#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.

#5000colo Day 58: Bright, Not Breezy

Distance travelled: 28.60 miles
Cumulative distance: 1099.15 miles
Distance remaining: 3900.85 miles
Percentage complete: 21.99
Villages visited: Hellesdon, Costessey, Ringland, Weston Longville, Honingham, Taverham, Drayton.

It was a real pleasure to go riding with my buddy Ian this morning. Ian runs Egg Cup Web Design, and is my go-to guy for all things web and SEO. He’s kindly created and optimised this very site for me, and his ongoing support is hugely appreciated.

I plotted us quite a hilly route, by Norfolk standards; plenty of undulations, and one extremely arduous long climb from Ringland back into Taverham. Ian and his hybrid both performed admirably, and we gobbled up the 28 miles without too much trouble.

It’s just great to be able to get out and see people and have a chat during lockdown; remember that exercise with one other person from outside your household is permitted, so if anyone reading this would like me to plot them a route in the coming weeks, just shout!

Right, that’ll do for today; the Norwich match kicks off in five minutes. Come on you yellows!

#5000colo Day 57: Be More Laugh

Distance travelled: 20.30 miles
Cumulative distance: 1070.55 miles
Distance remaining: 3929.45 miles
Percentage complete: 21.41
Villages visited: Belaugh, Sco Ruston, Market Street, Tunstead, Pennygate, Barton Turf, Neatishead, Irstead, Irstead Street, Cangate, Ashmanhaugh.

After yesterday’s long(ish) and arduous coastal ride, I thought I’d have a nice easy one today.

I planned a gentle 20-mile circuit from Belaugh, a hidden gem of a village secreted away down a side road between Hoveton and Coltishall. Its population at the last census was just 134, and it has no shops or pubs. Can anyone shed any light on how to pronounce it? My sat nav made it rhyme with ‘dealer’, but I came up with at least 20 different permutations as I was riding.

The ride itself was quick, serene and relatively uneventful. It was a slow start, as the road out of Belaugh was narrow, windy and muddy, and the biggest climb of the whole route was in the first mile. I soon found my rhythm, though, and the flatness and lack of wind meant it was easy enough to get the average speed up to an impressive 16mph.

It was quite pretty around Barton Turf, Neatishead and Irstead, but nothing else on today’s route could hold a candle to my start and finish point at Belaugh Staithe. This is definitely one of my favourite spots so far; I got back just as the light was fading, so had a little photoshoot by the water.

Tomorrow morning I’m off for a ride with my buddy (and web guru) Ian, and then Sunday I might take a day off to let my saddle sores recover a bit… they’re really painful at the moment.

#5000colo Day 56: Fireworks!

Distance travelled: 30.95 miles
Cumulative distance: 1050.25 miles
Distance remaining: 3949.75 miles
Percentage complete: 21.01
Villages visited: Wells-next-the-Sea, Warham, Wighton, Binham, Stiffkey, Morston, Langham, Blakeney, Wiveton, Cley-next-the-Sea, Salthouse, Kelling, Weybourne, Sheringham, Beeston Regis, West Runton, East Runton, Cromer.

That was an eventful one! Katie had the day off today, which meant that going to the seaside was a no-brainer. I was going to ride from Cromer to Wells, but Katie suggested that the setting sun might be less problematic if I rode west to east; a quick check of the wind showed that it was also going in the same direction, so I reversed the route and we headed to Wells instead.

I set off from Wells just before 4pm, which meant another ‘setting sun’ ride; although the distance meant that I’d definitely be finishing in darkness today.

My first stop was at Binham Priory; this ruined monastery was originally built in 1091. It’s always strange to reflect on how monks would have been wandering around here more than 900 years ago, looking at the same windows and walls.

Then there was a fantastic long downhill run into Stiffkey, which was really exhilarating; the uphill that followed was relatively straightforward, and I was doing my best to stay in the 15mph zone as usual. Then there was a long slog up into Langham, only a very minor incline but enough to sap my strength.

As I travelled from Langham back towards the coast at Blakeney, I tried to take my cycling glasses off as they didn’t seem to be helping in the fading light. However, it was really fiddly trying to get them into my back jersey pockets, and they fell onto the road so I had to go back for them.

I decided to stop for a couple of minutes and eat my energy bar, but I’d left it in the car like an idiot. Still, there was another great downhill into Blakeney, and then yet another into Wiveton. I briefly took the wrong route in Wiveton, but the Komoot sat nav soon set me straight.

I reached Cley-next-the-Sea just as the last light was fading, knowing that from here onwards it was straight along the A149 for the last 12 miles. Usually it would be a crazy idea to ride along a main road in rush hour, but I figured that now we’re back in lockdown the traffic wouldn’t be too bad.

In fact, it was almost eerily quiet; there were long stretches where I couldn’t see any headlights other than my own, and it was incredibly uplifting being able to look out across the marshes to the distant sea in the near-darkness.

