TRAINING FOR MY FIRST (EPIC) AUDAX!

  • 24th April 2017

With my slightly ambitious plan of a daily mileage hovering around 100 miles, including a few days of 200km (125 miles), I felt I should have at least tried this distance before leaving.

I first heard about 'Audaxes' through my friend Greg, who joined me on my LEJOG tour. They're long distance cycle events, starting from 200km, and even go up to 1,600km. They have cut-off times, but are usually quite generous, as the challenge is more about the distance/endurance and navigation as opposed to speed.

Ideally, there was the 'Eureka Excursion' 215km audax starting from my hometown peninsula, 5 weeks prior to my Eurotour!

Unfortunately few people I knew were able to make it, however one cycle friend from one of the clubs I ride with was also keen to lose his audax virginity :D

Slight trepidation

I returned from a mother-daughter trip in Sorrento on the Tuesday, and planned to do my club ride the next day (3 days pre-audax). This ended up being 115 miles! Perfect for training :D, I thought. This was the furthest I had ever gone by bike, and it was a brilliant day out to a cute Cheshire town, however my legs died on me at 107: moving up any slight incline became impossible, yet I was so so close to home.

Anyway I made it, woo! However this left me slightly worried (and physically/mentally a bit exhausted) for an even longer ride just 3 days later... the audax!


The day

Body feeling back to normal (thank God! ha), I awoke at 5:30am, and arrived 45min early. Collected my 'brevet' card, where you must collect stamps at each of the 5 control points before the cut-off time, enjoyed my free espresso, & sat amongst a group of audaxers. I was calculating how slowly I could go yet still meet the cut off, including times for refreshments at control points... fearing I'd crash if I went too fast at any point.

Start time - 0800 - and no sign of Dave, or the chap who was giving him a lift over... Turns out they got delayed by a diversion and would be 20 minutes late (!). Mildly panicked, as I was lacking confidence anyway, would I be ok to meet times if I started late?! Not ideal!


Nevertheless, I waited and we headed off into the chilly but beautiful morning sun. The route was provided on a crib sheet (turn by turn), but also a 'GPX' file that I had downloaded onto my bike Garmin. This provided a stress-free simple navigation aid (audaxes aren't signposted like normal 'races'). It was to lead us around incredibly quaint villages, hamlets and rural country lanes, skirting around northeast Wales, northern Shropshire and Cheshire.



Early on, we hit a closed road due to tarmacking. Cyclists begun piling up behind us (the first lot we'd seen for 10 miles), as a guy told us no one could get through, and to find the 7 mile diversion. Already late, this wasn't the best news, and everyone seemed lost as to how we could find a short solution to end up back on route. Fortunately I had cut out the relevant strips from our home road-map (thanks mum! :p ), so using this better overall view, I quickly worked out a way around. I felt pretty chuffed when half of the other group around us put their trust in me, and all followed me, "she looks like she knows where she's going!". The female audax-novice was briefly head navigator ;)

Mild stress ensued when Dave reminded us at 11:00 that our first checkpoint, Ellesmere, had a cut-off time of 11:20... and was 5 miles away. A 15 minute stint of 20mph speed, with Darren kindly allowing me to draught him so I could save energy/ramp up my speed, got us to that cafe on the mere at 11:20 on the dot!!

A quick scoff of one of my flapjacks (a bulky combo of cashew nuts, dates, oats, coconut flakes & oil, protein powder, peanut butter, agave syrup, and topped with dark chocolate...) and we were off to chase some time back from the clock!


The main bulk of the ride

As you can imagine, spending a full day in the saddle with a couple of people, and you instantly become quite comfortable with one-another. I'd never met Darren before, but the 3 of us got along so well, and spent most of the day chatting. They're both lovely guys. Between this, beaming sunshine, multiple varieties of springtime blossom, flowers and changing trees and cottages, the riding became merely a vehicle for having a wonderful day out (as it is, really!).

I ensured I never really 'pushed' my legs, therefore went very slowly and relaxed up any hills, yet rode a large gear and used the 'drops' down the hills to raise my speed. The guys felt I need not have worried, that endurance events are mainly achieved through mental strength, which they said I had plenty of (very kind). Definitely makes me feel more confident about my long days of solo riding on my Eurotour.


Food and consumables (luckily I feel I got it just right!)

As you can imagine, spending a full day in the saddle with a couple of people, and you instantly become quite comfortable with one-another. I'd never met Darren before, but the 3 of us got along so well, and spent most of the day chatting. They're both lovely guys. Between this, beaming sunshine, multiple varieties of springtime blossom, flowers and changing trees and cottages, the riding became merely a vehicle for having a wonderful day out (as it is, really!).

I ensured I never really 'pushed' my legs, therefore went very slowly and relaxed up any hills, yet rode a large gear and used the 'drops' down the hills to raise my speed. The guys felt I need not have worried, that endurance events are mainly achieved through mental strength, which they said I had plenty of (very kind). Definitely makes me feel more confident about my long days of solo riding on my Eurotour.


139 miles later...

The sun had set, and twilight was fading into early darkness. It was nearing 2100, and we were eagerly counting the final mile or 2, yet sad such a wonderful day had come to an end so quickly.

Arriving into Eureka, we handed in our brevet cards, to enable us to receive our 'Randonneur' badges (to prove we have done an official 200km Audax route :) ). And headed our separate ways.

Me, to the nearest Indian takeaway to reward my 5000 calorie-depleted body with whatever it required!

Here's hoping for many more days like this :)


Alaina Beacall

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