It’s 3 days since we completed N2S4CRUK and we’re now out of the bubble that we lived in for almost a week, where we had no knowledge of what was happening in the world as our complete focus was our cycling challenge. We’re back to our normal lives. Rubes and Roberto are shiny and dry and back in their home stable with their usual neighbours of golf clubs and plastic crates containing items which are not worthy of being stored in the house. We’ve almost caught up on all those domestic duties such as washing (ironing remains to be done), shopping and gardening. Gerry the Garmin is showing signs of life, but it’s still to be determined whether he will be well enough to accompany us on any future cycling adventures.
The alarm woke us up and it still felt like the middle of the night. The last day always brings its unique feelings. There is a sense of relief, excitement and emotion, but also a slight dread. We felt exhausted and sore with creeping doubts whether we’d be able to get up the hills we were facing today and some trepidation regarding the weather forecast for Southampton.
Sadly there was no Bruce Springsteen to wake us up this morning due to the injuries sustained to the I-phone on day 2. After the frustrations with the navigation yesterday, due to Gerry the Garmin’s stubbornness, we had another play with him late last night.
Memories and motivation, technology and frustration
Bruce woke us up at 6.15pm (a lie-in compared to the previous day) for us to begin preparations for the day ahead. The sun was shining and even though the distance was long (88 miles), the first 50 miles of our planned route was flat. The rest was hilly and it looked like hard work on the elevation plot.
We were woken at 5.45am by Bruce Springsteen singing Promised Land. Those who’ve read blogs from our other challenges will know this is set as my alarm. We spent 10 minutes slowly waking up and reviewing the met office forecast ( we’d abandoned the BBC yesterday as it had looked far too negative).
We began the day with a relaxed breakfast. It would be the last relaxed breakfast for another 6 days. As we approached the breakfast buffet we noticed a variety of interesting seeded loaves to choose from (photo on left). Unfortunately on examining the further we noticed a label which advised they were for display purposes only. The ‘choice’ of real bread was the photo on the right.
We were due to leave home at 10am and so had some time to catch up with social media before leaving. We were moved by a couple of messages from CRUK volunteer friends. Their personal experiences and comments just emphasised why we were about to set off and drive for 6 hours northwards to then spend 4.5 days cycling back down.
We’d taken Rubes and Roberto into the bike hospital earlier in the week. Rubes, particularly had looked rather sad as her red handlebar tape had come unstuck and the rubber band which had been carefully positioned the previous week to hold it in place was no longer fulfilling its role. We knew they were in safe hands with Big Dave at Banjo cycles. When we picked the up they looked all shiny and new and more importantly the gear changes were now back to being silkily smooth. Thanks Dave!
We decided to incorporate a recce of the CRUK shop and research centre in Southampton into a training ride. We’ve had many issues navigating in city centres in the past and knew that timelines would be tight on the final day. We couldn’t afford a whole set of wrong turns at the end of our challenge. So, we loaded Rubes and Roberto onto the car and drove down to a random village approx 20 miles from the finish of N2S4CRUK. We discovered that Crawley was a pretty Hampshire village with some very old (and expensive looking!) properties.
With only 12 days left to the beginning of our 2019 adventure and 5 days left of training; preparations are hotting up. On Monday we managed a short bike ride (33 miles, it was meant to be 30 but a diversion increased our distance). Our bodies are still recovering from being 8 hours behind BST for a couple of weeks and we felt we needed to take it relatively easy.
Weather conditions were perfect on Monday as we pedalled off towards the cafe at the Crofton Beam Engine. Engine number 1 was built in 1812 by Boulton and Watt and is the oldest working beam engine in the world, in its original location and able to perform its original task.
With just 8 weeks to go before we start N2S4CRUK our training plan for the week was to cycle 140 miles over the 3 days we had available for cycling. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan! Having had a 10 day break from cycling, due to other commitments, before we began our training ride we felt positive.
With the sun shining we set off on our training ride. At 8.30am it was a little chilly, but as we pedalled along the undulating road under the Ridgeway we warmed up. 7 miles down the road we had a quick stop and Patrick commented on the coffee shop across the road, but even we couldn’t stop after just 7 miles! Off we pedalled up Ashbury hill and then down the swooping 6 mile downhill stretch to Lambourn. The temperature by now was perfect, there was minimal wind and the Oxfordshire/Berkshire countryside looked beautiful. Patrick even felt that his chicken legs belonged to him today!
Having last ridden Ruby in September, I decided it was time to get back in the saddle to begin preparations for our August challenge. The sunshine was a motivator, but a bigger motivator was my spreadsheet which showed the number of available days I had for cycling between now and the beginning of August. Ruby seemed pleased to be out of the darkness of the garage where she’d been stabled over winter – the ride up the Ridgeway and then back down and into the Vale of the White Horse was smooth as her gears changed effortlessly. I’ve got confidence in Ruby’s ability to survive N2S4CRUK, but my quads need considerably more practice!