#5000colo Day 81: Penguins v. Anxiety

Distance travelled: 23.45 miles
Cumulative distance: 1398.17 miles
Distance remaining: 3601.83 miles
Percentage complete: 27.96
Villages visited: Bradenham, Necton, Holme Hale, Ashill, Saham Toney, Great Cressingham, South Pickenham, North Pickenham.

It’s been a rough old day today; anxiety levels through the roof, black dog hanging on with grim determination.

I managed to get out and ride, though; I rode around the villages in which I grew up (Necton and Bradenham) and that dredged up a load of old memories and emotions. Some good, some not so good, but as ever it was a positive step to get out the house.

I also saw a buzzard today! Not quite as exciting as last week’s red kite, but watching birds of prey on the wing is a massive bonus on any ride.

By the time I got home I was emotionally and physically drained, and close to tears. Katie made me put on *all* my penguin Christmas garments (I’m even wearing penguin Christmas boxers under the lounge pants), and this cheered me up no end.

Let’s all embrace the festive season and try extra hard to be excellent to each other, yeah? It’s been a crazy old year, and we could all use the positivity. Be good, Norfolk, and I’ll see you in December…

#5000colo Day 79: Beer & Burger

Distance travelled: 27.26 miles
Cumulative distance: 1374.72 miles
Distance remaining: 3625.28 miles
Percentage complete: 27.49
Villages visited: Tibenham, Tivetshall St Margaret, Tivetshall St Mary, Gissing, Burston, Shimpling, Dickleburgh, Rushall, Pulham Market, Pulham St Mary, Shelton, Hardwick, Starston, Harleston.

Decided to ride in south Norfolk today, as I wanted to treat myself to a Fupburger at The Cap in Harleston (and get some tasty Ampersand beer takeout!).

It was a really, really tough ride today; on paper it looked easy enough, but a combination of saddle sore, sore neck and mindset made it really challenging. I didn’t really enjoy it very much, the saddle sores were still problematic (although not as bad as they have been), my neck was sore pretty much from mile one, and it was pretty flat, grey and uninspiring (with my apologies to the residents of the villages I passed through).

Still, Katie had a Fupburger waiting for me at the end, which made everything worthwhile! Now I’m back in the warm, waiting for the Norwich match to kick off. Come on you yellows!

#5000colo Day 78: Guess Who’s Back?

Distance travelled: 27.15 miles
Cumulative distance: 1347.46 miles
Distance remaining: 3652.54 miles
Percentage complete: 26.95
Villages visited: Woodbastwick, Panxworth, South Walsham, Fishley, Acle, Damgate, Moulton St Mary, Halvergate, Tunstall, South Burlingham, North Burlingham, Burlingham Green, Hemblington, Blofield Heath.

It feels so good to be back on the bike! I’ve had five consecutive blank days waiting for my saddle sores to recover, but today was just ace.

For starters, I popped in to see the lovely folks at @woodfordestap in Woodbastwick, and they gifted me this awesome Volt IPA cycling jersey, as well as a case of delicious Nog to enjoy.

They also shot a short video with me to go on the Woodforde’s social media accounts, so keep your eyes open for that!

Meanwhile, out on the road, it was pretty hard going, but that’s to be expected after five days off. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and got to see a couple more of those tiny ‘one road in, one road out’ villages in Fishley and Tunstall.

I love this county so much, and I can’t wait to get back out there and explore the rest of it. Might be making my first trip to King’s Lynn next week!

#5000colo Day 72: Pioneering Pilgrimage

Distance travelled: 27.39 miles
Cumulative distance: 1320.31 miles
Distance remaining: 3679.69 miles
Percentage complete: 26.41
Villages visited: Fulmodeston, Barney, Thursford, Hindringham, Great Walsingham, Little Walsingham, Houghton St Giles, North Barsham, West Barsham, East Barsham, Great Snoring, Fakenham, Hempton, Little Snoring, Kettlestone.

Firstly, I am delighted to say I am now a ‘Pioneer’ for cycling in North Norfolk on Komoot! If you haven’t used Komoot before, I wholeheartedly recommend it; it’s somewhere between Strava and social media, but with much better navigation and mapping than Strava. You can add photos and highlights, and there’s a real sense of community about it. It’s free to sign up, and you can unlock free mapping and navigation for one ‘region’. If anyone’s interested in joining up, drop me a message and I’ll happily talk you through it.

