Distance travelled: 50.11 miles
Cumulative distance: 731.66 miles
Distance remaining: 4268.34 miles
Percentage complete: 14.63
Villages visited: Swanton Morley, Elsing, Lyng, Whitwell, Reepham, Salle, Wood Dalling, Thurning, Hindolveston, Foulsham, Pockthorpe, Bintree, Billingford, North Tuddenham, Mattishall, South Green, Welborne, Brandon Parva, Barnham Broom, Barford, Colton, East Tuddenham.
Today was the biggest ride yet of this campaign. I did 66 miles in a day at the end of my previous fundraising adventure, but this was by far my longest ride of #5000colo so far.
I asked Alexa if it was going to rain and she was adamant it wasn’t, so I didn’t bother packing my overshoes. Error. Halfway to the start point at Swanton Morley the rain started, and got gradually heavier. It had mostly stopped by the time we reached the event site, but the prospect of cold, wet toes for 50 miles had certainly dampened my spirits somewhat.
I registered, attached my number (178) to the front of my bike, and then went to set off. However, the lady at the start gate told me that I should do the second loop twice, as the first loop was very wet and muddy and one rider had fallen off.
When I explained to her what I was doing, and the conditions I’ve been riding in on my campaign so far, she told me I could do the first loop at my own risk but she advised against it. Undeterred, and determined not to miss out on the opportunity to grab some more villages, I set off.
There were a couple of sharpish climbs in the first few miles, but I soon settled into a rhythm and found the first loop relatively straightforward. Sure, there were some very wet and muddy sections, but nothing compared to what I’ve been through on the really stormy days.
I found myself overtaking quite a few people, and managing to keep within sight of a couple of riders in front of me who seemed to be riding at around my pace. I caught up to them a couple of times, but I’m generally slower on the climbs and need more recovery time once I’ve reached the summit, so they pulled away again.
As I passed 20 miles, I realised that I was still over 15mph average speed, which was way beyond my expectations; I decided I was going to push hard to complete the first loop above 15mph, and then take it steady on the second loop. The last couple of miles of the first loop were really tough, with a couple of proper hills (by Norfolk standards, anyway), and then a long incline back through Swanton Morley.
My new saddle was treating me beautifully, with no sign of chafing or saddle sore at all. However, my glutes and the tops of my hamstrings were really aching due to the exertion of riding faster than I was used to, so I was pretty exhausted by the time I got to the end of the loop.
I refilled my hydration backpack, grabbed a snack from the food stop, and cleaned the worst of the muck out of my brakes. After a few stretches I decided to crack on with the second loop.
To my surprise, I was easily keeping up my 15mph pace, and the terrain seemed a little easier than earlier in the ride. I started flagging a little bit around 35 miles, and my lower back was starting to get really quite painful, but I powered through and by 40 miles it was a bit more manageable.
I then rode with another fella for a few miles, who kept me entertained and motivated as I neared the end. I was then buoyed by the sight of Katie and my parents on the side of the road to cheer me as I rode by, which really spurred me on.
I made it back inside the target time of 3:20 hours, averaging 15.1mph, which I was absolutely blown away by. I had no idea I had that in me, and although I was pretty exhausted by the end, I did feel that if I’d have paced myself a bit more steadily I could probably have done 75. There’s always next year for that, though!
I collected my medal, had a lovely chat with the lady from Break (the charity that Norfolk Cycling Events raises money for), and then bought all the beers off their stall. Then had a natter with the fellas from Paul’s Cycles in Dereham, who were offering the mechanical support for the riders.
I absolutely loved the sportive experience; the presence of so many other riders spurred me on, even though I rode the vast majority of the route alone. It remains to be seen how I feel tomorrow, but right now I feel incredibly proud of myself.
My fundraising broke through the £1,000 barrier today, which is great. I’m super grateful to everyone who’s donated so far, but I still aim to raise £25,000 by the time I’m done, so please keep spreading the word! Telling people about what I’m doing is a good way to start conversations about mental health, which is more important than ever in these strange times.