I’d planned to ride with a friend I’d known for years, Abi. We'd done an 80 mile ride earlier in the year to see if we could cope with being together for hours. We’d survived, no-one had tried beating the other to death for too much talking and she hadn’t asked to share my snacks. Perfect.
Abi had taken her bike in for a service at her local bike shop and had mentioned she was doing King Alfred’s Way. The chap in the shop had mentioned it was a tough trail … and then stared away into the distance as though he was re-living bad memories. As though he was remembering having to wild camp and the food had run out and everyone had turned feral and they’d had to eat Steve. Hmmm. Abi didn’t ask about his memories of the trip. Although she did consider inviting HER mate Steve. You know, in case things got really bad.
Despite hearing about tough trails, I'd decided against taking my mountain bike. It's 20+ years old and held together with spit and good will. Instead, I decided to take my road bike but put some chunky tyres on. Well … as chunky as you can get with limited clearance and disc brakes. So not very chunky
Meh … it'll be fine. I hope. I'd booked a hotel for the night before so we could make an early start but the room smelled so strongly of weed that I'd had had to move rooms in fear of getting the munchies off someone else’s high and eating all the snacks I’d packed for the entire trip.
It'll be fine.
I met Abi at 0800hrs at old Sarum, which is an old iron age hill fort and I'd parked over the road for free. My car is an ancient and very rusty Skoda which looks as though it's on its last legs (wheels?) so it's practically theft-proof as it definitely doesn't look as though it'll start with a key, let alone for a thief chancing his luck. Full of enthusiasm, caffeine and sugar, we powered up the short sharp hill to Old Sarum and with a quick stop for a start photo, we were through the gate and on our way!
The first trails were mainly grass and dirt and chalk with sharp, shiny flint pieces. They were very rolling and much rougher than I’d expected and there were stretches of everything from sticky mud to sharp flint to long grass to chalk to pebbles and gravel. All within the first few miles. It was definitely going to be a challenge … even with the 'chunky' tyres.
However, everything is better under blue skies and with spring flowers in the banks and hedges and the sun threatening to shine, it was a good day for an adventure. The first bluebells were out and so was the wildlife. We saw red deer standing in the fields as we passed and even spotted a couple of hares bounding away from us, their angular forms and dark tipped ears making them distinctive.
The trails gave way to a section on the road and we passed a ‘Stonehenge World Heritage Site’ sign. I was hoping to get a close view of the standing stones. However, we went towards Larkhill Camp rather than across the plains which gave us a view of Stonehenge we didn’t usually see, from the other side across the fields. I didn’t notice the stones at first, just the long line of campervans along the field edge marking the tourists hoping to avoid the parking charges.
Following the road, we came into Larkhill Camp and as we passed by the distinctive services houses, I saw the first swallows of summer soaring over the hedges, silhouetted against the bright sky. It’s official! Summer is really on its way.
A brief section of tarmac and back onto trails. It was tough going on these trails as they were single track and rutted and lumpy. The bike bumped and rattled, but the weather had been quite dry recently and I was very grateful for that. This could have been a lot tougher if it had been a damp spring.
We chatted as we went and followed the route across acres of fields. The trails were mainly rutted and grassy, but there wasn't very much of it that was flat. The hills were rolling chalk downs with the trails following the hills and valleys. Abi asked how far we’d gone and I checked the watch. We'd been cycling for around 2 hours and not even covered 10 miles. Cycling trails was certainly going to be very different to the road cycling I was used to. I just had to hope there was about the same amount of cake. (lots)
I was following the route on my Garmin watch which has fairly decent maps on. I’d plotted and uploaded the route and the watch directed us well, even on the tiny byways and bridleways which might have been difficult to spot otherwise. We were directed straight ahead at a crossroads, but I stopped at the junction as there was a big sign saying ‘Road Closed After Bustard Inn’. I couldn’t find Bustard Inn on my map so I wasn’t sure whether we'd get to our byway before the road closure. A cyclist coming the other way stopped when he saw me checking my route. He promptly told me I couldn’t go down this road as there was a red flag by it. There was indeed a red flag, but we were planning on staying on the road which according to the sign was still open until the Inn. I thanked him for his (unsolicited) advice upon which he repeated it again. Twice. He then cycled off, into the undergrowth past the red flag.
