Sunday, 11 December 2011

FNRttC December 2011 - Southend - Update

It is a risk to bring people to a FNRttC ride.  I knew this back in 2008 but still got a cycling colleague to come along.  He turned up 10 minutes late - I've haven't forgiven him ....  FNRttC can do no wrong for me.  The Whitstable ride in 2008 was the most magical ever, it was the 'Graveney Marshes sunrise' ride, the 'Pavel's Sheep Photo' ride.  This cycling colleague didn't get it and he tried to burst my bubble.  Never again, I thought.

But Mandy and Rob .... they have heard my cycling stories.   I play down the FNRttC experiences, but they sense there is more to it.  They came to see me finish PBP in Paris, as a surprise.  They are unique.  They understand.  They are not sporting fit, but they are fit through their professions.  Their bikes?  Hmmm, a little heavy, a little wide tyred, a little mudguarded, a little pannier racked ... with panniers.   Simon's email was ringing in my ears: "I know that whatever I say, some of you are going to turn up kitted out for an expedition to Kazakhstan".

Ok, so Mandy and Rob will fulfil this prophecy and Simon can say he was right.  I'll cope with that, especially if that pannier is filled with cake, Christmas cake or mince pies maybe, to be shared amongst the Fridays at a time when moral needs a little boosting.

But I didn't expect the knitting needles to come out!

Only when uploading the photos at home, do a realise the onlooker, central to the picture! Simon!  Susie help me!!

I'm just hoping that Christmas is a time for forgiving.  In any case, Simon was a little poorly, poorly by microbes, somewhat subdued, probably too poorly to care.

Maybe he'll now rephrase: "I know that whatever I say, some of you are going to turn up knitted out for an expedition to Kazakhstan".

It was cold.  To me, it was colder than in March.  My finger tips got cold, so I put a second pair of gloves on.  That transferred my cold thoughts to my cold toes.  My solution to that was to put a burst of speed on.  Seemed to work.  I was on my single speed commuter bike.  That was enough to get me warm on the climbs.  Amazing though, maybe because it is such a light bike, those climbs were not much trouble.  Just get out of the saddle, get into a rhythm, and before you know it, the smallest council house in Britain is in sight.  Because it was on a climb I didn't stop to take a picture, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it on the Rayleigh village board.

Bottom left - smallest council house
The Tully family treated us to the middle of the night snacks.  The cakes were great!.  I was going to take a photo of the boys, but they looked just like the March edition.

Photo take in March

It is only Sunday evening, but I already have the Tuesday Blues.  Or is it the lovely Davywalnuts' post on Cyclechat that got me?

"At a walnut stop near North Ockendon, something glistened to me through churned up mud. It was a necklace with a cross attached. Am not religious, but it spoke to me, like chocolate does, and leaving the muddy and churned up necklace behind, I took the cross. The last time I took that route home, a few months ago, I took a call from my Dad saying my nan had died. She was very religious and so as a good luck charm, it shall now go with me on rides."

Special thank you to Simon for organising and continuing to organise.  What a great FNRttC year it has been.

I hope the Fridays will enjoy the festive season and that 2012 will be full of rides you wish for.

Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky

Monday, 5 December 2011

FNRttC December 2011 - Southend

I can't wait for the Southend ride on Friday!

Will it be as cold as last time (last time was March)?
Will I learn something new about London?
Will the Stock stop crew be in full form again?
Will the witch be at home?

We'll probably do the blue route

I'm planning a bit of extra-curricular. Southend has the longest pier in the world, so I must walk the walk.

Southend Pier

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The South Bucks Winter Warmer 200

I had only just got my front wheel out of the car when I heard a 'Hello Els'!  'Hi Liam'!  Then there were Honor, Chris, Peter, Pete, Lindsay, Tim, Chris, Dasmoth, Scotlington ... and so, so many other familiar faces ....  and John!

Everybody was in good spirits.  It was going to be a mild day, a great route, a very well organised event.  I had only just got my front wheel out of the car and I was loving it already.  There were PBP chats, FNRttC chats (what do you mean you are not doing Southend!), RRTY chats, PBP vs BCM chats, what are your plans for next year chats ....

Pre-ride chats
Plans for next year .... I have plans for next year.  They are audax plans.  But whilst cycling around in the countryside, I was dreaming of a time when I'll do touring again.  Why can't I let go of audaxing and just go touring?  Why do I always need a challenge, a purpose, a theme?  One of the themes I have had in my mind is a Pancake tour (ref Severn Across 400): only eat where they can serve fresh pancakes.  Then you could graph my weight according to which country I'm in.  Well, yes, it started off as a tour in the UK only, but then I got hungry and had to go to Belgium.  Why not visit Normandy in France, also?  Would potato pancakes count in Poland?  Apparently New Zealand do a form of pikeletty pancake .... dreams....

Watch out!  After seeing Marcus' mate come off his bike, I wasn't so dreamy anymore.  I heard afterwards that Manotea came off also.  There certainly were a few tricky moments, and although I love cycling in woody lanes, I always seemed relieved to come back out in the open.   The compacted leaves on wet road are as dangerous as black ice.

I'd remembered Winnersh from previous rides.  It usually gets pretty cold by then, but not this time.  And neither was the control at the customary Sainsbury's either.  This meant I bumped into kebab van, selling chips.  Control or no control, I'm having chips!  That would make the last leg fly!

After Twyford, I was on my own quite for a long time.  I picked up my pace and was then relieved to spot red flashing lights turning out to be a groupette going steady behind ChrisB.  It was great to finish the ride in company.

Other thoughts
  • the wonderful and plentiful mushrooms on the leaf covered banks
  • expected Haselmere Christmas market to be on
  • hearing shooting at Bisley again
  • it was glorious with the sun out
  • not being able to pay for Sainsbury's snack items at the Sainsbury's cafe.
  • very nice welcome home at the finish control
  • 9 info controls, I used my dictaphone to record the answers
Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky

Sunday, 20 November 2011

3 Dec - South Bucks Winter Warmer 200

I will be entering this ride:

207km cycling event starting from Great Kingshill, High Wycombe. An event for experienced Randonneurs, taking in some delightful lanes in Bucks, Surrey and Hampshire. Refreshments and shelter is provided at the start and finish, but all other controls are commercial outlets where proof of passage has to be obtained by the entrant.

Thanks to my own blog I can recall how it went last time, 2009 it was.  That would have been post-LEL.  It took me 13 hours.  I'm not going to make any plans of which bike I'll take, or if I want to do it in a faster time.  All will be weather and company-on-the-day dependent.

Here is how it went last time:South Bucks Winter Warmer 2009

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Around Lake Zurich

I was looking high and low.  I was probably looking too high!  I was mesmerised by the crane's silhouette.

