher from Moulsecoomb, joined me soon after for a few laps on his way out to meet the gang from Brighton MTB who were out on a regular Thursday ride, it is great riding with Rick who shares a passion for mountain biking and inspires his pupils as a year 6 teacher, regularly riding one of his nice bikes in to school and storing it in the classroom, his kids love his bikes and they are obviously encouraged by Rick who is a fantastic role model for his pupils, managing to stay cool and be a cyclist at the same time. He is part of the team at the school who have managed to massively boost cycling in Moulsecoomb, so much that it is obvious when I ride through the estate, greeted by kids out on bikes PLAYING!

My wife Catherine returned with Ruby and Louisa who added a bit of zing to my ride, things were settling down now and the nerves that I had felt this morning were not so much in evidence. They stayed trackside, willing me to a rhythm that is so important to complete a long distance ride like this. Catherine knows me better than I know myself on rides like this and she goes through a great deal of head searching to enable her to cope with the pain and physical effort that she knows I am experiencing. She also makes a mean jacket potato and homous which is pretty much the only thing I can eat at any point in the ride! The head plays such an important part of endurance as it is all about managing fear and confidence. The amazing support that I received from home, from Catherine and the kids has been essential to allow me to feel that they have faith in me to put in the effort needed to do anything! I feel that my family knows that I will put in the work needed to get through this and this gives me strength to carry on when it all goes to the wall. In a lull before the start, Catherine said to me, "You can do this!" and I took this with me throughout the ride, even when I didn't believe it myself. I need to know that I have their blessing before pushing myself hard.

Next on the scene was Lyndsay Burtonshaw, young dynamo volunteer extraordinaire who has helped me run the after school bike clubs that I have set up through my work with Sustrans as  Bike It Officer. Lyndsay arrived with a massive smile and a flask of Yogi tea that would help settle my stomach as my power switched over to long distance mode relying on burning food directly as my glycogen stores depleted. We did a swift 7 laps together as the heavens opened and the track became fairly muddy quite quickly. I had to move up a gear in my motivation even if I couldn't on my bike. Lyndsay headed home as I plodded on, left to my own thoughts for a while.

Rick returned in force as the night descended and I had been riding for around 6 hours, with the guys from Brighton MTB who took it in turns to chat as we passed the time rhythmically railing the same lines over and over, they were courteously allowing me to seek the smoothest line, something that would prove to be so important later on when tendons and aches started to niggle away at me. The mind can catastrophically hijack you on a long ride such as this and it often amazes me how much of a boost I get from focusing on catching someone up ahead, or when a loved one appears and I want to let them think that I am not suffering.

At 10 on the dot as promised, Shirley Price
, Chair of ESAB appeared, as if by magic, with a flask of hot coffee to revive my soul as I allowed myself a minute or so to gulp it down and to fill her in on my progress. Shirley promised to be back at 7 with more of the same and disappeared back into the night for a well earned rest. Shirley is no ordinary 82 year old and she spends her time raising money for ESAB by doing stuff most of us could only dream of. In the last few years she has done a wing walk on a bi-plane and a 12000ft parachute jump. For her 85 th birthday she wants to paraglide over Mont-Blanc… She has booked it already!

I spent a while then just riding the route, shutting down unnecessary noise in my body, focusing on the line I was riding, as the last light disappeared I was thankful for my faithful USE Revo which has never put a foot wrong in nearly 2 years of constant use. 800 lumens of free light with excellent optics powered by a hub dynamo that is so efficient, I kept it running for 48 hours feeling no drag whatsoever. The bike was going great and I felt good after feeling a little unsure at the start.

Rory Hitchens, scared the life out of me, as he appeared with his colleague, Nigel after a couple of hours of riding on my own. Between laps we grabbed a sentence at a time on my progress and Rory told me that he had put the word out to the mountain-biking world in Brighton and also to Road CC who were publishing the record attempt online. All of this seemed to add force to my pedal strokes as I climbed at the limit of my gear repeating every 5 minutes knowing that I would have a brief respite to recover before heading up the next climb. Rory found the best vantage point for some photos and some abbreviated encouragement, peppered with news and advice. I sped up as I wanted to hear the next installment. 

As I stopped for a break Rory gave me a welcome treat of hot chocolate,
nectar after about 10 hours riding. I had covered 100 miles and was feeling fresh, while pacing my effort, allowing myself glimpses into the task ahead, well aware that I had 38 hours to go. Rory had also raided his energy supplies and showed me caffeinated and regular Clif Bloks and bars which over the next couple of hours would fuel me as I rode to my first proper break at 330 am. On multi day rides I find that I need sleep like anyone else. I can ride a 24 in one go without a sleep but 2 or more days and I find that I need to get some shut eye. I planned to sleep from 330-5am an hour and a half to fool my body into thinking I had slept all night. I read somewhere that if you have a complete REM cycle of sleep you can wake easily and feel revived enough for another long day in the saddle. I had been up since 5 thinking, sorting and then riding so sleep was my next treat at 330.

