DIY audax: Using self-calculation on a timeline

“You can’t predict but you can prepare” – Howard Marks

 

Self-Calculation and Using a Timeline. These are without a doubt two of the most important things I have learned whilst riding DIY audax events. They came about after I rode a 1400km DIY from Bath to Lindisfarne and back in May 2016. Up to then whenever I entered a DIY audax I blindly accepted the maximum time allowance listed on the virtual brevet. The problem is: the auto-calculator is sometimes wrong! I found this out the hard way on the Lindisfarne 1400 when I wrongly believed that I only had 98 hours maximum to complete the ride. In fact I actually had over 116 hours but only found that out after I finished thinking I had run out of time. Since then I also benefit from using a Timeline to aid me during the planning stage and also when I am riding the event itself.

So lets start at the beginning and explain that a DIY audax is a permanent event that you can ride at any time pretty much anywhere you want once your proposed route has been accepted by the regional events organiser. I had already successfully completed quite a few DIY’s of distances from 200km up to 600km. I planned this 1400km over the winter of 2015/16 and was advised by Tony, our helpful and friendly regional organiser, how he wished me to submit a non standard distance on the entry form. All went as he suggested and I got my ‘virtual’ brevet as usual. The ‘virtual’ brevet lists the official requirements of your ride such as rider details including name, address and membership number. It also includes the route details you have submitted such as date of ride, distance of ride and control points you will pass through. Just as on a ‘physical’ brevet card you carry on a calendar event. What is different about the virtual brevet is that you never touch it, it is an electronically held record and it includes a ‘zipped’ (electronically minimised) .gpx file of the route you intend to ride.

Here is a copy of a virtual brevet from a recent 200km I rode. As you can see the virtual brevet lists details in 2 main boxes.

 

The upper box contains the rider and ride details and the lower box lists check points. Highlighted by the RED BOX are the distance and Minimum & Maximum Time Allowed based on 30kph maximum speed and 14.3kph minimum speed for the distance of 200km

This is a closer view of that highlighted box. Note that the total distance needs to be at least the ‘Points Distance’ but is often slightly more. 202kms in this instance.

Close up

 

What I had completely forgotten to take into account were the lower minimum speeds required for the longer distances, not catered for on the drop down menu on the entry form. This had an exponential effect on the Maximum Time Allowed for my 1400km DIY. As it had never been an issue until then, I simply did not give it any thought. I just always accepted the time allowances the virtual brevet auto-calcuates based on each submitted distance. In effect it is a spreadsheet.

It was only on the third evening of the 1400km somewhere in Yorkshire that I realised I was struggling to keep up with a schedule I had set myself based on 98 hours. I had built up a 20 hour time buffer after the first day but had hit a bad headwind on the second day and surrendered a substantial chunk of that surplus. On day three I crossed the Yorkshire Dales and had four really hard summits to cross. By that evening I was beginning to have serious doubts about my progress. What compounded the issue was accumulating fatigue rapidly slowing my thought processes and I was struggling to figure out what the problem was.

I recall thinking that the time allowance was either wrong or that I was simply no longer able to ride a 1400km audax ride at the required speed. A quick mental calculation seemed to suggest the time allowance of 98 hours was roughly correct. I arrived at this by figuring that the Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) 1200km randonneur time allowance was 84 hours maximum and add on another 200km at 14 hours and together that would total 98 hours. BUT, I also knew that PBP had a maximum time allowance for the tourist group of 90 hours and I also remembered people saying on the London-Edinburgh-London 1400km I had ridden in 2005 that the longer distance meant a slower average speed requirement which translated into longer optional sleep periods. OR was it that I was now older and just too slow?

I have a vivid memory of stopping at a petrol station for coffee as it got dark and trying to do the maths on my phone calculator. I had always switched off mentally when people went into the detail of all the different ride abbreviations such BP, RM, BRM, etc. as it simply bored me. I now cursed myself for not taking more notice. I made a decison that I would finish the distance no matter what, even if it meant finishing outside the time allowance and a failed brevet attempt. So I eventually finished in 108 hours and 27 minutes. I got home and out of courtesy more than anything I submitted my gps. ride file to Tony Hull, the organiser and explained that I had run out of time. I went to sleep for about 6 hours and awoke to a lovely email from Tony explaining that I had in fact succeeded as the correct time allowance was 116 hours. I had even finished with over 8 hours to spare! Tony realised that the DIY auto-calculator had not taken the non-standard distance into account. I felt a bit stupid but quickly decided to learn from my own mistake. It always pays to own your own mistakes and use them as learning opportunities.

