Friday 30 August 2013

The possible death of Queenie

Started the week with a nice road bike jolly with Ron. It was strangely quiet when we were out (guess a number of folk didn't have to go to work today). What a lovely way to spend a Bank Holiday.
Road bike jolly 45k
Ron and I went out again mid-week. This time I took my single-speed MTB out for a blast. Our MTB safari started out well. Got stung a few times as we scrambled across 'Cart Hill'. Ron took me on some new single track that stretched quite a distance. This part of the route was fun but the brambles cut my legs and oh, the stinger menace. Towards the end of our trek I punctured. The puncture was a menace to fix because the tyre was covered in mud and a hornet (about the size of a sparrow) kept buzzing right by us. I swear this hornet had teeth too! With puncture fixed we headed home via Coughton Ford. Once in Sambourne my Rock Shox forks failed and the front end of the bike just dropped. Queenie was having troubles with her disc brakes not so long ago and now I think she may have completely turned her toes up.
Menace MTB jolly 21k
On Thursday I took out Slinky for another road blast. I cycled Cobley Hill and went through Cofton Hackett before tackling Lickey Hill. After these hills, the route was relatively easy and I leisurely cycled home via Bromsgrove and Redditch.
Road jolly 51k
Once in a blue moon, I like to race. Not very often you understand. On occasions when I do race, I like to race against Gordon (my virtual friend). Well, Friday was such a day that I felt like racing. My route was decided - the AM SR 1 route. Back in April I raced this circuit and had KOM (King Of Mountain) status for the 'Bill and Alex's 23 miler' segment. Think I was only king for a day with 2 riders beating my time shortly after. My average speed back in April was 29.6kph. Friday, I gave it my all and raced. At the completion of the route I checked my average speed and it was 30.6kph! Sadly, the 'Bill and Alex's 23 miler' segment seemed to have vanished. I would not have been KOM anyway, but I would have been in 2nd place! It would take an average speed of 31.1kph to be king.
AM SR 1 42k
Cycled a total of 159k this week. Yearly total stands at 9,276k. 

Monday 26 August 2013

Goodbye Florence

This week started well, with Aid finally coming along to join myself and Ron on a MTB safari route. This route was the self-same one that Ron created last week. Just to prove Aid had gotten rid of his SFS (Southern Fairy Syndrome) he cycled to and from Redditch too. Just to be nice, I escorted Aid back home following our adventure.
MTB safari (plus escort Aid home) 31k
To further prove Aid had gotten rid of his spell of SFS, he joined me in signing up for the Snowdrop Express 123k audax next year. This is a great mass participation event that myself and friends try to cycle each year and was the first audax I ever cycled. I informed my mate Jamie about it (and incidentally, it was on this event that we first ever spoke about cycling) and he instantly signed up too. Jamie is supporting efforts to create 'Team Doo' and has signed up another participant already (with plans to recruit at least 2 further people). This Snowdrop event has already gotten me excited, with my sister Jane signed up plus Ron, Chris and Lin too!
Aid and Doo
My next adventure was with Cody Menace (my dog). We ran the 'Handlebar' route, a cross country trek over fields in Studley. Cody was a little naughty at times and forced a few stops. This was the first time I ran with a Garmin GPS watch (stolen from my wife, given by my sister Jane). I loved the watch, it enabled me to record my route and is presented below.
Handlebar Run 5.1k
Thursday saw me complete the Studley triangle run. SJ and I used to run this quite often when she was training for her marathon. We would start the run from our home to ensure the distance was at least 5k. This time, I ran a pure triangle which covered 4.6k. Why have I started running again?! - am not really sure.
Studley triangle run 4.6k
Saturday was a menace day. I was given two errands - cycle to cousin Aid's and return tip pass and pick up keys from his Mrs (so SJ can feed cat). Grr, no one was home (unless they were hiding)! To make matters worse, my chain snapped on the return route home.
Menace errands 19k
On a brighter note - Florence was officially sold on Saturday. Monies from Florence's sale will go towards building up a new single-speed machine. Am looking forward to the rise of 'Kay O', her frame is ready for added components (watch this space).
Goodbye Florence, you served me well!
My final adventure was with Aid. I fixed up Queenie, my single-speed mountain bike and cycled to the bridge at the top of the Slough, the 'bridge of meet'. Aid was there as planned but he was on his road bike. We cycled back to Aid's address and he swapped his road bike for his mountain bike. We set off from his abode and returned again shortly after realising I still needed those keys to feed the cat! When we finally set sail, we cycled a road route to Arrow Vale Lake and then cycled a path/off-road route back. Nice.
MTB jolly with Aid 34k
Cycled a total of 84k this week. My yearly cycling distance to date now stands at 9,117k. Ran twice this week covering a total distance of 9.7k. Have ran a total distance of 14.1k this year (though that is little to shout about).

Saturday 17 August 2013

Gospel Pass 200 (August 2013)

This week was comprised of a few short adventures and a big fat one at the end of the week! My adventures included cycling and running. My wife and dog joined me on one adventure too!

