lunes, 19 de mayo de 2014

Brian Chapman Memorial 600 (lots of silly mistakes)

Brian Chapman Memorial 600 was going to be my 20th Audax ride, in my baggage I have six 200km events, five 300, four 400, two 600 a PBP (1200km) and a LEL (1500). Funny enough this was the Audax ride I have made more mistakes.

The first one was what I decided to carry on the bike. They had forecasted sunny days for the whole weekend but cautious as I am I decided to carry my full all weather equipment. The bike weighted 16kg (I actually weighted the bike), but hey, I was ready for sudden snow storms...

This mistake is even bigger if you consider that the organizers offer a bag drop service. This is sending a bag with whatever you want to fill to a control that we would visit twice, in the kilometer 200 and again in the 400. This is very helpful. I was planning to stop for a sleep in the 400km mark so I packed in my bag a clean set of clothes, some energy bars and gels and everything I needed for a breakfast.

Why I decided to carry on the bike the lights and the clothes I was going to use during the night instead of putting then in the bag and getting them at the 200km mark is beyond me. Maybe is because I wanted to get a better training out of this ride...

Which leads me to another mistake, the pace I decided to take. My main objective of the year is the Quebrantahuesos, a 200km sportive in Spain, so I decided I wanted to rehearse the effort. What better way that riding all out for the first six and a half hours? which is about the time that will take me the Quebrantahuesos.

I rode all out for the first 180km. It took me exactly 6 hours, and that includes a quick stop in the first control. I was the third in that control. The first two were leaving when I was arriving and they were riding a light bike with tri-bars, probably with the intention of riding non-stop.

Training wise, it was fantastic. Not only was a good effort but also the numbers confirmed I was in good form. The problem was I still had ride 440km with about 6000m of climbing and I was tired, spent, empty.

Struggling was the name of the game now, it took me two hours to ride 47km, although 14 of them were uphill. Struggling I arrived to the control at the control at the 227km mark. Still that was my fastest Audax 200km to date, 227km in 8 hours 6 minutes.

Now this was a great stop. It was 14:00 and it is easy to image how hungry I was. This control is well catered so I ate enough to make my mother proud; including some of the food I had put in my bag. The thought of leaving the rain clothes didn't cross my mind so I departed with all the load in my bike. A shame I forgot to start the garmin...

To my discharge I'll say the garmin re-started itself when I plugged it to the charger, still I failed to realize it was not recording and what is most important it was not navigating.

You have to put yourself in my position. Tired, with your stomach full and still digesting, in a road that was not up, down or flat but a combination of everything, a route that I barely remember from last year and that I was following the route sheet...

And suddenly I was lost. It was at this point I realized the garmin was not recoding, it was off for about 90km!!!!! A quick look to the route sheet confirmed I had missed a right turn. In an Audax event you can take any route you want between controls so I faced the dilema of riding back something like 5 or 10 km to try to find the turn I have missed or trying to find an alternative route. I was riding north, generally speaking in the right direction, so got the mobile out and started Google Maps. Unfortunately there was no data reception in this spot. Luckily I'm a man full of resources, I saw a gas station, walked in, got one of those maps printed in papers, asked the shopgirl where we were and found a route to the next control. Easy, just have to follow the A487 to Menai Bridge, not as peaceful and beauty as the original route, but not longer either, good enough compromise considering the circumstances. I took the opportunity to buy a refreshment but I didn't bought the map...

Maybe it was the anger of getting lost, maybe I managed to recover a bit riding slowly for the last few hours or, most likely, it was the tail wind but I got some good speed riding to the 300km mark. Half way of the route and the numbers were still looking good. It was 18:45, I had ridden 327km in 12 hours 45 minutes. One hour twenty faster than my fastest Audax 300.

But now I was really, really tired again. The control at Menai Bridge is also managed and they offered baked potatoes with beans and cheese and rice pudding for dessert. I ate everything and added a ham sandwich and a few cookies. When I was about to leave I saw at the control table a cable. One of those cables that is used to power the garmin with the e-werk, one of those cables that it is important in these rides. And that was my cable. I had forgotten it there where I was checking in, I felt fortunate I saw it when I was leaving...

With my stomach full again I started to ride slowly. About 15-20 km/h slow, I was heading south now and what was a tail wind earlier it was now a head wind. That was one of those moments were you just have to relax and take it easy, there is no point in trying to push it.

I was riding at that pace for about an hour when two riders passed me. They were not riding that fast, but very soon they were well away. It was at that moment when I realized I had made just another mistake. I should have jumped on their wheel, I never miss an opportunity to suck a good wheel. What was I thinking?? This mistake costed me a 3 minutes effort at 289 watts to catch up with them. 3 minutes at 289 watts is not a huge effort but when done after 14 hours riding let me well empty again. When I got to the riders I used the little breath I had to ask if I could sit on their wheel and, of course, they said yes. I took the third spot in the convoy and enjoyed the free ride.

And I say free ride correctly. Riding solo before they passed me I was doing an average of 190 watts. Again, by all means not a huge effort, but plenty considering the circumstances. Sitting on their wheels I was doing 133 watts and riding faster. A huge improvement!!! A big mistake not to have jumped on their wheel earlier!!!

I couldn't take a single turn in the front. One of the riders was riding a fixie (yes, 600km with 8000m climb in a fixie, think twice before considering me crazy) and that meant whenever a climb came the pace put me to the limit again. This was more challenging than it looks at first sight. When I was sitting on their wheel I was riding very easily, with my heart rate dropping to 70-80ppm, and because was already dark and I was tired my body started to shut down. I was feeling really sleepy. And then a climb would appear and the rider in the fixie will keep his pace and I had to wake up and sprint to keep their wheel. On top of that my neck was hurting. When we made it to the control I had have enough for the day.

