Granite Anvil 1200 Brevet

Ride report by Kathy Brouse:

Warning, this ride report is long, but then it was a very long journey! I hope you enjoy it.

My Granite Anvil 1200 Story

This was my first attempt at a 1200 km ride and I was nervous especially since I broke my arm on a fleche ride on May 18 and was off the bike for 6 weeks. I worried about many things: Was I fit enough to cycle the distance and the hills? Would I end up riding alone through the night? I remembered some discussion about bear sightings at the first GA, and worried about being alone in the dark and cycling into something big and furry or being chased by angry dogs in the dark. Or breaking down in the middle of nowhere and having to problem solve the situation with my severely challenged bike repair skills. But at the same time I was so excited to give it a try and was looking forward to riding a gorgeous route through scenic farm and cottage country. As it turned out, all of my fears were unnecessary and I had a great time, not every moment of the 86 hours and 8 minutes, but overall it was a memorable and fantastic experience. I will share some impressions and memories of my Granite Anvil journey.

Arrival at the university in Oshawa: Coming through the glass doors at the university on Wednesday evening with my bike and drop bags and seeing all these experienced male riders with their big strong cycle legs, milling and sitting around. Felt totally intimidated and considered turning around and going home: classic fight or flight syndrome. Checked in, met up with Liz and ended up going out for dinner with a group of riders from the States (you know the intimidating ones with the big muscular legs). Don’t ask me how this happened, it’s because of Liz. She’s so friendly that groups just form around her. Enjoyed a delicious dinner at an Italian restaurant and had a good time.

Day 1: So much nervous energy in the air for the 4:00 am start; everyone in full reflective night gear, lights on and raring to go. Set out in a large group from the university and headed north to the first control at Belfountain, 150 km. I was not riding with anyone in particular, just trying to hang in and on to the group. Reached the first control around 11:00 am, quickly consumed coffee, PBJ sandwich, refilled the water bottles and continued climbing towards the second control. The climbs throughout the day over the Niagara Escarpment and in the Beaver Valley were relentless and challenging. It was a difficult day made easier by periodic water and snack stops along the road at Conn, courtesy of Bob and Arthur, and again at the secret control in Grand Valley courtesy of Terry and Carrey who provided good cheer, water and more snacks.

We arrived at The Top of the Rock, Eugenia at around 5:00 pm. A number of riders were just pulling out. I gulped down a tuna sandwich and chips and prepared my bike for night riding. This is when I noticed something interesting start to happen. The big group had of course fractured and riders were naturally grouping up according to cycling ability. Chemistry kicks in and you find yourself drawn to a person or people that you suspect you will be seeing a lot of in the next four days because you ride at the same pace and enjoy each other’s company. By the time we arrived in Midland, the first overnight control, at 11:43 pm, having battled gusty NW winds and baked in the sun all day, we were a group of eight: five Canadians – Marti, Liz, Dave, BC Bob, myself and three Americans – Florida Dan, Cincinnati Jim and Iowa Rich (neither Liz or myself remember where Rich is from, Illinois, Ohio, Iowa? We agree it is not Idaho). The volunteers at the control were so helpful and I enjoyed a bowl of hot, delicious, beef and vegetable soup. Unfortunately, I did not sleep at all in the hotel, too wired and worked up, but I did lie down on a soft bed and was ready to head out with the group at 5:00 am. It was a cold morning in cottage country.

Day 2: The journey to Bancroft was flatter than the previous day, not so windy and the scenery was beautiful as the route twisted and turned its way through cottage country passing so many inland lakes, rivers and lots of rocks. The roads were blasted through the Canadian Shield and the granite is black and grey and sometimes pink. Pulled into the Big Chute control at 9:00 am and enjoyed a delicious hot chocolate served to us by Albert and Stephen. Replenished with more water, fig bars and bananas. My left foot was beginning to burn in arthritic pain and the pain was spreading to the big toe. This is when I begin to nibble on tabs of Tylenol Arthritis, not a form of pain management I endorse, but it takes the edge off the pain and keeps me on the bike. The next control at Houseys Rapids took much too long for the breakfast to arrive at the table and the ladies toilet was a disturbing visual, but John and Laurie were very friendly and on we headed towards Haliburton.

