15 May - The Bryan Chapman Memorial 600

The time has come to prepare for the highlight of the year! Why would this be the highlight of the year, when last year I experienced the lowest lowlight in my cycling life whilst doing the BCM?

Last year I did the BCM to prepare for LEL - and it worked. I got through 'LEL Tuesday' by drawing on BCM experiences. Everything was new then, I had never done a 600 before. It was very much go find out what it is like. If I can do BCM, the possibility of completing LEL is there.

This year, I'm doing BCM to increase my chances of obtaining a PBP 2011 place. What is on my mind this time, is how to prevent losing time at night. It happened again in my last 400. All is well till midnight, and then I seem to go in slo-mo, start to make navigation mistakes, stop more often, etc.

So here is my strategy:
  • Do the slo-mo in the first 300
  • Still aim to get to Menai by midnight
  • But expend as little energy as possible
  • At Menai, sleep for an hour, regardless of arrival time
  • Try to slightly increase tempo at night (keeps you awake), keep snacking and drinking
  • When back at the Youth Hostel at 400km, sleep for another hour, regardless of arrival time (any sleep above an hour is a bonus - but leave hostel at 8AM)
  • On the Sunday, have a couple of powernaps of 20 mins or so
  • Above all! Reserve energy for the last 80kms and especially the run into Chepstow.
It doesn't matter what time I arrive, as long as I feel good all the way around.

With that strategy, I'll ignore it all, because the best made plans ...

The 15day weather forecast is looking good. Only rain.

24 Apr - The Severn Across 400 - Monday Update

During the first few miles, I noted how common it is to see a few riders stopping to make some adjustments. I've done it. You set off, all is well. After the first bump, something begins to rattle. Stop and have a look, because you don't want to put up with that rattle full stop, let alone for the next 399km.

But as I was approaching one of these riders I realised it wasn't a rider, but a car bonnet sticking out of a drive. What! Hallucinations, already? That is not possible, that was just a mistake, right? Only a few miles later, I saw a white horse, which wasn't a white horse. Then I did see a white horse, which was white horse. I saw loads of white horses on this ride. I saw more white horse, or horses that are predominantly white than any other horses. Then I saw a white pet rabbit by the road. I did! I'm hoping other riders might have seen it, to prove it was real. Just can't remember where that was, somewhere residential. I quite enjoyed that 'Alice in Wonderland moment' which wasn't an 'Alice in Wonderland moment'.

So I hope you can now understand my slightly obscure tweet "Promises to be quite a hallu-fest tonight". If I was already seeing things in the morning, what was the night section going to be like?

In fact, it was quite the opposite. Had no hallucinations whatsoever during the night. And as I had been dreading the night section, the best hour or so of the whole ride was during the night. Not only that, but that best hour was when it was raining!! Can you believe that?! After the Bryan Chapman and LEL 2009, the only thing we wish for, is a ride without rain. Then it rains, and I begin to enjoy myself. Do you think I've lost the plot?

I was tired. I was tired the whole way round. I finally gave in, and had a sleep on the bench by Somerset Monument: Clicky. And that was just wonderful! I had togged up (think it was about 8PM), so wasn't cooling down. The atmosphere was still that of a late sunny afternoon with lovely wildlife noises going on. Bliss! Occasionally, I could hear riders coming up from the steep hill.

Shortly after that I hooked up with Ray from Willesden Cycling Club and we rode together till the end. At Membury Services, all I wanted to do was sleep. I didn't care about anything else anymore. I asked Ray how long we would stop for. When he said "not too long", I begged him for a 10 minute kip. I hadn't caught on to Ray's sense of humour yet then, but he said "Lets push the boat out and have 20 minutes". We ended up staying for about an hour and formed a groupette with AJB and Rob. I felt refreshed, it started to rain, and my spirits lifted for the first time. Ray noticed it too, that we were all bit perkier for it, as if the rain cleaned the air. Rob had a puncture at some stage. The effect of my head torch on AJB's ankle bands was entertaining me while we waited.

Ray was excellent company. Putting me to shame with his knowledge of Belgian rides and events. We exchanged tragic stories of Monsere and Galvez (as one does!). It was interesting to hear about his involvement in British Cycling.