View from hotel room in the morning
Only the next day, the day after my wonderful bike ride around Lake Zurich, I looked down out of the hotel room window, and saw this!

Beehives on the rooftop (double click to enlarge)
Perfect!  This meant the bike rides qualified for a blog entry.  This is what was playing on my mind: how can I blog about a bike ride that is not an audax (or a FNRttC) and there isn't even anything about bees going on.  So the rule was conceived.  I thank myself for making my life that little bit harder.

Then I came across the 'Hive' poem by Carol Ann Duffy in the weekend's Financial Times.  The same edition with an article on Westvleteren.  I do like tenuous links.

I used the free bike hire scheme called ZuriRollt: no helmet, no puncture repair kit, not water bottle, no cleats, no cycling shorts, no time pressures, no map, no GPS, no brevet card .... and off I went all around the lake.

I was sooo excited that it all worked out.  It had happened before, where you follow an advert to hire a bike, only to find the scheme terminated, or they only have one bike and the tyres are flat.  Not here!  Loads of bikes in stock, the guy checked the bike over, I raised the seat, and off I went.

It didn't take long to see fantastic views over the lake.

There were other riders on the road.  Serious 'roadies' they looked like.  I wondered what Cancellara was up to.

My lunch stop at Rapperswil was great.  So much to look at: buildings, mountains, paintings, shops, trees, ....  I did miss out on the wooden bridge.  I just didn't know about it, hadn't come across it in the little research I did on Zurich and the lake.  Shame, but I will not complain. I had an excellent long weekend in the company of inspiring people.

The photos will tell you a fuller story: Rackstar Zurich

Other highlights during the weekend
  • Rackstar dinner
  • Seeing the amazing first ever showing of the Nahmad collection
  • Learning about Yves Tanguy
  • Permanent collection in the Kunsthaus also very impressive
  • Learning about Ferdinand Hodler
  • Service at Grossmunster
  • The sounds of the bells on Sunday morning
  • The price of a slice of bread!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Frank's Five Ferry Fietstocht

Or a pilgrimage to Westvleteren via Harwich and Hoek van Holland.

A trappist beer is a beer brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery - there are only six in Belgium.  Frank, Stu and TinyMyNewt agreed that the 8° was delicious, so we tried a 12° also.  We followed lunch with a mazarinetaart, a speciality from nearby Poperinge.  Lovely!

We had a few comedy moments on the way, usually involving Stuart!  The best was after our first pub lunch stop in Tolleshunt Major. He shouted out: 'My glasses!'.  We slowed down while Stuart turned back to the pub, but within seconds he was in sight again.  'No one told me they were on my head!'.

We were a great team, although I say so myself.  It seems we just looked out for each other, making sure nobody was left too far behind, not too hungry, comfortable enough.  To make the round trip in three days, you do need to keep going, and with the headwind it can feel like hard work.  The ferries provided for regular breathers.  And Stuart provided for regular mileage updates.
How many miles?
I loved the stop in Goedereede.  Mark (DelftsePost), who joined us at the ferry, stopped for a coffee and appeltaart with us before making his way home again.  'Goedereede' means safe haven, and the place has history because of that.  Next time we should take note of the 'Hotel de Gouden Leeuw' from 1480, the former home of pope Adrianus VI.

The ferry at Mersea was great.  Frank had said 'they're expecting us at 3PM'.  How nice!  How nice to be expected. It was the smallest of the ferries.  We all fitted on and hung on to our bikes.  Stuart knew of the existence of a hose at the other end, so we'd be able to wash off the sand picked up during our beach walk.

We had a grammar lesson from TinyMyNewt.  It is 'different from' and not 'different to'.  Think if divergence or dichotomy.  If something is going to split (di means two) then it is going to split from something, not to something.  Thank you Jenny!

The section between Sluis and Brugge is wonderful. It was perfect timing with dusk and a lovely sunset between the trees. There are many restaurants along the canal, and a stop in Damme is a must.  We admired the lit historic buildings and continued along as we were keen to get to Brugge.  From Bruggge I took a train to my parent's place and then joined the group again the following day, in Westvleteren.

I have lost the touch of ordering in Belgium.  My mum had ordered and was served coffee within seconds.  After she left and it was my turn, it took me while to re-find the look and gestures required to grab the attention of the waitress.  It was very busy in the cafe.  There were lots of families, couples, walkers and at least four cyclists.

The last leg from Westvleteren to Dunkirk was fun as it was semi-off road.  Once in France we saw hunters in the fields.  One was sitting down on a block of concrete with his gun lying next to him.  I didn't ask if I could take a picture, I didn't take a picture, I carried on following Frank.

I had raced the short journey between Roeselare train station and my parent's place, but I didn't race as fast as I did to catch the fast London train from Dover Priory.  Once Frank said 'just go Els!', I was off, heart rate sky high.

I sat on the train reflecting on what a wonderful weekend we'd had.

Thank you to Frank especially for organising and providing shelter against the headwind (pleased you were on fixed though!), to Stu and to Jenny for excellent company and a great weekend.

Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Frank' s Five Ferry Fietstocht

The CycleChat thread with viewpoints from the others at the end: October's ride for Beer

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Boat Ride 200

First audax since PBP and first ride with the Willesden Cycling Club.  It was a perfect, crisp and sunny autumn day for a long ride.

This new perm, organised by Paul Stewart, starts 10 minutes cycle away from where I live.  It was so nice not to have to drive to the start, and it was even better to be able to cycle home afterwards, knowing that it wasn't going to be an additional 20+ km.  As a bonus, we had a post-ride dinner at a local restaurant.  Usually after a long ride, everybody makes their way back home, the next catch up being on one of the internet forums.

Paul has set up another perm close by, from Richmond, towards Brighton and back. Thank you Paul, for organising these rides.

I started off trying to hang on to the group.  I knew it wasn't going to last.  'It is a tad too fast' I thought, but carried on.  'Good training' I told myself.  I also tried not to gear down too much.  'Good training' I told myself.  We had a headwind on the way back.  But I didn't need anymore training opportunities by then!

My fish and chips stop was great!  Saw 'the group' leave as I entered the Cheddington cafe.  Good! It meant I was still 'in contention'.   There was a wedding party on and a fish and chips van was doing the catering.  The only thing left on the menu was 'fish and chips'.  No large nor small, just fish.  No cod nor haddock, just fish.   I was able to intercept the customary 'salt and vinegar', and asked for mayonnaise.

Bridesmaids flowers by the boat?
The Waterside cafe is by the Grand Union Canal, which goes all the way down to Brentford.  It makes the ride feel local to me.

