Monday, 30 July 2007

Dunwich Dynamo, 200km in the dark!

First photo, the start. Second photo, the middle. Last photo, the end!

Well we survived the ride, it was touch and go at times but we made it. I've tried to block the ride into sections for this post but it's not proving too easy as I can't remember at what stage various things happened. Lack of sleep does strange things to your mind, or as someone pointed out to me at work today, it can actually kill you....

Pre ride.
I travelled down to London for about 2.00pm, managed to park ok and unloaded my stuff into Kats flat. Shortly afterwards we rode off, on our penny farthings, to meet some of her friends for a picnic. This made for a nice relaxing start to the weekend, and helped to take my mind off what I was about to attempt.

The ride.........

0 to 10 miles.

The ride got off to a good start, with no offical start time we made our way down to the meeting place nice and early to ensure that I could get a return bus transfer. Kat had already booked hers but I was less organised! The atmosphere at the start was great, looking around there were all sorts of people and all types of bikes. My bike was probably a typical example, standard road bike, half decent lights and small mudgaurds. Others were less standard, from recumbants to track bikes, complete with a total lack of brakes! We decided to start at about 8.30pm so that we could get out of the city in day light and hopefully without too much drama. As it turned out our biggest problem for the first 10 miles was the stop start rain. Waterproof on, waterproof off etc, but by about 9.30pm it was raining quite hard so on they stayed, as it turned out, for the next 10 hours...
The only other thing that sticks in my mind from the first few miles is watching a rider chase after and catch up with a bus which he then held onto for a free ride! I'm not sure if this is normal in London or not but it certainly didn't seem normal to me!

10 miles to 25miles

It was pretty much dark after the first 10miles but at this stage we still seemed to be in a big group of riders and as we were not yet tired visability seemed ok. nothing much happened really, the route seemed easy enough to follow and it was nice to be pretty much clear of London. Then at about 25 miles we had our first problem...

25 miles to 40 miles

We had not looked at our maps for about 15 miles and we were now just trusting the lead rider to go the right way. Decending a slight slope a car slowly aproached our group, the road was very wet, quite narrow and the enevitable happened, a crash. I was towards the front of the group and missed the action, Kat, however, wasn't so lucky. It all happened so quickly we are still not sure what exactly did happen, but it happened anyway. Kat and her bike hit the tarmac along with two or three other riders. The first I knew of it was the noise, Metal against tarmac is quite a disinctive and unwellcome sound. As I was still upright I slowly came to a halt to see if everyone was ok. When I turned round I could see Kat picking herself up out of the hedge and the first thing that came to mind was that I have no idea where we are. As it turned out noboby was too badly hurt, Kat had a few scrapes and bruises but luckly nothing too serious. Her bike came out of it about the same with bent leavers and ripped bar tape but nothing broken. we went quite sowly for the next few miles, hoping that none of Kats injuries stiffened up and after a quick stop for some jelly babies and a check on Kats war wounds our confidence slowly returned.

40miles to 64 miles

The only good thing you could say about the rain was that it was probably helping to reduce the swelling on Kats injured hand. All I can remember about this section of the ride is the rain. I was now wearing all the clothing I had and it was all wet. My waterproof was ok for about 35 miles then either the rain came through or I was sweating and getting wet from that. Either way, not a plesent experience at any time let alone at 1.00am with over half the ride still to do. Up untill about 55 miles and 1.00am I felt ok. Then, all of a sudden, I felt really bad. The novelty of taking part in the event had now worn off, I was cold, wet and really wanted to go to bed. We stopped at about 60miles, I felt really hungry but when I tried to eat a cereal bar I couldn't make myself swalow. Things were not looking good and I was starting to go a bit dizzy. I managed a few jelly babies and we carried on to the food stop at about 64miles. We went inside, the room was nice and warm and we found a seat. Kat, injured or not, was now looking far more likley to finish the ride than I was, The last time I felt this bad was at about mile 22 of a Marathon. I was really concerned, it was 2.00am and we had over 50 miles to ride, the time had arrived, DRUGS were my only option. While everyone else in the room looked to be doing fine I felt like death. I couldn't belive my poor performance so out came my secret weapon, PRO PLUS. With a turn around almost as dramatic as Vinos in the tour after a blood transfusion I got back on my bike and, although freezing cold, almost imedately I felt fine.

