The difficulties started early on when the route that Alberto had planned (we didn't want to follow the same route we always do) had some massive hills in it just outside of Croydon. Sometimes there is a reason that routes
stick to the big roads -- these residential ones were soooo hilly. I just wasn't prepared to work that hard so early on, and I was worried about saving some strength in my legs for Ditchling Beacon.
The ride was really pleasant as we left the M25 and continued through the Farthing Downs, but I just wasn't feeling my usual self. Maybe it's because I hadn't ridden in two weeks, as my commuting bike was having mechanical difficulties as well, or maybe it was the windiness or some other unknown factor, but I never quite got into the groove of the ride.
Struggling up Farthing Downs... not a good sign!
It didn't help that there were some parts that were quite literally ROUGH -- the 'road' leading towards Hedgecourt Lake near East Grinstead was more of an obstacle course than a road...it was literally full of huge bricks and rocks and would have probably been a challenge even on a mountain bike! Then later the route took in a public bridleway (unpaved, obviously) which was another adventure!
The whole ride I just wasn't feeling confident about making it up the Beacon and obviously if I was doubting myself then there was no way I'd have the mental perseverance to keep going. Despite the fact that I made it up the Beacon two weeks ago having just cycled through the night, I didn't make it this time. I had to stop for water about a quarter of the way up the hill and then again at about three quarters of the way. The second time I stopped, I wanted to just walk up the rest of it, but the cars were coming quite aggressively from both directions and it didn't feel safe to walk. Instead I found a place where I could rest, ate half of a peanut butter wrap, and waited until I really felt my heart rate had come back to normal, and then continued up the hill.
It was unbelievably windy at the top of the Beacon, but I had to stop and catch my breath and eat a bit more. Alberto was there waiting for me and he had gotten out my windbreaker, as we figured we'd both need the extra layer on the downhill. We proceeded on the downhill against some serious wind, which was both a challenge to the legs and also to safety, as the road heading into Brighton is quite busy and cars were passing us quite closely. I couldn't really keep a straight line against the wind sometimes, so it was really a challenge.
I was so grateful when we finally arrived into Brighton. We got to the train station almost an hour before our train was due to leave, but the weather was really rubbish so we just stayed in the station and got some food.
All in all I wasn't too impressed with my performance on Sunday. There were however a few minor victories:
- I have finally learned how to drink water while on the bike! I still feel a bit nervous about it but am very glad I learned before the hot summer days kick in (if they ever do). I know practice will make perfect!
- Got to try out my new windproof gilet from Condor. I bought it on sale on Saturday and boy was it a lifesaver! Don't think I'll ever go on a ride without it now
Oh well, here's to the next ride!