18 August 2013

The Tube Challenge - Write-up


4am. The alarm goes off. And I made sure that I got the first tweet in of the day:

         Won't be this bright and breezy by the time I finish...

         Noticed anything unusual? Yep, it's 4:24 in the morning, and I'm moving about.

We worked out our last-minute tweets, sorry, tweaks, to the route, and the team of four I was in was off to Chesham: R. Benjamin; G. Bryant; A. Chilcraft; I. MacNaughton. Chesham offered an S7+1 stock to start with, as well as Kevin and Nozza. I shoved £10.90 into the ticket machine at Chesham. And for what seemed like ages, the train finally departed. After Chesham, we were underway. And I was on the tube. 

         Bye bye Chesham! 1/270.

As ever, Chalfont & Latimer was laboriously slow, and we met Geoff, who was going to Amersham.  We didn't know that Geoff was going to be here, and I realised that I'd never been to Amersham before now. 

         Met @geofftech. 3/270.

         I promise that I won't do one tweet per station. Honestly. 3/270.

However, we missed our connection at Watford, and we were already eight minutes behind. Now, dear reader, there is no way that I am going to reveal to you what we did, but I can assure you that it was a valid move, within the rules of the challenge, which failed spectacularly. Watford may look nice at this time of day, but we were there for far longer than we needed to be.

         Twatford. 8/270.

Now, to make this up, we would have to run like hell between North Harrow and Rayners Lane. If there was an H9 bus there, then we would be good. At this point, Glen complained that he was bored of the Metropolitan Line. Through Northwood, Northwood Hills, Pinner, then North Harrow. We jumped out and starting running, as we'd seen an H9 bus in front of us at the bus stop. We ran like hell to make it. And can we? Can we? Yes! H9 to the rescue. At the other end (at Rayners Lane), we also made the tight connection. It was sat in the platform, doors open, almost waiting especially for us.

        Thank you H9 bus! North Harrow to Rayners Lane in 5 mins! 16/270.

There was, however, bad news to take away from the jubilation, and that was that we were now one train down on our route. We had a back-up plan which we thought was more feasible and so we switched to that, taking out the Hainault loop first. Everyone knows that there's three difficult bits to do: the Hainault loop, Mill Hill East, and Kensington (Olympia).

        @TheOtherRB Tweets

        8:24 @TheManOnTheTube    
        @TheOtherRB Breaker breaker Jackson to Benjamin how are you getting on over? :P gutted I can't                   be with you today!  

His name - that's that last tweet, is Rhys Jackson. He's my tube partner-in-crime, and he couldn't be with me today due to a job interview.

        Well, we're still 5 mins down. Let's re-route so as not to miss the loop. 23/270.

There, and back. In and out. Round the loop. Up and down. We went underground for the first time at Hammersmith. And we were still on course for the loop, minus Russell Square, which we would have to do later. We got to Ealing Broadway. And we had a quick District connection, but it said that the train on platform eight would depart first, so we got on it. We got a green signal... and then the board changed to the non-existent train on platform seven. Thankfully, it was indeed platform eight, and we were back on track (no pun intended).

         What's that, Rhys? You haven't done the Hainault loop yet? No, which is why we're going there now.               43/270. #FART

Hashtag of the day then: #FART. It stands for "Fantastic August Race around the Tube". And for Andrew, the event referee (the FARTER), Epping was his last toilet stop of the day (although we didn't know that at the time). I had not gone since Chesham and declined to this time around. I eventually went after we'd finished... at Heathrow Terminal 5.

        60/270 in 3:42:04. Good start. #FART.

Then it was over to Walthamstow Central. And it was at this point that the first major crisis of the day occurred. Glen and Andrew had left Iain and me for chips as we should have been able to walk Snaresbrook - Wood Street (National Rail station). Iain and me walked it and Glen and Andrew ran. They therefore left us behind. Andrew went back to look for us and nearly missed the National Rail train over to Walthamstow Central.

