Sunday 28 August 2011

PBP 2011!

Hi to all and thanks for reading my blog. Below is a summary of my adventure following my completion of the PBP this year. With severe mental strain, near physical exhaustion and general wonky head space, I will do my best to recount my story below. Errors and omissions excepted.
My start time for the PBP was supposed to be 6 pm on the Sunday night. SJ and I found our way to the start with plenty of time to spare. First off, SJ and I ate a very heavily loaded carbohydrate type meal in a room full of cyclists. Following our meal, we went into town and got some money. SJ's support vehicle had my gear inside, so we walked to her car and I got changed (and applied chamois cream to my butt). The walk to the start line was pretty crazy - there were 1000's of cyclists and bikes and some had started their adventure already. A foreign cyclist informed us that I would not likely start at 6pm unless I started to queue pretty soon. With this in mind, I left SJ at around 5pm and joined a huge que. This que was packed tight with cyclists of all different nationalities, all pushing and prodding in an attempt to get a bike space ahead. This was hot and frustrating - it was already about 40 C. I queued for ages before I actually started. Just before my start some fire works were set off and much clapping was happening. Then, at 7pm I was off! I had started the PBP! A few metres into the ride I spotted SJ, Chris and Ben (at a pre-arranged spot). Although just started, I had to stop to give SJ a big kiss, Chris a hug and Ben a high 5! Chris said he felt for me, Ben said he believed in me (and also commented I was at the back) and SJ told me she loved me ...
Whoa, what a start! I felt like royalty or something. The streets were full of folk all clapping and shouting 'Bravo, Bon Voyage, Allez' and other such things. Sweet. It was real hot, a perfect day. I had to cycle 140k from St Quentin en yvelines to the first control at Mortagne au Perche and 221k to the first official control at Villaines la Juhel. The first 100k was relatively flat but quite undulating after that. The first control was just a 'food' control and my brevet card (more like a booklet) was first stamped at the second control. I remember lots of folk handing out free water, clapping and shouting praises all the way to these controls. In fact, folk throughout the whole PBP route would hand out free water and food (including tomato's). I stopped to get some free water and whack, a cyclist rode into the back of me and threw me off my bike. I shredded my shoe covers and cut my knee open but was otherwise ok. I saw another guy who was not so ok, for whatever reason he was being sick big time - projectile vomit, the works! I witnessed a crash at some point to. It got dark before too long and I remember a long, long trail of red lights. I felt I spent far too long at the first control - I qued for a while but didn't get served so just shrugged my shoulders and left control without a feed. I ate loads of food on route and had gels, biscuits, malt loaf and a blood potion from Chris which was downed between controls. The Fougeres control was awesome - it was here that I met SJ. SJ was wearing a bright pink rain coat, a gorgeous big smile and carrying my track pump and bags of food. SJ and I made use of the control here and I ate well. I pointed out the guy who knocked me off my bike to SJ. SJ supported me in a fantastic style and brought me clean shorts, socks, gloves and socks. SJ did such an awesome job and had been awake since 3 am to drive 4.5 hours to meet me for just 20 minutes! Bless her! Not to mention her sweet words of encouragement... SJ made a computer entry later which said 'SAW TIM AND HE IS DOING GOOD ... 300K IN 13 HOURS'.
When I left the control at Fougeres and made my way to the next control at Tinteniac, I was amazed to see some cyclists had already decided to take a sleep. These cyclists were camped out on the side of the road, or on benches, or in bus shelters and all having a nap. I gave SJ a call when I had cycled 500k and she made a computer entry 'TIM HAS CYCLED 500K NOW ... GOING TILL IT'S DARK, THEN HAVING A SLEEP'. I didn't really have a 'game plan' or know when best to sleep. I cycled some way with the guy who knocked me off my bike earlier (will refer to him know as 'Gloop' as SJ said he looked like Augustus Gloop from Charlie and the chocolate factory), only I didn't recognise him as he had changed his top. Whilst chatting, I informed Gloop I had crashed earlier and it was only then I realised that he was the culprit! Haha. Gloop turned out to be a real nice guy and suggested that I take advantage of any day light and cycle as far as I can, suggesting that maybe I cycle all the way to Brest. I took Gloop's advice and cycled in all available day light. When I reached the Carhaix-Plouguer control, it started to rain. SJ's hotel meanwhile had a power cut due to weather (including fork lightning). Indeed SJ's computer entry stated HEAVY RAIN AND THUNDER' at the 525k mark. The final few K's into Brest were hard work, the route just didn't seem to end and I didn't see any pretty coastal scenes (being pitch black didn't help). A pretty bridge or too were passed and I was now seeing cyclists passing me on their return to Paris. At last, I had reached Brest. SJ's computer entry read 'TIM GOT TO BREST AT 2.15 THIS MORNING [MONDAY], HALF WAY 612K'.