By 6:00 pm the group had fractured even more and there were four of us at the Haliburton Bar and Grill eating burgers and fries before heading off into the night: Dave P, Marti, BC Bob and myself. Florida Dan and Cincinnati Jim showed up as we were exiting the bar. Liz and Rich were an hour ahead and we did not see them again until the overnight control. Bob and I got ahead of the group and arrived in Bancroft at 10:45 pm, cold, hungry, exhausted. Was great to receive a warm hug from Vaune and meet her friend Janice and son Peter who was so supportive, taking my bag and bike to my room. I ate something hot, may have been a chicken stew, and again was only able to sleep for about an hour in that soft bed. I wish I was able to hit the bed and switch to unconscious but it just doesn’t happen with me. I was beginning to worry when sleep deprivation would kick in and stop me dead in my tracks while the group went forward without me.

Day 3: BC Bob and I left Bancroft at 4:00 am. A lot of riders were pulling out at that time. Dave P and Florida Don were just behind, the others- Liz, Rich and Marti had opted for an extra half hour of sleep. As we headed down the road we past a rider coming through the fog to the Bancroft control at 4:15 am. It was dark and foggy and so very cold – not even 2 degrees! Our Garmins never agreed on temperature, mine was always two degrees less than Bobs so the temperature was somewhere between 1.1 and 3 degrees first thing that morning! You could see your breath! Even though I had on winter cap, gloves, leggings and merino wool shirt my fingers were numb. However there were so many very steep hills to climb that the body warmed up as we churned up killer hill after killer hill. Sometimes we were so high up in the hills at the top of the climbs that it felt like being on top of the world, the views were all of hill tops with fog and cloud everywhere. It was a little like the Himalayas scaled down and without the snow (I can say that because I lived there for 12 years). Such a welcome relief when the sun eventually broke through, to feel some warmth and shed some layers. Stopped at a little dairy restaurant in Barry’s Bay full of randonneurs all chowing down on the lumberjack special, a meal you should only choose if burning thousands of calories a day on the bike. Bob commented that if you ate that breakfast for 5 consecutive days you would be dead. I counted six sausages on someone’s plate! The control was just down the road and around the corner. Bob McLeod signed the control cards and we were introduced to the Barry’s Bay mayor who was very supportive of our cycling event and insisted we take a Barry’s Bay pin.

The ride from Barry’s Bay to Palmers Rapids was relatively flat for a while and then the relentless climbing began again. I remember Recumbent Roland zipping past me on a steep descent going so fast it was crazy. Then I watched from a distance as he climbed up Schutt Hill (you know, the gigantic hill with the pretty church on the left hand side at the bend at the top). In his recumbent he looked like a big bug going straight up a wall. It was all very scenic and very hot as we worked our way up and down those hills. Pulled into the control at Hardwood Lake where Stephen and Albert were dishing out hot soup, stocked up on water and bananas, rested in the shade for a while and set off for the next control. The next stretch turned out to be the hardest part of the journey for me as I struggled with front derailleur problems, switching from small to big chain ring was just not happening without a struggle. However, the hardest struggle on this stretch, the afternoon of day 3 was mental. I was sleep deprived, exhausted, sun baked, my left foot and toe was a constant hot and painful ache. As I chugged along the 30 km stretch of Buckshott Rd on the gravel with nothing much to look at for a distraction I was thinking, “Why do I do this? I am not having fun. This sucks. Never again.” Yup, Buckshott Rd just sucked the little bit of life out of me that was left in the tank. I know Bob was experiencing similar feelings as we were no longer talking much as we continued to pass and overtake each other on the road. I was whooped and sick of the stupid, exhausting 1200 km adventure.

Then something interesting happened. We pulled into the Plevna control, sometime mid-afternoon, where two very funny friends -Carey and Terry from the Huron chapter, were running the control. They made me laugh so hard as they related stories of their night together in the tent waiting for riders to pull in that I started to cheer up. Laughter and a huge Cherry Bordeaux ice cream gave me the heart, hope and drive to continue on the journey. Also, Liz and Rich pulled into the control as were leaving and it always cheers me up to see my friend Liz. The four of us regrouped down the road and finished the ride together into Nappanee arriving just before midnight. It was so great to see Stan and Paul at the control and they were a great support ensuring we got everything we needed, food, liquids, assistance with the bikes.

