Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Accidental K-Hound

This year I had no illusions about the K-Hound (basically 10,000k on the RUSA calendar).  I had a blast doing it in 2012 with all my friends cheering me on.  2013 had LEL as a major ride and I knew that it wouldn't count and with all of those K not counting and the need for both tapering and a vacation afterwards, K-Hound status just wasn't important.  I had spent 11 months bleeding from a colitis outbreak so I was counting my lucky stars that I had accomplished all that I had.  Of course, I also had the North Carolina 400k in October to thank for the discovery of Geritol, the magic elixir that somehow brought the colitis to heel.

Imagine my surprise when Pecos Lara (possessor of the greatest RUSA comeback of the century) emailed me in early December to tell me that RUSA had taken over the K-Hound from the Lone Star Randonneurs and that foreign events would count.  "You are only 530k short", she said most emphatically, "you can't not do this".

Okay, it was 5 below with snow on the ground and it was December 3rd.  Looking at the long term forecast was dismal - the coldest December in 20 years and that's saying something in Minnesota.  That had all the appeal of a light vivisection.   Then I thought of Arizona, after all Pecos Lara was there.  Maybe that could work?

Then Iron K's father died suddenly and everything just collapsed.  In the horrible stress that followed, I just went ahead and booked airline reservations anyway.  I really wanted to see Dad anyway, you should always appreciate people while they were around.  So I got tickets to Arizona for the 5 days before Christmas.  Of course, that left me only 2 days to do 530k.

So I had to figure out how to do that.  Lots of questions to figure out whether to ride in Tucson or Phoenix, which rides and who.  In the end, the Extreme Picnicking group and the new Arizona RBA came to my rescue along with Pecos Lara.  We would do 3 permanents in 2 days.

The first 2 were with Carlton and Ryan and Ilyssa who I don't get to ride with nearly enough.  We all met at Carlton's for the Saguaro Lake 123k.  For once it was cloudy in AZ and the temperatures never got out of the 50s.  It was also a bit chilly by AZ standards, though I still counted the 50s as thawing. I loved the ride and finished with a side trip to In and Out Burger with Ryan.  Carlton offered up his house for a rest and Ryan and I took off on the Bush Highway 100k.   Of course, it was nearly the same route in reverse, but hey, it was gorgeous both ways!  Lots of climbing - us pasty Minnesota types are just not used to such climbing.  But I at least did okay.  Ryan and I toasted each other at Streets of New York to finish!  2 down and 1 to go.

IronK picked me up at the finish and we rendezvoused with Pecos Lara at the La Quinta in Scottsdale.  A couple of pieces of pizza later and I was out for a whole 7 hours.  Up again and Pecos Lara and I met Mike S for the Vulture Mine 309k.

Pecos Lara Takes in the sun and a bunch of hot air balloons

Okay, I hadn't perhaps realized what lousy shape I was in.  The Vulture Mine was a great ride and I loved it enough to make most of it into a 200k permanent of my own.  We had our share of "challenges" including the partial destruction of my front tire and an emergency booting.  I think the highlight for me might have been the low nighttime temperatures.  Sure I was tired, but 42 in the wind is darn cold.  I finally coped by covering my lower legs with Subway bags and napkins.  Looks really nice by the way and it works!
Advertising or survival?

So there I was at 1:00 am in Scottsdale with IronK and Pecos Lara, the one who really thought I could do it.  Sure, I spent 4 days walking like a zombie, but spending all that time with people who so wanted me to achieve a goal was an experience I will never forget.  It was the most special end to a season I could ever have asked for.

So now I am sitting with 8,602k and LEL will total up to 10,000k.  Considering all the challenges of the year and all the things that happened, no one is more amazed than I am.  But it just goes to show that randonneuring is all about camaraderie.  This year, I'm converting to an Arizona Randonneuse - I've even got a new 200k, the Bone Dry 200k to honor Dad.  I start and finish every year there anyway.

So here I am the Accidental K-Hound.  No one is more surprised than I am and I feel like I really owe half of it to Lara, Ryan, Carlton, Ilyssa, IronK and all the people that helped me get through it.  It's a remarkable end of the year.

So for the end of the year, thanks to everyone that rode with me throughout the year.  I couldn't have done it without all of you.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Munger Bungo 2013 - Ride Day

This is a somewhat different post since it is for a ride that I supported rather than did myself (I did the pre-ride the week before).

First off, the Munger Bungo itself is a challenging route.  There are lots of reasons a ride can be challenging some predictable and some not, there can be hills, there can be weather problems, it can be navigationally challenging, there can be limited services.  Some of those challenges bother some more than others and there are always little kinks we all have in our riding.  I view the role of the organizer as trying to minimize as many of the non-cycling related challenges as possible.  A 600k is never easy, no matter how many one does.  This particular ride is challenging to organize at all.  Reasons include creating a scenic, fun route across a major urban area that was recently devastated by flooding, a lack of  last minute overnight options (the overnight has to be planned months in advance) and severely limited options for services during the night.  Rural areas have been hard hit by the economic downturn, 24 hour options are declining.  What's a would be rando to do?

This is the second year I have organized this brevet.  It is my sincere hope in doing so that everyone has a good time, end of story.  In the RUSA handbook, they talk about the qualities that are most important in finishing a ride of 600k (or 1200k), the biggest one is the desire to finish the ride regardless of the time it takes.  So whether you are going to earn a medal or not, enjoying the riding is the most important part of being a successful randonneur.  So the overall tone for those volunteering at the overnight was "enjoy your ride".

The weather (one of those very unpredictable challenges), was not shaping up to be what people expected from a ride in September in Minnesota.  The forecast for day 1 was for the mid-upper 80s during the day with a headwind for the first 300k.  The second day had a front blowing through that would drop temperatures down into the low 50s for the night and only highs in the low 70s with a strong cross/headwind.  There were 23 riders signed up including 6 people on their first 600k and several from out of state.  With a ride that essentially goes 300k straight north and 300k straight south, that's a lot of terrain to cover.   We had 4 people supporting the ride at the overnight and 1 person with an early water stop at 100k.

So I went out to the start at 5:00 AM in Stillwater, MN at the venerable Super 8 (motel of cheap randos everywhere).  The traditional hustle and bustle was going on.  Vincent (a pre-rider) did bike inspections and I handed out cue sheets telling everyone to throw away the one they had on the web since changes had to be made at the last minute (part of the urban-area-under-repair challenge).  I took notes to bring a reflective vest to the overnight for the rider that forgot his (thankfully, the ride started in the first minutes of daylight).  There is nothing quite like the excitement that sets in before a ride -especially for GearBob, who was riding a brand new frame of his own creation.  Also of note at the start was one rider who was late, but started 30 minutes late anyway - big kudos to someone who comes to ride and does even if the start isn't what they were planning.

