Monday 16 March 2020

The Dean 2020 ('What no horses')

Last weekend saw me complete 'The Dean', a 300k+ audax event that started and finished in Oxford. I cycled this event back in 2011 with my buddy Ron. Several (well, at least 2) attempts were made to cycle this event again but hostile weather put play to that, until last weekend anyway. Below are my jumbled recollections of the said event.

Set my alarm for 4 a.m. and after a swift Alpen breakfast set off for the start - Oxford Park and Ride. Once at the start collected my brevet card from the organiser, along with a banana, crisps and cereal bar for good measure. Hastily ate the crisps and banana and then set off in the dark following a number of red tail lights. Not sure how many had entered this event but would guess around 100. 

Only recently have I started to cycle with a single ear bud in my ear listening to audible books and pod casts. This helps the miles pass by speedily. More focused on my audible book, I was 10k past the first control (Stow) before I realised. Damn blast - I wasn't going to cycle back to just get a proof of passage (POP) receipt.

Before long, I was cycling familiar paths including Cleeve Hill and passing through Bishops Cleeve, Winchcombe and Tewkesbury. I think listening to my audible stuff took my concentration off the hills and strangely I remember more about the Arctic than I do those inclines. Ha! - that's what you get from reading adventure stories. The route I cycled added about 10k during this section as I re-routed to miss flooded areas. My first proper stop was in Newent, about a third of the way into this event. Not a fancy stop in a cafe, rather a sit on a bench eating ready made sarnies. I chatted to a few other cyclists here including Lee who I had cycled a stretch of the Giants Tooth with last year.
Is funny cycling an event that you have cycled before, especially when it seems totally different to what you remember. This ride was no different until I started cycling through the Forest of Dean and passed the Speech House. Memories of Ron's first aid (now there's a laugh) came flooding back - it was here that he removed a bug from my eye, 9 years ago! I remember the bug from 9 years ago but for the life of me can't remember the control in Chepstow which I visited just 2 days ago. Hmm. No, wait, after much thought I do remember - I stopped at Weatherspoons and ate a burnt hamburger and chips.
I vividly recall cycling the Severn bridge. My headspace told me that I wouldn't be cycling across the bridge due to flooding, so it was kind of a nice surprise when I did. Love this bridge and have cycled across it many times. Also in my headspace was the 'fact' that I would see 2 white horses (chalk horses) somewhere on route. I hadn't as yet and it turned dark before I reached the control which was Waitrose in Malmesbury. (Had told my kids I was cycling an event to see 2 white horses and would take pics of same and send back home). The horses never appeared. Hmm. Malmesbury Waitrose was ok, however, the cheese toastie that I ate was over-priced.

Left Waitrose and headed for the Marlborough Downs. I'm sure the white horses were around here somewhere, however, I saw them not. Maybe it was too dark or maybe I had gotten into my pod cast too much. I had listened to a whole bunch of interviews where Kelly Homes was talking to folk about their mental health as part of a series called 'What Do I DO'. Amazing how exercise seemed to be a positive factor in most peoples mental well-being. Listening to the pod cast and exercising had prevented me 'going mad' and I was able to cope with big hills and losing my brevet card. Ha!

If truth be told, I didn't know I had lost my brevet card until I reached Membury Services. These Services
were great - I tucked into a bargain bucket for one at KFC. This was the best food I had eaten all day (and had recently 'gone off' KFC). Balance was restored. 

Final leg took me back to the start in Oxford. There was an info control somewhere but since my brevet card had gone AWOL I didn't even bother to stop. This section was less hilly and without any major menace reached the arrivee. No major menace except for a missing brevet card!

Well done Dad!

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