A separate article, this is to celebrate an amazing achievement by Tom Goddard. Everyone in Tuff Fitty is incredibly proud of what Tom has accomplished just as we are incredibly proud of our late friend Joe Pascoe.
“It’s difficult to know where to start with this report. It’s not about a race or an event, it’s about a person, a family, friends & tragedy. We lost Joe on 28th September last year after a courageous battle with cancer. He was too young, too kind, too loving a person for this to happen to.
After he passed away I wanted to do something positive to celebrate his life, continue his memory and fundraise for the wonderful team at St Barnabas who helped to care for him. The problem was that being part of a club full of lunatics who do Ironmans and ultramarathons for fun it was difficult to think of a challenge that would do Joe proud and be worthy of sponsorship.
Joe and I had enjoyed gravel riding on the South Downs Way and discussed doing the whole thing, but it is only 100 miles, so why not do it both ways, in 24 hours?!
Preparation for my misadventure went as expected, with work and family life preventing the amount of training I would have liked (and probably needed!). Though I did manage a 106 mile return trip to Eastbourne and 120 mile return to Winchester preparation was hampered by a bike crash 4 weeks prior to the big day leaving me with some fairly nasty injuries.
I decided to start and finish at Truleigh Hill YHA as it is the closest point to Shoreham, where Joe lived, and is also at the top of Mill Hill which we used to race each other up in training, particularly before we raced the European Championships together in Lisbon. After work on Friday I was dropped off at the YHA where I lay in bed fretting, listening to the wind and rain, and not getting any sleep. I got up at 23.30 for ‘breakfast’ ready to head off at midnight.
Stepping out in to the dark and wet I spotted some headlight coming up the hill and thought ‘who’s driving up here at this time of night?’. The car pulled up next to me and out jumped a beaming Gary Edge to see me off. This kind gesture filled me with joy and all nerves evaporated. I was ready to go!
I had been nervous about riding in the dark and wet but it turned out to be fine and having to concentrate on the trail (and slalom the sheep and cows!) stopped me from looking at how slowly the miles were ticking by on my Garmin! There were some great moments, even with the views shrouded in darkness. A barn owl flew down the trail ahead of me, a badger crossing my path, skylarks flitting into the air as I disturbed them, and the clouds occasionally parting to give me a glimpse of the most incredible stars. All the while I had Joe with me too, living in my head, thanking him for the odd tailwind up a hill and joking about the amount of cow and sheep poo that was splattered up my legs.
I made it to the turnaround point in Eastbourne ahead of schedule, with the sun rising, and headed back West for 100 miles of headwind! Now it was getting light I could enjoy the views and let go of the brakes a bit more on the descents.
I had my first (very welcome!) human contact at about 07.00 when Verity met up with me near Blackcap and the next couple of hours flew by as we chatted. She even coaxed me in to riding all the way up the horrible hill from the A23 to the top of Saddlescombe. We arrived back at the YHA again ahead of schedule, where I put on some dry socks, sunscreen and topped up on food and water. We were then joined by Nikki and Olly as we continued towards the river Adur.
I was then joined by James near Chantry Lane and we blasted down in to Amberley where we picked up Tom Frith. We waved to Wendy & Jon at the top of Haughton, Tom peeled off shortly after Bignor, and I continued on the Mapley Express all the way to Queen Elizabeth Country Park. It was during this stretch that I messed up my nutrition and started to really suffer and poor Graham had to deal with me next! After an ice-cream he nursed me up Butser Hill and shortly after we got a moral boosting cheer from Anthony. Nutrition now back on track and feeling reinvigorated I headed on towards Winchester.
A few miles from the turnaround point I received some welcome encouragement from Chris and again, shortly after, when I was heading back East on the home stretch. Not long after the weather turned lively and I was caught in a torrential downpour complete with lightning! This slowed me down a little on the descents but didn’t dampen my mood.
The weather then started to brighten and just past Harting Down I was met at the top of a rather steep chalk climb by Sharon and Neil. We were then joined by Pete, Mike and Jon and the camaraderie was fantastic. Despite some knee and hand pain (a hangover from my crash) and a bit of back pain on the climbs I was feeling great considering this was the furthest I had ever ridden by some margin.
Most peeled off at Cocking and Pete and I continued to Upwaltham where we were joined by Adrian and treated to a beautiful sunset. Dan bravely joined us on his gravel bike for the descent of Bignor in the twilight along with Dom. Pete and Dom then chaperoned me up Amberley Mount, where I had to get off and walk the steepest bits. I was now within striking distance of the finish with Dom for company and Gary, like he had all day, appearing from nowhere like some sort of omnipresent demigod to cheer me on. At the A24 crossing Debbie gave us some encouragement (& pizza!) and the Washington climb was dispatched with surprising ease.
A 24 hour finish time was still within reach so we flew along the top of the ridge and started the descent to Botolphs. In our haste, at speed and in the dark we missed a turning and ended up lost in the pig farm! A quick and unwelcome ride back up the hill and we regained the trail with just one climb remaining.
A tough slog up the final hill was made easier when meeting Verity and Simon where the trail hit the road safe in the knowledge that I was going to finish within the 24 hours. I was then greeted at the finish by Adrian, Gary, Wendy and Jon (who had made a delicious cake!). (Click on the Flickr album below for more snaps)
In the end I managed 313 km/ 195 miles, with 6155 m of elevation in 23 hours and 48 minutes and have raised over £3,700. It was an incredible, emotional adventure, but what made it so special was the support received out on the trail and from those who sponsored me. A MASSIVE THANK YOU to everyone involved! I think Joe would be proud of the effort of all involved and I hope this will cement his memory in peoples minds as well as supporting those who cared for him.
