The time I cycled 45 miles to Brighton

 

A few weeks ago, I cycled 45 off-road miles along the Downs Link from Guildford to Brighton on a whim. I liked the look of the route, so I figured I might as well give it a go. Why not, right?

I hadn’t trained; I cycled it on my cheap old hybrid, and I filled my backpack with Soreen and Snickers and peanut butter bagels and chocolate coated raisins. It was over 20 miles further than I’d ever cycled before, and hillier than I expected, and I got lost a few times .. But it was sunny and warm and beautiful and I loved every single minute of it.

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I was apprehensive, to say the least. I had never gone further than Cranleigh on that route (9 miles), I’d never had to fix a puncture before (or any other mechanical bike problem) and was cycling solo. I pretty much just crossed my fingers that nothing would go wrong and decided ‘to hell with it’. Plus, I really wanted fish and chips…

The first part of the route was a lovely flat disused railway line. It was nearly deserted for the first couple of hours, except for some charity walkers, a couple of other cyclists and a horse rider or two. It was also very easy to navigate, with easy-to-spot Downs Link signs at regular intervals.

The second 10 miles or so were reeeally beautiful:

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Carpets of beautiful bluebells. Miles and miles of them, surrounded by woodland. I got lost on this stretch, as there were a few different paths through the woodland, but a very kind runner spotted me and helped me out! And once back onto the path after a slight diversion, it was smooth sailing again for another hour or so.

brighton grey

A lot of the second half of the route was through open countryside, which was brilliant. As well as it being easy peasy to find your way, you could see for miles and the views were stunning.

Whilst the majority of the route was along the Downs Link, there were a couple of diversions onto quiet country roads:

brighton roadsBut these were very clearly signposted and I only saw one car the whole time. Perfect!

It got a bit tricky when I reached the South Downs Way and Coastal Link – there were signposts and coloured arrows everywhere, and I got a bit muddled trying to work out which one to follow:

brighton beachBut after a few false starts, I managed to find the path to Shoreham on Sea, and from there it was one straight (main) road into Brighton.

I didn’t take my Garmin, so I have no idea what the exact distance was, or how long it took me, or what pace I was going; but the moment I clambered off my bike and stood there looking out at the sparkling blue sea, none of that mattered. The pride I felt when I finished my little adventure was epic.

I think for a while now I’ve been a bit caught up with times and paces and mile splits and distances and endless targets. Whilst training for events is great, and the crowds and medals and goodie bags are awesome, I think in many ways my cycle to Brighton topped it all.

There’s nothing better than pushing yourself up a crazy huge hill in the middle of nowhere, on your cheap old bike, with no real idea of where you are (but hoping you’re still vaguely on track), just to feel the sun on your face and the wind in your hair as you free-wheel back down the other side, wobbling and bumping over the loose gravel and getting splattered with mud and unable to wipe the ridiculous grin off your face.

I think I need a bit more of that.

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Making the most of the sunshine

Here in Surrey, it’s been glorious sunshine (except for a couple of thunderstorms) for a good couple of weeks now. Usually, it’s hottest during the week whilst we’re all at work, and cloudier/cooler over the weekend, but this time we’ve been lucky – it hit about 28 degrees today, and has been bright and sunny with a cool breeze. Lovely!

Yesterday evening, my boyfriend and I decided to go for a little wander to explore the area around our building. We headed out of town to one of the nearby footpaths, where we found the ruins of a medieval church at the top of the hill. It looked stunning at sunset:

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I think sunset is my favourite time of day during the summer – I love the orange glow.

In other, more training-related news, I had planned a morning run with a couple of friends for today. The idea was to head out this morning to Woking for ice cream sundaes, which we spent the entire run thinking about in a sort of ‘this hurts and I’m definitely melting and don’t think I can go on but if I don’t carry on I won’t get ice cream’ kind of way. Unfortunately, when we got there the ice cream place had shut down so we didn’t get our sundaes anyway! This was more than a little disappointing after running 7 miles for them, but as we’d finished the run by the time we found out, it had at least served its purpose as the proverbial dangling carrot. Whilst the heat meant that we went much slower than some of our recent runs, it was nice to get out and give it a go regardless, and we definitely felt better for it.