Day 4: By the end of day 3 I was falling into a routine at the overnight controls, getting faster, more efficient: quickly eat something hot, drink fluids, shower, dump dirty clothes in dirty laundry bag, plug in the phone and all lights with rechargeable batteries, try to keep eyes open and text friends, lay out clothes and route sheet, sun and butt cream for early 4:15 departure. And finally I was able to fall asleep at the last overnight control, a whole 3 hours!! After a big breakfast at Spuds in Nappanee, the four of us headed out – Liz, BC Bob, Rich and myself. The sunrise was magnificent and if you have travelled through Prince Edward County you will know how pretty the landscape is there. We were in high spirits with perfect weather and best of all we were headed home, a mere 220 km to the finish. Only concern at that point was the number of hills that lay between us and the finish. Liz broke a spoke and was riding slowly with a wobbly front wheel. Eventually she phoned Nuala at the front desk who arranged for a replacement wheel to be delivered to along the route. Unfortunately, when the support car arrived with the wheel they brought a replacement for the back wheel, not the front wheel and Liz had to keep going with her wobbly wheel until another front wheel was found. As it turns out, Guy Q had his bike in a support vehicle and he generously loaned his front wheel to Liz making it possible for her to safely complete the ride. Once again Liz was tearing up and down the hills. Thanks to Dick, Rolf and Guy for their fast support on Liz’s wheel.

Starting before Bewdley at around 1100 km into the ride is a series of hills that are relentless and go on for about 60 km. Dick described them as “rollers”. Dick is a member of the Huron chapter and, like Carrey, he lies a lot! These were not rollers. At one point, as I was moving at quite a clip, I got stung on the butt by a wasp or hornet and it hurt so much. I will tell anyone the story in greater detail of how I shouted to Lizzie to stop and inspect my bite. She is a good friend and administered topical cream to take the sting away. Suffice to say that what happens on the road should stay on the road, there is little dignity involved when you are moving fast and trying not to waste time! So, with a bike that that was sounding pretty sick at this point: grinding, skipping gears and frequent clunking noises, we managed those hills, stayed together as a group and pulled into the finish in Oshawa at 6:08 pm on Sun evening. Friends and riders who had finished before us were all clapping and Lizzie and I were shouting and whooping as we came through the door. The applause went to my head and I did a little victory dance with my bike kicking my heels up in the air. Stephen said to me that if I had that much energy at the end of the GA the route was not hard enough!!

What an adventure I had! I now have a folder in my brain with the memories of the Granite Anvil 1200; the people, the places, the pain, the pleasure. Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat, but not just for the cycling; that’s a given. I would do it again because I am drawn to the full package -the extreme physical challenge, the excitement of traversing new terrain and enjoying the scenery from the bike, the intensity of the friendships that form, the alliances and the unique spirit of camaraderie that develops as a result of sharing something very difficult with passionate kindred spirits. My heartfelt thanks go out to all the individuals who supplied support and encouragement, food, drink and hospitality along the way: Elizabeth and Jim (Midland); Vaune, Janice and Peter (Bancroft); Stan and Paul (Napanee); Stephen and Albert; Carrey and Terry; Bob and Arthur; John and Laurie; Bob and Milana; Vytas and Colleen; Dick and Rolf; Guy Q; the volunteers at the front desk in Oshawa; Peter G for the great route sheet and a tribute to Henk B who planted the seed for the Granite Anvil 1200 years ago. A special thanks to Dave Thompson who devoted countless hours, days and a significant part of his life to making the grand event come together. Without his efforts there may not have been a Granite Anvil 1200 this year. Hugs to Liz and BC Bob, Rich, Dave P and Marti for company on the route. A final salute to super hero Dave Pearson who achieved the awesome goal of riding the GA 1200, 35,000+ feet of climbing, on his fixie. Wow!

Thanks for sharing my journey with me. I hope I have inspired anyone who is considering whether they can do a 1200 km or not. My advice is to set a goal, train hard for that goal, prepare carefully and just go out and do it. If I can accomplish this goal, you can too!

