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2nd Attempt, 1st completion, 09/01/15

Posted: 11 Feb 2015, 02:55
by alexmcmotor
Firstly, given this is (almost) my first post on this site, hi! I'm Alex, newish tube challenger. Did my first attempt back at the end of August. Medicore route, bad luck, dropped my phone on to the tracks (funny story) 2/3s of the way round, then part of the network broke (and as we later found out, never reopened that night), gave up on 212/270, not much else to be said.

This failure left me dying to try again, but my companion for the 1st attempt was not so determined. Thankfully literally on the first day of University (I'm a tender 18) I met a tube challenger, and some willing support members, er, I mean friends. Excellent! So we planned everything out. Friday 9th Jan, T4 5:02am start, North-West finish. Then my companion pulls out, can't get back to London in time, then 2 of my moral supporters can't make it, so I'm left with one person who isn't willing to do the whole thing. Bollocks. Thankfully, my dad, who had become similarly obsessed with the FNC after watching me planning out the route for our first attempt. Seen as he was coming to help out during the day anyway, he decided to book us a hotel at T4 (saves me having to get a 3am nightbus from the city to Heathrow and start the first 5 hours on my own), start with me, and shadow me round most of the day.

So challenge day comes, and after a weary walk along the walkway from the Hilton at T4 (that damn thing just keeps going!) to the Tube, we arrive on the platform at 4:48, and at 4:50 the train pops up on the board, 1 minute late. That's fine, it's due into T123 at 5:07, 4 minutes connection down to T5. Fine right? The train pulls into T4 at 5:02 and a bit, and we get on, and wait for the doors to close. 4 minutes later and we're still waiting. 5:07 and finally the train creeps out of T4, and round the loop and we finally pull into T123 and 05:12. Our only hope was that the T5 train was a minute late. It wasn't. So now we were left with a choice. Wait 15 minutes for the next T5 train, and bugger the schedule, or get the train into the city, and prey we can work in a trip back to T5 later. We chose the latter, as waiting for the T5 train would leave no chance of getting a morning Olympia service. And if things couldn't get worse at station #2, the train managed to lose 6 minutes while it was waiting at T5, so we depart Heathrow with low spirits, knowing we were already a station down having barely started yet.
(Okay I'll try and keep the rest more brief)
Perfect connection at Hammersmith, pulled in and District line train cross-platform with it's doors open. On the ride to West Kensington, preparing to leave my dad, I psyched myself up for what I knew was going to be a challenge. We were due into W Ken at 6:01, giving me 14 minutes to walk to Olympia. I look at my watch as the train began to slow;time was approaching 6:07. Let it be clear that I am no Usain Bolt. I am dead on 14 stone, I can barely walk up stairs without getting out of breath. I have the running speed of a tortoise and the endurance of a lethargic sloth. I don't know how, but I got to Olympia in 7 minutes and made the 6:15. I couldn't believe it. I ran down the platform at HSK, still out of breath yelling "I made it! I made it!" to my dad, who all this time had been waiting at HSK, unbeknownst to my progress.

We creep ahead a few minutes on gratuitous connections at Edgware Road and Hammersmith. Richmond and E.Brdwy get ticked off ahead of time and then I'm again psyching myself up for a run from West Acton to North Ealing. The text comes in from my dad just as I leave West Acton. Train in 7. My body still aching from earlier, I run as fast as my pathetic legs will take me, and I arrive at North Ealing with enough time to use the toilets in the station building. Narrowly missed connection at West Harrow left dragged me back onto schedule, but cheese and ham toasties delivered from my dad at Rayners Lane provide light relief. I miss a 0min connection at Uxbridge, and wait for my inbound train to turn around and depart. Text pings in from my dad at Ickenham, train in 7. I can't make that. ...unless I make that U1 that's just appeared. Sprinting across the busy street, nearly getting run over by a lorry, frantically waving my hands in the air the driver notices and stops, and my dad is confused when I arrive in less than 4 minutes. Now for the hardest (scheduled) part of the trip. 4 timetabled minutes for the Aldgate run, and I was 90 seconds behind schedule. I run my heart out along the road, and dive down the stairs into Aldgate, I see the roof of a train in the Circle line platform and hear the "bing-bong, bing-bong" of the doors opening. I've made it, but I don't see my dad. I turn around and run down the platform to see my dad at the far end, slumped in a seat with a sad look thinking I haven't made it. "DAD!!!!" I shout at the top of my lungs, startling the otherwise emotionless commuters and he jumps out of his seat on to the train with me, and offers me a hug, knowing that I really pulled out all the stops to make that one happen.

