It promised to be another glorious day,. I asked the hotel to phone its sister hotel in Northampton for a price, they wanted £70 with breakfast…Me hole I said, and me a poor public servant.
With the threat of a change in weather, gale force winds coming up from the south on Thursday. I decided to go for broke, and as I was feeling so good, my original plan to kill tow days in Nottingham were scraped, and now I was aiming for London for Wednesday.
So I get on the road early, feeling really good. More focused on getting the feeding right, starting with a good breakfast, every 20k snacking and fluids, 45/50k off the bike Scone and soup, 70k sandwich/Burger and from there on in energy drinks….
I’m feeling so good, I contemplate a big one day push to Oxford..165k, I consider texting James Bodels to Google a route, and confirm the distance. Now with the freedom of not having prebooked accommodation, I’m free to chase down the miles.
Once again I use the Satnav to get me out of Nottingham’s deserted Monday morning streets. Cycling by Notts County FC grounds only a stone throw away from its more famous and successful Nottingham Forests Grounds and its big Brian Clough Stand. I rack my brain to remember what year was it they won the European Cup. It was one of those Where were you when..Elvis died, John Lennon was shot, When the twin towers came down…..and When Brian Clough won the European Cup…some time in the late 70’s.
On I cycle, out through its well to do cherry blossomed suburbs and the freedom of the open road. Ah the English do have style. You wont find a lump of granite slapped at a cross roads commerating a glorious bateing, where three Pikemen on their way home from a Rebellion and a feed of pints got the livin shite bate out of them by 500 hundred Redcoats. No the English build cenotaphs and monuments and lay poppy wreaths to celebrate victory and empire. And there isn’t a town in England that doesn’t have one slapped in the Town square.
Having said that for a country that once ruled the waves and had an empire where the sun never set…you would think they could brew a decent pint of beer….
So there I was, loving every moment of my grand adventure, when out of the blue. I drained. at 30k outside Nottingham, like a second hand Duracell battery bought from the fat woman on Moore street…my heart rate went through the roof, and my legs just died. I drop from an average speed of 26k to 12/16 k an hour. I am breathless on the smallest climbs. For the first time I’m a bit worried, I now have a decision to make. With a long day ahead…..my head explodes, what’s gone wrong, I’ve been eating right, is it the coffee, is it the sugar, or something in the energy drinks…Now I’m dropping gears to the floor to crawl over the smallest bump. So this is it “Saol fada agus bas san Eireann” my only wish. Instead, here I am limping along in a foreign land on a quiet country road, a heart attack waiting to happen. So I plod on, deciding to hold up in the next town Milton Morbray, to make a decision.
(This happened once before to me, on the Mount Leinster Challenge, I ended up walking up over the Carrabut Gap…and I’ve never forgiven it since).
On I go, checking my pulse, nodding at Sunday cyclists as they zip up their hills. Sun shines, blue skys, gentle breeze cools me down. I start counting road kill, 4 Badgers, 1 Stoat, 2 Rabbits, a Ferret with bandit eyes and even a deer…Listening to my heart pound, promising myself to quit if I get a chest pain. I’ve decided that I’ve had enough, enough long distance cycling, enough of Wicklow 200 moments. Where you hit a certain point on a cycle, and you have no choice, no matter how drained, how tired, how fked you are, there is no turning back, you have no choice but to ride on. With no where to turn, it just makes for a very long day.
At 60k I pull into Market Harborough, the back of the trip broken, the heart rate settling. It could have been a brilliant days cycling. The town square was a hive of tourists and locals, and parked up Sunday cyclists. We attract one another. It must be the lycra. I talk to several. One tells me that this area is great for cycling as the hills are a great challenge. I smile smugly, you would wet yourself if you saw Mt Leinster ( how we take it for granted) I climbed your hills with a racing pulse…
I find a neat cafe and order pizza and coke, and watch the world go by. Two locals ask me “What part of Dublin are you from”. When I tell him Palmerstown, he replies “That’s nears Ballyfermot, isn’t it”. I could tell by your accent. I grin like a Cheshire cat, and think that the Taxi driver in Darlington is only a wanker….
Its amazing how quickly you recover after a feed, my heart rate settles, the hours break did me the power of good, and I’m ready to go again. I load up, say goodbye to my new best friend, with 40k left and the town of Daventry, outside Northampton ear marked for a nights rest. As I slip down quiet country roads through the villages of Nasby, West Haddon and there in the distance Daventry, from a distance it looks good, with a100k covered it looked promising for a nights accommodation…But like a peroxide blonde that looks good, in the distance with too much make up, the closer I got, the more disappointed I felt. Aldi was the high light of this town. Everyone in Daventry had a shaven head, a tattoo and a pint in their bank holiday hand. and that included the women. With no sign of any accommodation, everyone I asked pointed me towards a run down closed up Faulty towers with sun faded magazines in its closed lobby.
It was four in the evening. I checked the map. You can make an awful stupid decision when your tired and hungry. I once again considered making a run for Oxford 65k away. Decided to circle the town once more, and by chance met two joggers, for the second time. They advised me to double back three miles to Weaton and a Holiday Inn. And that was the best decision of the day. Leaving the lost town of Daventry behind, where the best and brightest had long abandoned ship to London, and the rest recruited by the Army, while those left behind washed their second hand souped up sports cars on a Sunday, and went to the job centre on a Thursday.
Weaton was a strange little village, cut in half by a motorway, tired and run down, and yet had a bridal shop and a bike shop and a tidy busy pub with the best accommodation of my trip. So I pulled in , showered, had a feed, sorted the bike, the bottles and then to bed. And in the evenings, you sip a lone pint, all of a sudden missing home. Now having broken the back of the journey, looking forward to London. and home. Send texts, touch base. Strange, when not cycling, not travelling the evenings can be very empty.