Granite Anvil Photos

Here are some links to posted photos from the Granite Anvil which was held August 22-25:

Guy Quesnel’s Photos

John Maccio’s Photos

Bob McLeod’s Photos

Bob Kassel’s Photos

Arthur Reinstein’s Photos

Dave Thompson’s Photos

Bob Koen’s Photos

Albert Koke’s Photos

If you have online photo albums from this ride that you would like to share, please email me at

Tour for Kids Charity Ride

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Photo by Victor Crowl

Ride report by Andrea Ferguson Jones:

Stephen and I just completed our fourth (well, his third since he missed 2011 for PBP) Tour for Kids which ran from August 15th to August 18th. This is a four day event (with a two day option) that supports the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation and their funding of Camp Oochigeas, Camp Quality and Camp Trillium pediatric oncology camps. These camps give kids living with and beyond cancer as well as their families the opportunity to leave the doctors and hospitals behind and spend time at camp which is excellent therapy itself. The camps have medical staff to maintain treatment protocols and provide any special care needed. For kids who are too sick to travel to one of the camps, Camp Ooch also has an in hospital program at Sick Kids that provides programs for kids while they are still in the hospital.

The ride itself consists of four days with the option to ride 100, 160 or 200 km each day. Two day and one day options are also available. This year we were riding a borrowed tandem so we stuck to the 100 km routes and more than quadrupled our tandem experience over the course of the event (trial by fire!). In previous years, I would usually ride the 100 km routes while Stephen took on the 200 km routes. There is a wide range of people on this ride from those who will never ride more than 100 km to RAAM finishers. The bulk of riders are probably in the moderately strong roadie category with moving average speeds of 25-30 km/h taking on at least one day of 160 km if not more. If you ever wanted to pull off a 6 ½ hour 200, this is the place to do it!

The ride is very well supported with a fantastic team of volunteers staffing full service rest stops and ride marshals on the road to support groups as needed. After being cheered in off the road at a typical lunch stop, you are greeted by volunteers making sure you have sanitized your hands and then you work your way down the multiple food tables as the volunteers load up your plate with whatever you like. The usual fare is wraps, fruit, vegetables, cookies, energy bars, pop, juice, water etc. There are other rest stops on the route with snacks, water and the very important porta potties. Not only are riders thanking the volunteers, but with many of them camp staff, they are thanking the riders.

The routes have changed a few times since we started riding the event. The first couple of years, we rode out of Stouffville up to Peterborough and then onto Haliburton with accommodations at Trent University and Camp White Pine. Last year, we started in King and headed up to Barrie for all three nights at Georgian College. No shortage of hills on either of those sets of routes! This year it was an Oakville start riding out to Waterloo to stay at the University of Waterloo for all three nights. Not a lot of hills on this year’s routes, but they were very nice and people could find their challenges in the distances instead of the terrain. The weather couldn’t have been better and this was the first year we didn’t get wet on at least one day. One year, the longer courses were actually shut down due to tornado warnings!

Of course, this is much more than four great days of riding. As their mantra “Ride Somewhere Meaningful” suggests, it is really about raising money and awareness while riding our bikes. Every morning and evening, we hear from a family that has been touched by childhood cancer and benefited from the programs the ride supports. Many of these stories don’t have a good outcome, but parents share how wonderful it was to give their child a bit of their childhood back through their camp experience. Rides are often dedicated to a child who has lost their battle with cancer. We have ridden for Alex, Stella, Adam, Tamara…the list goes on unfortunately. There are also stories of survival and the role that camp played in a child’s recovery and the health of the whole family. One of our favourite stories is that of Dave who lost his leg to bone cancer like Terry Fox when he was only 8 years old. He didn’t want to learn to use his prosthetic leg and just sat in his wheelchair. He got the opportunity to go to camp and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say it changed his life. When he got home, his mother found him in the garage tinkering with his bike to figure out how to ride it with his prosthetic leg. He figured it out and hasn’t stopped riding since including a cross country ride and riding Tour for Kids every year now as a marshal. All the stories inspire and make those hard points in the ride easier to bear.

Plans are already being made for the 2014 Tour for Kids. We are really happy to support Tour for Kids and the fact that 100% of all donations go to the charity. The event runs on rider fees and in-kind corporate donations and the foundation has their own corporate sponsors for their operating costs. If you would like more information about the ride or our team, please check out our website We really appreciated the sponsorship support from members of Randonneurs Ontario this year and we hope that more than a few of you will join us on the ride next year. The tentative dates for 2014 are August 14th-17th. Please email me at if you might be interested in joining the team.