Other thoughts:
  • It didn't warm up until about 10:30 on Saturday morning. Hands and feet got quite cold.
  • But it didn't get as cold on the Sunday morning, thankfully.
  • The balloon rising over Great Missenden.
  • Excellent organisation by Chris Beynon.
  • Rob and I thinking we knew each other and lunched together. He worked out that he knows me from my blog/images. I haven't worked out yet where I know him from other than that he reminds me of Bill Turnbull. Sorry Rob!
  • Strangely enough, having no problems climbing Yat Rock which is 20%. How steep is Smalldean Lane?
  • Recognising familiar territory around Goodrich from LEJOG 2005.
  • Lovely Cotswolds countryside, especially around Lower Swell.
  • Headwind Tewkesbury to Chepstow.
  • Climbing up Berryhill and a guy asking 'Is this Berryhill?' This was just after two kids shouted at me: "We found a double dandelion!" Or have I really lost the plot?
  • Couldn't be bothered to get the 'No mobile phones on the forecourt' effect in Chepstow Tesco.
  • Having a kip in the hall afterwards.
  • Many tweets of encouragement: thank you to all. It makes a difference.
  • I might come back to this post and fill a few gaps. I will have plenty of time to think today as I'm off to the sleep clinic!
And finally, this morning, I was bemused to see my camera can take pictures of hallucinations.

Ceci n'est pas un cheval!
On the climb to Somerset Monument.

24 Apr - The Severn Across 400

Can't wait for next weekend ... to be over.

No, not really. I am looking forward to next weekend. This 400 will be the second longest ride of the year behind the Bryan Chapman 600 in May. I think it is known that I don't like 400s (its the night section I want to be over). I really don't like cycling through the night after having already done 300km. Why do you do it, I hear you ask ...

I've just read some of the Faccombe Four's comments after they finished the Denmead 400 last Sunday "That felt like 200km out to Weston and then 400km back to Denmead." It brought back all my memories of doing that ride and the night section in particular, last year (Clicky) : long, cold, there seems to be no end. Why do you do it ... again, I hear you ask ...

Well, I do keep 400s to a minimum. The only reason I'm doing this one is to prepare for the Bryan Chapman Memorial 600 in May. The BCM is such an epic ride, I'm not ready yet to experience it from the armchair.

Before the weekend I'm going to swap the winter tyres for 'summer' ones. I also need to get the sleeping mat and bag packed, because I'm intending on having a kip at the finish hall before driving home on Sunday.

Otherwise I'm pretty much ready. Although, I could still stare at the map and routesheet for another hour or so.

Going anti-clockwise - from Bikely (Clicky)

FNRttS April 2010 - Oxford - Saturday Update

On fast train from Paddington to Oxford.
Have Andrij for company (guy in photo is not Andrij).
The journey reminded me of Chemical Brothers - Star Guitar - Clicky

Oxford Station - time to go!

Rogerzilla's lighting system.
What's that coming over the hill ...



No planes but haze over London.

Breakfast in Acton.

kcass hiding tiredness very well (he cycled to Oxford to the start).

Building opposite caf. Sun is out! Lets go home!

So how was it? Brilliant! Fantastic!

It got my legs and lungs working keeping up with the guys and I climbed the hills better than last time. Although of course I still had to walk up Smalldean Lane!

A memorable moment was speeding down getting in to a village (not entirely sure where - Hazelmere?) when MattC asked 'Are you enjoying yourself yet?' The village had St George's flags hanging off all the buildings.

Thanks to road-runner for opening his house for us to have "mid night" tea, coffee, crumpets, flapjacks, clubs ..... it was a nice break. None of us fancied going out again too much, because it was going to be cold. It didn't take too long to warm up, but there certainly were pockets of freezing cold air.

I very much enjoyed the dawn moment getting into London by the M25. It was a very special night to be cycling and am pleased I captured it with the 'Haze over London' photo. The volcano ash is still causing flight disruption.

Thanks also to the guys for the navigation and support.

FNRttS April 2010 - Oxford

Next up is FNRttS - Friday Night Ride to the Smoke.

The Smoke (the Old Smoke, the Big Smoke, the Great Smoke) is a nickname for London from back when coal fires would fog up the air. It got very bad one Friday in 1952 which lead to the Clearn Air act which is still often quoted. Here is a wiki link: Clicky

Rogerzilla of YACF is the organiser of this ride. He recently posted: "Forecast is still very dry and very cold." Bbrrrr. Will wrap up warm.

Its my first night ride of 2010 and it will be a good reminder of what's to come during the Severn Across next week.