At Walthamstow Central, we were crowded out on the escalator and missed the first Victoria Line train that departed. This was a setback. Nonetheless, we were determined to make this work. Through King's Cross, and up to Mill Hill East, where the driver of the Mill Hill East shuttle seemed to not give two hoots about what was going on. She sauntered down the platform at both ends, got chatting to the station supervisor at MHE, and therefore cost us a train up to High Barnet.

        Mill Hill East, you look lovely in the sunshine. 78/270 and two of the big three done. #FART

                @TheOtherRB replies:

                11:59 @BradleyKelly4
                @TheOtherRB hope you do it Rhys!!

Then, at High Barnet, we had the second crisis of the day. My dad chose completely the wrong moment to phone me for an update on progress. We got on the 307 bus. We got off the 307 bus and started to run to Cockfosters. Glen and Andrew got there and would have made the first train (to Heathrow Terminals 1,2,3, and 5). They held the doors open but on the second attempt Iain was miles back down the road. We therefore lost five minutes waiting for the Uxbridge train to leave.

         Oh my gosh. The running. Cough. Hack. Splutter. Cockfosters nightmare. 84/270 in 6:19:53. #fart

Coming down the Piccadilly, we'd seen that the tube drivers now had a countdown clock as to say when they had sufficient space between themselves and the train in front. This certainly was most interesting.

The next move was to take out the pain-in-the-arse stations in Zone One, but at Moorgate, crisis number 3 happened as Iain let us down again. Glen and Andrew made it to the platform in time for the Circle Line, a train ahead of what we were thinking we would get. I got there and probably wouldn't have made it. Iain was nowhere to be seen. Result? Glen on the Circle Line (and getting a bollocking from a commuter), Andrew's bag on the Circle Line (with Glen) minus its owner, me on the platform, and Iain lumbering onto the platform.

        Team in two pieces. Shit. 94/270.

               @TheOtherRB replies:

               13:45 @SamYTFC
               @TheOtherRB who have you left behind?

Glen waited for us at Barbican (in a Barbi-woooooorld, life in plastic: it's fantastic!) and we all headed towards Baker Street, which is in the shortlist on platform two for "biggest London Underground gap". Down to the Jubilee and the train made in good time. Up on the Jubilee and, finally, 100 up (at St. John's Wood).

        100 up. 103/270.

The next moderately difficult bit came up at Stanmore. We had to make it over to Edgware, and we had a choice of several manoeuvres. Option one was to get out at Stanmore and get the unreliable 142 bus to Edgware. Option two was to turn around at Stanmore, go back down the line to Canons Park and get the 79, 186, or 340 bus to Edgware. Option three was to run to an interim location and get one of the four buses to Edgware. Option one was taken, as, for the first time in my life, we pulled into Stanmore to find that we were the only ones there. It was at this point that my ticket gave up on me. My zones 1-9 ticket for £10.20. My only backup was Oyster.

        Stanmore fail. 112/170. 4 min turnaround or bus? Gone for bus.

        118! 118! Golders Green.

In and out again, up the Central to West Ruislip. This is a section of tube I don't like. It feels rather lonely and strange and horrible up here. Nevertheless, we were now halfway.

        And halfway! 135/270 in 9:02:53.

And up to crisis number four. We got to West Ruislip knowing that we only had eight minutes to run down to Ickenham and make the train out to Uxbridge. I hung back with Iain and then opened the taps for the last three minutes. Glen, Andrew, and I could have, would have, and should have made the train. Andrew jumped out at the last minute to wait for Iain, leaving Glen and me heading towards Uxbridge, swearing that we would kill him later. Quick phone calls and timetable checks later, and it emerged that we would reconvene at Harrow & Wealdstone. By now, thirst and hunger were reaching super-high levels. Uxbridge was quick and easy (despite having to go from platforms one to four).

