So, last time I mentioned London Edinburgh London on here I left if all up in the air whether I’d actually be riding the event at all. I was reminded of this by another rider as we sat cooling down at the penultimate control at Great Easton, which probably gives aways what I ended up doing……
Despite a number of setbacks having failed to do complete any ride of more than 100 miles since the Skegness 300 in May I was convinced by a number of people that I might as well give LEL a go as I’d left it too late to get a refund.
So it was with a little bit of trepidation that I rolled up to the start at Great Loughton on Sunday morning, after a little bit of a mistaken diversion due to a mix up of where we were meeting for breakfast. Talked to a few of the usual suspects as the riders gradually thinned out by leaving at their set times 15 minutes apart. We were in the V group starting at 10:00, with only 2 groups to leave after us. The original plan had been to leave a bit later so we didn’t want to stop till later on, and hopefully miss the bulk of people stopping, so getting into a bed quicker.
Pace on the first stage to St Ives was pretty high. Riding in a big bunch is always ‘interesting’. Especially with a mix of nationalities, 1 group of French riders were particularly bad for jumping through red lights, even ones with pedestrians crossing, they soon learnt so very basic Anglo Saxon phrasees. We also merged in with a number of other rides at points. At one level crossing there was us off to Edinburgh, a charity ride looping back to Lee Valley, another Charity ride heading to Cambridge, and 2 club runs. I think everyone ended up following the correct routes.
Quick control at St Ives, with the young lady replenishing the flapjack supplies almost being flattened by audaxers wanting to stuff their pockets. Day was nicely warming up here. Gradually dropped off the back of the group, partly through inability to maintain the pace and partly deliberately to stop me even trying to keep up.
On this stretch I had the first of many conversations along the lines of:
Them: Where have you come from?
Them: Where are you going?
Them: Blimey. How long’s that going to take?
Me: About 2 days.
Them: Bet you’ll be looking forward to the train home?
Me: Er, no. We’re riding home as well
Getting to Kirton mainly just meant surviving the dull flatness that is the Fens, thankfully we had a bit of a tailwind along this bit. Due to this I was catching quite a few of the earlier starters, so ended up with a bit of a queue for food. But the pie and potatoes was worth the queue, as was the sponge and custard.
We got to see some more of Lincolnshire now on the way to Market Rasen. But we were cycling alongside some nice drains for variety. Market Rasen was doing some nice Fish and Chips (food is a major feature of long distance audaxing, so I can remember pretty much what I ate at every control). Having got here pretty quickly, sub 10-hour 250km is fast to me!, I decided to grab an hours kip before heading out.
Rumours of rain were about for the next stage, so I got ready with arm/leg warmers and my rain jacket. Rolling across the Lincolnshire wolds towards the Humber bridge it became obvious that it was a warm enough night that even if it rained I was likely to get wetter from the inside, so it all came off. Only had a light shower in the end and was plenty warm enough. Stopped for a snack on top of the Humber Bridge to enjoy the lights.
Proper sleep stop at Pocklington and a decent breakfast. Then the Howardian hills towards thirsk. Lovely cycling through the grounds of Castle howard early in the morning. There’s a few steep (17%) sections but they’re not too long so can be monstered, while trying to ignore the downhills that will become uphills in 2 days time.
Quick stop at Thirsk, recognising a Tesco’s forecourt from last years 3 Coasts. Bit of a rolling transition stage this one. Nice pretty english countryside with plenty of wildlife out to play, but not any gratuitous hills. Crossing the A1 just north of Scotch Corner showed we were now cutting across the waist of the country. The rumble across the wooden bridge at Whorlton meant we were nearly at Barnard Castle.
Another couple of plates of good food, but not too much as we had the crossing of Yad Moss to look forward to. England’s only permanent ski lift is at the top, so it’s got to be pretty high up there. After the rollers out of BC we settled in for a long steady climb, the false flats caused a few moments of premature joy, but it’s not until the snow poles arrive that you know you’re nearly there. Fast descent down the other side, before hard on the brakes for the cobbles in Alston. The covered market cross seemed to be a very popular spot for Audaxers to stop for a break, so we decided it would be rude not to join them. Then just the rollers to get to Brampton.