So anyway, after yesterday afternoon’s exhilarating ride, today’s was a bit more pedestrian. The wind was an absolute pig for large portions of it, and I think I had a little bit of cumulative fatigue from yesterday. As such, I struggled to even reach 14mph today, which is very slow by my new and improved standards.

I stopped at the shrine in Walsingham; I’ve known since I was a kid that people make pilgrimages there, but not being of a religious disposition I’ve never really investigated. I’ve seen it called ‘England’s Nazareth’, and apparently a local noblewoman saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary in Walsingham in 1061, in which she was instructed to build a house replicating one in Nazareth where the holy family lived.

This shrine existed until the Reformation under Henry VIII, when it was looted and destroyed. However, it was restored in the late 19th century, and remains an important pilgrimage site in both the Catholic and Anglican religions.

Coming out of Walsingham, I was lucky enough to see a short-eared owl out on the hunt; I’m pretty sure it was a short-eared owl, as it had black patches around its eyes and looked a bit too dark and mottled to be a tawny owl.

Then, around the outskirts of Fakenham, I saw a huge bird of prey circling right above me, which was quite spectacular. Further investigations lead me to be pretty certain it was a red kite. What a treat!

Got home in time to watch Norwich and England win in the football and rugby respectively; my beloved Canaries are now top of the league! 😀

#5000colo Day 71: Chilly and Hilly

Distance travelled: 34.30 miles
Cumulative distance: 1292.92 miles
Distance remaining: 3707.08 miles
Percentage complete: 25.86
Villages visited: Hellesdon, Colney, Barford, Carleton Forehoe, Coston, Crownthorpe, Wymondham, East Carleton, Intwood, Cringleford, Eaton.

I took two days off to rest my saddle sores, and was absolutely itching to get back out on the bike today. It was also Radio 6 Music’s ‘Wear Your Band T-shirt To Work’ day, so I chose to ride in my Toots and the Maytals shirt, in honour of the legendary Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert, who passed away in September. I was lucky enough to see Toots perform at the UEA back in 2018, and it remains one of my fondest gigging memories.

The weather was pretty benign when I left Norwich, although noticeably chillier than it had been on any previous ride. I didn’t mind the biting cold on my face, and after a few miles after I’d warmed up, it was actually quite refreshing.

I headed out west today, to tick off a few little villages I’d missed: Carleton Forehoe, Coston, Crownthorpe and Intwood. I stopped for a few minutes at Crownthorpe, by which time the daylight had pretty much gone (the photo below makes it look a lot lighter than it actually was!) and it had started raining.

The next ten miles or so were absolutely awesome. I barely passed another vehicle until I reached Wymondham, and then the back roads between Wymondham and Norwich were absolutely deserted.

It does require a remarkable level of concentration riding in those conditions. It’s so pitch black that you can only see what your headlight allows you to see, giving the whole affair a somewhat ‘Blair Witchy’ feel to it. And when it’s cold and wet too, you are literally focusing second by second on the road ahead of you.

Look down at the sat nav for a split second to check the road ahead… look back up, let your eyes adjust to the light, keep your eyes on the road surface to check for potholes, puddles and debris… flick your eyes upwards to check for car headlamps… it’s basically those three things on repeat, every few seconds, non-stop.

It’s really exhilarating, feeling so detached from everything but your immediate vicinity. All the work issues, the mental health problems, the day-to-day worries and concerns, just dissipate into nothingness as you zone in on the immediacy of potential danger. The senses are heightened: the feel of the rain pin-pricking your face. The sound of distant vehicles, magnified to appear closer than they are. The sight of dancing patterns from illuminated branches in your peripheral vision.

And then, when you finally get back into civilisation, the tantalising smell of everyone’s dinner as you ride through the suburbs. Burnt toast, something very garlicky… was that bacon I got a whiff of? And riding past a fish-and-chip shop is exquisite agony.

Today was quite a hilly ride, by all accounts; almost 1,500ft of elevation, which is quite a lot for Norfolk. I think I might try and find some more challenging hilly routes now my fitness seems to be improving a bit!

It felt so good to be back on my bicycle today, it really did. Definitely going again tomorrow.

