Presented below is a summary of my collective thoughts and feelings following my completion of the Bryan Chapman Memorial (Classic) 619k audax on the weekend. A lot of what I have written may be jumbled and/or incomplete as this was a particularly gruelling event that took it's toll on both my body and head space. Errors and omissions accepted!
I started this event from Chepstow at 6 a.m along with another 100 or so cyclists. Just prior to the start there was a 'bag drop' facility. This bag drop was an awesome idea, that I never expected. Basically, I was able to drop off a bag that would be taken to a control further on in the event. This meant I could empty my new saddle bag of a number of items (shorts, socks, base layer, mits and food) and hence save some weight. These items could be picked up later in the event and further items (dirty shorts etc) dropped off and taken back to the finish. This was good news and made a great start. The beginning of this ride was essentially the end of the Brevet Cyrmu audax I completed a couple of weeks back and the route took me through Usk and then continued to Abergavenny along the A40. Once off the A40 it was a bit of a drag to the first control. The first control was called the 'Honey Cafe'. I ate no honey, but glady consumed some beans on toast and a mug of tea (along with some shortbread biscuits from my pocket). There was a sign outside this control which read 'may peace prevail on earth' in a number of different languages, which was nice.
I can't quite remember when it rained and when it didn't, nor can I remember when or what exactly I ate. As a general rule however, it seemed to rain a lot during the first few stages and to make matters worse there was a head wind. On the return leg it rained less and I had a tail wind for the most part. I ate lots and lots and spent about £30 on snacks during the event. I took rolls (jam and beef), energy gels (x8), vitamins, chocolates and malt loaf with me.
Stage 2 was the longest stage and passed through Rhayader before reaching the control at Nant Yr Arian Visitor Centre. For a stage that had no serious hills this was tough one - major head wind and I was wet. Remember cycling 'wacky racers' style with a couple on a tandem - they would pass me going down hill and I would pass them up hill. Very pretty control and again I ate well. I had chocolate cake and some ready salted crisps (alongside my beef roll).
Stage 3 was real hilly, lots of climbing. Not exactly sure where the route went but I definately passed through Machcynlleth before reaching control. Major menace was encountered along this stage too. First off my cycle computer died making navigation an issue and worse still, my front deraillier cable snapped which meant I could only use my lower gears for duration of the rest of the event. I cycled this section mostly as a double act with the guy whose name I never got. He was a nice guy and obviously Welsh (so for sake of this write up, shall refer to him as Mr Welsh). If I had issues, they did not compare to that of Mr Welsh - one of his spokes snapped. Mr Welsh tightened a number of his other spokes and just continued in the hope that his wheel would hold out. Remember climbing a big hill as a small group somewhere during this stage. A sharp and steep cutback finally led to the control at Kings YHA. This YHA was great and my bag was dropped here. I took off my wet clothes and hung them in the dry room, cremed my bum (with a chamois butter) and changed into new cycling gear. I ate some chicken soup (delicious) and pasta bolognese (awfull). I was missing SJ's cooking skills here as I thought back to the pasta sauce she had cooked up.
Left the King YHA with Mr Welsh and passed through Arthog. We cycled onto a train platform which led to a long wooden bridge. This really was quite weird, as this bridge went over sea and sand and led to a troll booth. The troll charged us £1.50 to cross this railway bridge. The bridge led to the A496 which took us to Barmouth and on to Harlech. This was an interesting ride, as I had been here before, but not on a bike! A major hill was climbed which led to Llanberis Pass. This hill seemed to go on forever and was a real climber. I lost Mr Welsh here and caught up a guy named Mark and cycled most of the hill with him. The top of the hill was the car park I have used before when walking Snowdon! And once at the top, weeee, a super long and fast descent! It was dark by the time I crossed Menai Bridge. Menai Bridge incidentally reminded me of my brother Dave. Dave would often say 'Itchi menai beardi' in times past. Ha ha. Was real pleased to reach the control at Canolfan Thos Telford. Again I was soaked to the skin. Soup, cheese sarnies and peaches were served here and it felt good that I was about half way through my adventure.
At often times I thought about my buddy Chris O (aka Chris Hodge). Chris was cycling a 24 hour mtb marathon. I would have joined Chris if it were not for this audax. He and a few of his mates completed the marathon event and raised some monies for CLIC. Well done Chris!
Stage 5 seemed much like stage 4 in reverse and led back to the Kings YHA. I don't recall too much but sure enought there was a tough hill past Trawsfynedd and that menace approach to the YHA. I was cycling with a small group of 4 who I cycled again with later in the event. There was Julian, Mark, Gary and Richard (providing I've remembered names correctly). They were a nice group and provided good company. Richard always tended to be towards the back of the group which didn't seem right as he had objectively the largest calf muscles. Mark was the guy I climbed Llanberis pass with. My memory goes a little blurred here but how awesome it felt to reach the YHA. I think I ate pasta sauce on potato before crashing out. I was looking forward to a bed, but none was availabe for about a further hour. I changed from my wet clothes into my clothes that I put in the dry room earlier on and crashed out on a 2 seater settee. I dozed off for a couple of hours of broken sleep before feeling too cold and quite miserable. I goofed around for about an hour and then decided to set off again (the breakfast I ordered never appeared).
Started stage 6 by myself and so glad I did so. A few km's into the stage and I needed an emergency poo! I had to pull over on the side of the road and let nature take it's course. Note to self (and others) - toilet paper is a must! Was joined later by Mark, Julian, Richard and Gary which was nice and they provided me with a little needed encouragement. Again my memory goes a little blurred but remember reaching Aberhafesp Community Centre. Ate bacon on toast and corn flakes at this control. Brushed my teeth here too!
Stage 7 was cycled with the small group again. Gary would pass the time by talking in a light hearted manner and Julian would share a wealth of information pertaining to this ride. This stage contained the longest single climb. I remeber the descent as it went super fast over a number of cattle grids. Generalised aches and pains almost everywhere. The control was at a One Stop Shop. I missed the sit down and eat controls to be honest. No matter really, I sat down outside and ate!
Stage 8 was the final stage and again I cycled with the small group. Not sure of Mr Welsh's fate and the tandem couple packed at the last control. Julian was sick during this stage, he said it was the way his body coped with stress. My body coped by aching and hurting all over. So many hills here. It really was like a roller coaster all the way to Monmouth. As a general rule, Mark and I would reach the summits first then bomb down the descents and wait for the rest of the group. After this roller coaster ride I began to suffer and Ibuprofen did little to lessen pain. I got dropped by the group just before Tintern (traffic lights sealing my doom and preventing any chance of catching them up). I was happy here as I knew the end was in sight and felt strong that I would finish. I stopped at Tintern Abbey ruins and took a picture before embarking on the final climb. This final climb was menace! I have on a few occasions flew past Tintern Abbey on cycle events and often wondered what it would be like going the other way. Now I know! It's hard and tiring but very pretty all the same. Once the summit was reached I raced to the control, the end point and reached there just before 6.30 pm. Yay, job done. It was great to get my brevet card stamped for the last time and nice to meet up with the guys from the small group. We shook hands and wished each other well and all said 'see you in Paris' ....
Am real pleased I completed this event, my first ever 600k event (was awarded with 6 AUK points and 8.25 AAA points). I am now officially a Super Randonneur (and an AAA Super Randonneur at that) and I have been awarded enough AAA points to claim by AAA medal. Over and above that I have completed all the qualifying events to enter the Paris-Brest-Paris (BPB) 1200k audax event in August and beat this, I have a place! SJ pre-registered me. I'll keep you posted!
Cycled 619k (384.6 miles) in under 36 and a half hours.
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