Updated: Aug 23, 2021
300km in a day? Maybe.
Alarms at 4:15am are only ever good when you are going on holiday (even then they still hurt), there really isn't any other sensible reason to get abruptly awakened by the shrill sound of a phone going off next to your head: especially when you are the reason for that alarm.
So why was I awakening myself at some ungodly hour? A ride, but not just any ride, targeting my longest to date. I have completed 5 x 200km rides this year (to date) with the longest being a London to Brighton return totaling 212km, but not being someone who likes limits, I wondered how far I could currently go. So after plotting several routes on Strava, came up with the brilliant/crazy idea of cycling from London to Cardiff...the total? 300km. Quite a step up (in hindsight should have probably been a little more incremental), but basically the plan was to get up early and head west to see how far I could get. This wasn't in aid of any charity, nor was it a group ride, just on my own and heading towards Wales testing my own limits.
The initial alarm was a little painful, I will admit to snoozing once (or twice), but did get up, have my coffee and overnight oats, pack everything up on the bike, and head off slightly later than planned, but relatively excited about the long path ahead (even managed a last minute vegemite-laden bagel - delicious). One thing I love about my travels is if I had a car, I would never go through some of those little B-road villages and towns; some are simply stunning.
In order to get into that lovely countryside however, London had to be conquered first. Living in the centre of London has it's advantages, cycling out of the capital is not one of them as it is an hour of stop/start in any direction. An early start is conducive to lower traffic volumes, so planned on getting well out of Greater London by 8am - first goal achieved.
The first 50km or so is fairly flat, a slight hill through Richmond Park, but that is about it - I don't think London has ever been confused with the likes of Bristol. At this point you are outside the M25 and heading through Chobham, at last some greenery and some increasingly fresh air. The next hundred kilometre's was generally trending uphill until the highest point on the route at Hackpen White Horse crossing the ridgeway. It is not all down hill from there mind you, there was another hill to come, but the bulk of the 2,000m ascent have been traversed. So meandering through Camberley, circling Sandhurst, then heading up through Hungerford and Marlborough before stopping for a well-earned bagel (you will find bagels a riding staple in my frame bags) and coffee...and water top up. I went through around 10L of water during the day i think, it wasn't that hot (around 25c) but it the air was pretty still and felt very humid (was apparently over 85%, which makes complete sense in hindsight).
Coming down off the ridgeway was quite fun, steep fast road with no tight bends...all equates to some top speed hunting, and topped out at 79.2km/h. Which is great, but no 80km/h, so the search continues. Through the descent i passed through Royal Wooten Basset before start the next 20km climb up towards Hinton then onto Pucklechurch (great name). This was the 200km point in my trip, and the point i really started to feel a little heavy in the legs - more coffee is the obvious answer, as was more food and water (another top up). From Pucklechurch i was heading into the unknown...distance wise. I had achieved my previous best so now just seeing how long the legs could hold on for...a while yet as it turns out.
So heading in a more north-westerly direction and avoiding Bristol, I start the final third aiming for the Severn and what lies beyond - dragons obviously. If you are aiming for another country on your ride, it is great to see a landmark to signal your arrival - the Severn Bridge was that landmark. Looming in the distance was the key marker that once over, i knew i only had 70km-ish to go (yep, only 70km). Flying down the bridge (quite a lot of fun), sharp left at Chepstow i started the journey towards Newport. The excitement and burst of energy riding across the bridge was great whilst it lasted, as it turned out...not that long. Legs at this point were getting quite tired, back and shoulders were quite sore, arse was numb (bike seats even with bib shorts, are not really built for comfort), and really started to struggle.
At this point i had to make a decision, was i going to ride through to Cardiff or head towards Newport and get the train. Well, my legs decided for me, I think i exhausted the tank - so 270km done and dusted, sitting on a train heading to Cardiff and my goal of 300km in a day going with it. Oh well, just have to try again. After a couple of lite kilometers (spinning to loosen the legs) i made it to my hotel room and had the greatest shower in the world and laid on the greatest bed (they may not have been but they certainly felt like it at the time).
So all in all, ...burning off 6,300 calories along the way. Amazing day, and even though i didn't achieve my 300km goal, still managed 65km more than i had done previously...which is no mean feat. More goals to be conquered and more place to explore - looking forward to all of it.