The Brest control was probably the biggest of all controls. Navigating around controls was never easy, and this one was particularly difficult. The fact I hadn't slept for hours (?days) can not have helped. Anyways, at this and each control one has to find their way to the actual control point to have brevet card stamped and signed. If you wanted the toilet then that required a walk to a different point. All entry points were not exit points, confusing or what?! Many of the controls had showers and beds too, all at a cost. I hadn't showered as yet and was still concerned about time. However, sleep was something I was desperate for now. With my limited french, I managed to get an official to lead me to a big gym which was full of camping beds to get a few hours sleep. I paid 3.50 euro's for this privilege and had to point on a clock to demonstrate what time I wanted to get up (and hence how long I wanted to sleep). It was about 3 a.m now and I wanted 4 hours sleep so I pointed at 7 a.m and was led to my bed. Amongst the 100's of snorers I promptly fell asleep. Sweet dreams I did not have, I was awoken about an hour later by a girl who had mistakenly thought I wanted to get up now. I shouted 4 hours and went back to sleep. About an hour later another guy came and woke me up, grr, again I said I wanted more sleep and promptly dropped off again only to be awoken again about 10 minutes later. This time I was awoken by a french brute who pulled my ear to get me up and was shouting at me in French. The voices in my head were not pleasant about this chap! Not wanting to fight, I made my way back to my bike and thought about the return journey.
The start of the return journey was horrible. It was dark, cold, wet and visibility was extremely poor. Indeed, I was cycling in pea soup. So severe was this fog that I couldn't see left or right and only a few yards ahead. This was without doubt the hardest section and to make things worse this was the hilliest stage too. Audax AAA points should be awarded for this event, it was already the most difficult event I had ever entered (yup, even harder than the Bryan Chapman). Lows and highs were experienced throughout the event and this was probably my lowest point. How I made it to the next control at Carhaix-Plougher I do not know. The ride continued in a very hilly style but I knew that the worst was completed and felt pleased to reach the control at Saint Nicholas du Pelem, the 736k mark. This control was not an official control (ie no stamp on brevet card) but offered sleep, food and showers. I decided to eat first and bumped into Gloop again. Gloop did not cycle all the way to Brest, instead he stopped at Carhaix-Plougher for a sleep (despite the advice he gave me earlier). I had a sleep here, just for an hour or so (maybe less) and then showered. The shower was cold but it felt great to wipe the sweat and salt off my body and feel fresh once again. Highs and lows...
Must have been cycling pretty well up until the control at Loudeac, as SJ's computer entry read '[AT] 782K SPOKE TO TIM, FEELING O.K'. This o.k feeling didn't last too long. I punctured! Grr, I had punctured in the dark and it was wet too. It felt like an age to change my inner tube and how I wished I had taken a head torch. My Michelin Pro Race 3 tyres were excellent and came on and off the rims real easily (but were not so awesome because they did not prevent punctures). My new wheel set was awesome and handled hitting cobbled roads at the bottom of hills at speed. I checked the tyre for thorns and/or cuts but found none. With tyre fixed I continued on my journey. I cycled about 1 mile and psst, the tube had punctured for a second time. This second puncture took even longer to sort out. I found a thorn in the tyre, which was easily removed. What took me a while to find was the wheel skewer, I had loosened it too much and it had fallen in long grass. After an age, all was fixed and off I went again. The voices in my head were singing songs to keep me happy and motivated 'only 54k till I see SJ'.
The next awesome thing I saw was SJ, hooray! I met SJ for the second time now at the Fougeres control. How happy I was to see her! SJ walked with me to get my card stamped. My bike was parked in an official parking spot, which I left behind as I headed away from the control. Indeed, for a whole hour (there about) I had left this PBP experience behind and let SJ drive me to a hotel for a quick sleep and a shower. SJ had washed my shorts and had gotten me loads of food for good measure. Before long however, we had to say our goodbyes and SJ took me back to my bike. Only about 300k left to go now. SJ's computer entry stated 'JUST SAW TIM, HE IS UNSURE WHAT DAY IT IS AND I HAD TO CONFIRM WHAT TOWN WE WERE IN. HE IS OK'.
