Audax Tips?

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Lazarus
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Re: Audax Tips?

Post by Lazarus »

It's working fine
Will mail you screen shots, later, of what it shows at various.times
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Verena
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Re: Audax Tips?

Post by Verena »

So, I did the Moonrakers and Sunseekers 300km audax at the weekend, and here's just a few bits of my experience, a few photos and my own reflections and things learned/ to be learned.

There's obviously loads of stuff online about it, but basically, this one is a night ride, starting in 4 waves from Bristol around 10pm on Friday night, the date picked to coincide with a full moon, which was present and correct as advertised. The route is fairly flat generally, and goes via Bath, Devizes and Salisbury (fairly big roads which at night time though are nice and empty), down to the coast at Bournemouth, along and around to Poole, and then on much smaller, and hillier roads and lanes through Dorset and back towards Bristol, including quite a long stretch of cycle route along the Strawberry line.

I knew of the event from last year when my friend did it, and I was reading and hearing things about it and thinking wow, that is incredible, what an amazing thing to do, I could NEVER do that... Then I rode my first 300km audax in the summer, confusingly called Sunseekers and Moonrakers, absolutely loved it, and thought, that was brilliant, I'll sign up for the winter and night time sister/ brother event...

The run up to Friday was a by now quite familiar, still tedious, scenario: I had planned to make a real effort of having a calm week at work, prep my bike and kit well in advance, and took leave on the Friday to pre sleep and get ready and focussed properly....Yeah right on all those counts :roll:
I ended up having to work Friday morning, went to bed for a couple of hours in the afternoon but was too excited/ nervous to sleep, then got my bike ready at teatime...

It felt like a decidedly crazy thing to be doing, driving down to Bristol on a Friday evening, with a view to going out cycling for the night.... here's a picture of one of the earlier start waves (I was in the last one at twenty to eleven; it was a big turnout with over 230 riders registered)
ImageIMG_20231124_215607 by Verena Zimmer, on Flickr

For perhaps obvious reasons, this was not the kind of occasion for taking lots of photos, especially not when you're not fast, so trying to minimise stopped time to get round within the time limit (which I did by the way, 19 and half hours). So it all started with riding through Bristol, then shortly afterwards Bath, within a largish group of sorts of riders, and through Friday night revelleries, which was quite amusing. Riding out of Bath and into darker, quieter countryside, I found myself (much to my relief) in a group of six, which then became four, then two stopped and suddenly it was just me and one other, whom I tried to stick to for quite a long time, working hard (he was not the sociable type so we never spoke), but eventually falling back and there I was, all by myself, middle of the night, middle of nowhere. OK. regroup thoughts, don't panic, everything is fine, just carry on.
Not long after and I arrived at the first control, the Moonrakers pub at Devizes, and that wonderful thing happens which I'd experienced before, you think you're all alone, and then suddenly you see lots and lots of bikes, people, smiles, lights and warmth, tea, and cake... I was surprised how wet with sweat I was, and for the first of many times that night, I very quickly got really quite cold, and started shivering (inside the warm pub). I also, so soon, too soon!! found myself struggling to get a flapjack down me and some warm tea, and felt a bit nauseous. Here already was lesson number one: the danger of trying to ride at someone else's pace (as in, too hard) - I felt really quite nauseous for a couple of hours afterwards, even though I rode much slower from there on in, and on a cold night and long ride, without being able to take in food, that would not have been good.... Lesson two: it being dark, wearing thick gloves, water turning to slush, it was much harder to keep eating and drinking frequently whilst riding (i.e. it didn't happen), so that also changes how the body feels.

After the Moonrakers, I palled up with two chaps (who'd been part of the initial 6), which then turned into one, and once more found myself in the very lucky position of having a riding buddy for the duration, who was riding at a very similar pace to me, and who was good company. Here is lesson number three: the whole kind of spectrum of aloneness versus company, self reliance and independence versus support and interdependence. For someone like me, that meaning, starting off alone on such a big challenge, hoping I would find good company to ride with, as I feel I definitely benefit, possibly need, that kind of support to get me through. That happening being by no means guaranteed, and having to deal with the possibility, or reality, of it not happening. That any company one finds with on the way may very well be just temporary (that seems to be a normal feature of audax riding, people are friendly and supportive, may ride with you for a while but there's no sense of obligation and they may well at any point leave you again. I hope you know what I mean. So for me, I think I'd be ok if I was doing something all alone from the outset and I knew that. And I have enjoyed and benefitted so far from meeting new people to ride with. I'd still be scared of not finding anyone, or of getting used to riding with someone, coming to (mentally) perhaps depend on them for a while, and then lose them again. My challenge, or learning thing, would be to develop being able to dip in and out of either, and be comfortable and confident with either.
As it happens, on this one that was not necessary. Back to our route through the night, over Salisbury Plain, past Stonehenge which I somehow missed all the signs for, another control in a car park with wonderful volunteers, coffee, and cake (Have I mentioned the weather yet?? I was cold and dry throughout, very cold in fact, down to minus five), and then on to the next control at a petrol station, where I took another photo.
I do like this one, sums up the experience quite well I think. A bunch of bleary eyed fluorescent clad random people, shoving food down themselves at some bonkers hour....

ImageIMG_20231126_071201 by Verena Zimmer, on Flickr

We were getting quite close to the coast now, and it is difficult to describe the sheer excitement and joy I felt at the first sign of dawn breaking. Timing wise it couldn't have been better, this is the sky as we reached the seafront at Bournemouth.

ImageIMG_20231125_063129 by Verena Zimmer, on Flickr

A wonderful ride along the beach to Poole followed, where a proper break with a cooked breakfast awaited us at Lilliput Scout Hut.
ImageIMG_20231125_071249 by Verena Zimmer, on Flickr

Just after that felt just wonderful, even though we'd been riding for many hours, I didn't really feel tired, we were half way by then, and it felt just like we had a whole glorious sunny day ahead of us to enjoy being out on our bikes in.
ImageIMG_20231125_075441 by Verena Zimmer, on Flickr

Quite a long way later, the next control was a Podimore service station - again, rarely have I sensed such exuberant joy at the sight of greggs, subway and co. - it was like we were arriving in heaven! (just after some deep puddles which I later found out had caused a lot of problems for earlier faster riders, with a few coming off on black ice). Again, I think some of the faces say it all....
ImageIMG_20231126_031423 by Verena Zimmer, on Flickr

ImageIMG_20231125_121656 by Verena Zimmer, on Flickr

More pleasant sunshine riding, the last bit along the lovely strawberry line cycle path, saw us arrive at our last control, the lovely strawberry line cafe, just as the moon was rising again, and the sun was setting again.
ImageIMG_20231125_154941 by Verena Zimmer, on Flickr
Here we caught up with a young chap I'd spoken with at the start, and who had been one of many who had really been suffering in the cold (he had nearly quit because it was so bad). Another point of reflection, demographic wise, here I think I had a definite advantage, being female (actually that's not true is it, women are supposed to feel the cold more aren't they?), and having a fair bit more of a layer of all round natural insulation on my person than many, most even, of the rather lean and lycra clad cyclists. The temperature was now dropping like a stone again, and I was glad that I was able to let him borrow my spare super warm gloves, and he rode with us for the last bit, to bring everyone home safe and sound. The last bit through Bristol in the dark, in rush hour, through a vast warren of streets and cycle paths, would have been quite a challenge for me, but very very luckily our riding buddy was a local lad who competently led us through and back to the finish, for that final stamp, some dhal, a cup of tea and one last slice of amazing cake.

Thanks for reading, hope not too long or boring, I think I've woven most of my thinking points into the story above - the biggest one for me being the people one.
One more thought about that, I mentioned at the start my friend who rode this last year, and again this year. We had had a really good, honest conversation a few weeks ago, before we even knew it was going to be so cold, and decided to ride completely separately, and I'm so so glad that we did. So the reflection here is, we all hopefully have mates who we like, and like riding with, but then we are all also different, have different bodies, different metabolisms, different levels of fitness and speed - all those things get magnified the longer the ride is. My friend is much fitter, much faster, but also feels the cold something terrible, so the only way he could do this ride was to do it fast and at his pace - it would have been disastrous for him, had he tried to ride slowly with me - and in turn horrible for me, either trying to ride faster than I could, or feeling bad about making him miserable or get into real trouble with hypothermia.

Otherwise, the cold, well I have to say the experience from last year's SWWB served me extremely well :-bd , and I think generally coming to audax riding from a bikepacking background is really helpful (as in being used to carrying a seat pack with lots of extra clothing and bits and pieces - I carried a bivvy bag too, just in case).