Photo by Victor Crowl

A Lazy Randonneur’s Version of LEL

Ride report by David McCaw:

A Lazy Randonneur / long-distance cyclist (David McCaw) completes London-Edinburgh-London (LEL) -1400 km randonnée- LEL is a timed 20 stage event, but not a race. On July 25th – two Ottawa Randonneurs (Peter Grant and I) headed north from Loughton (Northeast London) with 1000 riders to Scotland. My goals were 1) to ride mostly during the day 2) finish before nightfall on August 1 and 3) do not get lost. The ride took 107 hours 50 min ( ~65 hours riding, ~ 22.5 hours sleeping , & ~20 hours of eating / stopping ) of the 116 hours 40 min allowed for 1419 km. I will call myself the lazy randonneur, since all I do is pedal, drink, eat and sleep. It was a great ride /route and I succeeded in meeting all my LEL goals.

I saw lots of sheep in Scotland on the hills and roads. The sheep were noisy (baa, baa ..); perhaps they didn’t like my wool jersey. I had two of them, of which the Woolistic was the best with RANDONNEURS CANADA in front and CANADA in back) I loved riding in Scotland, since the roads were paved, quiet, nice climbs and descents. One of the best stops / controls was at Traquair – they offered cakes, porridge and whisky. The weather can change quickly, especially in the hills, we had some rain, but missed the major rainfall going into Edinburgh on Monday night in which the road was covered in ponds of water.

This was the best ride I ever had for sleep. We were always able to stay in the top third of the group and had a bed (air mattress, 2 x blankets, 2 ear plugs) waiting for us in the gym / room at the middle school. The 1st day we cycled ~ 400 km and arrived in Thirsk after midnight. I over slept to 05:18 and we had breakfast and rode another ~300 km to Edinburgh to arrive just before midnight. Then we got into a pattern of waking at 4 and leaving at 5 am. The next 3 days were day light riding with more sleep (arriving at ~ 20:26, 22h and 18h after riding ~230, 286, 200 km). It was a great time of the year to cycle, since it was light to almost 11 pm in Edinburgh and the sun was rising near 04h30.

Randonneur riding is slow, although it is a very cost effective way ($350 CDN with meals / beds included) to see the England /Scotland up close. It also gave me opportunity to speak with so many other people from 33 countries. I enjoyed riding behind the tandems; brits – VC167 – captained by Chris and French riders – Alain and Sylvie. We also rode with the Germans, Irish, Russians, Danes, Swedes, South Africans, Americans, Italians and others. I was very impressed with the fixed gear British riders doing 17% ascents / descents in Yorkshire area Probably one of our best stops was at the The Queens Head Littlebury Essex with 22 km to go before the 2nd last control. It was almost 34 C, my bike just experienced chainsuck (chain dropped between small chainring and chainstay, but I managed to pull it out), the Italian rider was yelling free beer (not, public house), Peter and I stopped and the two French tandem riders) were enjoying the pub. It was a great time to cool off and enjoy different Ales and chips.

In summary, thanks to LEL organization ( lead by Daniel Webb. I have completed 9 randonnées /brevet over 1200 km and this had to be one of the best experiences for me and I will certainly love to ride the course again in 2017. Additional thanks to goes to my spouse /nutritional coach – Michèle Owen, riding partner Peter Grant (organizing the accommodations / taxi, GPS/ file setup to keep us on route), John Zahab (Strength coach of to resolve upper body issues, Paula Burchat ( ) for massages and advice to rest more before event, Tall Tree Cycles to make changes to my Trek bike, Mary Patterson of for bike fit, and to all the randonneurs I rode with, a special thanks to the kind volunteers and others that have encouraged my participation in these long distance cycling events.

My Next Long Ride – Randonneur Ontario Granite Anvil 1218 km randonnée from Aug. 22 to 25


Bewdley Glutebuster 200 Brevet

Ride Report from Kathy Brouse:

“Bewdley Ho!” quote, unquote, DP. Aside from some roadwork repairs desperately required enroute, the BG 200 is a great ride! 5 of us finished this ride yesterday; day rider Peter who was so enthusiastic and strong to Bewdley lost some of his initial enthusiasm on the return journey; Rob Woodhouse who is back after a year hiatus from the club; Bob MacLeod who enjoyed the day despite some mechanical problems with the Arkel bike rack; David Pearson who rode his fixie up and down those ascents and descents, how does he do that?; and myself.

This ride is not called the Glutebuster for nothing. You roll and climb after Oshawa as you head out to and long Conlin Rd., you climb before and after Kendal and again before and after Bewdley and again along Conlin Rd taking you in to Oshawa, 1100 feet of climbing. Peter L told me today that this ride used to be the randonneur season opener, the gentle start so to speak. Ha ha.

