Plan for 2010

The plan for 2010 is to attempt a Randonneur Round the Year (200 for 12 consecutive months) and to do another Super Randonneur series (200, 300, 400, 600).

The RRtY was my original and only plan for 2010. The SR came only because, for some bizarre reason, I want to do the Bryan Chapman 600 again. For that you need to build up by cycling a 300 and a 400. I'm on the same trajectory as the Fabulous Faccombe Four, so it can't be helped :). Then the second half of the year is when the FNRttC comes into play. One of the rides I am most looking forward to, is the FNRttC to Dieppe. The plan is stop over in Le Treport and the next day, cycle to my parent's place in Rumbeke (Belgium).

09 Jan: The Poor Student 200 - NOT DONE due to ice/snow
23 Jan: The Willy Warmer 200 - DONE
27 Feb: The Kennet Valley Run 200 - with the Faccombe Four - DONE
27 Mar: The Dean 300 - DONE
16 Apr: FNRttS - DONE
24 Apr: The Severn Across 400 - DONE
15 May: The Bryan Chapman 600 - with the Faccombe Four - DONE
28 May: FNRttC Whitstable - NOT DONE
19 June: Brussels - Paris - Brussels 600 - DONE
25 Jun: FNRttC Bognor Regis - DONE
15 Jul: FNRttC Dieppe - onto Rumbeke!! 200 DIY - DONE
12 Aug: The Severn to Wye 200 PERM - DONE
14 Aug: The Radnor Roundabout 100 - DONE
27 Aug: FNRttC Whitstable - DONE
19 Sep: The William the Conkerer - DONE
02 Oct: The Upper Tea 200 - NOT DONE - The Anfractuous 200 instead
22 Oct: FNRttC Whitstable - DONE
06 Nov: The Upper Thames - not planned but DONE
19 Nov: FNRttC Brighton - NOT DONE due to holidays

9 Jan - The Poor Student 200

Its The Poor Student time again! Saturday 9th January - first Audax of the year. Looking forward to it. I should be in better shape than last year and the route is now very familiar.

Last year's Poor Student was my very first 200 in the winter. I've done a lot of cycling since then, but it doesn't get any easier, as the South Bucks Winter Warmer 200 showed earlier this month. Long distance form and fitness seems to go very quickly.

DIY - What is it, how does it work?

"Do it yourself audaxing".

I promised to explain what a 'DIY' is, since I've been referring to a DIY in a couple of earlier posts. If you have come across this post because you are serious about doing a DIY, don't take it all to the letter, there is more to DIY than is written here, there are exceptions, there are regional variances, there have been recent changes ...

What happens normally, is that you 'enter' to ride an event which is organised by an 'organiser' and is set to run on a particular day of the 'calendar'. You get a routesheet and a brevet card.

But there is nothing stopping you creating your own route, which you can ride any day of the year. They are called DIYs.

These do it yourself rides have a few rules. The rules are written up by the Audax organisation and are available on their website, but you don't really understand the implications of those rules till you go through the whole process of a DIY and have broken the rules. And then also, you begin to realise why somebody wrote as a top tip: "Make sure that there is a shop in the village where you can get a 'proper' receipt".

A 'proper' receipt, is a receipt which has the location and the accurate date and time (I have caught myself asking for an 'audax receipt'). This will act as 'proof of passage'. Sounds easy, only you designed an interesting route which goes through a picturesque village. You've been there before, you know there is a shop. This time the till has run out of paper and the cashier on their Saturday job, doesn't know how to refill or where the spare rolls are. There you go - show stopper. Now cycle back home, the whole purpose of audaxing is cycling, so why sulk?

You see, I already wrote that you can ride a DIY any day of the year. This isn't true, you need to tell the 'organiser' (who doesn't organise anything, but is extremely essential - crucial - in this process), exactly when you are going to do this ride. They don't need much notice though! Soon, a tweet a minute before you get your starter receipt will do. For now, an email the night before suffices.

Don't start thinking you can just send an email and ride a 200km the next day. You need to have 'entered' first. Entering a DIY involves filling in an form and sending it to the 'organiser'. You need to specify something here, I don't know what it is exactly. But what the 'organiser' needs to do is verify that the shortest possible distance of the ride is going to be at least 200km. So for that, I guess, he needs to know a start point, a few middle points and an end point. You can add as many points as you like, but remember the receipt rule! Points make receipts. Points are officially referred to as 'controls'.

