Yesterday I joined the intrepid @sw_bd chaps on their training run from Oxford to London - a distance of some 75 miles before they embark on their goal of cycling from Lands End to John o' Groats - on Brompton folding bikes in aid of three charities.
Before embarking on this I deliberated about whether or not I should go. Even as I reached Paddington lingering doubts still surfaced. Once on the train to Oxford the urban sprawl (my favourite of all locations) was left behind as the countryside in all its glory flew by. This only served to remind me that I would not pass near these views on my Brompton for at least another seven hours!
I arrived at Oxford in good time and made my way to the meet up point which was outside Trinity College. Oxford is very picturesque and I enjoyed the architecture.
Unfortunately, google maps didn't seem to want to find the meet point for me (at least that's my excuse) so I ended up outside a totally different location. Luckily a tweet to @sw_bd resulted in one of them coming to get me. The meet up point was literally across the road. Damn google maps.
Shortly after 11:00 we were off. Soon the last hints of urbanism was gone and it was the open road. The pace was brisk. We passed lots of other weekend cyclist and rang our bells to say hello. Some were more friendly than others. I bet they weren't travelling as far. Luckily the rain that was with us all of last week held off and it was actually quite lovely. I was enjoying it. Of course this didn't last.
In the distance I saw a steep incline. Some would say it was a hill. I certainly viewed it in a different way. It was brutal and must surely have been the start of a significant incline previously not charted on ordnance survey maps. I liken myself going up this hill to Charton Heston in Ben Hur. More specifically I mean the part where he is in the Roman galleon going at ramming speed. Not surprisingly I was off the bike pushing as I saw the @sw_bd chaps confidently ascending. At the top we were treated to dozens of Red Kites circling overhead, some of which swooped low as if to see what we were up to.
At roughly 35 miles things took a turn for the worse. I will put it down to only having a Mars bar for breakfast, not enough fluids or the fact I am 42 but I hit the wall. I don't really know what 'the wall' is but one hears about it annually whenever the London Marathon is on. With this very event taking place the next day I had heard quite a bit about 'the wall.' Peddling became difficult. I started to feel fatigued and consequently my pace suffered. At one point I felt like a character from a Jane Austin novel who might at any point faint. Pulling myself together I thought more like Captain Oates and was about to tell the @sw_bd chaps that, I am going outside and may be some time.
My salvation came in the form of a pub that I thinks was called, 'The Squirrels Nuts.' (Delirium might mean it was not exactly called this). At this oasis I ordered a meal, a pint of Cola and several chocolate bars. In fact not since I was 13 and had extra funds to spend at tuck have I eaten so much chocolate. Luckily the rest and sustenance seemed to work. I felt better and was able to carry on, rather than being like the sickly child with a note from Matron sitting on the sidelines. The @sw_bd chaps were great despite the fact I was slowing them down.
At Henley on Thames we stopped for a quick rest before moving ever further towards London. Windsor and the stunning building of Royal Holloway and Bedford College passed by. Hampton Court looked resplendent as we headed towards Richmond.
Going through Richmond Park we were treated to some close views of the famous deer but with London nearly in sight we pressed on.
Once through Richmond Park we left behind all traces of the countryside as we cycled towards the end, Waterloo. At 18:20 we reached Waterloo. I was very happy to have reached it. Getting off my trusty Brompton my right knee seemed to seize up but a hot bath and lashings of Deep Heat helped.
Yet another enjoyable event via the @sw_bd team and again it was great to join in. For me, it helped with my own training for a few Brompton rides I'm participating in but anything Brompton related can only be a good thing.
With hindsight I should have got some sponsorship for this Oxford to London ride. In the coming weeks I am going to see if I can do so retrospectively as it were. Please follow their adventures on Twitter and via their website and even in these difficult times pledge some money towards their goal of raising £50,000.