The weather was crisp and clear like a fresh fall day and the wind was intense at times, especially the crosswinds. It was one of those rides when you get hit by a crosswind while descending quite rapidly, you wobble and think for an instant that you may lose control of the bike. Sitting on the pub patio in Bewdley in the bright sunshine overlooking the bay was pleasant until a chill set in from the wind whipping across the lake. Headwinds made the journey back seem longer than the journey to Bewdley despite the fact that it is a straight out and back route. And did I mention the road that badly needs resurfacing through the smaller villages? One of us commented that it’s like someone came out with a shovel and filled in the potholes making the road super bumpy. Which makes descents so thrilling as you weave your way between potholes and bumps. However, the fresh, green, quintessential Ontario farmland, lots of cows and horses, made me so glad I was out there on the Glutebuster.

there’s a man in my washroom…another account of LEL

From Liz Overduin:

One thousand cyclists from 33 countries, cycling 1400 kilometres from London to Edinburgh and back to London. We saw castles and cottages, crowded places and open spaces, roads with bicycle lanes and bicycle paths that are actually roads!

The Controls, set up at schools along the route, were well organized and the volunteers were always helpful and friendly. Even though they put signs everywhere so that we would know where to go, people would get it wrong. Like the man who came into the women’s washroom at Market Rasen control (km 246). I was so happy to see him but he did not recognize it was me and he just turned away embarrassed and mumbling his apologies at his mistake. It was Terry Payne from the Huron chapter and I wanted to know how his ride was going.

Terry and I ended up doing the rest of the ride together – it was awesome. The hills would lead to incredible views followed by thrilling descents. One thing that never ceased to amaze me were the miles and miles of stone fences, in the fields, around the cottages, and along the roadways – what an incredible amount of work that must have been! The villages were quaint and the small gardens were inspiring. Terry stopped to pet a couple of curious horses and an ancient woman came out of a little old cottage to chat with us – it was great, we almost wished we could stay for tea.

As for the weather – we had it all. There were times we were cold, times we got wet, and a lot of the time it was perfect. There was the last day, temperature of 34 degrees in the shade (of which there was no shade while cycling) and a good strong headwind. That’s when Terry and I became part of a chain which steadily grew longer as we would catch up with other exhausted riders who would join in on the back. Thanks to this chain we were able to get some better speeds and make headway into the wind. It was emotional for me when we all stopped for ice-cream and got the chance to talk with each other. It hits you that you share a bond with people from countries all over the world, all trying to make it to the finish, one kilometre at a time.

There were shots of whiskey at some of the controls – I tried that. Terry and I stopped at one restaurant for breakfast because we wanted to be with the local people, that was fun. Part of the breakfast included something called “blood pudding” – I tried that. Then Terry told me what it was and I had to spit it out! He thought it was all very funny but he was laughing alone!

The experience of cycling LEL is something I will never forget. It was wonderful to be a part of it. Terry and I stopped for a pint at a pub in a small village about 20 km from the finish and we both agreed that it had been an amazing adventure.

Congrats to everyone who was a part of this, past, present and those thinking of doing it in the future!

London Edinburgh London 1400

Ride report from David Thompson:

Summary — What an experience !

Boiling it down to memories that will stick, I’d say the rolling terrain, the food and the sheep vie for top spot. Sheep are everywhere — close up, in the far, far distance on the road alive and on the road as road kill. There have to be more sheep than people !

The good:

– the food
– the overall organization
– the weather
– the scenery
– the overall experience
– the riding company, mostly my friend Hamid

The bad:

– the rough roads at times
– the weather (note also in the good !)
– my consistency

The ugly:

– cannot think of anything

This was a tough ride, overall. I haven’t added up the total amount of climbing but it was significant and made more so by the fact that about 200 miles of the 875-or-so is flat. There were significant grades at times, steeper than many on the Shenandoah which has a lot of climbing.

The weather was exactly as expected, extremely variable with sun, rain, wind, cold, hot, mist.

It’s a ride well worth doing for Randonneurs. It’s incredibly well organized and supported and gives you a taste of the U.K. that you’ll only see at a bicycle pace.

My Plan

How does one tackle 1400 km ? Well, if there’s a sleeping Control at 350 km, logic would have one think of 4×350 km days. 350 km is a reasonable ride for a day (for a randonneur !) and seems eminently do-able, even four days in a row.

