Day 5: East Grinstead to Newhaven – blood pressure crash

The comfiest grit bin in the world
The comfiest grit bin in the world

I was feeling exhausted while we were having breakfast yesterday morning – before we even got on the bikes. We got back out to the car and started putting the wheels on but I had to sit down in the front seat and close my eyes for a bit. Felt incredibly tired.

We set off anyway, and even though the first 10 miles was basically downhill, I still had to stop every now and again for a lie down – I felt dizzy and weak. A bit like a really bad hangover crossed with physical exhaustion, but I hadn’t really done much yet.

Another rest
Another rest

I didn’t really put two and two together until later in the ride – partly I think because feeling like that makes you a little stupid. It’s hard sometimes to correctly analyse your state when you are feeling weird, as you are so busy feeling weird. I think what happened was my blood pressure got too low – I had taken all my usual blood pressure tablets, and my nephrologist had warned me that my blood pressure could get too low with all the exercise (blood diverted to muscles), and if it happened, to scale them back. I couldn’t do that retrospectively of course, so I had to just fight through it. Today I only had the beta blocker, and I’ll carry on doing that for the rest of the trip and see how I go.

Lunch in Rotherfield
Lunch in Rotherfield

Anyway – I carried on plodding along. By 18 miles in, we had lunch. On all preceding days we had lunch 2/3 of the way into the ride – yesterday we had it only 1/3 of the way in – we had been doing an average of 5mph over that first 18 miles, which is not much better than a brisk walking pace. At one point a man overtook us jogging up a hill, and conducted a conversation with us as he went (he was training for a 100 mile ultramarathon, which frankly boils my brain in my head – he could run from Nottingham to London without stopping).

The ride took in a couple of really long slightly downhill trails – the first of them was called the Forest Way – miles and miles of it. Slightly rough surface though so in my weakened state I still found it hard. I knew that the big hills were coming though, which I think made it even worse. I felt on the verge of fainting at times, so when I felt too bad I just made everyone wait for a bit while I lay down.

Bluebells.  Lots of 'em.
Bluebells. Lots of ’em.

Once we hit the south downs there were loads of ups and downs – as I guess the name implies. I virtually crawled up them – I had to walk up some of the inclines, which is pretty rare. I had a glorious rest on a gravel bin that felt like the softest bed in the world. To ameliorate the difficult riding, there ride was littered with woodland glades absolutely packed with bluebells – it was beautiful almost to a ridiculous extent after a while. This is just one of the many photos I took of them.

I like a horse
I fed a horse

At one point just before Rotherfield, Rich got a puncture and I said I’d tootle ahead, because they’d catch me up anyway, and I started to feel a little bit better. I had a sit down on a bench when we reached Rotherfield and then we had sandwiches and drinks from a shop (no sambuca today – we had too far to go to wait long enough for a pub meal). Things started getting easier when we reached Heathfield, which marked the start of the Cuckoo Trail – an almost unbelievably long and pleasant stretch of beautiful downhill track that took us most of the way to Eastbourne.

Racing elatedly along the seafront
Racing elatedly along the seafront

By the time we got to the Long Man of Wilmington we were pretty tired and sore, and it still seemed a hell of a long way to go – but just around then I started to feel even more human, and the roads got even nicer. There was a little climb into Seaford which I managed to get up without too many problems and then we got our first glimpse of the sea and all became magical. We roared down the last hill to the seafront and got onto the promenade, which had a cycle path all along it. The wind was behind us and it was like we had jet bikes – the temperature was perfect and we raced along effortlessly, laughing at how amazing it was after all the hard work we did.

When we got to Newhaven I realised the sat nav was pointing us to an old hotel which had cancelled on us, and I found the new hotel with my phone, and discovered to my great pleasure that it was 3 miles closer, so we were almost there. We arrived an hour earlier than we had feared we would, and Shaun had bought us all lucozades and water which he had kept cool in the sinks.

Jim!
Jim!

Jim, an old work friend of mine and Andy’s, came to pick us up to go for a meal in a lovely local pub, and we had a fantastic time looking out over the Cuckmere valley and unwinding with a couple of drinks. Then home to bed by ten in the perfectly acceptable B&B!

I’m pretty sure it was the hardest thing I ever had to do, finishing that ride, but by God it was worth it. An amazing day, and it’s always nice to beat something difficult. I think we punched its nose right off its face.

Here’s the ride data – I don’t know when I’ll manage to get the video up as the wifi here is TERRIBLE!

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