Thursday, 31 May 2012

The Hellfire 600

'Nunney Catch in time' ...

That tweet must have puzzled all but those in the know that Nunney Catch is a control on the Hellfire 600.   It is a little village in Somerset and has a castle (not that I saw the castle).  It is also the end of the hilly stage 7 out of 8.  If you make it there before the control closes, it is 'AAA audax downhill' all the way to the finish.  I was holding back my emotions as I typed in 'in time'.  It is not over yet!  However, during stage 8, Andrew and I had both independent and synchronous bouts of smiling, grinning and loud out laughing at the prospect of completing the Wessex Series - we were on our way!  And when we did finish, we didn't even get off the bikes to start celebrating.  That was with the help of AndyH who had brought champagne.  Thank you Andy!

Andrew and I celebrating (photo by AndyH)
It was an incredible weekend and it started with me being hosted by Mike, whom I met on my 3rd audax back in 2007. Yes, we spent some time working it out on Friday evening! He switched on the answer machine and there was a message from LadyVet wishing me well on the Hellfire.  She said she would be 'Wessex green' with envy if I got the badge.

Green Wessex Series badge
My conclusion on this series is that everything has to go right during the rides and about 4 months leading up it.  Then you have a chance of completing it.  I have had so much luck on the way.  For example, I was using my transparent document holder which hangs around my neck (as you can see in 'the badge photo').  All my valuables safely tucked inside my jersey when zipped up.  Only, at one of the controls I had another 'mother of sneezing panda' moment when I found my credit card wallet missing.  That is fatal, all those receipts ... gone.  No proof of passage ... series over.  The transparency of the holder must have helped some clear thinking as I wondered if, in haste, I had put the wallet between the holder and my body.  And indeed, there it was, receipts (and some other things less important like credit cards), stuck to my sweaty body!  Phew! Moving on ...

It was in the 'long lane of laughter' that it sank in that we were in for a great treat.  The best time of the year to be cycling, and in fantastic weather.  The route may be a hilly one, but the scenery and views you get because of it are wonderful.

Long lane of laughter
The guys might have suffered in the heat a bit more than I did.  I never ran out of water and was able to share some with Andrew, when he had run out.  There was quite a bit of sharing and caring going on.  Charlie offered his newish front tyre, which I swapped with my worn back tyre.

Charlie and I swapping tyres

Andrew used my gloves, I ate one of his power bars.  I lost of one my rear lights to the road and the road gave me a puncture.  My backup rear light wouldn't work, so Mel lent me one of his. I took his picture also.  Hmm... Mel doesn't gain anything here ... except height out of Shaftesbury.  Thank you to Priddy, for oiling my jockey wheels.  I had promised Andrew I would clean my squeaky bike squeaky clean, but it started squeaking again half way through the ride.

A couple of things didn't go our way, but only a couple!  I feel responsible for missing Drew's house.  I had looked up the location on Google view and thought it would be easy enough to find. But I should have acted on my instincts in thinking that a phrase like 'the bottom of the Cheddar gorge' is open for interpretation.  Something like 'pretty much en route' is not good enough for me.   I tell myself I'm old and smart enough to work it out, but the reality is that my orientation only works when the instruction is 'straight ahead'.  Compare that with Andrew.   He should be a red beret!  After 24 hours non-stop cycling, you could blindfold him, spin him around 50 times and he would still point out the ridge we cycled over in the morning and that the hills 'over there' are to be tackled in stage 7.

It was already daylight, so time to have a kip!  We saw a blue sign  with a bike and people on it, and took that as a sign to rest both.  15 minutes, we promised ourselves.  And as if that was too tiring, we had an impromptu pause half way through as Pete cycled passed.  The tric tric tric of his cassette was an effective eye opener.  It appeared that Pete had missed Drew's house also.

We were revived after our sleep.  In hindsight, I would have been better off with a kip at Taunton Deane.  I had the dozies pretty much all night, so can't have been riding very efficiently.  Every now and then, Andrew would ask 'Are you alright'?

Of course I'm comparing the Hellfire 600 with the NZ Kiwi Hunt 1200 ride.  I was completely doolally after the 1200, whereas I was able to string some sentences together back at Shawn's house (I think?).  I was using different bikes, and the 1200 would always have been hard it being in February.  What they have in common is that I thought both were a challenge above my station.  So I am completely over moon, that both the Kiwi Hunt and the Wessex series have worked out, with the help of excellent weather and a whole load of good luck generated by people around me.

So let me finish by asking to be standing as I propose a toast to Andrew Preston, who celebrated his 50th birthday the weekend between the Porkers and the Hellfire, and makes his first series a Wessex Series.  I told him he does everything the wrong way around!

Congratulations to the incredible Andrew!
Other thoughts
  • Hummers and Shawn at the start
  • AndyH, PaulD and CharlieBoy on the road - absolutely brilliant!
  • Message from LadyVet
  • Lots of tweets of encouragement
  • Sound of cuckoo
  • Post ride tea at Shawn's
  • Hosting, drop off and pick up by Mike - thank you so much!
  • Meeting Simon Gent!
  • Wonderful that the 4 new Wessex Series randonneurs 'stayed in touch' throughout
  • Bit of a bizzare toilet break in the art gallery at Malmesbury.  We wheeled our bikes in amongst the art work and they didn't bat an eyelid.
  • AAA audax, or triple A audax, stands for Audax Altitude Awards
  • Taking loads of brufen and applied brufen gel on both knees at every stop
  • Hottest between 1 and 3PM
  • 1 puncture, was worried my tyre had got too thin, it was troubling my mind, hence swapping tyres with Charlie.  I always check my tyres before a ride, but I was wrong in thinking the tyre would last another 600.  It could have, but if you have any doubt, you have to act on it, otherwise it will trouble you.  The mental preparation and well-being on these rides are as important as the physical.
  • Good luck to those who are attempting to complete the series later in the year, and next year (Chillmoister/Lee?)
Photos are on the slideshow (not working? seems to be stuck on the 3D) till the next ride or here: Photos
YACF thread: Who wants to do a Wessex Series
Roll of honour: Wessex Series Super Randonneurs


Anonymous said...

Champagne is hier zeker op zijn plaats!
Je hebt de trofee in handen:PROFICIAT!!!
Dank voor de tweets onderweg!
Dank ook voor het mooi verslag, dat we nog dikwijls zullen herlezen.
Meim en Peip xxx xxx

Hummers said...

Spiffy m'dear!

Kris said...

Ik wil dat die meneer Shwan ons laat weten waar je zo'n klakske van de Wessex randonneur kunt krijgen.Dat is een must to have volgens mij.
Nu wat nagenieten en stillekesaan preps voor je vakantie toerke in Rusland.Volgens de straten daar ,zou je best tractorbanden leggen en extra schokdempers voor putten in de ,ja daar noemen ze dat straten , putten met beton rond.Lange mouwkes voor de sunburning en een extra strong 24u anti-insectspray zodat die mushitvos ruskas allemaal een km voor je voorbijrijdt reeds op hun rug liggen te stuiptrekken met verkrampte poten, prevelend: zzzzstank voor zzzzdank....Laat je ogen reeds wennen aan lachende , grijze, oude, gerimpelde tandeloze , baboeskatjes met sjallekes tot onder de kin geknobbeld.Kwestie van eten: bestel brost, de traditionele rode bietensoep!Soekseskaia da!!xx