In fact, the time limit on this 1400+ km ride is 116+ hours. Four days adds up to 96 hours, so that certainly leaves plenty of room for “slippage” if some of those days are longer than 24 hours …. In this context, don’t think of a calendar day, think of starting and ending 350 km, sleeping and then starting another 350 km day.

Besides, on a day ride, vs. a long brevet that starts in the evening, I don’t like the 400 km distance. There’s something about it — too long — that makes me very anxious to get off the bike, mentally as well as physically tired.

The ride has 10 Controls outbound, including the start at Loughton and turnaround at Edinburgh and 12 Controls inbound. Most Controls have some sleeping arrangements; many have showers. One of the outbound, at 620 km, is not represented inbound and three of the inbound are not outbound.

The large number of Controls means that if you are getting sleepy, you have an opportunity to take a break. All of the Controls are inside — that’s an important consideration. All have food and most have a huge variety of snack as well as comfort food.

The Food

Oh yes, the food. I ate more comfort food over a four day period than I’ve probably eaten cumulatively in the last few years ! Shepherd’s pie and pasta in incredible variety with multiple choices at each Control means that even if you’re not particularly hungry, there’s likely something that appeals to you. In fact, I ate too much. All that comfort food slows you down as your stomach diverts blood to handle it all ! I’m more used to a more liquid diet with some solids thrown in — V8, Gatorade, chocolate milk etc. etc. They don’t last as long but they’re quicker burning.

The Chronology

Back to my ride chronology and how it played out against my 4x350k plan …

There was a staggered start of about 50 riders at a time, starting at 6 a.m. There were also some riders who started at 5:30 — those were by invitation, like Ken Bonner, who had done the ride before and posted good finish times. That 5:30 group had rider numbers starting with “A”; I was B15 – second wave, rider 15.

As usual on these things, I set my own pace. I don’t particularly like drafting, unless it’s riding with one or two companions and never close drafting. For me, that’s hard on the knees, takes too much concentration and isn’t, quite frankly, fun. I have no desire to stare at someone else’s butt for 4-5 days, nor do I want to maintain the kind of disciplined pace that is required at the front or even in a small group.

So … 30 km into the ride, I was alone, the A and B riders all ahead of me, as far as I could tell. A small group of C riders (6:15 start time) passed me. A fast-moving D group of four, without so much as a seat wedgie, flew by. Further down the road, not at a Control, that group of four was taking sustenance from a support van — tch tch !

Getting close to the first on-the-road Control, Peter Grant and Dave McCaw went by and I decided that for the next few kilometres I’d latch on. That was short-lived, however, as I only spent a few minutes at the Control and was leaving as they headed inside. For a good chunk of the day we’d see each other at the Controls, me leaving as they arrived I rode alone, enjoying the sunny warm day and great English countryside.

The first 99 km to that Control, St. Ives, was rolling. The next two stages of 81 km to Kirkton and 68 km to Market Rasen were almost flat. The riding was easy. There was a tailwind.or a cross-tail, which made for easy rolling. The roads were in good shape, my 28’s absorbing any unevenness.

Another 84 km would get me to Pocklington, 350 km on the day. My original plan was to sleep there (remember that 4×350 plan) but my friend Hamid had convinced me to strike for Thirsk, at 397 km. I had therefore sent one drop bag there (we were allowed two) and the other at Edinburgh. Even so, I wasn’t sure that was what I really wanted to do so I carried a change of shorts, jersey and socks with me.

Things got a lot slower on the stretch to Pocklington. Climbing and now rain slowed me down significantly. A heavy downpour and lightening made riders and cars pull off the road. A torrent of water and mud three inches deep made things interesting going through one little town. I was adequately dressed with my heavy MEC raincoat and even had my leg warmers and rain pants in reserve. The leg warmers did get use later on; the rain pants were left in my Edinburgh drop bag.

Even so, I was at Pocklington at 8:18. I probably could have slept but wasn’t particularly sleepy. I decided to continue to Thirsk, only 65 km further but that turned out to be a long 65 km. Narrow rough roads, steep grades, mostly alone in the dark, I was slow. I got into Thirsk at 12:22.

Hamid had been running about 1/2 hour ahead of me before Pocklington. He’s always faster on the first day and has no difficulty picking up a paceline. I don’t remember the exact time, but think that he was an hour ahead getting into Thirsk – he was ahead of that flash thunderstorm. Lucky him !