Things proceed perfectly, drifting a couple of minutes ahead of schedule gave me well needed leeway for the HB-Cockfosters connection, and mid-afternoon I rendezvous with my dad at Southwark and a well received bacon-double-cheeseburger. We make the c2c at West Ham and a half-decent change at Upminster, praying that the train doesn't get stopped when a fight breaks out in the next carriage, we arrive at Mile End, where we had our first real bad connection of the day, 12 minutes we waited for a Hainault train. Our connection at Epping wasn't too bad, but I was however behind schedule enough to miss my Overground from Ley'stn High Road, so that left me 15 minutes behind coming down the Victoria line. My would-be companion who joined me at Woodford wishes me luck, and I run through the bowels of Kings Cross to the Northern line, round the Moorgate loop and along to Baker Street, where I again rendezvous with my dad on the Jubilee line, this time with a KFC. I was really hitting "the wall" at this point. It was dark, we were slipping further behind schedule with every connection, and I was very, very tired and very, very ache-y. Decent connections at Stanmore, Canons Park and a correct-branch train from Edgware meant we kept time, and then we had to walk from Warren Street to Regent's Park. Without meaning him disrespect, my dad is even less physically capable than I am, so together we did bloody well to get to Regent's Park in the time that we did.

Now, assuming you're still with me, you might be wondering "What about T5?" and this is where it's useful I had my dad with a credit card with me. Having got on at Regent's Park, we quickly got off the Bakerloo line at Paddington and... you can see what's coming already can't you. Extortionate HeathrowExpress return tickets took us out to T5. We ran (alright, power-walked) through T5, on the tube to T123, and hot-footed through T123 to the Express platforms to make the same express train back to Paddington, which confused the conductor when he met the same people as he came to check our tickets. He gave a "You're mental" kind of look when we explained we were travelling all of the tube in one day. Back in Paddington, I went back to the Bakerloo line and carried on up to Harrow&W, while my dad said goodbye to me the the final time (or so we thought) and went to pick up the car ready to receive me in Chesham. I got an extremely lucky up, over, down and straight on (with a generous re-opening of the doors by the driver) connection at H&W, and running from Kenton to Northwick Park, my spirits are high. I reminisced on how the day had gone without any catastrophic disruptions. Reversing at Preston Road, I pick up a Chesham train in good time, but when we pull into Harrow-on-the-Hill at about 10:30ish, I get the following announcment:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your driver speaking. I have just been told that the Metropolitan line is suspended between Rickmansworth and Amersham and Rickmansworth and Chesham. This is apparently due to a tree fallen on the line in the Chorleywood area."

No. No, you CANNOT be serious. 12 stations from the end and it breaks now? I get off at Moor Park as the driver announced that all the trains are terminating at Rickmansworth. I wait for the next Watford train and quickly find myself back at Moor Park. A would-be Chesham train pulls in, I get on and it stays put. The driver explains that they're sending a train forward up the line to assess whether trains can pass. Myself and the other passengers (who were similarly pissed off, but I don't think they had quite as much stake, they only wanted to get home) sat and hoped, but a few minutes later, we moved off, the driver explaining how the experiment was fruitless and we would be terminating at Rickmansworth.

So there I was, sat in Rickmansworth station, watching all the ordinary passengers packing out a Chiltern train (which I understand I probably could have got on, but my dad was already making his way to Rickmansworth, aware that hopes of completion were quickly disappearing). I asked the station master if he knew anything. He offered me a taxi, but I brought out my scribbled map, and explained that I needed the Metropolitan line. He assured me that the last trains would run, and said to wait on the Nbound platform, and he'd make an announcement. I didn't believe him, but, by some miracle he was right. Half an hour or so later, he comes on the tannoy, saying there is going to be a Chesham train any minute. I literally jump and down with excitement, confusing the (memory serving) 2 other people on the platform with me. Just as he said this, my dad calls, saying he's in Rickmansworth. I call him back, giving him the good news. He was just as into this now as I was, so he didn't hesitate to ignore the fact he'd come there for nothing. I arrived in Chesham at about 00:15, and I post a selfie with the roundel on to facebook. "269 stations down. 1 to go" I say. People were cheering me on by this point. The train trundles it's way back down to Chalfont where my dad is waiting there for me. For me, this was the worst but also most exhilarating part of the whole day. We were on the platform at Chalfont, at half past midnight, not knowing whether there was going to be the all important Amersham train to complete the journey. About 20 minutes we were waiting when the tannoy crackled into life. Amersham train in 13 minutes. We erupted into cheers and laughther. But not counting our chickens just yet, my dad got back in his car and drove to Amersham and waited. My train arrives a few minutes late. I don't care, as long as it doesn't crash on the way. It doesn't, and I pull into Amersham, not quite believing what I'd just achieved.

