First thing first, here’s a couple of decision I’ve made prior to the ride, and how to tackle it, I decided to take it easy and soaking up the view, I decided not to have any bag drop, as I like to do the whole thing self-supported, and the idea of carrying all the stuff back to London really doesn’t sound appealing.
I never recorded the route on my GPS that’s used solely for navigation nor have a bicycle computer, I find it’s preferable to not worry too much about wattage, calories consumption, average speeds etc. and just go by feel which so far worked well for me.
Oh and I forget the chamois cream, the keys for the quick release security skewer (made for nervous night riding) and not replaced the wonky rear derailleur whose limiter screw doesn’t push it further way to stop it rubbing on the two largest cogs, serve me right for buying a second hand derailleur, but ditching the 9 speed Dura Ace set-up was the best move I’ve made, especially from indexed to friction shift.
DAY ONE (336km)
London to St Ives
30 minutes after leaving Loughton, I’ve witnessed a driver ploughed down a cyclist on the opposite lane, causing the cyclist to be catapult into the pavement as the minibus swerve (too late) out of the way.
It was cause by the huge blind spot between the driver and the McDonald burgers he was eating while driving, the cyclists came out pretty well considering, gave him some first aids, exchange details and after 45 minutes, head off to St Ives.
St Ives - Kirton
Signed in first control, have a bit to eat, spoken to Vesalius while we were admiring some of the bicycles, I head off a little earlier, as I want to spend less time in checkpoint and more time riding, I need to pace myself carefully so the return legs won’t be taxing.
Stunning days, very flat but riding with a group and having a tailwinds mean it’s over before I realised it, phone got stolen when I stop for a quick piddle, bit annoyed, not by the loss of my phone but I was intending to use it as my main camera which I highly regret missing so many awestruck view that look amazing to photographs.
Kirton - Market Rasin
Such a long straight road, I never noticed it due to riding with some others, nothing much to says really beside some stunning villages en route, met up with an awesome (and later learnt after talking to them at Market Rasin) German couple on a matt black actually decent looking Raleigh tandem, they kept beckoning me to suck their wheels (fnar), but I declined as they’re seriously fast and I’m trying very hard to resist the temptation of pushing a little too hard, waved them goodbye as they disappear into the Fen after 40 minutes, the road was that straight, meet up with Vesalius again.
Market Rasin - Pocklington
This is where it turn sour for me and lose the H group (the group that start at 7:30), I was aiming to reach Pocklington before 1am, but having not much sleep the night before after a very busy day at work, and taking a very strong prescribed painkiller, I would put it down to bonking but to be honest, it feel very much like being too tired. After crossing the huge Humber Bridge which was a sure sign of how far I’ve gone, I started to dozed off every 15-30 minutes, by 12am, I almost crashed, I decided to find a shelter to sit down and have a quick 15 minutes nap, found a garden gate with an arch, laid down plastic bag, put on down jacket and promptly went to sleep as the flickering light of the other randonnees went by.
Woke up, feel a bit better, an hour later, started dozing off again, repeat process at a bench in a villages, 30 minutes this time, woke up due to being a bit cold (I find this is easier than an alarm to force yourself to get moving again).
The nearer I got to Pocklington, the more I kept falling asleep, I sat down on a bench to re-assist my situation, check the GPS, turn out the control is only 10-15 minutes away, drank load of water and energy gels, head off again.
Arrived at 3:59, extremely late, quick bite to eat, found a nice little bit of floor, and slept for 2 hours woken up to the fresh morning smell of the musky socks and jerseys.
DAY TWO (288km)
Pocklington - Thirsk
Woke up feeling very refreshed, grab some banana, got some strange look when I open them upside down (it’s easier), then left for Thirsk, lovely rolling hill, becoming more pronounced as I rode on, mostly by myself, arrived at a good time to make up for losing so much time the night before, I saw a sign that said “danger, tractor turning” before the control, I chuckled after remembering someone referred to my tyres as a tractor tyres when I didn’t understood why he couldn’t rode through roadwork in Wales (his racing tyres will get shredded within five metres), the great thing about the night ride is how drastic the landscape have changed, almost as if you were propelled suddenly into another county.
