Long distance cycling is a challenge for anyone. It is not just physically draining, but also mentally. There is always a good amount of fear. Anything unexpected can be frightening, even more so if it can cause you to let everyone down. I am aiming to raise £10 000 for End Polio Now and a lot of people are and will be behind this. It is now my responsibility to be successful and I am doing everything in my hands so it happens that way. Training has been long, hard and enjoyable.
I left home at 2:00 pm. My wife had a commitment at 5:30 pm. Of course family life must continue and I had to be back to spend time with my daughter before that. So I was well aware of the time, just as I will have to be when Rotarians will be joining me or waiting for me. I knew what I needed to do: To test my progress by tackling some hills. For many cyclists the hills are the biggest issue. I enjoy riding uphill, but it is not easy! Hills burn your legs, reduce your speed and swallow your time. They are a challenge for your mind. In anyway… I decided to follow my nose and just care about coming back home on time.
Everything started well, I started pedalling slowly and gradually “warmed up” for the the first 40 minutes, then I increased my pace and my journey eventually took me through Port Seton, North Berwick, East Linton and Garvald. This was where I wanted to be… I started to follow the hills to give my legs a good shake. Don’t ask me which route I took, some of it was known, passing close to Gifford, but mostly I was in new territory. There were mixed feelings of burning legs followed by exhilarating descents… once, twice and many more.
Of course when one enjoys doing something time tends to pass very quickly. This ride was no exception. All of a sudden without knowing exactly where I was I realised that I had to start making may way back as I had about an hour left to ride. The image of my justifiably annoyed wife sprung to mind and I panicked. After what felt like a very long and luckily relatively flat sprint I eventually arrived in Pencaitland. At that point I knew where I was but that is when reality struck: If I didn’t pedal faster than I normally did I would certainly not be on time. I pedalled faster than I ever have before (not many times I have felt burning legs on a descent, but I did this time too)!
To complicate matters I also had to face another reality, I was not the only one wanting to be at home. It was rush hour and a continuous flow of cars sped by me. In Tranent (just a few miles from home) a reckless move by a white van pushed me awfully close to the kerb. To avoid falling I had to uncleat my feet very quickly and probably not in the way you would normally do. Pain struck immediately and it was difficult to distinguish between a cramp or a muscle badly pulled. The rational thought amidst the mental turmoil of panic and fear was to climb onto the pavement at the next traffic light in order to call home to be picked up. However, as soon as I got there, the pain went as quickly as it came. A few minutes later, I arrived at home and the clock was pointing at 5:02 pm. Not bad!
However, little did I know that this was not the end of my ordeal. Once inside, I stated feeling really cold and I started to shiver. My wife sent me to the shower and immediately took my pulse and blood pressure afterwards (I must have been looking like never before!) Everything was normal and I was simply experiencing the very common symptom of having ran out of fuel (literally). Under the pressure of the ride I had drank all my liquids available but I had forgotten to eat my oat bars, energy gels, etc. I believe I had put my body close to the limit and probably had not “listened” properly.
It is now one day later and looking back in hindsight (the perfect science) I am feeling great and looking forward to my next ride. I have experienced half of what I will experience during only one day of my epic ride. And yes… I think I learnt the lesson and I will now know how to deal it with it for the 26 times that it will happen when I cycle across the UK.