I cross the footbridge, and embrace my dad. We were beyond celebration by this point, but the grins on our faces said it all.

Final time was around 20 hours exactly. Will never know precisely, as my phone's stopwatch mysteriously stopped during the day.

Obligatory selfie with the roundel goes straight onto facebook with the following remark: "1 unfit teenager. 3 helpers. 270 stations. 250 miles of track. 4 runs. 4 buses. 1 fallen tree.

Tube Challenge: Done"

Personal thanks go to Geoff, for inspiring me to do the Tube Challenge, but most of all to my dad, for going above and beyond, just for the sake of a silly little hobby of mine.

Next attempt will be end of March, beginning of April, where the target is sub-17.

Re: 2nd Attempt, 1st completion, 09/01/15

Posted: 11 Feb 2015, 07:38
by geofftech
EPIC writeup Alex!! 8)

"No. No, you CANNOT be serious. 12 stations from the end and it breaks now?"

Yeah, many of have been there my friend... the worst feeling!

(and yet again, the early morning T123 connection failed to work....)

Re: 2nd Attempt, 1st completion, 09/01/15

Posted: 11 Feb 2015, 21:15
by tractakid
Fantastic write up. Loved the Heathrow Express bit... i've had similar reactions when going to Liverpool and back on the same London Midland train.

Time to get a proper stopwatch!

Re: 2nd Attempt, 1st completion, 09/01/15

Posted: 11 Feb 2015, 22:39
by The Orange One
Loved the writeup - best I've read, I think.

In terms of stopwatches, it is a good idea you get one that isn't on your phone. You can get a watch one, like most people on here, or you can get a serious one.

Positives: Battery lasts forever. Negatives: It's yellow and the string gets tangled up everywhere, plus you have to keep it away from your paper travelcard. As if phone demagnetisation wasn't enough trouble on the paper travelcard front! When you're carrying a camera as well - well, let's say I am very annoyed at the ticket office closures, as no PSA or self-service machine can replace a paper travelcard when it demagnetises...

Re: 2nd Attempt, 1st completion, 09/01/15

Posted: 12 Feb 2015, 01:57
by Iain
Great write up! That 5:02 train must cock up about 50% of the time! I love the idea of going down to the end of the Heathrow branch for one stop! :D

I haven't run it through JP but the last morning train out of Ken O is now later and I think you might have made it.

Re: 2nd Attempt, 1st completion, 09/01/15

Posted: 12 Feb 2015, 08:42
by The Orange One
Going back for T5 is the kind of desperate thing I would think up, but never do! I would probably have given up on Olympia though instead.

Re: 2nd Attempt, 1st completion, 09/01/15

Posted: 12 Feb 2015, 10:45
by Cheshire Cat
From one fourteen stoner to another: well done! So which is more frustrating: everything going wrong at the second station of the day, or 12 from the end? I had the driver of the T4 do the crawl to Central thing to me too last summer and it rather threw me. Opted to 'cheat' and do Olympia by Southern instead. T5 by HEx was clever, if a bit mad - that's what Tube Challenging is all about.

Fantastic write up. Again - well done!

Re: 2nd Attempt, 1st completion, 09/01/15

Posted: 12 Feb 2015, 10:47
by Cheshire Cat
Oh, and well done to your dad for all that sterling support. Just what's needed!

Re: 2nd Attempt, 1st completion, 09/01/15

Posted: 15 Feb 2015, 06:07
by A Challenge
Well done! Good luck next time!

Re: 2nd Attempt, 1st completion, 09/01/15

Posted: 15 Feb 2015, 09:19
by Nigel
Well done. It's a shame that you didn't get a precise time so that I could add you to the top times list.

Re: 2nd Attempt, 1st completion, 09/01/15

Posted: 16 Feb 2015, 16:48
by alexmcmotor
Thank you all for the congratulations, and especially for the compliments on the write-up itself. Strange because I never was any good at English Literature. Thanks to all who recommended stopwatches and whatnot as well. I shall have proper provision next time.
Nigel wrote:Well done. It's a shame that you didn't get a precise time so that I could add you to the top times list.
I know, such a stupid thing to miss.
Cheshire Cat wrote:From one fourteen stoner to another: well done! So which is more frustrating: everything going wrong at the second station of the day, or 12 from the end?
Oh definitely the start of the day. The network breaking at the end was less frustrating more just purified, refined and concentrated grief, where as having the first train late and knowing that your whole day is scuppered already made me want to run down the platform and give that driver a piece of my mind! It's funny, I even considered waiting at the front of the platform and asking if he'd leave on time as I knew he had the flexibility, but I decided to count on it instead.