Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Jason Mcroy's 20th anniversary Ride4michael Aurora Coast to Coast

Jenn Hill aka @twittcrumpet and deputy editor of Singletrack Magazine sadly passed away recently aged 37. The last time I saw her was at Mountain Mayhem, she came over to chat and show her support for Ride for Michael, she was always at events either as a racer or journalist and was a very well respected figure in the bicycle community, admired by many for all she achieved in her time and the way she did it.
She would be the last person you would expect this disease to effect, so healthy, so strong, a gutsy lady, cancer has no respect, as she put it #stupidfuckingdisease

I was going to post this article on my blog later or even next year but was just looking at pictures on Instagram and saw a few of Jenn and Tom's photo's, one of which made me think I'd better get it done, there is no time like the present, seize the day and all that, I think Jenn would.
The Ride for Michael journey I had originally planned was going to meet up with Guy Martin and Jason Miles on their 7 Stanes coast to coast epic, it was going to be something including a coast to coast and the Pennines to travel north.
Their ride would traverse Scotland while taking in all the Scotland trail centres then carry it on over the channel to Ireland and do the same with their trail centres while riding road sections between.
Then Guy had a really bad accident at the Ulster Grand Prix while racing his motorbike, we had no idea how he was going to recover from it, and Jason Miles plans had to change because he was racing in the World Endurance Mountain Bike champs in the USA.
Plans are made to be changed I suppose and the ride I originally planned did just that. Jason Mcroy's 20th anniversary was coming up and I decided to do something to commemorate it, I changed my route to take in the Trans Pennine Trail (TPT) coast to coast, it went straight past Jason's monument on the Woodhead Pass.

I know quite a few cyclist's who had done this coast to coast over a few days so I was interested to see if it could be done in one hit in the day.
It also takes in a ride I have done between Goole and Runcorn which I did with my mate Paul Wardle in 14 hours. It was called a coast to coast years ago in a magazine editorial, they did it over three days but it was really an estuary to estuary.
Extending it either end to the coast by 50 miles, a 100 miles in total would put the record straight and I would be satisfied I'd done it right, a full coast to coast.
Once the ride was decided I just had to ask some awkward questions to get help with making it happen. Steve Peat was keen to take part in the ride with me, we were going to stop off to remember Jason McRoy at his monument and Chris Davies was going to do a short film on the ride. Chris helps with various events as part of the Ride for Michael team, he has just started a film company and is getting quite a reputation for his work within the bike industry building up an impressive list of clients.
Steve and Chris are both very busy men but very eager to help with anything linked with Ride for Michael or any other charities.
Chris was a little confused initially, but once I discussed doing the ride and what it entailed he was totally up for it.
Then I admitted to not having any time to train, then went on to say the last time out on the bike with my son Ross, I had a bit of an off, one of my feet was still in a bad way from then, his mood changed, the rest of the telephone conversation was interesting ........

Chris:-   Why now. Do we have to do it now Joe or can we reschedule in a few weeks?

Me :-   Well, we just have to do it now!

Chris:-  You haven't trained, your foot is injured, I don't think you're ready, you could do with a few more big rides first too.

Me:-  I haven't got another time slot, we just have to do it now or it won't happen!

Chris:-  I could do with more prep time, I need an assistant too, it's a bit last minute Joe, something is bound to go wrong! Anyway, who's doing you're back up driving?

Me:-   I thought you could do back up?

Chris:-  What!

Me:-   We are going in the same direction after all and I'll be carrying all I need.
As for things going wrong? Things will go wrong, that's going to make it more interesting, and to do it without training will be more challenging.
Besides that I only have a couple of days free, Steve Peat can only meet us on one of those days as he goes off to the World Cup, it's Jason's 20th anniversary, and I said I was going to do something for Michael.
Guy and Jason may not be doing their ride due to Guy's accident and last but not least I want to do this ride while my mate Paul is still with us, next week may be too late, he has to know how much I care, it is going to happen.