From Cheddington onwards, it was heads down and focus.  It was quite a thrill riding through dark country lanes again.  You get a mixture of emotions.  From excitement at the speed you can go at due to reduced traffic, to apprehension that overcomes you in waves due reduced visibility, to moments of fright at the thought of an unavoidable pothole.  I made my way to Chalfont Saint Peter, which is known for the start of other audaxes.  From there on, the post-ride meal was what occupied my head.

It was a great day and am looking forward to next weekend's trip to Westvleteren.

The photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Photos

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Bikes and Bees in One Month

Bikes and Bees in One Weekend!
Bikes and Bees in One Holiday!
Bikes and Bees in One Week!
Bikes and Bees in One Day!

That is how I used to title my pre-PBP, but non-audaxing blog post in my previous blogs (see Profile).  Now PBP 2011 is 'done', I need a new life.  And a life without long distance cycling.  At least, if I dare to do another 1200, I mustn't mention it to anybody, and certainly not expect any more sympathy.

And I've had Bikes and Bees in One post-PBP Month already!

Both times in South Kensington.  One talk on cycling by Intelligence Squared and one talk on bees by the London Natural History Society.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Paris Brest Paris 1200

Last night I dreamt I had to sleep for 1230 hours.  I was doing well, managing to go back to sleep if I momentarily woke up.  The rules were clear.  If caught using alarms, time penalties will follow!   Then my alarm clock went off!!

Me at the start - photo by John Spooner
But it is true that the PBP 2011 rider's dossier was full of do's and don'ts, time penalties and disqualification warnings.  I wonder how many were enforced.

I was talking with a rider who went for a fast time and had a support crew.  He was relaying the story of how his daughter in the support vehicle was distraught after a navigation challenge, where they had to use the PBP course for a little while.  "Support vehicles are forbidden on the riders' route.  If not observed, a penalty of 2 hours will be given to the rider."

Two of the Faccombes riding through 'Avenue Support'.
A view like this became the signal of a control nearby.
Riders are to obey the traffic law also, of course.  I did find myself veering towards the other side of the road a couple of times.  The Wednesday night was the hardest for me. Since the previous control, I hadn't been feeling well.  The food hadn't been as agreeable as before.  And Manotea had kindly warned us not to use the tap to fill the water bottles, since the the water was 'decidedly dodgy'.  Still, the thought of dodgy water in my bidon and the smell of country pig manure all night was adding to my nausea.  I was getting delirious with ill feelings and the dozies.  I wanted to be one of the many people taking a nap along the road.  Ray and I did take a rest against a garage door at some stage.  Top tip, said Ray, always rest in a built up area, not out in the open.  And my left shin started to play up also.  Top tip, said Ray, if your injury can heal within three months, carry on cycling.

Getting to Dreux was like coming out of a dark tunnel.  Dreux was great!  A light, airy, spacey gymnasium.  The smell of freshly baked pastry, the coffee was good.  Only 65km to go, with plenty of time and the sun coming out.  We were coming back into civilisation.  I remember a similar feeling when reaching Middleton Tyas on LEL.

The first 1000km went very well.  I was feeling strong.  Didn't find the climbing too hard.  I was loving it, with time to enjoy the road side support and time to take pictures.

The road side support was absolutely wonderful.  There was one particular stall that will stay in my mind.  They had put up a tent as big as the space available could take. It was a big tent, but sparsely used inside.  A 14 year old was running the show and taking everything very seriously.  Every need of a rider was attended to with highest priority, urgency, and even  panic. You would see him, hands in the air, striding across the floor, covering the 'golden triangle' of front bench, coffee urn at the back and food trestle on the side.  It was as if he was drawing the Haus vom Nikolaus with his strides, over and over again:

Haus vom Nikolaus (from wiki)
This was particularly well demonstrated when an unusual request came in, which was for a 5 mm spanner.  Fortunately the french word for spanner didn't need to be found, because 'un cinque' is nothing else but a 5 mm spanner. Here we go, hands in the air, striding across to the fourth corner where two men were drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes.  'Un cinque!!!'.  The two men were quite happy sitting there, observing, clearly not understanding the urgency needed in helping these PBP'ers.  The 14 year old magnified his efforts, by redrawing the Haus vom Nikolaus, now waving his arms like a windmill, the whites of his eyes showing and shouting at the top of his voice 'Jules! Un cinque!!!'.  Hope the chain was mended in the end.  Shame I couldn't stay any longer.

Everywhere, all the time, the road side support was present.  In the middle of the night, in remote areas, in the middle of a roundabout, in hot sunshine, in thunderstorms.  I said 'Merci' as often as I could.  Coming out of a control in the middle of the night, I was again amazed at their commitment of supporting the PBPers.  I was a bit a head of myself this time and said 'Merci' before the usual 'Bon Courage' was heard.  Hope the lamppost appreciated it!

I was curious as to the motivation of the locals to come and support us, giving water, coffee, cake for free or for a token donation.  I got a variety of answers.  The most beautiful one being: 'Mais c'est le Paris Brest!'.

Here are some other answers:
  • to be part of this big event
  • because there is nothing else to do
  • so that the children can use their English
  • because grandma started the tradition
  • because we've done this since 1983
  • to generate business for the cafe across the road
I overheard some interesting conversations!  Like this: Did you see that light? What light? The white light.   On which bike? No, you fool, white light from lighting.  When was that, Sunday?  Oh, eh, about 85 miles and two hours sleep ago. Oh, that must be the day before then, Monday.  Yes, that's right. No, I didn't see it.  Anyway, it's going to rain they say.  What do you mean, it's going to rain.  Look at yourself, you are soaking wet.  He he, yeah, I forgot.  Did you see the red lights?  Oh yes, the ones that went up and down? No, the ones that disappeared.

Maybe it is just me.  Maybe I was in earshot of four conversations, and I just stitched them together like this.

Conversations are good.  You seek them out in the end.  You eye up your prey ... will they talk? I found conversations harder to come buy than on LEL.  Surprising really since there are so many more riders on PBP.  I put it down to not seeing the same people as often as on LEL where you get to know the riders around you.  You just say a hello, see if they bite. Then 'ca va?', 'ok?', 'alles goed?'.  I usually like a quick chat, get to the point.  But not on PBP, I didn't mind if they got to the point via Biarritz or Brazil.  But I was always surprised when riders did not even return a hello.

Arabella and Marc called me down: 'Come and talk to us!'.  Can't remember what we talked about, but we linked up again later on, and stuck together for longer.  It was cozy.  Arabella's voice was soothing and she would start a gentle song when all went quiet.  They pulled me through a bad patch.  In fact, the Willesden team pulled me through all my bad patches.  It is amazing, how seeing familiar faces can lift your spirits so much.  Arabella and Marc had already helped me fix my dynamo fitting (the only mechanical I had).  It is a simple task enough, but having somebody hand you pre-cut tape, made me feel like a top notch surgeon in action.