If anyone would like to donate to support St Barnabas House Hospice my fundraising page is https://justgiving.com/tomgoddard2022
Graham Liddell has submitted his own thoughts on Tom’s adventure as follows:-
“At the same time as Tom was halfway on his epic ride, I was pretty much at the halfway point on the Arun River swim, and I was feeling very sorry for myself. It was a long way to swim; I was tired and just wanted to stop. It then struck me that I didn’t have much to complain about. I had been going for about half an hour, Tom had been going for twelve.
Eventually, the swim ended, I did a quick transition (as quick as I ever get when getting out of a wetsuit), drove to the Queen Elizabeth Country Park near Petersfield, checked Tom and James M’s location on WhatsApp headed East to meet up. And then, bang on time, there they were.
Both, so it seemed, were in good spirits. James said his goodbyes and I accompanied Tom back down the hill to the Country Park where he was planning to stop for a short break.
Over the next few minutes I established two things:
1 Tom flies down those hills – I had no hope of staying with him on any sort of descent and it was a good job he had planned to stop, or I would have been left behind before I started.
2 Tom was in a Mr Grumpy phase – his apparent good spirits had disappeared and replaced with complaints of lack of sleep, tired legs, and a sore back. Even my hummus joke didn’t seem to cheer him up. [TBH he wasn’t that grumpy, he was just not as cheerful as he was with everybody else. Tom later explained that he had forgotten to refuel while riding with James and that the fact that he was happier in the company of others was coincidental. I like to think that there is a kernel of truth in this explanation.]
Ten minutes later we were on our way up the notorious Butser Hill and went past a man pulling a sledge (really). Tom kept pushing on through the pain and tiredness but at no time did I have any doubts that he would finish. He even managed to put on a burst of speed when a scary man in leathers (let’s call him Anthony) started shouting and running after us. All too soon (for me at least) we came to the Salt Hill descent and Tom was on his own.
Many congratulations to Tom on a fantastic achievement. It was an absolute privilege to ride with you for even a short part of the day. As Anthony said, that is a high bar you have set.
Some more tributes
I joined Tom towards the end of his epic challenge and rode with him as the spectacular sunset turned to dark. The group gradually reduced in size as we rode in to the night but there were still Tuffs out on course. Gary managing to get to almost every gate before we did, Wendy and Jon cheering us down the descent to the A24, Debbie providing pizza and encouragement from a pitch dark car park. Tom was still riding fantastically strong and the final two and a half hours passed almost incident free. The only minor hitch was our detour in to the pig farm which annoyed the pigs much more than it did Tom who was as chilled as ever but very determined to beat the 24 hour time limit he’d set himself.
As the final climb started to level out and we spotted Verity (who had come out again after riding with Tom early in the morning) it was a relief to realise that the pig farm excursion hadn’t cost too much time and Tom was going to be well inside the 24 hour mark. He sprinted for the finish line and a well deserved slice of cake.
It was a superb achievement and a fitting tribute to Joe (both the ride itself and the support from the Tuff family) and I was very glad I was able to play a small part in it.
Debbie Gatland: Amazeballs, fantastic achievement. Having messed up at the start I wanted to wait in a dark, dark car park to see it with my own eyes. Well done!
Verity Lacey: I definitely thought he’d be slower by 7 in the morning! First track we rode along, I was blowing out my backside and though I’ll be dropped within a mile!!
Incredibly well done Tom Goddard such an incredible achievement. You definitely did Joe proud!
Adrian Oliver: I met up with Tom and Pete after Cooking carpark and had the honour to riding his dust for a brief fast and furious 10km back to Amberley before they powered back up to Kithurst Hill. I am sorry I did not get to know Joe very well – if Tom considered Joe to be one of the nicest people he knew, and I know that Tom along with so may other Tuffs are some of the nicest people I know, then Joe must have been amazing! Thank you Tom and so many other Tuffs for being such an inspiration!
Sharon Tidmash: I’d been following Tom’s progress and was determined to join him at some point, We drove to Cocking parked up and joined the SDW to find Tom, after somehow missing a turning going completely off route we met Tom at the crest of another steep hill which we cunningly agreed it was in our best interest to wait at the top!!!
Tom arrived to which we met him with cheers of encouragement, steam train Tom showed no remorse in slowing down to which we jumped on our bikes and followed his coattails on the undulating terrain.
We were in awe of his pace and Concentration after over 20hrs of cycling.
Jon Babbage: Congratulations Tom you did absolutely amazing. As soon as we started on the mile down hill you were gone after 20 secs I couldn’t even see your dust.
I might not of stayed with you for very long but really enjoyed the time I was out there.
I honestly thought I would meet him like 140 miles in and surely I could keep up. No chance, Tom is a machine, he has no fear.
I keep thinking about what he achieved yesterday and it’s mind blowing the 7 miles I did on the SWD was enough for me 😂 I actually don’t know how he did it – that friendship with Joe was so strong it must of been that! Well done mate. We’re be talking about your achievement for years
Dan Fitzgerald: Congrats mate you smashed it, amazing achievement. Sorry I wasn’t with the group very long!
Tom Frith: Well done Tom, awesome determination to smash such an incredibly hard challenge.
And so say all of us – Congratulations Tom – thank you for being such an inspiration