The following is a draft blog
2018 – The Year of the Ego
- Getting Started
- What I learnt
- What I Achieved
Last year (2017) a friend asked me to undertake the 400km London-Wales-London Audax with her, well who can refuse a 400km ride. I then decided in February 2018 that I would spend the cycling season achieving has many of the Audax medals as possible, it seemed like a good idea at the time! Now, I am not the fittest person, carrying a lot of excess body fat (my staple diet is a lovey pie!) and I am fairly broken up after a road traffic accident (knee replacement soon). Thus, this is not a easy undertaking but if you know you are going to be successful why would you do it. After all, what is life without a little risk. Ho, did I mention that this is my first real Audax year too!
Step 1) Finding the 1000km Audax. I started off looking for a 1000km rides which are in areas of the United Kingdom which I did not know and would take place during the summer. I quickly realised that there were very few (none at the time of writing) which took place during August. However, the Mille Cymru 3 (Wales) popped up along with the Mille Pennies (Lakes). They are both excellent routes but I had always wanted to cycle around Wales and the Mille Cymru 3 (within 75hrs) was at the end of July which gave me more time to prepare.
Step 2) Finding a 600km Audax. This was a little more difficult as there are a lot of 600km routes out there. So I tapped into my Sport Science undergraduate knowledge and consider the spread of the key Audax routes across the available time scale, recovery time and fitness levels (or when I could fit it in around work and the family). I came across the The East & West Coasts 600 (within 40hrs) which is scheduled for mid June and they offer a overnight sleep point (or a hard floor). This was the one, as it was about five weeks before my 1000km (Mille Cymru 3) Audax.
Step 3) Finding a 400km Audax. I had already signed up to the 400km London-Wales-London Audax (within 27hrs) which is in the middle of May. However, I had the Moors and Wolds 400 Audax as a back up a few weeks later.
Step 4) Finding a 300km Audax. Recognising that the 300km route (within 20hrs) would need to take place in April I had a few of options a) Everybody Rides to Skeggy, b) Plains and c) Heart of England. I decided that I would undertake the Everybody Rides to Skeggy Audax with my friend as part of our training for the 400km LWL18 and if required I could sign up for the Plains Audax which was the following weekend.
Step 5) Finding a 200km Audax. I realised that I could fit this in anywhere, even in August or September and that I could use a permanent route closer to home. This was a great option considering the weather we are having at the moment (April). Additional, having discovered the Audax Altitude Award, see below, I now have the following 200km lined up a) Snowdon, Lleyn & Lakes (Perm, 200km, 3AAA) and b) Barmouth Boulevard (Wales, 200km, 3.75AAA). These two routes will also give me some indication of what it will be like on my 1000km (Mille Cymru 3) Audax too.
Step 6) Finding a 100km Audax. I was looking at some 100km Audax’s in the Peak District which is a very hilly area (Peak Audax) has this will give me an indication of my fitness level ready for the 1000km Mille Cymru 3 in July. As I was looking at these rides I came across the Audax Altitude Award (AAA) and I quickly realised that I could collect some more Audax medals. The Audax Altitude Award medal and the Grimpeur medal.
Step 7) Audax Altitude Award (AAA) routes. Chris who organised the Marple Grimpeurs Permanents was fantastic and suggested that I should undertake the mid-week Monyash Grimpeur Audax (100km, 2.5AAA) which was in a few days time. Although it was a bit of a drive and I had to change my work commitments I completed this ride, see below.
Step 8) Another Audax medal Super Randonneur! After doing some reading it was clear that by completing the 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km rides I would achieve the Super Randonneur medal by default, bonus! Then I discovered, if I completed the 1000km Audax I could also gain the Super Randonneur 2500km medal too! However, if things did not go well I could gain the Randonneur 1000 (100km, 200km, 300km, 400km). Whilst reading about the Super Randonneur, I came across the Brevet 500 which is 5x100km Audax rides so if I am unable to complete the 1000km ride (giving 15.5 AAA points) I can still gain AAA points by completing more of the Marple Grimpeurs Permanents. Also, if I include five 200km audax’s within my training I will achieve the Brevet 1000.