While my eyes readily adjusted to the darkness, my nose became acutely aware of the acrid smell of bonfire smoke hanging in the air; it seemed to follow me all the way back to Cromer. There were a few distant bangs and sparkles, but this was always going to be an unusually quiet Bonfire Night.

I had forgotten quite how hilly the coast road was between Blakeney and Cromer; it was a massive test of my mental and physical stamina, and I dropped into my lower gearset for longer than I have done on any other ride. There was a really tricky climb between Salthouse and Kelling that had me on the brink of stopping, but I managed to get up there with some very loud self-encouragement!

From there on, it was just a case of racing the clock; I wanted to maintain my 15mph pace and get to Cromer before 6pm, and I arrived four minutes early with an average speed bang on 15mph.

Then, there was only one thing left to do: get fish and chips!

#5000colo Day 55: One Down, Four To Go!

Distance travelled: 26.87 miles
Cumulative distance: 1019.30 miles
Distance remaining: 3980.70 miles
Percentage complete: 20.39
Villages visited: Bawdeswell, Foxley, Themelthorpe, Guestwick, Wood Norton, Stibbard, Little Ryburgh, Great Ryburgh, Colkirk, Horningtoft, Potthorpe, Brisley, North Elmham, Billingford.

Today I reached my first major milestone, as I passed 1,000 miles. The ride, however, did not quite go to plan. Firstly, the new bike rack that I’ve bought and attached to the car didn’t work perfectly… in other words, my bike nearly blew off the rack into the path of another vehicle at 70mph on the NDR. I’ve since worked out what the problem was and fixed it, though, so no problems there.

I then forgot to put my spare sunglasses and inner gloves into my jersey pockets; didn’t need the inners, but the sunglasses… well, we’ll come to that. After about 100 yards my pump fell out onto the road, which was a portent of things to come!

I got into a gentle rhythm and was up to around 14mph when trouble resurfaced in a big way. I’ve ridden through all kinds of mud, farm filth, sand, puddles that were more like lakes… so when I saw mud on the road ahead I carried on straight through it, taking care not to make any sudden movements…

…and then the back wheel slid out from underneath me, and I wound up face down in the middle of the road. I felt okay other than a couple of grazes, and the bike seemed alright, so I carried on.

And then, around the next corner, came a huge tractor with a giant rotating brush attachment on the front. Whatever it was I’d just ridden through, the farmers were certainly aware of it and were coming to clean it up! The mud was pretty grey and clayey, so I’m not sure if it had diesel in it or something, but it could have been worse.

I then saw a couple on bikes riding towards me, so I flagged them down and suggested that they alter their route rather than risk the same fate as me. We rode and chatted together for a most pleasant couple of miles, before I decided I should probably put my foot down and try to get some speed up. I was still aiming to collect Katie from work at 5pm, so I stepped on it.

The next issue was with the aforementioned sunglasses. I’d started the ride wearing my fully tinted shades, but as the sun began to get lower in the sky they didn’t offer me enough light to ride safely, so I took them off. I’d usually wear my cycling glasses, which have yellow lenses, but having forgotten to put them in my pocket I had no option but to ride without eye protection.

And then, on a sharp downhill travelling at close to 30mph, something flew into my eye. Pain! Panic! Aaaaargh! It took a good mile or so for the pain and eye-watering to subside, and for my vision to return to near normal.

Once I’d cleared the bug from my eye, though, the rest of the ride was marvellously serene. There was very little traffic, apart from the school bus that I chased for a few miles, and I managed to get my pace back up to 15mph by the end of the ride.

I got back to Bawdeswell just as the light was fading, and captured the village church at dusk. I had wanted to stop and capture the setting sun a few miles earlier, but my momentum carried me ever onwards.

Meanwhile, Katie had decided to get a bus into town after work anyway, so I made a detour on my way home to visit my parents for the last time before lockdown.

I wonder what the next 1,000 miles will bring? I’m aiming to get to 2,020 miles by the end of 2020, so fingers crossed for an absence of windy days and icy nights…

#5000colo Day 54: Alive and Kicking!

Distance travelled: 25.73 miles
Cumulative distance: 992.43 miles
Distance remaining: 4007.57 miles
Percentage complete: 19.85
Villages visited: Brundall, Strumpshaw, Lingwood, Blofield, Blofield Heath, Little Plumstead, New Rackheath, Rackheath, Spixworth.

I was back in the saddle today after a couple of days that got blown away by strong winds.

Firstly, I dropped into Ancestors Coffee on Magdalen Street to meet Ewan from Waterloo United FC – I’m in the process of writing an article about the club, which started during lockdown and has been steadily growing since.

They’re a brilliant community-focused organisation who will be looking to join a local league next season, and they have a real focus on using football as a way to help people with their mental health.

I then went for a 25-miler around Brundall and Blofield, riding at my favourite time of day; I love watching the light fade as I ride. It was a nice easy jaunt, which has taken me to the cusp of 1,000 miles.