Chris:-  OK.  Right. Let me make a few calls, I'll call you back in ten minutes. I don't know how you are going to do this but I've got some ideas, leave it with me.

He called back and said "It's a go, I've got my mate Mike to do the driving"
We talked about the finer points, licenses insurance and all that boring crap so he was comfortable, his parting shot was "Joe, you know you're bonkers don't you" I didn't agree but said "yes" just to appease him.

I did have a few doubts about whether I could finish it or not, but was willing to see how I got on, the absence of training was going to be a teller, mind over matter was going to be the decider. I have hardly ridden my bike over the last few months, work commitments has meant just rocking up and riding seemed to be the way lately.
The journey was quite long but not technical, unsure about a large part of the trail I would have to rely on signs but I didn't let Chris know about my doubts.

A plan had just dropped together, the cogs some how got kicked into place and we were actually doing it, we soon found ourselves packed up in the truck to rendezvous  with Mike at his girlfriends in Castleford, then onwards to somewhere in Southport which was unaware of our impending arrival.
We decided to wing it a bit and book a hotel if we could when we arrived, if not we could sleep in the truck or on the beach.
Purely by chance we got a room for the three of us at a Premier Inn for £66, bargain.
The evening at Southport greeted us with a sunset to remember, we looked for our start point on the beach so we didn't waste time in the morning, then went for an athlete's supper at KFC, (other chicken restaurants are available) before getting off for an early night at our inexpensive down town apartment. It took us a while to unload the truck and transfer our belongings to our shrinking room, then we did a last minute shop at a late night supermarket where Chris put together his speciality pick n mix energy trail mix, M-n-M's, nuts, chocolate raisins, you name it and it was in.

Start at Southport 5:00am

An early morning start at 5 was cool but clear, we loaded the truck up in order of importance and I rode off through the streets to the start.
I was waved off from the deserted beach by a bleary eyed Chris and Mike and was soon heading towards Liverpool and Widnes in the still of the morning. After being buzzed by a few cars I decided to get onto the pavement.
I soon had to think quickly bunny hopping some drains left by missing man hole covers, in the early morning dim light this brought my attention to the fore, anything could happen, be careful I kept telling myself.
I was constantly looking out for TPT signs, a lot of the time they were obscured, some had been vandalised or stolen, or I just missed them and carried on trusting to my memory and sense of direction.

Some trails came out into industrial estates around Liverpool this was quite unnerving, frequently having to travel short sections of road to the next section of trail, guessing some of the way was quite an adventure. But when I was back on the TPT I was treated to some rare spectacles. Travelling down the old disused railways, the bridges and stations that once kept the area alive were barely evident at times but evoked a sense of history.
Overgrown areas being recaptured by nature, bridges resembling the hanging gardens of Babylon littered the trail, it was like the land that time forgot. Swooping on and off of railway platforms on well kept trails was a bit spooky, I couldn't help but think of the history of the places I rode through, I dodged and nodded to commuters on bikes and dog walkers alike, they seemed oblivious to the areas beauty.
Just as I was worrying about how far from Widnes I was I got a quick glimpse of the bridge in the distance, that assured me that I was going in the right direction, doubts do cross your mind when you're winging it without a map, just going on memory is part of the thrill but not advisable.
Runcorn bridge was the first meeting point we had discussed, I was soon zig zagging up the wooden plank stairway cutting my way through the pungent smells around the harbour, I couldn't be happier with the good pace I had kept and was soon around about the place where we agreed to meet, but nobody was there!

