My approach to this one was characterised by a self handicapping nonchalance brought on by the woeful lack of miles I’ve pushed out this year. Tapering sounded good when another rider wittily suggested this as my training strategy for LEL. Maybe pushing my luck a bit by adopting the approach over the last seven to eight months. Thinking of this I taped both achilles before leaving home. Correlating with not having sore achilles during or after the ride makes it seem worthwhile.
There was a fair crowd at the off. Fifty odd riders or there about. Pleased to see a few people I’ve ridden with before. Got off to a good start though inadvertently pushed the pace a bit with the group I rode with to the first control, the Silver Ball Café in Reed at the 40km mark. 20kmph will get me round LEL with stops. This was more towards 30kmph and grunted out at times with gritted teeth. Stupid and I know not to do it.
Having a separate GPX track between each main control was a very good idea. It reduces the risk of the Garmin throwing a hissy fit and losing cumulative miles 40 km from the end. This is what happened last year when I rode a 400. Chunking the miles also makes the whole ride manageable in my head. Lastly the Garmins functions for ETA and distance to cover related to each section accurately. Definitely worth the time it took to prepare the tracks in RWGPS. Saved each section enroute and combined the tracks at the end to get a log of the whole ride. Could not have wanted more.
Another 116 km got us to Harwich via a free control at Clare and an info point at Lamarsh. The Cafe on the Pier was a welcome sight. A feed here was included in the entry fee. A big bowl of macaroni cheese went down very well. It was a social occassion with a good number of riders all arriving in the 30 minutes or so that I stopped here. Always strikes me how you can ride without seeing anyone for miles yet there only be five minutes between those in front and behind. As it goes I rode very little of this ride alone. That’s a massive help in passing the time and being energy efficient taking turns at the front.
Rolled off from Harwich with Richard who’d I been with for 66 km since Claire. Before long I noticed a tell tale bounce from the back tyre. A slow puncture. I eased up. As Richard pulled away I dropped behind Mike (Audax UK points holder since 2012) for about 10km before conceding a stop was required and repairs made. Back on the road and alone this time for the 30km to the free control at Clacton on Sea via another info point at Walton on the Naze.
It was evening now. The weather was all the best early July can bring. The ride along the coast line was lovely as dusk started to set in. I met up with Richie and Michael. We spent a bit of time at the Wetherspoons. The locals were out in force and putting on a good show. Another rider was accosted by a group of harpies as we left. All good fun and smiles.
76km to get back to Churchend and the chance for a couple of hours kip before taking on the second shorter loop of 136km. I stuck with Michael and Richie the entire way. The route took in sections of the Wivenhoe Trail to Colchester and an info control at Great Wigborough. Riding the trail was a novel touch set against all the road miles and especially at night with our lights creating a tunnel of light through the tree and brush lined passage.
268km done. We arrived at Churchend just before 1.00 am. Cande lit. Riders sleeping on the floor. Hushed whispering with and between the heroic helpers who volunteered to staff the control and serve up hot and cold food and drink. I was knackered! So tired to even stomach much of the bowel of pasta proffered though I did manage to neck a much needed cup of tea. I opted for sleeping in the car. Set the alarm for 3.00 am and settled down. What a difference a couple of hours trying to sleep can make. I felt energised and ready for the second stage.
Took a wrong turn just off from the start. Thankfully I checked the Garmin in time and had only gone a couple of km before setting myself right again. As luck would have it this meant that I met up with Michael again soon after getting back on track. We rode the rest of the distance together. Three sections: 47km, 57km and 32 km respectively. Bounced through the control at Billericay after filling up on overpriced service station food. Stopped for tea and toast in Burnham on Crouch.
It was a lovely morning. Big thanks to the Quayside Cafe and Restaurant who served us up before official opening time. Another free control at Morden then a final push back to Churchend. We got there at about 10.45 am. 15 minutes short of 24 hours. 17 hours riding time. Not a bad time. Never felt like seven hours stopping time though. Something to remember with the LEL.