I had decided to not set an alarm, I was not expecting to be racing the event - just to survive for as long as possible. I knew I needed to do about 175km a day to make each time cut and the finish, so the plan was to complete the 175km needed each day as efficiently as possible.
Day 2 - I woke up (as I would every day) around 04:30, meaning I would be riding between 18-20 hours each day. I found either the light or the cold would wake me and the only way to get warm was to get moving again. I reorganized my bag as much as I could and set off.
I soon realised I had made a poor choice of camping spot, within minutes I had dropped off the high ground and passed a number of riders still asleep in their tents/bivvies in much more sheltered spots. I was here to learn...I am sure it won’t be the last time I make this mistake!
Really nice flowing hills followed for about the next 4 hours before dropping down onto the road and finding a very welcome burger van and my first warm meal of the trip.
One feature of the South Downs Way is the gates, there are lots of them! Some were great; flick the metal arm and the gate sprung open and shut behind you, others either had no hinges and just fell off or were so stiff they were almost impossible to open. There was one gate (above) surrounded by cows with a bull in the middle getting jiggy with the ladies - I let him finish before trying to get through.
Great lunch at this cycle cafe where I went for the Chris Hoy (cheese and ham toastie) and some rather nice carrot cake which I took with me to eat as a celebration for getting to the end of the South Downs Way. The skies started to darken, but the storm didn't hit until later in the afternoon. This was the start of the proper rain!
Dropping into Winchester to finish section 2, I was freezing, soaking wet and just needed to sit in the dry for a bit. I found a Subway, but due to Covid I couldn't sit inside or use the toilets, so ended up eating it in a park opposite under a tree that would occasionally let a cold blast of rain through. Sad story...I dropped a meat ball from the sub on the ground, a quick look around and a shake and I popped it in my mouth - it was a little crunchy but it tasted sooo good!
No time to feel sorry for myself, load up the GPS with the next section and head off into the New Forest to find Checkpoint 1
Riding through the New Forest was probably one of the best sections on the course so far, no traffic and wildlife every where! It was magical just as the sun was setting. Another hour or so and I made it to checkpoint 1 at about 21:45. Quick chat with Kevin and the crew, whilst we all marvelled at the kLite that remained on the whole time I was stationary and then I was off to Tescos for a top up.
Kevin advised me to stop just down the road because the next section was hard to navigate in the dark, which I did. 185km covered today and to my surprise my legs were still holding up really well - my backside had taken a pounding and was sore but other than that it was all good.
As a side note I did get into a routine each night before going to bed;
1. Clean up with a wet wipe,
2. Clear the area of sticks and stones etc..,
3. Lay the sleeping bag out in the bivvy bag,
4. Blow up the pillow and mattress,
5. Close up all the bags on the bike just in-case it rains,
6. Get some food out ready for the morning and some for going to bed,
7. Eat it,
8. Clean my teeth, then sleep, no faffing.
I always stood the bike up close to me in a safe place away from the road or trail. I would put my helmet next to me the right way up and keep my phone and GPS under it to keep them dry and easily accessible. Also, I would stand my shoes up against the bike to allow them to dry/air. I always slept in my shorts, I would take off my jersey if it was wet and put my long sleeve on ready to wear in the colder morning. The reason for wearing the kit was there wasn't room for more in my pack and it needed to dry, so I used my body heat. Yes I could possibly have taken another set, but once they are wet it’s unlikely they are going to dry the next day. By the end of day 2, my feet were in a bit of a mess, pedalling for 19-20 hours a day, add in rain and sweat and there isn't much you can do to keep them fresh, so I always took my socks off to allow my feet to breathe. Next time I will take a spare set of socks because I found the mud and dirt gets ingrained into them and it’s very hard to get it out without washing them.
Good night - another cold night coming up - see you in the morning.
HAND BUILT TITANIUM FRAMES.