Runcorn near the bridge 30 miles

A quick phone call confirmed that they had me down for a later time, I had made better time than they thought I would, they were still near Liverpool and got held up by a big breakfast and traffic, don't worry they said, "we will meet you a bit further along."
Worry! Me? I made my way through some roadworks which closed part of the TPT and got onto the Manchester ship canal, I caught and passed a few cyclists then I heard shouts from somewhere "Joe, we're over here." I saw Chris and Mike's heads bobbing up and down across the railway, I turned towards them for some well earned snacks.
Chris and Mike punctuated the trail and popped up in the most unexpected places, they had an abundance of smiles and encouragement while they recorded the moment, I tried to provide an injection of pace in return.
I slowed down when I was near pedestrians or dogs, this day turned out to be a day of being chased by dogs. When chased I tried to stop and encouraging dogs back to their owners, I soon got bored with this as it was costing time and the dog owners were less than grateful, so eventually I just slowed a little and kept away from them or raced away from them.
I met one of the cyclists again that I had overtaken earlier, I shared a short conversation about the trail, he was about to try the same route but over three days. He described the next section and how the signs were less than helpful and told me what direction to take, go right at the next intersection not left, the sign looks like it wants you to go left but trust me he said go right onto the canal just around the corner. This I did and he seemed to be correct but the part of the tow path was closed, it was being resurfaced so I took some diversions and got back to the trail he described, I was tramming along making good time.
A quick diversion over a familiar bridge on the Manchester Ship Canal brought me out next to a little bike shop I knew, I rode over that bridge when I rode from Lands End to John O'groats, what a coincidence. What was more of a coincidence was Chris and Mike driving past me as I crossed the bridge, they said they were just asking each other where I might be and I popped out at the side of the road.
I passed most of the cyclists I saw going in the same direction, but while on a section littered with pedestrians, cyclists and dog walkers I was overtaken by a hi viz wearing, safety booted commuter who carried a fair pace, I hooked in behind him, at 19mph.
While I was in his slipstream I realised he was riding an unsophisticated old clunker, his speed belied his demeanour, he had the look of a worker but the gate of a racer. I kept in his slipstream long enough to realise that he had no respect for his fellow canal users, he was too close for comfort on a few occasions and I felt party to his misdemeanour's, I had no idea of the distance he had done or had to travel but I knew I was on my way to my 80 mile mark.
Sense prevailed and I let him go with the feeling of being beaten, a bitter pill to swallow but sensibility has its own reward.
In the distance I saw him brought to the ground, lassoo'd by a dog walker with one of those long retractable leads, he went down hard with the dog beneath.
A few seconds later I gave the wreckage a wide berth and thanked my lucky stars carrying on with my balanced approach.
I was doubting my direction looking for signage and hints on the trail, there was a strange intersection at a multi-directional bridge, I pulled up confused, I had trusted in this trail for far too long. While I was stood by a cyclist came my way and I was about to ask him my whereabouts when I thought twice, would I get misdirected again? He was concentrating hard taking his panniered tourer up and over the stepped bridge without getting off, he had the dexterity of a trials rider, I was gob-smacked by his brute force and agility and quite ashamed I had not displayed the same skills before dismounting.
I got out onto the nearest road and got a sat nav out of my Camelbak to find directions back to my trail, I had no way of attaching it to the bike so had to hold it in my hand which hampered my braking, I had lost a fair bit of time but more importantly was further away from where I should be.
Getting back to my nearest point on the trail was confusing, I was panicking and was making bad decisions, the brakes had picked up contamination had overheated and were squeaking badly, they weren't working that well either so one hand riding and braking was even more complicated.
I took a variety of courses to get me back on track, I realised the first panicky input on the Satnav to Stockport was too broad a description, it got me going in an approximate direction I suppose. I soon stopped and tried again putting in Reddish Park Vale Road, because Reddish Park was were I wanted to be.
After a while doubt crept in again, that road may not be anywhere near where I wanted to be?
I was right, it wasn't but turned out it was near enough, I got to the park and called Chris, he was at the entrance to the Park and I was just a short distance into it, yet again we were on the same grid but separated by roads, trees and buildings.

