Colin, one of the colleagues who joined us for part of yesterday, told us that the friends he had who had ridden the End To End said that Day Three was the worst, or at least the toughest day mentally. After that, according to Colin, “your body takes over”. This conjured an image of two zombie cyclists grinding up to Scotland, still clipped into our pedals, unable escape, unable to stop turning.
Well, it turned out he was right (so far) at least from my perspective. I found this morning really difficult. We were joined by Rob, Tom’s dad, who will be with us for much of the rest of the trip. This first part of the ride was across his home turf and, keen to demonstrate that, in his 69th year, he can still keep up, he seemed to lead out at a fairly demanding pace. Cue a morning of trailing up the fairly benign inclines of Somerset, feeling guilty about holding Rob, Tom and Jools up, feeling deflated by the clear gulf in capability between me and them, pondering yet more whether the critical factor was my bike, my fitness, my attitude, my technique, my 6kg of baggage. As the misty, sunlit and reasonably fairly named Somerset Levels passed my head was spinning like a washing machine: annoyed, upset, disappointed, cross with myself for feeling all three. Couldn’t shake it.
However, Colin’s advice, distilled from incomplete research data as it may have been, offered at least a crumb of comfort. Perhaps this is how it’s supposed to feel? One look at the others showed that they weren’t having any such problems, and back I went, into another spin cycle.
The climb over the Mendips was long, but manageable and from that point on the day began to improve for me. I enjoyed long driving ride into Clevedon where we met Rich, a friend of Jools. He took us through to the Avonmouth Bridge, via an apparently lost valley tucked under the M5, a secret rural idyll where we least expected it, only the sound of the motorway speaking of the city we were approaching.
We crossed the Avon, and the the Severn. Finding the way onto the second Severn crossing is no mean feat. If I get chance i’ll post our GPS track to show any future travellers how not to attempt it. We added a couple of miles, but did see a woman with an amazing Rod Stewart-meets-the-Fraggles hairdo.
Half way across the bridge we bumped into a student from the University of Exeter, decked out in his Uni cycling club lycra. Sort of wanted some, but sort of not.
Picnic lunch at Chepstow Castle with the Rainbows and then up The Hill. Jools had been building this climb up for two days. IT was long, hot and arduous but again, manageable and in it’s own way, fun to complete. Cashing in the height gain was even more fun and by the time we were pushing into Ross-on-Wye at the end of the day the whole trip was starting to take on a sunnier aspect.
It’s starting to feel like there will be no discernible pattern to the way I feel through this trip. Yesterday I felt great until we finished. Today I felt terrible until we were 40 miles in. Now I feel fine.
266 miles down.