The next control I reached was Villaines la Juhel at the 1009k point. I was hoping to meet SJ here, but can you believe it - I beat her here! Hahah. Again was feeling pretty whacked by now. SJ's computer entry read 'SAW TIM EARLY HOURS THIS A.M, HE HAS DONE 1009K ... REALLY TIRED'. At some point during the route I saw young kids on BMX bikes race (and usually win) randonneurs climbing to the top of a hill.
Cycling to the next control was fun. I had hooked up with a guy called Simon (from Chippenham) and we chatted for miles before he zoomed off and left me. Talking for so long helped me to forget about my aches and pains. The voices were singing my SJ songs again and before too long, I was with SJ at the Mortagne au Perche control. It was bright and sunny now, really hot in fact. We had a really tasty sausage sarnie here, mmm, delicious! SJ made me a bed on some grass in the shade under a tree. My bed was her sleeping bag and my bike blanket - how improvisational was that?! SJ had become my manager and was instructing me to sleep and informing me that I had plenty of time. She predicted I would finish this same night (turned out she was right). I fell asleep, but not for long. When I awoke, there were sleeping bodies all around me, hahah, where did they come from? Before I left this control, an English chap came up to me and said 'you must be English wearing a Heinz Baked Beans top'. I informed him he was correct and he requested to take a picture of SJ and I. He was taking photo's of English randonneurs for his website. Go UK go! During the whole event, I think I must have seen at least 4 folk that I had previously ridden audax events with back in the UK. Left SJ here saying 'I'll see you in Dreux'. SJ informed folk back home that at this 1090k mark that 'TIM HAD A 30 MIN NAP ... HE DIDN'T WANT ANYMORE. VERY SORE AND TIRED'.
The next control point was in Dreux. This was very hard going as I was so very tired and sore. With about 40k to go to the control, I pulled over and tried to take a cat nap on the side of the road. I had seen 100's of cyclists do this earlier in the event and no one battered an eye lid. In fact, I had taken one such cat nap earlier and felt much better for so doing. This time however, a car pulled over and checked to see if I was ok. I took this as a sign to continue. (My previous cat nap was taken because I actually cycled off the road and onto the grass verge and felt a sleep was a necessity). I continued and before long I found a garage. This garage provided me with a can of red bull, a much needed stimulant (plus food). Throughout the event I had taken Pro Plus capsules with good results. I must have taken a total of 10 such capsules and asked SJ to get me some more. SJ couldn't find Pro Plus but found me guarana tablets - a natural caffeine high. These guarana tablets were rubbish. SJ also provided me with Ibuprofen which worked very well and Arnica cream which my butt loved. The red bull helped pick me up and I cycled in beautiful weather all the way to Dreux where SJ was waiting. SJ was hard to spot. The reason why SJ was so hard to spot was the fact that I had gotten 3 bugs stuck in my eyes, 1 in the right and 2 in the left. I purchased an awesome pair of glasses at the start of the event but sadly lost them somewhere, probably left in a restaurant at a control. Talking of eyes, I experienced hallucinations throughout the event. These were more like illusions to be fair. I saw a dinosaur silhouette in the tree's and many posts and such like looked very much like fellow cyclists until I neared them. At this control, the last before the finish, SJ suggested I sleep. SJ made up a bed (just like before) on the car park floor and tucked me in. I tried to sleep but despite my body being willing, my head was not. SJ allowed me to rest and cooked me up a pot noodle thing. SJ informed that I was quite out of it and nearly fell over when I tried to get off my bike. With just 65k left to go, I decided to leave as soon as I finished my meal, wanting to take advantage of the remaining light.