Abi and I decided we’d follow the road as far as the Bustard Inn and then re-assess if we hadn’t turned off before then. We got pedalling and were passed by an army vehicle who waved but didn’t re-direct us. Ok, that’s promising at least.
We followed the road for a mile or so seeing no sign of the aforementioned inn and got to a dusty 5-way crossroads. It helpfully had a signpost on which had a byway sign on it. Unhelpfully, the sign had broken off and lay at the bottom of the post. There was no clue as to which direction it had originally pointed.
Our Garmin route seemed to point to the first exit which had a big red sign on it saying ‘Road Ahead closed. All MOD vehicles use STR’. Did that mean we could use STR too or just military vehicles. And did that mean it was closed just to vehicles or did it include bicycles? And what did STR mean? A sign just behind it said ‘Road out of bounds to all military traffic.’ We weren’t military – did that mean we could use it? It was the most confusing set of signs. I was a bit concerned by the red flag too – I definitely didn’t want to stray onto a site which was being used for live firing.
There were a few military vehicles around which didn’t seem concerned by our presence and quite happily waved as they passed. We wanted to check though and flagged down a vehicle which had brown camo on it and a couple of soldiers in it. The soldier confirmed that the red flags were only if we went into the undergrowth beyond the flag; the roads and byways were quite safe.
Phew! We weren’t convinced about the ‘Road Closed’ road though so went along the STR road (whatever that meant) but we could see it was open, and just beyond that we spotted the byway sign. Hooray! We crossed the grass following the byway trail and it popped us out onto a dusty road. We followed this for a mile or so, occasionally being passed by military vehicles.
We coasted down a hill just about to turn off to the left onto the byway we could see on the map when we were flagged down by a portly gent with a neck tattoo and orange lights on his vehicle.
We stopped, of course, whereupon he explained that we were doing something very illegal and had passed multiple stop signs. (Which of course we hadn’t) We explained that we were of course terribly sorry and had even checked with someone that we were ok to be on this road and were about to turn left onto the next byway. The gent told us that in his opinion the byway we should go on was a completely different one going in the opposite direction to the one were about to take. He got out his maps to show us, which were of course highly official and only available from the army. I tried to explain that I could see where we were going and were of course terribly sorry to have come down a road we shouldn’t have but we were explained to that we should go in this direction on this byway to somewhere completely random. Rather than down the byway we needed that went to the place we wanted to go. We went round in circles for a bit but in the end I thanked him for his kind advice, but we really did want to go the direction on my map and were very sorry for any inconvenience and thanked him for the look at his very official maps and carried on, onto the byway.
We crossed a busy road and were back onto the dusty, chalky trails. We had a couple of miles on grass which was lovely cycling – hardly any ruts and it was dry and hard. Lovely! Back onto chalky trails soon enough, miles and miles of them and I wondered if Dad had biked over these. He had been mad about his off-road motorbike and had loved going out to Salisbury plain with his friends for some trails.
I found that much as I was enjoying the chalky and occasionally muddy trails, I seemed to be going slower and slower and my bike was making some odd noises. I stopped to wait for Abi and realised I didn’t need any braking at all to stop. And that there was a bit of mud on my bike. Blocking up my brakes specifically. Well that explained the odd noises and the lack of braking required on the downhills. I was doing some resistance training without realising it as the mud was stopping the wheels going round. There was nothing around to get the mud out, no sticks, just grass, chalk and flint. I picked up a spiky flint and started trying to dig out the mud so the wheels would move. It was about as successful as it sounds. But I created a bit of a gap so the wheels could go round again.
The trails alternated between chalky and flinty and grassy and dirt trails. There wasn’t a great deal of flat, we were ether going up or down and it was much harder riding on the trails than on the roads. Every time we got to a junction and had to check the direction, the route we’d be sent always seemed to be the uphill fork. Of course it was.
But then … no PROPER adventure starts with “Well … every thing was super-easy ...”