I made a film of that ride as my first attempt at vlogging. A bit cringeworthy but I guess it tells the story!

Lindisfarne

How to self-calculate

By doing a websearch for Audax time allowances a page like this will appear and you will find a PDF of Audax Regulations and Appendices as shown below.

Screenshot_2018-12-30 audax time allowances - Google Search

In section 9.7.1 of this PDF you will find the speed requirements for each of the distance bands as shown below.

Speed bands

In the case of my 1400km DIY you can clearly see that it fits into the 1300 to 1899km band which requires a minumum speed of 12kph. The formula for the maximum time allowance will be: (distance ÷ speed = time). So using my 1402km total distance divided by 12kph, I get 116.83333 hours. Bingo! Next you need to convert the decimal fraction of an hour into minutes and the formula for this is: (decimal fraction x 60 = minutes) as there are 60 minutes in one complete hour. Therefore: 0.83333 times 60 is 49.9998 and you would round that up to 50 minutes. So on my 1400km Lindisfarne ride I actually had a time allowance of 116 hours and 50 minutes.

So all my planning and accommodation booking were out by 18 hours and 50 minutes because the minimum speed required was 12kph and not 14.3kph, all because I had used the DIY entry form in an unconventional way just to enter a non-standard distance. Imagine an airliner on the runway but just a couple of degrees off being centrally lined up as it accelerates. Instead of taking off it would probably end up in a field! Well the Yorkshire experience was like me realising I was heading off a runway. By Oxfordshire the following night I had come off that metaphorical runway, when I was forced to sleep in a church porch for several hours due to complete exhaustion.

So the major lesson learned was that when you are experimenting and pushing the boundaries do not automatically rely on technology as it was not designed with this in mind. After all the ethos of Audax is self-sufficiency and DIY stands for Do It Yourself. Being able to self motivate gives you a terrific advantage.

The Timeline

I view a timeline as punching a hole in the present and using it to look at a point into the future. You can then work backwards using staging posts or markers. A bit like a sniper identifying a distant target and clearly focussing in on it along a sightline. Then lining up a rifle by using sights directly in front of the eye and at the end of the barrel with the target. The distant target becomes fuzzy….but it is still very much there.

So taking my 1400km DIY as an example you can now project 116 hours and 50 minutes into the future and plot it onto a timeline. In my case I use a calendar to calculate what time of what day I will start to find out the cut off time. I started my 1400km DIY at 05:00 on a Monday so that meant I had until 01:50 Saturday. That is 4 complete days plus 20 hours and 50 minutes.

I can now begin to break this down into days and nights. In my case I am quite comfortable riding 300km a day, plus about another 10% at my pace. Much more than that and in my case I suffer from sleep deprivation. So I will try and plan my stops accordingly. That may mean trying to book accommodation around the 330km mark or just deciding that is when I am most likely to tire and be thinking about looking for a bivvy location leading up to that point.

I cannot stress enough how much this knowledge helps. When I tire I am actually prepared for it and better able to cope with it since adopting this strategy. Some refer to this as a pre-mortem approach. Instead of identifying a problem after it has happened, you recognise the probability of it beforehand and so prepare for it. Its like the difference between a check up and an autopsy! This is empowering in such a positive way, especially when tiredness would otherwise be an obstacle to thinking a problem through.

Another benefit of a timeline is you can mentally super impose it over a clockface during the ride itself. In my case I find this really useful as when I tire I find the mental arithmetic more and more difficult. The clockface is much easier to visualise and calculate on. Even on shorter 200 and 300km rides I practice this. Say for instance I ride a 200km ride and have a 14’07” time allowance and I start at 07:00. I now know that my cut off time is 7 minutes past 9 o’clock that night.  The further I progress into a long ride the more I compare the Garmin estimated time remaining figure in hours & minutes to my clockface of actual time remaining to make calculations of how much ‘Real’ time I have in hand. On the longer rides this really does pay dividends when evaluating my progress and gauging how much sleep I can allow myself. I always try to keep a minimum of one hour in hand to allow for any late mechanical problems or to avoid getting stressed at traffic lights or other delays.

