Monday 2 May 2011

Brevet Cymru (401k audax)

In view of the fact that no running took place last week (save during the PT session), I started this week with a run. SJ and I ran the Studley Triangle. We both felt quite pooped and it was a hot day. To be fair though, our time was pretty good.

Tuesday was a little disappointing as SJ and I had geared ourselves up ready for a Killer Chris PT session which didn't happen. Chris had got our dates mixed up and we were so busy with one thing and another that we weren't able to fit in another session this week. Like good folk though, SJ and I continued with our sit-up homework. I maxed out on 29 sit-ups today and SJ on 42. We also ran today. Our run took us, plus Cody Menace around Oversley Wood for a couple of laps. This run was hard going but I guess it made up for no running last week.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent indoors on the rollers. The first session was at the usual high intensity (Z3) and the second at a lower intensity (Z2) and only half the distance. The second session was deliberately easy as I just wanted to spin and 'save my legs' for the 400k audax over the weekend.

Received good and bad news during the week. The good news was that I was awarded 4 AAA points for completing the Dean 300k audax, which I cycled with Ron earlier this year. The bad news was that Ron informed me he had a bad fall. Ron was out cycling the TROAD route with John and just past the slaughter house he nearly got slaughtered! Ron's front tyre came completely off the wheel and Ron's bib shorts, gloves and skin came off him. Poor Ron - well wishes big time.

The weekend saw me complete my first ever 400k audax. This event was the Brevet Cyrmu audax that started and finished in Chepstow. I was awarded 4 AUK points and 2.75 AAA points for this event. My AAA points (this season) so far are 11.75, just need 0.25 points to be added to this years roll of honour!

I rested well the day before the Brevet Cyrmu and SJ cooked me up a nice dish of spaghetti bolognese - the perfect carbo load. Packed my car the day before too and checked I had all the equipment I required. This was the most stuff I have ever carried on a bike and the extra weight was noticeable.

Got to the start of the audax in good time. Had left my house at about 3.30 a.m and reached the community centre in Chepstow a good half hour before start. About 100 cyclists were taking part in this event - a few were using fixed speed cycles. I had a hot cross bun (plus 2 banana's on way up) then readied myself preparing to begin. At 6 a.m we were off. It was a nice fast start and the initial chill passed quickly. I was wearing my new Pearl Izumi gilet and I completely rate it - it kept me toasty warm. Big descents were encountered early in this stage. The most memorable descents being the long stretch past Tintern Abbey (cycled before during LEJOG events) and another steeper descent not long after. This second descent was real scary - I saw a poor cyclist feather his rear brake and subsequently see his rear wheel bounce a few times before he went straight over the bars and into the side of the hedge. These big descents and subsequent climbs soon broke the pack of cyclists up. I was towards the front cycling in a group of 5. We cycled steady till we neared Hay-On-Wye and then 2 cyclists in our group of 5 raced to reach said destination first. Just a few miles later we had reached the first control. The picture below shows the complete route.
I did not stop at the first control, save to get my brevet card stamped. I had wanted to stop for something to eat but the others I was cycling with had just continued so I followed suit.The gels and shortbread biscuits in my pockets made a great snack. I was cycling this section mostly as part of a double act for a long stretch - taking turns to pull and follow until we reached a group with a few more cyclists in. My thoughts went a bit cloudy for a while after joining group and it was starting to get very hot. The guy I had been cycling with to reach the new group was suffering already and was soon dropped - I never saw him again. Reached the control in Llandovery in good time and stopped for a suitable breakfast of beans and egg on toast and a mug of tea. Met Zigzag from a cycling forum here, which was nice. This cafe was called the 'West End Cafe', and was the first of 2 controls with the self same name.

Stage 3 was menace! Near disaster! Sadly my navigational skills were badger like. After 198k I was not at the control in Tregaron. Instead, I was outside an antique shop. I popped in and asked how far away from Tregaron I was, the shop keeper informed I was about 25 miles away! Grr! I felt quite peeved at this juncture and wasn't sure what to do. Should I pack and give in was my first thought - this was a silly idea as I was half way through, ie it was about 200k back to start and also about 200k to finish. My second though was to back track and find Tregaron, but I wondered if I'd reach the control in time. A quick check of the brevet card indicated I had hours to reach control so off I cycled. The cycle here was horrid, I had big hills to climb and was cycling into a headwind. After what seemed like an age, with only my shadow for company, I picked up signs for Tregaron. With renewed hope I sped along till I reached control. I was so happy at this control because lots of cyclists were here. I had added 32k to my trip by making this wrong move and missed the sign for Llanddewibrefi.... that I so wanted to photograph. Grr! I ate the most delicious butternut squash soup ever at this control and washed it down with a pint of coke just before I set off again. As I set off from control, other cyclists were still reaching control which made me feel good and the voices in my head were bigging me up and telling me I was fitter than I thought.

