It’s now less than 3 weeks until my alternative end to end (e2e) from Dover to Cape Wrath and I recently finished my endurance build up. From now until the start on Saturday 8th June I am tapering down as planned by riding 200km & 300km rides interspersed with shorter local rides and turbo trainer sessions. Some of my plans have changed since the initial post so it seems a good time for an update and to share what I have been up to in recent weeks.
After a winter of 200km rides I then increased the distance to 300km rides during February and March. I had hoped to run another experiment taking my bike on a coach to Slough, ride to Jordans Youth Hostel and stay two nights and ride a DIY version of The London Orbital 300km calendar route before returning to Bath on another coach trip. Alas, other commitments meant I just could not find 3 consecutive weekdays free. This is still a route I would one day like to try so maybe sometime in the future it may happen. In my last update I had ridden my first 400km ride of the year by using my house as a sleep control at 300km then riding the final 100km during the night. During May I rode two more.
My second 400km was an anti-clockwise circuit to and from to the spa town of Llanwrtyd Wells in mid-Wales. It is also the smallest town in Britain and I used this as a ride title.
As I rode through the outskirts of Gloucester on my way to breakfast at Wetherspoons in Tewkesbury my rear tyre blew out. Before replacing an inner tube I carefully inspected the tyre for embedded glass or thorns but could find nothing. The leg westwards from Tewkesbury to my planned evening meal at Llandovery was into a headwind and this slowed my progress down although I had expected it so was not really fazed by it. Then around the 200km mark in mid-Wales my rear tyre blew out again. This time I spotted the problem instantly, a big gash in the tyre. My heart sank and the internal panic button activated. I knew beyond doubt that my one remaining inner tube would not get me far and that I may have to abandon the ride, find some accommodation and work out how to get home the following day. I also know that time is a valuable resource and not to waste it with unnecessary panic. So I ‘booted’ the inside of the tyre with some puncture patches as a temporary quick fix. I then used my second inner tube and set off for Builth Wells about 5 miles away. It was approaching 5pm and even if there was a bicycle shop in town it may be closed by the time I got there. I set off nervously hoping my repair would hold long enough.
When I got to Builth I was directed to Bike-Tec and was massively relieved that it was still open. I purchased a new tyre and 2 new inner tubes. I am very grateful to the couple who served me. You saved my ride guys, THANK YOU. I then pressed on towards Llandovery but guessed I would miss the 8pm closing time for the West End cafe, my planned food stop. So I got a take away at Llanwrtyd Wells about 8 miles before Llandovery. As I sat by the river eating it it suddenly got cold and I never really warmed up again after that.
Ironically when I got to Llandovery about 8.10pm I discovered the cafe actually stays open as a fish and chip shop until 10pm and they keep a few tables available for those that wish to sit inside and eat. The night ride through the Brecon Beacons was magical although I did need to wear every single item of clothing to stay warm. I bivvied for 90 minutes in a bus shelter to avoid getting home too early and disturbing Linda.
This ride was a classic example of when things don’t go to plan or you encounter difficulty it pays to remain calm and think things through. Have some options and if one thing does not work out try other things. That was what Builth Wells was all about. Even if I had to abandon it made sense to get there anyway as that is where I would find accommodation and transport. It just so happens I was lucky enough to get there just in time for the bike shop to still be open.
The third 400km ride was from my home spa town of Bath to Leamington Spa and back. I called this ride Spa2Spa.
This ride went much more smoothly and again I bivved around the 330km mark, this time for 180 minutes. I try to time my sleeps into 90 minute cycles to minimise the chances of waking from deep sleep. I also set my phone alarm to a soft gradual tone rather than a sudden harsh ringing alarm. Since adopting this approach I have found it beneficial. I was once woken from sleep by a helper during a 1200km calendar event and was very confused and disorientated. I believe being woken from deep sleep was most likely the cause of this.
Half way around this ride I remember thinking how good it will feel each evening on my e2e to arrive at my booked accommodation with plenty of time for food, drink and a good sleep. It was at that precise moment I felt that my endurance preparation for my e2e was complete. I cant really explain why, it was just a very strong instinct. When I got home the next morning I had my first saddle sore for about 7 months which merely seemed to confirm this instinct. My body was telling me to ease off a bit. I had considered riding a 600km DIY but every bone in my body is screaming at me this would be unwise so close to my e2e. I will now wait until August to complete my Super Randonneur series of 200, 300, 400 & 600km distances for the 2019 season.
