Four Counties and Two Countries (Audax, DIY, 200km)

I opened the front door and it was monsoon season, I gave serious thought about closing the door and climbing back into bed. I knew it was going to be one of those rides. By the time I made it to the top of the hill, about 2km, I could feel the rain running down my skin on the way to my already cold feet. I realised that I left my heart rate monitor at home, but I knew that if I went back to get it, I will call it a day. Only 2km in and I was not a happy bunny. By the time I reached Stone (5km), I was also very cold, so much for my winter kit keeping me warm and dry. At this point I would settle for wet and warm. I still had hope, as I could see a break in the clouds where the first light of the sun was breaking through, so I told myself to keep going. My new neoprene lined winter gloves were not doing very well as my fingertips were like fish fingers, we’ll what do you expect from eBay, I said to myself!

Pushing on in my misery, I realised that only a few years ago I would have enjoyed the challenge, now I am just a feeble rider, a wannabe Audaxer. As I approached Hodnet (40km) the rain started to break and the morning sun had started to get warm me; the world was a much nicer place. Although the rain had stopped, I was continually faced with flooded roads. To be honest I never really warmed up all day, but my speed did increase mid-morning just in time for another monsoon downpour. I made it to Ford (72kms) and sat eating my breakfast (fry egg sandwiches and a cup of tea) in my personalised and private puddle of water.

The next 70km to Chester were a lot more pleasant as it did not rain. However, my route planning sent me down a tarmac track, which gave way to a gravel section which turned into a wheel gripping mud section, and finally into a swamp-like path which eventually arrived at the tarmac road. I just needed to cycle on another half a kilometer and I would have avoided knee-deep mud and swamps. However, this was on me and my route planning.

It was a welcome relief to arrive at Chester and been greeted by the mandatory Hen do. I could not work out if they had been at it all night or if they had an early start, but they looked rough. I popped my head into Subway and asked if I could put my bike just inside as normal, sorry we are not allowed anymore was the reply. Ho well, I just push on to Bunbury and the cafe which was closing when I arrived but the ladies were kind enough to serve me a slice of cake and a warming cup of tea. I am always impressed with the service at Tilly’s Cafe and they were happy for a wet and muddy cyclist to sit inside to get warm.

The last leg back to Stoke was uneventful and pasted fairly quickly but the sun was leaving me now, I just wanted to get home for a hot bath to warm up again. I could tell I was approaching Stoke on Trent as the car drivers were much more aggressive, getting too close and pulling in front as if to make a point. Just to cap it off, it felt like the cycle lanes were being used as parking lanes so I had to keep moving out into the main flow of traffic which was very dangerous and I came close to getting hit a couple of times. So, I just rode in the main lane which made a few car drivers very unhappy!