Brampton was one of my bag drops, so I quickly helped myself to some fresh shorts and a new jersey. Good food, but I didn’t hang around too long as I knew from a route recce in 2011 (London Edinburgh London DIY 2011) that the next section wasn’t particularly scenic but was very easy to navigate, so would be best done as a fast leg in the dark to get up to Moffat for that night’s sleep stop. As predicted is was a fairly boring ride along the side of a main road, so I stuck an earphone in and rode along with my iPod for company with the only point of note being that we crossed the border in Scotland. A small moment of joy as we hit the end of the road and turned right for Moffat. Then a last plateful of food, and bed for the night
Up reasonably early the next morning. Put away a good solid breakfast, topped the bottles up and we were off. Nice climb up the Devil’s Beef Tub to get the heart and legs working. And then some glorious descending and we were riding through a misty valley to follow the River Tweed through Tweedsmuir. Feel in with some Oregonites along this section who seemed to be happy passing there time time singing in harmony. Definitely felt out of place there with my lack of musical talent. Dropped into Edinburgh via Bonnrigg and some great swooping downhills before a couple of stiffer climbs to the control, and having to share with a bit more traffic than we’d been used.
Clocked in at Edinburgh about 8ish, meaning it had taken 46 hours total time to cycle from London to Edinburgh. Sub 2 days, happy with that. And it meant I had 70 hours to do the return trip, so plenty of time to take it a bit easier. Wasn’t too sure about the fish pie for breakfast so stuck with the pasta.
Getting out of Auld Reekie through the morning rush hour wasn’t the greatest experience of the ride, but we were soon back into open country side. And the ride had a distinctly uphill feel. This section was the hilliest on the ride, with 3 good sized climbs before Traquair, and then another 3 before Eskdalemuir. Unfortunately we’d now turned into the wind, so the downhills weren’t quite as exhilarating as they could have been, but a nice change from climbing. Traquair control welcomed use with porridge, cake and whisky. I made sure to sample all 3. Eskdalemuir offered a great mix of veggie food, and sated my Scottish Pie lust, though unfortunately not Macaroni pies :( More miles along some lovely forestry roads and we were back on the edges of the A7 for some main roads back to Brampton.
A quick change of shorts, and a dump of stuff from the Barley into my drop bag and it was back out to cross Yad Moss the other way. Unfortunately the weather decided to kick in about now with a torrential downpour. Luckily it was pretty warm, so despite coming straight through my shower jacket I didn’t chill down too much. Thankfully it had stopped before we reached Alston. There was some debate over riding the cobbled section, I started up it and then decided that keeping my one piece collar bone was more important! From this side YM is more of a steady climb, climbed it with an American rider having a good chat. Dropping over the top was great. It may have been gone 10, but with a Cyo and a Ixion IQ I had plenty of light, and the landscape leant itself to long view down the hill so getting up to speed wasn’t a problem. The official route brought us back into Barnard castle via a different route so we got to enjoy the climb round and up by the castle itself.
Another well deserved couple of hours spent horizontal on a bed and it was time for another breakfast. Back on the road and heading for Thirsk. As was usual by now, the first 5-10 miles were ridden gingerly until the ‘contact point’ had numbed up enough to sit on it properly. Lovely rolling along through the rolling farmland of County Durham and North Yorkshire. Soon enough Thirsk showed up on the horizion.
Took a bit of time to get even more food in here as I knew from the way up that the next section through the Howardian hills would be “interesting. And so it was, playing yo yo with a velomobile as I climbed faster and he came thundering past on the downhills. All going swimmingly until coming round a corner onto a particularly steep ramp going for the largest sprocket and suddenly there’s no resistance on the shifter. Snapped rear gear cable. Luckily I had a spare with me. Unluckily the cable had snapped in the STI shifter and I couldn’t get the nipple out with the tools I had. A bit of quick thinking and I managed to bodge a fix to get me to Pocklington. I got the chain onto the 3rd largest sprocket, pulled the gear cable till it was taut and then locked it off behind the seat post bottle cage. As I could still use the front mech this meant I had 2 gears. Unfortunately it meant a little more struggling up the hills, and a max speed on the flat of about 21kph before I span out. Slowly but surely pocklington came closer and closer. Thankfully with a better small pair of pliers and a workstand I got the cable out, installed the new one and was back up and running with 20 gears
On the run back to the Humber bridge we were treated to another downpour, this time with a drop in temperature. This carried on across the bridge and for a good amount of the climb back across the Lincolnshire wolds. The chairs at Market Rasen were in high demand for drying racks. But rice and gravy were just what the doctor ordered for warming up, Time for another couple of hours of kip, but only a couple, as the plan was to push on about 11ish and get to Kirton for a proper sleep.