It was 22:45, I had ridden 419km in 16 hours and 45 minutes, an hour and five minutes faster than my fastest 400k Audax.

Had soup, pasta, rice pudding and chocolate milk in my second dinner of the day and went to had a shower before heading bed. It would have been nice not have made the mistake of failing to put in my bag a towel...

Sleeping and bed management is tricky. Around 150 riders and not that many beds means you can only get a bed for three hours. I was among the first in the control but getting to bed at 23:30 meant waking up at 2:30 which meant riding at 3:00 with still some night riding to do, which meant carrying extra load. So I figured an alternative plan. I was going to lay in a sofa and sleep for one hour and a half. At one I would ask for a bed, I was not going to have any problem to get one because it would be still early for most of the riders. That would mean to wake up at 4, start riding in day light at 4:30 and being able to leave some of the stuff in my bag.

I was not the only one with that idea. In the room there were about five or six riders already sleeping so I put my mobile in airplane mode so the alarm would not wake anyone (there was not reception anyway), set the alarm to 1:00 and fitted it between my bib short and my leg so the vibration would wake me up.

At 1:00 the alarm went off, I woke up, asked for a bed and was taken to a bed room. An still unused bed was there for me, lucky me. Got in bed and in less than a minute I was deep sleep again.

At 4:00 someone came and woke me up. My three hours were over and a rider was waiting for the bed. I woke up, got my things and realized I didn't have my mobile.

I didn't panic. It had to be in the sofa where I was sleeping.

I asked at the control and no one had returned a mobile. Went to the room where the sofa was but it was dark and there were riders sleeping all over the place. Couldn't find it.

Still didn't panic. Had my breakfast with the stuff I had put in my bug (they were not serving breakfast yet at the control, it was 4 am and they were still serving dinner to the riders that were arriving). Made some time to see if the room cleared a bit and I could give it another go.

Gave it another go and couldn't find it. Now I was starting to panic a bit. Emptied my bag, checked every corner and nothing. No sign of my mobile. Of course calling it would help, there was not signal in the control, but even if the rider had taken inadvertently the mobile with him and were in an area with signal, it wouldn't help, I had turn it in airplane mode!!!

5:30, I have been up for an hour and a half looking for my mobile. An hour and a half not sleeping, not resting, not riding, just looking for my mobile. I was really angry at myself. It was when I had the idea of writing this post.

But hey, they started to serve breakfast and the bacon smelled really well so I had my second breakfast, beans on toast with bacon, trying to reproduce my steps and what I did with the mobile.

No help, those minutes between sleeps were mainly black for me.

Got back to the bed room to check if the mobile was there. No help.

Waited until the rider that took the bed after me woke up to see if the mobile was in the bed. No help.

Went back to the room with the sofas and the sofa were I was sleeping was now empty so sat there and tried to remember what I have done with the f*** mobile.

And there I was thinking when a rider says "here is a mobile".

Couldn't believe it. It was my mobile, there in a shelve. Someone should have found it and leave it there.

I had found the mobile but I was not happy. It was 6:30, I had lost two hours. Time to move on.

It was well into the day light and already warm so took off the leg and arm warmers, reflective gillet, long gloves and shoe covers. And instead of leaving them in the bag so they would be returned to the headquarters in a van I put them on the bike and I had to carried them for another 200km. Just another silly mistake...

And you know what, I forgot again to start the garmin!!!! A nightmare for a data geek like me!

When I realized I was shouting like crazy. Luckily there was no one around to hear me and in any case my swearing was in Spanish (which, by the way, is much better language for swearing).

First stage of the morning was only 65km long, it had two climbs but it was not a problem. I knew the route and I was "rested". I was riding a decent pace and passing lots of riders.

Unfortunately pain in the neck that I was feeling at the end of the previous day it was hurting again. That was unexpected, it took me a bit for surprise. I never had any of these pains in these rides. No pain in the knees, ankles, tendons, nothing.

Well if I'm completely honest, in the Severn Across 400 two weeks ago I finished with a just a bit of pain in the neck. Nothing serious but I remember relevant enough to worth a comment to Gavin.

By the time I arrived at the control I was hungry again so I took my third breakfast of the day; just couldn't resist the temptation of just another bacon sandwich.

When I got back to the bicycle I saw it. My handlebar was too low. It was in its normal/racing position, not in its audax position. That made sense. I had move the bicycle from audax setup to racing setup after the 200 and I had ridden with the handle bar in that position the 300, the 400 and almost 500km of this ride. No wonder my neck hurt. Funny enough in my list of advices for long distance rides [in Spanish] my advice number 9 is "make sure the geometry of your bike has not changed".

The only good thing about this mistake is that is easy to correct it. Put the handle bar in its audax positon (two separators up) and the pain in the neck mitigated almost immediately.

Not much happened for the rest of the ride. I was tired so I rode the last 160km in maintenance mode. Limiting the efforts to the bare minimum to keep me going. Still I made it to the final control at 18:10, which means 36 hours and 10 minutes for a ride of 642km. 50 minutes less than last year (and this year the ride was 17km longer than last year's). Not bad numbers.

As always I took a picture of my brevet when I finished. But this time I did the mistake of taking the picture before they put the final time on it. I even think the controller was telling me about it but my mind was already stimulated by the smell of fried bacon so the picture of the brevet goes without the final time on it.

And when I got to the car I saw this note on my car:

In my defense I have to say that even with the note in my hands I could not see the car was parked "in what is very clearly someone's garden" but after two days of mistakes I'm really happy they didn't call the police and had towed my car away. If that had happened I'm sure I have cried in desperation. There is a limit to the mistakes one can handle...

Take care
Javier Arias González