My maths is often terrible and I thought I had less time than I had remaining to reach the finish. I knew I would make it before the cut off point, but the voices in my head were instructing me to finish within an 80 hour limit and told me (wrongfully) that I had to finish by midnight. With these voices as fuel, I sped off on this last section and was pleased the wind was behind me and the hills had mostly disappeared. Things were going great until about 30k to go, when my headlight showed that it was about to die (a red light appears when the battery is about to die). I had no batteries left (had taken 4 with me and purchased another 4 during event) and my awesome Ay-Up back up light (a better light) was missing. The Ay-Up was removed way back after my puncture menace, as when I turned the bike upside down, the handlebar mounting band had broken. Menace! Nowhere was available to get new batteries, the day light had faded and I was not going to cycle without lights in the dark. I used an old trick and waited for cyclists behind to catch up and over take, then I followed them closely, using their light source. This slowed me down a lot, but I guess it helped me concentrate and I knew I would find the finish without having to navigate myself. The whole course was sign posted with arrows with either Paris or Brest written alongside them. I also had a back up route card. I was informed that folk like to pinch the signs as memento's so it was worth slowing my pace and following this group. Before too long, I was back in Saint Quentin - I knew this because I saw the train station where Chris, Ben, SJ and myself took a trip to see the Eiffel Tower. Just after this point, SJ phoned and said she was at the end, I said 'I'll be there in 3 minutes honey' and I think I was. As I passed a sigh for 'Guyancourt', I sped off along a roadside that was littered with clapping, cheering folk - the clapping and praises getting louder and louder as I reached Gymnase des Droits de l'Homme, the finish. And then, I stopped! I spotted SJ, and just like at the start, I got off my bike and gave her a big kiss. I remounted my bike and cycled just a few paces to the finish. SJ helped me park my bike and followed me to the control where I had my brevet card signed and stamped for the last time. Woo hoo, I did it, job done! Big claps, kisses, hugs, praises, a pat on the back and a free drink! SJ's face book entry read 'TIM CYCLED 1230K IN 77 HOURS [AND 14 MINUTES] ... HE CAN'T MOVE RIGHT NOW'.
It really felt great to complete this PBP challenge and I am so pleased with my time of 77 hours and 14 minutes. It has been great to share my experience with you good good people. Without the support of so many dear friends and family this could have been a real painful miserable experience. Thanks so much to everybody for their support and thanks a bunch to those that have sponsored me. At time of writing, we have managed to raise over $3,000 (Canadian) for the Agape in Action charity, and more specifically the 'Tim's Well' project. For information on this charity, project or sponsor details please visit this link: Further monies are coming in and I thank you all so much. Before concluding this blog, I would like to make a few shout-outs. My biggest shout out goes to SJ for being so awesome, a loving thoughtful and caring support, a manager and the best girlfriend a guy could hope for. SJ you really rock! Big shouts to Chris and Ben too for coming to France and supporting me in ways that best friends do, you guys are awesome and your flapjacks are hard to beat. Thanks to Ron, Sarah M, John Vincent et al for training rides, borrowed bikes, maintenance, repairs and adventure. Cheers to my family. Thanks to all who have sponsored, supported, texted, messaged, mailed, sent cards or fed me. Strokes to Cody menace.
To finish, I will leave you some statistics. 4,998 cyclists started the event but only 3,980 finished within their time limits. 1,018 cyclists abandoned or 'packed' and 270 finished outside their time limit. Sadly, 1 cyclist died. Below is a chart demonstrating my progress between controls.
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SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES21-08 18:510h000 km/h0h000.1 km/h
VILLAINES-LA-JUHEL22-08 04:269h3423.1 km/h9h3423.1 km/h
FOUGERES22-08 08:2313h3122.9 km/h3h5622.6 km/h
TINTENIAC-0h000 km/h0h000.1 km/h
LOUDEAC22-08 16:0921h1721.1 km/h0h006553.5 km/h
CARHAIX-PLOUGUER22-08 20:5426h0320.2 km/h4h4516 km/h
BREST23-08 02:1531h2319.7 km/h5h2017.4 km/h
CARHAIX-PLOUGUER23-08 11:1040h1817.4 km/h8h559.5 km/h
LOUDEAC23-08 16:4145h5017.1 km/h5h3114.3 km/h
TINTENIAC23-08 21:3150h3917.1 km/h4h4917.6 km/h
FOUGERES24-08 01:3254h4016.8 km/h4h0013.5 km/h
VILLAINES-LA-JUHEL24-08 09:2062h2816.2 km/h7h4811.3 km/h
MORTAGNE-AU-PERCHE24-08 14:2567h3316.1 km/h5h0515.9 km/h
DREUX24-08 19:5273h0016 km/h5h2713.8 km/h
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES25-08 00:0677h1415.9 km/h4h1315.4 km/h
Kilomètres parcourus: 1230


  1. Congratulations, Sir. Thanks for sharing your experience - it was a great write-up and summary of your adventure.
    Cheers to your accomplishment.

  2. Thanks Harth. Am pleased to share my experiences with you.Thanks for commenting :)

  3. Well done son, you make us proud xxx

  4. Bugger those damn bugs! Not a shabby time at all and a good read. Great support from SJ!

  5. absolutely awesome Doo!
    I hear there's the British version...London-Edinburgh-London in 2013 mate!!


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