I was in Ray's good company for much of the time.   We had a candle lit dinner for two, without the candles.  We had a three course meal without the desert.  We had a quiz without questions and certainly no answers.  And the top tips kept coming, such as never put anything down.  Always put it in something or on you.  This advice came after meeting Charlie for the second time.  He'd slept in the forest and left his camera behind.  However!  He went back to the spot after finishing PBP and found his camera still there.

Ray, le roi du PBP
When I was rained on for the second time, I got worried.  I was worried about getting cold at night.  I had to have something dry.  So I started my mobile drying launderette.  I had overshoes on the handlebars, gloves on my saddlebag, and a shirt tied around my waist.  So when it rained for the third time, I had dry gear to get wet again.  Perfect!  I didn't get cold, the nights were very  mild.  I even progressed to a stationary drying launderette when I had my tramp moment.  I put my dry clothes on for sleeping comfort and put my wet clothes on over the top, thinking that the heat of my body would dry out the outer layers.  This worked.  I was so impressed with this system I decided to do the same with my shorts when back on the road.  I overheated so badly, so quickly, that I had to stop and strip everything off again, including knee warmers.  I must have put them down somewhere, which we now know is a bad move.  Shame.  I had brought them along in the hope to meet Peter from Austria again.  He had lent me the knee warmers during LEL and I wanted to return them.  Ray was sorry also, because he found me easy to spot in a peleton: nobody else wears knee warmers like that.  Thank you Ray!

My eyes glaze over when people ask what my average speed was.  That is so not the point.  Compare that with people who take three days off work, spend time and money to be at the finish and shout: 'Els!  You did it!'.  That is what four friends did for me.  It was absolutely amazing.  I did think I was dreaming or back in Hanwell for a moment. They had created their own mini-PBP cycling tour and they had gone to extraordinary efforts to keep this a secret.  I had been so proud of my computer savvy, and now apparently security concious, mum, when she had asked how to delete caches and cookies off her iPad.  But it was only so as to prevent me coming across anything related to the PBP surprise.  It was particularly nice that Frank was around at that time, because he knows two of the friends, from his local cycling club.

Me and Frank - Frank having finished the day before!

Surprise: Rob, me, Fast Eddie and Bar Dave, Mandy taking picture
The tweets from friends, family and martinbrice were wonderful.  They can be a real pick-me-up.  I could always rely on the support from friends and family, but the unexpected support from the Fridays got me into my Tuesday Blues for sure.  Martinbrice's tweets started to work as a 'tweet digest'. He summarised what was going on in one of the CycleChat threads, which moved me to tears on reading it when back home.  Here is the link: Friday Night Ride to Paris-Brest-Paris.   It also gave me a fright when somebody wrote I had missed a control!

I had 12 hours sleep on the Thursday night, post PBP.  Woke up with a swollen face and double vision.  I found that if I held my head at a 3 dimensional 3 degrees, my eyes aligned enough to gain focus.  Louise and I exchanged emails and we were both taking ages getting our eyes into position.  Louise looked like she was inspecting the inside of her fringe from left to right and back again.

Thank you to Louise for the muscle rub.  My left leg had also swollen up considerably, despite the tape already provided by Liam.  The drive back to Belgium was OK when on the motorway, but in the road work traffic jams around Lille I stalled the car multiple times.  This is something I did not think about at all: what if I am not in a state to drive the car back home?  So my top tip would be to have at least one other person to share car driving duties with, or take public transport.

Other things I would do differently:
  • stamp, say hello and go
  • never worry about running out of water - road side support everywhere
  • eat outside of controls - better and more varied
  • just be aware of the most remote areas and stock up for those
  • sacrifice some speed for own lightweight sleeping mat and bag - had much better and longer sleep as tramp than I did in controls, or book a couple of hotels on the way
I'm still coming down from the experience, one week later.  My family did their utmost to make my 'coming back into reality' as easy as possible.  I fear it might have had the opposite effect, I was spoilt! We had a Paris Brest with champagne.  We talked PBP, then I slept.  Mum prepared steak and chips, with mayonnaise.  We talked PBP, then I slept.  We went out for a celebratory dinner.  We talked PBP, then I slept.  We had koffie koeken for breakfast.  Then it was time to leave for England.

Le Paris Brest, from Mr Durand's in Maison-Lafitte.
There were times when I looked at PBP from the sky.  I could see a trail of red lights making its way to Brest, then curl around and trace back to Paris.  I started to think of PBP as a social organism that appears in full flight every four years. The reflector V shape on the PBP vests were conspicuous when worn by a group of riders, gliding by in the dark, as if a swarm of moths.  The 'Reflector Backed Constant Red', is what I started calling PBP.   The volunteers had part in this too, they are like the house bees in a honeybee colony.  They welcome you in, they have all the information, they have the directions to food, to water, to sleep, to showers, to Brest, to Paris.  The sense is altruistic, the purpose is for everybody to make it to Brest and back to Paris.  And why?  Parce que c'est le Paris Brest!

Other memory triggers:
  • Setting off with the Faccombes (Chillmoister, keeks and LEE), my soul mates for much of the PBP journey
  • Water towers signify a climb and a descend
  • Feeling like a racing  pigeon with chip band on my ankle (maybe not racing!)
  • It is all about getting to the next control, and when you get to the next control it is all about getting back on the bike
  • Seeing somebody cycle into a ditch across the other side of the road
  • Chatting with 6500, the 'flower' women.
  • Chatting with the American on fixed
  • Getting into the habit of shouting 'Brest', when leaving controls, to make sure you're sent the right way.  The marshals ask also: Paris? Brest?.  It was quite a moment, when at Brest, for the first time, with no other option, and without real need, I said 'Paris'! 
  • Big thank you to Jan Geerts for organising accommodation and meals, and for the company
  • Etienne asked me if I would do PBP again. I hesitated.  'That is a good sign', he said.
  • How quickly things can turn, you feel good and strong for 3 days, but not being able to eat and a wear and tear injury can make things tough within a couple of hours.
  • Ray ordering me to stop! To mark another milestone of 1200km.
  • Why is PBP an additional 30 km?  A few miles could be cut out getting into Brest, no?
  • Big big thank you to the Willesden crew!!
  • Missing George Swain and Erwin
  • I had been looking forward to the Haus vom Nikolaus on the way back, but trade was absorbed by a more westerly tent.  The 14 year old was sitting, legs crossed, arms folded, pondering how he can ever win the return leg business.  I'll do PBP 2015 just for this tent, if only I could remember its location!
Photos are on the slideshow .... forever?  Because we now have the answer to what cycling life is like after LEL.  It means doing PBP! Just in case ... PBP Photos

Other write ups and photo links:
Rapha: note the last photo! PBP 2011 Four Journeys
Dylan: Dylan PBP
Feline's ride report: Feline PBP
Smileboxes - these capture the mood brilliantly - thanks to my sister Kris
  Preparing for PBP
  Home welcome
  Celebratory dinner
YACF photo thread: PBP 2011 photos
YACF ride report thread: PBP 2011 ride reports

Monday, 8 August 2011

The West Bay and Back 200

I like this photo because of the reflection of Bill in Jamie's glasses.  Bill, Jamie and I rode together the whole way around.  Congratulations to Jamie on his first Audax.