What I learnt?
- Nutrition and Water
I started with nutrition and water as these are the critical factors in determining success on long distance events. In my first couple of rides, I realised that I was not drinking enough, so I keep increasing my water intake. I worked identified I need to drink about 1.5 litres every 30 miles or so. When I increased my overall distance this increased to 2 litres or more depending on the temperature. I thought that dehydration was the cause of feeling sick but when I consumed more fluids during the ride the sickness either did not occur or went away. It was not until my Moor and Wolds (400) Audax ride that I linked this to the physical effort. I realised that I was consuming food and it was sitting in my stomach as I was working so hard the body was shutting down secondary systems. I had four choices a) wait longer at the controls to allow the digestion system to work but I am a very slow rider (I have a rather large belly) b) eat more between controls (I was already consuming snacks along the way), c) consider using liquid carbohydrates or d) slow down (if I slow down anymore I will not make the cut off time). Update: how did the liquid fuel work?
One of the strategies which I employ for feeding on the bike is set patterns. For example, at the top of every hill take on water or when cruising on the flat take on food. Another, feeding strategy which I use is the lapping function on my Wahoo, I have the lap set to every five miles and the unit alerts me at the end of each lap. I use this alert to remind me to take on food and water.
- Sun Cream
Given my mixed heritage, I have never really concerned myself with sun cream, in fact, the last time I had sunburn I burnt the inside of my nose during a five day kayaking expedition (in my youth). I have now put sun cream on my list of essentials, along with inner tubes.
- Riding with others
I have never been one for companionship when I am out and about whether it is caving, mountaineering or cycling, so I tend to ride on my own. Having said that I have cycled with my wife’s friend this year and when I had heat-stroke on the London-Wales-London (440) Audax she kept me going and I limped to the finish line. However, I find it difficult to maintain a group pace and I am very slow on the uphills (the belly again) which results in the group having to wait. Also, part of the challenge for me is the mental fortitude, when you have no one else and you have to force yourself to keep going. One of the best things about audax riders, assuming you’re not at the back, is that they will always offer help or stop/ ride alongside for a quick chat. They are a very different type of rider compared to your average sportive rider. I guess what I am saying is, it is up to you if you want to ride with other cyclists and if you do they will be very happy to include you. Don’t be afraid of slowing down and letting the group ride off or saying ‘I’m taking 10minutes, catch you later’ no one will be offended.
- Night riding
Night riding is a skill in itself which needs to be practiced. I am one of those few who actually enjoys riding at night, for example, I try to complete my 200km rides overnight. I think, for me, the principal reason for this is that it is easier for me to commit 12hrs overnight compared to 12hrs during the day. This means I select routes which have 24hr petrol stations at key locations around the route. For the most part, the route organiser/ creator are good at passing the route next to/ or nearby a 24hr store or service stations.
Lights, riding on your own is different to riding in a group, for example, some rear lights are so powerful that it is hard to see the road if you are sitting directly behind it, same with flashing rear lights. So you may want to reduce the lumens settings or have two lights. I use a helmet light (£2) and a frame light Cateye TL-LD610. When I am cycling with others I set these to low lumens and a static light and I will often turn off my frame light.
The front light can be problematic too. If you are cycling behind someone who has a 100 lumens light and your light is 200 lumens your light will cast a shadow of the bike immediately in front of you which will be projected on the road in front of the person in front of you. This can be dangerous for riders who are new or uncomfortable with riding at night. So turn your light down or ride in front/ to the side. At night I am looking at the road where my light beam ends which gives me time to move for holes and road hazards and using my lower peripheral vision to watch the road by my front wheel. Personally, I would recommend a minimum of 100 lumens front light which projects 20metres or more. However, quality modern battery lights are very well designed. I went cheap and have a Blackburn 75 and a Cateye Volt 400XC which both cost about £25 in total. However, I have considered purchasing something like the Cateye Volt 1200 and using my Cateye Volt 400XC as a backup light. In the end, I opted for two Cateye Volt 400XC lights which cost £38. Each light provides 13hrs of 100 lumens. I use one light at 100 lumens and turn the second light on when I need a little more light. I also use the second light when I am descending at night at 400 lumens. Update: did this method last the 1000km?