#5000colo Day 68: The Quarter Master

Distance travelled: 34.83 miles
Cumulative distance: 1258.62 miles
Distance remaining: 3741.38 miles
Percentage complete: 25.17
Villages visited: Westfield, Whinburgh, Yaxham, Clint Green, Thuxton, Garvestone, Reymerston, Hardingham, Hackford, Deopham, Great Ellingham, Little Ellingham, Scoulton, Carbrooke, Ovington, Shipdham.

I’ve reached one-quarter distance! That’s 1,250 miles down, just 3,750 to go. I feel like I’m making good progress, although the saddle sores are really problematic right now. Not sure whether to just push on until the pain becomes unbearable, or take a few days off to rest them. I really want to carry on, but if they’re still really bad even though I’ve only been riding every other day, I should probably rest up. I’ll see how I feel in the morning and make a decision based on that.

Today was, I believe, my longest continuous ride; I was going to stop for a five-minute break, but the opportunity never really materialised and I kept pushing through. Were it not for the saddle sores, I reckon I could have carried on for a while.

No photos today, sorry. I’m getting fatigued with all the chronicling and social media-ing; I think I’m going to cut back on my social media for a while just to keep myself sane. It wouldn’t be so bad if I felt I was actually gaining a lot of traction; I can’t afford to just let it grow organically, as I’ll be finished within six months (all being well). Answers on a postcard…

#5000colo Day 66: The Great North Run

Distance travelled: 50.05 miles
Cumulative distance: 1223.79 miles
Distance remaining: 3776.21 miles
Percentage complete: 24.48
Villages visited: Diss, Shelfanger, Winfarthing, Banham, Old Buckenham, Attleborough, Besthorpe, Morley St Peter, Morley St Botolph, Wicklewood, Kimberley, Barnham Broom, Hockering, Lyng, Sparham, Whitwell, Reepham, Salle, Corpusty, Saxthorpe, Gresham, Aylmerton, West Runton.

Having taken another day off yesterday, I was determined to make up some mileage today. Katie had offered to drive me wherever I wanted to go, so I concocted a 50-miler that took me from the very south of the county in Diss to the very north at West Runton.

I’d originally planned to ride from north to south, starting at Beacon Hill, which is Norfolk’s highest point. However, a quick check of the wind direction showed that it would be coming from the south, prompting me to reverse my route. I managed to plot in a few more villages I’d missed along the way, as well as making my first venture into the Diss area.

I started in Diss, and the first few miles were absolutely glorious. It was raining, but not heavily, and the wind was tearing along behind me. I was actually over 20mph average speed for a little while, but that soon evened itself out.

At various points on the journey I had to ride through ‘lakes’ across the road; this generally involved building up as much speed as possible, lifting my legs up and freewheeling through to minimise saturation. The Sealskinz waterproof socks were absolutely awesome again; 50 miles without letting in a trace of moisture and keeping my feet from getting too cold.

I absolutely flew through Attleborough, but then a challenging climb after Barnham Broom golf course took the edge off my progress a bit. I then had to ride a mile or so along the A47 in a crosswind, which was a bit hairy, but I got to my half-way stop at Hockering 15 minutes ahead of schedule, averaging over 18mph!

I had a drink and a stretch and ate a protein bar, but I was so fast that Katie didn’t make it to meet me with the support vehicle. I pressed on, and Katie caught up with me in Corpusty to refill my water pouch and give me a bit of moral support.

The second half of the journey was, understandably, a lot slower; the roads were narrower, dirtier and more undulating, plus I was starting to feel the burn by around 35/40 miles. Then there was one last climb up from Aylmerton to the Roman Camp and Beacon Hill, followed by a gloriously exhilarating downhill surge to the sea at West Runton.

The bike was an absolute state at the end, but I felt pretty good considering. The wind was definitely my friend today, but I feel like 100 miles in a day wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility; I’ll try to squeeze in a few more 50-plus-milers in the coming months, and try to move that distance up towards three figures.

#5000colo Day 64: Ever Onwards…

Distance travelled: 30.88 miles
Cumulative distance: 1173.74 miles
Distance remaining: 3826.26 miles
Percentage complete: 23.47
Villages visited: Howe, Brooke, Seething, Mundham, Sisland, Loddon, Chedgrave, Hardley, Langley Street, Langley, Heckingham, Norton Subcourse, Thurlton, Raveningham, Hales.

