Things to think about when your cycling…..Day 4, Selby-Nottingham…100kish

DSCN0766Day four, wake up dead. I’m not sure what I was expecting, or even what it was I was looking for. But the reality of this trip or any Sportive Challenge is that there is no “Eureka” moment. No sudden flash of light and a sonic boom as you descend down of the Pennines only to come out the other end with a golden glow and all knowing…

No, the reality is when cycling, all you do is think about the bike. All day long you listen, to the rhythm of the bike, the sound of the chain, the click of the gears, slipping down the cogs, the tension of the cables, the squeal of the brakes, the rattle of the frame on the chipped surface of the road, noticing any discrepancy, any change that might herald a problem. Hoping that your luck holds out.

And when your not listening to the bike. You listen to your body, the tension in your legs, the ease or pain with which you push the pedals. Focusing on every little niggling ache, picked up 20years ago in a junior B match in the shit covered phoenix park pitches. Your aching back, your pulled muscle, the drag of the rucksack on your shoulders…and the pain in your arse, that drills into your cheek with every passing mile..

You try to avoid thinking off your bladder, but you cant, it just creeps up on you. And when it does, your done for. Because as soon as the thought enters your head, it fills to the brim immediately, regardless of what your fluid intake was that day. And when that happens, you’re bursting, and distracted, and spend the next 10k ignoring the scenery, feeling every little bump, watching constantly for a hole in a hedge or a gap in a field where you can Pee in peace…

And after that you just watch the road, count the miles,  watch for climbs, listen for traffic, watch for potholes, stones glass, always watching. Watch the clouds on the horizon, are they dark, are they carrying rain are they coming to get you…Feel the wind, hoping for a break….listen for cars, and the charming lorry drivers, resenting your presence on the roads, slowing down their day, impatiently crunching gears, passing uncomfortably close. Fearing the long haul trailers, that wrap you in a swirl of wind.

And when you’re bored you think of food, what will you have at your next stop. Cycling is the best excuse for eating junk, you rationalise that you will burn it off on the bike. And when you’re really bored you count road kill, pheasants, badgers, the odd fox, and dumb ass rabbits who sit on country roads just waiting for a car to pass so they can hop out in front of it….

And so your day passes, little towns little stops little things to see to fill your day, and in the end all you want to do, is get to your finishing point, shower, feed and go to bed…

So here I am, Day 4 in Selby, waking up drained with a hint of dread for the long day ahead. I have beans, eggs and toast for breakfast. While tattooed, shaven headed bank holiday’ers sip pints at 9am on a Sunday Morning.

Someone said to me before this trip, that it was more then just a cycle. And I agreed, for the first time in my life , kids almost reared, my responsibilities to others on the ebb. I now had the freedom and time to take on this wonderful challenge. But now on this fourth day, its all about the bike, all about the day ahead, all about just getting there safely in one piece.

Its Sunday of a bank holiday, the sun is shining the breeze is gentle the skies are blue, and the English relax. Slipping quietly through sleepy Sunday towns and tidy villages, to be greeted by early morning risers, car washers, newspaper readers, coffee sippers and dog walkers with pooper scoopers at the ready. Everyone has a smile on sunny Sunday mornings. Ah yes, England is beautiful.

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I tip along quiet country roads, the motor way hums in the distance, canal barges parked up lazily. This is the life. At fifty Klms I pull into Bawtry, a busy little town its street side coffee shops and cafes alive with tourists and mingling locals. I find a tired little confectionaries, owned by a tired man who has seen it all, and makes tea and sandwiches with the butt end of a fag in his mouth, over shadowed by its more up market neighbour and waiter attended tables. But I settle for the confectionary, and its wintered broken chairs, and so does a couple of local cyclists. I’m beginning to attract them!!! Wherever I stop. I kill half an hour in their company, glad of the small talk, comparing notes and swapping stories of great cycling adventures form our past. One tells me that he did John of Groats to Landsend the wrong way around, in ten days of wind and rain, and never again. As we parted, they pointing me in the right direction, we agreed that yes Sean Kelly was an animal of a cyclist…

From there I head towards Retford, on back roads, small climbs. The landscape is flat and predictable acres and acres of bright yellow rapeseed in full bloom spread like a quilt for as far as the eye can see. Its pollen catching in your nostrils (your fked if you suffer from hayfever)

Despite the feel good feeling, the freedom of the road, the long day ahead, with not a worry in the world. It’s the little things that begin to niggle at your nerves. The constant rubbing of the chain on the derailer, the saddle buried into your arse, the ruck sack pinching your nerve…and finally the small splinter scratch in the crease of my hand, which I noticed on Day 1,in Edinburgh, annoyed me a bit on Day 2, irritated me on Day 3, and now on Day fkin 4, I’m looking for an A&E Department to have my hand amputated.

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At 70k, my day almost done, I arrive in Sherwood, 20miles outside Nottingham and I realise, now, after all these years, that no wonder the Sheriff of Nottingham could never capture Robinhood! It’s because Sherwood Forest is 20 bleedin miles outside Nottingham, for fk sake. I was kneackered cycling it on a bike, what hope had the Sheriff on a bleedin pyeball pony…

Finally, after a long enjoyable day, loving almost every minute of it. I arrive in Nottingham. Satnav doing what its meant to do, parking me outside my hotel room. There’s nothing to do in the evenings,  but sit silently in Pub in a dodgy suburb, full with Sunday afternoon Sky sports drunks, have a feed and a pint and a visit to Tescos where a pack of razors cost £7, pack up on energy drinks, water and picnic bars…and in bed by nine..Ah yes this is the life…..really, no joking, this is the life.

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