This year, 2018 I rode a 1200km DIY between Bath-Great Yarmouth-Aberystwyth-Bath and finished with just 47 minutes in hand. The timeline saved me as I tired rapidly on the final day due to fatigue and lack of sleep. When I had entered this event I had no idea that I would have a 335 mile leg into a strong headwind. I was able to adapt on the road and re-calculate how to proceed on substantially less sleep than hoped for by using my timeline.

It really does work!

1200

Bonus Tip:

Use time as a resource just as you would food or drink.

Think of your time allowance as an asset that you can deploy strategically.

NOT as a time limit which is a liability working against you.

By slightly altering this frame of reference you can give yourself a massively beneficial psychological effect. It’s like a gaining superpower!

 

Happy Adventures…..

 

 

 

 

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Coping strategies long distance cycling has taught me

As I got older and more experienced with pacing myself on long distance rides the mental aspect began to play a greater part as I became aware that due to age I could no longer physically push myself as intensely as when I was younger. As a mate once said, “Andy, you have to realise you are no longer 22.” At the time this was devastating, but gradually over time I realised that it was about coping with change. So I thought I would share some of the strategies I use for when times get tough. Alongside them I will share some personal examples of how I apply them.

1) Break large tasks down into smaller manageble chunks.

Probably the mantra that most people are familiar with although often overlooked. The obvious way to apply this on audax calendar events is to stage your ride between controls. On DIY events which are what I mostly ride these days I had to find a different technique. Technology helps with this as the Garmin I use to navigate by and to log my rides has a progress bar along the top of the screen broken into quarters. A mentor once taught me to break any large task into four quarters. He said that during the first and second  quarters are you are normally excited by the buzz of the event and by the progress you are making. He suggested that mental doubts often creep in during the third quarter, because fatigue and exhaustion are building up but you still have a long way to go. He went on to say that by the final quarter you can often get a lift because the finish is in sight. So, be aware that the third quarter could well be the most difficult and keep mental energy back to compensate for it. I have found this advice so useful in the 25 years since I first heard it.

On multi-day rides I treat every day as a seperate ride in itself to stop myself becoming overwhelmed by the really long distances. Only as I approach the final leg do I begin to think about what I will have achieved. I use the distance of 300km as a kind of ‘anchor’ or internal reference point for each day. That distance is one I am comfortable with at my pace but know that much more than 10% over it and I will be struggling with sleep deprivation. Some riders can cope with no sleep on long rides whilst others of us simply can not. My favourite quote on the matter is when a reporter interviewed Steve Abraham about his Year Record attempt in 2015.

Interviewer: How do you cope with sleep deprivation?

Steve Abraham: I don’t. I sleep.

 

2) Reframe the game

By slightly altering the frame of reference you can significantly change your mindset.

In my case as Audax is essentially a timed event over a set distance, I re-frame one of the main requirements and have found that it gives me an amazing advantage. I NEVER refer to a time limit. Instead I think of it as a Time Allowance. By doing this I turn a liability that is working against me into an asset that I now have control of. You don’t have to be an exceptional time manager and I think about time allowance as a type of budget. I then use money management skills to make sure I don’t run out of time in the same way as I make sure I dont run out of money during the month. To take the budgeting analogy further, just as I don’t blow all my cash in the first week after payday, neither do I expend all my energy in the early stage of a long distance ride. Instead I use self control to build up a bit of credit early on to cater for any uncertainties later on. A type of reassuring safety blanket.

Another favourite way is to calibrate my Garmin to time remaining and distance to go. The time remaining really helps with time management as I can do some mental arithmetic and compare it to my actual time allowance to gauge how I am doing on the road. I visualise a clock face to help with the calculations when I am tired or if the numbers become a bit fuzzy.

The distance to go provides a real mental boost as instead of mileage accumulating to large numbers they are in fact decreasing as I approach my destination. The task appears to be getting smaller as fatigue starts to build. I set little goals such as less than 100 miles to go, less than 100km to go, less than 50 miles to go and so on. The final 10,9,8,7,6, etc. miles always feels amazing as I home in on the finish. Blast off.