Thirsk - Barnard Castle
The awesome Yorkshire route with road that befuddled the European, while in Europe they have hairpin bend, but in the UK, we don’t do this, we just build the road on the hill and head home for teas, it was real fun going up and down Yorkshire with the massive tyres doing all the work preventing the rear from bouncing at high speed downhill, the handlebar bag and the granny gear (30/28) allowed me to comfortably climb a what feel like a 20% climb without snaking it.
It’s a nice discovery that I don’t start panting in dire need of oxygen at every hill, of course it wasn’t easy, but a nice feeling to find out, going through Howard Castle was a pleasure, never been to Yorkshire properly, was in for a real treat almost as if it’s an early Christmas present all wrapped up in one route.
Ball of my feet is getting sore.
Arrived at Barnard Castle, found a shop, bought some shim to put under your feet, not a great solution but far better than the paper I’ve used before, that town is probably the start of those typical small town of the North, if you ignored the amount of fuckwit trying to find a parking space so they can visit the castle.
Rear derailleur is bothering me, went to talk to the mechanic, we concluded that a new derailleur would be idea, the mechanic praised my choice of set-up (7 speed friction shifter) as he removed the defunct Campagnolo Racing T derailleur with a rather pitiful looking Suntour XC derailleur, but it worked beautifully, note to self; replace the jockey wheels.
Rear wheels trued a little, otherwise the picture of health.
What am I going to do with 5 quick links? Not many people ride with 8 speed chains, decided to ditch the 3 and keep 2.
Barnard Castle - Brampton
That’s the most amazing part of the ride where I finally found some Reese pieces in Middleton-in-Teesdale, peanut butter cup is my main source of fuel, although suitable for the winter, it’s a nice little treat to have.
The slow but lovely climb match with an awestruck view was spectacular on Yad Moss, rode with some others as we were going at a similar paces, the way down to Alston was a fairly short descend, brilliant as it meant the return legs I get to spend more time on the descend, Alston was build on a rather steep hill with clobbered road, nothing I can’t handle (although lowering the tyres pressure would be beneficial), but looking behind me I realised the poor sod I rode with have to get off and walk down on his 23mm tyres, offered him some painkiller, he declined, sensible chap, stop for a quick fruit snack (melons), then head off to Brampton on the lovely Cumbria road.
Brampton - Moffat
Moffat is where I would be staying the night at instead of Edinburgh, mainly because of it’s extremely long straight truck road that’s I feel suitable for the night ride, it allowed me to keep a good average speeds.
Scotland Welcome You appear after I sped pass it through a rather ramshackle Northern town, a real treat for those who never been to Scotland, observing the beautiful cultural 80’s pubs on the outskirt of the town surrounded by poorly maintained hatchback cars and men dressed as teenagers with too many logos scattered around their clothes and bodies.
Stopped at a service station for another Reese Piece, Red Bull and get some cash, "Don’t worry, only 10 miles to go!" Said the lady at the tills, it’s odd to hear the locals ask about the ride, how many hours I have in hands, and taking photos for the Instawitters of the world, especially when it come to audaxes.
6 miles away from the control, I noticed a massive pool of broken glasses on the road which look to be from a windows, realising several other riders were behind me, I stopped there for 30 minutes to prevents 15 riders from getting punctured and directed them into the clear pavement till they’re cleared of the debris, despite the language barriers and one rider ignored me (then got punctured, served him right), it worked, after 30 minutes is up, I head onto Moffat, can’t stay otherwise I’ll have less time in hands and really looking forward to a good kips.
I somehow pissed off a group of Danish cyclists for riding right in the centre of the lane instead of the rather pitful cycle lane (I really don’t want punctures), I think I did pissed them off because as soon as I overtook them, I heard some shouting and see the shaking of the headlight going left and right in violent motion as if they’re strangling what left of their carbon handlebar, I ignored them and press on to Moffat at midnight for a good night sleep.
DAY THREE (227km)
Moffat - Edinburgh
Awesome sleep, didn’t have a shower let alone a wash for the entire duration, moment I lied down on the air mattress, I blacked out till 6am (I think), ate a bit, piss a bit, shit a bit, and straddle the bicycle a bit before leaving the misty control after 7am.
