Ups and Downs

Distance cycling has given me a lot over the years, but above all it’s taught me that pushing well beyond my comfort zone can yield great rewards. Pushing hard has taken me to remote and wild places, it’s shown me that I’m capable of more than I’d imagined, and it’s expanded my horizons. But, most recently, it’s landed me in bed with a chest infection!

As anyone based in the UK will be aware, this winter has been the wettest on record — flooding has swept the country, with roads washed away and homes destroyed. I’ve kept training as much as possible despite the weather, with an aversion to using a turbo trainer forcing me outside for long, dark, and damp hours.

For those not in the UK, this is what we've been up against!

For those not in the UK, this is what we’ve been up against!

As a result of getting cold and soaked one too many times, I managed to contract a nasty chest infection that kept me off the bike for nearly two weeks. I didn’t help my cause by trying to get back in the saddle too quickly, ultimately delaying my recovery.

It’s been frustrating, but in the grand scheme of things I’ve been lucky. My home hasn’t been flooded, I haven’t been seriously injured, and I’ve not lost too much fitness.

Back on the bike

Last weekend, with my chest finally beginning to feel back to normal and much less constricted, I decided to make the most of a reprieve in the weather and try to get out for a big ride. With my bivy and a sleeping bag in a saddlebag, I span away from home and made a beeline for Wales.

Not raining for a change!

Not raining for a change!

Within minutes of peddling down the road I knew that be riding into a head wind all day, but I didn’t care in the slightest. I was back on my bike and had all weekend in front of me. Progress into the wind was slow, but the skies were blue and I wasn’t in a hurry.

Not having left home until late morning, I didn’t cross the Severn Bridge into Wales until mid afternoon. The bridge is notorious for catching the strong winds that blow up the Severn estuary and today was no exception, with the wind thoroughly buffeting me as I made my way across.

Relieved to reach the other side, I made my way toward the Brecon Beacons, only stopping in Abergavenny for a quick kebab. As I headed out into the Beacons the sun began to set, tinting the hills in a soft glow — it was a brilliant moment and well worth the hard work getting there.

Peddling into the night I did a quick loop through the Beacons before heading back toward England. At around 9.30 I was approaching Hereford with about 160 miles in the bag — not a bad way to check the legs after a bit of time off the bike!

After a quick scout around for a good bivy spot, I made camp on top of a hill. The weather had closed in, but wrapped up in the warmth of my sleeping bag I didn’t care in the slightest.

Overnight the wind shifted and became fiercer, so much so that riding into Hereford for breakfast was a challenge in itself! It was just my luck that I wouldn’t have a nice tailwind on the way home.

Over breakfast, I munched on a bacon roll and had a look at the map — I didn’t fancy fighting into a fierce wind for over 100 miles, but I wasn’t ready to admit defeat. I decided to give it a go and ride to Gloucester, about 40 miles away. The resulting ride was certainly a challenge: I was stuck cycling at near 10 miles an hour and by the time I arrived I was grateful to grab the train home.

In 24 hours I’d ridden just over 200 windy miles, slept for 8 hours, and taken far more breaks than I would while racing — not a bad result and definitely something to build on over the next few weeks. It’s good to be back on the bike!

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