It is said that achieving goals releases the neuro-chemical dopamine which some call a happy chemical. So it surely makes sense to set several intermediate goals to help motivate yourself during the long hours of an event. This has helped me a number of times over the years when I would otherwise have been struggling.

 

3) Positive self talk

While initially this may sound a bit pink & fluffy I have found it to be very effective at dealing with negative thoughts when they appear. I treat negative thoughts as just that: thoughts. Self talk is the dialogue that is constantly happening when we are thinking and can be turned around with a bit of effort. Without getting too technical, the amygdala or what is called the ‘fight or flight response’ inside us releases hormones such as cortisol at times of danger or stress. It is natures way of helping us survive dangerous situations but can also be triggered at times of emotional stress or anger. It is why I never engage in negative social media arguments! A 2002 neuro-science study  found that when people use self talk to reassess upsetting situations, activity in their pre-frontal cortex (part of the brain that controls behaviour & decision making) increases in an amount  correalated with a decrease in activity in their amygdala. In other words the study suggests that it is possible to regulate your emotions. Others argue that emotions are nothing more than ‘guesses’ your brain is constantly making and that you aren’t at the mercy of them. That you can literally re-wire your thoughts.

One of that ways you can do this is to imagine you are taking part in an important event such as a marathon or cup final and that your family, friends and colleagues have come to watch. What if, instead of supporting you as you would expect, they shouted things such as, “You look terrible, why don’t you call it a day” or “Why dont you quit and hop in the car and go home, it would be so much easier.” I just cannot imagine how devastating this would feel. So I say to myself, “If I would NOT want other people to say that to me, why on earth would I choose to say it to myself”

You soon come to find that low patches dont last forever and often quickly pass. In fact the high points do not last forever either and this has made me really appreciate and really savour the moment.

 

 

4) Instinct vs. Analysis

I have always been quite instinctive and found that most of my intuition and gut decision making seemed to stand me in good stead. In fact I would get irritated by those who were too analytical. I often thought they suffered from ‘Paralysis by Analysis’ and avoided too much contact with what I considered dithering types. That is, until I crashed and burned a few times (metaphorically not literally!) and those experiences really do teach you deep humility. So in my late 40’s I became an Open University student to try and learn how to be a bit more analytical (and humble).

It was an eye opener and felt like pressing a reset button. I realised that being too skewed in one direction was like swimming with one hand tied behind your back. I swung more towards analysing situations and wanting to know WHY something worked or didn’t work rather than just taking results for granted. Nowadays I consider myself much more balanced in how I operate. It no longer feels like a violent tug-o-war between JFDI & caution. That by mitigating risk, the same level of reward becomes proportionately greater. I suppose I came to realise the goal is to find that magical sweet spot between risk aversion and over confidence. I do not claim to have mastered this by any stretch of the imagination but these strategies I have listed are a combination of personal experiences and applying learning to help find this balance.

 

So those are a few of the things I have learned and the beauty is that you can transfer these skills to other aspects of you life.

Or vice versa…

The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lit  – Plutarch –

 

 

 

 

Free online courses

A list of free online courses I have taken since 2014.

In 2015 I voluntarily dropped out of paid higher education.

Online platforms listed in BOLD (links included)

Courses listed below each platform (links included…..apart from Futurelearn courses which now have time limited access)

PLUS: Some learning resources that I also find useful

 

Futurelearn:

4

3

Screenshot_2018-11-06 Your learning - FutureLearn

2

Upcoming:

5

screenshot_2019-01-13 your learning - futurelearn

Coursera:

Behavioural Finance

 

edX:

Social Psychology

 

IAI:

Hallucinations

Narratives of Empire

 

Khan Academy:

Pixar in a Box

Finance and Capital Markets

 

Athlete Learning Gateway:

Knowledge is Golden

Sports Psychology-Getting in the zone

Sports Psychology-The winning mindset

 

Openlearn:

The Beveridge vision

 

Open Yale:

Financial Markets

 

Open Culture:

Critical reasoning

 

Other Resources:

The Big History Project

Hive Learning

TED – ideas worth spreading

 

 

Setting a goal for 2019

In 2018 my big cycling event was riding a 1200km DIY audax from Bath-Great Yarmouth-Aberystwyth-Bath.