The first adventure of the week was with my mother and Ron. Ron had prepared a MTB route, which he called 'safari'. This safari route was a nice on/off-road jaunt in Studley that took in some amazing views, paths and descents and was created with my cousin Aid in mind. This route was created to motivate and inspire any newbie cyclist in the area. How disappointed Ron and I were when Aid had a dose of SFS (Southern Fairy Syndrome). All was not lost - at least my mother joined us for part of this ride.
Safari 18k
My next adventure was a solo MTB trek, very similar to the Safari route. This route differed in that it avoided the lovely descent in the 'naughty fields' area. A couple of additional K's had to be ridden to avoid this descent.
Safari (Alt version) 20k
My mid-week adventure didn't involve a bicycle. This adventure included my wife SJ and Cody dog. We all went for an off-road run together for the first time this year. We ran just under 5k together and were all quite whacked. Hard going this running lark. Can see why sister Jane has gotten herself a bike!

Post LEL and I find that a number of friends and family were inspired to start using their bikes again. My sister Jane purchased a new bike. Only yesterday (Wednesday) did Lin 'join the club' and purchase herself a new bike too. Lin has gotten herself a lovely Specialized Ruby and entered a ballot to hopefully ride the London-Surrey 100 event next year. I followed suite and have entered the ballot too!
Lin's new bike - Specialized Ruby

On Friday, Ron and I headed to Gallagher Retail Park in Cheltenham ready to begin our Gospel Pass 200k audax. We found said car park but had to park a few blocks away as the car park is no longer free parking. After no real bother we found a suitable place to park and then got ourselves and our bikes ready for the challenge. On drive up to Cheltenham the heavens had opened but now the rain had ceased. With everything bike related sorted we rolled our way back to Gallagher Park and used Sainsbury’s ATM as our first control proof.

Leaving Cheltenham we had a 50k cycle to Hoarwithy. It wasn’t long until the heavens opened during this section. I was reluctant to put my waterproof top on as despite being wet it was still very warm. Ron insisted we stop and layer up. This was good advice as the rain became real heavy. We passed through Redmarley and as expected, red clay and mud was covering much of the road surface here. At one point the road was closed and we had to divert. Just before reaching the Hoarwithy control I stopped to take a picture of a lovely house that sat right next to the River Wye. 
Some folk were swimming in the river too. Further photos were taken as control proof. The Post Office here was closed and is only open one day in the week.

Leaving Hoarwithy, we also left all the bad weather behind. From here on it just got warmer and hotter. This section was the least interesting of them all and cycling so much of the B4348 became slightly monotonous. Thankfully, just after Peterchurch we turned off this road into more pleasurable country lanes. These country lanes didn’t last too long, we were soon back on the B4348. At this stage, Ron very nearly ran a squirrel over. Said squirrel darted between Ron’s wheels and then jumped about 6 feet (out of its skin) in the air and into the hedge alongside us. Lucky squirrel! A few pedal strokes later and we had reached the Hay-on-Wye control. The Tourist Information centre was closed so we couldn’t get a stamp for our brevet cards here. I could not believe the place was closed, this was mid-summer, surely you’d get more tourists now than at any other time?! We found a local store and purchased fluids and a few treats. Some random old guy started talking to me about Heinz baked beans (I was wearing my Heinz baked beans jersey) and then went on to talk about New York state, books, barns and jumbo jets.

The next stage was awesome. We left Hay-on-Wye and cycled the Gospel Pass. So wonderful. So beautiful. God’s creation is just awesome. We climbed something like 476 metres in 8.5k and then had a super-fast descent (super-super-fast if you were Ron) to the control in Llanthony. 
Whilst cycling this stage my mind was filled with images of SJ and Lunar. SJ, Lunar (in the womb) and I had been here only last year. The control was a bar next to some wonderful abbey ruins. Sadly the bar had stopped serving food (though we ate crisps, nuts and Bombay mix) but the wonderful sights and beautiful weather kept our spirits up.
From LLanthony to Monmouth was seriously hilly. In fact, this section was more hilly (overall) than the Gospel Pass itself. We cycled 523 metres of ascent during this 42k stage. The mid-way point was an info control at Grosmont. Ron suggested Grosmont meant ‘big (gross) hill (mound). Again, this was a very pretty section. Just had to take a photo of the Monnow Bridge before we reached control. 
Feeling very hungry, I indulged much so at a Marks & Spencer store. I purchased sandwich, crisps, orange and a pint of milk plus additional fluids. Before we left this control we covered ourselves in sun tan lotion as it was very warm by now.

Monmouth to Cinderford was a short section but again very hilly. We climbed 371 metres in just 22k! It was nice to pass through the Forest of Dean – it reminded us both of my stag do. Before long we reached the control point and purchased a few more items of food and fluid. Ron and I both felt like we had cycled 200k already but we still had about 40k to go.

The final section wasn’t too hilly at all! We had some lovely descending and then long relatively straight roads to follow. Much of this stage was spent pulling each other along – long sections were ridden at over 30kph. We finished just like we started – by stopping at the ATM machine at Sainsbury’s for control purposes. Whoa, what a lovely adventure out!
Our Gospel pass adventure was a 210k affair that took us 11 hours and 44 minutes to complete. It was a very hilly affair and scored us both 2.75 AAA points. By completing this ride, I have also completed my RRtY and AAARRtY awards! Woo Hoo!

Cycled a total of 248k this week. My yearly distance to date is now 9,033k!

