‘It will be fun’ he said
‘Let’s do something different’ he said
‘You get to enjoy the whole weekend afterwards’ he said.
And actually, he was right. There are not many times my friend, Matt Wright, is right, but this time he was. So on a Friday night, when most people are throwing on the makeup and high heels and getting ready for a glam night out on the tiles, I was layering up on the lycra and topping up on caffeine to get ready for a night on the wheels.
We left the house shortly after 11pm leaving everyone safe and snug and fast asleep in their beds, As I switched the bedroom light off, Buster my old dog who is going deaf and blind didn’t even lift his head and I am sure he gave me one of those ‘are you bloody stupid?’ looks before sinking himself further into his warm dog bed.
We did the short distance to the Gosport Ferry and were greeted by Gosport’s finest all dressed up, or should I say, dressed down. I didn’t know where to look, girls completely breaking the rules of showing just one – legs or boobs, not both. I felt rather daft in my full on lycra gear, including overshoes, buff, winter gloves and my armband reflectors (which the boys said made me look like Kit from Night Rider). Never have I felt so self-conscious and unattractive in my life.
We did the short journey to Portsmouth and met the rest of the group, Matt and Paul at the Isle of Wight car ferry. At this point I did my usual thing, ‘oh shit, what am I doing?’, ‘I’m the only girl’, ‘I shouldn’t be with the boys, I should be drinking prosecco in the bar around the corner’ but it was too late. I was in this, and for the night.
The crossing was quiet and pleasant, a double espresso as a last attempt to wake up and a packet of cookies (for the energy of course). Everyone a little quiet as the idea of cycling through the night and no sleep started to creep in. Not sure of what toilet facilities would be available to me until the morning light, I headed off for a last luxury wee on the ferry, however this was short lived thanks to the girl who had eaten carrots (I know, I could the chunks) and who had obviously had one to many on the main island. Sitting there, hearing the girl retching, it took me back a few years. It was at this point that I started to look forward to the ride, to be doing something memorable and invigorating, and I wouldn’t have a hangover after it.
We arrived on the island shortly before 1am and were off straight away. Matt had planned a great route around the island, taking us along the coastline with the waves crashing over the wall. It was awesome. 10 miles in and it all seemed too easy, I started to forget about the challenging climbs and unforgiving hills that were coming up and was starting to think it was easier than previous times, I even started to hum happily whilst thinking about what breakfast I was going to have at the end.
Then. Boom. We hit a hill, and it took it out of me, I was gasping for air and could feel the sweat trickling down the back of neck and down my back. Oh shit. This was going to be brutal. Barely a quarter around the island and with no way of getting back to the ferry terminal but to cycle, I suddenly began to question what on earth I was doing. A complete mind-shift was happening, and that’s the brutality of cycling. You can feel on top of your game one minute, and then hit the wall the next.
We stopped, thankfully, and had a drink and some snacks to recover from the burst of energy just used. I was relieved to see that everyone was a little puffed out, it made me feel better about myself.
The lack of sleep and poor visibility can be disorientating. Going along Military Road, the longest road on the island I had zoned out. I was in the middle, Matt and Paul ahead and Tim behind me. Or was he? Suddenly, I was lost and alone. I could faintly see the red lights of the bikes ahead, but couldn’t see the front light on Tim’s bike. Had he passed me? Or had he come off? I panicked… I turned around and headed back calling Tim. There was no answer. F$%K. I stopped, I couldn’t see the red lights anymore and couldn’t remember if Tim has passed me. I felt all alone and cold. I decided to head back in the hope Tim was with them.
There was a big hill separating me and the others, so I put my head down got in the easiest gear and started to climb. When I came down to the bottom my heart sank as I only saw 2 silhouettes and 2 bikes. Tim wasn’t there. We tried to phone Tim but there was no answer, Paul offered to go back up the hill to find him (both Matt and myself secretly pleased with his offer). Barely 10 minutes later the group were back together, Tim had got a puncture and had to stop, and with the howling wind no-one heard him shout. A reminder of how easy a group can lose one another.
The rest of the ride we stayed together, handy as my bike light had given up. It was good cycling as a close team and we enjoyed a faster route along some winding cycle routes. The sun had started to come up and the island looked completely different. I could see the tiredness settling into everyone’s eyes as we may our way to our destination. Wetherspoons at Ryde. We were early, the doors were locked and the first ferry back home was ages away. Sat on the doorstep amongst the cigarette butts shivering away the staff felt sorry for us and let us in early. It was good to sit down after doing 68 miles and over 4000ft of climbing.
We ordered a big breakfast with mugs of hot tea and talked about our adventure, dreaming about heading straight to bed, but realising there would be children at home keen to see us as soon as we stepped through the door. We were not wrong. Our little boy had slept through the night and was rested and full of energy. Joy. The day was blur, fuelled by caffeine and cake. And when it came to putting Jude to bed that night, I am sure I was asleep before him.
Would I do it again? Of course I would. (sorry mum).