After a wonderful day at uni, I cycle back home with a smiling face after many days of returning home with a mere poker face and tons of frustration.
"You were gonna cycle to London today, I thought?", a housemate asks.
"Oh, I'm going there tonight. Just packing stuff up and leaving in a bit"
"On the bike?"
"Yes, of course"
I choose to ignore the reaction of surprise as I've seen it more than I should.
A few minutes later, I'm on the road, all the lights on and looking bright enough to be visible on the dark roads. It feels really quiet and the playlist seems on point. I forget everything that I've been worrying about throughout the day. I stare at the Garmin, trying to figure out turns and anybody who sees me at this point, could say that I'm super focused.
I'm everything but that. My mind's wandering around the world, imagining Alaska and probably a bear chase. The better averages that I’ve been hitting might be due to that. There are some things that make me want to find an escape and things that I often do, such as night rides, give me exactly that. There's not much to see. Neither is there much to say. Everything is just happening. And I'm living it. Or maybe living through it. And then, some 120 kilometres later comes the urgent need to eat and an even urgent need to pee. I buy some falafel and humous wrap, a box of grapes and some coffee.
Not quite sleepy, not quite tired, I cycle the rest of the miles to Greenwich, where I'm supposed to stay for the morning+night. It's 4 a.m. and there's no way I can request to open the door. I mean, there is a way, but it'd be rather rude to wake someone up at this time. So what if I've just cycled more than 200 kilometres! So I decide on taking a tour around London. It’s quite serene in the night- empty roads and beautiful bridges! Except the traffic lights. They seem to want me to stop at every cross-road- and I do. In the second half, the traffic lights seem to love me more and turn green juuuust 100 metres or so before I get to the actual junction, which means I can speed along without having to stop!
At around 6 a.m. I get back to Greenwich and press the doorbell, in a vague hope to be able to get inside and sleep for a while.
And it works. I try sleeping but have trouble doing so. Just a good book and some food it is then!
Knowing only too well that I’m running low on money, I try to gear myself up to bike up to ‘Look mum, no Hands!’ for the evening programme “Long distance Ladies” by the Adventure Syndicate. It is then that I realise that I’ve forgotten to take a pair of trainers, my bike lock and any shorts or top other than my cycling kit. I forget the flip-flops as well. Looking rather weird and wearing stinky bike clothes with a pair of borrowed flip-flops two sizes smaller than my foot, I run to the nearest Asda. I buy the cheapest pair of shoes, jeans and a top.
Reaching ‘Look mum, no Hands!’ is an adventure in itself, but seeing Emily and Lee there makes every effort worth it! Some 20-30 odd chairs are vacant and I struggle to go and make myself comfortable on one. Instead, I decide to go up to Emily and Lee and strike up a conversation, hopefully, without stammering. It might be looking more like I’m fan-girling both of them, but to me, it doesn’t matter.
After listening to the amazing adventures of the badass ladies, I feel super-embarrassed to talk in front of everyone about my world tour record attempt. I remember of every meeting I’ve ever screwed up because I couldn’t speak confidently or because I always thought “I’m too amateur to say that”
So, it all goes pretty well, and the stories continue. There’s a lot I can relate to and it’s Just too much fun to listen to the ladies!
After a drink or two and chocolate brownie, I head straight back home ,and around midnight when I reach, I head out again for some sight seeing without being snappy. Why? Because I can.
When I cycle to London again, I’m most certainly doing it in the night. It’s just so good.
At around 2 a.m., I get the text of having to reach at Caren Hartley’s workshop at 10 a.m. and the first thing that pops in my head is, “When the hell do I get a bit of sleep!”. A little thought later, I come to a realisation that going out for the night ride was my decision and even if it was a bit wrong, It’s done, and I can’t change it, so I should just go with it.
A few hours later, I make it to the workshop, well in time and all I can think of is, “I need some sleep but I can’t sleep on the bike.”
Getting some food, we head out for our bike ride to Brighton. I genuinely feel like I fit in.