Sunday 11 August 2013

First week post LEL

It has been a week since LEL now and yet it feels like LEL was an age ago. I continue to have a constant reminder that I cycled such a distance - my left foot still has a pins and needles type feeling in the toes. Thankfully, I've not yet had a lull or a case of losing my mojo after said event.
A card from my sister Jane
Lots has happened this week too. My sister Jane has at last joined the dark side - she has hung up her shoes and purchased a lovely Specialized Sport Dolce. This looks a lovely bike and was the self-same bike I suggested she get. She loves it!
Janes new bike 'Dolce'
Jane's bike is similar looking to my own. Same make. All the best cyclist's ride a Specialized.
Doo and Slinky
On the subject of 'my bikes', I have sadly let Florence go. Florence was my trusty single-speed road bike. Florence is being sold to free up room in the bike stable and hopefully her sale (plus the sale of some redundant wheels and other bike parts) will fund my plan to rebuild my old Focus Cayo up again.  The new build will be a single-speed project. Exciting - watch this space.

As well as saying goodbye to Florence, I had to say goodbye to my new B+M Lumotec IQ2 light plus USB set. This light set had problems ever since the latter half of LEL. The light set has been returned to Germany and I'll have to wait and see the outcome. I guess they will be replaced.

On the subject of training, I completed 3 short rides this week. My first ride was cycled with Ron. This was sadly, the last time I rode Florence. I will miss her, she was a great machine.
Back on the saddle 38k
My second ride was again with Ron. This time I cycled Slinky - her first ride since completing LEL. We cycled to a pub 'The Fleece' and then I cycled back solo. I couldn't get into this ride as my dynamo light set (as detailed above) was playing up. That was the last I saw of Ron this week - however, he dropped of some new MTB tyres to my house for me. A welcome gift - cheers Ron!
Fleeced 59k
My last cycle of the week was using my MTB Scotty. I completed my familiar urban route, this time by-passing Aid's new domicile. Sweet. It appears I may have a new local cycling buddy.
The Urban Route 30k
Cycled a total of 127k this week. My total yearly distance now stands at 8,785k. Wonder what distance I will clock by the end of the year??!

I didn't just cycle this week - oh no! I went swimming with my daughter Lunar and SJ my wife. This was a great experience, I loved it. I also cut the grass, this wasn't as much fun ...

Monday 5 August 2013

London-Edingburgh-London (LEL) 2013

On Sunday 28 July 2013, I was 1 of approximately 1,100 cyclists to reach the start line in Loughton for the 2013 London-Edingburgh-London (LEL) 1400k audax. I had 116 hours to complete this challenge.  This challenge involved riding through some of the most beautiful scenery in Britain, relying on my own self-sufficiency, camaraderie and the hospitality of 100's to complete this cycling challenge which takes place only once every four years. In addition to that, my adventure was being filmed throughout by the MadeGood folk. Presented below is a collection of my rambled thoughts and memories of said challenge. Errors and omissions excepted as my headspace and general mental well-being was seriously affected throughout the challenge.

My story begins after the completion of the 2013 LEL prologue. This was a 30k trek through London to the start of the 2013 LEL proper. My buddy Chris joined me on the prologue and we saw some lovely London sights as we made our way to the official start in Loughton.
Chris and I took a leisurely pace on the prologue and even stopped for a McDonalds! We reached the official start in Loughton with no major issues. It wasn't long before my wife, daughter and Lin came to greet us.

Why the worried looks?
Am not sure why, but SJ, Lunar and Chris all looked horrified at the prospect of me completing this LEL challenge. Did they know something I didn't? Was entering the LEL really not such a good idea?
Any worrisome thoughts of my own were quickly dispelled as I gave my daughter some loving. Wow, I really had a happy baby and it would be less than 116 hours until I got a cuddle again (providing all went well). It was just as awesome to meet and greet my wife.
The crew from MadeGood, who would be filming throughout the event, looked less anxious - in fact they looked amused. Tickled pink even! The start had caused all sorts of expressed emotion!
Will from MadeGood
My final few minutes before heading to the start line were spent with SJ and Lunar. SJ kept telling me that I had nothing to worry about. I wished she would be supporting me on this ride like she did during PBP in 2011. I understood that SJ had to look after Lunar and knew she would still support me via text and phone during my adventure anyway.
During these last moments before the off, we were being filmed by the MadeGood folk. I think they had an added interest in our beautiful girl. I had met a number of the MadeGood folk previously (Walter interviewed me initially via Skype and Jess, Rich and Will had interviewed me at my home). The guy filming now was a new addition - he was called Duncan.
Duncan filming for MadeGood
My buddy Chris was here too, ready to wave me off. It was awesome having a best friend and family here at the start. After I had left, I was informed that the MadeGood folk interviewed Chris too. I think MadeGood gave Chris a hard time - the first thing they asked was whether he felt guilty (for not joining me on this event after he got me to enter). Poor chris.
Gave my (not quite) final kiss to SJ and Lunar and then made my way to the start compound. Riders were all given a race number which was prefixed with a letter. My race number was N12. This meant that I had a start time of 8.45 a.m. (as did all the 'N' numbers). M numbers would have started before and P numbers after. There was a whole range of numbers from A to Z possibly (am not so sure). Once in the compound, I started chatting to the cyclist next to me. She was from Herefordshire (or Hertfordshire) and had previously completed Iron Man events. We spoke briefly about this event and I pointed out my beautiful family who were directly in front of me, just a short distance away. Walter from MadeGood was recording some footage (I think I told him that 'N' stood for 'Numpty').
Duncan and Walter filming the Numpty's
Then without further ado, we were off. Even though I had just started, I made my way to SJ and Lunar. I couldn't resist saying a last goodbye.
Need a final kiss before I head to Edingburgh
I just had to get a final kiss from my wife and baby. I shook hands with Chris too. Then I sped off before emotion became too much.
Young love!
Wow, I had begun the 2013 LEL! Along with another 1,000 or so numpty's! How long till I return?
SJ and Chris commented that at least I didn't look as silly as when I rode PBP 2011
And that was the last SJ, Lunar, Lin and Chris saw of me until I had returned from Edingburgh.