I made a series of YouTube videos about the event from initial planning to updates about training & preparation and then 3 videos about the ride itself. This trip started off quite easy with a beneficial tailwind on day one but then got steadily harder until I was unsure of whether I would finish within the time allowance of 90 hours. I eventually scraped in with just over 40 minutes to spare. I finished exhausted by sleep deprivation and fatigue which was mostly due to long sections of headwind in the middle third of the route. This slow progress meant I had to limit any stopping and ride through the last night without any sleep just to be in with a chance of completing on time.

So, this blog series will be about how I manage fatigue and what I do to keep myself going when the going is hard. It is about what I have learnt through experience, through trial & error and how I have adopted the ideas of others and then adapted them to suit my own needs and to minimise the chances of quitting and giving up.

I already have a big ride in mind for 2019 and this provides a perfect opportunity to use the planning and preparation to explain some of the techniques I use and how I have come to find what does and what does not work for me. Like all learning it is not definitive….it is work in progress.

My plan for 2019 is to ride an End to End from Dover to Cape Wrath as 7 seperate 200km DIY by GPS audax rides back to back.

Screenshot_2018-07-22 Visit Cape Wrath to Dover.png

WHY?

I have found that goal setting and then figuring out how to meet that goal works well for me. It keeps me interested and motivated, or to put it another way; it stops me getting bored and losing momentum. It helps me maintain focus and it also plays to my strengths as I enjoy designing my own custom made routes, the logistics required to pull it off, problem solving and learning new things along the way. Learning from things going wrong in the past has taught me much more in the long run than when things go seamlessly smooth. It also allows me to overlay a potent idea I came across years ago which at first glance seems totally un-related but which I have discovered is anything but. More about that in the next post…

Another main part of WHY is a thirst for adventure and exploring and an appetite for new experiences and powerful memories. Recognition in the form of medals, certificates, kudos or fast times are definitely not what motivate me.

HOW?

I rode from Lands End to John O’Groats (LEJOG) in 1998 as a 2 week cycle tour based on staying in youth hostels (YH). I caught a train from my home in Bath to Penzance and then cycled to the start point at Lands End YH . At the finish I cycled from John O’Groats YH to Inverness and caught a flight back to Heathrow airport and then got a train from Reading to Bath. (I had the only 2 punctures of the whole trip from Bath Spa station back to my house 3 miles away!)

In 2019 I hope to avoid using a train or plane and plan to investigate taking my bike on a coach to the start point and then back from a convenient place somewhere in Scotland. Possibly Inverness ot even Glasgow. I need to research this more and plan to try a few practice trips over the winter, such as a coach to the start point of a 200km DIY somewhere.

I first heard about the alternative End to End from Dover to Cape Wrath (D2CW) about 30 years ago and wondered even then if I may one day ride it. Last weekend I was watching a YouTube video by Idai Makaya about his LEJOG & back ride and was inspired by it. It was during this video that the D2CW idea popped into my head. I did an initial Google Maps route and discovered it was just under 1400km and almost instantly thought, “Why not stretch it out and see if you can make seven days of back to back 200km DIY rides?”

The map at the top of this post is what I came up with. I know for sure it will evolve and change over the coming months but I hope to keep a few basic ideas. Firstly the 200km’s will give me the logistics challenge of planning & preparation I enjoy without the need to ride myself into the ground as a 1400km could possibly do. However, there is the matter of starting 7 seperate events which could work against me. I have never done this many back to back audax days before even though I have done the total distace of 1400km a couple of times. Different pressures and definitely a step into the unknown for me.

Next up, is accommodation. It is very unlikely that I will find Youth Hostels, Travelodges or Premier Inn’s at the stopover points along the route. Therefore I plan to investigate Airbnb for my accomodation needs. As with the coach transport experiment, I plan to do some trial trips over the winter using this type of accommodation at the end of 200km rides. To get a feel for it and discover if there are any problems with this approach.

So, that is the goal I have set myself and it is still in the very early planning stages with much still to figure out. The next post will be about how I discovered this idea when I was a student and how it occured to me about a year later that I could possibly use it as a way to prevent myself quitting or ‘packing’ when things got really tough on long distance cycling events.

