Thursday 13 July 2017

Millie Pennines - 1000km Audax

I signed up for this ride at the beginning of March structured my spring Audax calendar in order to get me ready for this event. When I signed up the longest I’d ridden was a 200km Audax so I was going to need to get training. The Shark, Elenyth, Easter Arrow, Turf and Surf, Porkers, Bryan Chapman and Brimstone each upped the distance and AA points to the point where I thought I might have a chance with the MP. My wife finished the MP last year and she thought I’d be ok so that was confidence boosting.

At the start, I was invited by Laid Back Rich to ride with him and Dave. We ended up in the fast group at the front on the ride to Lancaster at which point my Garmin froze. I dropped to the back of the group to sort it out and was quickly distanced. I gave up on the Garmin, caught up with the group at a traffic light and rode with them to Arnside. A group of 4 of us (Laid Back Rich, Dave and a guy from Teesside who’s name I never caught but would see throughout the ride) were out of the control quickly and on to the Lake District. Those guys were fast and it was getting apparent to me that I was risking the event by trying to keep up. I was dropped on a hill between Ambleside and Keswick but caught up when we stopped at Greggs in Keswick.

I was again dropped on Whinlatter Pass so I stayed a bit longer at the café to have an ice cream while they continued without me. Even with the rain between Whinlatter and Seascale, I enjoyed that section on my own without having to worry about inconveniencing anyone else. A quick bite to eat at the Seascale Co-op and it was on to Hardknott. I struggled up that and will admit that I did get off and push a couple times which was demoralizing but probably saved my kneecaps from ejecting themselves. The rest of the ride to Sedbergh was scenic and uneventful and I arrived at the control just after 10pm.

What a control! Hot showers, good food, attentive helpers and air-beds. Deluxe! I had the food and showers and skipped the bed for now. I had gotten a good night’s sleep the night before and wasn’t that sleepy so I thought it best to keep going until I got the dozies. If I’d gone to bed, I thought I’d just end up staring at the ceiling thinking about the next section - might as well just get on with it. I set off just after 11pm and the ride to Hawes was a game of dodging the darting rabbits.

At the base of the Col du Buttertubs my Garmin froze again (it had started working again somewhere in the Lake District), but the navigation on this section looked pretty straight forward so I went with the route sheet. I started getting sleepy after the 2nd large hill so I was looking out for something to sleep on or in. At Low Row, I found a bench and had a 45 minute kip and woke up absolutely frozen. On to Barnard Castle and shortly after I was sleepy again so I found a field in the sun to have another nap. Back into the bivy bag, woke up 30 minutes later to a swarm of midges above my head. Still tired so I took my jacket off and put it over my head to try to keep the swarm at bay. Another 15 minutes of sleep and I was on my way again. This worked out perfectly as I arrived in Stanhope at 7:45am and the Co-op had opened at 7am. I had a fruit salad, Scottish pancakes, an orange juice and a hot chocolate. That was not nearly enough food, I should have stopped again in Hexham as I was very slow on the way to Kielder. I missed the good café in Deano’s list and instead ended up in the Kielder pub which was ok. A chicken burger with chips and salad as well as a bacon and egg bap set me right and I had loads more energy for the headwinds to come. The rest of the ride back to Sedbergh was straightforward and I got back to the control around 10pm again. Had McD’s in Penrith so I didn’t need any food, had a shower and then to bed.

I woke up at 2:30 having intended to sleep until 3, had a leisurely breakfast and set off for Yarn at 3:45 just as it was getting light. I had budgeted 7 hours for the trip to Yarn and it took 4.5 so I was feeling good about that. Then it got lumpy so I stopped at the Old Chapel café in Castleton for a second breakfast of bacon and eggs on toast. On the run into Whitby on the A171 a person towing a caravan misjudged an overtaking opportunity and almost knocked me onto the verge. I panicked a bit and was treated to my first ever instance of speed wobble. I was doing 65kph at the time on the downhill and the speed wobble lasted for about a kilometre until my speed dropped down and it stopped. The next car to overtake gave me loads of room.

I arrived at Robin Hoods Bay just after noon, had fish and chips but forgot the receipt so I had to get an ice cream. I ended up spending 1.5 hours at the café but I was ahead of schedule and I knew the next section was going to be tough so I didn’t mind. That next section was brutal, at least four 33% hills in 28 degree heat. I was overtaken by Martin from ACB on this section but I caught up to him on the descent into Rosedale and we manged to get ice cream and Cokes from the café just before it closed.

Martin blasted up the Rosedale Chimney while I pushed my bike and I overtook him again on the A-road bash to Thirsk. I should have stopped at the Tesco Petrol station in Thirsk for sandwiches but it was only another 10+km to Ripon so I continued on. Martin caught up at the Spar in Ripon and we decided to have a leisurely ride the rest of the way to Sedbergh together. This definitely stands out as the best part of the event, cute little villages, relatively easy terrain and it was nice having a chat. We got back to the control just after 1am in good spirits knowing that there was only 77km of mostly downhill or flat roads left. Skipped the dinner again in favour of a shower and sleep and was in bed by 2pm for a deep sleep. My alarm went off at 5am and I was so out of it that I didn’t notice for two minutes. Sorry to everyone else who was sleeping!

I set off for the Arrivee around 6am and got there around 9:30 but Andy was back in Sedbergh collecting the rest of the drop bags. I waited around for a bit but wanted to get on the 5 hour drive home done while I was still relatively alert. That went well and I was home just after 4pm.

Lessons learned:

  • Split the GPS track up to manageable sizes. The Garmin froze every time the route crossed over itself and it was trying to recalculate the route. I eventually figured out that holding the power button for 10 seconds would shut it off.
  • Time spent learning how to navigate by route sheet on previous events saved my ride. Don’t rely on technology.
  • Riding the Amesbury Amble and the Jack Eason Struggle the previous weekend was overly ambitious. I probably wouldn’t have walked up as many hills if I’d had more rest.

Thanks to Andy for putting on the event and a massive thanks to the guys helping out in the kitchen. Those cups of tea after a long day out were a massive morale booster and the beans on toast in the morning set me up for the day ahead.

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