The first stage of my adventure took me about 100k to St Ives. Almost as soon as I had left Loughton I joined a good number of cyclists. Not all these cyclists were heading for Edinburgh - I had crossed paths with and was sharing the road with a whole bunch of cyclists competing in a London - Cambridge cycle. So many cyclists on the road - unbelievable! Within the first 30k of my adventure I had caught up with some M riders who had left the start 15 minutes before me. By the 60k mark, I had caught up with some L riders who had started 30 minutes before me. Before I had reached St Ives, I had even managed to catch a D rider who had started 2 hours and 15 minutes before! By the same token, I was passed by a few P riders on route to first control. I enjoyed playing games with rider numbers for a while (soon got bored though) and was looking out for P45 and H20 amongst others. The first stage was a lot of fun until I reached the first ascent. As I put pressure on the pedals, whilst the chain was in the lower chain ring, it would make an awful screetch sound and the chain or pedals would spin round but the bike wheels would not. Was not exactly sure what was happening but this continued throughout the whole adventure. I found a remedy, which was not to stand on the pedals whilst in the lower chain ring and keep my backside on the saddle. I was pleased I had found a remedy but was not so impressed I could not stand on my pedals to climb any hills throughout event and my backside would have liked a little more air space too! I checked into the St Ives control at 12.21 p.m. which meant I had cycled my first 100k in about 3 1/2 hours. The good weather and tail-wind put a smile on my face.
The control in St Ives was great, as were all the controls throughout. All the controls were run by wonderful hard working volunteers. My first meal was top-notch!
My next stop (control) was 80k away in Kirkton. I spoke with a great number of cyclists during this section. Three cyclists from the Netherlands stood out the most though and will be in my memory for some time to come. These cyclists, which I will refer to as the 'Netherland 3' were comprised of a couple (boyfriend & girlfriend) and their other male friend. I spoke to each of them in turn during this section, chatting for about 30 minutes with each of them (they were taking turns to pull the group along). They informed me that they did all their training together as a three-some and cycled parts of Germany to gain experience of hill climbing. These guys would cycle 6 times a week and the boyfriend was given his bike by the girlfriends parents because he was too fat. The boyfriend managed to lose 40kg! The biggest thing that stood out though was the girlfriend herself - she was cycling this major challenge because it would probably be the last chance she had to complete an event of this nature. She, nor they, spelled out exactly what was 'wrong' with her but it sounded like MS or NMD to me - she had no feeling in her feet and this lack of feeling was getting worse over time. I found these Netherland 3 very inspirational and motivating. The girlfriend was very positive and accepting of her condition, she commented that following her LEL experience she would be happy to just support her boyfriend. I met lots of interesting people during LEL and will attempt to recount stories as I write up this blog. Reached Kirkton at 3.42 p.m. At each control, bikes would be parked outside before entering said control. Then one would get brevet card stamped and signed. Then followed food and shower or bed if desired.
It was way too early for bed and I had only cycled 180k so no need to shower, so I opted for more food! Had planned to take a photo of everything I ate but I soon got bored (and forgetful) so that didn't happen. Suffice to say, a delicious 3 course meal was consumed here at Kirkton!
Kirkton control even provided entertainment. They had a full on brass band playing. That was pretty neat. Bizarre but neat!
From Kirkton it was a 65k trek to Market Rasen. This was a lovely stretch that I had rode previously during the Holl and Back 600 with Jamie and Andy. The difference this time was that I was cycling this stretch in a reverse direction and Jamie and Andy were nowhere to be seen (they started later than me, in the R group). Some interesting place names were passed including 'Hedgehog Bridge', where do folk get these names? This stage was very flat and very straight as it passed through Hedgehog Bridge, Holland Fen and on to Chapel Hill. Whizzed along at quite a speed, a nice tailwind was pushing me along and the weather was great too. Spoke with many cyclists again during this section including more chats with the Netherland 3. Reached the control at Market Rasen at just before 7 p.m. My prediction was that I would reach here at midnight - I was way ahead of schedule.

At the Market Rasen control I stopped to eat as usual. A visit to the toilet here was great too as they were equipped with lots of j-cloths so I made sure I had a complete body wash which was nice. Checking my phone at this control was nice as I had encouraging texts from my sister Jane (who said she had also figured how to track me) and buddy Chris. My wife phoned me here too which was great. I informed SJ of my plans to crack on to the next control because I had so much time on my hands. Before heading off however, I was interviewed and filmed by the MadeGood folk.

