In late 2014 when everyone was discussing New Year's resolutions I felt an idea forming in my head. Being a keen cyclist, people were always asking what I was training for each time I returned from a ride. I never really had an answer; I simply enjoyed riding and enjoying the outdoors. Typically over a year I would cycle an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 miles - that roughly equated to 30 miles a week! The idea developing in my head now had some focus, a distance target and the distance I settled on (simply plucked out of the air but a push) was 3,000 miles or roughly 60 miles a week; twice my maximum!
My rules were simple, 3,000 miles on either a mountain bike or my hybrid and all rides had to be tracked by Endomondo (so I could prove to myself that I'd done it without any cheating!).
January 2015 soon arrived and so did the miserable weather associated with it. Needless to say, I got off to a shaky start and barely managed to get out. When I did get my feet to the pedals, my Samsung S3, which I used to track my rides had developed a fault with its power button resulting in it constantly switching off. The result of which was incomplete recorded rides from Jan to Feb 2015 - this was somewhat frustrating!
By February I had realised the magnitude of the challenge I had set myself; miss a week, then you've 120 miles to do the following week. Miss another week, then you've 180 miles to complete! By the end of February I had built up quite a deficit and had only completed 160 miles! Now dedicated cyclists reading this will probably think 3,000 miles or 60 miles a week is a doddle, but with the job I have and family commitments (which included two boys in the oven at at the start of the year), I simply found it near impossible to find the time to do this!
I soon realised that commuting to work would help; Worthing, my place of work, is about a 20 mile drive straight down the A24; a dual carriageway all the way until it squeezes between the South Downs where it twists through the Findon Valley before arriving in Worthing. I remember travelling along this stretch by car and passed cyclists; I couldn't but help think that they had death wishes! For my own self-preservation I opted not to road cycle to Worthing and instead opted to mountain bike. There's an old disused railway line that can be picked up from Southwater which runs due south towards Shoreham (the Downs Link); it's not quite the right direction for me, but near enough! With a little diversion at Steyning, I could cycle all the way to Worthing and rarely touch the roads - perfect! The only problem was this diversion was up and over the South Downs (look up Steyning Bostal; it's ranked 21 in the 'Top 100 Hill Climbs' by Simon Warren). The total distance to work would be 21 miles with another 21 miles back in the evening (with a stressful days work inbetween!).
Commute To Work
This route shows one of my typical early morning commutes to work taking me down the Downs Link to Steyning where I then climb on top of the South Downs, heading across towards Cissbury Ring before dropping into the Findon Valley then heading to Durrington where I work.
11 Jun 2015
I had to be at work for 8:30am, so had to leave home by 6am at the latest. This would give me just enough time to cycle the distance, shower and change to be at my desk for the days work. I had factored an additional 30 minutes contingency to handle the odd puncture and mechanical issues that I would encounter! Through spring I set out before sunrise, and although chilly, saw hordes of wildlife - my most memorable encounter was a deer bouncing out of the hedges and running alongside me for 20 meters or so not knowing which way to go. I had seen countless rabbits, the odd mouse, barn owls, badgers, a field full of rats (yip, they were everywhere), foxes and at one point, a bull sideways on blocking my route down the Downs Link; on that occasion, I gently persuaded him back into the field where I assumed he had escaped!
Being so close to Box Hill, now made famous because of it being part of the Olympic cycling, Daniel and I head up there one weekend. There's a café at the top of the hill, so there's always an obligatory stop for a coffee and cake before returning home!
14 Jun 2015
Throughout the year I varied my route which increased my wildlife encounters. On one Friday afternoon I stopped in a field to watch 2 buzzards playing and calling to each other while enjoying a snack.
By summer, a colleague from work (Gavin) had got wind of my plans and convinced me to cycle to work with him one Friday morning. Unfortunately he used the A24, that before mentioned death road. I had put this off for a while, but Gavin convinced me that it would be okay so I endured it the once! Needless to say, HGV's whistling past at 60 mph mere inches from my elbows was not a pleasant experience and any wildlife encounterd was wild-death; I passed one fox that had now become part of the road; it almost looked like it had been painted on the road surface, but the odor that accompanied it confirmed it was once a living animal! Still, it wasn't all bad, commuting this way had knocked 30 minutes off my commute time, taking only 1 hour 15 minutes!
