Riding a 600kms Audax

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Riding a 600kms Audax

Post by WorcsPhil » 29 May 2019 22:02

I’m a good boy, really, I’ve just fallen in with the wrong crowd. I used to just pootle about on my bike, then I discovered the love of longer rides, then I became friends with Jon Williams and Andy Wrightson, and together we’ve become the ginger Randonneurs, riding longer and longer rides all over Britain. Last weekend saw the longest ride all of us had done, as us three, together with the faux gingers, Chris Ashford and Rob Wade rode the 605kms Benjamin Allen’s Summer Outing Audax.

Starting at 5am from Bushley Village Hall just outside Tewkesbury, the first 100kms is a fairly fast route out via Symonds Yat to the familiar and excellent cafe at Talybont on Usk. After beans on toast all round, we ventured further into Wales, and the rolling terrain became more and more rolling. A second stop at Llandovery (180kms) is another Audax favourite where cyclists and bikers mix in a cafe not known for haute cuisine, but huge and cheap will do for us. Continuing west through Llandewi Brefi (the only audaxer in the village if you know your Little Britain references!) and through the outskirts of Aberystwyth and onto Machynlleth (310kms). The route then turns east again using rolling valley roads rather than over the mountains thank God. Through Newtown at 350kms, the route then punches you in the guts by taking you on a 500m ascent of the mountain road in the dark before descending for 30kms to the sleep stop in Wigmore village hall (405kms).

Arriving there at 23:45, we had hoped for 4-5 hrs sleep, but have you ever tried to sleep in a room of 50 noisy air beds with industrial levels of farting and snoring. Amazingly, I did get a couple of hours of much needed sleep, and all five of us met for breakfast at around 4am in varying levels of exhaustion, laughing at Andy’s story of kicking the stopper out of his neighbours air bed and seeing it hiss away to nothing accompanied by rampant swearing of the innocent rider desperately trying to get some shut-eye.

As we were leaving just before 5am, we saw Sarah Dowden arriving at the village hall, some 24 hours after starting...we are just so impressed with her determination to finish these rides even though many faster riders simply don’t finish. Great to hear later that after a couple of hours sleep, Sarah finished the full 600 late on Sunday evening. As for us, we toddled back to Monmouth via a huge climb before and after the town, before crossing the Severn Bridge to our last cafe at 550kms. Still together, we time trialled the last 50kms at 35kph as Jon powered away at the front, and we all hung on for grim death, finishing the full ride just after 3pm, some 34hrs after we started, with 23hours of moving time.

So what did we learn?

- Everybody suffers on rides of this length, you have at least 10 episodes where you feel terrible for 20kms, but in contrast, 10 episodes where you feel brilliant, best to treat those two imposters just the same.

- You see an assortment of riders along the way, and you click into a pattern of seeing the same riders at cafes 100kms apart. Why people make these events doubly difficult by riding fixed speed bikes makes me shake my head.

- We met a fantastic girl called Michelle (top class British athlete, who almost represented GB in the Athens Olympics in the marathon) who rode with us for 5 hours, just 10 days after finishing a 2500mile ride to Athens. What an all round athlete she was, leaving us all for dead (except Chris) on the climbs.

- but most importantly, and I know this is incredibly cheesy, when you spend nearly two days with your fellow Beacon riders, it’s simply a huge pleasure to spend it with such great people, looking after each other, encouraging each other in our down episodes - it just makes these f. hard events so much easier, when we ride in a group. Viva les randonneurs.

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Re: Riding a 600kms Audax

Post by CakeStop » 29 May 2019 23:50

Thanks for taking the time to share Phil. I start suffering on any ride over 100km so can only imagine what it must feel like fourth or fifth time round. It must be an amazing experience once it's accomplished. Great the camaraderie helps you all through the worst bits.
Eat cake before you're hungry

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Re: Riding a 600kms Audax

Post by Dave Cox » 30 May 2019 06:52

Yeah thanks good read well done. Glad you do it so I don't have to !!

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Re: Riding a 600kms Audax

Post by caashford » 30 May 2019 09:31

Well said Phil! It was a great event, and I would agree with all your comments, particularly regarding the emotional highs and lows. Although I wasn't tired at the 400k mark, I think just breaking the ride into 1x400 and 1x200 the following day makes a significant difference.

I would also say that food and water are a key part of the audax experience. If it is "beige" it is probably good fuel (but certainly not healthy). Sandwiches, beans on toast, pork pies, egg on toast, pasties, cheese on toast, steak pies, anything carb related on toast, chips... you get the idea. Never has salad and veg looked so good!

What Phil hasn't mentioned is that he and Jon Williams (as well as Stu White) will be the Beacon representatives at Paris-Brest-Paris 2019 with this 600k as their last qualifying ride! Good luck to you all, if you can do 600k in 34hrs, you can manage 1200k in 84hrs! Good luck and may tail winds be favourable! :-)

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Re: Riding a 600kms Audax

Post by George » 30 May 2019 10:29

Another level. I'm in awe of you all!

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Re: Riding a 600kms Audax

Post by Philip Whiteman » 30 May 2019 13:23

I was tucked up in bed whilst you lot were riding this into the depths of darkness.

Nice write-up. Chapeau to all. Just PBP to complete now

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Re: Riding a 600kms Audax

Post by Simon Woodward » 30 May 2019 19:50

Congratulations to you all.
I'm assuming you can all now give yourselves the Title Super Randonneur?
I'm still a 400 short for that.
Good luck to those of you doing Paris-Brest-Paris.

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Re: Riding a 600kms Audax

Post by Will.i.ams » 02 Jun 2019 19:12

Phil, as always, a fantastic write up of our 600k. As you pointed out, everyone indeed had their moments mine of a digestive nature resulting in you lot towing me around for a portion of the ride until, let’s just say, there was motion of a different kind.
A fantastic achievement for everyone involved. Chapeau!

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Re: Riding a 600kms Audax

Post by Andy W » 02 Jun 2019 19:33

I'd have to agree a fantastic right up phil and summarises the 600 to a tea, I couldnt think of a better group of people and friends to spend doing it with and all the other audaxs also, a hard but amazing 2 days in the saddle
Chapaue to you all and as phil said viva le super randinners

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Re: Riding a 600kms Audax

Post by Yosser » 05 Jun 2019 23:06

So what. I have just gone to derby and done 4, I repeat 4, x 200 metre sprints with only 20 mins rest between each. And you guys think you're hard!

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Re: Riding a 600kms Audax

Post by Philip Whiteman » 06 Jun 2019 08:30

Weather must also have an impact upon riding an event of this (any) distance.

The marked difference in moral in wet versus sunny weather is notable. As a controller on the WCW600 at the 400km mark, five years ago, I noted that many riders looked forlorn with an air of desperation and exhaustion. The weather had been terrible on the second day with head winds and torrential rain promising to hinder their final stage back to Windsor. Move five years later and the contrast was considerable. Whilst tired riders appeared to have a good spirit in the warm and dry conditions. In fact the main the wave of cyclists arrived 2 hours earlier in the second instance with the quickest rider completing the event in just 25 hours. Back in 2014, many riders held off until the very last hour to head-off home. In 2019, the remaining two hours at the control were dead quiet.

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