It's just over two weeks since I completed climb No.100 at the top of Box Hill. Surprisingly, this 'final' post has taken longer than any other to write, simply because I've found it strangely difficult to put into words how I feel after completing one of the biggest challenges of my life.
Physically, I've been feeling very tired but in a deeply fatigued kind of way - much more than after the first two legs. Maybe knowing that I haven't got any unfinished business has allowed me to 'switch off'. I was certainly 'switched off' when I got back on the bike after 4 days rest - pedalling in squares would be a positive spin on how that particular training session went!
Things have improved over the past few days but I've yet to hit to that rich vein of form which can come from an extended period of training overload - often referred to as 'super-compensation' in coaching terms. What's that I hear you say? 20 years too late?? Mmm....let's move on, shall we?!
Mentally, it's been strange. So many things happened over the time period - not just one hundred separate climbs/starts/finishes etc - that I've found it difficult to settle and reflect on anything in particular. I feel like I'm staring at a picture postcard stand (the type that you awkwardly try and keep revolving as you browse, while someone else on the other side tries to pick a card out) but it's spinning too fast to concentrate on any one image.
Probably just need more time to get back into a 'regular' pattern. The whole planning and organisation aspect was very stressful, both before and during the challenge and I think I might be 'crashing' a bit from that.
Some memories do pop into my head and stay there a bit longer than most though.
The sun setting at the the top of Bealach-Na-Ba is not an image you forget easily nor is the clear view across Dartmoor from the top of Widecombe as the the light begins to fade.
A frustrating recurrence throughout the whole 'campaign' was the lack of ANY kind of mobile phone signal. I had no idea huge parts the South West, Wales, Scotland, the Lake District, Pennines and Yorkshire Dales are devoid of the services of the UK's major network suppliers! Those of you kind enough to send Tweets, Facebook posts and texts who wondered why there was such a slow response - that's why.
On the subject of social media, it was of course one of the key tools in publicising the challenge and the fund raising background to it. The total raised so far is admittedly not quite what I was originally hoping for but as many have pointed out, it's a tough time for everyone to either raise or donate funds.
Which makes it all the more appreciated when donations did/do come in.
It seems an age since I completed the practice day and finished the main part of the training phase before starting 5 days later. That practice day was almost a copy of the final day and although I knew the climbs in that loop were't a true indicator of what was to come in terms of difficulty, the process of 'drive-stop-ride-stop-drive etc.' did highlight what was one of the most difficult aspects of the whole challenge. I expected it to be tough and it was. If any of you reading this are thinking of doing your own road trip challenge - this aspect, not just the steepness of the climbs, is what you should consider in your preparation. Getting out of a car after say, a 30-120min drive and then, with minimal warm up and stretch proceeding to ride/grovel up a 25% incline is not pleasant - at times it can actually make the difference between stopping or carrying on.
Do that repeatedly and the mental and physiological stress takes its toll, resulting in the body (or at least mine) eventually getting very confused!
The bike went back to Scott Sports last Wednesday and I delivered the car back to MotorLux the following day.
Whilst I didn't quite have a Tom Hanks/Wilson moment (from the film 'Castaway'), it was a strange feeling to part from two pieces of equipment that had taken me through some far flung corners of the UK and got me over the whole 100 Climbs without missing a beat. I'll miss them.
There's one statistic that I've retrospectively added to the Stats & Thanks post...
Number of punctures: Zero
This is actually quite remarkable given that I was riding one piece tubular tyres (no inner tube) to save weight - these can sometimes be more vulnerable to punctures, especially on rutted, poorly surfaced, flint ridden, cobbled or muddy roads of which there were many. As I've previously mentioned, how I didn't 'flat' riding up Fleet Moss in what was essentially a shallow river flowing against me most of the time, beggars belief. Guardian angels...
It was a wonderful adventure though - some great memories as well as a few scares, all of which I know I'll reflect on myself in due course. It was particularly good to share some of those memories at the time with Helen, Ian and Dec who shared the driving and support duties - as many of you will already know, there are some truly spectacular areas of natural beauty in the UK.
A final thanks to those who've followed 100 Climbs In 13 Days purely through this blog alone (as opposed to Facebook, Twitter etc.). Nearly 20 000 hits has hopefully raised the profile of the Richard Burns Foundation, it's mission statement and the support they give to those who need it. If you haven't done so previously, why not click on the RB logo now and see what part of this was all about.
Thanks for following and supporting.