Finally ridden it, the South Down’s Way

5:45am ready to go
5:45am ready to go

I have finally stopped talking about it and actually done it. In 1989 I rode the original from Burriton to Eastbourne but that was only 82 mile, who’d remember that? The current route goes from Winchester and is a full 100, Britain’s longest National Trail.

I was motivated to do this by Simon who had done 13 hours and was convinced that 10 would be possible. The target attracted me. He was going to ride with Lee and I put the idea to Jon who was immediately up for it. With three weeks to go I was committed. Prior to that, I had got back onto the mountain bike to get used to the bashing of the South Downs Way. It is a fast trail but bumpy and that was what I wasn’t used to.

Leading up to it I was hit with the fear that I’d never make it past 50 miles. I was

Garmin Live Tracker
Garmin Live Tracker on your phone or PC anyone can follow your progress

going well into uncharted territory and my blasts around Worthing seemed pretty insignificant. I had to block the fear out and rationalise. I know that there were only a couple of steep hills and that I had enough gears for both. What’s more, the two steep hills were local, I know them well and really they are neither too long nor too steep. You’ll never make it without a positive mental attitude. Those hills were Amberly Mount and Truleigh Hill. You may choose others but those were my worries.

I picked the team up at 4am. Unfortunately, Lee couldn’t make it but we had Polly along for support. I signed on, fitted my number board and suddenly found myself in race mode. What else would you expect once I’d zipped tied my number to my bike? We were off. I had set the Garmin Edge 510 up with Average speed at the top. The goal was to maintain over 16kph/10mph. Then I had speed, below that distance and finally heart rate. Even with my very poor eyesight I could just about make out each of those. If I did it again I wouldn’t bother with heart rate. I know its beating and the further we went the slower it would get. I also set it up so that we could be tracked in real time by e-mail or Facebook. The pressure was on.

Jon & Simon in good spirits at Shoreham
Jon & Simon in good spirits at Shoreham

With so many riders ahead of us it really did feel like a race as we weaved our way through the rest of the field. The only difficult part of the first section is following the route, thank you British Heart Foundation for marking the trail so well.  Passing fellow riders, easy trails, lots of roads and no hills meant we arrived and Queen Elizabeth Country Park well above our target speed. The next section to Amberly I found really tough. I got a great Strava segment time so we must have been shifting but I was hurting. I never thought I’d get past Worthing. My bum hurt, my back ached, my head ached, my hands and arms were sore and my legs were killing me. I suffered in silence trying to ensure that we never dropped below our average of 18.5kph/11.5mph. I was dying. At Amberley we had a long stop and I ate “normal food”. No gels or energy bars but a salami sandwich. Yummy! I felt normal again but quickly noticed our our average was dropping whilst standing still. From then I wanted to push on as quickly as possible at each stop. It’s one thing to lose time struggling up a hill but at least you are moving but to lose time chilling and chatting is a no-no. It is amazing how quickly the average drops and how hard it is to increase it.

Whyte 29C
Whyte 29C perfect in everyway

We were on our local trails at this stage and I began counting them off. After my sarnie I found Amberly a breeze. Bring it on! We knew the trails really well to the A27 near Lewes.  I was really confident that the bike had enough gears and that, though long, none of the hills were beyond my bike. All I had to do was pedal and we’d make it. Glancing over to the massifs of Firle & co. I looked on not with intrepidation but with joy. I couldn’t wait. Where had this enthusiasm come from?

The team happy at the finish
The team happy at the finish

By now the pace was starting to hit Simon but what he lacked in energy he made up for in determination. To be fair he and his bike were heavier than both Jon and my combined body and bike weights. Gravity doesn’t care, it takes no prisoners. I have never ridden this far before but felt fine. Of course my legs hurt but they always do. They hurt on every climb even if I am only out for an hour. We raced up the last drag from Jevington chasing a Strava time. I knew that it wouldn’t be good but at least I knew that I had 90 miles in my legs so I’d be proud whatever the time. Jon and I even had an elbow to elbow sprint that I lost just before our final descent down to the seafront. We all finished strong mimicking a team time trial as we made the final blast into the wind along the prom.

A lot of effort for just one small beer
A lot of effort for just one small beer

The weather was perfect, we had a head wind but think that the cooling effect offset the obvious negatives. We even enjoyed some cloud cover on some of the tougher sections. The support from Polly was invaluable, the Whyte 29C was faultless, the Maxxis Crossmarks as fast as ever, no punctures or mechanicals, big thanks to Gav for servicing the forks Friday evening (saved me a broken collar bone for sure), amazing work from the BHF for marking the route, thanks to nature for providing such a beautiful place to ride but most of all thanks for the motivating company of Simon and Jon without whom I would never have made it or even started it. Wasn’t that cold beer worth all the pain boys?

Simon road for the charity Your Space Your Time if you want to give him something for the effort follow this link he still needs £235 to hit target, some of the money already donated isn’t showing. I would like to thank the British Heart Foundation for their work not so much for the ride but for all that they do for those not lucky enough to have a heart as fit and strong as mine.

This lot in that order plus a salami sandwich and some malt loaf.
This lot in that order plus a salami sandwich and some malt loaf.

Bike: Whyte 29C tweaked 10.28kg/22.6lb.
Shorts: Endura MTR and lots of Chapeau menthol chamois cream
Jersey: Northwave Evolution (white to reflect the sun)with Defeet base layer
Helmet: Kask Vertigo
Shoes: Shimano M225

I drank about 8 litres of Zipvit Elite energy drink and took the nitrate gels the night and morning before the start. I must have got it just right.

The only gamble Prologo Nago Evo
The only gamble! Prologo Nago Evo did 30mins on it the day before as a test then 100miles – perfect!

Here’s the ride.

Next up I fancy trying to beat my 1989 time for the QECP to Eastbourne route.

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