The hell of the South

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It hasn’t slipped my mind that I have promised to complete the South Downs Way in a day as part of my training for this challenge and so I thought I would take the opportunity afforded by a visit to Salisbury and some very accommodating in-laws (taking over childcare and dog walking responsibilities) to do a bit of a reconnaissance of the route. I had intended to do a total of 50 miles and thereby giving myself an opportunity to test myself over a half distance but that got reined in a bit on account of the general conditions and I ended up doing 40 miles (20 out and then 20 back by the same route) which I was extremely glad of by the time I finished. Lessons learned? 1) 100 miles on a mountain bike is quite a long way! 2) I read somewhere that you shouldn’t even think about the SDW if it is a) not summer, b) has rained in the last 7 days and c) there’s not a tailwind. All good advice it turns out as I headed off in 1 degrees celcius, a northerly wind, snow flurries and mud. I was making pretty good time for the first 7 miles or so but then I hit the mud which was basically like trying to walk over a ploughed field. The sort of mud that clings to the other mud already caking itself to your wheels and gears. It was impossible to ride in places and I had to stop at least 4 times to just poke my fingers/ sticks/ stones or whatever I could find to try and get things turning because the whole thing was quite literally grinding to a halt. (Somewhere in this picture there is a front and rear deraileur but you can’t actually tell!)

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What else did we learn? Take more energy bars than you think you’ll need because I ran out (2 bars and 2 gels) and was pretty close to bonking by the end – thankfully the last couple of miles were mostly downhill. Also, the Cliff Bar white chocolate and macadamia nut variety is actually pretty good! Also water refills are hard to come by. I rode for 20 miles along the route and passed just one tap at the Meon fisheries (my thanks for that!)

Trip stats and a map available here (mapmyrun site) or here if you are more Strava inclined. Total climb seems to vary (significantly) between sites – it was either 1,000 metres or 6,400 feet. Probably the former although it felt like the latter!

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