        Uxbridge win, but lost Iain and Andrew on the Ickenham run! 148/270.

                @TheOtherRB replies:

                15:01 (14 Aug) @tractakid
                @TheOtherRB You didn't lose me- I made the train. I stuck around for Iain.

Then we celebrated 150 in style, whizzing (but stopping) through my home station, West Harrow to bring up the 150.

        West Harrow, my home station! 150/270. 150 up!

                1 favourite:

There and back again. At Kenton, a small timetable misread meant that we (Glen and I) had missed the train before getting there. On the Overground train (which we are allowed to take due to the "same rails" rule). Up to Harrow & Wealdstone, and we were finally able to buy snacks, but not for long. My lunch therefore consisted of one packet of Tic Tacs (Lime & Orange) and one Sprite. We saw the southbound pull in and waited for Iain and Andrew. And waited. And waited. The train was waiting for them too. Finally, they made it up to Harrow. Over, round, down, hold doors, and in! We were back as one.

Down, down, down, down, down the Bakerloo, and we went through the world of depression that is Queen's Park station, and underground, not to re-emerge for another hour or so. Naturally, I had to tweet before we went underground. I couldn't think of anything witty to say. I apologise in advance.

        I feel a Twitter urge. 163/270.

Down, left a bit, right a bit, left a bit, then up. We then got to West Ham and were heavily relying on the c2c timetables giving us a good connection here. It rained for the only point of the day, and, as we ran past a service board, it had been a good service all day (I had updates coming in all day). We got to West Ham and we realised that the c2c we were on was, amazingly, not stopping at Barking, despite the official London Rail Map saying that it would.

        Our spirits are not dampened despite the drizzle at West Ham! 186/270.

In and out of Upminster very quickly as a cross-platform. Amazingly, the train waited at a green signal for what seemed like forever. Why here? Why are we waiting here? Why? It's green, you're late (well, it's the District Line), let's go!

        Coming into Upminster already! #FART

As any tube challenger will know, the journey back from Upminster is long, boring, and dreary. Especially when you go further in than West Ham. With Glen logging furiously, we began to wonder about the potential time, bearing mind we still had one of the 'big three' to do, and, arguably, it was the hardest of the lot, at Kensington (Olympia).

        We're on the long, slow journey back from Upminster... Teasing the 17 hour barrier. 199/270.

I did plan to tweet about station number 200, except I rather stupidly forgot that station number 200 was underground. So number 200 had to wait to be announced to the world, well, Twitter, until station number 202 at Whitechapel.

        IT'S THERE!! THE 200 COMES UP AT BOW ROAD IN 12:50:40.

Then, on, quite possibly, to the worst Aldgate East - Aldgate run ever done. It's possible, on a good day, to run this in one or two minutes. Thanks to the Circle Line, it ended up being eight minutes from train to train. Round one of the Circle Line's 'corners', a sexy Sloane Square (in and out in 42 seconds), and then it started to unravel for us.

Brixton, normally a 30-second in and out job, was annoying, as we did this in a stupidly slow 58 seconds plus a few bemused looks from the station supervisor (considering everyone did this at some point, I can't work out why he looked so bemused!). The whole saga meant that we badly needed a good connection at Morden.

        Rise and shine, it's the end of the Northern line. 228/270. Just 42 to go.

After what felt like five years (but was actually five minutes), we caught a bus to go to Wimbledon at the bottom of the District Line. Up the District line (where it was time for me to tweet a bit), then the dreaded station. Kensington (Olympia).

        Heading to Earl's Court. Ken O looks dodgy. 229/270. 41 remaining.

        I wonder if Australia will be able to match our excellent result at the Oval? 231/270. 39 remaining.