- Have a minimum of 100 lumens front light which projects 20metres or more
- When riding through areas with street lights reduce your lumens output on your front light as this will extend your battery life.
- Have a rear flashing light on your helmet as it is more visible to cars.
Although it is often between £5 and £10 to undertake an Audax ride, you will be amazed at how much you spend on nutrition and water during the ride. For example, on the Moor and Wolds (400) Audax I spent £24.11 during the ride.
- Keeping Motivated
Keeping motivated over the summer knowing that I have so many rides to complete and that I am not fit enough (the belly again) to sensibly undertake this summers adventure presents a physical and mental challenge between Audax rides. For example, know that I have to complete these rides but still feeling tired from the last Audax ride, whilst still trying to ride with friends on local sportives. This year I have already completed 1,885miles of rides between March and June (15th June 2018).
One way which I keep motivated is to order each medal has I achieve them, which I pin on the wall next to my office computer. These act as talking point which increases the awareness of Audaxing and inspires me to keep going. Another strategy which I use is my autoloading webpage function when I start my web browser, this loads my audax results page. However, has a new member of the audax community I find this page uninspiring and hard to identify what I have achieved with my rides. So I created my own audax dashboard which lists the AUK yearly awards and my progression, you can access the dashboard by clicking here…. now I am motivated to make the numbers change!!! 😉
Summary of Achievement
- 300km: DNF (WTL): Everybody Rides to Skeggy (300km, 1597m, 0AAA)
- 300km: Plains (300km, 2111m, 0AAA) – (Audax Cert)
- 400km: DNF (WTL): London-Wales-London (400km, 3921m, 0AAA)
- 400km: Moors and Wolds 400 (400km, 2780m, 0AAA) – (Audax Cert)
Super Randonneur 1000: (Audax Cert)
- DNF (Day 1 Only): The Three Coasts (600km, 4776m, 1.5AAA)
600km: TBA: A Pair of Kirtons 600 (600km, 3247m, 0AAA)
600km: TBA: Yorkshire via Essex, (The Flatlands Reversed) (600km, 8800m, 0AAA)
Super Randonneur: TBC
1000km: TBC: Mille Cymru 3 (1000km, 13876m, 15.5AAA)
Super Randonneur 2500: TBC
Audax Altitude Award (AAA): TBC
Grimpeur Gold: Achieved: see 100km above
Brevet 500: (Audax Cert)
- Monyash Peak (100km, 2174m, 2.5AAA) – (Audax Cert)
- Cheshire Peak (100km, 2093m, 2.7AAA) – (Audax Cert)
- Staffs Peak (100km, 2269.541m, 2.7AAA) – (Audax Cert)
- West Peak (100km, 2400m, 2.5AAA) – (Audax Cert)
- Goyt Peak (100km, 2900m, 3AAA) – (Audax Cert)
- Newport Permanent (200km, 1174m, 0AAA) – (Audax Cert)
- Eccleshall Permanent (200km, 1184m, 0AAA) – (Audax Cert)
- Snowdon, Lleyn & Lakes Permanent (200km, 3000m, 3AAA) – (Audax Cert)
- Barmouth Boulevard Permanent (200km, 3.5AAA) – (Audax Cert)
200km: TBC: http://www.delphcyclist.info/MerePerm.html (200km, 1291m, 0AAA)
200km: TBC: http://www.delphcyclist.info/HoltPerm.html (200km, 1141m, 0AAA)