Thursday 27th December 2012
Waking early I knew that this was the make or break day – get a decent amount knocked off the total or slink away, defeated. Like listening to Craig David, the sound of rain on the window was not music to my ears even if it was slightly less irritating. Still, a challenge would not be a challenge if it wasn’t challenging so, with a heavy heart, I levered myself out of bed, packed my bag for work and ventured outside.
To be honest, it wasn’t that bad – the rain was steady but the air temperature wasn’t bad. Switching my lights on, it was time to be a man rather than a mouse – if I was going into the dawn then it might as well be up some decent hills on quiet roads. As I set off this seemed a noble sentiment but halfway up the climb to Checkley, noisily breathing out of my arse with my Christmas belly hanging both sides of the top tube like a fleshy saddlebag, I was mentally cursing myself (if I had cursed out loud then I think I may have vomited). Finally reaching the top I stopped to see the view (AKA wait for the pounding of blood in my ears to drop to levels that didn’t potentially trouble my balance).
As equilibrium settled, this was really quite good. I was up early, pleasantly warm and definitely, vibratingly, alive. A bit of music was called for to celebrate the dawn and the beauty of existence. Fumbling through my iPod I settled upon the ideal track – ‘Hurt’, the Johnny Cash version (opening lines “I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel, I focus on the pain, the only thing that's real”). Emotionally fortified, I headed down the hill, the canopy of trees giving a gloomy air and a surface that was as slick with moss as it was rutted. Still, I knew the road well, my lights were strong and I could comfortably stay the right side of the ragged edge. Except, coming to the gentle right hander at the bottom, I couldn’t. Running out of talent at an alarming rate (if you have so little, surely it should last a bit longer?), I grabbed at the right hand brake lever, hard. As soon as I did this, I had a flashing thought –I set the bike up goofy style in my attempt to be all Euro (the loafers sans socks and apricot pullover across the shoulders were never enough), right? As the brake bit, thankfully I had although that didn’t stop me skidding on the road. Arse twitching like a bunnies nose, I came far too close to the bramble hedge (bonus was that I was left with a rather dashing duelling scar on the left cheek. Of my face) but stayed upright and on the road.
I thought that I was awake before but with the adrenalin/Red Bull (I mentioned that I’d had some before I left home, didn’t I?) coursing through my veins, it felt fabulous to be alive. I made it down to Woolhope without further drama and started on the climb to Marcle Ridge. This is much steeper but also shorter than Checkley but, warm by now as well as scared, I made it up with surprising ease (i.e. only felt like passing out twice) only to be confronted by the ‘engaging’ descent – why hadn’t I taken a flatter, alternative route to work? Still, there were only two other options – descend the way I had come (no chance as it’s plenty ‘engaging’ itself) or head further (no chance but for a different reason) – neither of which appealed. Girding up what was left of my loins, I plunged downward. I’ve had many moments on a bicycle that I am not proud of. This one definitely made the top 5, possibly top 4 (for those who want to know, I ended up both feet unclipped, straddling the top tube in a farm entrance when I misjudged a turn/lost my nerve. Although my brakes were next to useless, the impact of my penis on the top tube arrested the forward motion to a quite surprising degree – worth knowing in case you ever find yourself in a similar predicament).
After so much excitement in the first 5 miles (note to self – round up to 10km), the remainder of the journey was fairly uneventful and I arrived at work just over two hours after I left home. Distance covered? No real idea but 15mph sounded reasonable(ish) so I had no problem in declaring it a 48km (ok, call it 50km) ride.
The just over an hour ride home was dull but flat and, for me, swiftish – go on, we’ll call that 17 miles or 30 km.
Suddenly, inroads to the total had been made – with more than half the time elapsed I’d completed well under half the distance but there was a chance. As far as I was concerned, shit just got real.
Distance covered – 80km
Distance remaining – 290km