My information is somewhat sketchy being that I didn't actually ride.   One of our volunteers, Ed, collected dropsacks.  We had an agreement to meet in Duluth at the overnight at about 1:00 pm to organize everything.  I had been to Costco a couple days earlier to get food for 20 and Kit, another volunteer, picked me and the food up at 10:00 to drive up.  Lara, the third volunteer, road her bike to the overnight from Ely (kudos to her for riding, she's recovering from a broken hip suffered at the Texas Rando Stampede).

Kit picked me up and we loaded up her Dakota (to the roof).  Our plans included towels for everyone, bedding, a 55 gallon garbage can - everything I have learned that is a good idea to have when 20 tired people show up.  Our first words "from the road" were from Norman and Jonas, two longtime riding friends".  Norman had an issue with his rim tape and was being plagued by flat after flat.  "Don't worry, just slap something on at the next control and we can have rim tape at the overnight - all you have to do is figure out how to get there" - we added a trip to the bike shop to the list of places to go on arrival.  We then heard from Rob, the RBA, at the 100k water stop.  Our late starter had caught up to another rider and they were working together.  Another group was approaching Hinckley.  The wind was definitely an issue for everyone.  At this point, we at least knew that no one would reach the overnight inbound until 5 pm or so (riders do and out and back to Two Harbors from the overnight before sleeping).  We got two more calls from Norman - they had plastered his rim with electrical and masking tape.

After 2 bike shops, we found the rim tape and the 4 volunteers all got treated to lunch before getting ready.  We also discussed how to best lay things out.  We had 2 very large rooms reserved with the dining area of the Munger Inn open to us all night.  Our thanks always go out the the Munger Inn for helping out and allowing us to somewhat take over their lobby and dining area.  They also provided the extra cots and extra blankets we needed.  Compared with the previous year, when weather was very favorable and the ride started earlier, it was to be a long night.

Ed, the martial arts expert, sliced the watermelon with serious expertise.  "I have to slice cucumbers on someone's torso in class", he explained.  Watermelon can be an art.  Kit and Lara made the hummus and peanut butter sandwiches (2 kinds of sandwich - no one eats hummus and peanut butter on the same sandwich).  I made lots of beds.  We also numbered each bed and had a corresponding tag to show us when to wake the rider up.  Lots of drinks and we were ready.
Ed, Lara, Kit, and Road Pixie (Michele) ready for business

The first 2 riders, Hall and Joel, showed up at around 5:30.  They were happy to be out of the wind as it was at least starting to die down as was the heat.  No one stayed too long on the inbound side but they posed for our "Power Ranger" shot of the ride.
Joel and Hall - Rando Power Rangers!
Ed on the left
We had a bit of a wait and then people came in droves.  We filled bottles, served snacks and provided smiles and encouragement to all......

Phil and visitor from Wisconsin with a Road Pixie special vest

Mark #1 - Think he was a first time 600 rider

Bob, Richard and Eric - hey, it's too early for that kind of fatigue!

Mark #2 - A Minnesota Staple
Lots of people liked the watermelon, grapes and sandwiches.  We ordered out to the Olive Garden for pasta on the return leg.  Norman and Jonas made it in on a 10 mile streak with no flats!  We gave them the new rim tape - just in case....

Big pause at this point and then more riders came in, we had Ron, Villanouth, Ilter, Bob K and others.  I didn't get as many pictures since we were busy.  All riders got cheers coming to the overnight - 170 miles is a long way in a headwind.
Ron - just glowing that he's at the 170 mile mark.

Between 9:00 pm and 11:00 pm we had a pause to clean things up and get ready for the return - about 11:00 pm the Power Rangers returned followed shortly by another big group.

Penne and Meatball dinner for Mark,Villanouth, Ilter and Phil
Showers and towels were in the mix for just about everyone - I personally think that showering is almost as good as sleeping on these things.  All the riders except for 1 decided to sleep at the overnight - our lone straight through rider, James, did, however, have some time off to chat and rest a bit before continuing.  GearBob set a personal best for most sleep too - 4 hours, besting his previous PBP record.

As people got up, we were ready with sleeping spots.  We had a window with all the bed numbers and who was waking up when.  This worked exceptionally well.

Who's getting up and when?  The big windows also let us keep a close eye on the bikes
People arrived at the overnight almost continuously and there really wasn't much time before one would go and another would come.  At about 3:00 am, one rider said that someone needed an allen wrench to fix a headset outside.  So I dutifully took the toolbox out to find...a giant man in leather with tattoos all over his arms (definitely not on this ride).  Sure enough, his handlebars were about to fall off they were so loose.  I happily tightened them out in the middle of the night...."I gave up my Harley for this Specialized thing here", he beamed, "I lost 15 pounds already".  I guess former Harley riders have a hard time giving up the look.  But he appreciated our help.

One thing about an overnight is that it never stops - you get to meet all the riders and experience a tiny bit of their ride.  I got way less sleep (1 hour on the floor during breakfast) than I did on the pre-ride.  Kit didn't get any sleep until about 7:30.  But we had great fun talking to people.  Some just needed to know where to crash and others needed some pepping up (230 miles is a long way too).  We had one rider come with his wife, he had DNF'd at 136 miles and wanted to pick up his drop sack and say hi.  Another would stop at 230 and just sleep in, but gave it a true try - that's the rando spirit.

However, I have to give  serious congrats to Ilter, who had knee issues and road continuously until Moose Lake.  He didn't hit the overnight until 9:00 am after getting to Two Harbors and taking a ditch nap.  Though he didn't finish, he still was just happy to be on his bike; the mark of a true randonneur.  I have confidence that everyone who didn't finish on a day with such difficult conditions will return again.

But the ride wasn't over just yet...

It's 150 miles from the overnight to the finish.  We cleaned up the Munger Inn and said our goodbye's to the Mungers (the trail, the ride and the overnight are all named after them).  Then Lara was ready to head back to Ely.
Farewell Lara - you'll be back!
Kit and I drove back to Stillwater and unloaded bags into the Super 8 and checked into the room (there is a room at the end for people to sleep in if they need a nap after a long distance).  On the way down, we couldn't help but notice the drops of rain on the windshield.  And the east-southeast wind (the last 40 miles of the ride head southeast).  Some riders would get caught in the rain and some would not.  But everyone who made it past Moose Lake, made it to the finish.