Loved that particular morning.
Those typical morning where it’s chilled and misty with the musk smell of the forest trees and wet tarmac, I was wearing my down jacket underneath the rain jacket to warm up quickly, it worked, took off the down jacket, carry on climbing out of Moffat and Scotland herself slowly revealed in front of my eyes; the side-boobs of the cycling world, where the woman slowly revealed her lovely curled back with her slender arm wrapped around her chest only seeing the slight concave shaped of her breast, seeing the whole thing would ruin it, but that moment allowed you to fully admired the shape, flaw and colour of her skins.
That’s the best I can describe that particular morning to Edinburgh, and it was fast, like real Di2 electronic jobbies plastic fantastic fast.
Fuck, I miss my girlfriend.
Nearing Edinburgh now, awesome, massive descend, even more awesomer, ach fuck, gotta gear down, massive ascent, ah now got a nice little desc… no fuck, drop the gear again, is this is the last hill? yes it is, hello control, here’s my brevet card.
Edinburgh - Traquair
Except there’s a reason why it’s a mere 42km, lots of climbing, which wouldn’t put anyone off, even with the wind smacked against your face as you reach the first summit, but having over 700km in your legs, it felt like the first day at school when you don’t know how to reach to each pedals stroke, assisting how to tackle the next two controls, and pretty much clueless to what the route is like - I have never studies the route at all, I just upload it to the GPS and hope for the best, it worked for me in the past, ignorance is a blessing when you passed others with a certain look in the faces as they knew exactly what’s going to happen in the next 125km to Brampton, that very same look of a person who have the same factory jobs for his entire life printing out dead trees for us to throw away the moment it come through the letterbox talking about an amazing deal on vacuuming
I look like I’ve just rolled out of the ferry with a huge backpack and a stupid fucking grin staring into the unknown of the world ahead of me.
Needless to said, I’m glad of my ignorance, it was hard going, especially without a train to follow, the landscape oddly remind me of the Pennines Way, again ignorance thinking Scotland is all jagged and rocky like Glen Coe.
Great cakes too, like really great that they decided the best way to provided information to the randonnees is by the medium of cake telling us we got a little over 600km left to get back to London, I really wish all audaxes were like that, how awesome would that be? Quick porridge with whisky in them and I’m off like a Rapha sample sales.
Traquair - Eskdalemuir
A harsh lesson with reality, formerly known as abstraction till it came out of the closet all gun blazing with lots of make-up declaring he like reality tell me that the next second won’t be a picnic.
After the brisk emptiness of the last legs, it was a welcome sign to see trees in bizarre formation as if they’re lined up in Gettysburg ready to attack the other group of trees in the vicinity, I hated the deforestation, even though those trees were grown for the timber industry, it left a rather beak scar on the landscape, fortunately not enough to deterred me from the beauty of Scotland, until then a large truck screamed past me carrying heap of timber, cripe that shook me up.
I loved this route, since Edinburgh it have been a rather long spasmodic climb that doesn’t feel like climbing, it kept giving me the impression I’m still within the sea levels, suddenly a massive Tibetan monastery, the huge white dome glittering surrounded by the forest was an awesome sight realising that I’ve just approached Eskdalemuir, and not Tibet as I thought.
Eskdalemuir - Brampton
Mug of scaling coffee, bananas and biscuit and off back to England, getting out of Scotland was much more pleasant than the previous night of entering her (fnar), got a bit of a downpour that last all day. After passing Longtown I recognised the route and gotten a little excited and daunted realising that not only I’m on the return legs for real, but right at the beginning as if I’ve just left Loughton.
Really got to reproof my lightweight jacket, I got a text from the girlfriend on Sunday whom was praising her Rapha jacket last Saturday for keeping her completely dry during a thunderstorm despite her jean being completely soaked, I envy her.
Part of me was hoping to keep riding to Barnard Castle, but upon reflection, I rather ride the Pennines Way in daylight, after all it’s not a race, and the LEL is the ultimate way of seeing the entire countries in a short space of time, I arrived at Brampton at a great time, at that moment I have a lots of time left.
Grab a bite to eat, quick wash, a piddle and logged into the hall to sleep till 3:00, a perfect time to arrived at Yad Moss just as the sun rise, I was really excited for that.