Pocklington control was 90k away from Market Rasen. This was another great stretch and led into the night and over the Humber Bridge. My new dynamo hub and B and M light were working a treat. The hub was recharging my Garmin the whole time and providing way enough power to illuminate the front light. Good stuff! Reached Pocklington control at 11.37 p.m. Was real pleased with my adventure thus far and had now cycled 337k in about 15 hours.

Decided to take my first sleep here at the Pocklington control. First I ate lots of food and then I went to the bed control. I had told myself I would sleep for 6 hours or so - how gutted I was when I was informed I could only have a bed for a maximum of 3 hours. Still 3 hours would be better than nothing. My bed was located in a big hall along with another 239 other beds all arranged in long columns. The beds were all air beds with a single blanket. As one could expect, the sound of snoring and farting was commonplace and a general hum hung in the air. With eyes closed I dropped off and had a disturbed on/off sleep for the 3 hour duration I was allowed.

Once I was wide awake again, I had a little to eat and then headed to Thirsk. Thirsk was a reasonable 65k away. Once at the control, I decided to take advantage of the bag drop facility.
When I registered on 27 July 2013, I was given 2 bags for each of the bag drops I had requested. These bags were colour co-ordinated for the chosen controls. The bags were allowed to be filled with 2.5kg of  stuff. My bags were filled with clothes, clean water bottles, treats, tubes and a pork pie. I had chosen Thirsk and Barnard Castle as my chosen controls. These bags were transported to the appointed controls by LEL personnel. 

I opened my first bag at Thirsk. This was a mistake, I planned to use this bag drop on my return or Southern-bound journey. I changed all my clothes here at Thirsk, I had packed clean socks, shorts, jersey, base layer and mitts. My water bottles were changed for clean ones too. Before I put my fresh clothes on, I took my first shower of this LEL experience. It felt great to shower despite there being no towel to dry myself. Oh well, can't have it all. As well as showering, I ate loads and checked out the sleeping arrangements here incase I needed a kip on my return journey.
Another great thing about the Thirsk control was the fact that it was being manned by my mate Graeme. I had cycled a (failed) 600k event with Graeme in the past and we had loosely kept in touch by following each others blog. Graeme was as whacked as I, he had been up all night volunteering at this control and it was his birthday too! Happy birthday Graeme! From reading Graeme's blog (post event) I could see how busy he was - he would greet about 120 riders per hour! Controllers must be faced with a difficult task - Graeme reported some riders complained of hills, ills and at times spills. Sadly, some controllers would meet cyclists that had decided to abandon. Graeme's account clearly demonstrated how both a controller and cyclist can be affected by emotion. Graeme's account is a worthy read and can be found here: Graeme reported that I looked 'as happy as always and clearly enjoying every minute of the event'. Well Graeme, so did you too and here's a photo for proof!
Leaving Thirsk I headed for Barnard Castle which was about 65k away. I don't recall an awful lot about this stage. Had plans of taking notes but sadly did not. Am aware that I reached Barnard Castle at 11.04 a.m. on 29 July though and had now cycled 468k.

Leaving Barnard Castle and cycling to Brampton was awesome. This stage was about 82k long and was so very pretty. The infamous Yad Moss was climbed and the views it offered were spectacular.
Another awesome part of this stage was that I was cycling large portions with Terry. Terry was a real nice guy and I had passed him at the start in Loughton (we just exchanged a friendly 'hi' there) and caught him again at a control but was unable to chat as I was on the phone. Anyways, during this stage we chatted loads. Terry said he felt some strange emotion when he saw me and believed I helped him get through the Holl and Back 600k event. If truth be known, it was Terry who helped me get through said 600k event - he proved to be both a navigator and inspirer. I enjoyed Terry's company a lot - he likes real things in life and appreciates stunning scenery and has this great ability of spotting many a folly (well, it was an old bridge on this occasion). Terry likes to tour whilst cycling and his love of what he sees is very admirable. God's creation is truly awesome. In retrospect, this was probably my favourite part of the LEL adventure.

Managed to reach Brampton by 4.54 p.m. and had now cycled some 550k and some big fat hills! The Brampton control was nice and were offering free massages here. Their bag drop facility was interesting...
I declined a massage and did not book a bag drop but fed very well. It was here that MadeGood folk interviewed and filmed me again. Was always nice to catch up with the MadeGood guys. I think I was just as interested in their experience as they were mine. (Rich had made me chuckle earlier, he clearly needed a sleep more than I did).
Walter and Duncan from MadeGood
Leaving Brampton and I had my first visit from the puncture pixie. I decided to replace the tube and for whatever reason this took me way longer than usual. Once the tube had been fitted it would not inflate as it had a dodgy valve. Grr! A second tube was fitted and all was well. If I remember correctly, this was a relatively flat stage but I found it quite difficult. Maybe my rear tyre needed more pressure?! I chose to follow a bunch of cyclists here hoping to benefit from a tow. This worked for a while but I was left behind once I reached Scotland as I wanted to stop and take a photo.
Was a shame I had lost my tow as I was only 20k into this stage. At least I was in Scotland, that felt pretty great! As I continued to cycle, I formed a small group of three with two ladies from South Africa. These were an interesting couple who had come over as a group of 5. As it was getting dark, they were happy to rely on my Garmin for directions rather than follow their route sheets. Suffice to say, I safely navigated us to the control in Moffat. I reached here at about 10 p.m and had now cycled 624k. I decided to use this control as my second sleep stop and slept for a good 7-8 hours. Shoes had to be removed at this control (and some others too).
Travelling to the next control was great. I was heading for Edinburgh, the half way point! This section was relatively long at 81k. My cousin Aid had text me during this stage and wanted to know how my butt was doing. I never replied, but am pleased to inform that my combination of Assos shorts and Brooks saddle were doing the trick just fine. In fact, a number of my friends and family were sending me texts of encouragement which was nice. I reached Edinburgh on Tuesday (30 July) at 8.57 a.m. and had now cycled 705k.