The following week I had a holiday in Blackpool with Linda which was a good chance to relax and recuperate. On my return I rode the first of my tapering down rides, a 200km DIY to Crewekerne and back. The Saxon name for Crewkerene was Cruaern so once again I had found an appropriate ride title.
On Friday 26th May I have my final tapering long distance ride. The route is based on the audax calendar 200km route called Borders & Castles. I have just added on a link to and from the start of that roue to increase it into a 300km distance DIY audax. I have called this one “Bath Borders, Castles”
After that final distance training ride I aim to do shorter, quicker local rides a few times in the week before the e2e and some turbo trainer sessions for conditioning. So that is the ride prepartion. Now for the logistics.
Here is the end to end route plan..
Dover to Cape Wrath Itinerary
Travel to Start: Bath – Dover via National Express coach – Dover Premier Inn = 1.5 miles
Day One: Dover Premier Inn – Cambridge Travelodge = 129 miles
Day Two: Cambridge Travelodge – Boston Premier Inn = 127 miles
Day Three: Boston Premier Inn – Thirsk Premier Inn = 133 miles
Day Four: Thirsk Premier Inn – Alnwick B&B = 126 miles
Day Five: Alnwick B&B – Dunfermline Travelodge = 126 miles
Day Six: Dunfermline Travelodge – Inverness Youth hostel = 143 miles
Day Seven: Inverness Youth Hostel – Durness Youth Hostel = 125 miles
Day Eight: Durness Youth Hostel – Cape Wrath – Durness Youth Hostel = 28 miles
Day Nine: Durness Youth Hostel – Inverness Youth Hostel = 125 miles
Travel Home: Inverness – Bristol Airport via EasyJet – Bath = 24 miles
I had booked all my accommodation in November 2018 except Day five at Alnwick. I had planned to stay at the youth hostel but their booking page was not available at the time. I contacted them at the start of 2019 and was told they do not open booking until 3 months before the date. I was a bit puzzled by this as none of the other youth hostels do this. A bit of searching around revealed this newpaper article.
My instinct told me that that maybe they were reluctanct to book too far in advance because of this uncertainty and that maybe the hostel could be closed at short notice for crucial repairs. By the 3 month deadline in April there was still no option to book beyond early May so I went ahead and booked a bed and breakfast, which ironically is about 200 yards from the hostel. As of mid May the date of my visit was still not available at Alnwick youth hostel so I believe I have made the correct decision given the circumstances.
I also booked my easyJet flight last November and today I have checked in online and printed my boarding pass out. This can be done up to 30 days before the flight right up to 2 hours prior to flying.
As we were travelling by bus into Bristol for our coach journey to Blackpool I noticed that there is a bus shuttle service from Bath to Bristol airport and back. On my return I investigated this and have discovered there will be a service to Bath every 30 minutes at the time of my flight arrival. Therefore I have decided I won’t book a seat but I will try to get a ‘walk on’ ticket with my bike bag and use the bus to get back to Bath after my flight home from Inverness. Because it would mean not having to unpack my bike from its bag, re-assemble it and then ride 24 miles home. The £14 fare is a price worth paying for this convenience as by then I will most likely just want to get home. If it is not possible to take my bagged up bike on this service I will just ride home as originally planned.
Social media updates for my e2e progress on YouTube.
I recently experimented posting several ‘on the go’ updates during my Smallest town in Britain 400km ride on my YouTube channel. This was to check that I could in fact do this via wi-fi hotspots. As I should have wi-fi access at my accommodation each evening on the e2e I plan to do some daily progress updates each evening. I know I could use Instagram instead, but I do not have an account. I deliberately stick to just a select few social media sites and I even try to limit the amount of time I spend on these.
To follow my progress, my YouTube updates should be live from Friday 7th June onwards HERE
I saw this 1997 interview with David Bowie recently and it left a huge impression on me when he explained,
“The other thing I would say,” he goes on, “is that if you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you are capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. When you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”
Best wishes until then….