This week didn’t start out so well, with the whole Coast to Coast unicycle challenge seemingly in jeopardy, and equipment failure leading to a long walk home. My big ride at the weekend also included a rather hard jolt early on, but these obstacles were all overcome. The ride is still going ahead, and I set new personal records for longest distances ridden in a day and a week.
There was a conference call for the C2C riders scheduled on Monday evening, which I’d assumed was just to sort out some organisational details. However, when I checked the facebook group, I saw that it had actually been set up to see whether we were going to do the ride at all, as we only had 6 confirmed riders, compared to the 29 which Jerry had been expecting. I have to say that I’d have been surprised if we’d even got half that number, but we no longer had the numbers to maintain the level of support we’d been promised, so no minibus or marshalls. The call was due to start at 7pm, which meant I should have had just enough time to get home and make food beforehand. This was obviously the perfect situation in which to get a puncture, my first for at least a year, so I ended up walking about half way home with my unicycle over my shoulder, and joined the call thus encumbered.
Jerry wasn’t on the call, but the remaining half dozen or so riders were still well up for doing the ride, and there’ll be plenty of relatives supporting us in various vehicles. In case of emergency, we have plenty of medical support among the riders and their relatives: a first aider, a nurse, an ambulance man and even a vet! Although the ride isn’t going to be as big as originally planned, it’s still going ahead, and the smaller numbers do make some aspects of the organisation somewhat simpler. My puncture was also a blessing, as it made me realise the poor state of my tyre, both inside and out. Finding that out before embarking on a ludicrous trek across the north of England was much better than having a blowout way off in the middle nowhere.
For this week’s big ride at the weekend, I was determined to get to Cardiff, having only managed to reach Newport on the first two attempts. This was going to be my longest ride so far; 5 or 6 hours to ride the 40-odd miles, plus at least an hour to get back on the train, so for once I actually got the majority of my preparation done the night before: planning my route (and remembering to take it with me this time) and making my sandwiches. I therefore managed to get out of the door earlier than on all my previous big rides, at 8am.
Despite this promising start, after only an hour of riding, when I was just starting to think about looking for a suitable place for a rest stop, disaster struck. I sometimes get cramp-like symptoms after riding for a while, which make my toes curl upwards in a manner quite inconsistent with maintaining control. Normally, this comes on fairly slowly, giving me time to dismount reasonably gracefully and eat something to lift my blood sugar level. This time however, it hit me all at once, and my curling toes lifted my foot completely off the pedal, dumping me quite hard on my arse in the road. I took advantage of this enforced stop to take my rest stop. While I was sat on the pavement, eating a granola bar, a friendly dog walker asked me whether I was alright. I tried to reassure her, but my insistence that I was quite used to falling off didn’t really do the trick, as I don’t think she’d noticed that my “bike” only had one wheel. My rear end was still quite sore, but the 15 minute rest was enough for the shock and pain to subside enough for me to continue the ride. Having got the day’s only UPD out of the way, I set off again without remembering to re-enabling the GPS tracking on my phone (I turn it off during rests to preserve the battery), so if you look at the route I took, it’s not terribly accurate around Pilning, as I had to edit the trace slightly by hand.
I had another unscheduled stop in Rogiet, as I was flagged down by someone waving money at me. I was slightly puzzled how she knew I was collecting donations, and wondered whether she’d seen me on one of my previous trips. In fact, she’d been told about me by her daughter, who had just overtaken me on the road a couple of minutes earlier.
Although I improved on my usual navigational performance, sticking almost entirely to my planned route, I did have a slight wiggle in Magor, where I didn’t recognise the planned turning until after I’d ridden past it. Fortunately, there was a footpath only slightly further on, which got me back on the right track.
My confidence with the route, which I’d ridden most of twice before, meant that my lunch stop wasn’t until I was almost out of Newport, at the turning onto the B4239. It wasn’t an ideal picnic area by the side of the road, but it was quiet and comfortable enough on the wide grass verge. The passer-by who saw me injecting myself fortunately recognised that it was only insulin, and confirmed that I was definitely going the right way to get to Cardiff via the back roads. I also had an amusing encounter with a couple of small kids who walked past me with their parents. They’d obviously seen the sign on my bag, and shortly after the family disappeared around the corner, the kids came back, very shyly, and eventually chucked a donation into my sandwich box before running off embarrassed to their parents, who were waiting just around the corner. Just before I set off again, a group of kids on bikes stopped to ask me what I was doing. They couldn’t believe that I was riding to Cardiff on one wheel, despite my assurances that I’d already ridden all the way from Bristol.
Up to this point, I’d been riding for an hour before each rest stop, but my legs were getting fairly tired and sore, and so was my crotch. I think I managed to stretch out the next leg to about 45 minutes, but by the time I finally got to Cardiff Central station, I could only ride for about 15 minutes before needing a couple of minutes for a breather. Checking my GPS at the station, I was quite surprised to discover that I’d ridden 48 miles from Bristol, quite a bit further than I’d been expecting, and 30% longer than the longest planned days of the Coast to Coast ride. I was in the saddle for 5h20, with another two hours of rest stops. Although I’m proud to have achieved such a long distance single ride, I don’t think I’ll be doing it again any time soon, not as part of the C2C training anyway. The day wasn’t quite over though; after a relaxing hour or so on the train back to Bristol, I still had a 3 mile ride home from the station.
Training this week: 124 miles, about 3.5 days of the Coast to Coast ride. Total training so far: 1491 miles. Only three weeks of training to go, then the real challenge begins! If you found this post in any way interesting, impressive, or just plain idiotic, please sponsor me to make it all worthwhile.