Vincent met us at the end and Kit departed for well earned sleep.  After a short lunch, we drove backwards to see when riders might start appearing...

Go Hall!  You've only got 10 miles to go!
So Hall was first in at about 3:30 pm.  We had food waiting for him and Rob, the RBA came to work with Vincent at the finish.  I stayed until 4:30 or so, but I owed a presentation of my LEL pictures to my British friend that had given me the lowdown on the entire ride, so I couldn't be there for all the finishers.  It turned out that after having 1 hour of sleep, I was also tired and got lost on the way across my own city.

So 20 riders pulled into the finish in total.  6 completed their first 600k ride too.  I think everyone appreciated all the work that Vincent, Ed, Lara, Kit, Rob and I put in.  Despite the rain and perhaps not the greatest conditions, everyone had fun, no one was eaten by bears, was hopelessly lost in Duluth, etc.

I once sat in a control at a 1400k across from a woman who was nearly in tears that she would not finish and that the wind and heat were too much.  I reminded her that she only had 73 miles to go and 12 hours to do it in and to think of every 70 mile ride she had ever done before, that I was still sitting in the same place and was sure finishing was possible.  She wound up finishing with 2 hours to spare.  Sometimes it's just the right person saying the right thing at a control that makes a difference.  So that is why volunteering is important - you can make a difference.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Munger Bungo 2013 Pre Ride

Though I created this route a year ago and this was my 4th time riding it, I've never managed to actually have time to write about any of the previous rides.  I suppose many things got in the way.  Last year, I had to re-write the entire second day after a flood trashed Duluth.  Now, finally most of the damage is repaired (okay, it's sort of done).

So this report serves two purposes, first it's the first ride reporting of what is surely the most interesting and scenic ride I have ever created, but it is also a guide for those about to ride the actual ride on September 7, 2013.  This report is not necessarily just "entertainment" - there is real information that will help riders know what to expect.

A note to GPS users.  Turn based GPS navigation does not work well in Duluth because many of the turns use routes that are not on standard maps.  Following a track does work.  I have no clue what kind of track may be available.  I had originally recorded a track, but the the number of detours rendered it pretty ineffective so I will not post it since it will run you all over any backtracking we had to do. The cue sheet in Duluth has been created specifically to use visual cues to help you know where you should turn.  You should have it in front of you even if you prefer a GPS.

Finally, the ride is starting 1 hour later than last year and the overnight is farther by about 15 miles.  The pre ride maintained a pace of 16-17 mph with a tailwind and had minimal stops at controls (5 controls before the overnight plus a 6th stop for water in Rush City).  That landed us at the overnight at 1:00 AM.  The loop from the overnight to Two Harbors is about 70 miles this year with 2 miles of sandy gravel.  The pre ride did this loop in 5.5 hours with a 20-30 minute stop in Two Harbors with rain/thunder.  There are no longer control stops in Duluth other than the Munger Inn.

To give you an idea of pacing:
170 miles to the inbound Munger Inn @ 
15 mph average with 3 stops at 20 minutes each  = Arrival time of 6:30 pm 
20 minute break at the Munger Inn/Duluth for cards/food and 10 minutes in Two Harbors (pretty aggressive since you haven't stopped much previously) and 70 miles @ 15 mph = arrival at the overnight at 11:00 pm.  Expect Duluth to slow your average, it's a big city with stop signs, traffic lights and some less than perfect pavement.

You only have about 150 miles from the overnight to the finish.  Two Harbors is more than halfway to the end.  The overnight itself doesn't close until nearly 7:00 am on Sunday, so if this is your first time and you are a slower rider, don't despair.  No 600k is easy, but time really should not be your enemy.  As long as you stay hydrated and well fed, you will be fine.  And honestly, it's having fun that matters, you get TCBC miles no matter how long it takes so choose your style according to your own goals.

The Pre-Riders
All pre riders have to provide support for the ride.  On the RUSA site, they suggest that the term pre-ride is probably wrong and "worker's ride" is more apt.  There are 6 volunteers for the Munger Bungo and 3 of them did the pre-ride.

The most important function of the pre-ride is to check the route sheet for typos, changes, road construction, anything that might screw up the ride.  No one wants to see a "Road Closed" sign in the middle of the night.

Road Pixie: Ride creator.  Taking notes on the pre-ride riding her trusty Summer Knight (built by Vincent).  Will be running the overnight.
Vincent: Navigating and running support at the finish of the official ride.  Riding an "experimental" frame.  This will be his first 600k since PBP 2007.
Glenn: Navigating and preparing for the Last Chance 1200k.  Provided support for the pre-ride in the form of Cristina...
Cristina: Drop bags, sleep stop, and overnight food support (pre-riders need these things too)

Your Pre Ride Crew (Cristina, Road Pixie, Vincent and Glenn)
The Munger Bungo begins in Stillwater, Minnesota, an old river town on the St Croix River.  Of course, we are starting in a parking lot.  The ride begins at the Super 8 on Hwy 36.  As you can see from the picture, it is just getting light at 6:00am.  The forecast for the day being favorable with winds from the south and a high in the mid to upper 80s.  By the time we officially stop for the overnight, we will have ridden 230 miles.

The First 200K
Stillwater and Washington County are known for hills and the first 50 or so miles of the ride are rolling with a good descent down into the valley proper at Marine on St Croix.  The morning is misty and clouds are parting.  Glenn and Vincent have the cue sheets and Road Pixie has a pen to take notes on any issues they have with navigating.  This can be picky stuff like "it should be US8 not MN8", etc.

It was a beautiful morning, we saw a bald eagle eating a large crow, sandhill cranes, and it seemed like an awful lot of frogs were up early.

We passed up and down the rollers and easily reached the Taylor's Falls area in a bit over 2 hours.
We ran into much more traffic on US8 than I have seen in the past.  This is the first time I have started this ride at 6:00am - every other time it has started at 5:00am.  There is a good shoulder on US8 during the big descent.  We stopped halfway down at the geological marker for photo ops.

