When I arrived back in Calais I went to a nearby hostel to wash and changed with the aim of getting straight onto the bike. Unfortunately the run and swim had clearly taken plenty out of me. In the shower I made the decision to have a few hours kip but an hour in my right foot was in a lot of pain. Some of my blisters had hardened while some remained soft and it had swollen up and gone quite hot. There were two points of pain, the little toe and just under the big toe and any pressure was agony. We tried with tweezers to puncture holes but no fluid came out. It wasn’t yet an infection but we were worried it was heading that way. In addition there was a really annoying and very loud buzzing noise caused by the hostel which they spent ages to fix. So sleep was not great. I decided to max out my time in transition to get as much recovery as possible and we tied an ice pack onto my foot to help the inflammation, using Elliot’s porcs tie (not to be washed). Inventive stuff. Dan woke me up at 4am, one hour before my official cut of time finished which created a bit of a mad rush. I got changed while the support team packed the car in a bit of a panic, while we also put my foot into a scolding (it was in fact closer to luke warm but felt like agony) bucket of water and salt to see if that would help. It didn’t really but the ice had done its job. So with 4 minutes to spare I was out of the hostel got to the start point and started cycling. Manic.
I have to confess the first few minutes of the bike was a bit emotional because all my training had geared towards getting to this point. As far as training was concerned, once I was there I was an Enduroman. Unfortunately I hadn’t planned on how unpleasant those first 30 miles would be. I hadn’t eaten any proper solid food for breakfast (I still had my usual feed mix) or stretched so the idea was to stop at McDonald’s which was ~25 miles away. Then we’d take a break and restock. All I really wanted was some nuggets. So in the dawn light I cycled painfully. My feet, legs, ass and shoulders all in quite a bit of pain and the first few hours went by painfully slowly.
When we arrived at McDonald’s we found it was closed. I was distraught. Genuinely. Rosie tried to cheer me up with kettle chips and flap jacks. I wanted some nuggets. I was quite close to throwing my toys out but Elliot reminded me there was nothing I could do and that even kfc was closed. Dan informed us that there was a patisserie serving hot food which would definitely be open and that was 30 miles away. We set off again, and I removed the Garmin so all I had was a pulse monitor. I didn’t know the time nor did I want to. Over the next 30 miles something dawned on me. It was a very nice day and the pain had started to go away. Things were still stiff and sore but on the whole it could have been a lot worse I reasoned.
When we arrived at the patisserie it was shut. Upsetting but by this point the sun was up and I was feeling good. After a bit of stretching Dan informed me of some of the other Enduroman times of which Jo Rodda’s was one. I worked out that it was probably unachievable but for the next few hours it kept me ticking on until Abbeville which was at ~85 mile mark. The support team left me to get mcnuggets while I continued to cycle. I managed to cycle for 15 miles until they caught up with me at which point I snatched the mcnuggets off dad and polished off 30. Probably 10 too many hit who cares!
A few minutes later I felt a little ill, a combination of my body trying to digest the food and general exhaustion so I had 20 minutes lie down on the side of the road.
After a few bike checks, we quickly got going again and made incredibly good progress to Paris. The closer we get the faster I felt I could go and the Kinetic-One bike was absolutely purring along at 20 mph on the flats. I almost fell off going down one of the hills coming out of the aero position. I steadied myself and slowed down, after which a speed gun clocked me at 45kph. That would have hurt. But the aerobars were fantastic in giving me more speed on the downhills which was mainly used as momentum to get up the other side. I was going quicker doing no pedalling then I was sitting upright and peddling and this meant I could really maximise efficiency. Unfortunately I couldn’t do too much sustained pedalling in the aero position as my shoulder and back didn’t quite get me there. After a number of hours of actually quite pleasant cycling we arrived to the outskirts of Paris. The first thing to note was that I managed to become set my first Enduroman record of being the first athlete to get a puncture. Luckily road butler Elliot was to hand to fix it while I had a lie down.
One thing that the Enduroman official has to be aware of is the fact that I’m cycling on very little sleep on quite a lot of exercise in quite a busy area. So when I was instructed to take the 4th exit of a roundabout and I indicated to go the wrong way down a motorway he was rightly concerned. My punishment: a 10 min rest and some ice cream.
Apart from that the route in was fairly easy – traffic was light and I pushed hard to keep behind the car made difficult by dad going through most of them on yellow…
By the time we were entering central Paris the realisation I was actually going to do it was slowly dawning on me. The only issue was cycling on the cobbles which hurt all areas of my body, not least my right foot. I cycled up the champs elysee with Elliot and at the end of the road got congratulated by Dan for becoming Enduroman #23. Hell yeah.
There really are so many things that I learnt over the whole trip but the number one thing is to make sure you have good support. It’s cheesy to say but it really is a team effort because that personal interaction can help if your mind is wandering to a dark place (doubts). I had fantastic support and it was fantastic to share the finishing moments with them.
The challenge itself is incredibly well crafted. It tests you in so many different ways and each discipline had its difficulties. The swim is definitely the hardest part, but it’s also the part I was probably best prepared for. In Channel swimming, you have to deal with elements that are completely out of your control and it can make you feel utterly helpless. But pace yourself, stick to the task at hand at you’ll eventually get there. I’m absolutely honoured to take part in this event and to take my number. I’m confident that more people will beat my time (77 hrs 17 mins) and there’ll be someone younger, but that really doesn’t bother me at all because no one will be able to take away #23.