Stockport Reddish Vale 63 miles

I told Chris and Mike I would see them on the trails somewhere after the M60, which was a short climb out of Reddish Vale, it was littered with dog walkers but soon I was crossing the M60 footbridge climbing into Denton. I dropped into a wooded section and was soon welcomed by a gaggle of horse riders which I gave way to.
There was a severe lack of signage, I got to a point in the trail where I realised I was a bit lost, the trail could have headed in many a direction but without a clue as to which direction was mine, again I realised no mapping was a mistake.
Regretfully I had turn around and backtrack through the woods, back at Denton I chose one of the other marked routes and was soon at a place I recognised, going through Hyde through another short section of woods in the direction of Tintwhistle Dam.
The last part of that section winds through an industrial area and I was soon greeted a familiar  pair of fellow travellers with relieved looks about them, "what happened there then joe" "how are feeling mate, describe that section for me" the first words that came from his lips as Chris tried to document this attempt of a C2C, his camera was welded to his hand throughout the day.

Tintwistle Dam 79 miles

I left my backpack with Mike as I thought the next section was quite short and not too taxing along the sides of the numerous dams, there were a few bits that reminded me I was wrong, some steep gnarly climbs away from the dams to get to higher ground were challenging after 80 miles.
There is a lot of work being done on this side and some unfinished sections were rough and felt slow under my wheels, quite sapping.
The TPT is very scenic, looking across the water reminded me of that fateful day when Jason McRoy lost his life, thoughts of what might have been, he would have still been a champion I'm sure.
It also reminded me of his 10th anniversary when a load of us met up and had a bike ride up to Jason's monument, I was trying to remember who was there.
Steve Peat, Rob Warner and myself went up in the van, Rob was constantly complaining about Steve's driving in his usual colourful fashion, I think he may have been sponsored by the expletive version of the Oxford English dictionary back then, the air was blue.
We got there to meet a few other likely lads, Will Longden, Scott Dommet, Steve Behr, and Tony Fawcett. I didn't know Tony back then but have recently raced on the same team with at mountain mayhem on the Ride for Michael team (what a small world it is), Nick Craig and his son on a tag along bike, also a little lad who came with his dad called Josh Bryceland.
Michael Bonney was also there with Adam Proctor and Jay Toland from Orange, the very reason for doing this 20th anniversary ride, ironic really.

Lots of water has passed under the bridges that span these reservoirs since then, strange how things have turned out. It was quite sobering riding along the same trails 10 and 20 years on.
I was soon awakened from my deep thoughts with the sight of the old Woodhead tunnel heads, then to zig zag up the last climb to meet up with Steve Peat, we were going to pay our respects to Jason and have a beer with him at his monument.

Woodhead lay by  87 miles

Steve rode out to meet me at the lay-by on the Woodhead Pass closest to Jason, as I rounded the corner I caught a glimpse of Steve and Chris next to my truck, I was on schedule, it was a good job as Steve only had a short while as he was flying out to the World Cup the next day and wanted to have a bit of family time before he went.
We grabbed three beers and walked down to the spot, we cleared a few weeds up and sat for a while and had a few words and thoughts with our drinks, cheers to Jason. He had done a lot to shape the world of mountain biking, he left a great legacy and we will never forget, a hero's hero.
The beer bottles carried our names, Steve poured some of Jason's out and we took a final swig said cheers and carried on our way just how he would have wanted us to.
We walked up the road to the lay-by and jumped on our bikes to do a bit of the TPT together, a tough little couple of mile section which ends at the gate opposite the turning to Dunford Bridge, just after the s' bend over the bridge that is at the top of the pass.
This is were Steve and myself parted company, we had done what we had set out to do on that day, pay our respects to the legend that was Jason McRoy, it was up to me to finish it now, I had good reason to get half way, having done that I have another reason to finish.
I reflected on what had just happened on the short climb towards Dunford Bridge, the weather started to turn on the mile long rush of a downhill, it was raining gently but we have been blessed until now with good weather so couldn't complain, well not yet anyway!