The results turned out to be beyond my wildest expectations….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July & August #srrty

Soon after midnight on August 19th I arrived back home and had completed what I had set out to do last September. That was to ride a Super Randonneur Audax series for 12 consecutive months. Quick bit of video with me next to the kitchen clock to record moment then while my wife was sleeping I logged the ride onto Strava, to confirm I had accumulated the required distance, then I crept into bed. Not exactly a fanfare but actually it was just perfect.

In both May & July I substituted 600 rides with 1400 and 1000km distances to make the most of the longer days and to satisfy my thirst for adventure. I had entered the inaugral Mille Pennine 1000km calendar ride on July 1st but life events elsewhere made me decide last minute to DIY my own 1000km from home. Bascially my heart just wasn’t in the MP and I honestly think I would probably been one of the many who did not finish. Of course I will never know for certain but a dose of honesty and gut instinct leads me to think I am right.

The remainder of the July rides went smoothly and for August I decided to make some movies of the final four rides. I was really lucky to be joined by a couple of good mates for the 600 which not only helped enormously but made it one of the most enjoyable.

300km on August 3rd

200km on August 7/8th

600km on August 13/14th

400km on August 18/19th

 

In my original post from last September I wrote, “Most importantly for me is to learn from the experience by writing about my rides….” and that still remains the case. I gained a lot by setting myself a goal and working out how to go about achieving it. One of the big things for me was to use the informality of the DIY system to try different things out and take a few chances.  A bit like friendly football matches really, try new ideas out and if they don’t work use it as a learning opportunity rather than seeing it as a failure. This was definitely the case with my 400km rides. Like many I found that distance the hardest due to tiredness impacting and feeling the pressure to continue without sleep. So I tried using the entire time allowance of 28 hours to build in long sleep stops after 300km then continuing for the final 100km giving myself about an hour in hand for contingency. These night time 100km circuits gave me some of the best ride experiences throughout the year.

I then tried riding this distance as two separate 200km rides with a few hours rest at the halfway point. I also rode a non stop calendar event with friends. By August I was on a roll and decided to try and go for a non stop sub 20 hour 400km ride and managed it with 25 minutes to spare. It was a great way to finish my srrty.

The other area which was important to me was motivation and using strategies I had picked up from other activities such as work and studying to apply to sport. I realised pretty soon into my srrty that I was in a kind of feedback loop where I was ping ponging day to day skills with my cycling activities and vice versa.

I’m not qualified to teach so will not go into detail but can say that techniques that  I learned studying business and finance fitted perfectly into my sport and funnily enough the reverse has happened. I’m now motivated to go on and finish the final two modules of my degree which I had deferred indefinitely due to lack of motivation!

At 56 years old I took my gap year….funny old world isn’t it!

 

 

June #srrty

I thought it may be a nice idea to try something a bit different so this month I will focus on two events that I referred to at the end of my May blog. Namely, a 1400km DIY from my home in Bath to Lindisfarne and back plus a new take on riding a 400km event. This 400km DIY was 2 times 200km circuits bolted together in a figure of 8 with my house as the start, finish and pivot point. Basically I wanted to see if riding 2 x 200 was any easier than 300 + 100 that I had found so beneficial over the winter months. On both these events things went right and things also went wrong so both were good learning opportunities.

The 1400km Lindisfarne DIY came about over the winter when I was thinking of spring and summer 2016 events and trying to keep myself motivated on short dark days. I had been to Lindisfarne a couple of times previously, once cycle touring and once in a car and I wondered if I could create a 1200km ride based on another visit. A quick GoogleMap check suggested I would need to allow at least 1300km or possibly even 1400 to achieve this. What really fired my imagination though was the logistics of arriving at the halfway point within a certain time window to allow me to cross the tidal causeway onto Holy Island just off the Northumberland coast, the geographical location of Lindisfarne, which would almost certainly mean a night visit. The causeway would be open from 10.15 pm until 04.35am, just over a six hour time slot to manage to arrive within and then depart without getting marooned on the island and losing significant chunks of time waiting on tides, at around the 650km mark. In a nutshell I became hooked with taking on this time management challenge.

