Working with the daisy garland has been fantastic. having no experience with raising money what so ever, I was a little nervous of approaching a charity for fear of doing it wrong. I should not have worried. In the very capable hands of Sara, I was steered towards the setting up of a “Just giving” account which I shamelessly plugged on Facebook day and in day out. To add to that I had a bucket at work, into which my customers very generously donated all the loose change and more, it adding up to £240. at the time of writing this and with the just giving, the total stands at £605 plus there is the gift aid supplement which is another £160 and I have promises of a further £100 or more. Fingers crossed.
The day of the ride dawned early and just two of the original three were driven down to Eastbourne at the crack of dawn and my thanks go to Andy and Nadine for the lift.. Steve Newholm had pulled out on fitness grounds and so it just left Stephen Clarke an myself to start the trail at 9 am Friday morning. We had been watching the weather forecast all week and knew it might be a little wet, and wet it was with horizontal rain and wind. My navigating got us slightly lost after 200 meters and the puncture fairies got Stevens back tyre after little more than two miles. Not a good start. The weather was only part of the problem. Whist we had practised on the south downs, we were at the Winchester end where the downs paths are a lot smoother and the hills less abrupt than that at the Eastbourne end, neither of us is unfit but my goodness were we in for a shock. After about 30 miles the rain stopped and the wind subsided but the terrain continued to hold us back. We had budgeted for an average speed of 6-7 miles an hour. Reality was seeing us do 3-4 and by 4 pm it was obvious that we were way behind schedule. We had to make our destination as our sleeping bags and food were waiting there for us and so with a heavy heart we switched to the roads for a few miles to make up time. Thank goodness we did. We bypassed a particularly tall rise in the downs and got ourselves back on track, we re-joined the trail and plugged away at it for the rest of the day arriving at the Gumber bothy camping barn ( highly recommended ) just after sunset. It had been a really tough day both mentally and physically and our spirits were a little low, made worse by the barns only other occupant who had run 50miles to our 60 and looked in better shape for it.Day two saw an early start but with a total change of the weather, blue skies and a cool breeze, just what the doctor ordered. Whilst I felt totally recharged, Stephen was feeling the strain of the previous day. I had my concerns about how far Steve would make it, but he gritted his teeth and ploughed on. Day two was far easier than day 1. there were less miles to do and the terrain was far more favourable. I really enjoyed the Saturday ride. We both agreed to push the bikes up the steepest hills to save energy and the flats and downs were far easier to ride than the Friday and all under a beautiful blue sky. Our spirits rose more still as we entered familiar territory that we had ridden on our practice days. Stephen was starting to suffer in the legs as we drew closer to Queen Elizabeth country park and had to pull when we arrived there. He had ridden 28 miles further than I had ever hoped that morning and I know he gave his everything to get there. I felt sad to be continuing on alone and I know Steve wanted to finish after all the miles we had put in together. ( we are planning to do the last leg together soon). I continued on up Butser hill alone and out towards Winchester, It did not take long to shed the loneliness as there are far more users of the south downs way on this stretch and the end was in site. It was about two miles outside of Winchester that I finally caught up with Charlie the mad runner who had left the camping barn at 4.30 am and continued his run. I am so amazed that anyone can run 100 miles let alone nearly beat someone on a bike. Winchester was a sight to behold and as I peddled up to the cathedral I felt so proud to have done it but a little sad that I was alone. The feeling soon passed as I met Charlie the mad runner in the pub round the corner and enjoyed a well deserved pint whilst waiting for Caroline to pick me up and whisk me off to the west country for a weeks r&r.
My thanks go out to Stephen for coming with me, Andy and Nadine for the ride down to Eastbourneand to Caroline for letting me buy a new bike.