On Saturday gone, I rode my 200km Audax of the month of February “Malmesbury Mash”. I try to ride at least a 200km every month of the year to achieve the Audax UK award Randonneur Round the Year. Last year on my 12th successive month on the ride to claim this award, I managed to break my collar bone, but that’s another story entirely.
Things did not start well for the preparation for this ride. On the Friday night I was head coach for the tri club, but felt very very ill, and almost passed out. I spent most of that evening in bed waking up to use the toilet every few hours and drink water, until eventually I was violently sick. I then started to feel better, and foolishly decided to ride the Audax. This was to be my friend’s first introduction to Audax that had been arranged for months, although had I not been 4 months into an RRTY I probably would have been less foolish.
I woke up at 5:30am feeling pretty good considering but I had a lot of preparation work to do, that couldn’t have been done because of me being in bed sick. I always get a little anxious about leaving preparation last minute, but I think this anxiety keeps me in check (I didn’t forget anything). I got to the start (Toby Carvery Cardiff Gate) with 15 minutes to spare. Which was enough time to get my gear on, get the brevet cards, and sort my bike out.
This was to be an introduction ride to Audax for a group of my friends, we call ourselves the “Muddy Sand Rats”. It all stemmed from when we entered a team into a mountain biking competition in 2010 and we needed a team name. There’s myself, Anthony (A very keen MTBer that hates road cycling), Alex (A keen MTBer plagued by a few injury crashes gaining fitness through Roadying) and Ben (A bit of a fitness fanatic that has a penchent for breaking himself). As it turned out Ben injured himself in the week leading up to things.
Just as the start time rolled, all my normal Audax compatriots rolled off while we waited for Ant to faff around for 15 minutes, and then we were off. Recently we’ve discovered some lovely tarmac to take us out of Newport towards Chepstow which is flatter than the usually prescribed A48 routes or more direct than towards Lliswerry & the coast. We were in a little group with two other Audaxers (I didn’t catch their names) the gentleman in the group was wearing an Audax England jersey and the lady a Rapha coat, anyhow I told them about our alternative route, and they decided they’d like to follow us. This boded well until I held back for my friends and the other two went off into the distance missing the junction into Magor. We arrived at the first control in plenty of time, and despite the expected background moaning about roadying from Ant everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.
The next control was going to be halfway but not before going over the bridge which I think saw Anthony really throw caution to the wind because he started take some photographs. From here to Malmesbury I would say was the highlight of the journey for all of us. We stopped to control and to refuel at “Amanda’s” where Alex and I tucked into the vegetarian bake (it was delicious) and Anthony had sausage egg and chips. While we arrived the other two Audaxers, that had took a wrong turning earlier, turned up and my worries were averted.
It was always going to be tough heading back to Wales with the headwind, but I don’t think any of us were prepared for how bad. Within about an hour on the next leg to Shephards patch, it became clear that we were going to be hard pushed to get back in to Arrivee in time for validation. Alex made it quite clear that he would stick with Ant and that I could push on to get the ride for my RRTY. After making sure he would be okay with navigation, I caught on a tandem’s wheel and got a bit of shelter from the wind (though they pulled over before I could return the favour). I then solod it a bit to make up some time in hand to Shephards patch. I arrived and bounced it very quickly as I was concerned whether I could even finish in time.
The next leg back to Chepstow I found a little bit more difficult than I expected the wind was howling in, but now I felt like none of the food I’d eaten at lunch would digest and in fact that I needed to be sick. In times of suffering like this I tend to meditate through counting in numbers, which I did a bit, but I knew that I would need to do that a lot more later. I managed to get about 10 minutes on the Cardiff Byways train, but I was clearly out of sorts because I could barely hold any turn of speed. I’d heard a strange noise coming from my rear mudguard and had just assumed it was some debris caught up in there. Around a pub called the Salutation Inn I noticed one of the struts holding the mudguard had detached and that the mudguard was rubbing against the tyre. Fiddlesticks! I just hoped that it would not wear through the tyre before making it to the end.
The wind was getting very tough as I approached the Severn Bridge for the second time, considering I had been over in December in high winds on a Tandem I thought I was prepared for the worst! How wrong I was, I almost got blown over the railings! I got off and pushed until the road offered enough protection from the wind (though I almost lost my sunglasses during the process (I know!!! Why did I have them?!)) With a lot of shouldering and leaning into the wind, while gripping with a lot of might I made it to the other side. There I noticed that they were stopping motorbikes from using the bridge!
At the control in Chepstow (Petrol Station) I had a brief chat with a chap who was looking to do a 600 this season who was from Bridgend originally. I really like these small exchanges I have with strangers who over the course of a period of Audaxes flesh out into quite some anecdotes. This was again a quick stop for me (and for everyone else I saw there for that matter). It was from this point forward that I completely meditated in numbers for my suffering and Type II “Fun” I can recollect the whole of this last 47ish kilometres but mostly with numbers counting down in my head.
The only things of note were:
- I seemed to be getting beeped at a lot. I think I worked out that my dynamo rear light is not working (another thing with the mudguard to sort).
- My front dynamo lamp needs tightening keeps slipping and pointing downwards
- Didn’t notice that Bridge Road was waterlogged till the last minute
- I was sick a lot (I really should have stayed at home) vomiting while cycling is very dangerous
I got back to Arrivee with about 30 or so minutes to spare. I caught up with one of my Audax best mates Guto & family, and a few people I’d met along the way, and checked on endomondo how my two friends were doing (they eventually arrived 90 minutes out of time).
I then spent all of that night and Sunday sick as a dog & unable to do the running on the plan “that’ll learn me!”