So this door to door ride that just happened to have two Travelodges that appeared to be ideal stopover rest points all seemed to slot into place and felt very Zen. I contacted Tony, our fantastic regional DIY organiser and sought advice on how to go about entering this un-coventional distance DIY and he provided me, as usual, with superb help and advice. So, I set the departure date for Monday May 9th, 2016  and instantly made quite a huge mistake. As usual I referred to the maximum time allowance on the virtual brevet card of 98 hours and 4 minutes, which is based on the lowest average speed of 14.3 kph. What I failed to realise is that over the distance of 1000km the lowest average speed drops to 12kph and I actually had 116 hours to complete my ride. I take full responsibility for this oversight as not only had I had never read all the rules and regulations, I deliberately turned off whenever such matters arose in conversation and certainly never bothered to familiarise myself with the different categories of Audax rides such as BR, BRM, RM, etc.

I did have a ‘gut feeling’ that 98 hours seemed rather ambitious but on the other hand a mental calculation that the Paris Brest Paris 1200 allows 84 hours at randonneur level and that 14 hours is the time allowance for a 200km ride which totals 98 hours. So in essence the maths seemed to add up and I told myself not to be such a wimp and just to get on with it and ride. Lesson learned the hard way, although this can often be the most effective way. Anyway, I decided that I would attempt my first video-blog, or vlog, during this ride to document my ride and although initially I felt very self conscious talking into my own hand held camera I did ‘sort of grow into it’ and felt more confident after a few days.

So, with that back round of the ride and without further ado here is that vlog

Next up in May I rode a permanent version of The Rough Diamond 300km with a mate on what was a chilly and windy day. It was great to have company and much appreciated by me as I had one of those days where the physical side of the cycling  just felt like hard work. The company and the experience, as well as the drafting, were very welcome. Then a week later over the bank holiday weekend I completed my May Super Randonneur series with a 400km ride. But this 400 was to be different from anything I had tried previously.

As discussed in previous blogs, like many Audax riders I had always found 400km events difficult due to sleep deprivation issues and had found a solution that seemed to work very well for me. I had designed a 400km route that would entail riding 300km, sleeping at my house and then getting up after a few hours rest and riding a night time 100km local circuit. It had worked so well for me it had beaten my wildest expectations and so with this confidence about experimenting I decided to try two 200km circuits in a figure of 8 shape with my house as the pivot point control to allow me to benefit from a mid ride shower, hot food, change of clothes and even a sleep if I felt I needed one. I had even come up with what I considered quite a good theme for this 400km route. A northward circuit up to Upton on Severn. Then a southern night time loop, down to Downton. Unsurprisingly I called it, “Up to Upton & Down to Downton”.

Again I decided to vlog it but this time in two parts (I’m still learning) so here is Part One with an un-camouflaged title reference to Alan Sillitoe and then Part Two.

So, that was May and in June so far I rode a 200km DIY in Cornwall whilst on holiday for a week and then based a 300km DIY around a 100km calendar event I had ridden with a couple of Velo Club Walcot mates two years previously and had always wanted to re-visit. On June 18th I am down to ride a 600km DIY with a mate in a collaboration of routes and planning as we both came up with 300km circuits just as we had done in 2015. Then its another 400km to round off the month, although at this time I have not decided which route to use yet. Then on July 1st alongside many of my clubmates from Audax Bristol its off to ride the inaurgal 1000km Mille Pennines….

 

 

 

 

 

April/May #srrty

Been a while since I last wrote so a good opportunity to look at how I have changed routes and why, also added a couple of calendar events into my year long super randonneur attempt and talk a little bit about equipment and share a technique some call ‘self talk’.

By the end of March I was really becoming aware of how the seasons were changing with signs of spring everywhere. Probably most noticeably for me was that I was riding almost entirely in daylight. Strangely though having got through the winter my enthusiasm started to wane a little and I decided  that to give myself a boost I would change routes.

The winter routes I had relied on kept me on low ground to minimise risk of ice and had never been that far from bail out points such as train stations, a short taxi hop home or calling home for an emergency lift. With the better weather I was now really keen to go further afield, especially into Wales. This really did the trick and gave my enthusiasm a much needed shot in the arm. I also swapped from my winter bike back onto my summer bike which made riding seem much easier. I had decided not to ride too many calendar events in 2016 and in January I sat down with a mate and discussed a few we were both interested in.