Occasionally we’d see a nice smooth trail or bit of road … and then we’d see the tiny bridleway or byway tucked behind it. And of course we were going the interesting way. Read: Tougher way. But we were doing this because it was a challenge, not because it was easy. I rode on the roads all the time, this was so, so different. And because it was slower, I had the chance to look at the views and at the flowers and spot the hares running across the fields and playing or the deer jumping through the yellow rapeseed flowers. It was a completely different experience.
We had a long old hill on broken roads coming up from Gore Cross. It was very damaged and rutted, but the views were of fields, green as far as the eye could see with the verges dotted with bright yellow dandelions.
We cycled along the ridge for a while until we popped out by a WWI toposcope on a plinth by Lavington & District showing all the landmarks you could see from the top of the hill. Apparently you could see for over 15 miles in some directions. We had a good look and hopped back onto the ridge for some gravelly trails. The ploughed fields were a bright cream colour from all the chalk in the soil.
We dropped down from the chalky ridge and back into the loamy mud. Luckily we were under trees for this sections so a couple of stops to unstick the wheels and brakes meant there were sticks available to poke the mud out. When we dropped into the valleys, because of the tiny tracks we were on, we encountered a few tractors and could certainly tell where they’d been with their large wheels churning up the tracks and laying the mud on the lanes. It made for some trickier cycling as not only were the ruts deep but the tread on the tractor tyres made it a bumpy ride.
We had been hoping to see a little shop or petrol station for a while as there hadn’t been as many opportunities to refill water bottles as we’d hoped. Coming into the little village of Chirton, I checked a map and we saw a garden centre & nursery marked. Delighted we cycled up to it hoping for cake and coffee as well, just to see a closed barn which must have sold farm supplies at some point.
We stopped at the church to use the outside tap as there is usually one for the flowers. The church door was open so I walked up to ask permission, but the vicar was halfway through a christening so I walked around the church but couldn’t see a tap. We carried on through the village and passed a man and a small boy with a bike outside their house so, assuming they were cyclist-friendly, I stopped and asked whether they would mind refilling our water bottles. They kindly did.
We had a nice ride across the chalky, dusty roads up to Tan Hill near Allington. It has a gate halfway up so took a cheeky view pic as I stopped to open it to get the bike through (didn’t dare try the cattle grid while going slowly on fully-packed bike up a hill!) and then carried on to the top where the road curved around the hill. There was not the view I was hoping for … it had all been behind me as I cycled.
Never mind. I put the bike down and had a snack while I waited for Abi to finish climbing the hill. Apparently Tan Hill is the second highest of the North Wessex Downs being just 26cm less than Milk Hill which is the taller one. According to the map we did also go up Milk Hill which has a white horse carved on it's side but I didn't see this. Probably dreaming about my next snack ...
We had lunch at Red Lion in Avebury. It was an an old stone pub, surrounded by ancient standing stones and because it was the weekend of the 1st of May, there were lots of very happy, dressed up and drunk druids celebrating the MayDay Festival. There was a singalong going on in the courtyard and the atmosphere was friendly and cheerful. The whole place – busy as it was with people – had a really lovely feel to it. The pub was very busy because of the celebrations but we got a cosy table indoors where we could see the bikes and I scoffed down a chicken BLT and chips. Perfect.
There was a well inside the pub with a glass plate across it with the inscription ‘Village well circa 1600, 86ft and believed to be the last resting place of at least one unfortunate villager’. I didn't spot any pale villager ghosts drifting through the pub just us two pale cyclists although Abi had managed a start on her cycling tan by forgetting her sun screen. She had a particularly distinctive elbow tan which was white and red stripes. Very fetching.
We stopped for a couple of pics by the stones - and a traffic cone for some reason - and set off onto our next trails. The sky was getting darker and more ominous and viewsacross the hills showed rain coming down. We passed several spots where the road was wet and puddly but managed to avoid getting rained on.
We joined the Ridgeway at around Marlborough and I took a quick snap of the bike against the signpost while I was stopped. The Ridgeway was mainly grassy and stony trails, lovely riding although it got quite rough in some parts. I wasn’t sure whether to ride in the ruts - and hit the pedals on the sides or on the smoother top of the rut in the middle - which would often end in an enormous puddle or on the grassy verges - which involved the occasional trips into the prickly hedges when the verge ran out. I compromised by doing a combination of all 3 and trying to avoid prickly hedges. Worked mostly. There was a certain amount of prickle extraction.
Coming along the Ridgeway, we spotted a lone cycling shoe in the middle of one of the trails. There was no-one else around for miles. Just one lone silver cycling shoe. Couldn’t quite work out how it got there. Maybe it had all gone to hell and they’d eaten Steve.
I was enjoying the cycling. There was much more trail than I’d expected even after plotting the route for each day and some very tasty hills that just kept on going. It’s definitely a route if you like a hill or two or a hundred. And some really quite challenging trails. An odd thing though, on some of the worst and roughest trails there would occasionally be a random cats eye road marking. It would be just the one and it would be stuck up at a weird angle or at the edge of the path, very out of place. It was kind of like finding a sprout in your ice cream. No idea why it’s there, it’s no use to anyone and you couldn’t believe anyone would think it was a good idea.
We passed a lot of land forts similar to Old Sarum such as Segsbury Camp. I genuinely had no idea there were so many in the UK, let alone in this small area. If we saw a land fort in the distance, the trail seemed to head for it. You could almost guarantee there would be excellent views from the top as they were planned in areas of strategic importance and usually you could see for miles from the top of them. The only problem was getting to them as the sides were usually fairly sheer and flinty or muddy which made for hard cycling.
After cycling miles of tough, rough trails, I couldn’t get my bike up the steep, flinty hill at the Barbury castle fort as the back wheel kept sliding out on the mud. I blamed it on the path underfoot and pushed the bike up. I was happy that rather than the mucky trails and skinny tyres on a fully laden bike, the reason I couldn’t get up it was down to the terrain rather than being knackered. 70 miles of trails felt a long way but my legs weren’t done yet!
We saw a few other laden bikes on the route although it was difficult to tell whether they were doing King Alfred’s Way too or out on completely different adventures. There were a lot of trails in this area and we were exploring just the one route this weekend. Pretty much every group I saw commented on the skinny tyres … they were a compromise. Let’s hope they aren't a horrible lesson.
We passed a sign saying Hackpen Hill which surprised me. I’d cycled up this on the road on my very first sportive and I’d remembered it as an awful hill, but we’d approached it from a different direction on the trails and it hadn’t been half as terrible as I’d remembered. We were cycling the section from Overton Hill to Sparsholt Firs now along the Ridgeway and it was lovely wide gravel roads and grassy fields. It was a lovely rolling route and in the late afternoon sunshine, it was peaceful and beautiful. The views across the hills and valleys were incredible.
We had a long old climb up a gravelly hill at Ogbourne St George and the Garmin beeped to tell me it only had 10% battery left. Bugger. I’d been so busy chatting at lunchtime and watching all the May Day celebrations, I’d forgotten to give it a quick blitz on the battery pack. I got to the crossroads at the top of the hill and laid the bike down and got the charger out while waiting for Abi. The Garmin charges really fast which is a definite benefit - it was at 20% after a few minutes and we got back on the bikes and continued along the ridges.
The light was fading now, but it gave everything a fairytale, ethereal light. The only noises were the whirr of the wheels and the tweeting of the birds.
At the crossroads at the top of one of the hills was an animal trough with a water tap above it and sign saying it was drinking water. I gratefully filled my water bottle while I waited for Abi. Riding together worked well, I could quite happily ride the uphills and flats all day but was more cautious on the downhills on the skinny tyres, whereas Abi on her wider mountain bike tyres could quite happily bomb down the hills. It worked well, I’d go ahead on flats and uphills and then wait for Abi and move out of her way so she could zoom down the hills.
I also finished off the day’s snacks. I’d packed a couple of bars but the majority of my snacks were pick’n’mix. I love a bit of sugar when I’m cycling and pick’n’mix had seen me well through all my summer 100 milers last year. Any excuse to eat sweeties, really.
On one of the trails, we passed a sign for Waylands Smithy. We turned off the trail and under the trees and found the barrow with large stones. It was very serene under the trees. We were the only ones there and it was a very still evening. I took some photos and the light was just beautiful. I felt very lucky to have seen it like this.