Not even 25km into the ride, I feel the urgent need to pee and we find a toilet in the cafe and it’s all soon sorted. I find myself being super chatty on the bike, asking questions, getting the advise and time just flowing by. This is when I actually feel the support that I’m getting. Every advise, every training ride, every day is just getting me closer to my goal. It feels good to finally have one.
We stop at a pub some 30 kilometres before Brighton. I try dozing off on the chair but I feel heartbroken on the lost Peanut butter jar, my friend’s water bottle and the 4 energy bars.
Lesson learnt: I’m never ever ever again keeping anything onto the bungee cords on the Apidura saddle bag.
After a few more easy kilometres, we hit the climb before Ditchling Beacon and I soon feel my muscles burning. Trying harder than I thought I’d need to, I reach the top, Emily, Lee, and Caren waiting with huge smiles.
Some pictures later, we’re soon making our way to Brighton, which is now only a few kilometres of headwind away. I’m swayed across the road but I try to keep up the pace. We soon reach Brighton pier and I look more like I would after a rainy off-ride Canford Heath ride.
Finding our way to the pub, soon there are a few drinks on the table and then a few pizzas. After a few drinks, cycling back to Bournemouth seems impossible. I decide to have the pizza, drink the whisky, give my head some time and then leave.
I book a hostel dormitory and decide to take a nap for a couple of hours. When I get out of the pub, I feel super cold and keep missing turns in spite of having google maps guiding me. For a second, I think back to the time when I booked myself into a motel and the motel simply didn’t exist. Even the thought of that terrifies me. I finally get there. It’s a dodgy place with 3 guys in the room- half naked. The room stinks. But all I can think of is the bed. My bike, Nemo, sits steady in the bar downstairs. I have never been so worried.
A couple of hours later, I wake up with rising panic for no apparent reason. I soon realise that it’s just one of those unlucky times when my body wouldn’t want to rest. I feel hungover but I need to make a move.
Still sleepy, I slip off the staircase due to the super-slippery road cycling shoes, and land on my arse at the bottom of the staircase. My saddle bag, food pouch and top tube pack are all over the place. I take everything and ask the guy for coffee. I remember him saying I can get one.
The room smells of weed. My bike is safe, the coffee is served, and he sits right in front of me trying to find ways to strike up a conversation. So much for the small talk!
I soon leave and it’s pretty cold outside. I roughly plan the route, avoiding the main road, for a change. The aim is to reach by midday, well in time, before the Student rep training at 2:30pm, Thursday. Around 180-200km missing the most straightforward road. I only know too well that the distance is gonna increase, which it does, if I lose my way. Yet, it doesn’t sound too bad.
As much as I’d love to say that it’s easy, all fun and no struggle, it actually wasn’t all that fun with the hungover and sleepy head and hungry tummy.
Just after sunrise, I stop for some food and eat a full English Breakfast and a couple of cappuccinos, in a vague hope of losing my urge to find camping spots on the sides of roads and hugging the trees.
I take a short 20 minute nap before I head off again, and I feel better, if not fresh as flower!
As I enter the New Forest, my excitement gets on a whole new level and It feels home. It’s the route I’ve trained the most on. I get into a bit of the training mode, and once in Christchurch, I see a lycra clad cyclist cycling past me. I’m not gonna lie, he cycles away so fast that I feel some kind of inferiority complex. I try to pace him, but I simply can’t. Well, looks like there’s not a lot you can do with your bike fully loaded and head aiming for the bed to get some sleep. In this moment, I learn that sometimes, you can only do what’s on your list, what you’re prepared for and maybe, what you believe is the right thing to do. I cruise along and get on the Wimborne road, a kilometre away from my home. This time, the roadie stops right in front of me at the traffic lights. 30 seconds later, I’ve crossed him, and with a wide grin on my face, I sprint my way onto the lane to my house. I’m back to Bournemouth half an hour before I had planned to reach.
Seeing Nemo standing strong at the door, I forget that I was actually super sleepy or hungover.
And even if I was, a good coffee, a cheesy omelette and a shower can fix everything.