The Edinburgh control was as nice as any and I felt great to have completed my North-bound journey. I chatted with Wobbly for a time here - another cyclist I had met on the Holl and Back 600 (where I chased him to return his forgotten or lost brevet card). Wobbly was interesting in that he rode a recumbent cycle (and so was Walters dad). The MadeGood folk also caught up with me here and I met a new member of the crew - Alex. Alex, like all the other MadeGood folk was a real nice chap. I very much enjoyed chatting with the MadeGood folk throughout and had time for them should they ever want to stop and chat, film or interview me. This was just as well, at most times the MadeGood folk wanted to talk and film just as I was about to leave a control!
Will and Alex from MadeGood
Leaving Edinburgh and heading to Traquir was a very pretty but very hilly affair. The lovely tail-wind that had pushed me from Loughton to Edinburgh was now a head-wind that would beat against me all the way back to Loughton. This was a real short section at only 42k but the hills more than made up for it. Reached the control at lunch time (12.21 p.m.) but sadly there was no lunch. No real food anyway. Ah, but there was cake (staple diet food for any randonneur) and whiskey!
I felt the whiskey was a nice touch being in Scotland and all. The cake was informative as well as tasty - it informed me that I only had another 653k to go!

The trek to Eskdalemuir was tough despite being another short section at only 47k. It took me nearly 3 hours to cycle less than 50k between these 2 controls which must help prove the hilliness and windiness of stage, not to mention my tired legs. Reached Eskdalemuir control on Tuesday (30 July) at 3.38 p.m. I saw my friend Peter at this control which was truly great. Peter is one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet. The first thing he asked me was how my beautiful daughter was. How nice. I just had to take a picture of Peter in his volunteering role.
Peter insisted he took a photo of me too. The photo was awful. Still, it shows what an effect LEL was having on me!
Mention was made to how wonderful volunteers were already but I would like to mention it again! The volunteers would help with anything and everything. They would even repair bicycles! I tried to make a point of thanking the volunteers at each control and ask about their experience too.
Leaving Eskadalemuir, I headed for the familiar control of Brampton, some 57k away. I was back in England before I reached the control and it was nice to be in my home-land once again. As pretty as Scotland was, England won!
I reached Brampton at 6.59 p.m. on Tuesday 30 July. I felt this was early and considered whether or not to head to the next control. I was very tempted, Terry had made his mind up that he was going to leave and head for Barnard Castle. I ate much food and then decided not to continue on for the time being as it had started to rain and heavy it looked. I took the opportunity to phone SJ, Chris and my mother and it was nice to chat to each of them. With so much time in hand, I had an early night and slept for a good 8 hours. On waking I think the MadeGood folk caught up with me, or did I just imagine that?!

No, that's it - the MadeGood folk fitted me with a battery operated mic and told me to talk away about the things I see and the things I think. They planned to catch up with me on the road and film me cycling and ask me stuff at the same time (provide prompts). I set off for Barnard Castle and spoke to myself about everything I saw and everything that I felt. I spoke about the beautiful pink fluffy clouds that were in view, made poems about pink sky in the morning, commented on strange place names, likened the hills and fields to patchwork quilts, described the road as a black tar river with illuminous coloured objects sailing through it (cyclists with hi-visability jackets) and so much more including the clouds with the golden lining provided by the sun. This turned out only to benefit myself as it wasn't being recorded as the MadeGood crew were no where near me and had to be in a close contact to pic up the mic. On the upside, the k's flew by quickly. There was some comfort in talking to myself. After so long, the MadeGood folk found me and I had to start talking to the mic again whilst Will shouted out prompts. This was quite difficult as I had done a better job just prior to this. It was interesting to follow a car (being driven by Alex) with Will filming me from the boot space.
MadeGood filming in progress
This was also great fun. A number of cyclists had seen me being fitted with mic's and interviewed and filmed throughout. Many folk referred to me or addressed me as 'Movie Star'. Whilst filming this section, one cyclist on the roadside performed some strange little dance (kind of like a Mexican wave improvisation) as we passed. Bizarre but what a lot of fun!