Slight panic when I woke up as I couldn’t find one of my socks, and had stupidly packed my spare pair into my drop bag at Brampton. Luckily I found it on the floor and was good to go. The weather had picked up a fair bit, and it looked like a good night for riding. The next section was nice and countrified with simple navigation. Great for night riding. Such a clear sky meant that we could see endless stars and the milky way. Also plenty of wildlife on show, though thankfully it all kept out of my path (unlike one poor rider who had a run in with a badger northbound and finished his LEL with a broken collar bone). The dozies kicked in about 20 minutes out of kirton, which was good timing. There was a 20 minute wait for a good quiet bed, so I decided that would be better than the one in the hall that was available immediately. Also gave me time for more food (spotting a theme here?)
Next morning was cool but already showing that it was going to get a lot warmer. This was the home stretch, I’d left myself with a simple 199km to complete the ride. Should be a short day in the saddle shouldn’t it?
Got into a small group heading across the Fens through Spalding and Crowland, setting a nice pace. But I could feel that:
- I wasn’t going to keep the pace up
- The heat was already getting to where I was feeling uncomfortable
- My neck was starting to hurt in a new way.
1+2 were sorted by backing off the pace a bit, which meant losing the benefits of a group. But meant I could take breaks as needed
3 – was a new one on me. Was pretty much sure it was the onset of Shermer’s Neck, something I’d not had before. But as I’d breached my longest ride distance at Thirsk at 1000km I was now 200km into uncharted territory. Taking my helmet off and switching to a buff seemed to help, plus is helped a bit with 2 as I could now tip water over my head.
About 15 minutes out from St Ives I could feel myself starting to go light in the head. So I spent 15 minutes sat in a bus shelter cooling down enough to continue. This wasn’t boding well as we weren’t even at midday yet. Struggled into St Ives and had to spend many minutes with my hands and arms under a cold tap to try and bring my temperature back under control.
Riding out from St Ives the temperature just kept climbing and climbing. I was doing my best TDF rider impression with my jersey flapping open, not a pretty sight. Having stopped roughly every 20 minutes I eventually decided that the better option might be to have a siesta through the main heat. Thankfully Kingston village green had a nice bench under a tree, so I settled down for an hours rest.
Caught the back of a train as I set off and followed it to the next village shop, where we all stopped for fluids and ice creams. I then repeated my stop start riding style. By now my neck was starting to become a bit more of a problem. I was having problems looking much more than 6 foot in front of my wheel. Not a problem on a reasonably smooth flat roads, and about my normal climbing position on the steeper climbs. But going downhill, especially steep rough downhills were becoming a problem. I managed to find a sort of compromise standing position where I could descend and see, but keep my centre of gravity low enough to make cornering safe.
Boy was I glad to see Great Easton control hove into view. I was greated by a sweet little Cockapoo, and walked into what looked like a kids party. Sweets, crisps, cakes, rolls and finger foods as far as the eye could see. And just across the road was parked an ice cream van. This was my sort of penultimate control. I stayed long enough to cool off, and to make sure that the last 45km were going to be done in the cooler evening hours.
This seemed to pay off as I wasn’t suffering from the heat any more, but the neck was getting worse. The frequent stopping plan was dusted back off and seemed to be doing the job. Dark fell again, but didn’t seem so bad as we were in the streetlight zone and knew it wouldn’t last that long. The last few miles once we’d crossed the M11 seemed to take forever, and a very slight course deviation just before the finish didn’t help too much.
And then we were back at the school. Stumbled off the bike and into the Arrivee. The helpers stamped my card, took it off for sending to Paris (BRM events are approved by ACP in paris) and I was given my finishers medal. Then it was a short stumble into the canteen for the final free feed of the ride. All done and dusted in 107 hours and 41 minutes.. Not bad for someone who had started with no real plan to finish, just to see how far they could get.