Dunford bridge 91 miles

This trail was pretty straightforward, just a nice disused train line to my next meet with my faithful companions, only a few miles of dog walker dodging and I would meet for a snack and load up of energy bars, It was over in the blink of an eye.
A guy walking a dog opened a gate for me and said "that's the worst part of riding this trail isn't it these gates" I said "yeh, that feels like a thousand today" he didn't know what I was getting at, I wonder how close to the truth I was.

Penistone cafe stop 95 miles

This would be the last I saw the chasing duo until Sprotborough Falls, my legs and back were stiff and aching a little but still reasonably confident of the job in hand.
Once refreshed I headed off to Oxspring where I got off the TPT temporarily to take a road section uphill to rejoin it at one of my favourite sections. Through a farmyard then turning right at a bridge it takes a nice meander through the trees at the side of the tunnel entry, it's just perfect. I didn't really do it justice as I was tiring by now, riding fast enough to keep my concentration and slow enough not to have an off, conservatively you might say, but it was a section I looked forward to non the less, I'll attack it next time I'm there.
Back on flatter sections of trails the rain took hold, the puddles I took so much care in dodging to start with wore me down, I was eventually slicing each one in two ending up in a pretty filthy state, it's a part of this trail I have greatest efinity with, a more local section to me, one that I have ridden on many occasions.
I was getting wetter by the mile, the puddles were black as the coal that once spilled from the trains which frequented these parts before they were converted from track to trail, the front of my bare legs glistened with the black grit.
Another dog chase ensued and my pace increased to thwart its interest, this one had more passion than others, he grabbed a mouthful of Shimano boot only to let go after three or four revolutions of the cranks, looking less than impressed with the taste of the black gloop from my Gortex encased foot.
Riding my local trails felt quite easy, familiarity with them had an uplifting effect, I soon passed Barnsley, Wombwell and Conisborough Castle and it wasn't long before I was shooting down the side of the Conisborough viaduct to the River Don trail that took me to our next agreed meeting point.

Sprotborough Falls 120 miles

Chris and Mike didn't recognise me, I had changed colour from the last time they saw me. I had gone from a reasonably clean mountain biker to having the look of a coal miner after a long shift on the pit face.
It felt a bit like I had done a shift or two I must admit but my energy was boosted by a Clif Bar and drink of water with a couple of my favourite Nuun tablets.
Traversing the edge of Doncaster towards Goole is a case of joining pits, old railway lines, trails and countryside trails with canal side tow-paths, a mix of all sorts.
On the outskirts of Doncaster a little gem appears after a railway crossing, it goes about a mile through a woodland, a concrete road starting at a dirt track and finishing as it starts, it feels very odd, why was it ever there?
After passing through a few villages on narrow country roads I was soon at Braithwaite, a long section of canal side which seemed longer than normal and was a bit of a drag, every time I blinked it felt like I had been drawn backwards, the lock where I said I would meet Chris and Mike just looked like it was getting further away, a sign that my energy levels and morale was dropping, the constant rain was taking it's toll.

Braithwaite to Sykehouse along the canal side 140 miles

Winding back roads towards Goole with left rights, right lefts were quite tedious and uninteresting, I decided to mentally split the last part of the ride into quarters, Goole to Howden, Howden to Humber Bridge, Humber bridge to Hull then Hull to Hornsea and that way I was giving myself achievable goals. Goole was soon in sight, the crew decided they were going to stop at McDonald's to meet me, not exactly encouraging. As I arrived they were tucking into large Big Mac to go with full fat extras and a caramel frappe to wash it down, I think a sweet was lurking around somewhere too.
I filled my pockets with my chosen Clif Bars they were devoid of the fast food aroma and after taste thankfully, I didn't suffer the after shock of wishing I had not just eaten that!
I had a quick swig of coffee but soon started to tremble as the cold and wet had taken hold. I decided to set off ASAP to get my blood flowing and warm myself up.

