Starting off on a rare sunny day from Beachy Head this was a ride with a difference as it was really all about numbers.
Riding the overnight Maxx Exposure for the first time Alec was less familiar with the eastern end of the SDW than the western sections which he rides frequently so a day ride would help learn the trail.
Although I would presume the route signing on the night will be clear, riding the first part of an 80 miles journey it is tempting to ride alongside a group who seem familiar with the trail even if this means riding at someone else’s pace. This may be fine in a race or on a shorter ride but on such a long event it could eat into your reserves at an early stage.
We started off the GPS and headed down the promontory taking in the great high views and trying to ride at an 80 mile pace noting the odd wheel eating hole and narrow gaps in places at the start.
Alec has a low resting heartbeat and his trundling warm up start only lifted it to about the hundred mark. The first stage was trying to note the key points of the trail at junctions and where the trail is less defined look for the direction posts in the distance.
The child warning gate on the track down into Jevington seemed the worst danger so far.
The hill out was really the first climb and we had to ease our efforts a little to keep the heart monitor reading below 130. Having been repaired a few years ago the technical aspect of the roots is reduced but the difficulty is still there.
Surprisingly it seemed to take us both a full hour to warm up and by then we were heading towards Alfriston. Skipping a coffee break we climbed upward again having to ease a little to control heart rates.
We cruised across towards Southease racing down through the cows towards the road. The climb up to Mill Hill used to be so difficult to climb up over the large earthen steps but this years additional wear has worn it smooth and it is now a much easier climb. On the night though this may be a waste of energy and we concluded that this would be better walked.
I did not notice passing the meridian as we circled first around the cows mud bath and then around a group of ramblers who complained that Alec did not have a bell. The drop from the Newmarket plantation to the A27 we did mostly twice as Alec discovered his GPS had become detached so we spun around and went seeking. A kindly walker had picked it up and handed it to Alec as we climbed back up. He inquired about what it did and was there some owners information. Good point there so I have now changed the welcome page on my own unit to include a mobile number. We also looked at the backing plate that Alec was using and this was the two part unit using the screw fixing whereas I use the one piece unit and attach the wrist lanyard around the bars for extra security.
Across the road we climbed up the hill and rode back to the Beacon. The GPS informed us that we had ridden about 30 miles at less than 8 mph, climbed almost 1300m and it had taken over four hours including our diversions.
To me it seems that this is slower than riding west to east and we had great conditions for our ride without any wind. On a cold, windy night it would be easy to underestimate this section of the ride.
Remarkably Alec had kept his heart rate below 130 on the whole ride and settled on this as an easy pace that he could keep up all night long. This should see him complete the journey in less than twelve hours allowing for his planned porridge breaks. So if you fancy joining him on the night ride or you are willing to offer a little support on the route then that would be very welcome.