The plan for a good 6 hours sleep the night before my first 600km audax in over 3 years didn’t quite work out. Alarm set for 4:15 but an intermittent toothache I really ought to get sorted decided to nag and didn’t let me go to sleep for a while. I was then woken early by Lala howling and, after I dozed off again while Jane dragged herself downstairs to feed the demanding creature, woken again by Lala’s encore as she announced she’d done something very smelly in her litter tray. So somewhat tired I fed myself breakfast and coffee and Jane stirred herself again to give me a lift to the start at Goring.
A cup of tea at Trailblazers bike shop, which had kindly opened up at this early hour to accommodate the start, then 6:00 am and we were off – well a few of us were the others still seemed to be faffing about like there was no hurry. Chatted away the first short leg to Long Crendon where Phil was waiting to stamp our cards. I stopped there a few mins and ate a Veg-Out sausage roll, the secret of these long rides is eat early, eat often.
The next stage to Ross’s place in Earls Barton was the longest and I was expecting to feel the hills around Chearsley and Winchendon even though they are not exactly mountains. A chap called Peter joined me for a bit, a strong rider doing his first 600 as part of his PBP qualification (in fact I think I might have been the only rider who definitely wasn’t going for PBP). He was inquisitive about veganism and I tried to explain why some of us felt consuming milk and honey was bad as it often financed the abuse of the animals producing the stuff and because it meant depriving the creature the food was meant for of nutrition. Like many he didn’t seem to have considered that the honey and milk might not just be going spare. It was pleasant to talk to someone who didn’t seem at all defensive or critical but I don’t think I made a convert. I didn’t really notice the hills.
I stopped for a nibble somewhere after Winslow then stopped again to take a layer off in Salcey Forest as it was getting warm and sunny – unfortunately this precipitated a downpour so effectively that it was raining well before I even got back on the bike! A short shower though and I was soon enjoying beans on toast in Earls Barton at 110k.
We followed pretty lanes along the Neme valley and I made the Oundle control a short stop continuing on towards the next control at Bourne. Another brief shower came and went, then a longer, torrential, deluge which lasted 40 minutes and left me unimpressed by
Wet West Deeping and the 7 mile long dead straight King Street (presumably Roman).
A regroup and chat with some other Oxfordshire AUKs outside the shop in Bourne, Jeremy on his first 600 and Pat, the only other fixed rider, on his umpteenth. 185k done and I was ahead of schedule and feeling great. I had a room booked in Scunthorpe to get a couple of hours sleep and thinking of this was a good psychological buffer to dispel any ‘not even a third of the way yet’ type gremlins.
So onwards alone to get another short leg out the way, next stop Grantham. After a brief stretch of A road we followed the East Glen River valley for most of the way and I was increasingly aware that better than expected progress was mostly down to a steady tailwind that had been with us all day, the forecast cross wind was just not there. This was a pretty direct south to north route but then tomorrow we were to retrace 315k back the way we’d come. I decided not to think about this too long.
A quick garage stop in Grantham then good progress to Lincoln, actually about 5k outside Lincoln as the route didn’t go into the city itself, where I stopped at a garage I assumed to be the recommended control. The young guy manning the till spotted my Vegetarian Cycling and Athletics Club shirt and for the second time this ride I had a chance to rattle on about vegetarianism. He was torn between an urge to go veggie and some idea he’d got that beef was ‘strong’ meat and he needed it for muscle. I told him about Rob Bigwood, vegan arm wrestler, and he seemed intrigued enough for me to think he’d do a Google when he got home (alright so the bit about Rob’s biceps being thicker than my waist might have been a little bit of an exaggeration).
Outside the garage stuffing my face I watched 2 AUKs cycle straight past, I whistled but they carried on, I was surprised they hadn’t returned by the time I set off again a few minutes later. Around the corner I spotted their bikes outside MacDonalds which was where I was supposed to have stopped – oh well, near enough!
Flat and fast to Scunthorpe, bag of chips at McDs, and I was in the hotel room (a first for me, I usually just crash wherever on long rides) showered and in bed for 11:00. The ride up had taken 16hr 30m for 315k which was fast for me an an hour up on schedule. Much needed sleep was disturbed first by the toothache crawling back out of it’s lair then later by my blooming phone going off to tell me I needed to spend some money if I wanted more free wotsits. Still a good 2 hour 30 mins actual sleep then stuff my face and I’m back on the bike for 3am.
