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!


  1. Hardcore! Well done you! A few friends of mine did it last year and one of them described it as the hardest thing he's ever done. Can't believe all the abuse, disgusting and lucky that you weren't hurt when you fell. Great photos - gonna do it again next year?

  2. Tough yes but I reckon my Lisbon Half Marathon experience in 2010 was tougher mentally. At no point on the ride did I want to give up. During Lisbon, I wanted to a lot. Next year I reckon is a must

  3. Nice one! I didn't take any photos, so liked seeing yours: didn't it say ' Dunwich 71' on the other side of that sign :) Did you stop for a bacon sarnie in that house somewhere past Coddenham? Nice cuppa there.. and also in The Fox in Finchingfield!

  4. Epic cycle! Cycling 120 miles is difficult enough but cycling though the dark much be even tougher. I have my IronMan tri in two weeks time and have only cycles 120 miles once - after 6 hours of solitary peddling I felt like I wanted to kill myself I was so bored. Have you forgotten the pain and the boredom of the ride enough yet to sign up for next year?

    Running Blog

  5. Yep that's the sign. Someone had added a '1' to it to break my spirit. They nearly suceeded.

    Ross88guy, pain has gone. Bring on 2012!

  6. Just back from my 6th DunRun - have only missed 2010 in 7 years. Did my "fast" one while still only 39, finished a smidgeon before 6am, now just glad to make it to the end.
    These days I stay at the Youth Hostel and go off on a week long cycling jaunt round East Anglia, North Norfolk, etc, finally getting home the following Sunday. Very relaxing.
    Will definitely be there next year, barring disaster.

  7. Brilliant, I love the photo of the folks on the beach. You forgot to add something VERY important to your list for next year: a flask of tea! Well done, I know how much you've been looking forward to it.

  8. Hello, what a great article, fun photos. My other half did this event for the first time this year. He rode a few extra miles to Southwold to meet up and arrived at 7am looking like a spaced-out, exhilarated and exhausted ghost.

  9. That's got to be the most honest account of the DD I've read. Pain as well as pleasure. Great beach pics.

  10. Nice write-up and photos. I have heard so much about this ride in the past that I have decided to give it a go this year. I am not a stranger to log distance rides or endurance events so I don't think I will come across any mental challenges. The thing that has drawn me to do this ride the fact that is it unorganised unlike most of the events I do, so the lack of competition I think is what makes the atmosphere of this ride special (that's what I have been told) Reading your account and your riding friend seems to confirm that. The only thing I would say you need to eat every hour on long rides or your body will no refuel in time.
    Good luck if you are doing it in 2012 I will be there.

  11. I have decided to go for it this year on June 30, 2012. I have ridden 60 miles several times and once did an 80mile ride from Cambridge to Norwich. I have some questions of those who have done this ride before:

    1. How challenging is it to stay awake all night? Does the adrenalin keep you awake or do you need regular doses of caffeine? As drinking coffee makes you pee and lose fluids, you must need to drink lots more than you can carry and as it is not an organised ride, are there enough places open at night to get water/drinks along the way?

    2. I want to understand if the main challenge is the distance or also the hills. Are there many hills or is it mostly flat.

    3. I have never ridden long enough or without any refreshement stops to wear a backpack to carry sufficient supplies. Would you say it is better to carry a backpack with coffee, food, layers or stay lightweight and rely on couple of bottles in the cages and energy bars in a small pack on the seatpost?

    Would greatly appreciate any views!

  12. Anon, see below. Hopefully this gives you a better idea.

    1: that depends on whether you're a night owl or an early bird. I'm an early bird so I struggled between 1-4am but kept going with water/snacks etc and this year will put a bit of music on. Grant, my fellow rider is a night owl and seemed to find the toughest bit between 4-6am when I was on a bit of a high. Too much caffeine will result in an energy crash at some point so be careful not to overdo it. Sing to yourself, chat with other people and sip on those drinks. Just don't overdo it. There's hardly anywhere open to buy things that I remember. We carried everything we wanted/needed

    2: main challenge is definitely distance and time of night. The hills aren't anything to worry about really.

    3: back pack definitely. It's not a race so just enjoy the ride and have the things you want when you want them. There are a few hardcore riders that do it on bottles and gels but they are the minority rather than the rule and tend to do it for speed. That isn't me. I intend to have a flask flu of tea as that's what I craved the most last time. Not exactly the serious cyclist.


  13. Thanks that was very helpful!