Monday, 18 July 2011

Hell of a ride - Dunwich Dynamo 2011

I've now written 3 first sentences to this post. This is by far, the worst so I will move on quickly. Very soon after London to Brighton 2010, I stumbled onto something that mentioned this insane ride through the middle of the night from Hackney to Dunwich Beach on the Suffolk coast. Ooh, ooh, I said to Grant, 'we could do that next year, wouldn't that be cool'. This weekend was 'next year' and it was time for Dunwich Dynamo 19.

I went through every emotion the week prior to this ride. Nervous, excited, scared. It was a bit of the unknown from the riding in the night, the distance was by far the longest I'd ever ridden and going without any sleep which I hadn't done since The Boy was born.

It started pretty badly as the restaurant Grant had booked for us to carb load prior to the start wasn't actually open. Plan B came into effect which was pub meal under massive umbrellas trying to avoid the torrential downpour happening around us. Following that, it was up to Hackney to firstly avoid having our bikes stolen and secondly, start the ride.

The first 30 odd kilometres are through East London and out through Epping. Most of the drivers are fine but there are a load of angry little tossers leaning on the horn and shouting abuse out of the window. Also, I saw a mother driving her young children and allowing one little girl to lean out of the window and shout abuse. You must be a very proud mother and I'm sure your daughter will grow up to become a fine upstanding citizen. Or a politician.

We planned to stop at 50km whether we wanted to or not to refuel and get some energy on board. At 47km and 11pm, there was a lit garage in a little place called Leaden Roding so we ate and drank a little, put our jackets on as the temperature was starting to drop and after 10 minutes, headed off again.

The next 40 or so KM's went by with no major dramas and off we cycled through a few Essex villages from which we received a mixture of high 5's, abuse, flashing drunk 'ladies' and general pub chucking out rubbish. We headed to the closest thing to an official stop point in a village called Sible Hedingham at around 87km to be met with such horrendous queues that we sat on the curb and ate and drank some bits and pieces from our bags instead. I would have actually killed for a cup of tea though.

The next bit was going to be the hardest and the bit I'd feared the most so and about 1.15am, we headed off into the darkness for the next 50ish km run. 5 minutes later, what could have been complete disaster. While riding at a reasonable clip alongside Grant, I suddenly saw, and then yelled to warn those behind me, 'GLASS!'. Instinct took over and knowing Grant was on my right and the left hand side was clear, I quickly went left. Unbeknown to me, a curb had started only a few metres before and I hit it pretty hard and was flung from my bike but luckily just onto a lot of grass. No aches or pains and landing on the soft damp grass was VERY lucky. The bike seemed to be OK too and using a stopped passers by headlight, gave it the once over. All seemed good and we were off within a minute or 2.

5 minutes later I called for Grant to pull over as something didn't feel right and it wasn't. While avoiding the puncture from the glass, the force of hitting the curb with the sidewall of the tyre had caused a puncture. Time for what Grant described as his worst nightmare. Mechanical problem on an unlit road at 2am. No need to thank me buddy, that's what I'm here for! A new tube and a compression CO2 pump later, we were away again with only around 15mins lost.

This part of the ride was tough though. The downhills were scary as you couldn't see much, my eyes were very tired and wanted to shut a couple of times and in general, the feeling that apart from some strange people who's lights you can see in front and behind, no one else is stupid enough to be awake. Not quite true but that's how you feel. The uphills were better as you had to work harder and therefore get the blood flowing around your body again. These helped to keep me awake. Then 3.30am arrived and the very first glimpse of light on the horizon. It gives you the perfect little boost and at 4am and with 136km completed we stopped for 10 minutes to refuel and attempt to stop Grant's cranks making the most annoying creak and squeak that had been going on for the last 100km. In case you're wondering, it didn't get fixed.

At around 4.15am, the sun was starting to rise and we were met with this lovely sight. This is why people do these rides.

I was through the worst of it mentally and now it was just time to plug away. Nothing really to report about this part of the ride. The backside was sore, the thighs burnt just a little bit more with every incline but it was all good and to be expected. At 6am, it was rest backside, go for a pee and snack but were back on the bikes within 5 minutes and this was to be the last push. We had in the region of 22-25km left.

At 6:23am, we saw this. I cannot describe the utter joy that this picture brings.

From then on, we picked up the pace and went for it as the end was in sight. All the while, passing numerous riders that were cycling another 50km in the opposite direction to get the train from Ipswich. We're not the mental. We arrived at Dunwich Beach at 6.50, had a post ride hug, locked the bikes up and went off to get some breakfast. Though unable to even start or hold a conversation, after 3 cups of tea, a little food and a dry and warm complete change of clothes, we felt human again for the first time in a while and headed to lie on the beach to await the coach journey back.