Was good to catch up with various friends old, and new from the ride. It would have been a good place to hang around with a beer or 4, but I had a lift waiting for me. And that was the end of my London Edinburgh London 2013.
My stats for the ride (via Greenbank’s rider tracker):
|Control||Time||Total Dist||Total Elapsed||Stage Dist||Stage Time||Stage AvgSpd||Time in Hand|
|0.Start||Sun Jul 28 10:00:00 2013||0 km||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|1.St.Ives||Sun Jul 28 13:40:02 2013||99 km||3h 40m 2s||99 km||3h 40m 2s||27.00 kph||4h 30m 58s|
|2.Kirton||Sun Jul 28 17:00:24 2013||180 km||7h 0m 24s||81 km||3h 20m 22s||24.26 kph||7h 49m 36s|
|3.Market.Rasen||Sun Jul 28 20:38:16 2013||246 km||10h 38m 16s||66 km||3h 37m 52s||18.18 kph||9h 49m 44s|
|4.Pocklington||Mon Jul 29 03:15:06 2013||336 km||17h 15m 6s||90 km||6h 36m 50s||13.61 kph||10h 10m 54s|
|5.Thirsk||Mon Jul 29 09:09:05 2013||401 km||23h 9m 5s||65 km||5h 53m 59s||11.02 kph||9h 37m 55s|
|6.Barnard.Castle||Mon Jul 29 13:19:05 2013||468 km||27h 19m 5s||67 km||4h 10m 0s||16.08 kph||10h 57m 55s|
|7.Brampton||Mon Jul 29 18:24:10 2013||550 km||32h 24m 10s||82 km||5h 5m 5s||16.13 kph||12h 35m 50s|
|8.Moffat||Mon Jul 29 23:01:04 2013||624 km||37h 1m 4s||74 km||4h 36m 54s||16.03 kph||14h 6m 56s|
|9.Edinburgh||Tue Jul 30 08:27:55 2013||705 km||46h 27m 55s||81 km||9h 26m 51s||8.57 kph||11h 19m 5s|
|10.Traquair||Tue Jul 30 11:24:53 2013||745 km||49h 24m 53s||40 km||2h 56m 58s||13.56 kph||11h 52m 7s|
|11.Eskdalemuir||Tue Jul 30 14:30:36 2013||791 km||52h 30m 36s||46 km||3h 5m 43s||14.86 kph||12h 32m 24s|
|12.Brampton_Return||Tue Jul 30 17:56:16 2013||849 km||55h 56m 16s||58 km||3h 25m 40s||16.92 kph||13h 53m 44s|
|13.Barnard.Castle_Return||Tue Jul 30 23:56:28 2013||933 km||61h 56m 28s||84 km||6h 0m 12s||13.99 kph||14h 45m 32s|
|14.Thirsk_Return||Wed Jul 31 09:32:23 2013||1000 km||71h 32m 23s||67 km||9h 35m 55s||6.98 kph||10h 37m 37s|
|15.Pocklington_Return||Wed Jul 31 14:53:09 2013||1065 km||76h 53m 9s||65 km||5h 20m 46s||12.16 kph||10h 40m 51s|
|16.Market.Rasen_Return||Wed Jul 31 19:59:51 2013||1150 km||81h 59m 51s||85 km||5h 6m 42s||16.63 kph||12h 32m 9s|
|17.Kirton_Return||Thu Aug 1 02:31:56 2013||1218 km||88h 31m 56s||68 km||6h 32m 5s||10.41 kph||11h 38m 4s|
|18.St.Ives_Return||Thu Aug 1 11:09:33 2013||1299 km||97h 9m 33s||81 km||8h 37m 37s||9.39 kph||9h 39m 27s|
|19.Gt.Easton_Return||Thu Aug 1 17:55:02 2013||1373 km||103h 55m 2s||74 km||6h 45m 29s||10.95 kph||8h 59m 58s|
|20.Finished||Thu Aug 1 21:41:43 2013||1419 km||107h 41m 43s||46 km||3h 46m 41s||12.18 kph||8h 58m 17s|
And some lovely visualisations of my trip from Jo on YACF: