Alarm is set for 3.55am. Not that it goes off, I’m already awake before that, having had one of those ‘got-to-get-to-sleep, got-to-get-up-soon-so-need-to-get-too-sleep’ nights, where you don’t get any sleep but stare at the clock counting down how little time tere is left before you have to get back up.
Crawl out of bed, stumble round getting dressed trying not to wake Angela. Fail. Go downstairs, try to eat some breakfast, give up after shovelling a few mouthfuls of museli down and throw some kit in the back of the car.
Drive. Really far. Wonder why I’m whizzing through tiny little Welsh villages in the middle of the night (OK, early morning now, it’s getting light, but no-one’s up yet, so it could still be classed as night). Stupid sat-nav, what’s wrong with the big main road that goes all the way to the meeting point at Machynlleth?
Arrive at the end of the ride. Wait for Jase to turn up, throw stuff into the back of his car, drive to the start of the ride. Throw up several times en route. Oh dear, this doesn’t bode well. Nearly take the passenger door off while desperately tring not to puke all over the inside of the car, woops!
Get to the start, kit up, apply massive amounts of chamois cream, feel grotty, ceremoniously stand on the platform of the train station then get going.
Roads, then tracks, walking up steep climbs then thundering over drovers roads right up on the tops. At least we know this bit from last time, so progress is swift. Arrive at the bridleway intersection we went wrong at a few months back, check where we are properly this time, go wrong less and stay pretty much on track. Ace. This bodes well.
Plummet down through the first village, splash through the first ford, then back up, down, up, down over and over. Navigation is simple as we’ve been here before. Hit Rhayader in 2hrs 49mins riding time. Excellent.
Start ‘Day 2′ feeling ‘just warmed up’. Bike paths, then gravel tracks, then every inlet round the massive reservoir. Pause to swop maps around. It’s a lot windier than last time, this bit isn’t as much fun. Plough on regardless into the emptiness of the Welsh desert, heading straight for where It All Went Wrong last time at full pelt. Nearly hit a landrover on singletrack road. Giggle about it.
Fast riding through the Field That’s Alway’s Flooded. Hit puddle flat out, see bow wave arc up over front tyre, enclosing me in a wall of water briefly. Aah, this would be a big deep puddle then. Get soaked. Utterly drenched. Probably my fault for thinking “oh well, at least it’s not raining as much as last time” to myself. Hear Jase scream as he has no choice but to follow me into the plunge pool.
Right, lets get this bit spot on this time. Frequent navigation checks. Avoid Ystby Ystwyth. Pop out of the trees in the right place, hit the deserted road through Cwmystwyth on track and on time but ruunning low on water.
Plunder the water tap at a roadside campsite them get back to some serious climbing. Stop to chat to bloke about where we’re going. Ignore the “you’ve got a lot of hard going ahead of you” comment and plough on into another forest. Lots of yellow arrow waymarkers, then none make each turning a little more exciting. Frequent location checks are the order of the day. Probably be easier with some sort of bar mount. Bah! Cast out that thought until I’ve grown a beard. Maps stay in jersey pocket until needed. Hit the road. Rumble through some hamlets then back onto gate lined bridleways, with confusing margerine tubs strapped to them. Most odd. Are we on Day 3 yet?
Oops. Day 3 started back there <. Oh well. 3hrs 45min riding time for Day 2 including this bit of Day 3. Good stuff. Onward. Start wondering how far away the end is as massive birds of prey swoop from tree to tree above us. Gain height. Dare to mention how less rainy the weather is. Look left. See hills and valleys rapidly disappearing into grey nothingness of heavy rain. D’oh. No shelter, wind still ripping across, now joined by un-summer like heavy rain. Break out the waterproofs. Miss a turning and do U-turn. Minutes wasted. Bugger it. I’m very wet. Jackets keeping top half dry, everything else thinks it’s in a cold, gritty bath. It kind of is.
Rolling, easy riding suddenly replaced with steep, slippery when wet (it is) slate-y descents. Bums over the back of saddles. Rain drencedh glasses now helping with line choices. Oh, I remember that maker post from the IMBA website. More steepness. Then more steepness going upwards. I wonder if this is the end yet.
Nope. Hills seem to have been brought in specially to entend the route. Up and over them. Navigation goes to pot. Three wrong turns in a row. Can’t see anything. Why is there a waymaker pointing in completely the wrong direction to a deserted house. Many, many minutes lost stumbling round the countryside. Stalked by some sort of bird of prey. Imagination runs away, maybe I’ll get swooped on and dragged off to a nest to become something’s dinner?
Getting dark now. Jase fits his lights. I refuse to accept that we won’t be done by sun down. Mood getting dark now too, should have finished by now. Final wrong turn. Probably quicker to just clamber down the side of a hill and rejoin route. More time lost. It’s dark now.
Final descent. Through tightly packed trees. Oh good. Pitch blackness. Chase Jase ‘cos he can see where he’s going. Use The Force to avoid crashing. Last bit of road.
Dovey Junction Station. Woo. 3hrs 16mins for Day 3. Sub 10hrs riding time for the whole route. Ace. Scary amount of time lost not riding. Been 12hrs 10mins since we left Knighton station.
That’ll do. Faster than anyone else even with ‘limited’ map reading skills. Go us!
Back to car. Get changed in car park as drunks walk past on their Saturday Night Out. Hello. Drive back to start. Sat nav dies. Good. Part ways at Knighton and get back home from Knighton in less time than it took to get Mach earlier using obvious route. Stupid Sat Nav.
Crawl back into bed. 3.32am. 24hrs to the minute since waking up. Big ride that. Proper big.