domingo, 12 de mayo de 2013

Severn Across 400 - English

Severn Across 400
3:45am and it is time to wake up.

I had a hard time trying to sleep. This was going to be my third 400K, the last one I rode was the Hailsham 400, two years ago. Serious stuff.

In my opinion a 400 is the hardest of the Audax distances, even harder than the 600. In the 600 you have time to stop and get some sleep, but in the 400 you ride straight for 24 hours, that's a lot of hours on the bike, many of them riding during the night and sleep depraved (and I ride without caffeine). It was inevitable the excitement make it difficult to sleep the night before.
Big breakfast
Pasta salad, muesli with milk and chocolate milk with cookies. A big breakfast a 4:00am.  Letting the body know this is going to be an unusual day.
Chalfont St Peter community center
At Chalfont St Peter's community center someone mentioned we had wind from the west, that would be mostly mean head wind the first half and mostly tail wind in the second half. I deal I would have never signed to but I didn't have a say on it.

The plan was the same plan I have for all brevets this year. Ride the first 200K as hard as possible to train for the Quebrantahuesos and then survive the rest to train my body to ride when tired for the London-Edinburgh-London (1,400km in les than 5 days).

6:00 am sharp around 40 riders were set off. Very soon I found myself riding at very good pace and, also, that the heart rate monitor not working. 30Km/h the first hour and 30Km/h the second hour. By the time I got to the first control (Km72) my average speed was 28.8km/h, not bad.

The first control was in a caffe so I felt compelled to order something. Hot chocolate it was. Luckily it was not very hot so very soon I was on the go again.

Next control was in Km 145.4 I arrived at 11:30 which meant I have riden at more than 26km/h including stops. That's a great pace for a brevet. The control was again in a caffe so, again, I ordered a hot chocolate and a scone. The hot chocolate was very good, but the scone was definitively the the best scone I ever had. Make mental note of the place for future reference, Bay Tree teashop in Tewkesbury
The best scone I ever had
I was enjoying the scone when I saw a call from the office. Something went wrong in one of our systems and it required my attention. Eeeermmm!! I don't think so, I'm riding a 400K, at this moment in the middle of nowhere and I don't plan to finish until the am. Call someone else! I guess it sounded too unreal to be a made up excuse.

Next control was in Km 186.5, it was an info control. At the junction, distance to Coleford. But when I arrived at the junction I saw two cyclists stopped, I slowed down to see if they needed help but it looked like they were just chatting so I carried on. Only to realize a kilometer later that was the control and they were just writing down the answer. I slowed down a bit and waited for them to catch me and when they arrive I asked them the answer to the question (9 miles). "Cheating" is acceptable to prevent riding back, even a single kilometer.

Only 32k to the next control in km 218.4 but they were very intense. For started it started to rain very heavily. Then I pushed it until the 200k mark where I marked a lap (7:44 excluding stops, I'm going to need a miracle to reduce 45 minutes in the same distance, but adding 1,700m of climb, at the Quebrantahuesos). And then, for the last 18k I struggled in every single ramp I found on the road. I was empty.

Soaked, tired, cold and hungry. A pasta salad, doritos, chips, a chocolate bar, a banana, orange juice and 1.5 liters of water helped to fill the tank. 30 mins stop helped to recover my legs a bit. A chat with a fellow rider confirming that we were going to have tail win after we crossed the bridge helped to recover the spirit. I had 200 more to go...
Calorie rich meal
Very, very, very slowly I headed to the Severn bridge. The sun was now shining, there was a climb, that in normal conditions I would not even mention, but now it almost killed me. Out of breath and sweating I got to the top and easy pedaled to the bridge crossing it veeeery slowly, enjoying the views.

Severn bride ahead
And everyone was right. A couple of kilometers after the bridge the route turned left and the wind became a tail wind.

Aleluya!!! I was still riding very slowly but the wind was pushing me so my average speed was very decent. Of course the moment the road started to climb I was in my small chainring, loading a 28 and crawling up at 10km/h; but the road was flat enough to allow me a good average speed. From 200K to 300K in 4:12, almost 24km/h. A shame that rained, again very heavily, in the last kilometers to the next control (314Km) (I like it when controls are separated, it helps to reduce the stops).

This control was in a service station. Again soaked, again cold and even more tired now. Time to eat the rest of the pasta salad, another hot chocolate, another orange juice and a cake. It was hot inside, it was cold, dark and rainy outside. Another 30mins stop. When I was preparing myself to go I almost cried, I didn't want to go out.

But there was a miracle. By the time I was on the bicycle the rain stopped. The wind also stopped but that was a deal I was willing to accept. 100km to go, riding on the night, it was 20:30, I was expecting to finish around 1:00 am.

The last 100 were mostly flat. There was still a small hill every now and then that got me crawling, specially after the 28 refused to load, but overall I manage to keep a good pace despite my empty legs and being riding in the night. Unfortunately in one descend I hit a pothole. It was a pretty strong hit, I felt the pain in my arms, but everything seemed all right. I kept riding for about 200 meters until I realized the light was not working. Stopped to see the dynamo got disconnected, when I was trying to connect it back I hear the wheel deflating. And that was not all, when I went to grab the pump I realized it was missing, sure it was expeled by the hit with the pothole.

I walked back but couldn't find the pump. Luckily another rider arrived and he stopped to ask if I needed anything. He lend me his pump and soon enough I was ready to go. He asked me if I wanted him to wait for me just in case I had another puncture, but I said it was not necessary, there were more riders behind so if I had another puncture it was a matter of waiting for the next one. So there he went, and a few seconds later he shouted "I found the pump!". Lucky me, but lesson learned, next time the pump in the bag, not in the frame.

It took me 4:24 from 300K to 400K. Not impressive, but not that bad either. I was almost there.

And suddenly my Garmin 800 turned off. I tried to turn it on but it wouldn't. It started to load the maps but then it was going off again. I knew it was not the battery because the dinamo was powering it. I was not worried about the navigation, although the Garmin is very convenient, specially in the night, but about the data I was losing. I hate when I lose data from my rides.

I made it back to Chalfont St Peter's community center at 1:00 am. I was really, really tired. I think I was more tired than any of the brevets I have riden, including Paris Brest Paris. Still I was happy, really happy. I have ridden 400Km in 19 hours, that was 4 hours and a half faster than fastest 400K. Audax is not racing and, certainly, pushing it in the first 200k and the lucky of being rescued by the tail wind in the third quarter helped for a fast ride, but, hey, good numbers are always sweet.

Happy finisher
I had a glass of milk and a few cookies and soon enough I was heading home. Left the bicycle in the car, had a quick shower, another glass of milk and by 2:30 I was ready to sleep. I still had time to question whether my strategy will be wise next weekend (riding a 600K with 8,300m climb) and to remember that I have to make sure my 28 works again for that ride, 0.001 seconds later I was deep sleep.


numbers, numbers, numbers:
  • Kilometers: 413.14
  • Climbing: 3,884 pretty flat ride
  • Moving Avg speed: 25.04 km/h
  • Max speed: 67.9 km/h
  • Total Time: 19:00:00
  • Moving time: 16:29:47
  • Time stopped: 2:30:13
  • Global avg speed: 21.74 km/h
  • Consumed calories: 9,600
  • Avg Heart Rate: --
  • Max Heart Rate: --
  • Avg Cadence: 79
  • Max Cadence: 202 (which is obviously an error)
  • Max Power: 626
  • Norm Power: 196
  • My bike has 22,084.3 km
  • Link to Strava: http://app.strava.com/activities/53843346
Take care
Javier Arias González
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