This shortest possible distance effect is something you don't believe until you've ridden 240km to cover 200. The organiser will use mapping tools, like, with settings like 'by bike', to find the shortest possible distance of your proposal. But you might not want to cycle through double roundabouts and main roads, so you choose an alternative route for that section. The detour miles soon add up! There is an art in designing DIY routes.

But again, you might think its all about cycling, what's wrong with cycling an extra mile or two? Its fine, as long as you have enough time to do those miles. There is a minimum speed of 14.3kph you need to adhere to. So if you are over distance by 40km, you are going to have to start thinking about your ETA a little bit more (Estimated Time of Arrival).

A DIY is also called a DIY Permanent, not to be confused with normal Permanents. Now this is advanced Audax jargon ... and I'm staying well out of it until I have at least 10 years of audaxing under my belt with 5 LELs and 15 BCMs. Don't worry mum, only joking!

Hanwell to Hanwell DIY 200 - APPROVED

My DIY card was returned today - certified that I did the event in 13 hours and 23 minutes. I am so pleased. Now I know the process, I'm likely to do a few more of these next year.

The South Bucks Winter Warmer 200 - DONE

I had a pair of devils sitting on each shoulder during early parts of this ride! Each shoulder pair would argue amongst themselves, working out what would get to me the most: "She doesn't need to do this - its not going towards an SR or anything!". From the other side: "She could be sitting at home, warm, dog on lap, writing Christmas cards." Then the cross-departmental arguments would start: "Above all, what is the point cycling in lovely country side when its dark at 4PM and you can't see anything".

My motivation had been a bit lacking, and I had promised myself beforehand that I needn't cycle in the rain yet again. To set off with those thoughts is never good. Fortunately, it didn't last long. As soon as I told the devils that I was going to get to the first control at least, they had gone.

I'm pleased I did it - as always, I never regret doing a ride. The support the riders were giving each other was extraordinary. I loved the peleton forming in Twyford. It was reminiscent of FNRttC as we were going over the weir. Before that I had a good run with Terry and his mate (Brian?). I heard Terry's mate say at some point: "There is nothing I would rather be doing". I had to agree with him - despite the devils' acrobatics earlier on.

I haven't quite got the hang of the GPS yet, but it was a great help nevertheless. Terry and his mate were expert routesheet readers. And if there was a hint of hesitation, at least I could contribute something and shout out: "Yes, its right here!". When I was on my own, I gradually relied more and more on the GPS. But I must do a short Richmond Park ride to explore the best way to use the GPS.

Another bit I liked was the approach to Bisley - home of the National Shooting Centre. You could hear the shooting from a long way away. When we cycled around the ground, I was amazed by the enormous distance the targets are set at.

Haslemere had the High Street closed off for the Christmas Market. There was quite an atmosphere there. I tried not to look or smell the lovely smells of baking, toffee, mulled wine ...



Audax receipt? No problem.

South Bucks Winter Warmer 200

Next Sunday I'll be riding the South Bucks Winter Warmer 200km Audax, starting in Great Kingshill (High Wycombe).

The weather isn't looking too bad at the moment, but I must admit that I have been talking myself out of doing the ride if its going to be icy or wet. I've had my fair share of rain on bike rides this year.

FNRttC November 2009 - Brighton - DONE.

Why are rides completed in horrendous weather always more epic?

It wasn't too bad really. We started and finished in dry weather. Just the hours in between were a bit wet. It had also stopped raining as we left the halfway spot at the cabin, so that lifted the spirits. But I must quote something posted by mistral on CycleChat: "I had to drive a relative home last night, the rain was heavy the roads awash and visibility difficult, it was only then that I realised just how insane we had been on Friday". That is exactly how I felt when Sarah and I drove back to London on Saturday evening. When we came across a horrible accident on the M25, it wasn't funny anymore.

What an impressive group of riders, though. Simon gave a bail out option at some point (it was a night of many firsts!), explaining that Gatwick was only a couple of miles away for a train back to London ... nobody answered. How brilliant! And the group was quite diverse, from experienced long distance riders to people who've never cycled more than 40 miles (the forum quotes 7 miles - is that really true?).

Hats of to "The Cabin Cafe" establishment in Faygate. It has a reputation as a good truckers' stop and voted by The Times as "the purveyors of one of the best bacon butties in England". Its quite true. How often do you need a steak knife to cut a bacon buttie. That is not because its tough, but because its so big. At first I didn't understand why chef kept shouting and pointing to one of the tables: "Knifes are in the middle". And what a mess we made! The floor resembled that of the showers after a rugby game.