All in all, it was fantastic. It was a massive sense of achievement to complete the ride and I'm pretty sure I'll be back next year to complete it again. These little notes are for me if I do it next year.

Take an extra cycling top - A change of top around 2-3am could have really sorted me out as putting the bag on a cold and sweaty top is nasty.
Long socks - Again, pulling them up through those middle of the early morning hours could have kept the chill off the legs (tights would be too warm).
Ipod - One headphone in one ear through the traffic free and quiet hours of 1-4am could have really helped me along and kept me alert.
Lift - Pay someone to drive up and meet me OR take the car up the day before. Waiting 5 hours for a coach for another 3 hour journey is a killer!
Lights - Buy a better set. Although bright enough, lose connections of the cheapies meant going 'dark' just when I didn't need to on a couple of occasions.
Crash - DON'T!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Cranleigh 10k Race Report - Payback time

Last year, I ended my Cranleigh 10k race report with the following words 'I can't wait until next year. I'll be back. This course owes me 17 seconds!' Today was payback day. I remembered this course from last year and knew it was flat so although I haven't done a tremendous amount of miles in the last month I did feel that going under 50mins for the second time in 2 races was a possibility. Could I go under 49:35 for a new PB though... that I wasn't as confident about.

I got Mrs HMC and The Boy up nice and early and headed off through the countryside to the little village of Cranleigh. There we met up with my mate Paul (eatingtrees was due to join us too but as he's completely broken, he had to pull out) and we made our way to the start area with a spring in our step.

You are organised into predicted finish time and then led to the start which is on a pretty narrow disused railway line so a little stony, a little muddy but plenty of shade from the sun. Surprisingly, people seemed to have got into the correct time pens because as we started, there wasn't as much overtaking as you usually get. People just seemed to settle quite quickly into their own races. First KM split was 4:38. WAY too fast. After that, I seemed to settle down and aimed to be under the particular 5 min mark (i.e. 5,10,15,20 etc) at every marker.

There were loads of marshals, loads of signs and 2 very much appreciated water stations. I love this race. The marshals are so encouraging and the runners so appreciative of them. You always here a lot of 'Thank you's'. I did feel a bit for the guy that got the job marshaling through the farm and next to the cow shed though. I picked the short straw. The one small hill appears around 6.5km and lasts for about 30 metres so it's pretty easy and then gone although Paul did mention that you can see it coming from quite a way out which means it affects you more mentally than the actual physical effort of getting up it.

8km passed and I had just under 11 minutes to come under 50 mins. No problem. At 9k, I realised my error. I had slacked off and recorded my slowest KM for the course so far, A 5:30ish!!! Time to dig and push on. I did and ran one of my fastest KM for the last one crossing the line in 49:03. A new PB by 32 seconds so absolutely delighted but annoyingly, knowing that I was only 4 seconds from going under 49mins, is hard to take.

I got a bottle of wine as I passed through the finish area (although I have no idea why, only some people were getting them) but very much appreciated and then turned to See Paul come into the finishing straight setting himself a new PB of 50:40.

Once again, thanks to all the marshals and race organisers. It was fantastic again. I guess there is only one thing to say, I can't wait until next year. I'll be back. This course owes me 4 seconds!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

June was good. Just not so much the 'athon'.

Well Juneathon was a fail. Started to pick up little niggles and then just decided that as I was going on holiday for the last week and a half, I didn't intend to spend that time forcing myself to exercise when there was baguettes and paté to eat and copious amounts of red wine to drink. Therefore, I didn't manage much but with an 85.98km London to Brighton Cycle, my fastest ever run at Crisis, the offer of a new job and a week and a half camping in France, June was extremely good without the 'athon' part. Some amazing stats and huge numbers this year though so well done to everyone that was involved.

Upon returning from eating a lot of baguettes and paté and drinking copious amounts of red wine, I felt Sunday would be a good idea to get on Yolkey and cycle a stupidly long distance. Actually, I really didn't think this was a good idea but as I had a)already agreed to it and b)knew that if didn't do it, I wouldn't be in a position to complete Dunwich Dynamo in 2 weeks, I didn't have much choice. Therefore myself and eatingtrees completed 147.76km in one gear though the hills of Surrey and West Sussex. I'm not going to lie. I had to dig deep. A lot. I found it tough but to be fair, I'd be a little freaked out if I hadn't. It's a bloody long way for a slightly out of shape father to go on a bike. Just shy of 92 miles!! Now we just have to do it all again in 2 weeks and add another 50km to the distance. Joy. On the plus side, it should have a lot less hills. On the downside, it'll be pitch black, through the middle of the night with no sleep. This was something I wanted to do?!?!?