And I was particularly pleased with my choice of clothing, it was just right. Every time I stopped I got really quite cold, but sure as anything, ten twenty minutes in everything, including hands and feet, warmed up nicely, and to be honest I wouldn't have wanted to have felt any warmer.
Lazarus
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Re: Audax Tips?

Post by Lazarus »

starting off alone on such a big challenge, hoping I would find good company to ride with, as I feel I definitely benefit, possibly need, that kind of support to get me through
Sometimes we all do

I have a friend in Bath , I will see if I can persuade him to do this next year as looks a great ride

Congrats on finishing
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Bearbonesnorm
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Re: Audax Tips?

Post by Bearbonesnorm »

Well done V. With regard to company, in my experience you and whoever you're riding with will both experience highs and lows but often at different times, so you can usually help pull each other through the lows.
May the bridges you burn light your way
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Verena
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Re: Audax Tips?

Post by Verena »

Bearbonesnorm wrote: Wed Nov 29, 2023 5:57 pm Well done V. With regard to company, in my experience you and whoever you're riding with will both experience highs and lows but often at different times, so you can usually help pull each other through the lows.
Thanks Stu, that's kind of how I work... and once feeling like I've buddied up, I would stay and support them through whatever it takes to get us both/ all home safe and sound.

The flip side is, and I saw that on Saturday, if you have a larger group, then the number of times you have to stop for something or other will also go up, so that would probably overall slow the group down...

Quite interesting really I think... full of potential for metaphors and philosophical musings for life in general... go it alone with all the ups and downs that brings, but also some security in predictability, or the illusion of it.... or go for the mutual support with all the added joys and fun, but also the risks and vulnerability that brings with it...
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Verena
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Re: Audax Tips?

Post by Verena »

Maybe an odd time to be posting this (aren't we all supposed to be waist deep in mince pies by now?) (I've just had one, with a cup of coffee and a tangerine to follow), but it's just a follow on from what I wrote above, and it feels like some sort of satisfying completion to me....

After November's night ride 300km audax, and musing about some fears I perhaps have had about being, quite literally, left alone in the dark, I did a 200km permanent audax yesterday just by myself, including a couple of hours riding in the dark each end. It was fine. So that's left me knowing that Yes I can do these things on my own.

The weather helped, unseasonably mild and only moderately wet and windy for this time of year; as did being on fairly familiar territory closeish to home....

Not many photos, and some didn't come out as the lens on my phone was steamed up, but here you go, just because...

ImageIMG_20231223_201616 by Verena Zimmer, on Flickr

ImageIMG_20231223_130709 by Verena Zimmer, on Flickr

ImageIMG_20231223_201646 by Verena Zimmer, on Flickr
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dlovett
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Re: Audax Tips?

Post by dlovett »

Verena wrote: Tue Nov 28, 2023 11:25 pm So, I did the Moonrakers and Sunseekers 300km audax at the weekend, and here's just a few bits of my experience, a few photos and my own reflections and things learned/ to be learned.

That sounds an vaguely exciting ride, great effort!!
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dlovett
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Re: Audax Tips?

Post by dlovett »

dlovett wrote: Tue Jan 16, 2024 8:20 pm
Verena wrote: Tue Nov 28, 2023 11:25 pm So, I did the Moonrakers and Sunseekers 300km audax at the weekend, and here's just a few bits of my experience, a few photos and my own reflections and things learned/ to be learned.

That sounds an vaguely exciting ride, great effort!!
Swap vaguely exciting ride for A W E S O M E ride!!
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Verena
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Re: Audax Tips?

Post by Verena »

Last weekend was my one year anniversary of giving audax riding a go, with a return to Barry's Bristol Butt Buster aka a total cake fest!!! (with that being one of the main attractions...)

It really really is one I'd highly recommend, I realise now what a brilliant introduction that was for me to it all last year, and it was a pleasure to be back. Having now got the hang a bit more of being a bit more efficient with stopped time, got round not riding faster, but half an hour quicker.

Eating pavlova before 10am is still a wonderfully decadent indulgence, love it

ImageIMG_20240324_220546 by Verena Zimmer, on Flickr

ImageIMG_20240324_220702 by Verena Zimmer, on Flickr
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