Summer has been an exercise in outdoors opportunism. Stealing away at the last minute to spend a night on a local hill in the middle of the working week, a run out to the peaks with a light pack to run as far as possible before sleeping out. More recently there was a spontaneous nocturnal trip to the local river with a bivi bag to watch the perseid meteor shower, watching scores of shooting stars for hours whilst laid back on a packraft on calm water. It’s remarkable what you can miss out on if you make the decision to stay in some nights.
In the same spirit, a lousy looking weekend forecast recently gave way to sunshine and prompted a last minute trip out to the east coast for a bikepacking trip. A hundred miles in the sun along the quiet back roads before sleeping among the sand dunes and watching the sun rise over the sea before a long ride home sounded just fine. Such trips make packing a much simpler process, take the bare essentials and cram them into a saddle bag, if they don’t fit then they don’t come.
Just for the record, the saddle bag can take a bivi bag, a sleeping bag, an air bed, a down jacket, a light waterproof and two packets of dehydrated lasagne. A few bike tools and inner tubes make their way into the small frame bag whilst a caldera cone meths stove and pot fit very neatly into a bottle cage.One of the downsides of cycling through fairly empty parts of the country are the lack of shops and most of the old local pubs are closed down, which can mean there’s few places to pick up food and drink. Most cycling water bottles hold enough for a few hours so staying hydrated can be hard. I’d bought a sawyer water filter anticipating this, but passed up the chance to get water from rivers assuming there’d be an open shop in the next village. No shops, no cafes, nothing. About sixty miles in I finally came to a larger village with a shop and filled my bottle and found some shade before necking the best part of two litres of water.
Within half an hour I found myself with very painful stomach cramps, headaches, nausea and on reflection a little confusion. I stopped a dozen times just to lay down so the pain would go away. It dulled but never went. The remaining 40 miles were slow and hard, at every stop the symptoms would subside after ten minutes but return as soon as I started up again. It felt like a bad stitch that covered most of my body.
Since returning, I told a friend who happens to be a Doctor, he told me I probably had a case of dilutional hyponatremia, a sudden overconsumption of water after sodium levels have dropped. It seems the condition is quite common in endurance sports and can end in fatality, a common cause of perfectly fit young runners dropping dead in the middle of marathons. So my drinking problem very nearly killed me. I’d hardly been pushing it on the bike but drinking so much water so quickly had clearly been a terrible decision.
The final hilly sunset miles through the Lincolnshire Wolds were a breathtaking distraction to such minor issues as dying. Empty hilly roads under a sky that changed colour every few minutes, there’s worse ways to go.
I passed the beach at Anderby Creek as the stars came out and pedalled north another mile or so before finding a part of the coast where there is nothing but grassy dunes, sand and the sea. I solved my ailment in the best possible way, with a nice cup of tea and a sit down. The night was clear as it could be, shooting stars flashed past overhead and distant satellites glided between the light of the stars, I fell asleep to the sound of the wind and waves. The sky moved from black to inky and then pale blue before a red ball of a sun appeared on the horizon. Watching the sun rise from the horizon whilst wrapped up in a bivi bag was just about everything I wanted it to be, the light was unbelievable, for a short time the sun was reflected in the sea and in the wet sand in front of the dunes. The sea was warm, just enough for a quick dip before an unconventional breakfast of lasagne and hot tea to fuel the long ride home.