So in April I rode the Heart of England 300km from Cirencester which has always been a favourite of mine. Looking at a regional map it appears to visit quite built up urban areas in the midlands. What it does in fact is use mainly minor roads to explore places you would not normally consider ideal for cycling. The first time I rode this I was blown away by it and have been ever since for exactly that reason. Taking a false assumption and blasting it out of the water. This years Heart of England caught us out by snow settling on the first stage over the high ground in the Cotswolds. Like others I spoke to, my chain skipped due to my cassette freezing up into a block of ice. It did warm up soon after the first control and ended in a glorious sunset.

My April 600km DIY went well until descending a steep hill with uneven road surface I heard a thud from my back wheel and wondered if a spoke had broken. Almost immediately I heard that familiar ‘ping’ as a spoke did go and the wheel buckled. I thought, “how strange is that? I was only just thinking about a possible broken spoke.” I soon reached Wotton under Edge and pulled in to loosen some other spokes to remove the worst of the buckle only to find two spokes had gone. So that seemed to explain the mystery. It was only when I stripped the wheel down at home I noticed that a section of the hub had sheared off around the two spoke heads.

Next calendar event was another of my favourites, the Brevet Cymru 400km in Wales. I was actually a bit nervous starting this as it was on April 30th, the last day of April, so if anything went wrong I would not be able to ride another 400 in time to salvage my #srrty. It was nice to ride with a couple of ACB clubmates, one of who was riding it for the first time. It was windy on the way out to the coast and then after dark it got very cold with clear skies. The upside was that the companionship was excellent, the stars were amazing and I had got myself some reaction glasses that meant I did not have to wear contact lenses for 20 plus hours. The glasses exceeded my expectations and for probably the first time on this ride I did not suffer from sleepiness. Too early to say for sure but it has made me wonder if eye strain has played a bigger part than suspected in my sleep deprivation issues. More long rides needed before making any sort of judgment.

In previous blogs I have written about keeping a positive mindset and how it helps me, especially at times of stress. Another technique I use is ‘Self Talk’ which is really just using my own thoughts to boost morale. When cycling I think a lot and my mind wanders all over the place and I often use the time to think things through and it is a time when I often develop ideas. Some worthy, some rubbish but ideas nonetheless! Of course as I get tired or sore it is easy for these thoughts to start focusing on negatives but it does not have to be this way. A tip I got from a qualified sports pyschologist is to visualise friends, family & colleagues lining the route to support you. Now imagine if they shouted out, “Andy you look terrible, your legs are so  tired, are you sure you want to continue, why not consider quitting, why continue if its this difficult.” It is just hard to imagine how utterly terrible this would be. So why would I want to say these things to myself?

Instead you can use tiredness and fatigue to make your thoughts positive by confirming this is what you expected and something would actually be wrong if you were not feeling this way by pushing your own boundaries. Have some positive thoughts ready to counter each negative thought. Such as, “Yes, I am feeling tired but I have plenty of food and water with me so I will not run out of energy” or “my bike and me are well tested and experienced so no matter what is coming I am prepared for it.” It helps if you reflect on previous negative thoughts, write them down and spend some time thinking of a positive counter argument ready for when you really need them. Write each positive response down next to each negative thought so they are inexticably linked and you don’t forget them.

The most stressful part of the #srrty so far was crossing the Severn bridge for a loop over to Chepstow on my January 600km about 35 miles from the finish. Day one had icy cold winds, day two started off with ice on the roads and towards the end I rode in ice cold rain. The Seven bridge both ways was like riding in an ice cold power shower with winds battering me and masses of spray coming from surface water and was some of the hardest cycling I have even done. Even then my thoughts turned to a mental pat on the back by confirming to myself that starting this challenge in September had been such a wise move as I already had several months in the bag and by the mid winter stage I was ready for anything. It just confirmed that my planning and attention to detail had paid off big time.

On May 5th I rode a DIY 200km and the next few weeks involve riding a 1400km DIY to Lindisfarne and back instead of a 600km ride in May. I planned this during the winter months and start on Monday May 9th. My 300km for May is riding a permanent version of the Rough Diamond with a mate and then I have a new 400km DIY which again I hatched up during the winter and have been waiting until spring to ride. Plenty to keep me occupied and excited about…