We zipped down the trails in the dusky light and went past a kid lying on the bonnet of his car, not expecting anyone to come past. In the middle of nowhere enjoying the evening sunshine. We continued along the trail along the ridges and while it was hilly, we weren’t going crosswise over the hills, like it felt we were at Salisbury Plains so it was easier riding despite the roots and stones.
We passed a random camper van which had been turned into a permanent house with tarpaulins covering the roof and lean-tos around it. On one of the grassy sections, surrounded by rapeseed flowers, I waited at a trail junction for Abi and saw 2 men wild camping. I was in a position where I could see both of them, but I wasn’t sure whether each were aware of the other. One had pitched their tent at the top of the hill and one below some bushes at the bottom of the hill. They both seemed oblivious to each other. Hope the one at the top didn’t have a wee down the hill.
I had a lot of fun cycling the rough trails and managed to fall off 5 or 6 times. Mostly soft landings. I wasn’t surprised. I rarely come off my road bike, but whenever I’m out on my mountain bike I seem to come off. Usually over the handlebars when I pitch the front wheel into a hole. I’m glad to say most of todays were jamming the wheel into a rut and just slowly tipping sideways rather than anything dramatic.
It was starting to get a bit dusky now and the light was fading, so I popped the lights on. I tend to ride with front and rear lights flashing in daylight as it makes me more visible, but I’d mostly turned them off on the trails as we weren’t likely to come across cars. However, it was time to set the front light to on as we were due to head onto roads for the last couple of miles. We’d booked Travelodge Hotels for the overnights. Call me fussy, but I do appreciate a shower after a long days riding. Plus a toilet with actual toilet paper.
As a result, the route was a little longer than the actual King Alfred’s Way as I’d added the route to hotel and back to the route every day. However, I’d made a bit of a mistake. Not only did the route to the hotel take us off the King Alfreds Way, it took us down the hillside and down the ENORMOUS White Horse Hill at Uffington.
It was a wonderful hill to ride down…. But not so nice to ride up to get back to the route in the morning. And then I’d programmed the route forgetting to take it off ‘Gravel Bike mode’ so we had some extremely gooey mud to navigate to get to Faringdon rather than the nice easy road cycling I’d hoped.
Not only was it extremely thick black mud, it was extremely thick clingy mud. It got everywhere. Jamming up the brakes, sticking the wheels. And it wasn’t even on the route. It was at this point that Abi a) Swore she was NOT riding up that hill the next day, b) Realised that her lights were a bit shit c) Lost faith in my navigation skills. I checked the route and promised that I’d reroute us back to the road. If we could just get past the next part of very deep and very sticky mud. There was swearing, but then … after a mile and a half, there was also the hotel. Faringdon Travelodge.
We booked into a curry house, scoffed the curry and I washed my bike and kit and left it drying in the shower.
70.5 miles, 1,443m elevation, 8hrs on the bike.
The benefits of an evening curry, was that I also had leftover curry for breakfast. As we’d had a late night, (by the time we’d walked back from the curry house, it was touching midnight) we decided that we would start today’s ride a bit later. It was another 70 mile day and it would start with White Horse Hill (also known as Dragon Hill).
Abi had thoroughly enjoyed cycling down it the day before. She had enjoyed it so much downhill that she had decided that there was no bloody way she was cycling back up it. Fair enough. It’s not part of the official route, so she can get to the route any way she liked. We agreed to meet at 1000hrs and Abi decided to book a taxi that would take her and bike up the hill and meet me at the trig point by the hill fort.
I got all set up, switched lights on and headed out of the Travelodge car park with the bike all loaded up. Roads were quiet as it was about 0845hrs on Sunday morning. Which made it more annoying when some idiot in a white van cut me up for no reason on the road. Bloody idiot. Hope he doesn’t expect me to help him out of a ditch when Driving Karma hits! I was looking forward to getting back on the trails and away from drivers again.
I did very much like the ducks crossing signs on the way to hill though. I very much hoped to meet some dancing ducks.
White Horse Hill starts gently but builds to a nice gradient under a line of trees and then continues over a crossroads into a single track road. Despite the early hour, I met 3 cars so pulled over so they could get through. It’s not nice having to make an uphill start on a fully laden bike, but good practise for clipping in under pressure!