DAY FOUR (302km)
Brampton - Barnard Castle
Volunteer came in, he look nervous, showed me his watch, it said 6:48.
My voice carried through the hall waking up some of the others, I had a wake-up call for 3:00, but they somehow forget to wake me, Richard (the volunteer who woke me) worked out that I were late and figured out I may have overslept, he noticed my bicycle by the mechanic stand where I left it to prevent the saddle from getting wet by the rain, hunted for me in the sleeping areas and woke me up.
Nine hours of sleeping, that’s longer than my regular sleep, let alone in an audaxes, I surely must set the record for sleeping the longest in an audax.
Nine fucking hours.
Got dressed, grab a couple bananas, thanked the volunteers, reassured them that it happened and it’s a big event and such mistake are bonds to occurred, waved goodbye, and out of Brampton at 7am.
I got 84km to reach to Barnard Castle through Yad Moss, the cut off time was 12:30, I made good time still feeling the fresh morning air that motivated me, I loved how smooth and fast the bicycle feel on damp tarmac, got to Alston, going to enjoy this, climbed the entire road on 30/28, I love challenge like this. Head up to Yad Moss (climb was indeed shorter), and enjoyed soaking in the warm glow of the sun in the chilled morning all the way down to Middleton-in-Teesdale to grab a drink, no Reese Piece, someone ate them all, the bastard.
Arrived Barnard Castle with an hour and a half in hands, cutting it fucking short.
Barnard Castle - Thirsk
Pop down to a local bicycle shop, they got the tools to removed the Pinhead skewer, took five minutes to do both, put on cheap quick release, feel much more relieved.
It rain, a bit, then too much, and then a little bit, then it fucking pour. I’ve managed to dry off my jersey and jacket back in Brampton, I must have felt what other did when they took EPO after feeling extremely refreshed and powerful, like nothing hurt kind of powerful, I tackle Yorkshire a lots better than I did on the Northbound legs, I enjoyed it even more this time, despite the rain and massive puddle appearing out of nowhere like a peds through Oxford Circus, it was exhilarating, this is one of those day where you acutely seek out for rain.
Got to Thirsk, now have more time in hands, but not enough to give me a margin for error (mainly puncture), stayed there for 15 minutes, my right shin hurt, later told it might be a shin splint, never felt it on the bicycle, but jayus, it fucking there when I walked.
Thirsk - Pocklington
Only 66km, should make it there in a good time, must keep spinning, I can’t put out a lots of effort otherwise the ball of my feet start to hurt badly.
Had a bit of a North by Northwest moment where a Cessna flew really low from behind into the airfield in front of me, obviously it would have to hit the hedges and trees before it can touch me, but a rather cool moment.
Pocklington - Market Rasin
That’s probably a bit of a hard struggle, I managed to recognised the route from the first night and vividly remember the exact place I slept, especially in the little garden archway that’s now filled with puddle (oh yes, it was raining, funny how I forget about this), crossing the Humber Bridge again is a great boost, it’s only then you can truly feel you’ve cross the borders from North to South, I find this more of a moral boost than entering and leaving Scotland.
After the grand and modest Humber Bridge, the climb to Market Rasin was a steady and arduous legs that a little tricky to see ahead at night to gauge what’s coming up, just the same old rolling hill, until approaching Market Rasin was greeted with a great descend lightly feathering the brake to wash off the moisture, it was great.
Got in, stamped and realised I actually bought myself much more time in hands, meaning a quick nap on the floor of the mess hall till 3:30, then it’s time for London.
DAY FIVE (265km)
Market Rasin - Kirton
Too much wind, I don’t have a train to hide into, I feel in form, plenty of strength left despite depleting a lots of it to get more time in hands. But Jesus the Holland Fen was a real deal killers, miles upon miles of straight flat road with a big headwind that I’ve never realised in the first day as I was carried by a tailwind (also explain why everyone was doing so well too), I hated the flat, I hated the wind, I hated the severe lack of turn, I want to turn the bicycles but I can’t, best I can do is riding zig zagging on the empty tarmac but that suck more energy out of my legs, I daren’t check my GPS to find out how much more I have to ride, best not to, great decision, as it was a lots longer than I thought.
