A quick recap
This time next week we will be in France heading towards Rambouillet, outside of Paris, to the start of the 2019 Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) Randonnuer.
For me, this has been a long time coming. After having abandoned after 900km in 2015 due to serious sleep deprivation, I’ve had a lot of time to consider what I did wrong and how to right it. I had thought I made good progress and entered London-Edinburgh-London (LEL) in 2017, much fitter and better prepared, but still had to abandon at just over 800km, this time mostly due to a knee issue that got the better of me in Scotland. However, I was also still pretty sleep deprived and had been slowing – so there were still things to sort out.
With unfinished business with France, I developed a new determination to right the wrongs in my performance and endurance aspects. Training for me starting in October 2017, and I ramped up in 2018. I booked loads of longer distance Audaxes, to get back into the swing of the longer rides – everyone told me it’s time on the bike that counts, the more of the longer distance rides I do, then the better prepared I’ll be. So I rode long rides, lots of long rides. I completed a Randonee round the year (1 x 200k every month for 12 months), I rode 300k, 400k, 600k’s with varying degrees of success – see previous posts.
I could handle the distance, but was struggling still with speed, endurance energy and sleep – although I could now go around 400km before struggling too much with the sleep. I was improving, but not enough. This year I decided to get a coach, and things very much improved. I have increased my speed and strength considerably, and am getting to grips with my nutrition needs. In this respect, I’m pretty much as ready as I can be at this stage. I am actually going into this with a feeling that I will complete it.
There are 8 of us from our club taking part this year, I think most are doing their own thing and have different start times. We will meet up at the start, at the end, and maybe on the road as we pass each up (well, they will come zooming past me).
My set up
Whilst not all British Audaxers agree, I have decided this time to take a support vehicle. Since it’s perfectly acceptable on this event (it’s listed on the entry form), it seems like my best chance of being able to get the sleep that I require, and also to ensure that I get the much needed calories. The calories issue was key since I’m a non meat eater, and in France that can mean lots of cheese baguettes, omelettes and frites. We will have a variety of vegetarian ‘adventure food’ packs that I can heat up quickly and will provide me with 800 cals at a time, amongst other emergency rations such as rice pudding.
My support vehicle is my Ford Transit ex speed camera van – called Dora, which will be driven by my partner in crime, the Hubster. She is part van, part camper and is in the final stages of conversion so that we have working facilities by the time we travel next week. She won’t be pretty inside, but will be functional.
Dora and the Hubster will be at designated controls, so that I can be guaranteed a bed and alternative food when I need them. He’ll be available with tool kits and supplies for my other club mates as well should they have bike issues and require a bit of fettling.
Support vehicles are not allowed on any part of the route except around the control points, so I will still be self sufficient between controls.
My bike is a Ribble CGR, in bright yellow – it’s hard to miss.
I’ve been playing around with its set up during my qualifiers to make sure that all is as I would like.
I tried using a bike packing style saddle bag on one event, but found that whilst it is great, it was a real faff if I needed something from the bottom on the bag. For this reason, I have opted to keep my Altura night vision rack bag for the event. Whilst marginally heavier, everything is easy to access quickly with a roomy main compartment, side pockets, and a flap on top, perfect for a rain jacket or high viz vest. Paddington, my riding companion, also gets a good view from the top.
For access to food and items on the go, I did initially have a great unbranded bar bag that I bought off Amazon. It worked brilliantly, until I decided to add tri bars to my bike. So instead I now have a feedbag attached in front of my handlebars. I’ve not used one before, but on my last couple of rides, I’ve realised how useful they are. In France I may even be able to stick my cheese baguette in it!
Tri Bars – After riding Fenland Friends 600k, I was reminded just how much my palms begin to hurt on long distance rides. After PBP in 2015, I had 3 numb fingers for weeks afterwards, and at the end of the event, effectively had claw hand, unable to grip anything for a few days. On LEL I had attached a diamond tri bar, and didn’t suffer in the same way.
PBP rules state that tri-bars are to be allowed, but that they must not protrude further than the brake leavers. This meant my diamond bars would not work. I have purchased some inexpensive bars, and cut them down. Being short, they are not as comfortable as my previous bars, but still work well to periodically take the pressure off my hands, which is their primary purpose for me.
I will be riding in mostly Rapha kit, as I was lucky enough to win a full set from Rapha earlier this year. I love it so much that I bought a second set, so that I didn’t have to wear anything else when I change half way through.
I have the Cargo bib shorts, complete with the side pockets (handy for lip salve, and brevet card). These are the most comfortable shorts I have EVER worn. I love them.
I will be pairing it with a mix of my Rapha brevet jersey, or my club jersey (Audax Club Portsmouth), depending on where I am on the ride. I also have the Rapha rain jacket, which I am hoping I won’t be needing. It packs up really small. I haven’t listed a jacket here, but my Rapha jacket is most likely to be too warm for this event, although my Castelli Gabba may come along for the night sections in case it gets cold near the coast. It goes without saying that I will be wearing my beloved Kask helmet, emblazoned with it’s Union Jack colours. There will be no guessing which country I hail from.
As I’m sure is the case with many other Audaxers, I can’t just rock up and ride, I need to be prepared. I like to plan my timings, and know that based on the pace I want to do what are the approximate arrival times at controls & how long I can afford to stay before needing to leave. I plan 2 scenarios – my planned best time, and my planned slowest time. The cut off times sit on the chart too, a bit like the naff back up car on a top gear challenge that no one wants to get close to. I ride as much as I can to the highest target, and if things start to fall apart, as long as I stay within my slowest targets I will still finish with a little time in hand. Generally on a good ride I fall somewhere between the two, starting at the higher end, and then dropping off a bit towards the end as I get tired/bored/start faffing.
With all these events, although I have a plan, I don’t stick rigidly to it. For example, with sleep stops, I have them planned. However if I get to a stop ahead of time, I might decided to just have a quick power nap, and crack on to the next stop before sleeping. I simply add the stoppage time together for the two controls, and make sure that I leave the 2nd control by the designated leave time. Any time I’m not off the bike earlier, is time banked for later stops when I might need a bit of extra time. It works (mostly) for me, and I’ve been getting a bit more disciplined in recent months.
I am not feeling too nervous, although maybe I should be. I think excited would be a better description. However, a week ago my head was in a very different place. The video will explain this a bit better.
Signing out for now, until I reach France
Bon Voyage to everyone else out there making their way over to France in the next few days – see you on the start line
If you want to track me, I am rider I001 – starting at 6pm, Sunday 18th Aug.