The start of the road back was dark, quiet, and flat. My iPod decided to play up, I couldn’t actually remember recharging it, and I gave up on it. Soon enough the sleepies were upon me and the time and money spent on the hotel seemed wasted. I crawled along through dawn and Hough on the Hill, seemingly towering up more like a mountain than the molehill it actually is, looked daunting. In fact the climb turned out to be just what I needed and by the top I felt awake and strong and that was the end of the dozies for the rest of the ride.
With day came the wind though, a gentle but constant againsterly, it slowed me and the prospect of over 10 hours into it brought on a dose of misery that lasted a long, long time. Coffee and hash browns at McDs cheered me up for all of 10 minutes. I took the main road route out of Grantham which saved me the 5k retrace but led me to a rather lumpy road to Bourne which I could have done without.
Time was oozing away by the time I reached Oundle where notices told of a carnival. The motor vehicles were all diverted off but I was waved through and soon found myself riding alone down streets lined with people watching and waiting. A lot of noise from round the corner and I reckoned it was time to get out the road sharpish! So 15 mins spent in Oundle with no chance of a cafe stop, I ate a gel and enjoyed the show which was pretty good with kids being green men and majorettes and a weird bike and floats and stuff. I chucked some change in a bucket and forgot about having to ride the bike for a bit.
The entertainment thinned out and I got back on the bike passing a ocean going yacht being towed on a trailer complete with crew pretending to be a sea which looked huge and laughably out of place. I stopped for a proper eat somewhere on this leg, pulling into a shop forecourt for water before noticing it was closed which didn’t exactly enhance my mood. Pat and Jeremy appeared, I expressed surprised they were behind me and they pointed out there were at least 2 more behind them. I’d forgotten that most had slept at Lincoln, even Grantham, so I’d probably passed as they slumbered. I think my plan made more sense, sleep while it’s dark.
A quick hello to Ross and a water fill up at Earls Barton and I was on my way. I’d been too slow for too long and had little hope of finishing in BRM time, 10pm dead. At the start Matt had made a point of letting me know that a BR brevet would be awarded for a finish within AUKs more generous limits. No excuse to stop then as I’d manage midnight surely!
Somewhere on the long leg to Long Crendon my mood changed drastically upwards, maybe I’d let the blood sugar get low and it was now replenished, maybe the wind shifted or dropped, maybe remembering that my phone played music so I had Muse and the Stranglers for company. Whatever it was I found myself going well through Winslow, honking up Winchendon ok despite an increasingly painful right knee. Alright then – no harm in going for 10pm even if I might not make it!
A chat with Chris at Crendon, he needed BRM and was determined. I phoned Jane to beg a lift back from Goring saying I hoped to be there 10ish. I set off on the last short leg 5 minutes after Chris and found I was going pretty well considering I’d over 350 miles in the legs. The evening sun was good and the scenery was splendid as I span along through Stoke Talmage and Brightwell Baldwin (well it was when I wasn’t hooking greenfly out of my tired eyes). Outside the pub at Ewelme, over 615k into the ride, Chris had his wheel out and was fixing a flat, I stopped and said if ever I’d seen a good reason for an appeal for extra time this was it.
Onwards over a lump after Benson I didn’t remember being there. My knee hurt and I was aware that the last few miles were flatter on the other side of the Thames but wasn’t sure enough of the way to gamble with a diversion. I was going to make it though and sure enough I rolled into Cleeve road, Goring at 9:55 with 626k on the clock. So that was my fixed wheel Super Randonneur* series for 2011 in the bag.
9:58 Chris appeared and as we put our completed cards through the letterbox as requested he said ‘listen’ – we stood there and listened to Goring clock strike ten!
I was knackered Monday despite a good nights sleep so did little. Tuesday I decided to skip my run, Thursday I just ran 3 miles and took it easy. Friday I ran my favourite local 5 mile multi-terrain training route fastest time ever. The wonders of cross training eh 🙂
*The spell check doesn’t recognise ‘randonneur’ and wants to substitute ‘abandoner’ – bit unfortunate.