The Iron Man Came to The Top of the Hill..
I said goodbye to Rory and Nigel who said I should leave the energy bars within easy reach of the track for when I felt rough and wanted a refill. I must have ridden on rhythmically, trance like spinning, gliding, pumping, gliding, sprinting up the hill trying to beat the 25 second burn then recovering. Night wore into me spooking me as I rode alone. The first signs of hallucinations appeared in my peripheral vision as I crested the bottom climb and there in front of me higher than  the trees was The Iron Man,
His great iron head, shaped like a dustbin but as big as a bedroom, slowly turned to the right, slowly turned to the left. His iron ears turned, this way, that way. He was hearing the sea. His eyes, like headlamps, glowed white, then red, then infrared, searching the sea. Never before had the Iron Man seen the sea.
He swayed in the strong wind that pressed against his back. He swayed forward, on the brink of the high cliff.” 
Looking later in daylight I could make out the tree that had become this fearsome shape in the night, at the time it spooked me enough to stamp so hard on the pedals that I felt something give. Each pedal 2 and a half pedal strokes and a click now juddered through the frame. I stopped to look and found that I had half snapped a link in my chain. Despite the adrenaline surging through my hallucinating brain, I resolved to spin smoothly back to camp and fix the chain whilst refueling. I limped on up the rest of the climb to the top of the course. Suddenly faced with a mechanical, time was ticking and this would eat into my recovery and rest time…

As I returned to base camp (My son Barney’s tent filled with bottles of drinking water, tools, supplies and a sleeping bag) I saw that Rory and Nigel had arranged my refreshments beautifully to fuel me through the night. I scoffed a Clif Bar thanking the long departed boys into the dark and faffed around eventually deciding to replace the 100 mile old chain with a better quality new one to save time and worry. Normally this would take 5 minutes but in my state of mind it took 20.
I got back on, chilled and rode for a further hour. This shook me and I knew that all of this effort could be threatened by an unforeseen mechanical problem. I eventually settled back down and rode with less panic.

The familiar nausea of riding through the night crept in as I fought to drink and eat to fuel my weary muscles. Failure to top up the calories that I was burning would end in more than tears! I must have been burning 500-700 calories an hour but was only really taking on 250. This is enough to directly fuel your muscles but is a bare minimum that I need to keep going at the pace that I needed to maintain.
 Later as I returned camp to sleep at around 3:30, I saw that someone… or something had raided my stores and all of the 4 packs of caffeinated Shot Bloks and another caffeinated bar had disappeared! After a little investigation, I surmised that out there somewhere, was a fox, wired to the nines probably spinning around chasing its own tail and it may well be out there even now, having had the equivalent of 6 cups of coffee! I laughed briefly, wolfed down some cold porridge mix, crawled in to the tent, then slept like the dead… As soon as my head hit the down bag, I woke after what seemed like a few seconds to my 450am alarm…. Ugggh!! It was raining and I needed to get back on my bike!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Bikestock South Downs Double

Well I am back after a long time away from my blog. It is the new yea rand I am getting my planning and preparation for another go at the South Downs Double. This time I will be setting off from Stanmer Park on the 6th July on my trusty Surly Karate Monkey rigid singlespeed bike and trying to beat my old time, alpine style... That is with NO HELP from anyone else.

To put a little pressure on... I will be inviting the schools that I work with to try and match my mileage as a school by riding 200 miles as a team at an event I am helping to manage in Stanmer Park called Bikestock... 20 riders x 10 miles each = 200 miles! or for that matter 200 riders x 1 mile = 200 miles!

I love the South Downs Double as it is a massive challenge that is right on my doorstep and can be done by anyone stupid enough to try it. There is a small club of people who have done it and I like that... Adventure begins in your own back yard!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Rob Dean.... Smashes Singlespeed Record

Massive respect to Rob Dean, Smashed the SDD Singlespeed record today, amazing ride. 18h 51, incredible! Well done Rob. Hope you are enjoying the post ride buzz.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

The South Downs Double....

Just another day as a Sustrans Bike It Officer...
We woke early trying to remember whether we had everything ready for the event at Westdene Primary School, oh well too late now, nearly 500 kids would be waiting for me at school in an hour or so! The kids were to be riding into school as they had all week. It was part of a competition against 15 other schools in the city to try and ride as a school, the equivalent distance to the South Downs Way Double, 200 miles, a challenge... Emission Impossible! I had been running around all week working with 16 schools collating the numbers of cyclists they had each day and feeling that they were all really trying to get as many kids cycling as possible, it was fantastic... I had challenged the school to a race, not only against each other, but against me. If they could ride in all week then I would ride the South Downs Way Double, 200 miles in 24 hours, with one gear... hopefully the right one!
The event was amazing, the kids got a free breakfast for riding in, the council and the deputy mayor turned up to celebrate cycling, Emma, my teacher champion played a blinder and organised the kids to marshall the event and we had a cycling assembly outside the bike sheds on the school field. I counted 138 bikes, many of which were dressed up in fancy dress of all shapes and colours. The heat of the sun was already making itself known... in a moment I would be setting off up the hill and on to the South Downs Way, for a very long time!

Then suddenly, after a prize giving assembly it was my turn to say thank you to all of the kids for making such a supreme effort, and to jump on my bike and wave goodbye... I was off to applause from the whole school, an amazing send off. Out of the school gate and into the blazing heat! John from M's Cycles rode with me up to the start at Devils Dyke and we chatted as we went up the hill. I made some adjustments to my rucsac which was really stuffed with as many calories as I could carry. John had been a great support in agreeing to see me off and I really appreciated him being with me as I set off.

I was drinking and drinking as I winched up to the Dyke, trying to empty my mind ready for the focus on the task ahead. I have always tried to take endurance as a series of manageable tasks and to not think about the bigger picture as I know this can be too much to take on when you are at low points on a long ride, and there would be plenty of those.

The downs looked parched as I set off, first stop, Truleigh Hill in 2 miles, I said bye to John as I swooped down the grassy slope, I spun out quickly as my 32:18 gear found it's limit. Listening out and checking the bike for anything sounding a little wrong, focussing, planning in my head for the following section. I had small chunks of the ride listed on my handlebars, intervals between water stops which were comfortably short in the first 30 or so miles. Just as well as the temperature was in the 30s. At Truleigh hill I doused myself in cool water under the gaze of some German hostellers and refilled my 2 bottles with water, 6 miles since my last water and I had already taken on a litre and a half!

I was worried about the heat and tried to conserve energy in everything I did, I had a built in gauge in my legs that told me to get off whenever my gear got too hard to push, this meant a lot of walking and running. On the advice of Neil Newell's blog, I used the climbs off the bike to eat, drink, adjust my clothing and check for messages of encouragement.

The panic of organising this ride was now a distant memory as I focussed on each section as it unwound in front of me. The beauty of this ride is that it demands so much focus and concentration, riding a single-speed is all about the route of least resistance, bulldozing over small rises in the climb with a burst of power, assessing the line for a smoother alternative so as not to sap energy in gravel, on grass or over stuttering lumps of flint. Downhill a line is crucial too as having a rigid fork means that the wrong line can quickly lead to trouble if you get stuck in a gulley. The bike was amazing, so comfortable and fast rolling with the steel frame and carbon fork taking the buzz out of the trail so that my body was kept safe from all but the worst lumps.

The haze and the dust of the day was stifling in the many river valleys on the route where the track is more worn and rutted, I have memories of the rock hard mud at Amberley jarring my wrists and hands slowing me to a crawl as I headed out from teh tap and towards the steep white line that led up and over the next hill. There were some wonderful wooded sections behind East Dean, flat and fast, a welcome relief from always being in the wrong gear. I spun happily looking to keep my average speed above 10mph. I got a flat, the only one of the ride, in this wooded section and it allowed me to take stock of the ride so far as I changed the tube in the welcome cool shade, I lost 5 minutes but it made me pump the tyres to 45 for speed rather than comfort.

As I descended to Cocking, 30 miles into the ride, alarm bells rang as I remembered that Neil had come off on a previous attempt, just as I rounded a corner, floating on the bike, both wheels drifting at 35mph, I was confronted with flint ball bearings and rain gulleys all over the place and very few options.. I scrubbed off some speed and hopped left and right several times, panic averted. In my relief I overshot the tap and had to head back up the hill to refill. I had been stuffing my face with whatever I could stomach and I glugged down a litre of REGO, amazing, I could feel my muscles emptying of lactic and filling with the energy needed for the climb out of Cocking on the other side of the valley.

Roasting as I set off again, I had a target in my sights, a guy on a geared bike had passed me at the tap and I had someone to aim at as I took off after him, an all important mini goal. I always try and catch anyone I see in the distance it really helps me take my mind off the greater challenge. Cocking was quite scary as I might be faced with 35 miles to Winchester without another water stop. I was carrying 2L of water on my back and a litre and a half in bottles mixed one with PSP22 and the other with REGO, this seemed to be working well.

In the heat and the drudge of the big climbs, my mind tries to derail my motivation by reminding me that it is so far to the end, that I have an itch to scratch, that I need to rest, countless pointless things to sabotage the effort needed. To counter these thoughts I had the motivation of knowing that I so much support at home, Catherine was following me on google maps along with many of my friends and family, and just when I needed a boost my phone would buzz in my pocket and I'd glance to see that I was not alone.

As I reached Beacon Hill and Harting Down I was able to put the hammer down a little as I knew that I was about half way through the section and that there would be welcome smooth sections and shade through QECP. I called Jason my mate from work to let him know I was on schedule for our meeting at Winchester, little did I know what lay ahead... I flew through the forest at QECP and out into the blinding light as I winched myself up Butser Hill. A guy swooped past me on his way down, flat out and grinning as he carved down towards the gate, I was walking up the hill trying to keep up 4mph... On the other side of the hill the SDW becomes much more sketchy, the sign posting is quite random and the trail is not that obvious. I got to where the trail splits between the old section and the new temporary route and headed off on the new route and into the unknown, the route went onto old Winchester Hill and dived down a path, steep and jarring, down into the stifling heat, just when I thought that I would boil my brake fluid and my fingers had seized onto the levers I had to skid to a stop to hop down a step.. Ouch. I had to consult the map at every turn and quickly became lost.
I managed to get pointed back to the route after doing a loop on the road near Exton. I had been in panic mode and not enjoying the uncertainty of this section having not pre ridden it. Somehow I managed to get myself together and focus but my schedule was slipping as I got back into the swing of things in the woody shade near Milbarrow farm where I managed to make yet another wrong turn and back into panic land... Focus... Breathe... Retrace...

I had really not enjoyed the last section but was focussed on meeting my old mate Jay as I approached Winchester. Hot Hot Hot! Down the track into Chilcomb I rounded a corner to see Jason, a really welcome sight. The traffic was pretty full on and strangely alien as I entered the hot city and made a quick call to Rory who I was going to meet up with near Cocking, no time to stop as I turned round to get back to Jason for some welcome company. It was great to ride withmy friend as the miles ticked by, my pace was up now that I was familiar with the route.

The new temporary route that I took meant a relentless climb past the dusty vineyards, barely able to push the bike up old Winchester Hill. The heat was draining out of the day and it was a welcome relief, finding that I was able to climb on the bike more instead of walking. We sparred downhill like we we were fresh on the trail and I felt elated to be heading back. Bad news on the phone as I spoke to Rory who had taken a tumble on his way out to meet me from Cocking and was on his way to A&E!!!... What is it about that place!?

The way that I arranged to do this ride, setting out from Brighton, meant that the ride was done in thirds with Cocking on the way back, being the 100 mile point. Still Winchester was a major turning point and we flew back to QECP where Jason headed for home and I was once more alone on the trail, just the buzz of my texts from Catherine to keep me company.
I was looking to get as much covered in the cool evening as I could before I had to start night riding. There was a full moon so I was using the minimum amount of lighting and I hoped to be back on familiar home territory before the night fell. I reached my half way point at about 9 and was relieved to be able to take on water again. As the night fell I was aware of all the wildlife I was sharing the trail with, The Exposure Joystick was more than enough as the pink moon helped me find my way, badgers shuffled out of my way and I startled a herd of deer, grazing, they took off and left behind a baby who got stuck in the fence as it tried to escape. I had to help it through as it squealed in distress, scampering to the cover of the woods.
As I neared my start point and 135 miles, complete tiredness took over and I went into a zombie state, plodding along at a snails pace trying to keep going in the darkness. I came down to the A23 near Saddlescombe for a welcome relief from the blackness and some smooth tarmac as I crossed over Pyecombe where I managed to get lost! Really tired. Plodded up over Ditchling Beacon, feet walking like I was riding a bike stabbing the floor with my cleated feet and stumbling all over the place.
Relentlessly up and down, I sat down for a power nap for half an hour at Southease in the chill of the early morning. Up and back on the bike and up Firle Beacon with new energy and life in my legs as the mist covered the Weald to the north. I descended to Alfriston knowing that this would be hell on the way back. I was losing time all over the place. This was the worst part of the whole ride as I slowly plodded up out of Jevington and up over Willingdon Hill. Then just when I was so close to packing it all in I saw Eastbourne below me, glinting in the early morning sun. 20 hours done, had to get back in 4 the race was back on again as I turned for home.