Up the District, and we realised that we'd have one minute to make the Olympia train. Since December 2011, trains to Kensington (Olympia), on a normal day, don't really exist. There are two trains all day. Two. At about 19:50 and 20:50. Trains from Kensington (Olympia)? There are eight all day. Six in the morning - the last one departs at 06:32 - and two in the evening - 19:56 and 20:56. With Guinness invalidating any weekend attempts, there is a saving grace - 'exhibition days' - where trains run every 30 minutes according to the timetable. However, when we got to Earl's Court - bearing in mind that it was an exhibition day - the train should have left at 21:14. Mercifully, we got in with six minutes to spare. Then the train didn't turn up. My least favourite line had let me down again.

        Once again, I hate the District line. Olympia is late. Very late. 237/270.

Eventually - a full FIVE MINUTES after it should have arrived, it did arrive. At the other end, though, this meant that our run to High Street Kensington was now nigh-on-impossible. At worst, we would have to wait 10 minutes. Thankfully, the 9 bus came, but could it put us back on schedule? No. No, no, no. No. No. No. No, no, n-n-n-no. OK, I'll stop now. And High Street Kensington was a total cock-up. We waited oh-so-long for a train that never arrived. The train to Edgware Road. Why now? Why run late now, at this time of day?

        Double Olympia fail. 238/270.

        Hello Olympia train. Just when we didn't want you. 239/270.

After a lifetime at High Street Kensington (which I never want to visit ever again), we finally were on our way to Edgware Road. And the District Line has let me down. Again. I don't know what I did to the District Line to make it so angry and punish me in this way, but I'm sorry. Down the Hammersmith & City Line, and we wondered if the Olympia service was running at 20 minute intervals rather than 30 (at 00, 20, and 40 mins past the hour as opposed to 14 and 44). It could have done - we'll never know.

        Once again, no thanks to the District line. 253/270. 17 to go but it's all fallen away since Twatford.

                @TheOtherRB replies:

                22:21 @SamYTFC
                @TheOtherRB Sorry? The tube is far more reliable these days according to you

                        22:24 @TheOtherRB
                        @SamYTFC Yeah, with the exception of Olympia, all our Districts ran to the second.                                              Blame the WTT!

                                15:05 (14 Aug) @tractakid
                                @TheOtherRB @SamYTFC Nonsense. District cost us all of the time we lost.

                                        16:57 (14 Aug) @TheOtherRB
                                        @tractakid @SamYTFC That was the case when I tweeted it.

All we now had to do was Richmond and Heathrow. A late-running Richmond train meant that any advantage that would have occurred on the Gunnersbury - Chiswick Park run was now wiped out, so, to save energy, we went and turned around at Turnham Green. Richmond provided, for me, my dinner (if my 4am pitta bread was breakfast and my Harrow & Wealdstone Sprite and Tic Tacs was lunch), which consisted of one packet of skittles from a well-placed vending machine.

        Richmond. 257/270. 13 to go.

Turnham Green, for the second time in the day, was annoying. This is now another station I don't like, however, we took the opportunity to reminisce about the day, and, at this point, we discovered...

        We've just realised that some of us haven't been to the loo since Chesham! 258/270. 

        Yeah, Turnham Green, you look nice, but we've been here far too long. 258/270.

                @TheOtherRB replies:

                23:23 @palkanetoijala
                @TheOtherRB come on finish I'm sorry you won't beat palkanetoijala but eh you beat other                              Rhys to completion
Down to Heathrow, counting down the stops. 11. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. 0. DONE.

        We are done. 270/270 after 17:18:18. Great first effort.

                @TheOtherRB replies:

                12:37 (14 Aug) @TheManOnTheTube
                @TheOtherRB Well done mate, fucking gutted I couldn't come along :(              

I later won the inaugural "Bladder of Steel" award for 2013.

We later found out that Geoff had terrible trouble at Mill Hill East and bowed out.

World Record, here we come...                        

Started: 06:30:12
Finished: 23:48:30
Total Time: 17:18:18
Record Deficit: +0:49:05
Number of people: 4
Stations: 270/270
Current configuration leaderboard placing (i.e. since 2008): 21st

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