This week sees a significant jump in the proposed training mileage for our Race Against Time LEJOG at the end of June. Following a couple of months of weekly totals between 200 and 300 miles (most of which I’ve failed to meet if I’m totally honest), this week we’re asked to leap to a frankly ridiculous 440 miles – including three 100+ milers on successive days.
Today is perhaps not the best day to be considering such distances. I rather unwisely chose Sunday for this weekend’s 126-mile ride and of course it rained pretty much throughout and there was a stiff north-easterly wind, transforming what could have been a delightful saunter through the lanes of Sussex and Kent into a gruelling endurance test.
I'd cunningly opted for lightweight knee warmers instead of tights and left the sealskin socks at home, together with my overshoes. Thankfully, after some thought I had decided to wear my unwieldy, ill-fitting but effective Endura rain jacket rather than the packable but essentially useless featherlight Montane showerproof – I shudder to think what state I’d have been in if I hadn’t.
I’d chosen a route almost exclusively comprising back roads and quiet lanes, which makes for a lovely low traffic experience but which also means there are fewer places to stop and refuel. So it was more than six hours into the ride before I spotted a good place for lunch – a fantastic café called Wessons in Horam near Heathfield. By this time my hands had cramped around the hoods and my feet had become lifeless blocks of ice.
So I staggered in, soaked to the skin and shivering uncontrollably, holding my claw hands out in front of me like a poorly conceived b-movie villain. I stuttered my order then spent a good two minutes removing my soaking gloves, before grappling ineffectually for two more with my helmet strap. After several more minutes teasing a tenner out of my pocket and carrying my coffee to my table I finally took my seat and wolfed down what was surely the best bacon and egg bap ever made, followed by an enormous bowl of utterly delicious treacle sponge and custard.
Leaving that café to go back to my dripping bike and that relentless rain was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. For miles afterwards I was cursing every downhill section because they meant less effort and therefore less warmth generation. As I approached Brighton my heart sank as I realised I’d have to find another eight miles from somewhere in order to hit that magic 200km mark (curse that bloody metric century challenge), but there was no way I was going to stop just a few miles short, not again.
So yes, right now 440 miles seems like a very tall order for the week. I haven’t yet decided if I’m even going to try to hit that target. It means spending 30 hours in the saddle! I’m not sure my wife or my arse will ever forgive me…