As usual, I did the first mile solo, mostly along the river path:

riverrun

I even got to break out the sunglasses, yay! Though I now have a rather fetching tan line across my nose. And 2 sets of racer-back tan lines from my sports bra and running top. But hey, can’t complain!

The rest of the run was basically our usual route to work (with a slight adjustment for the last mile to get to the town centre), which was good as we had actually missed this week’s run commute. Whoops! As expected, we didn’t improve our time this week – but it was nice to do the route without the pressure of getting to the office for a particular time (or in this case, at all!)

Once we discovered that the ice cream place had shut down, we had a bit of a mini adventure. We headed back to Guildford on the train as planned, and the next THREE places we tried to get either ice cream or a milkshake from were shut or closed down. What is with you, Surrey!? We finally ended up at Neros, where we all got awesome frappes. I had the mocha one, with a ton of cream and chocolate sprinkles on top. Definitely worth the hassle.

But I’ll tell you one thing ice cream’s good for – coffee floats! We discovered these when our neighbour invited us over one evening. All it takes is iced coffee, a few ice cubes, and a huge scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream. If you’re feeling adventurous, I would recommend adding Amaretto. Sooo good.

I’ll admit that I did end up getting my ice cream today after all. After meeting up with my boyfriend and his friend, we first trekked up the LONGEST HILL OF MY LIFE, before plonking ourselves down to enjoy the view across the Surrey hills at the top (this might have resulted in a few more tan lines).

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When we headed back down to the river, we found an ice cream stall, and of course had to get one with a flake, because no ice cream cone is complete without one! 🙂 It was wonderful to sit on the grass under a tree and enjoy the cool breeze.

river1In hindsight, a hilly walk might not have been the best plan the evening before my first ever spin class. Tomorrow morning is going to be interesting, to say the least!

Running in the heat

I can’t believe how beautiful the weather has been over the past few days – and it’s set to continue until at least next week! It’s more sun than we had over the whole 2 weeks we were in Portugal .. Though we really made the most of the few hot days. One of my favourite trips was to the ‘End of the World’ (the furthest South-Westerly point of Europe) where we looked out across the Atlantic, and enjoyed the evening sun and the cool breeze:

p1To be fair, Surrey is pretty beautiful, too. Though I don’t get to enjoy the sun quite so much from the office! On the plus side, cycling to and from work has been lovely. The only problem with the lovely weather has been all of the Porsche convertibles (or rather, their drivers). They don’t give you much space when overtaking, but man, the noise of those engines ..

When it comes to running, the heat really saps my energy. I guess I’m kind of hesitant to get outside and run in the heat because I know that it’s going to be difficult – especially as I haven’t run outside in a good month or so! (Wow, I’m a slacker). I might have enjoyed my 1hr run last Thursday, but it has to be said that running on the treadmill is much less challenging than running outside. Whilst my (budget) gym might not be air conditioned, there’s a distinct lack of hills or wind resistance!

I’ve really been meaning to get out before work, to avoid the heat. It occurred to me that it makes much more sense to train earlier in the day – not least because it gets it out of the way before the day begins! By the time I get home, it’s easy to find excuses not to run – especially when I’ve already done an hour of cardio by cycling to and from work. Another bonus is that it’s cooler outside, and much quieter – but the main reason is that races (especially longer races) have fairly early starting times. (D’oh). The thing is, I’m really not a morning person. I don’t get up hugely early – 7:30 for work, and 8:00 on Saturdays for Parkrun – and I even find that a bit of an effort!

I’d love to get up an hour earlier and go for a decent run first thing. I know that once I get outside I’ll enjoy it, and I’ll feel great knowing I can cross off a training run before breakfast (and put marathons out of my head for the rest of the day), but I can see it’ll take a bit of adjusting.

Then again, plenty of people train first thing – it can’t be that hard, surely!?