64 miles to 80 miles

After the drugs stop I felt like a real cyclist again, sure I was suffering but in an enjoyable way and I almost wanted the rain to get worse so that I would have a better story to tell. Once the peak of the pro plus had gone I came back down to earth and started praying not to have a mechanical or get a puncture. We saw quite a few riders fixing flats in the dark and in the rain. Every time we rode past somebody we asked, somewhat tentitivly, if they were ok. Luckly for us nobody asked for our help. We later learned of people not only having flats but running out of spare tubes and having to use repair kits in the rain. Not nice when you would rather be tucked up in bed asleep. At one stage around this distance we got talking to another rider who had cycled 40 miles to get to the start. He also claimed that when he reached the finish he was going to turn round and cycle back! I can only assume that this guy was on something stronger than proplus... It was also somewhere around this distance that we started to get a bit lost. We tried our best to read our wet and now almost unreadable maps but ended up going the wrong way. Fortunatly a car driver stopped and gave us some directions, he looked like a decent enough guy so we trusted him and turned round. As it happened he was right and we were soon back on track.

80 miles to 94 miles.
Somewhere around this distance it stopped being dark and became light. Dawn was a welcome sight, the increased light made the visability better and downhills safer. I also started to feel less tired in the daylight Unfortunatly it was still raining and overcast so we didn't get to see the sunrise but it was good all the same.
Why 94 miles? Well up untill now 94 was the furthest I had riden a bike in one go. It was durring My lands end to John O'Groats trip with Mickey in 2003 and up untill now I had not been further. Nothing magical happened as we rode our 95th mile, at this stage we both just wanted to get to the finish, have a cup of coffee and a sleep.

95 miles to Dunwich.

Durring the ride I had been motivating myself by setting mile targets were I could stop and eat a jelly baby or two. This worked untill 100 miles when I ran out of sweets. Then it was just a slow grind to Dunwich. For the last few miles we found our selves riding with a couple of others whos map had somehow survived the rain. It was reasuring to know we were going the right way and before we knew it we were at the finish. The cafe on the beach was open and we were glad to get into the warm, where we started to dry off, drink tea, coffee and eat cakes.


We sat in the cafe for a while, chatting to other riders and generaly marveling at the durability of the human body. Now it was daylight and I had stoped riding I felt fine, my legs didn't hurt and I was even feeling that tired. We then went out to sit on the beach and watched some of the riders swim in the none to tempting sea. Some people just have to go one step further! The sun gradually started to shine now so at least we could dry off before the bus transfer back to London.

Bus ride.

The bikes got loaded into one set of trucks and the people into buses, where I had hoped to try to sleep. Unfortunatly the space available on the coach would have had the RSPCA involved if had we been talking about transporting animals and not people. I did manage a bit of sleep but nothing to speak of. By the time we got to London I was really hungry and ready for bed. We unloaded the bikes and headed back to Kats flat for some food. When Kats bike came off the truck it had a flat front tyre, as we couldn't be bothered to fix it we pushed the bikes home. Once there James cooked us some food, and in doing so probably saved my life! After eating and yet more coffee I decided now was a good as time as any time to head home.

The drive home.

I didn't start to feel tired untill about Oxford but when I did there was only one thing for it, PRO PLUS. Unfortunatly it didn't seem to have that great an effect this time so I got off the motorway and carefully made my way home on less borring roads. To say I was pleased to get back is an understatement similar to saying that Nelson Mandella was quite happy when he was set free. It's great to go away, but there is no place like home.....

Thanks to...

Continental bike tyres. The thought of getting a flat in those conditions still makes me shudder.

Pro plus. Drugs and cycling, the two go together like nothing else.

Jelly babies. So easy to eat.

James. For the food, the best soup I've ever tasted, and as for the chocolate brownies....

Kat. For the idea to take part, not everyones ideal weekend away, but now it's over I'm really pleased we did it. Don't get any ideas about doing it next year on the penny farthings though Kat!

Tony. For the loan of the van, I didn't fancy a 120 mile ride to the start.

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