The other thing that was a first was Simon getting a puncture! What an impressive puncture with the sound of a fire cracker being set off, I could see a cartoon animation going on in front of my eyes. I failed to find an image to illustrate what I mean, but found this little gem: Clicky (then click on the i to view in large screen).

The route was new too. And I enjoyed it very much. The highlight was Tunnel Road in Reigate.

We were able to shelter from the rain for a bit, and it was a good spot for keeks to repair his puncture. There is a whole load of history behind these vaults, wouldn't mind visiting one day: Clicky.

And all of the Faccombe Five were there! And Hummers. That made for excellent closure to the cycling season. Shame for them, that it was one of the worst FNRttC, weather wise. Still, think of BCM 2009 and everything is relative.

I'm getting a bit of hassle from Sarah right now ("We have nothing of a Friday evening because you're messing with your bike, you're out cycling all night, sleep all Saturday (oh not true!) and blog all Sunday (oh, not true either!) ... it's stopped raining now, you should be out doing things"). Cycling maybe? Ouch! So better tell her I've finished, and then I'll sneak some more words in later on. Cheerio for now.

... I'm back.

On Saturday, I was very tired and felt like I had done a 300km audax. Maybe that's the bike. I used my racer again, first time since March. It is a lovely bike to ride, but I always feel like I've played a game of rugby with aching muscles and my shoulders and neck very stiff.

I did not envy urban_biker, LEE and Chillmoister cycling home against the wind. I only had to cycle to Seven Dials (seeing Hummers on the way) and was glad to be able to enter a warm house, had a shower, a coffee and a snooze. As I woke up, a lovely lunch was laid on. I was thinking of the guys cycling home, hoping they would see sense (which they did), and was also thinking how otherwise I would be sitting on the train with soaking wet feet.

Thanks to Simon, who is the generator of the FNRttC magic. Thanks to the TECs and all the riders for contributing to the magic.

Some other thoughts:
  • the Christmas lights on Sloane Square, very impressive, almost an art installation
  • me not getting a puncture on a FNRttC!!!
  • the mince pies, hip flask, cakes, hot chocolate etc being shared
  • looking forward to seeing photos taken by the others:
by Arthur: Clicky
by LEE: Clicky
by Mista Preston: Clicky

My pictures on the slide show till the next ride or here: Clicky

FNRttC 27 November 2009 - Brighton

Tomorrow night, last FNRttC of the year and all of the Faccombe Five will be present. Must! take a picture on top of the beacon. There are promises of cake, mince pies, hip flask ... and I'll take some mead.

About 60 people have signed up, which is unheard of! Simon does his utmost to have the group as small as possible at this time of the year (cold weather needs a fast group). And somebody spoilt his plans by publishing a FNRttC advert in the Observer.

Hanwell to Hanwell DIY 200

Yesterday was quite tough and I was pleased to finish. It was a grey-ish day, but without too much rain or wind.

Cycling from Hanwell (London) to Hanwell (Banbury) and back was something I had to do, but not to be repeated I would think, at least not on a weekday. Most of the ride had a rushed feel about it. I put it down to the traffic. There was the commuting traffic: everybody in a rush and driving wishing they were already further. And there was the school run traffic: mums in a rush and hunting for a car park. Why can't 11th November be a public holiday as in Belgium? And in between, it was also rushed, because I knew that the ride was 'over distance' (more about DIYs later), and I didn't have much time buffer.

A highlight was the use of the GPS for the first time. I wouldn't have made it without it, not in time anyway. Apart from the navigation, a GPS is like a loyal friend. After a long stretch, you look down, and there is its, still with you, showing you were you are.

This is the elevation profile, one way.

The advantage of this DIY is that I can get out of the door and start cycling. And of course, after finishing also, just get a receipt somewhere and then 2 minutes and I'm home. Normally, I would have an hours drive home.

Hanwell, Banbury, is a lovely old village with stone buildings. I didn't do it any justice. It would be worth going back to visit the 12th century church. There is "Hanwell Castle" also. I mentioned Hanwell to a few local friends and we might visit Hanwell together sometime next year. It was also recounted how deliveries to the old pub (name?) on St Margarets Rd used to end up in Oxfordshire.