On the way back home, in the car, we burst into song: 'Oh such a perfect day'.  Jamie would sing the chorus: 'Oh my arms and shoulders'.  It was a fantastic day out.  Lovely scenery, great weather, great company.

I received compliments on my 'little gear', 'as big as a dinner plate'.  The guy laughed, but I laughed even more, because he should see the dinner plate on my other bike!  I was grateful of this guy's good sense of humour, though.  Because I had lost mine in the Hambro Arms.  I didn't appreciate the ageist and sexist remarks of the women at the bar.  If I had been on my own, I would have been straight out of there.

At West Bay, I was pleased that LEE had insisted we'd go to the seafront after lunch.  The view is spectacular.

At the first control, I knew something was up with the tandem Things.  Emma said: "Have a good ride."  That is not something you say when you are riding yourself.  They took the precaution not to aggravate an ankle injury ahead of PBP, so turned back.  Anti-inflammatories and ice, Emma!  

Thanks to Andy and team for organising the event.  It was Andy's first as organiser and it was very well done. 

Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride (!!! that will be PBP !!) or here: Clicky

Thursday, 28 July 2011

FNRttC - Newhaven - Dieppe

Previously I wrote:

"In Newhaven, we have the most fantastic breakfast cafe.  That cafe is like a negative control in an experiment.  It has no style (a cabin), no decor (white walls), no scenery (underneath a flyover).  The question in the experiment is 'how do you rate your breakfast'.  The idea being that you are not influenced by external factors.  Unfortunately this experiment will always fail when the 'subjects' are the Fridays.  When having breakfast with the Fridays after a night ride, it doesn't matter where you are or what the breakfast is like. It is always a memorable experience."

The experiment came to a conclusion.  The Pitstop Cafe closed down.

We went to the Captain's Table Cafe instead.  It is located by the sea, has decor (see picture below) and the service was excellent, even though we arrived en masse unannounced.

What's so funny?
I feel like I've been on a three week holiday.  There was a bit of a buzz about the FNRttC.  It was a recipe for adventure.  Going on a Thursday night, as opposed to Friday.  A smaller group, which means going faster.  Not knowing whether we'd be allowed into Gatwick Airport.  It wasn't looking good as we were stopped by police.  The group was like a lava lamp, with everyone slowing, silently, but the inner core moving on ahead .  The inner core did the talking and off we went for a Costa coffee.  I didn't want to be disappointed by the customer service possibly having improved on last year, so went to M&S, who now offer coffee also.  It was busy at Gatwick.  There wasn't the usual middle of the night ghostliness about it. Building work is going on, I guess in preparation for the Olympics.

Then there was the Left Legg Bandage Plot.  That was a bit like a lava lamp phenomenon also.  Gradually, you would recognise something similar about a gathering of cyclists at the Lindfield regroup.  It was a birthday treat for Mr Legg, whose trademark is a bandage around the left knee.

The 'Plotters'?
After breakfast, it was time for the next adventure, which was getting onto the ferry.  Some bikes posed as bikes, some as motor bikes and some as plain luggage.  We all got on.  I had a good snooze.

We disembarked and the group dispersed.  I went off to Evreux, which was the start of my last long ride before PBP.  The Saturday ride was planned to cover the miles and not get distracted.  That plan worked in that I took very few pictures.  I had 'adventures' though, when I found myself off road, or backtracking miles because my lovely laney route was cut off by highway fencing with no way through.  I came across a Gatwick like checkpoint also but didn't get stopped.  Les gendarmes had reason to question me though, as I was not wearing a reflective vest.  Instead, they didn't move an inch and smiled nodding as I sailed past them.

I asked for directions a couple of times.  Towards the end of the evening, I couldn't help myself anymore and asked 'Le Tour, qui a gagné?'.  I chose the right person to ask, because the guy was smoking a cigar and kept shouting at his German Shepherd dog to keep away from me.  Whilst doing both of those, he uttered something like 'Hhkariy Afhawe'.  I was ready to say 'merci', when he explained: 'L' Australien!'.

Here is the profile of the ride:

In Amiens, on the Somme, you go below sea level.  After reaching the Béthune region the profile is flat and I was flying!  Top gear all the way!  I went through Armentières, Comines, Wervik, Geluwe, Dadizele and home.  I liked that route very much. It has a special feel around Comines-Wervik.  Next year, when I don't have the need for miles (famous last words!), I might work out a fast route to the border, then meander around there early evening.   Could work as a trip from Dunkerque also.

I was pleased to have arrived home at a civilised time.  My parents were up waiting for me. We chatted, and we chatted and laughed some more the next day.  I was spoilt with the best dish of chicon au gratin and a perfect meringuetaart as desert.  We watched the final stage of  le tour and enjoyed Cav and HTC's amazing success.

I travelled back to the UK on the Eurostar, wheel in hand.  The female security officer asked: 'Où est le reste?'.  How funny, when, if I had brought the complete bike, it would have been trouble.  I laughed of course: 'Je l'ai perdu!'

What a weekend!  Three weeks worth of cycling, adventure, countries, culture, food and entertainment.

Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride, or here: Clicky

Other thoughts:

  • two falls
  • two thunderstorms
  • two punctures
  • after fields, fields, fields, coming into Rouen must have been quite dramatic way back
  • going through many villages with old castles and churches, reminded me of 'La Chasse aux Trésors', with Philippe de Dieuleveult
  • none of the cafes I went into showing le tour, horse racing instead
  • redundant question: 'so would we do it again next year?'

Monday, 18 July 2011

FNRttC - Brighton

On top of the Beacon, Simon had encouraged people to keep going down to Brighton, rather than wait for everybody and get cold.  This had created a sense of urgency in me.  From trying not to raise my heart rate on this Genteel ride, I turned into a racer chasing down the break away.  The Pyrenees Stage 11 it was.  I could hear Chris Boardman's voice: "It is all down to how much risk you are prepared to take".   Visibility improved by looking over my glasses.  In the far distance was a blurred shimmer of red light.  That was my target.

We arrived at the Madeira soaking wet.  A proper FNRttC that was.  Loved it.

Conquering the Beacon
Photo by Martin Brice

It starts at Hyde Park Corner with magic.  We bunch up at the traffic lights, ready to hit the road en masse.  We wait for the next green light.  Simon surges on and puts his hand up to stop the oncoming traffic.  And it's like magic!  On a roundabout notorious for 'having to go with the flow'.  Going against the grain is an absolute no no. Any hesitation and you'll hear the cab drivers cursing you.  But Simon gets in the middle of the road, puts his hand up, and all traffic slows and stops as if mesmerised.  I would imagine it is mesmerising.  From the other end, you'd see this guy cycling towards you.  Behind him a group of cyclists with dazzling lights, like you've never seen before.  It's midnight, what is going on?

I couldn't get into the the ride until I had sorted out my back light.  I was on my way to the station when I realised I had left my pump at home. When you change bike and gear, you are out of routine and things like this happen.   I turned back home to pick it up.  My partner rolled her eyes.  I set off again, and noticed how my back light was quite weak. 'Oh no, I don't have spare batteries!  I turned back home to pick some up.  My partner rolled her eyes and sighed.   It was a good thing I had spare batteries, because once at Hyde Park Corner, the light wasn't good enough anymore, in my opinion.  I changed the batteries feeling smug. Only, the batteries were flat!  Oh no!  How irresponsible of me!  One should always check the state of one's spare batteries, I could hear a 'with hindsight type of devil' whisper in my ear.  Fortunately there are plenty of opportunities to buy batteries and I could relax again.

Wonderful reception at the Scouts Group
'It's the wrong turn' sounds like a line from Wallace and Grommit.   The comedy moment for me was Adrian (I think it was) pointing out the single white light amongst a sea of red.  'He's realised', Adrian said, 'You wait, gradually, the red will turn into more and more white until no red is left'.  More magic!  Simon is getting a bit of stick on the forum for this.  But if I led a group towards the coast, it would always be the 'scenic' way.

The worlds of FNRttC and audax are really mixing now.  With the three guys I happened to be seated with at the Madeira, we talked Bryan Chapman, PBP and Hummers.  Pete stated his ambition of doing a 300 for the first time this year.  It might sound like an odd question coming from me, but I asked what drives him to do a 300.  'To do an SR (Super Randonneur) series next year', he said. 'Ah, that is completely understandable then!'.

A most enjoyable moment was saying thank you and goodbye to Simon and the gang:  'See you next week'!

Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky

Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Yorkshire Dales 200 Perm - NPS2F

It is viaduct heaven in the Yorkshire Dales!  You'd think the image below is 'the viaduct', but the Dent Head viaduct is one of 22.  Dent Head is a minor, with 10 arches, as opposed to 'The Ribblehead Viaduct' which has 24 arches.  I can believe that the Settle-Carlisle railway line would be one of the most scenic in England.

Dent Head Viaduct
I didn't have a chance to research my cycling route beforehand.  Otherwise I would have come across two significant facts:
  • Dent, where I was staying, has the highest railway station in England.
  • Dent has almost four times the rainfall of London.
At least I knew from the audax entry form that 3100m climbing would be involved.  And the fact I'm doing this as an audax means rain, naturally.

Perfect PBP training then, especially after only having had three hours sleep the night before.  

And I managed to put myself under pressure again, having said to my holiday companions I would be back in Dent by 8PM.  All was fine, I was pushing it for the last hour, and even more so for the last 12 km, because I was going to make it very close to 8.  I gave it everything, as if I was in a spinning class.  After the 'last mile', I saw a signpost to Dent: 9.5 miles.  My heart and body sank.  It took me a further hour and a half to cover the last 9.5 miles.  I was soaking wet, again, of course.  My feet hurt.  I was exhausted.  

Nearly there!
That was an endless stretch of hilly road and very remote. I arrived in Dent and wondered around a little, mixing with the beer and music festival-goers. Finally, I struggled up the drive to the holiday barn, from which, fine views can be enjoyed!

My chums and I with the view in the background
I love a full day's out cycling though.  The scenery was great and varied.  There were many cyclist on the road, and off-road.  Also many walkers, cavers, climbers and 'sportsmen'.  The Yorkshire Dales are fantastic for outdoor activities.

I stopped off in a pub near Kettlewell, for a coffee.  I had seen the sign: "No muddy boots allowed".  The landlord didn't look me up and down, just down.  'Coffee please' I said, and sat down.  My overshoes might have been wet, but they were not muddy.  My feet hadn't touch the ground for the last 50 miles, there is no way they were muddy, and cycling shoes are not boots.  

Wensleydale cheese!  I had a craving for it after cycling past the 'Wensleydale Cheese visitor centre'.  Shame on me for not stopping, but cycling around with cheese in my saddlebag didn't appeal.  

Going through Burnley made me think of Fred Dibnah.  All those out of use chimneys still standing.  There are some beautiful buildings/structures around.  Here is a great fact about Burnley from the wiki site: "More Benedictine is drunk in one local working men's club, the Burnley Miners Club, than anywhere else in the world, after a local regiment stationed in Normandy during World War I brought back a taste for the drink." 

After Burnley was the lovely ride back via Clitheroe and Slaidburn, which I remembered from my LEJOG trip.  This is in Lancashire now and the Forest of Bowland - beautiful.  I stopped off at the Slaidburn Youth Hostel to fill my water bottle.

Profile of the ride - like alligator's teeth

The following day, I drove over to Settle, to the start of the CycleChat forum ride.  I made my excuses which were received with complete understanding.

CycleChat meeting point

Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky

Monday, 20 June 2011

FNRttC - Whitstable

When I saw a signpost to our end destination: "Whitstable 4", I was disappointed.  I didn't want it to end.  We had a tail wind all the way, and it seemed to get stronger and stronger.  Those last 4 miles were over in a jiffy.

I loved sitting, having breakfast, on the balcony of the cafe.  The waitress recognised me from the week before: "Back for more", she said.  Sure am!

It was sunny, people were happy, chatting ... Because I had limited time, I was absorbing the atmosphere in a time-lapse manner.

The weather forecast had been expressed in inches of rain all week  To be fair to our middle of the night caterers,  Simon had set the deadline for pulling out to Thursday.  This reduced the field from 130 to 65.  Right up until midnight Friday, the weather was appalling.  My motto doesn't work in Simon's system, but normally I say "Always get to the start".  Always get to the start, and then decide whether to ride or not .  From midnight onwards, we had perfect cycling conditions.  It was warm, no rain, a little drizzle perhaps, and a tailwind all the way.

So, we benefited the advantages of a reduced field. It was like the old days.  Although, a group of 65 now appears really small.  Bunching up is much quicker, you see people more than once, shorter queues for facilities, shorter queues for food, Simon with time to chat ....

A pedestrian asked what we were doing and Simon replied "We've come to see you!".  The serious answer of "We're going to Whitstable" prompted a reply of "Ah Whitstable", with an intonation of  "I have no idea who Whitstable is".

"We've come to see you"
Just after the Rochester Andy Snacks stop, I noticed this intriguing structure.  If I didn't learn anything new about London, I learnt about Sir John Hawkins, the triangular trade, and these almshouses, still used to house Navy pensioners.

Sir John Hawkins Hospital, Kings, Chatham
John Hawkins on wiki
I have also discovered why an audax in Kent is called the Invicta:

Kent motto Invicta, on house in Milton Regis
Kent Invicta on wiki
The reason I had limited time at Whitstable is that I got to do the ride on the promise I would be back home to help out at the Hanwell Carnival Allotment Stall.  Since I am the beekeeper with honey to offer, it was only right that I would be attending my own makeshift stall.

I look tired
Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky

Other thoughts:

  • 12 puncture in the group
  • sleeping on the train back to London, to miss every single drinks trolley
  • skylarks
  • tipping helmet at the Sportsman (table booked for 10th July)
  • need to start planning for Newhaven - Dieppe (have ferry and Eurostar, need overnight stay and route)
  • perfect ride - thank you Simon, and everybody involved 

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

London to Brighton 300 DIY by GPS

I made a couple of mistakes on this ride, but with hindsight, I might have done myself a favour.

The ride was London to Brighton along the east and south coast: 310km shortest distance, 350km ridden, 3100m climbing.

One of the mistakes was making this DIY hugely over distance.  I though I'd be OK.  I was going to use my racing bike, no mudguards, no saddle bag, only one bottle etc.  The route is flat-ish.  Validation was going to be by GPS, so no wasting time at control points.  Everything was in my favour, I even had some Science in Sports goodies provided by Ealing Bike Hub.

Unfortunately, these advantages were completely offset by me turning into a tourist rather than behaving like an audaxer.  I was loving the ride, by the coast, miles and miles of it.   I told myself to relax and enjoy myself.  I was on rehabilitation after the BCM.  There were plenty of sites of interest, but why did I have to take not just one photo of something, but several, at different angles, with different light settings, looking around, oh .... look over there, snap, snap.  Those minutes add up.

Best angle?
Margate Turner Gallery
The other mistake, was to overshoot a couple of landmarks in Ramsgate.   I turned back to the first, and it was a complete waste of miles and time.  The Belgian Cafe, I would not recommend as a Belgian cafe.  You can buy 'a pint of Leffe' for sure (not that Belgians would order 'pints' of Leffe).  But the decor, which was a collage of retro-posters, did not have one cycling related image.  A waitress dropped a tray.  I guess it happens.  However, the expletives used following the drop stood out in being non-Flemish / non-French .  The cakes, the typically Belgian carrot cake and lemon meringue pie (I think not!), were not presented in individual portions.  I was disappointed and not in a good mood any more (can you tell?).

The headwind started to play its part and I began to realise I no longer had a time buffer.  Inspired by my personal best on last Wednesday's 10 mile time trial and being on my racer, I was going to start pushing it a bit more.  I did long steady state stretches and I did interval type stretches.  And so, this ride might very well have become a very good PBP training ride.  All this effort against the headwind took its toll though, because when I reached Battle I was ready to pack it in (second time this year!).  Only because of encouraging tweets did I decide to carry on - thank you to my regular followers, dkhan400 and SirWobbly.  If I lost my good mood in Ramsgate,  I was now angry!  Angry for allowing the word 'packing' to enter my head, and angry for having lost even more time whilst visiting Battle train station!  I asked for directions to the train station, and the lady said 'it's a long way, it's about a mile away'.  But that wasn't enough to bring my sense of humour back.  My 30-odd miles 'pending' were a reality.

We now have the perfect PBP training ingredients: tired from the early start, tired from pushing too hard, tired from the headwind, demoralised from having done the required 300kms, but having to do the over distance kms, running out of water, getting cold, getting lost, getting very sleepy.  Now go, go and do your time trial bit, you are going to have to, if you want to finish in time!

Fortunately, I had the Science in Sports goodies, they were very handy.  Both the rehydrating powder sachets and the energy bars suited me.  Before I read their tagline, I thought to 'make them part of my ritual'.  It is the detail that makes the difference.  The energy bar wrappers tell you clearly where to 'tear down'.  And when you do tear down, the packet tears open, and all the way.  Ah! Don't laugh!  I have used sachets of drink powder before, got them in New Zealand.  Thought they would be perfect.  When I came to use them on an audax, I could not get one of them to open.  I got to know Ealing Bike Hub on one of their bike maintenance courses.  It is a perfect setup for learning about bikes whatever level you are at.

I had decided that a 600 was not necessary this weekend (had been eyeing up the Invicta 600, but only with one eye).  The cycling forums' consensus seems to be that long distance rides are no longer required at this stage of PBP preparation, but shorter rides working on speed are more beneficial.  So in conclusion, I think I did myself a favour by organising an overdistance ride, and getting myself into time limit trouble.  It meant I had to ride hard.  If  I can do 350 in 21 hours, call it 300 in 20 hours, then I can do 1200 in 80 hours (all else being equal). That is 10 full hours left for sleep!  I'm beginning to look forward to PBP again.  For a while I was looking forward to it being over.

The day after this ride was PBP registration day. You're pre-registration is completed by adding records of your qualifying rides. What a milestone!

I want to go back to Margate, Broadstairs and Deal.  And another visit to Rye is already in the calendar (scallop festival).  It is a shame I couldn't stop there, but again with hindsight, having more leisure time will be a good thing.

Photos of the ride are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky

Other thoughts:
  • Learning about Cinque Ports
  • Thank you to friends in Brighton for providing sleep over
  • Last picture taken in Dover, tells a story
  • Seeing the FNRttC Whitstable route in daylight
  • Learning about GPS, tracks, routes, waypoints, tracklogs ...
Tribute to FNRttC Whitstable

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Bryan Chapman Memorial 600

I was only 85km in, when I was ready to call a friend.  I couldn't call my other half, because she would have said: "I have no sympathy!" (the 'no' said in a Jeremy Paxman way).  Neither could I call my mum, who knows I'm doing this to go to Paris in August.  She would have said: "Come home, we can go to Paris any day of the year!".