I cleaned up at Thirsk, had a welcome hot shower and got some sleep, not much, but enough to keep me going.

I only spent 15 minutes at the first couple of Controls; about 1/2 hour at Pockington and then 1:45 at Thirsk. I know, that’s not much sleep, but it was all that I needed. After that, Control time was typically in the 1/2 hour range through the rest of the ride, other than Edinburgh and Great Easton, where I got some sleep.

The sleeping arrangements were in a large gymnasium-like area with about 250 blow-up beds. That repeated itself at some other major Controls. Thirsk was lightly occupied (Hamid was there somewhere too) when I put my head down and more beds were occupied when I left.

In contrast, when I got to Edinburgh, I was one of fewer than 10 occupying those beds. When I got up, all 250 were occupied and there was a waiting list — recent arrivals eating and waiting for a bed.

With my short stay at Thirsk, I was now ahead of Hamid, but not much. I would be leaving Controls as he arrived. He arrived in Edinburgh about 1/2 hour after me and we arranged to leave together.

The section from Thirsk to Edinburgh — roughly 300 km — has a lot of climbing. It turned out to be a fairly long day. I got in to Edinburgh at 8:13 p.m.; Hamid and I planned at 1 a.m. departure. Hamid’s wife and brother-in-law were waiting for us in Edinburgh; Hamid went to the hotel with them. I put up with a semi-cold shower here, which was a disappointment.

As I was prepping to leave Edinburgh, Peter and Dave were eating, getting organized to get some sleep. I don’t think that I was riding any faster, just spent less time at Controls and, in particular, getting less sleep (I think). We haven’t had a chance to compare notes.

Edinburgh to Traquair and then to Eskdalemuir were very slow. Climbing, cold, misty, not highlights. They might have been highlights in daytime, probably great scenery.

Hamid got his wish at one of these, yes, there was a bottle of Scotch available for a shot. I needed something that was truly warm, like coffee, not pseudo-warming, like alcohol ! I had coffee. These two Controls, short runs, would have been a great place to stop had I extended the day that ended in Edinburgh, but that’s hindsight, always 20-20.

It was now daylight. We’d left Edinburgh shortly after 1 a.m. and didn’t get into Eskdalemuir until 6:56 a.m. Six hours to do 86 km, including Control time of course, is very slow.

Hamid was committed to making Pocklington that day, making both it and the last day, 350 km days. We were now in tune. 300 of that 350 got us back to Thirsk at 8:41.

To my delight, my cousin Allan, who I’d visited in Yorkshire prior to the ride, was there to meet us. Allan had introduced me to the local cycle club and while riding with them, encountered another rider who said that he would be working Thirsk … and there he was. That was fun. As a result, we spent more time in Thirsk than planned, since we’d only expected to eat and grab a change of clothing out of our drop bags so that we could change and sleep in Pocklington.

Onward … we got to Pocklington at 2:21 a.m. — yes, the days are now stretching out. However, we then planned to leave at 6 a.m. to do the last 350. Hamid wasn’t sure if he’d do it all because he had told his wife Shab that she could see him at the end. if we arrived in the middle of the night with her not there, well, that wouldn’t have been good.

Starting out from Thirsk to Pocklington we had some more rain. When the rain stopped, the wind started and of course it was then a cross-headwind. It was really blowing. We made St, Ives, 119 km from the end, at 9:25 p.m. It had been slow going. Hamid stopped to sleep and I continued on.

The section from St. Ives to Great Easton was not a good one for me. Mentally I was kind-of weirded out, it’s middle of nowhere; no other lights or riders around, thinking what-if-my-gps fails or simply deposits me in the middle of nowhere. Eventually though, I did get there. Mentally I needed a break so I crashed there for 1/2 hour which became 45 minutes sleep time, 1:15 at the Control overall.

Refreshed mentally and physically — it’s amazing what a short sleep will do for you, even if that’s simply lying across three chairs — I finished the last 4 km stretch which descends to Loughton but has a lot of rolling thrown in for good luck.

I finished up at 6:12 a.m. … yes, it had turned out to be a 4 day ride plus 12 minutes.

There were definitely places where I could have cut time but it all has to be taken as a package. Pushing faster somewhere would probably mean more break time; it’s hard to say.

Had I taken more time, I’d have seen some parts in daylight that I only saw at night, but it’s hard to simply stop and wait for daylight if you’re ready to roll.

It was fun.