I’m finding it quite tough at the moment. I’ve only been out on alternate days this week, which really isn’t conducive to getting this thing finished by May. Obviously if I don’t finish by May, it’s no biggie; I’ll get there when I get there.

But the donations have dried up, the days are all merging into one, and lockdown means I can’t stop anywhere or see anyone on my rides. I’m sure if I keep plugging away something will happen eventually; I’m hoping to do some content with Woodforde’s soon, which is quite exciting. Can’t wait until the pubs are open again, so I can plan rides to take in a pint at the finish!

I gave it everything today, and did 30+ miles at almost 16mph, which is pretty good. I just need to keep stitching the days together back-to-back, rather than taking days off for no reason other than not being able to motivate myself. I need to keep reminding myself that my bike and my freedom are wonderful gifts, and I should be thankful that my body allows me to undertake this challenge.

There wasn’t anything especially notable on today’s ride, except an idiotic woman in a 4×4 who ran me off the road in Loddon; she was so close to me I had to take evasive action, but I slapped her wing mirror with my hand as I went past to perhaps give her the impression that she might have actually hit me. She just carried on, oblivious.

I really must get myself a helmet-mounted camera, as on today’s evidence it’s only a matter of time before someone knocks me off. Still, every mile counts, and that’s another 0.6% of my total distance ticked off today!

#5000colo Day 62: We Will Remember Them

Distance travelled: 23.95 miles
Cumulative distance: 1142.86 miles
Distance remaining: 3857.14 miles
Percentage complete: 22.86
Villages visited: Spixworth, Frettenham, Brampton, Burgh-next-Aylsham, Buxton, Lamas, Little Hautbois, Great Hautbois, Coltishall, Horstead.

A poignant ride today, as I reflected on the millions who lost their lives protecting our freedom in the two World Wars. I paused for a moment of quiet contemplation at the war memorial in Coltishall, thinking about the size of my cycling campaign and how incredibly small and insignificant it is in comparison to what those brave men must have gone through over several years of war.

Whenever my shoulder muscles flared up, or the saddle sores gave me a sharp reminder of their existence, I put my pain in perspective and kept riding, thinking about my grandfathers and great-grandfathers who served during conflict.

On a lighter note, while cycling through Great Hautbois I saw the first house with its Christmas decorations up! I’m usually adamant that nothing goes up until December (although we did have the tree up on November 30th last year). But this year has been such a drag, I’ve been considering getting the decorations up early… how soon is too soon?

Finally, another pronunciation question – how does one pronounce Hautbois? Komoot’s friendly sat nav is going with ‘Hobbiss’, and she’s been right before…

#5000colo Day 60: Waterproof Socks!

Distance travelled: 19.76 miles
Cumulative distance: 1118.91 miles
Distance remaining: 3881.09 miles
Percentage complete: 22.38
Villages visited: Felbrigg, Northrepps, Overstrand, Sidestrand, Trimingham, Mundesley, Paston, Bacton, Broomholm, Keswick, Walcott, Happisburgh, Eccles-on-Sea.

Well that was quite the adventure! A nice and easy 20-miler, with some delightful coastal riding, some challenging climbs and fab frewheel downhill sections to enjoy too.

I started in the grounds of Felbrigg Hall and rode through the beautiful rolling pastures in the grounds, with sheep wandering in the road and the curious experience of cycling over a cattle grid… didn’t trust it, but it was fine.

Then it was through Northrepps to Overstrand, and then coastal capers all the way. It was a long old climb up through Sidestrand to the spherical radar station at the top of the hill in Trimingham.

Mundesley is pretty, and Walcott too, but I’d ridden through those villages before. Then it was through Happisburgh to my final destination, Eccles-on-Sea. Katie was still a few miles away in the support vehicle, so I decided to carry the bike onto the beach for some photos.

This also gave me the opportunity to try out my Sealskinz waterproof socks. I’d bought some ankle-length ones already, but the awesome guys at Sealskinz kindly donated me a pair of knee-length cold weather socks for the winter – result!

As you can see, I went for a paddle in the sea in them, I wore them all the way home, and my feet remained dry and toasty warm! I’m not sure what kind of sorcery makes this possible, but they are truly, genuinely 100% waterproof. Quite remarkable.

Katie and I had a bit of difficulty locating each other in the gathering gloom around the potholed network of back lanes that constitutes Eccles-on-Sea, but we managed to get out eventually.