The big view of the river
Glenn at the geological marker
Taylor's Falls is home of the Rocky River Bakery.  They have great donuts that I personally dream about (and I don't like donuts).
Road Pixie's Summer Knight outside the Bakery (try the Croixnuts)
 I ate two and bought cookies for the road.  This is a small town bakery so please if you are using the bakery, buy something there; the baker is happy to sign your card and sell you delicious stuff along with water, juice and soft drinks.  If you just want to use the restroom and go, use the Adium Station across the street.  There are several other places to stop along the way to the next control, Hinckley in 50 miles.

The climb out of Taylor's Falls is very gradual as it winds along the St Croix.  This is a quiet backroad bordering on Wild Rivers State Park.
Climbing out of the St Croix Valley
There is a short stretch on MN95 before turning north to Sunrise Minnesota, birthplace of Richard Widmark (the film noir star).  This year, riders are also treated to a lovely trip on Government Rd, which has been around for over 100 years.  

Look carefully and you will see winged lions and markers for buildings that haven't existed since the 1800s.  There is a very lovely view of the valley to the east on this road.  It was on this stretch that the first of the "incidents" occurred.  
Glenn and I turned around after a climb to find Vincent nowhere in sight!  Thinking he had a flat, we pedaled back.  Nope, his rear fender had cracked in half (not some cheap thing but a Honjo no less). This took out his rear generator light since there was nothing to mount.  Fortunately, he had two of them (being a good randonneur).  The other was mounted to his seat post.  We broke up the old fender into pieces and I put it in my seat bag.  Randonneurs do not litter!
Rush City - We have arrived "Up North"

We stopped in Rush City (about 60 miles), for drinks.  This is an easy place to stop and sits next to a beautiful turn of the century hotel, still in use.

Glenn in front of Grant House
Vegetarian Rider on Board - Tomato and Pesto available
on request
 From Rush City, a quick 11 miles on Old Highway 61 (new signs are aplenty) to Pine City.  Here we depart 61 for backroads up to Hinckley.  The tailwind is helping at this point and we make good time.  Tobies Marathon is our stop as we are eager to push on to Moose Lake.  The day is warming quickly.  Others may want to stop here at Subway, McDonalds or any number of fast food options.

Fire Monument Rd is crowded from the Labor Day weekend.  We make our way the mile or so to the start of the Munger Trail.
The Navigators are totally clear on where we are
The Munger Trail is one of the longest paved trails in the US.  It is also in the north where frost heaves and roots are common.  There are also 1 or 2 bridges that have rough entry or exits.  We continue on, the wind still blowing.  The sun is in force and Glenn's thermometer reads 86 degrees.
Starting the Munger Trail

Welcome to Willow River
We arrive in Moose Lake around 3:30 in the afternoon out of water and ready for a snack.  We scramble down the short trail to the Holiday Station and hit Dairy Queen for a second snack.  200k down!

The Second 200k

Rocky Pass going
Into Duluth
Out of Moose Lake, we continue on the trail.  After an emergency sprint to Carlton, we start down the Munger Trail.  This section is what I am most interested in.  It has been under construction for over a year to repair damages from the June 2012 flood.  We are happy to report that the ENTIRE MUNGER TRAIL IS OPEN!!!!  Of course, that doesn't mean it is finished.   There are 9 sections ranging from a few yards to a quarter mile that are still gravel.  We cruise to the Munger Inn arriving at about 6:30 pm.

Crossing the St Louis River
Cristina is waiting for us having checked in and gone grocery shopping.  We are treated to the finest hotel food one can hope for.  I have microwave pasta alfredo, fruit, cookies, snickers bars, etc.  Vincent has a microwave veggie pizza, I forget what Glenn ate, I'm sure it was good.  Of more interest was the weather...the sky had begun to turn ominous and a look at the smartphones shows a major storm approaching.  But that south wind is still blowing and if we wait, it will shift north.  So we suit up and head out in the rain after only an hour.  There are plenty of places to hole up in Duluth proper if the weather gets bad.  But there is quite a bit of lightning as we head into the neighborhoods of West Duluth.  I leave my front bag and my camera at the hotel (pictures taken during thunderstorms normally don't look good anyway).
Gravel section on the downhill of the Munger Trail into

The rain is not really hard, but a factor as we move through the streets and find ROAD CLOSED.  Just what riders will not be seeing next week since we are experiencing it now.  We mill around and figure out how to get around.  It isn't really pleasant.  I have to re-route for the ride next week.  The rest of the ride across Duluth is actually pleasent.  The storm passes very quickly and heads out over the lake.  Our trip down the Lakewalk Trail, usually a view of rocks and beautiful shoreline is even more spectacular as bolt after bolt of lightning crashes down on the lake in the far distance.  Really, there are some times I really wish I could bring a 35mm Nikon with a tripod - fortunately professionals abound so it looks just like these fabulous photos.  This was Vincent's favorite section and Glenn talked about stopping to hang out on a lawnchair and watch the fireworks.  But we are intrepid and continue on.

We finally get out of Duluth and head up the shoreline to Two Harbors.  By this time, it is about 8:30 and it's been dark the whole time from the storm so our lights have been on since we left.  It should be smooth sailing all the way up Scenic 61 to Two Harbors until we hit ROAD CLOSED.  Yes, Scenic 61 is officially closed just south of Knife River.  Time to follow the official detour.  Which is on gravel, only gravel on the North Shore is actually sand.   For us, it is wet sand, very hard packed and actually pretty easy to ride on.  For the record, we did check out what they are doing for construction and the road is not passable, not even on a bike.  But we get sand and grit all over the bikes.

We roll into Two Habors at about 10:00 and the rain is gone.  I have a hot dog and chocolate milk and lose the rain gear in favor of some arm and knee warmers.  Vincent and Glenn follow suit.

The ride back is uneventful since nothing can happen now that we don't know about.  Then the next fo Vincent's woes start: his backup rear light fails (no one has any N batteries).  I give him one of my two spares (because randonneurs always share....).  It's midnight when we are rolling back onto the Lakewalk and the deserted trail is now populated by groups of people walking around (really, this is one very popular trail).  There is a laker moving through the lift bridge and we hear both the sound of the horns and see the bridge dropping back down.  Very cool.  The night is cool and fine.  We stop to clean ourselves off at an outdoor water fixture on the way in.

At 1:00 am, we pull into the hotel again.  We have a single queen bed, a cot, a floor pad, 4 people and 3 bikes in a room built for 2; the little air conditioner really works hard to cool it off.  But we actually fit pretty well.  We ponder what time to leave as we eat again (randonneuring is all about eating you know).  The weather forecast looks nice for the next day.  So we figure, why not max sleep?  This control doesn't close until 6:40am, we can leave at 6:30.  I set an alarm clock for 5:45.  Our stop also has us leaving at dawn, so only about 4 hours of night riding total for our ride.  We leave feeling well rested.