Needless to say, most of my miles we gained by commuting to work, but this wasn't going to be enough (it was too much to do this every day, and I don't think the laptop that I occasionally carried with me was going to endure the bumps and bangs associated with racing down the South Downs). When the weather was poor, the muddy Downs Link and slippery chalk of the South Downs were not suitable for long distance commuting so I had to find some alternatives.
Sussex Country Side
Another ride enjoyed with friends, this is one of Rory's infamous routes!
4 Jul 2015
Fortunately, one of my friends, (also Daniel) was keen to join me for rides at weekends. The only snag was he was keen on doing hills; so not great for total distance, but every bit counted. We'd pretty much done all the big hills in the South East and were now looking further afield. By the summer I was back on for the 3,000 mile target but with my twin boys soon to arrive, the pressure was on to get as many miles in the bag as possible.
My cycle route to Cheddar Gorge and back, visiting some special places from my childhood along the way.
11 Jul 2015
Cheddar Gorge, was in the Top 100 Hills (http://cyclinguphill.com/cheddar-gorge/) and ranked number 1 on the list. It also turns out that it's reasonably close to my parents; so off Daniel and I went one weekend to tick another hill off and to clock up another 50 mile+ ride. In fact, that week I cycled 196 miles in one week!
This is my route up to Truleigh Hill on the mountain bike. I normally use the Downs Link to get down to the South Downs then from there it's a painful climb up to Truleigh Hill (I think this is one of the highest points on this part of the Downs). Once on top of the Downs I head over to the Devil's Dyke before dropping back down to the bottom and heading back home (via the Downs Link again).
29 Oct 2015
By July my twin boys had arrived and with that my focus on life had shifted. It's a bit of a blur now but I remember being so incredibly tired (lack of sleep with babies needing feeding every 2 hours!). Needless to say, I didn't get my bum on the saddle much and when I did, it wasn't far. I remember contemplating riding to a nice comfortable field just to have a little nap!
By September it was increasingly difficult to cycle to work; a combination of the weather and need to get back from work quickly to help with the babies! The Target of 3,000 miles looked like a distant fantasy; but still I rode on, squeezing 5, 10, 15 miles rides in whenever I could! By October I had pretty much given up all hope and hadn't monitored my progress; well not until early November when I realised I only had 400 miles left! Wow, 2,600 miles - I'd come so far and the light at the end of the tunnel was in sight! I was again focused but daylight had gone and the heavens had opened and the gales blew, Autumn had arrived in style! It didn't stop me, waterproofs, bright lights and flashing LEDs; I nipped out and clocked up the miles whenever I could!
A Windy Weekend
A windy weekend and getting close to my 3,000 mile target for 2015, Daniel and I embark on a ride around the West Sussex countryside.
29 Nov 2015
At the start of December I had 27 miles to go! The met office had begun to name storms and the weekend of the 5-6 December, Storm Desmond had been unleashed. Hardest hit was Cumbria and the south coast was subjected to stong winds. I had put my biggest chunkiest tyres on my mountain bike; good for mud, but not that efficient! On Sunday the 6th December, I had decided to break the 3,000 mile target. Shoreham Harbour and back via the Downs Link was my chosen route! The strong heads winds and thick mud zapped my energy and by the time I reached Shoreham I was tired. I made it to the end of the harbour wall, being very careful to time my ride along the top not to coincide with the waves crashing over. At the end of the harbour I drank hot coffee, took some photographs, then set-off on my return journey. By Henfield I heard my phone anounce 27 miles completed; that was my 3,000 mile target achieved but I was so tired and focussed on getting home that I lacked the strength to celebrate; although I do confess to a little vocal cheer as I ploughed onwards through the sticky mud!
By the time I was home I had clocked up 37 miles on what must have been my hardest ride of the year! What a way to finish! I was done in and Endomondo reported 3,010 miles. Mission accomplished!