There was a cattlegrid and gate part way up and I decided that going this slowly was not the best way to cross a cattlegrid so I bottled it and opened the gate. I didn’t want a bent wheel or broken ankle on day 2! I made it up past the gate, around the curve of the hill with the steep drop on my right hand side. The hill is officially only 0.6 miles but with the max gradient of 18% and average of 9% it feels much longer. However, the views across the valley and fields make it worth it!
As I was rounding the corner near the top, I was passed by a chap on a mountain bike. Moving fast. He saw me turn to look and shouted “Don’t worry! It’s electric!” I called back “You shouldn’t have said, I would have been massively impressed!” He chuckled and carried on cruising up the hill.
I made it to the top and passed in front of the hill fort and the Garmin took me onto the trails and back onto my route from yesterday evening, doing part of the same course twice. I got to the point where we had left the trail and I opened the National Trust gate to cycle across the grass to the trig point where I was meeting Abi.
It was surprisingly windy on top of the hill. A couple were doing selfies by the trig point so while I waited I asked if they wanted a photo of them both together. They offered to return the favour so I sent a pic to Abbers along with a ‘How you getting on?” message. She was taking a little while so I had a look around the fort, found a side that was less windy and sat down to start on the snacks.
Eventually I got a text from Abi saying she was on her way so I rode down to the gate to find her. Had a chat to mother couple with loaded bikes coming the other way who had done Uffington Hill that morning although the lady said she’d had a bit of a walk up it. Didn’t blame her, it’s a bit of a climb. Her husband had cycled King Alfreds Way a few years ago.
Just then I saw Abi cycling along the trail so bade farewell and went to see how she was. Apparently she was a bit late as Ubers aren’t a thing outside London, certainly not in the rural counties so she’d called around all the taxi firms, most of which hadn’t picked up the phone but she’d finally found one willing to pick her up … and they’d not turned up. So horrified at the thought of having to cycle up Uffington Hill, she’d literally flagged down a driver and started the conversation with “I promise I’m not a weirdo …” and basically managed to wangle a lift out of a stranger from Faringdon to the top of a hill 6 miles away. With her muddy bike in the boot of their car.
We headed out onto the trails again. Back on the chalky dusty trails of the Ridgeway. It was lovely for cycling, miles and miles of rolling trails without many junctions so we could just keep going and get the miles done. There were a few car parks on the main roads and they had a novel way of filling the potholes.
With bricks. With actual bricks.
We went past some signs to a monument and passed it, a soaring stone pillar with a cross on it, built either for or by the Baron of Wantage. It seemed quite out of place in the middle of nowhere.
We carried on up the rolling hills and admired the views. We were high on a ridge and the valleys were laid out like patchwork below us. As we came up one of the hills, a long slow hill, I saw a wood on the left side of the track which looked a bit of a distinctive shape … It’s Phil’s Poo Wood!
It turned out we were on part of the Ridgeway that I had run as part of the route for Autumn 100 Centurion run and the memorial we had passed was one of the landmarks of that and this wood was actually the Poo Wood. When I ran Autumn 100, one of the years I had been paced by a friend for miles 50 until 75 by Phil who had run the event several times before. He’d had a bit of a dodgy tummy both times and had a good repertoire of places which were convenient for a quick shit stop. One of which was Phil’s Poo Wood. I was having to take his word for this, not having stopped in the aforementioned wood, but apparently there was a fallen tree trunk which you can dig a hole, hang your bottom off and have quite a comfortable outdoor poo.
As we passed, we spotted a large fallen tree. Yep. Looks like the right place.
I couldn’t get over the amount of birdsong all around. A lot of the time, there were no trees or hedges around yet there was birdsong all around, from ground birds. It was incredible and something I haven’t experienced before.
It was also wonderful being on the Ridgeway in the daylight. Previously I’d only been on it after having run 50 miles when it was pitch black and I wasn’t in the most observant frame of mind. It was stunning. I throughly enjoyed my cycle along it. I was careful of the ruts and bumps but it was lovely to be cycling on easier trails and with such lovely views. There were a lot of walkers and mountain bikers out and we passed someone who had come a cropper with ambulance crew covering them with a blanket on a spinal board. It reminded us not to be complacent - it was easy to lose your concentration.