Yowsers!  That wasn't there 12 hours ago
The ride up the Munger is beautiful as the sun comes up behind us. And my camera is working again... It also appears that things can really change overnight on a trail in the woods.   Probably, all the downed trees will be cleaned up by the ride, but you never know...
Beware speedy riders, the Munger Trail has a posted 30 mph speed limit now!

We got to Carlton just as the last of the bad weather rolled out.  We waved as it passed, a northwest breeze was starting to blow.  That wasn't quite as nice as we though since we headed southwest for 

Clouds in Carlton in the early morning
 quite some time (until about Moose Lake).  A tail cross is still better than a head wind though.

The trip to Moose Lake was pretty and we continued to wake up and think about second breakfast as we approached.  Once there, we stopped and I had some Texas Toast while Glenn had a breakfast sandwich.  Vincent was having a hard time with his stomach and had gone to potato chips.  For the record, going from the 300k in early February to a 600k is August is pretty amazing.  But his spirits were high and we continued to banter jokes back and forth.  He had done quite a bit of pulling the previous day, so I tried to return the favor.

The Final Push

 Out of Moose Lake, we had about 110 miles to go.  It is only about 145 miles from the overnight to the finish and because there are 85 miles between the overnight and the next timed control, our next control at Pine City did not close until 3:40 in the afternoon.  Plenty of time.  But it's generally bad form to get too far behind so using the 10 mph rule, we guessed in a vague "time out" for Moose Lake around 11:00 am.  We rolled out around 9:30 am, already well ahead of the limits.   I did some more careful routing in Moose Lake, measuring turns with a bike computer and looking for landmarks.  Outside Moose Lake, we also discover problem number 3 for Vincent, the bearings on his bottom bracket have sand in them; they squeal in protest.  He sighs and we laugh together.

With 30 miles to Hinckley, we expected to really fly.  However, the storms the previous night had really done a number on the trail.  Sticks, limbs, trees were down.  3 or 4 of them were too big to ride around.  Beware, there is a good deal of poison ivy on both sides of the Munger Trail.  Not a good idea to walk around trees.  Best to go through them.  At this point, disaster struck a 4th time, with a clunk, Vincent's bottle cage snapped (cheap VO stuff).

When we finally pulled into Hinckley, the NW wind was blowing in earnest and we got a nice push 15 miles to Pine City.  There we had a 45 minute stop for food and a bit of rest.  Only 100k to go.

The next 22 miles to North Branch are a straight shot down 61.  We passed Rush City again and kept going all the way to North Branch, getting there about 3:30.  The wind had moved NNW and the expected sun had not materialized.  People in the Holiday station complained about the cold.  We really thought it was pretty nice....

The final 40 mile stretch through Lindstrom starts out pretty benign, but gets hilly.  By the end, people usually accuse me of trying to kill them.  That includes the RBA.

The final section - North Branch to Stillwater
It's about 30 miles from the end, Glenn is a bit ahead and I hear a strange thunking, pinging noise.  What follows is ..


So we stop and look and at first we don't find anything.  We wonder if the headset might have a problem.  So we continue our ride going up and down 20 miles of sometimes steep hills until Stillwater is in our sight.  Vincent is a bit behind and we wait, wondering what may be the problem, until he appears and we ride into the finish.

It turns out, alas, the fifth straw has broken and in fact, that strange noise was the down tube starting to crack.  By the end, it has cracked all the way around.  Only the builder could have ridden 30 miles of hills on a frame with a cracked down tube, but there you go.

DOA: Vincent finishes his first 600k in 6 years, the bike is dead.
Alas, the frame is dead.  Not to be repaired.  The good news is now Vincent can build himself another one; so there is cause for joy anyway (really, it was experimental after all - just goes to show that not all experiments totally work out). In his own words, "I have a broken bike, but at least I broke it on a ride, riding it the way it was meant to be ridden".  Now there is a true randonneuring spirit!  

We meet Cristina at the end for a picture.  Vincent is tired enough that he drives his car across the parking lot to take the picture.  I personally confess to having done that myself at least twice.  Our final time 36:25.

We end where began
Glenn is now off to the Last Chance, Vincent gets a new bike, and I get to celebrate my 10th SR in 5 years.  All in all, a good day.

Though the weather may be different, the trail may or may not have trees laying on it and there may or may not be mechanical problems, the ride will go on September 7.  Pace yourself well and you will see us on ride day.

See all the photos from the Munger Bungo Pre Ride

Monday, August 26, 2013

My London Edinburgh London: The Greatest Ride Ever

I had put this ride report off for awhile.  First I was in England for 10 days after the ride.  Then life got in the way.  But finally after a long hot Apple Valley 400k, many people seemed to be astounded I had such a good time.  Apparently, they read another rider's ride report.  I finally sat down and read that report.  I was horrified.  So this is report is to both set the record straight and to let everyone know what a fabulous ride this is; in many ways better than PBP.

First, I went into this ride with my eyes wide open.  I knew that riding with Bob was going to be a somewhat difficult proposition.  I knew he had horrible problems with not being able to sleep at controls.  I knew that he has a hard time not obsessing over time after 600k (hey, if I couldn't sleep at controls, I'd probably be the same).  But he was my friend and I do enjoy his company greatly.  I resolved that if he was not a good riding partner for me at any time (or I for him), that I would be sure to tell him that him finishing the ride was more important to me than me finishing it with him and that all of us need to ride our own rides that there would be no hard feelings.  My goal on this ride was that it was part of a well earned vacation; I had 10 more days with my mother and partner afterwards.  Every minute of this ride was precious to me.  I had never been to England and enjoying it was the whole point of doing the randonnee. Heck, I've done 5 1000+k rides in the last 3 years every one of them has been a lesson in geography, history and people-watching.  It turned out that this was the perfect ride and perfect weather (yes, really, I thought it couldn't have really been much better).  My mom's advice to me, "we'll be as close to the finish as we can, but do everything in your power to have a good time". She is a very wise woman.