Been riding for 3 hours, think it’s time to check the GPS, look like Kirton is nearby, excellent, nice little boost there, kept up my average speed and arrived in Kirton before 07:00, even more time in hands, feeling much better.
Found more of my H group, due to I oversleeping it in Brampton, they managed to catch up with me, how odd, I would have thought they be ahead of me with their tight knitted group and carbon fantastic bicycles carrying almost nothing (they relied on bag drop and support vehicles), they overtook me and I kept seeing them in each control till Great Easton where I lost them.
Kirton - St Ives
Because of the headwind through the Holland Fen, I was mashing it rather than spinning which cause huge sharp pain on the ball of my feet, the legs to St Ives inflamed it further, despite getting out of the Fen, the wind is still in force and I struggle even on the descent to get to St Ives, but the mere notion that the end is in sight was enough to keep going, that took forever to get there.
No shelter and the hot sun mean I was constantly applying sunblock’s that barely work as the sweat wash it away within hours, I aches for Great Easton.
St Ives - Great Easton
I’ve gotten more malediction in my sentence the nearer I get to Loughton, not going to apologise for that, because fuck you.
I never rode to Cambridge, don’t know why, but Christ, it’s stunningly beautiful with amazing hills, I would be enjoying this so much had it not been for the fact I was quite tired, fed up of the sun (it hit 34 degrees at that day), pain in my feet and thirst for cold water than the two kettles I have inside the triangle of my frame.
Stopped for a moment, took a nap for five minutes, didn’t worked, but feel a bit better, rode on, climb some hills, a bit more, arrived at Barrington, beautiful villages that have hint of how it used to look before they put a road on it. Found a shop, want Calippo, they didn’t have it in their fridge-hold the fucking fort, I found it right at the bottom, removed all the ice lolly and cream, wrestle my hand through the labyrinth of the trays and ice cube and moan in ecstasy as I grasp the sweet long Calippo.
Quickly put everything back, closed the fridge, lady said that Calippo have a bit of a cut on the top, told her I couldn’t care less as long it’s orangely, long and crunchy, she chortle and let me have it for free.
Brought bottle of water, just in case, fill the water bottles up, and carry on my merry way feeling a little betters, trees offer more shade from the harsh reality of the sun, even better.
Saffron Walden is a nice little place, too many tourists for my liking, and feet too sore, hours later I arrived at Great Easton feeling wiped out.
Great Easton - Loughton
Where the fuck did that come? Suddenly I discovered something hidden beneath my legs, I have power, not just power, but huge amount of power. After grabbing a well earned supper (rice pudding with peach, sandwiches, sweets, etc.), my knees was incredibly stiff that I need to keep them moving to soften them up, raise the saddle a bit to “stretch” them out, it worked, 5km in, lower them back again.
That was the most amazing rolling hills I’ve gone through all the way to Loughton, brilliant smooth rode, almost got hit head-on by 3 drivers whom wasn’t concentrating (a sure sign you’re nearing London), have a riding partner whom also a bit of a retrogrouch (woolly jersey, bar end shifter, front bag, non-aero levers etc.), we didn’t speak much to each other, but our attitude is deafened, we worked together to get to Loughton before 11pm, I’m usually in the front as having a GPS mean I don’t have to analysis the route sheet, just see where the road turn off and head to it.
I was flying, like properly flying, I’m a bit taken aback by how alert and normal I feel after nearly 1400km in my legs, the sight of the M25 is amazing, never I thought the M25 is a beautiful piece of structure that whispered “You’re going into London, well shit luck”, 15 minutes later after many bad drivers overtaking and swerving, we got into Loughton, stamped and slumped into the mess hall eating some baguette, I recognised that baguette, didn’t I have a bacon baguette in the morning before leaving Loughton?
Picked up medals, got photo taken by Charlotte so I can send it to my dad as a present, he live for adventures, especially one that take a lots out of you.
Loughton - Wimbledon 40km.
I forget how much of a cunt drivers in London are, got home at 1am, run bath, it gotten murky grey, had a shower to scrub off the filth, couldn’t sleep, then blacked out at half 2.