We passed the familiar landmarks from A100 including the The Compton Hundred Tunnel which passes under the A43. It’s pretty at night with the head torches on and paintings from local villages but in the daylight, the tunnel was rather gloomy and eerie. I was surprised to find that the hills coming back into Goring which are rutted and full of black flints weren’t any easier to cycle than they were to run. They were just as steep and awful as I remembered.
I did remember the long steep downhill going back into Goring, but the surface was much better than in my memory. We flew down, enjoying the downhill after all of the rolling sections of the Ridgeway trails and halfway down, we spotted a bike lying in the middle of the path. This didn’t look good so we stopped to help. The chap apparently had been enjoying the trail and had felt a gel and his mobile phone fly out of his pocket after hitting one of the bumps on the track. Apparently it had a green case which didn’t help among the green undergrowth and none of his friends had signal to call it to make it ring. I checked my phone and had a bit of signal so we tried calling it but couldn’t hear a thing, certainly not a phone ringing. We searched for about 20 minutes without luck and left them to it. Hoped they found it!
We were debating whether to stop for a coffee and decided if the route took us past the cafes in Goring, we’d stop. As luck would have it, we passed the cafe that I’d always had a coffee at before starting the A100 so we decided to stop there as it held lots of nice memories. I had my usual Americano but the Baklava Buns also caught my eye so I had one of those too. It was delicious! Soft and fluffy and sugary.
The route didn’t take us straight onto the Thames Path or the other side of the Ridgeway like I’d thought it might, but took us through the village and ... (to
Emergency Services from Midlands
Age group: 40-44
Club: Rugby Triathlon Club, Northbrook AC,
Coach: Chris Weeks
King Alfreds Way: Bogs of Death, Pubs of Delight & Multicoloured Mud (P3 / 3)by Sarah Booker / Dec. 10, 2023
(Contd.) ... Got ourselves back on track and we started seeing old fashioned iron street lights on the side of the trail and the occasional house and we realised we were finally into Winchester. We cycled alongside a river and past some high stone walls. From what we could see in the dark, Winchester felt quite old and historic.
King Alfreds Way: Bogs of Death, Pubs of Delight & Multicoloured Mud (P2 / 3)by Sarah Booker / Dec. 08, 2023
(Contd.) ... The route didn’t take us straight onto the Thames Path or the other side of the Ridgeway like I’d thought it might, but took us through the village and past the train station and then popped us neatly onto the Thames Path. This is an old path which follows the course of the river and this section has been used for centuries, a 13th century document notes it in use at that time.
Things scarier than Ironman: Swans, parkrun PB Attempts & Getting Weighedby Sarah Booker / Sep. 19, 2023
So I might have entered an Ironman. Another one. I would tell my husband I did it accidentally but as there are about 20 steps to entering an Ironman online I don’t think he’ll believe me. It’s about as likely as accidentally getting a cat that hates bald men so your husband has to wear a hat indoors for 6 months to stop the stealth attacks … but that’s a story for another time …
Coventry Way 40 Mile Run: Goopy Mud, The Predator & Gigantic Gnomesby Sarah Booker / Aug. 03, 2023
This event is an excuse for me to run all day fuelled by pick n mix, chat to everybody I see, enjoy the Warwickshire countryside and get treated to a hot meal at the end. And all for the bargain price of about thirty quid. It's always at the start of April so it's off the cards if I'm racing a Spring marathon (although I may have used it as my final long run once or twice!) but it's generally a lovely pootle on some decent tracks and a paddle through the bogs.
Copenhagen Ironman: Mermaids, Melty helmets & Farting at the Supportersby Sarah Booker / Feb. 15, 2023
I squinted at the marshal. I could see there WAS a marshal there because he was waving his hand, but I couldn’t see which direction he was pointing. In fact, EVERYTHING was a bit blurry. This wasn’t good. I’d managed 105 miles without falling off the bike which was 98 miles farther than I'd managed in the last Ironman but if I couldn’t see where I was going, the last 7 miles were going to be a bit of a challenge.
