Yesterday I completed the 200km “When I’m 64” audax from Aldbrough St John. I can safely say that it was one of the hardest rides I have done in a long time. I’m sat here this morning, shattered.
I had promised to take a good friend around this ride and although I was worried about her fitness, and fairly certain she wasn’t going to be able to do the whole 200km, I was comfortable about riding along and keeping her company. But when the weather forecast changed to rain, wind and snow I stopped worrying about her and started worrying about myself. I struggle to stay warm at the best of times and therefore riding slower to keep someone company was going to be a serious problem for me. Sadly I had to let her know, and so she missed this ride. As it was, I think I nearly died out there yesterday. I’m sorry I let my friend down. I’m worried how I’m going to cope with the 400km Easter Arrow planned for the 29th March.
Carol drove me out to Aldbrough St John as there was no question today of me riding to the start and back from the finish. She dropped me off in the rain and I scurried to the hall to sign on. I overheard the organiser, Nigel, talking about the turnout and I think he had a 60% turnout (~35 riders) for the 200km and a 40% turnout (~30 riders) for the 100km event. The rain, sleet and wind had taken their toll before the ride had begun.
Once we got cycling, in the rain, I found myself in the fast leading group of about 8 riders. My foolish habit is to leadout others and then fade and die… so the ride was going according to plan already. Trying valiantly to maintain a conversation with Deano while doing 30-35kph is a silly way to start – honestly. The last time I was this dumb was trying to ride with JvdP on the Northern Rock Cyclone and heading away from the start at 46kph, overtaking buses and heading for the front of the field.
Deano wasn’t interested in riding the Thirntoft section as he suspected flooding, wanted to keep a main-road pace and I was happy to stay with him for a while, so we forged on to Yafforth and took the turn south there. Several riders were following us and soon GPS devices were beeping that they were off route. They stuck with us though, except for one unlucky chap who had a puncture… off route, in the rain. His was not a happy face.
A “Happy Face” at Thirsk Control – remember chaps, use mudguards please.
The rain kept coming but wasn’t much of a worry because when you are bowling along in a group at pace the miles fly past. We bundled into Thirsk quickly. I headed for the supermarket for a receipt and to use the facilities. When I came out the fast group had gone, I think they used the petrol station. Aiden later told me he had microwaved his gloves there – a cheeky way to warm up the sodden gloves. I did see Deano again, and also Lindsay and Chris on their tandem. A quick hello was said and off they went. The back seat of a tandem looks like a lovely sheltered place to ride. I then rode with Deano to just outside Coxwold. At this point I could no longer keep his superfit pace and quietly slid backwards, but this was just as we arrived in the hilly part of the route so for a while I could see him ahead as he rides fixed and makes a superhuman effort to climb.
The rain turned to snow here. Now my feet went from simply wet, to wet and cold. My thumbs became unbearably numb and I slowed right down. The hill-work was keeping me warm, but the cold on the outside was draining my energy. Two riders went past in quick succession. The snow was being blown sideways across the road and the flakes were huge. Big heavy snow which looked gorgeous. I was grateful that the road was wet and the snow melted immediately. Despite the cold it was picturesque and fun. This was the hilly section over with.
I was then caught by Dallas and Richie. These two wonderful gentlemen allowed me to shelter behind them all the way to Malton, which helped me to pick up a bit of speed. The three of us were very cold and decided to take a longer stop at the Morrisons in Malton. The food queue was long, the service was quite slow due to the high numbers of people (real people, not audaxers) who wanted to eat. But this was not wasted time, this was recovery and warming up time. I had a Panini and coffee.
Dallas and Richie were riding together, this was part of their preparation for LEL (London-Edinburgh-London) later this year. I was pleased that I could ride with them, and after the Morrisons stop I was better able to take a turn at the front, although Dallas did most of the work. He was a bag of energy and nothing seemed to be slowing him down. The road to Stamford Bridge was straight-forward and required no navigation, so we found ourselves in the York one-way system after no time at all. We’d done 30km since Malton and didn’t feel we wanted to stop just yet. There was a party being held at CrinklyLion’s place and I would have liked to pop in, but I was also enjoying Dallas and Richie’s company and didn’t want to lose them. We popped into the Giant Bicycle Store in York to get our Brevet Cards stamped and we effectively bounced York and struggled on to Ripon.
We had 40km to go to Ripon, the rain kept coming and our fingers and toes were like blocks of ice. Richie hates his saddle and Dallas’ mudguard was making an musical accompaniment to our ride. What kept us moving along was discussion of the treats we had planned in Ripon. Coffee! Cake! Hot food! Beer! Mmmm. We started to count down the miles, “Only 10 miles to a warm fire and some beer!” So far our moving speed had been 28kph for most of the time together. We were just beginning to slow as Ripon Cathedral came into sight and we navigated our way to the Market Square and found somewhere to sit down. Nero Coffee shop… not exactly warm fires and beer… but coffee and muffins were welcome. We harangued another couple to photograph us.
Richie, Dallas, Graeme
I think we made more of a fuss about our exploits in fairly loud voices – I don’t think anyone in Nero in Ripon could have missed what we were up to, and were probably glad when we left.
A couple of circuits of the Market square and we had our bearings again. Out north-bound on the final 52km back to Aldbrough St John. But first we had to stand and shiver at a red traffic light for 5 minutes. Brrrr.
We had now slowed to about 25kph as a rolling speed, but the three of us were happy that we’d be out of the rain and into the warm in only a couple of hours. While riding with friends the miles do roll past quickly and we came to Exelby and the A1 crossing into Londonderry soon enough. From here we were back up to Middleton Tyas and within spitting distance of the finish. But I ‘bonked’ completely and Dallas had to circle back and give me some energy rations to get me through the last 5km. They took forever!
Quiche, coffee, OJ, cakes… they all awaited us in the Arrivee, and it turns out that the three of us were 3rd, 4th and 5th back. So although I wasn’t blisteringly fast, our approach of not stopping for too long worked well.
I warmed up while talking to Nigel about the ride – Carol turned up to pick me up and said that she could hear me from outside – I was shouting apparently. It must have been cold and numb ears – I couldn’t hear and I was so exhausted I could barely move.
I had an amazing time. I really enjoyed riding with Dallas and Richie and I wish them all the very best on LEL later this year. I hope I get to see them in Thirsk as I’m volunteering there.