The Greatest Sights that England has to offer

I decided to ride the prologue, starting at Buckingham Palace.  This was a first for the ride and in my mind, it set the stage for everything that followed.  The first thing that happened just before we lined up was that my brand new Planet Bike computer completely fell apart.  This wound up being the absolutely best thing that could have happened.  I had no speedometer for the entire ride.  I had a GPS that lost the routes (a recurrent theme with them - at least 4 people I met had the same issue).  That GPS had its viewer turned to on demand so that the batteries would last 24 hours.  I reset it between controls and just used it to check against the cue sheet when needed.  I advise everyone to do this at least once in their lives.  I spent all of my time with my head up looking at the landscape, the people, other riders, the sheep, the cows, the wheat, everything.  I had never realized how much time I had wasted looking at my computer.  I simply rode as fast as I felt like going, no more, no less.
Two non-functional computers for the price of one!
Not having one made the ride great

If you have never been in London, it's under construction, like for thousands of years.  They have many iterations of buildings, so London Bridge is the 5th generation, etc.  We passed Parliament, St Paul's Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, all the greatest sights.
LEL storms Parliment!
 I found out later that the double decker sight seeing bus uses much of the route.  Bob even had a go-go boy run into the street and "hump" his front tire.  Now that was a sight!

The prologue added 30k to the ride which was actually 1420k, so for me, a grand total of over 900 miles.  At Loughton, I picked up some nice baguettes and took pictures (I took several hundred pictures on this ride eventually - to see them go here ).  The organization was absolutely superb.  For a ride that was originally supposed to be 700 riders and turned into 1100, it was amazing.  I have to say that I wished I had more vacation; I had bad jet lag and absolutely no time to get over it before the ride started.  The extra day that I had had at PBP was very helpful; I won't repeat that mistake again.

Out of the control, we ran into Jonas, who we would ride with for the next 240 miles.   I have to say that you could not ask for more perfect cycling weather.  The first 150 miles is slightly rolling to pancake flat through farmlands and endless villages, some dating to the middle ages.
Riding along the canal - a perfect day
 Swans floated in canals, boats paddled on ponds, fluffy clouds dotted a perfect blue sky at 75 degrees; oh, and we had about a 20 mph tailwind (the whole time).  At the stop in Kirton, a middle school band played for us at the control and the food was awesome.  Really, I have no idea how they managed to get it so well done.  Food is included in the price so you don't have to run around with money at controls.  It saved loads of time.  Bangers and mash, fish and chips, cakes with custard, fried potatoes, meat pies, salads; I have never eaten so well on a brevet.  

As we left Market Rasen, we were filmed by a crew doing a documentary.  Much laughing and as the sun went down, we were in for a great ride across the Humber Bridge, at one time the largest single span bridge in the world.  
Bob on the Humber Bridge
Whoever planned the route really paid attention to making it both beautiful and balancing roads with sights.  We had missed the rain that hit the area earlier so though there were some puddles, no rain for us. 

In Pocklington, we again missed the rain by staying in the control while it did rain.  That stalled us a bit and Pocklington itself was packed with riders (the rider forum warned that it would be).  It would have made a good sleep stop so I can't fault people for going there.  Thirsk was still about 50 miles away.  And at this point, I think we had been spoiled by the tailwind, flat terrain and easy conditions.  It got much hillier after Pocklington, but the rewards were awesome.  After about 10 miles, we turned onto a curvy farm road, almost gravel, for just a couple miles.  Having done some gravel, I found it exhilarating rushing down the road with the clouds and moon coming out through farmlands.  Ed Boltz had joined us and was navigating so I spent all my time gawking.  After a few interesting turns through villages in the misty moonlight, we started what I can only describe as a time warp. It started with a huge 20 ft gated wall; I felt like I was riding in the middle ages.  Then huge (like 150ft huge) monuments started appearing.  After the tiny road, I marveled at how something so colossal could be off by itself like this.  The sight of Ed trying to pull his mounted headlight off the ground so that we could see the top was one of those moments I will always remember.  I found out later this was Castle Howard, the most famous baroque castle in the world.

Following the awesomeness of Castle Howard were some equally awesome hills: 17% grade down, then up with sand at the bottom kind of awesome.  I started working the hills, but had an unusual cramp and remembering that this exact kind of situation had ripped on of my hamstrings 2 years earlier,  I walked/jogged up the other side.  But we had moved to the zombie hours and the combination of jet lag and the long day had set in.  I'd gotten only a few hours of sleep the night before.  I wound up needing a short nap; I refuse to compromise on safety.  I also told Bob there was no way I would do that again; no reason to be sleepy on the road with so much time.  Hindsight is always 20/20, a nap in Pocklington would have been smart.

We got into Thirsk and promptly got lost.  Not wanting to waste time, I asked a parked cab for directions (it's a girl thing, all girls know cab drivers can find anything).  Melissa, the super domestique, was waiting with a room.  I gave up the bed to Bob, knowing that he has such a hard time sleeping and parked it on the floor.  Unfortunately, I was also awakened about 1 hour later when he couldn't sleep.  We wound up awake and packing far ahead of schedule, I had inadvertently had too much caffeine before the stop; a bad mistake on my part.  So we noodled around waiting for food and eventually left.  Bob had a time in mind, and we were two hours ahead of it.  I was feeling pretty good, even though my sleep stop had been anything but sleep filled - sometimes a good yoga pose is just fine.  However, at this point, he started worrying that our pace was too slow for him and that the first 400k time had been his worst of the year.   I closed my eyes and pulled up my speech; it was at this point, I started to mentally separate and my solo ride started - I would let him ride ahead and do his own ride; it's important if you are riding on a 1200+k ride that your keep your own mental state in good shape.  The greatest friends you have may not be the best support after 3 sleepless days.  We wound up leap frogging for many K before finally parting ways.

It's a Bob at the end of the rainbow
We had a whole 10 minutes of rain and a beautiful ride into Barnard Castle, getting lost only once and getting un-lost with some other people lost the same way.  At this point, we met Tom from Alaska who I ran into nearly constantly for the rest of the ride. We crossed Yad Moss (the biggest climb of the day) after an absolutely spectacular ascent along the river and a rainbow that sailed over the road and the valley.
Picture perfect valley approaching Yad Moss
 Down into Alstad and the famous cobbles!  The Gold Rush had left me without feeling in my left hand, so rooting around in my front bag was a problem; hard to open things with one hand.  Bob loaned me a gel and we rolled into Brampton just as night was coming on.  We had a big dinner and I spied my friend, Patrick, from the Gold Rush.  He was doing his big sleep at this point.  I still wanted to stay with Bob as his mood was improved so I laid down for a short nap and we were off.  