Goole 160 miles

Heading off to Howden was my next goal, it was pelting down and getting quite dark, I was absolutely wet through, my shoes were squelching, my hands were stiff, my shoulders and neck were aching quite badly at this point.
After reaching Howden the small trails to the Humber Bridge were my next mission, zigzagging small trails filled with water was uncomfortable at first but became the norm after so much rain, the squish in my gloves, shoes and saddle was the only comfort I could find.
Reading signs was the least of my worries but an impossible task in the dark, Chris talked me through the labyrinth of trails by walkie talkie, Mike drove behind me reminding me they were there by creating a bow wave in front of the truck from the deep water, I could almost feel it push me along and the noise of the truck splashing through was unnerving.
My USE Exposure Equinox head torch was too bright even on low setting, the driving rain provided a hypnotic light show in front of my eyes as it lit every droplet so I switched it off, the MaxxD handlebar light had a similar effect but on it's low setting kept me going. On the highest setting it just illuminated everything, it was too much.
The rear Exposure Flare was awesome, I had it on all day and was visible from a good distance keeping me safe, that's the beauty of using Exposure lights, one thing you can rely on, one less thing to worry about, totally weather proof, a good job as the rain was relentless.
I had the same Endura MTR shorts on I had started out with early that morning, changing now would have been a futile exercise, they were very comfortable even when wet, the combination of Endura shorts and my favourite Fizik saddle was crucial.
I had changed my boots and socks just after Howden, they were wet through again almost instantly as the rain was so persistent, it ran down my shins into my boots.
My hands were in agony, the ergonomic grips that were comfortable for so long pierced my palms, there were no places left to put my hands, I had used and got bored with all the different positions available, my feet were feeling it, all my toes were numb and the heal of the foot I had hurt a few weeks before was throbbing.
There were lots of small trails and private roads along the side of the Humber that were unable to be travelled by the guys in the truck, so I was on my own for a long time around there.
The puddles were almost invisible, the water on the trails was that clear at times I could see what lie beneath, the grass on the trail looked as if was under glass, it swayed and floated in the water as if it was being blown by a breeze.
Out of the labyrinth and into sparse street lights I could see the TPT signs again, I went the wrong way a few times due to misplaced signs.
I was soon at a confusing sign that sent me down the wrong side of the railway, back tracking to the road the less than obvious trail to take was at the other side of the railway, another sign that lied. I was soon out onto the edge of the Humber and I saw the lights of the bridge looming large in the distance.
The trail was sodden which made for hard pedalling, it was like riding on the beach, my tyres sinking in sapping out every last dredge of energy I had left, rain will make any trail harder to ride, but how long could I stand to put in the additional effort required?
To the left of me was a railway line, a few trains passed making me feel envious of the progress they were making. It was very windy but not in my favour. As one of the trains came towards me blinding me with its headlights I felt the spray of a big wave lap up on the rocks, for a while on that section I was getting lashed from the side and above, nowhere to hide, another occasion when my saviour has been the best equipment, I've lost count of the times an Endura Stealth jacket has got me through, I don't go anywhere without one, in a hundred miles of rain my upper body stayed dry.
I had all sorts of thoughts going through my head, the biggest one was the temptation to finish at the Humber Bridge, to call it a day. I had reached a wide enough part of the river under the bridge for it to be classed as coastal, I had done enough, I was wet through, exhausted and having a bad time.
Through the gate entering the car park at the club near the bridge was very welcoming, under the shelter of the six lane umbrella of a bridge I met the crew, it would have been an easy choice to just get in the truck and go home. We had not mentioned to anyone where it was going to finish after all, other people had chosen that spot, it seemed like a good place to call it.
There were more reasons to carry on, my mate Paul Davis was one reason, I couldn't stop thinking about him to be honest, he would not appreciate me stopping short, he'd say "what you messing about at Joe."
Also thinking about how far we had come, Chris and Mike and how much effort they had put in, the memory of Jason McRoy, Michael Bonney and all the guys at ride for Michael, I thought about them all as I contemplated my fate, they were sat in my conscience judging my every move.
So packing in was not an option. Before I knew it the single span temporary roof over the Humber that served as a couple of minutes of respite from the elements was the start of my third quarter, only Hull and Hornsea section to do, yeah only!

