Doing a big ride does weird things to your body. Neil has weird things going on with his heart, he can't get to sleep as he lays awake feeling his heart racing at a hundred miles an hour. He even looked it up online and found some theory that it takes as long for your heart to slow down as the amount of time you've been pushing it. As we'd been pushing it for a long time trying to complete those 82 miles, it was going to be a long time for it to calm down. It had been a tough day, the day before. We'd suffered weather and particularly wind like we'd never had before for such a prolonged period. I've ridden across the Severn crossing in the past and that was like a wall of wind but it was only short lived. What we suffered yesterday was the most prolonged assault we'd ever endured.
Yet I enjoyed it. There was something that made it satisfying. However I wasn't so sure Neil and John felt the same. Neil described it as his hardest day on the bike ever. Then I reminded him of the time we cycled up the back of Skidaw and arrived at ten o'clock at night where he had a melt down and I had to put him to bed. OK, he agreed it was his second worst day on the bike. Then I reminded him of the time we arrived in Nenthead too late to get any food and we had to eat peanuts and crisps for tea. Where he'd said we'd all get hypothermia and die on the top of a hill. OK, he agreed it was the third worst day on the bike. John just nodded in agreement, not knowing those earlier pains but knowing what he'd suffered.
With Craig missing out on the trip there were obviously odd numbers for the hotel rooms and John was lucky to have a room all to himself. Without the need for speed with any shotgun claiming of the double bed John no doubt got a good night's sleep just up the corridor from us. As agreed we were up a little later than normal hoping to soak in as much healing zeds as possible. Up and ready and wanting to tuck in to a Subway from downstairs we got ourselves going. Well myself and Neil were but there was no sign of John. No answer from his phone and no answer from his door. We gave him five minutes while we got our last bits together, still no sign. There's only so many times you can knock on a hotel door at 8 in the morning before someone unwanted comes answering. Neil went down stairs to see if he'd gone to meet us at the bikes. Still no sign. He was quiet last night, withdrawn maybe but surely that was just tiredness. None of us were upbeat. We had no reason to suspect anything was up.
That was it, I had to go and speak to the lady on reception. We needed access to his room or phone his room - do they still have phones in hotel rooms? The excitement was soon over though. He was up, ready and sat in reception waiting for us. He was way more ready to go than any of us. So much for the tough day yesterday. Confusion over, we turned our attention to breakfast and the confusion of what to have in a sub at 8 in the morning.
Fueled up and on our way, we eased our behinds on to the bike seats. That was no easy feat and I struggled with that more than anything. When we'd arrived in Devizes the day before we'd missed the mass line of locks together, a relief at the time as it meant no (more) hills at the end of the day. Today it was a double blessing as those locks were actually a down hill stretch as we headed out of town. Lock, puddle, puddle, puddle, puddle, lock the pattern went for 17 locks. We were wet and filthy before 10.
John had been looking at his PDF and had been getting excited about a nice surface once we got to the Bath and Bristol railway path. Neil and I had to break it to him that it was more than likely a cinder path. After a mid morning cake and quick snack in Bath we found out that John's PDF was thankfully right and we hit our best surface all the way in to Bristol.
Short on energy despite a Wetherspoon's meal inside us we left Bristol still battered by the wind but at least the chance of rain had receded. A couple of false starts leaving Bristol (Neil's back tyre no doubt and a spotting of Sarah Beeny) we hit the cycle route out towards Portishead. We were now on familiar roads and I certainly felt we were homeward bound, even if we were limping to the finish. The struggles now were becoming mundane, finding appropriate toilet break stops (lunch time pints now hitting) and finally quick pit stops to ease knees and behinds. We finally rolled in to Yatton at tea time to a heroes welcome.