Alfriston Hill was the hardest of the whole ride on the way back but as I reached Firle I was going stronger, though I had to eat and I was completely nauseous at the thought of more energy bars and sweet things, so I dropped down off the downs and made a dash back to the garage near Kingston for a cheese sandwich. Go Go Go! I was sprinting now as my mate Pete was coming out to meet me and I knew that Catherine would be at the Dyke at the end. I also arranged to meet Rory, I felt good now as the legs started spinning up towards the Beacon . I saw Pete, Jules and Tom at the Beacon and sprinted towards them, this gave me a real much needed boost, and I took off like a bat out of hell! I was desperate to get in under 24hours. A quick call from Rory reassured me I could do it. I flew down to Pyecombe and sprinted up Pyecombe Hill like it wasn't there. As Newtimber loomed up I'd forgotten how tall it was. Rory called to say he'd spotted me and I called on reserves that I never knew I had.

As I descended into Saddlescombe, I caught a herd of cattle under the trees who scarpered as I thundered down the hill. Whoops of encouragement as I flew past Rory camera snapping, I leapt off the bike and ran up the first part of the hill towards the Dyke, lungs on fire. Before I knew it Rory was there again snapping away and then Pete cycled towards me, a sight for sore eyes! I was desperate to get there for 10am as I had told Catherine I would get there then. 9.58 racing towards the gate Pete chasing at my heels.......and there it was, it was all over, I'd just finished the SDD in 23hours 40mins and 13 seconds.

A wave of emotion overcame me as I saw Catherine and the girls, I thought I would keel over!
What an amazing reception. Everyone descended on me and took everything out of my hands. All I remember was people telling me to get in the shade, and handing me sweet drinks and cooling me off with cool water. Pete's coffee had never tasted so good! As we were celebrating Rob Dean showed up overshooting the car park at great speed, it was great to meet another SDD and it was lovely to have such encouragement from so many wonderful people. Pete noticed that 5 minutes after getting back I was already talking about next time.....we shall see.

Thank you to everyone for the support they gave me, Catherine for worrying herself all the way through the night and her unending support, Pete, Jules and Tom for keeping the faith, Rory Hitchens for keeping me going through the hard parts and his amazing enthusiasm, Jason Falconer for giving me someone to chase on the way back! Also, John from M's Cycles for seeing me off in style, Rayment Cycles for so generously loaning me the fantastic lights at a really short notice! Rob Lee , Lydia Gould and Ian Leitch, for their kind messages. Thank you to everyone who took the time and generously sponsored me, all donations will be going to the Trevor Mann special care baby unit, a cause close to my heart as they were so dedicated when my daughter Josie was born.

Lastly a big thanks to all my Bike it schools, especially Westdene, for such amazing support and inspiration, which got me through the small hours. Keep on cycling!!

Thanks to Rory Hitchens for the photos...

Monday, 21 June 2010

Raise Money for Trevor Mann Special Baby Unit

Sponsor me and help raise money for the Trevor Mann Special Baby Unit in Sussex County Hospital...
Hi Welcome to my little Blog

As part of my job, working for Sustrans as a Bike It Officer, promoting cycling in schools across Brighton and Hove, I am planning a big challenge to inspire the children I work with in 22 schools, to cycle in to school as often as possible...

Here's the plan. On the 25th June, I will set off from Brighton and aim straight for the South Downs Way. I will then attempt to ride the South Downs Way in both directions as quickly as possible...202 miles on a single speed mountainbike, climbing 25,400ft in the process (That's Himalayan!!) I will ride from Brighton to Winchester, where I will turn round and ride all the way back to Eastbourne then back to Brighton for the home stretch... That's the plan!

I am aiming to do it in about 24 hours, weather and fitness permitting, but I will be happy if I get through most of it. (The current record for a single speed bike is 23:12!!)

The beauty of this adventure is that it starts in my back yard, The South Downs National Park, right next to the city. An added bonus is that it is a genuine Sustrans off road cycle route, one of the longest in the country!

The pupils will hopefully be able to follow me online and track my epic ride as it happens and here comes the best bit...The schools will have been aiming to match my target each day, by earning miles for each pupil who rides to school in the week leading up to the ride... National Bike Week. The winning school will recieve a big boost to their cycling, great prizes and events as well as the kudos of being the best Bike It school in Brighton and Hove... Last time we managed to ride 4800 miles in a week across Brighton, lightening the load on the school run and inspiring many pupils to change their travel habits long term.