Hessle / Hull Humber Bridge 188 miles

The TPT to Hull was a very urban affair, it used all sorts of paths roads which followed the Humber Estuary to the far end of the city near the docks. It took longer than I thought it would, Hull is a bigger place than I imagined, and some of it permanently policed.
I eventually found myself at the far side of Hull thanks to Chris on the radio, "that's it Joe, all you've got left is your last quarter, it'll not take you long but we won't see you now until the coast, keep it safe dude" and off I pedalled tentatively.
The last section to Hornsea was a pretty direct route, it crossed quite a few roads and one of these intersections confused me, signs pointing out a couple of alternatives.
I took a step back to peruse my choices and stepped awkwardly off the kerb twisting my ankle, down I went like a sack of spuds. Still connected to my other pedal the bike flipped up and flailed around like a mayday helicopter, the Motorola Walkie Talkie slapped me around the chops as if I deserved it.
I picked myself up with the obligatory look around to make sure no one was looking, the foot that was aching was now even worse, pedal it off, I told myself.
I shrugged it off and carried on automatically taking one of the routes of choice without thinking, once I realised I was way down the trail and doubt started to creep in, was it the other trail?
Making progress was key to the journey as the hundreds of gates soon cut your average speed down drastically, it was soon apparent that 17mph would translate to about 13mph average after gate interruptions and dogs etc. so while I was doubting my direction I was also trying to maintain a good pace.
The sight of a Hornsea TPT sign was a massive relief, I was just considering turning around in the narrow tree lined tunnel to backtrack for confirmation, this had effected my morale as my speed and average dropped, I was getting slower and slower, my shoulders slumped and my head had dropped.
There was radio silence since Hull, I suddenly got some broken frequency crackled voices, I tried to reply a few times but got just garbled crackle in return, It may have been picking up some crossed frequency interference, maybe some radio ham in his shed or one of those guys who sit in a lay bye with a fishing pole sized aerial.
All of a sudden a clear as day "Joe can you hear me" came over the radio, my initial thought was that they were at an intersection in the trail but when I replied they told me that they were waiting at the end of the trail. In my confused state I asked if they were far away and how much was left to ride, was there another section after where they were.
Chris talked back and said "no mate, we are at the end, we're on the beach front" I said "these radios are good what mileage do they cover?" I knew it couldn't be far.
My speed lifted and I was invigorated, the last few miles were fast, soon I was out of the trail into a street, I radioed in again "wait a minute, I think I'm in Hornsea! Where are you" Chris talked me in to where they were parked next to the beach and again I had the feeling of finishing another epic ride, it's a strange feeling, all the way through you can't wait to get to the end, then when you get to the end you don't really want it to.