Not long after MadeGood folk had left, disaster struck! I did my usual and had gotten lost. Severely lost! I had taken a wrong turn at Alston and did not notice my error until I hit a dual carriageway some 17 miles off route. I stopped a car and after a chat and consultation with a map had to repeat this same distance back, up big fat hills again. Grr, this had cost me dearly in terms of time, distance and energy. I tried not to panic and made use of some tools I had prepared earlier in case of disaster - that's right, I plugged my ipod into my ears and chilled out. I thought I was back on route but it turned out I was not, I was in Nenthead. I had the choice of turning back again and adding distance but climb the less hilly South side of Yad Moss or continue and climb Yad moss from the East and eventually pick up the road to Barnard Castle. I chose the shorter route but man was it hard! I had to climb a second category climb and ascents of about 20%. Worse still, I was tired and my butt had to stay on the saddle due to the chain slip phenomena mentioned earlier. To remind myself of what I possibly missed, I have included the photo below which I stole from the YACF website. (I did see a rainbow myself at a later stage).
After climbing for what felt like forever (and forever is a very long time) I had reached a summit and then whizzed down a great descent and at last had spotted a cyclist with an LEL number plate! 
This cyclist was Jefmcg, an Australian cyclist that I met on the Holl and Back 600. She confirmed I was back on route. I only chatted for about 1 minute and then promptly sped off as I was fearing the large amount of time I had lost. My ipod was working wonders and really helped me to chill out. The scenery here was spectacular and I enjoyed cycling solo looking at Gods beautiful creation.
Whizzing down speedy descents was quite exhilarating. When I finally reached the Barnard Castle control it was 12.15 p.m. on Wednesday 31 July. The control volunteers said I was only 2 hours in hand and there were only 48 riders behind me! Horrors! I told myself not to panic and took a shower, changed into fresh clothes (using my second bag drop) and ate a large meal. The pork pie in my bag (just like the other one) had to be binned because it had gone soft and manky.

I was on a mission now and headed for Thirsk in a speedy style. Thirsk was about 70k away and a head-wind had to be fought the whole way to said control. I reached the Thirsk control by 4.44 p.m. but was a little spaced out. I must have looked out of sorts because the volunteers asked if I knew where I was. I guessed Pocklington then Market Rasen. They laughed and said 'you wish'. Then, just to make my headspace a little more confused they performed an umpar-lumpar type dance to a style similar to YMCA spelling out Thirsk. If I wasn't tripping out before, it sure felt like I was now! After another bite to eat I figured it was best I pushed on again and got out of here!

This stage to Pocklington was vile. The rain was hammering down and my Garmin was playing up. My Garmin wouldn't tell me when to turn and the route was not lit up as it usually was. When I tried to reload course it would take an age to configure itself. I neared Pocklington but just could not find the control and skirted back and forth along the same roads many times. I had to ask locals for directions in the end and eventually found control but had again added significant k's to my journey and added un-necessary time. When I finally did reach Pocklington, I heard a familiar voice say 'hey that's Tim', 'Hi Tim'. It was Andy and with him was Jamie. It was so good to see these guys. I had never seen Jamie look so out of it. These guys were just heading out from the control. I so wanted to join them but food was a higher priority. On the subject of food, I ate so much here. I must have eaten 6 large cookies for dessert too. Man, I had the munchies.

I phoned SJ at this control. SJ was as re-assuring as ever and suggested I sleep here. I was worried about time and felt it would be better to cycle a further 90k before I considered sleeping. As I was leaving control, I bumped into another familiar face - that of Becky Burns. She said she had been chatting to Jamie and Andy and said they had only left like 10 minutes ago. With this information at hand, I chased after them.

My Garmin was still playing up so I chased the bright red light in front of me (a cyclists tail light). I would keep catching cyclists up and would then chase after the next red light I saw. After some time I was cycling with a guy who was looking tired and appeared to be struggling. I felt a need to press on. I knew my Garmin was playing up but had seen road signs pointing to the Humber Bridge. I decided to follow these road signs, knowing they were probably off route but knew they led to the same bridge. Indeed they did lead me to the Humber Bridge via mostly dual carriageway which was fine because the roads were quiet at this time of night. 
Once on the bridge I figured I would stop and brush my teeth. As I removed my tooth brush from my back pocket, I saw a cyclist heading my direction. I decided to not bother brushing teeth but follow this cyclist using him in place of my Garmin. This cyclist appeared tired too, so I used my tactic of chasing red lights ahead whenever I saw one. I passed 2 cyclists sleeping on the roadside at one point and wondered if this was Jamie and Andy. I considered stopping to find out but didn't want to lose the train of red lights I was following. Eventually I was cycling with a fast paced group consisting of 1 girl and 2 guys but it wasn't the Netherland 3! Finally reached the Market Rasen control at 2.42 a.m. on the 1 August. 

Had another good feed at this control and then hoped to sleep. There were no available beds left, however, I was able to use some duvets. These duvets made a suitable bed for me, so I curled up in my wet clothes and fell asleep on the floor. About 1 hour and 15 minutes later I awoke, my clothes were dry except my socks which remained wet. Just before leaving control, the MadeGood folk caught up with me once more.

Cycling on to Kirkton was great. I cycled much of this section with a guy called Simon P. Simon was a real friendly chap and very informative. He had cycled so many audax events and most shocking of all, he had ridden so many rides on a fixed wheel bicycle. The bike he was using for this LEL challenge was also a fixed! Amazing. We rode as a two-some for hours and must have clocked up many k's. Was glad of the company during this stage as fighting with a head-wind on possibly the longest, flattest and straightest roads in England might have been a chore. The roads we were cycling included Chapel Hill, Holland Fen, Brothertoft and Hedgehog Bridge. Great with a tail-wind (lacking) and great with good company. It was about 68k between the Market Rasen and Kirkton control. I reached Kirkton at 7.49 a.m.