I'm pretty happy we did that because the trip to Moffat was one of the larger roads and it was nice to have NO traffic at all.  My rear was sore and I wanted to change my shorts (I had a spare pair).  I also wasn't' seeing much purpose in continuing through the zombie hours just to get to Edinburgh.  Time was just never an issue in this ride and there were almost no people on the road (we ran into only a handful).   I really thought about it, especially after changing shorts and decided it was time to separate.  I wanted a short nap and to get my first taste of Scotland in the morning.  A 2 hour nap would have me leaving at dawn.  I sat down and gave Bob my speech.  "Just ride away", I said, "have your own ride".  To my surprise, he said no, that sleeping here was okay; I slept like the dead for 2 solid hours - so well in fact that it would hold me with no sleepiness at all for almost 400k.  

So we began our ascent of the Devil's Beeftub (that may be the greatest name for a hill ever) on a breathtaking morning as we literally climbed out of the clouds.  I had to take tons of pictures and Bob rolled up the hill without me.  But just stopping and turning around to see the clouds as they swirled through the valley I was leaving was worth it.  It's one of those times when you feel as though you are a part of a greater world or part of the sky or both.  
Climbing the Devil's Beeftub - Road Pixie becomes one with the sky
The choppy hills of Yorkshire were replaced by long, engineered roads that wound through the green of the valley.  I had a long chat with an Englishman about politics of all things. He gave me a valuable tip: always take a break on the top of a hill.

I stopped at a roadside truck and had a Bacon Bap by Jan.
I passed on the roadside Haggis, note the Summer Knight in the foreground
 This is the English equivalent of a breakfast sandwich.  Oh so very tasty and I got two cokes for the road too.  I had fun joking with some Canadians with whom I had mutual friends. Small world.

So I rolled into Edinbugh (okay, maybe grunted is a better word, it's at the top of a big hill) with a big smile on my face to the best shower ever and my drop sack.  I changed shorts, socks, and felt great.  I saw Bob and gave him a big congratulations on making it halfway.  We wound up leaving together; I'm not sure how long he had been there.  

A Great Ride gets even BETTER

The next 50 miles are the toughest in the ride.  Scotland doesn't really have steep hills but they are long and since you can see everything, you get an idea at all times of how vast they are.  That tailwind was also now a headwind (for the first time) And there are sheep…
Don't be fooled - he's a killer!

For the record, one of the issues I had to deal with on this ride was active ulcerative colitis.  Many people who have this autoimmune disease get really demoralized, and with good reason; it sucks yangs.  I had been fighting with symptoms for the entire ride (it leads to anemia and is sometimes accompanied by a fiendish desire to visit the restroom RIGHT NOW).  I had one of those moments about 15 miles outside Edinburgh.  I was gawking at the scenery and the next moment, I just had to pull over and vault over a short fence.  Then just as the shorts where happily at my ankles; the worst possible thing happened: a sheep charged me.  If you have never been charged by an obviously miffed sheep (and really, he uses the field all the time so I can't think why sharing a problem), avoid it.  I did the only thing I could, throw up my hands and spin around to protect my head.  At this point, I was surely saved as apparently the sight of my moon was such that the sheep was terrified and ran away.  I hustled back to my bike in a completely weird state of mind and with a heart rate of about 200.

At this point, a bike pulled up with a "hi Michele, how's your ride".  I had my name on my rear bag so it wasn't a surprise.  I answered, "gee, I'm having a weird mental block".  "Hop on" was his answer and the next second we were whizzing down the road at god knows how fast.  The adrenalin from the sheep had just super charged me and I was feeling much better after losing a few pounds.  We passed rider after rider; it's the fastest I have ever ridden for the longest period of time.  The next thing I knew, we were at the control in Traquair and I thanked him heartily.
Only 653k to go?  Piece of cake!
 I had cake, porridge and a bunch of water, but passed on the Scotch.  Bob arrived afterwards (leap frogging as usual), he seemed anxious to go on.  I realized that my greater digestive health was at stake and just let him go ahead on the next hill.  

Over the next 25 miles, I would meet Carolyn from Seattle, riding with a Welsh man, Dan and Simon, from England and a host of other fun guys.  The route continued to please with rivers, forests, hills of such brilliance that I can't describe it.  It was a beautiful day.  At Eskdalemuir, I ran into Bob yet again and he had been resting and his mood was improved.  So we left and rode together once more.  At this point, it rained a nice warm rain for about an hour; which was followed by beautiful rainbows (every time it rained they appeared like smiles in the sky).  Our original plan had been to return to Thirsk where his drop sack was, but he absolutely shocked me by suggesting that we stop in Brampton at which point it would probably just be getting dark.  Sure why not?  We had a nice ride in, meeting Garreth an Austrailian now living in Edinburgh on the way.  It was crowded there; I was more interested in scheduling the sleep stop than getting my card validated.  They were running low on beds and wanted times, I didn't like to make any choices on Bob's behalf.  I let them pick a time and they suggested 4:00 am - I figured why not, but knew I usually sleep about 4 hours so I would likely be up at 3:00 or so.  Bob didn't want to change from 4 no matter how many times I asked; I really wanted him to be able to sleep finally - we were almost 850k in and no substantial sleep.  I also realized that a lot of my own mental energy was going into worrying about him.

I had a fabulous sleep, really the sleep accommodations were great.  Much better than any other 1200k I have done.  Plenty of blankets, ear plugs provided, towels provided.   I slept like a rock and was feeling great when I woke up at, big surprise, 3:15. I decided I would be ready and was fed up and ready to roll, we were out at dawn.   

Another perfect dawn
This was another absolutely perfect day for cycling.  I let Bob get a bit ahead and just before Alstad, I had a flat on the only long,steep hill in Scotland; he didn't hear me yell "flat".  I dragged the  bike back to the bottom (no shoulder).  A tack driven straight in, at least it was easy to find.  At this point, I found out that 2 of my 3 tubes had been stolen from my front bag!  Yikes! Fortunately, a sag cycle stopped and gave me a spare so that I wouldn't be down to patching.

The ride up Yad Moss was great, little wind and I passed a rider sleeping sitting up on a stone wall with his head resting on a post.  Then a fun downhill to Barnard Castle where I met up with Pierre, who recognized me from PBP (really small world).  Turns out Pierre and I would ride quite a bit over the next day.  I have to again credit the route planners, the alternate route into Barnard Castle gave a spectacular view of the castle itself.
Barnard Castle - It mocks me a second time!
 A ruined husk of a castle, I could just see it being catapulted by knights in shining armor.