End at Hornsea 207 miles

The reality of finishing and sense of achievement was replaced by feelings of relief, we got sensible after all the congratulations and recorded the moment with the obligatory photo, the task was now to get packed up, changed, dry and back home to get some rest ASAP.
Getting stripped off in a car park and getting fresh clothes on was heavenly, I was soaked through, my sodden shorts and base layer took some getting off, they seemed to grip me like glue.
We had a few moments of conversation about the strange journey we had just shared as a team but overall agreed we had done a good job, we talked about how we were going to get our little adventure documented and before we knew it we were back at Castleford dropping Mike off at his girlfriend's house where we collected him a day and a half ago, what a rush!
Chris and I carried on back to Worksop, just an hour away but in the early hours after the couple of days we had just endured it was a tough hour.
Struggling through the door at two in the morning with all our gear and trying to do it quietly was no mean feat, but once in place our heads needed no rocking. I slept through until nine ish, you could say I was ready, Chris got up a little later and after a few big coffees and some "what the hell just happened" conversations we made our weary way off to work, Chris had a couple of hours to travel back down south and I had a five minute round the corner jaunt to work.
The bike I used was the well travelled Santacruz Highball Carbon, it never missed a beat, it had a good service at my shop prior to the ride and I fitted a hope bottom bracket for reliability, it was the bottom bracket that I had used on many occasions, end to end, numerous coast to coast rides, still on its original bearings having taken thousands of miles of abuse and plenty of back wheel action.
Some new cables were fitted a few days before but no gear adjustments were needed during the journey.
The chain and gears were running as perfectly at the end as they did at the start, I have been using a new special synthetic oil which kept the gears spinning smoothly through the driving rain and mud, I only oiled it once at the start and on inspecting the bike the day after it was still lubed and non of the usual signs of rustiness you sometimes see after a wet ride, not bad after more than 200 miles.
Special thanks to Wickins and Soderstrom for letting me have some to trial before then to use on the day, it's soon to be available in the shop.
Recording duties were done by a Polar V650, I left it switched on throughout the day and it needed no extra charging, about 16 hours of recording and it still had 25 percent battery life left, it was a very useful piece of kit to have with me, it's a GPS and heart rate monitor so I kept myself informed on my state, a free update has just become available that includes mapping too, unfortunately just a few weeks too late, I could have done with that!
The results can be viewed on my Strava account.
After a few days getting back into the swing I had reflected on the journey a few times, my sleep, eating and other stuff had got back to normal and my energy was returning, my legs were a bit stiff but I managed a few short local rides.
My friend Craig Mckay has his friend Johan from France staying with him at the moment on work placement at Evenort, he's a national champ and very accomplished rider, they came out on a shop ride which helped give my legs a stretch, Johan is very very fast, too fast.
After the ride that evening came some news I didn't need, my friend Paul Davis who had been ill with cancer for months now had taken a turn for the worse, nobody was sure if he would see the night out.
The next day his son Gareth was due to get his exam results, Paul hung on long enough to hear his son tell him how well he had done then gave up his fight for life, he had all his friends and family around him, we all had time to tell him how special he was, a great man was Paul.
His wife Tracy, sons Gareth and Connor did his dad proud, Gareth worked at his exams as hard as possible under the cloud of illness that enveloped them all, he did brilliantly.
Paul was an inspirational person, and he didn't try to be, he just was, just the way he lived his life with an attitude that attracted automatic respect, we all loved him.
I did tell him how much I respected him, he knew anyway, cold comfort. But my little ride was my way of saying goodbye to Paul in the the best way I could think of, with respect, hard work and a passion, he would understand.

Paul's funeral was an emotional day, his family and friends were understandably rocked to the core, the church was full that day.
Afterwards there was a get together at the Shirebrooke miners welfare, all his family and friends met up and talked about their memories of Paul, not a single bad one.
A bottle of Jack Daniels with Paul's name on was brought out, it was one that I had labelled for him for his 50th birthday, his family presented it to me asked me to crack it open and pour him a good measure, not only was I honoured to do so but it also pretty much broke me, I eventually calmed down after a big hug and poured his final glass.

I know this is a bit of a depressing story, I would prefer to tell one of all is good with the world, everything is sweetness and light, the last minute goal that saves humanity and we all lived happily ever after but it ain't, shit happens.
I hope one thing that comes from it is the realisation of how wonderful life can be, and how lucky we are. Don't be blinkered, look around you, get on with stuff, we never know what's around the next corner. Live.

Chris asked me various questions during the ride, one of which I only know an answer from my perspective.

Why do we do the things we do Joe?

Answer:  Because some others can't. and because we can!

If you're passionate about something and want to do it hard enough you can achieve anything, contributing to a good cause or life in general gives you a great sense of fulfilment, don't waste it #besomebody

       #rideformichael #rideforjason #rideforpaul #rideforjenn #rideforyourself

                                                 Rest In Peace. Paul Davis.  1965 - 2015.


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