Don't recall a lot about the trip between Kirton and St Ives. Not sure if Kirton was Kirkton either as route sheet had it spelt both ways. As if my head space wasn't confused enough. I do remember that this stage was relatively long, 81k in fact. I also remember it was very very hot. After the event, it was confirmed that this was the hottest day this year. I also remember hearing my wife's voice in my head saying 'remember to hydrate' - so I made sure I drank lots of liquid. Reached St Ives at 12.44 p.m. 

At the St Ives control (and those following) I stayed a little longer than usual to ensure I could charge my Garmin using my external battery as the dynamo was playing up. A lot of my bike related components and 'things' did not like the rain. Another menace at this control was that I noticed that my bum creme had gone AWOL. Not to worry, I was able to use another cyclists creme. This bum creme was in a tube so no fear of double dipping! Before I left this control I made sure I ate loads and also covered myself in sun cream. Some folk were complaining of the hot weather and wishing for rain - what was wrong with these folk?

St Ives to Great Easton was an interesting cycle. I cycled for a long period with this American chap who had a bike similar to mine - both our bikes were Specialized S-Works SL3 Roubaix machines. We chatted lots about our family's which helped the k's pass by quickly. This poor American was suffering with bad heels and was struggling up the hills. Am not sure why but I felt compelled to wait for him (figured I'd lose him at the next control). Other cyclists would join us for a while and we appeared to be forming small groups that grew and later broke up only to form again. I don't recall many names of folk but bumped into a chap called Bairdy. I had never met Bairdy before but thought I had, he appeared to be a familiar guy. I think I got him confused with Mr Beard - a possible doppelgänger! We all knew when the control was real near because we spotted the following sign post.
These signs were great. They would always excite me as they were located near the controls and would often have 3-2-1k markers accompanying them. The red signs directed the way to go to the finish in Loughton and route marked that whole stage. First though, I needed a stamp at the Great Easton control which was reached at 6.14 p.m. after cycling 74k from St Ives.
The Great Easton control was, as the name suggests, great! The volunteers were super friendly and everybody appeared to be on a high. Good weather and near completion were all helping to lift one's mood. Just as I was leaving this control I was visited again by the puncture pixie. The super friendly awesome volunteers would not allow me to change my tube - they took my bike from me and promptly replaced the tube and then pumped my tyre up and wished me well. How cool!

So here I was, cycling the last 45k of the 2013 LEL challenge. I was feeling great and strong. At this point I had no niggles and was eager to get to the finish. Route finding was easy, red signs were showing which way to go. A few hills had to be climbed, the sun continued to beat down and the head-wind was as menace as ever. It didn't matter, I was feeling great and a rainbow was painted in the sky. I raced along and then was on a familiar road leading to the control. I stopped because I heard a shout. It was Terry! Terry embraced me with a big man hug and congratulated me on finishing (I actually hadn't yet). It was great seeing Terry (he had obviously finished a while earlier). I sped on to cheers, clapping and shouts of praise. Jumped off my bike and got my brevet card stamped for the final time!
Wow, I had completed the 2013 LEL in an official time of 108 hours and 23 minutes. I predicted I would complete this event in 109 hours before I took part and actually had 116 hours and 40 minutes to complete same. Happy I was indeed! Then I was awarded with my lovely 2013 LEL medal. 
AUK will award me 14 AUK points for completing this 1,400k event (actually 1,418k). I actually cycled 1,519k but that's another story. 2.75 AAA points will also be awarded for the hills encountered on route. My actual route (GPX track) is presented below:
My experience didn't quite finish here. I caught up with Walter from MadeGood and was interviewed and filmed for a final time. It was great to be involved with MadeGood throughout this experience and am pleased they were part of my adventure. I wish them every success for the future. MadeGood folk and the things they do can be found here:

A few additional points I feel I must add:

  • I missed my wife and baby (and dog) so very much
  • My bike was great. I rode a Specialized S-Works SL3 which performed very well throughout. Only niggle was a slipping chain in low gear with pressure.
  • My new wheels were great. I opted for Mavic rims and Hope hub (other hub was a dynamo).
  • Garmin and dynamo hub do not appear to like water.
  • B and M light was powerful but appeared to flicker when wet.
  • Brooks saddle was a must
  • Mavic Infinity and Assos shorts were great additions
  • I felt 6 months training was essential
  • I never used any energy gels
  • My kit was great, though I never used leggings, silk socks, thick socks or heavy jacket.
  • I found this event A LOT easier than PBP 2011. Many folk said they found this event tougher but that was certainly not my experience.
  • I sustained no injury and felt no major niggles throughout event. Post event and I have a sore bum, pins and needles in left foot and 1 blistered finger.
  • I met lots of fantastic people
  • A buch of cyclists got covered in deer guts when a car travelling in the opposite direction hit said deer
  • 1 poor cyclist hit a badger and broke his clavicle.
  • Dave Hinde sucks!
  • MadeGood rock!
  • Advice from a random German cyclist - do not cycle tandem. If you are on the back you have no view and a constant whiff of body odour
  • Would I do it again? Sure, if my wife would allow...

Post event I discovered that about 1,000 cyclists started the 2013 LEL event and some 80% completed within the time limit. 

My adventure helped raise over £300 for my chosen charity - The Christadelphian Meal-a-Day Fund. Folk are still able to donate to this worthy cause and should you be able to then please follow this link: 

Thank you all for sharing my experience or being a part of my adventure. 

Happy New Year 2022

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