Stage 4 was awesome. This stage led to the beach in Newquay which was a real pretty sight. Although I was already over half way, this felt like a 'true halfway' as this was the furthest point I was to reach before heading back. I felt a bit sick and out of sorts at this control and had a light lunch consisting of just a tuna mayo sarnie and banana milk shake.
So pleased was I that I had only a light lunch at control because as soon as leaving Newquay a major hill was encountered that just went on and on and on. I saw some folk pushing their bikes up the hill here. My dry, dark sense of humour got me up this hill as I chuckled at the thought of those cyclists eating a large fish and chips before tackling this hill. When I finally reached the control at Llandovery it was dark. The control was the second 'West End' cafe on this audax. Folk must have known the moment I reached this control, as when I did, lots and lots of fireworks were set off! Again, I felt rough at this control so I ate lots as a recovery means. I had egg on toast and washed it down with a cup of tea. Is strange what you do when you feel drained, when off your head and in pain. I ate a custard slice, which normally I do not like, but right then, I loved it! I decided to lose a bit of weight here too and went for a number 2!

Started stage 6 in complete darkness. My front light that I have previously rated was naff and it was hard to follow the road. As a result of this I cycled quite slowly and got scared when suddenly flying down a descent. To be fair the road was mostly flat and navigating was minimal. It was lucky that navigation was minimal as I could not see my route sheet and would have benefited greatly by using my head torch (which I didn't bring with me). The sky at night was awesome. So beautiful was God's creation - all the sky was splashed with glitter - the many stars looked fantastic and there was no light pollution. After so long a cyclist caught me up and I benefited big time from his powerful lights. Up until now, I had cycled slowly until a car passed, where I would suddenly speed up being able to clearly see the road and it's markings. I stuck with this 'bright' cyclist all the way to control. Call me an opportunist but these lights were too good to miss out on. At one point I took a few minutes off the saddle, just to stretch, which was nice. How great it was to reach the control at Bwlch. Not sure how you pronounce 'Bwlch', but the voices in my head pronounced it 'Belch'.

The control at Bwlch was the first sleep control that I had ever encountered. After getting brevet card stamped I was treated to soup. I could have had pie and custard too but decided to give it a miss. Then, I had the option of sleeping. Lots of sleeping bags and roll mats were placed in rows and sure enough a whole bunch of cyclists were resting/sleeping/groaning. Have no idea where all these sleeping bags came from but was happy to use one all the same. I asked the brevet card stamper dude to wake me up at 2 a.m - he woke me up after 2 hours (3a.m). I didn't want to get up now but there was demand for my bed! Left this control knowing that I was now on the last leg.

Again it was still real dark when I left control and initially I was alone. I had only cycled a few miles and then I hit real trouble again - my front light packed up completely and I had no spare batteries. I decided to do my previous trick and wait for a passing cyclist and 'pinch' from their light source. This worked ok but meant I had to cycle slower than I wanted. As other cyclists caught up I would jump ship and use their light. I followed this process until it was light enough for me to read my route sheet. This last stage seemed to go on forever. There was a hill  near (or leading to) Usk that just didn't seem to have an end. It wasn't particularly steep but it went on and on and hard it was on tired and fatigued legs. A real sting in the tail. Or a pain in the butt (quite literally). Ah, once the summit was reached though, it was a long descent pretty much all the way back to the Arrivee in Chepstow! Woo hoo!

This was the furthest audax event I had ever cycled and I clocked a distance of 437.36 k or 271.76 miles. My average speed was 14.29 mph and according to my speedo I reached a max speed of 65.8 mph (hmm?!). Great sights were seen. Nice cyclists were met and stories shared. Thanks to those who shone a light, provided a pull or helped in any other way.  An adventure shared with a few and now I share with you too!

Weekly totals: Ran for 1 hour and 14 mins; Cycled 311 miles.

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