Last Night I dreamed I went to Austria Againby Sarah Booker / Nov. 14, 2022
Last night I dreamed I went to Austria again. It seemed to me that I was running down the corridors leading to the gates at the airport. The corridors were grey and anonymous, tiled floors. I couldn't remember which gate I was trying to get to or the time of the flight. As I ran, I was dropping my triathlon kit and I was going to be late. I'd not make it. I ran and ran, my heart beating fast and tears filling my eyes.
The Coventry Way: 40 Miles of Thoughts & Trailsby Sarah Booker / Apr. 21, 2022
Some days are run days. Sunday was one of these. Bright, sharp and cold, it started with birdsong and frost. I’d parked a mile from the start, in the centre of Meridian which gave me a mile of gently sparkling pavements, Spring flowers and cold nose and ears.
Tempo Winter 10k Series: Ilmington Hill, Sausages & Hoodiesby Sarah Booker / Mar. 02, 2022
Today’s run manta was mostly “Don’t get blown off the hill! Don’t get blown off the hill!” as Storm Eunice really tried it’s very best to persuade me to take a shortcut down the hillside to the village. It probably would have been a lot quicker but I do prefer my bones unbroken. Plus I had to actually cross the finish line to get my hoody rather than just get blown in the general direction.
Ironman Barcelona: Bike Crashes, Jellyfish & People Soupby Sarah Booker / Nov. 22, 2021
And there I was driving through Barcelona in a van which felt the size of a house, triple wide and on the wrong side of the road. Mopeds were flying past both sides of us on the three-lane carriageway and I was convinced that I would be scraping one out of the wheel arch before long.
RACE REPORT: BRECA CONISTON SWIMRUN - GERBILS IN THE WALLS & DRINKING THE LAKESby Sarah Booker / Jul. 30, 2021
I like to be organised before a race. I like to have my ducks in a line and to know exactly where and when I was going. And how far. Turns out that instead of ducks-in-a-line. I had gerbils-in-my-walls. Turns out that Coniston Swimrun is in Lake Windermere. And Lake Rydal. And Lake Grasmere. There is no Lake Coniston whatsoever. This moment of epiphany, the evening before the race start made me begin to doubt quite how effective my prep had been, exactly.
Cycle 260 miles to Wales: Sheep - They Get Everywhereby Sarah Booker / Mar. 24, 2021
Day 1 BEEP BEEP: Text from Rach at 04:53: “Mate if you see the weather and think f that let me know as it’s really windy and really heavy rain here already … even the cat refused to go out.” My reply: “Yes it looks biblical already. Your call. I’m ok to go with it.”
The Power of Teamworkby Sarah Booker / Feb. 16, 2021
ASICS FrontRunner has been particularly important to me during lockdown. Like everyone, I’m not seeing many friends and it feels like coffee in a cafe, a catchup in a pub or a run with the club has been replaced by WhatsApp messages, Zoom meetings and looking at everyone’s runs on Facebook and Strava instead. It’s just not the same.
Breca Gower Swim Runby Sarah Booker / Jul. 29, 2020
I’ve never been a team player. I like the IDEA of working as a team but at school I was the one standing at the end when everyone else has been picked along with the kid who smells funny and has one finger permanently up a nostril and the kid who has has a communicable disease, hates sports and is threatening to lick anyone who picks him. I get distracted too easily.
2 Castles 10k Run: Need My Brown Shortsby Sarah Booker / Nov. 06, 2019
This 10k race fills up insanely quickly. It’s basically the London Marathon of rural Warwickshire. Loads of people want in and get really stroppy when they don’t and announce that they didn’t want to do it anyway and bang on about there being other 10ks ...
Reasons To Run 100 Miles!by Sarah Booker / Feb. 15, 2019
Every time I run 100 miles, I swear it’s the last time. And then I remember the feeling of finishing – of how amazing it feels to be able to stop running – and enter it again. Forgetting, of course, that the reason that stopping running feels so great is because I’ve been running for 24 hours.
ASICS International Meeting: SUP, Wakeboarding and Partying like an Athleteby Sarah Booker / Jan. 04, 2018
So I was lucky enough to be one of the ASICS UK team to go to the ASICS International meeting in Dusseldorf! We had ALLLL the fun including stand up paddle boarding (or in my case fall-in-paddleboarding), wake boarding and a night run!