29 September 2011

All ready for our Audax 200

Not long ago Lucy and I were completely unaware of the term Audax/Brevet/Randonnée. But recently, and especially after all our long (well, should I say "short" for Audax standards?!) rides we came across Audax UK. As they say on their website: 'Audax United Kingdom is the internationally recognised long distance cycling association in the UK'. That sounded pretty cool, and soon afterwards we were doing some research into it.

A couple of weeks ago we entered our very first Audax, and last week we got our entry package. A lot of information came with it, all in different fancy coloured A4 sheets. We even got a personalized letter from Dave regarding our insurances (a post on this will follow soon). I thought that doing a PhD, in a foreign language, was complicated enough. But understanding the Audax terminology (again, in English!) proved a bit tricky for us newbies! The route is not shown on a map, but on Audax language:

So, here we are Lucy and I trying to make sense of 4 pages full of this. It became very obvious that if we had to follow this sheet(s) as they are on the day, we may end up in Birmingham. We don't even have a map carrier and we both know how crappy we are with directions - we always, always get lost, be it in London or wherever we happened to be. We were not granted with a very bright sense of orientation, unfortunately. But some bright minds (I think americans? Lucy's dad can surely confirm!) invented the GPS a while ago. And now the devices are small enough to be carried on bikes. And because we love technology, we have got two of them! So, let's get started with the mapping. Looking at google maps and street views (it is truly amazing how you can see every single road in the UK as if you were on it!) we followed the instructions and plotted a line that would then be transferred on to our GPS devices:

SO @ X (Busy A31)
$ Village Centre (Berry Hill)

Ok, so stratight on (SO) at crossing (X) which apparently will be the busy A31 (A roads are usually dodgy for cycling in England, the less numbers the worse!). Then signposted for Village Centre (Berry Hill, I guess there must be a hill). Easy. The places in bold are to be cycled through, possibly because there are hidden controls or something. The rest, you can either follow or make up your own route. We're sticking to Dave's for now.

After 4 sheets of this, we've come up with the four different stages of this 213 km audax. And we've created 4 separate .gpx (the GPS's language!) files. We will be given a 'brevet' card, which we need to have stamped in all the controls, manned or unmanned. In the latter case, we need to obtain proofs, such as ATM statements or receipts. Looking interesting. And then we have the time limits! They get relaxed as the km pass. The clossing time for the last control is at about 22:00, which should give us 14 hours to complete. That should be pleeeenty of time...right?

This is stage 3 of the audax

Ok, so if we rode at an average of 22 km/h, which is quite doable, we would invest nearly 10 h of riding time. That is non-stop. So, we have about 4 h stopping time, which includes food/water feeds, pees, mechanicals, and lots of resting atop the Surrey hills. It seems achievable, but we should keep an eye on the timings!

Riding for 10 h in October means that you're very likely to have to ride into the dark. It's good that we have been doing loads of night rides this year, otherwise I would be frightened! Some good lights, bright rears, and high-vis vest are in order. And backlit GPS!

The rest of the preparations include:
  • Some pre-training in Richmond Park (that's for the hills!)
  • Servicing the bikes. I will be changing my summer brake pads for the wet ones, in preparation for my Wales ride
  • Food, food, food. Audaxers say that as long as you're well fed and hydrated, your legs will keep going
  • Get tools ready, inner tubes, arm/knee warmers, batteries full of juice, GPS loaded
  • Let your beard grow (mine's already 10 days) so that you can fit in
Despite all this, I personally feel a bit nervous, kind of similar to when I did my first night ride. Something new, certainily challenging, awaits for us this Saturday!

So we are looking forward to getting up at 5:30 am, cycle to Waterloo, training it to Guildford for 7:30 am, ride 8 km to the start, ride 213 km, 12 h later be back for the train into London (after another 8 km), ride back home from Waterloo ( at about 22:00)...and all this with a good chance of getting soaked! Yep, we do this for fun, but hey, we all sit in the office (or write thesis) for the same amount of time (and 5 days a week!), which is much much more boring! The good thing is, after we hand in our brevet cards and assuming we dont mess up any stamps/times etc, we will officially become randonneurs! That is exciting!

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