It was 9:30 before I left the comfort of the Premier Inn south of Northwich. The sun was shining, and all I had to do was navigate myself back onto the Route, and my favoured A49 that I was going to follow as far south as I could. Although I was riding along a dual carriageway, there were road works, so I had the safety of the closed carriageway to ride in. My mood felt better than yesterday, but sunshine tends to have that effect. I knew I was heading towards home, and I was determined to enjoy the day. It wasn’t long before people started appearing in laybys to wish me well. Some people flagged me down, to talk to me, but for others I rode on past, with an attempt at a cheery wave.
Back on track, I started looking for a café for some breakfast, and I was in the mood for a full English to see me on my way. Soon I came across a lovely café by a river, and settled to catch up on Facebook group postings, drink numerous cups of tea and use the facilities. I noticed though that the power on my devices was running low. They hadn’t charged properly overnight, and running the trackers from both my tracker device and a 2nd one on my phone, was severely draining battery. I was charging my Garmin on the go with my dynamo, but I my phone just wouldn’t charge quick enough when plugged in. I had stupidly left our portable power pack in the van with Del, and it became obvious that I would need to recharge a couple of time during the day. I panicked a little and remembered a very kind offer from Super Hero Paul.
“When you are back in my area, if you need ANYTHING just let me know”
Now, I’m really bad at asking for help, especially from people I barely know. But one thing that this ride has taught me was when people offer their help, they actually mean it. I know, who knew!! So I called Paul, and asked if he had a charged up power bank that I could borrow. As luck would have it, he did, and also offered spare emergency lights, and a bit of bike maintenance. I did have a rather annoying noise on my bike, so he said he’d take a look.
So a short while later, I was flagged down again in a layby, but this time it was Paul. He went straight into support mode, handing me the power pack and lights, a banana, some water, and some marmite biscuits, the like of which I haven’t seen before or since. He took a look over my bike, cleaned and oiled the noisy parts, and I took a few moments to rest. He brought along with him cheeriness and humour too, something that I hadn’t really realised that I badly needed. You see, despite the fact that I was enjoying riding in the sunshine, my anxiety was starting to rise as I wasn’t making much progress or riding very quickly.
“You’ll be pleased to know that I’m still wearing the Supergirl badge that your daughter gave…….Oh no, where is it?” I gasped. I was genuinely upset! It wasn’t just the badge though, it was the whole high viz strap set that it was pinned too that was missing. I checked my bags, but no sign. I knew exactly where it was – in the ladies loo at the cafe by the river, some 25 miles back. Normally I would have been happy to leave it there. But, it was the only high viz that I had with me, having decided that I would wear it all the time I was riding so it didn’t take up saddle bag space. And, with main roads at night, I knew that I needed it. Paul , seeing my distress, once again sprang into action and said he’d go back and get it, and then meet me further down the road. He earned his super hero status there and then, and ensured my safety further down the road.
High Viz (& SuperGirl badge) retrieved, I set back off again, but a lot of time had passed, but not so many miles.
Still a long road ahead
Temporary insanity had me believing that despite the fact that it was already now well into Day 10, I might still be able to make it to Lands End by the end of the next day. My theory was that if I could make it over the Severn Bridge that day, then it was around 200 miles to the end, and I had one that northbound by 11 pm, so why couldn’t I do it again southbound and finish before midnight. As I said, I blame temporary insanity. I had barely been able to make 150 miles a day, and I was riding self-supported now. Things were now very different.
I had become a bit of an emotional wreck. I wasn’t knocking off many miles despite the easy navigation (I just stuck with the A49), and even though people would periodically pop up in laybys to cheer me on, I had the overwhelming desire to just burst into tears. I kept on peddling, but after a Starbucks stop (at Shrewsbury), I eventually made it to Ludlow where I stopped at a petrol station. It was already early evening and yet I had barely ridden 65 miles. My spirits sank to an all time low. I bought some food and a hot drink, rested my head on a picnic table, and by the time I woke up the sun had set. I called Del, I just needed to talk, and he gave me good news. He had decided to come back and continue supporting me. It wouldn’t be quite so hands on as before, as he would effectively be working out of the van. But he would be at key points, be able to carry my stuff, and be a mobile bed again. He would meet me further down the route and help me get to the Severn Bridge. Then I called Trevor, my coach and had another cry.
Eventually I set off again, refuelled, and just about awake, I put my headphones on again, and started to enjoy the last remnants of the day, and the now peaceful roads.
I met Del at Hereford, where I was fed, changed into clean clothes, and ditched much of what I was carrying. It was midnight before I left, after just 100 miles ridden.
Riding with the expert
Andy Stewart had been keen to ride into England with me, and had left home in Bath a few hours earlier. He rode out to meet me between Hereford and Monmouth. He has previous history with LEJOGLE, having ridden it with Ben Rockett back in 2010 when he clinched the record (although in the end not recognized by Guinness). Having someone riding with me, and chatting to me about anything and everything, helped to keep me awake. We stopped for a moment at Tintern Abbey, just to look at it all lit up, and then made it our mission to get over the Severn Bridge. He had a very clear reason for wanting to ride that part of the ride with me, and you can read his story here.
Once on the bridge, sleep deprivation hit. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. Despite the fact that my accommodation was just over a mile away, I had to stop riding and shut my eyes for a minute or two. But, eventually we arrived at the Severn View services, at 4am. The total mileage was just 135 miles, and I had ridden for 11 hours….the rest of the time I was off the bike!
I didn’t sleep for long enough, despite deciding that I would sleep for as long as possible, so that I could make a solid push for Lands End without stopping. Again, I harboured that delusional feeling that I could reach Lands End either by the end of the day, or in the early hours. If I did it before 6:38am then I would still have ridden it in 10 days and some hours.