I had to talk to somebody who would understand and know what I needed to hear.  So I called my alter ego.  Here is the conversation:

swarm_catcher: Hi?
Els: Hi, it's me, I'm on the BCM

swarm_catcher: And you're calling me because it is tough going?
Els: Yes [sob]

swarm_catcher: But it's going?
Els: Yes [sniff]

swarm_catcher: Well tough it out!
Els: But I'm only 85km in and struggling.  Howard is probably in Kings YH already.

swarm_catcher: Who is Howard?
Els: He is Lance Armstrong

swarm_catcher: And does that help you?
Els: No [wail]

swarm_catcher: Think of Eddy Merckx instead.
Els: [sniff]

swarm_catcher: Call me back when you get to 200
Els: OK

swarm_catcher: Just don't call while you are driving
Els: But I'm ...

swarm_catcher: tduuuuuuuuuu

Then, hurrahhh!!!!  A serious mechanical problem happened.  My pedals stopped turning dead in their tracks.   Quick, feet out before I fall over! This is it, I would have to give up, and what an excuse! Perfect.  Before I examined the damage, and in seconds, I had plans A, B and C on what to do next.  I would walk 500 miles and pluck up courage to knock on somebody's door.

The cleaning cloth for my glasses, which I must have dropped whilst getting something out of a back pocket, got entangled in the rear dérailleur.  With a single reverse turn of the pedals, out came the cloth.  Sigh of no relief.

Soon after, Mr Sunshine Gary arrived.  He had a story to tell that got me stunned for the next 50km.  His bike had just 'snapped in half', stopped at a garage, got it welded, carried on.  Certainly an advert for steel bikes and a guy called Gary.  He cheered me up no end, not just the story, but his lively, bubbly, sunny character lifted my spirits.

Mr Sunshine Gary (coincidence Liam called him Sunshine Gary also?)

It was also great to chat with Barry, who caught up with me next.  I waited for Larry and Harry .... maybe I was the red lantern.  At least at every control, I would still see a few people.

I had a song on repeat in my head.  Lyrics from Coldplay.  'Nobody said it was easy'.  'Oh, take me back to start'.

As I saw Chillmoister at the halfway Menai control I blurted out: 'I'm packing'!   With hindsight, if I really was going to give up, maybe I wouldn't shout it out so loud.  I would quietly say: "My ride is over, see you at the finish".  Wise words of 'get inside and eat' did the trick.  As you eat and weigh up the options, you realise that the logistics of getting back to Chepstow, and the implications of not completing BCM are almost harder to deal with than carrying on, especially given the state you are in.

If my brain wasn't mush at Menai, it certainly was back at Kings YH.  When asked what breakfast I would like, I looked for the easy option.  One word, no utensils: toast.  I was pleased the volunteer didn't ask which spread I wanted. I wouldn't have been able to make a decision.  Not even honey came to mind.

My bag drop bag had been carefully organised (learning from Greenbank!).  I had a black bag for things I would need at night, and a white bag for things I would need for the second day.  Even that got scrambled.  I must have been looking for something I couldn't find.  Comfort probably.

If you are getting tired of reading about this self-inflicted misery, forgive me.  I need to document this so that I never do this ride again.  In fact, why don't I cancel my Audax membership right now? Join Liam in the knitting club.

The best thing about this ride were the people.  I hardly have any pictures to share. Fortunately, others did get some fantastic shots to show off Wales.  Links are at the end.

I don't remember any scenery myself.  The last day, the last 200km, was dominated by calculations.  How far to go, how much time left?  Keep it going, you've got to make it now.  No point conserving energy anymore.  Go for it! Don't forget it is 619km, don't forget the last 19, call it 20.  Recalculate.  Go go go.

There is a lot of shifting up and down gears to do on the last leg.  Relentless up and own.  This was causing a new type of hallucination.  Shift up, 'edit', up again, 'amend', shift down, 'cancel'.  Shift up, 'open chapter', up again, 'turn page', shift down, 'close'.  Shift up, 'person walks in', up again, 'another walks in', shift down, 'all walk out'.  It was bizarre, I kept asking questions: 'what am I editing', 'why am I reading', 'what am I reading', 'who are these people'.  Like in a dream, the answers never came.

People on fixed gear are unreal!  Simonp and Manotea (there may have been others), I admire you.

I asked for a receipt at the last Weobley control shop.  Force of audax habit and being on autopilot.  'Do you need a stamp', said the lovely person a the till. 'Yes! Yes! I do.  Let me get my card!!'

I was thankful for John Spooner's company in the last stretch.  We knew it was touch and go all the way.  Thirty minutes spare sounds plenty, but  a difficult puncture could still set you back by that much.  It was great to see more people come in before 10PM.  Jason could hardly stand, stumbling against the wall.  Well done everybody.  There are a few people who finished around the same time as John and I, and I wish I had been more with it to take note: Maidenhead Phil, Panoramix, JJ, Redlight?  Hope to be able to say hi another time.

After returning to the B&B on Sunday evening, I found this in my room:

"Congratulations on your epic journey."
I ate all of it, although falling asleep many times as I was doing so.   My stay at Afon Gwy was wonderful.  I was very well looked after.

Many thanks to Mike the organiser, all the helpers and all the riders.  Reading through the yacf thread, you can sense the mutual respect people are giving each other.  It doesn't matter whether you abandoned, finished out of time, or finished in a good time ... you were there.

Thanks for all the tweets of support.

I did find Howard's tweet very endearing for somebody who finished 12 hours earlier than me: "That was tough."

Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride, or here: Clicky.

Links to other albums are below:
Mr Bunbury

A few more thoughts:

  • Meeting Gary and Barry for the first time
  • Really wanted to get to know more people, but didn't have capacity
  • I was not ready for a tough first 100, they normally come at the end
  • Iddu, please believe me, not doing the BCM again
  • Except I had a desire to maybe, use a bed in Kings YH, and still haven't
  • Asking Iddu what the weather was going to do on Sunday: "It's going to be BCM weather."
  • My bike sounding like a chifchaf after the rain
  • Lost 1kg over the weekend
  • I have qualified for PBP, it is no formality! At least not if you do it the BCM way.
  • Without the weight loss over the last 5 months and 'speed' training, maybe I would not have made it.
  • StevieB on yacf: "* I could tell by Ele’s light pattern coming from behind she was not just wobbling a little but all over the road… so I woke her up and she promptly took the opportunity to get some sleep – sitting on a wall, and a few km further on - leaning on a gate! Not sure what surprised me more – her ability to sleep in any position or her ability to wake up after a couple of minutes!!"