Still strong, Bob and recouped for what was the last time and cruised for Thirsk.  This was somewhat of a chore and we had a wrong turn that added 2k.  There was also a detour in Middleton Tyne.  I had another flat (different tire) and this time, Bob stopped to use the hedge while I changed it.  We got to Thirsk and I asked what he wanted to do.  Our plan had been to go on to Market Rasen and have a sleep stop.  I had to make another emergency trip to the bathroom and when I got back and finally validated my card, the control worker asked me when the control closed.  That was bizarre, I had to look, 4 hours in the bank, I'd picked up nearly 3 in the last 150k - that gave me a healthy 36 hours until the cutoff with 420k to go.  They were placated;  they just wanted to know if I was riding according to a plan.

At this point, Bob had visited the mechanic to fix his decaleur.  He emphatically stated that we couldn't sleep at Market Rasen and that the control workers had told him we would DNF if we stopped at all.  I was floored and tried to convince him that was not true, but he would not listen. I knew that I couldn't stay with him and keep my own mental ducks in order; I have no issues sleeping and with a hot, windy day coming up, I wanted to have a different ride.  So I left and instead of eating at the control, I stopped at a tea shop in the next town and had a delightful ploughman's lunch and 3 apple tarts instead; sometimes, you have to put things behind you.  I was just starting up from having put my jacket on about an hour later when Bob came up behind me.  I tried to stoke his ego a bit by asking him to use his nifty new digital pressure gauge.  He did so and gave the odd quip, "if you have any problems, I won't help you".  I politely suggested that he just go ahead; I knew it was the fatigue talking.  I now understand that he hadn't been thinking clearly enough to calculate the time correctly, he thought he had many hours less than he actually had (we had about 38 hours with 400k to go).  But he had to ride his own ride.  Thankfully, another control worker down the road finally persuaded him that sleeping was a good idea.

It started to rain gently and I was worried about my rear tire at night.  Garreth, from the previous night, came up behind me and asked me I needed anything.  He wound up helping me switch to my spare, a continental, which was a serious bummer. Continentals are a pain to put on.  It took both of us to do it.  Garreth had not slept well at Brampton.  I offered to pull to Market Rasen and the next day in the forecasted heat and wind.  We would wind up being a team for the next 400k.

The ride back to Pocklington was again by Castle Howard.  
Monument by day - imagine happening upon it in the
misty night
This time it was light and I got to see the entire castle along with details about it's significance from Garreth.  We ate quickly in Pocklington with a pleasant, gentle rain.  It got a bit harder as we left and we stopped for about half and hour to try and help an Italian rider with a major mechanical.  About 8 people stopped, really the best side of the sport is the fact that so many will always try to keep people going.  We finally got a call through to the LEL organizers who sent someone to fix his bike (he later finished within minutes of me).

About half a dozen of us made our way from Pocklington to Market Rasen.  Pierre and severel other Frenchman, Garreth, our stalwart navigator and another Englishman.  There was quite a wind and I pulled my little heart out; we were a merry little group and made occasional stops to eat, micro rest, or use the hedge.  I really had fun, and it's a lot more uphill back to Market Rasen. We got in and had more fish and chips, potatoes, and food.  Both of us had bags here so Garreth retrieved them.  We made plans to sleep until dawn.

Garreth on the way to Kirton
Sleep stop at Thorney
Next morning, we were between shifts and it was the only time food wasn't aplenty.  I had left over french fries and a plate of jam (about a cup).  But I was chipper and happy.  Only 3 more controls to go.  But it was to be very hot, so we dumped all the rain gear and extra cold weather stuff - why carry what wasn't going to help us finish?  It was another beautiful morning and we laughed and joked with other riders on our way to Kirton.  Riding at a consistent pace, we got in still fairly early to a crowded Kirton and ample food.  Now for the last 200k through Lincolnshire and Exeter.  I had advanced knowledge about Exeter due to some British friends.  Still, it wasn't as hilly as Yorkshire.  Garreth hadn't quite recovered from the lack of sleep either.  We left and as the day heated up, we availed ourselves of the various towns on the way.  A coke and rest with a group of italians who cheered/laughed at my alley yoga, an ice cream stop and a very nice little nap in Thorney made for a fun day despite some hot weather.  

Arriving at St Ives - No sense on burning up when a
beautiful night is coming on 

We rolled into St Ives, only 73 miles from the end in the early afternoon.

At this point, we made what almost everyone said was a smart move.  The control workers said almost 100 riders were still behind us.  We had showers and another sleep stop.  No AC in England and no ice cubes either.  They were serving the fettuncine alfredo frozen which doesn't work as well as it probably should.  We left around 6:30 pm rested, fed and ready to roll. With the heat diminished and the wind quickly disappearing, the clear sky promised a fabulous night ride.  We caught up with a couple other Seattle riders and had 2 lovely stops for refreshments at groceries.  We also played Pub Legs, a fun traveling gams that involves counting the "legs" of the characters in the names of the pubs along the route.
Garreth on our mini break sharing his super salty peanuts
 At one point, I had another drop in my energy, the colitis bugging me again.  Garreth and I sat along the side of the road ate and chatted while I recovered myself. We weren't in any hurry, but I smiled as I thought of another 1200k and my friend, John Ingold and our push to the Gold Rush finish, "let's get'er done".

Exeter is very hilly, but we passed all kinds of villages, well lit and an amazing castle, also lit in the now windless night.  The short choppy hills reminded me of the last night ride of PBP, where I sometimes didn't know if I was going up or down.  
The rolling wheat fields as dusk comes on in Exeter
We rolled into Great Easton 28 miles from the end to homemade rice pudding, fruit and more food.  I ate a sandwich and filled bottles.  It was a warm night, we stopped once to put knee warmers on, but otherwise the road flattened considerably, one hill left.

Helllloooo London

Toot Hill Road is a rolling ascent up to a final descent a mere 10k from the finish.  As we crested the hill, the moon was high and the stars were everywhere and just at the top I could see a thousand brilliant lights and the whole of London laid out before me.  It was the most spectacular scene I have ever seen, made even more real by the knowledge of all the people I had met, and the Austrailian yelling "Helllooo London" as we whizzed to the finish.  No matter where the line was, the ride was finished right there.   

I never actually bothered to figure out what my time was, but it was about 114  beautiful hours long.
Garreth and I with our completed cards

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