Amazing to think that only 65km further you'd be in Birmingham!

Some more pictures on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky

Hanwell to Hanwell

Nothing like going round in circles!

The plan: to cycle from home, Hanwell - London, to Hanwell - Oxford and back.

There are two things to do before I set off one day during the week of 9th November. One is to apply for a DIY 200 (more about DIY later) and two is to patiently await delivery of a GPS. They are both hard. I'm going to set myself a target, which is to complete the DIY application before the GPS arrives. That shouldn't be hard!

FNRttS October 2009 - Oxford

Once rogerzilla posted that he could no longer lead the group due to illness, it was always going to be more than the adventure you anticipated. Arriving by train in Oxford at 23:30, two cyclists were already waiting. They were Grub and Chocolatebike. Then Adam, Kevin and teethgrinder arrived. Kevin was on the last train from London, so we didn't expect many more to turn up. Rather, we wondered how many people would have talked themselves out of doing this. Its Friday evening, you might have had a hard week, you've finished your evening meal of cyclist's pasta, couldn't resist the glass of wine ... put the telly on for half an hour, getting cozy, check YACF ... oh ... rogerzilla will not be there, darn, won't be the same without him. Half an hour later, ... I don't have to do this ... who wants to cycle in the dark on a Friday night anyway. But I was like Grub, I can't imagine the weekend without having done this. It would be my first FNRttS and it would be the last FNRttS of the year.

We set off soon after midnight, and one of the big differences compared with FNRttC is that you are out of town soooo quickly. All of a sudden it was dark and quiet and we were living it, the FNRttS. I also soon realised that this was going to be a good workout for me. Fortunately, I was able to keep up on the flat, helped with a bit of drafting. The steep hills were quite short, so the wait was never too long (I hope!).

We had a wonderful moment when we stopped, looking at the clear sky full of stars. Heard a dog barking, but that was drowned out by tawny/little owls? Maybe both? We often hear this on rides, but this was so clear and close by.

Another moment I loved was the way we would bend around the roundabouts, in formation, well lit up, fast. At least it was a great experience from the back of the line!

Roadrunner was the Tourist Tony equivalent. Quite amazing really, how there are people who are willing to cater for cyclists in the middle of the night, make tea/crumpets/tea. Teethgrinder had a quick kip while we were sitting around the table. And then there was a knock on the door. MattC wasn't phased by not finding us at the planned meeting point, and somehow managed to find roadrunner's house. (I'm getting closer to buying a GPS now!).

Because of the small group, we didn't have the re-grouping time we have on the FNRttC when I usually take some pictures. Here, I would just about have the camera ready and ... lets go. Got one very blurred one of Grub though, you can tell its Grub, no?

I peeled off at Greenford. Its so close to home. But next time I'll continue with the group. Having breakfast with the group is part of it. And cycling back from Paddington/Acton is no hardship. Compare that with Grub's return cycling journey to somewhere further west from Oxford (was it Pewsey - Wiltshire?). Respect!

So thanks again to everybody for making it a great night. Thanks for the navigation, the company, and the 'midnight' snacks.

FNRttS October 2009 - Oxford

Tonight, I'm going to be doing the FNRttC alternative called the Friday Night Ride to the Smoke. Makes perfect sense. Go out to Oxford by train and cycle back, home for a second breakfast by 7AM. So you do the hard work, before you start cycling. I know, only a cyclist would put it that way.

I wonder what magic FNRttS will bring compared with FNRttC.

The Anfractuous 200

And this was another excellent ride. Have a look at the pictures on the slideshow, on till the next ride, or here.

It wasn't an easy ride. There was quite a headwind for a while and I was already tired after 90km. Its the first time I used my lights again, the days getting shorter. I want to carry on doing 200s during the winter. But I think hard 100s would be more enjoyable in a way. I love ridding in the dark when its a dedicated night ride, but I don't like riding in the dark so much at the end of a 200.

Marlborough Connection 200 PERM

Did the Marlborough Connection 200 permanent ride. It was an absolutely beautiful day. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures. This means I'm going to have to do the ride again. This route might become my favourite, taking over from the Poor Student.

It goes through some lovely villages, I had never been to before, like Lechlade and Burford, Bibury and the Barringtons. Had a lovely cream tea at Wootton Bassett.

This is the route:

LEL Summary

The title of this blog hints at a life-changing experience, which was LEL 2009.

Here are the highlights of LEL and the build up to it: