Firstly, I'm not a journalist, nor am I even very eloquent at writing, so do forgive this write up!
Tbh, it's not ever a write up, more of a "what I did and how I found it" type report of my recent SDW in a day attempt.
Unfortunately I didn't take my camera - a planned decision to save time - so no pics :-(
Doing the SDW in a day, or more accurately sub 12 hrs, was on my 'to do' list for a few years. I'd been chatting with colleagues and had originally only ever considered doing it over two days, but then a friend of mine completed it in a day, so that became the plan!
A life of work, childcare, and husbandly responsibilities means that my weekends of freedom are few and far between. Essentially, I OK'd it with the wife for September 8th to be the date, and hoped that the weather would hold out. I became pretty sulky the few weeks before as the weather continued to misbehave, but as it stands I had a stunner of a day!
100 miles is actually the furthest I've ever ridden in one go - on or off road. In the past I've winged a few 70mile road rides with no training (in fact, the two weeks before back to back 70mile/day rides I'd been boozing it up on holiday!). I'd relied on the fact I'm fairly young, slim, and have a decent degree of 'core' fitness. For the SDW I thought I should get some training in....
....going back to the point of how hectic my life is, this didn't actually happen! I'd changed jobs so no longer cycle commuted to work, which made 'slipping in' a few extra road miles here and there a tad difficult! I'd planned to not do any riding the week before the big day, but it seemed this was spreading to the month before.... I was managing to get out for a few hours most Tuesdays, but simply wasn't covering the miles I'd wanted.
10 or so days before hand I was able to slip in a few 30 mile rides on the fixie (I've an odd and pointless collection of bikes, which doesn't actually include a proper road bike!), which I suppose counted...
Anyway, the plan for the day was to get the first train out of my local station, and arrive in Winchester at 0730. I knew the last train from Eastbourne was 2300ish, but would be disappointed if I needed to rely on that!
I didn't make any significant changes to my bike, a 2012 commencal meta 5 with RS revs and a reverb! The thing I love about the bike is that one day it can cover 100 xc miles, the next it could be racing an enduro, and the next bashing its way down the alps! I did fit a bottle cage to it, to make my water carrying capacity to 2l (I'd be eternally grateful for this about 60 miles in, as this is when my water bladder split....)
Although the 'fitness' preparation went astray, I knew the nutrition side of things was important - if you do the ride unsupported as I did, you really need to think about carrying enough food to get you through, but not weigh yourself down with pointless things. Calorie dense foods were the menu of the day - here you can see the almost complete collection of constipation inducin, calorie rich goodies!
In the 1.5l camel back I had water/electrolyte drink, and only had "energy drink" in the water bottle - I find it doesn't actually quench thirst.
So, the weather report was looking good, the bag (wingnut) was loaded with 8kg of shite, and the alarm was set for 0500...
...but I didn't need it as I woke pretty much ever hour from 2300 the night before..oh well....
I ate some breakfast on the train to Winchester (scrambled egg and bacon croissants I'd made the day before!), and made sure I was adequately toiletted before pulling into Winchester...
I knew there would be a group of 'stag do chaps' heading off at the same time, so said a cheery "hello" and we all headed to the statue at the start (well, it was a bit of a chase around town before I chirped up "shall we follow my gps to the start", after which we finally got there!). They asked if I was going to tag along, but they were aiming for 2 days and i knew one of us would be in for a world of pain if we didn't split up! I left them to snap photos at the statue, and headed off.....
It's actually a bit of a faff getting from Winchester onto the SDW - once you crossthe m3 you get swung back under the footbridge and head alongside the road for about half a mile, joining back onto the SDW eventually (walkers can go straight on).
I'll be honest, I can't really recall the names etc of most of the big climbs, so my account will only serve how terrible the human memory...
IIRC the first real hill is actually a road climb, which then splits off to a nice bridle way. I quite quickly felt 'in the middle of nowhere' up on the SDW - a feeling that would be quite frequent despite popping through villages and main roads.
The first hour or so was pretty cool, but but 9ish the sun was up and I was warming up. Over the first few hours I was averaging 11mph, and was feeling great. I'd warmed up, the hills weren't actually that bad, and the ones I'd be 'dreading' after reviewing their profile on memory map seemed to come and go with ease. Old Winchester hill was the first proper steep challenge, but it's only about 30m long, and has a rewarding flat/descent after it.
Although the description of the SDW is "it's very hilly", it kinda wasn't feeling it at this point. Most of the climbs were pretty straight forward, and all came with a rewarding descent!
I found that more of the route was single track type trails than I expected - it has it's share of wide bridle ways and roads, but it isn't boring in the least.
I had written key 'points' on a bit of card, just as a quick reminder of my distance, and where taps were.
Theres actually a bonus tap at meon springs fly fishery, that isnt mentioned on any of the sdw websites...
QECP came up in no time, and was an opportunity to fill up the bottle and bladder again. Despite all the signs and gps, it was actually quite hard to find my way back onto the SDW from the cafe, so headed back to the entrance of QECP and joined it there. I knew the next tap was at Cocking, and it felt like the miles were flowing again - the thing about the SDW is you're either up on a ridge, or down in a (insert village/road/river) - and at this point I was up and away! I'd been going a few hours, so knew it was time to start eating. I'd planned my food that I needed to eat "two things" every hour (geek alert: each pack/wrap had about 35g of carbs...). A skill to learn for this sort of thing is to be able to comfortably eat on the go - the wingnut has great net side pockets that I "loaded up" at each tap, and emptied on the way to the next.
Once at cocking, the tap is obvious, debut so is the hill up from it.... I was starting to feel it a bit in my legs, not tired, just aware, but knew I still had "miles" to go..
Again, from cocking you're on an "up" for the most part - not dropping back down to "ground" until Amberly. There's meant to be a tap near the sewer works, but I couldn't find it, instead relying on a friendly b&b owner for his garden tap! This was about halfway, and I'd managed it in 5 hours...
Of course, this is followed by a pretty tough climb up Amberly mount, but then it's mostly flat and high again, with a little dip down to the A24, a small climb back up, then a long descent past my usual stomping ground all the way down to the river Adur.
Next comes Truleigh hill - despite being one of the steeper climbs on the profile, it didn't seem too bad - grass/road/gravel.... Those doing it over two days would do well to stop here at the YHA hostel - I couldn't think of many better placed hostels!
Again, from this high point for the next few miles (few = about 15) it's relatively flat - there's a nice little cafe thing at Saddlescombe farm, a place to get a tea/coffee if you have the time (I didn't), or to rip the tube from your hydration bladder if you're in a hurry..... If you do do this, it's a good idea to pop back to the cafe and pick up another bottle of pop (water capacity now down to 1l....)
Ditchling beacon is a landmark that I was initially fearful (having ridden up the road part of it..) but actually it's fine off road - shallow and gentle. However, it was at this point, and for the next 25 or so miles, that I became depressed! I wasn't really sure why - I think it was just the overall time on the bike, the ever decreasing energy reserves, and a combination of other things.... It's at this point that I feel I should raise your awareness to something: all the things that kind of bug you a bit on your normal rides but you can mostly ignore, really start to grate you 70 miles in! Baggies for one - look cool, have pockets etc, but boy do they piss you off when they twist, flap, and catch on the saddle! You also start to get annoyed at things like "why the 'f' do I have five cables on my bars - FIVE!!!! I hate myself...." etc etc!
Anyway... Theres a fairly fast drop down to the A27, and it seemed at this point the hills that were at first rewarding and challenging, were now just pointless and could be bulldozed down for all I cared.
From this point it really is just up - down - up - down....the profile proves it!
Itford hill - ow, but at least it's followed by a slight flat section, then a speedy drop down into Alfriston...which is followed by a nasty dog leg climb which literally peaks, then descends back down to Jevington :-/
However - I knew that once I'd mashed up this climb, THAT WAS IT! A flat section (that could have been another 30 miles for all I cared - as long as it wasn't up!) and then, once you're past the pleated trouser wearing brigade at the golf course, you cross a road, two more pedal strokes, and roll down into EASTBOURNE!!!!! Fin.....11 hrs 37 min
Did I enjoy it?
In Eastbourne station I was wondering why I'd done such a daft thing, what was the point, and why would I ever ride my bike again! But now..... Hmm, I'm wondering if, with a bit of training, I could get a sub 10hrs (? Single speed) or even contemplate the double (tbh - I'm seriously thinking about this for 12 months time...!)
Key learning points for me:
-screw fashion, be comfortable! Deffo just Lycra shorts next time!
-grease and lube everything that moves/pivots. It's very annoying and distracting to try to think about what's causing that creak..(turns out it was the bolt on rear drop out - who'd have thought!)
-a one hundred mile ride is like a relationship - you'll have serious ups and downs for no obvious reason - just push on and all will be fine!
-eat and drink plenty, and you'll be fine the next day (seriously surprised at how fine my legs were the next day - it was the forearms that killed me!)
-if you want to get a good/target time, you need to be a bit antisocial. Group rides are fun, but I reckon every extra person adds about an hour to the ride time!
Well....this turned out way longer than I expected! If you can stay with all of that, then you can probably do the SDW in one go
Sometime in the new year I'll post up here for a "SDW over two day" affair, for which you're all welcome!
Anyhoo, if this is something you fancy and have questions, do ask - I'd say that with a comfy pair of pants and a decent level of fitness, anyone could ride the SDW - the real challenge I found is in the head, not the legs!