Green & Yellow Fields 300 — first proper night ride

I will start by saying that I have issues: I don't know how to pace the first half of the ride, I have blisters where I shouldn't, and my hands have stopped working and turned into claws.

Note: this ride report is a mild rewrite of my submission to yacf, here.  Codified names are the nicknames of people on the forum, sorry about that.  The post date has been changed to the date of the ride. 

That said, the curry was nice: I never did get the scrambled egg on top that the menu promised, but it was tasty nonetheless.  I am not sure it's how I'd want to start every ride, but given that the promised 2ºC overnight descended to an indicated -5ºC, we needed everything we could get!!  And it's nice to meet a few of the riders before the ride, to break the ice (although when they put a helmet and glasses on then I don't recognise them any longer anyway).

It was a slightly surreal start at the station: well past bedtime, slightly misty and lots of people milling around in Lycra and hi-vis on bikes.

At Tomsk's muted "go", we set off down the hill and immediately back up the other side.  Faffage meant I was a minute or so slower setting off (damned iPod), so I put in a bit of a push to catch onto the back of anyone (no point in doing these night legs solo).  I caught up with the lone 'bent rider (Ian?) for a quick chat, before pushing on and caught the back of a largish group at the climb after the railway bridge.  Being a bit lacking in the low-range department, I climbed up through the group and got near the front, chatting to a few on the way past (and it's only a little climb).

I recall pushing on with Dave on his red Thorn until we rolled onto the back of Rob and Richard(?) on fixed: I love riding with fixies, because they provide a measure and cadence that suits me well, even though I do have a small selection of gears; not too quick, not too slow, steady up the climbs.  We stayed on their wheels for a while, but each time Rob looked back, the look on his face seemed like "come on you lot, it's someone else's turn at the front!" (although he didn't say it).  So at the next long-looking hill where the fixies would grind up slowly, I stepped out and rolled past and on, followed by a few others.   Dave/Thorn joined me at the front, and I could see Caroline's* floodlight helmet lamp lighting us from behind.  Then I discovered a somewhat disconcerting feeling whenever I checked over my shoulder: a sea of oddly placed bobbing bike lights and headlamps weaving around completely blinding and a bit scary!!  Very weird.  A bit Mad Max at night! shocked

It's a nice run to Mildenhall and Dave had ridden it the previous week and so was able to give an insight into what lay ahead: hilly for the flatlands.  Dave and I kept a steady 25kph average on the front, dragging along a motley crew of dayglo and cold fingers for an hour or more, picking off other riders as we went.  It felt really good — possibly the "curried effect" — but it was too good for me, really, because that's one of my issues: not pacing myself in the first half.  Soon enough Caroline and a couple of others took over and Dave and I tucked in for a bit, Dave stepping back onto the front for a while again, me not so much thanks, done my turn rolls eyes  As we got within 10km or so of Mildenhall the pace picked up and I leapt onto the wheel of someone with green mudguards (it's about all I could focus on at 3am).  We whipped along into the final 2km when suddenly there was a bright light on the right and a cheery "halllooo!!" as the tandem rocketed past, dragging a significant crowd of chilly riders along!!  I leapt onto the back wheel and we hurtled all too soon to the crossing at Mildenhall and into the first garage we could see. Which wasn't going to open its doors for us and it was ferkin' cold standing there waiting to be served by the slower-that-slow attendant — next time I'll try the other one.

Looking at the stats, I reckon we arrived about 2 minutes after the earliest we could to be validated, with the lower top speed of this ride — I am quite pleased with that, although a bit surprised at how much work it required to get there!!  I clearly need to do more high-intensity training facepalm

Just as hypothermia began to set in I set off again with Caroline.  I spent a lot of time staring at my light shining on her whitewall tyre, trying not to get too close to it, another sure sign that I am not as strong as I like to think.  We (um, Caroline) began picking off other riders, finding Dave and Halloween along the way.  Doing the maths (mental sums at 5amshocked) we were going to be about 45mins early for Burnham Deepdale, so I suggested a pitstop at McDonald's in Swaffham (ChrisS's idea originally) to get a coffee and warm up and almost got a standing ovationwink  A missed turn added on an extra km, but we got there in the end to find ChrisS and Boab and a couple of others warming themselves under the air conditioning (which was blowing cold) — it really was that chilly outside!!  Moving off, I discovered my body had shut down.  I blame the crap they put in McDonald's myself for screwing with my digestion, but it could just as easily been sleep dep, reached my limit, stopped for so long my body switched to recovery, or something else. 

On the run to second-breakfast I couldn't climb at all and just beyond Castle Acre suggested Caroline and Halloween leave me to suffer on my own, and they were only to happy to oblige facepalm 

I trundled along with HR below 120 for half an hour and then felt my legs coming back and was able to spin a respectable pace the final 10km to the control.  This bodily reaction is still all a bit strange to me.  But at least the sun was now up, even if there was still a noticeable frost on the ground although we'd been lucky as there was only one single patch of [slushy] ice at the bottom of the climb to Castle Acre and nowhere else!! thumbs up 

Breakfast was big, slow, warm, welcome.  Could've done with a bigger bench so I could've lain down for a quick 10mins, but no we were off again.

At this point I was definitely third wheel with Halloween doing a great stint on the front before Caroline swapped.  However, they dropped me several times on the hills (and these aren't even proper hills in any sense of the word), but I started to get a squeak-clack on each pedal stroke so stopped to tighten up a suspected loose crank** just after Fakenham.

From here I rode on my own: 130km trying to ignore the voices in my head telling me it hurt too much and that we should just stop at any of the stations en route, which all go to Cambridge, and it would be so easy to abandon, no guilt at allrolls eyes  At least the sun was properly up and the forecast-nice weather arrived, although the wind still had a bit of an edge.  My Garmin reckoned we hit 12ºC during the day, which is a nice temperature so long as you still have tights and a base layer on.  I think I could've done with one fewer layers, because I was constantly hot and thirsty!  I focused now on keeping my HR down below 140 and just trying to find a nice cadence.  I didn't manage, but I tried.  I remember some monster yawns as the dozies really started to bite: one going on for nearly 5km!!  Other people must've thought I was trying to catch flies or something.  Getting towards Wymondham and the dozies struck hard: every field opening, front lawn, even the verge in places looked soooo comfortable, just for a few minutes!!  In the end I chose the picnic area just before Wymondham for a snooze.  My first Audax-hotel experience thumbs upthumbs up

I rolled into Wymondham around 12:30 to bump into Tomsk just leaving.  A buttie and a couple of slices of cake and I was off again.  I met another rider just about to set off (long hair, no helmet, not marcusjb), who was applying sun cream — ha! I thought; the sun's not hot enough!  Nope, he was right and more fool me: the first thing my wife commented on when I eventually got home was that I was sunburnt on one side of my face!! facepalm  Feeling in a non-social mood, I set off alone and found a tempo that I hoped would get me to Needham Market without too much pain, which it pretty much did.  I decided to take the official, scenic route out of Stowmarket, and didn't like the unexpected climbs much.  But I was fantasising about farmhouse ice cream, so I wanted to go that way for the farm shop.  The ice cream was nice enough (rhubarb and ginger), but it didn't help with the getting going.

My legs had completely left me by this point, so apart from a brief chat with the not-sunburnt rider at the crossing of the B1113, I now felt I was lanterne rouge and deserving of the title (I don't know if this was the case or not).  Faced with the climb on the old A12 I nearly gave up.  But I climbed it (slowly) along with all the other climbs (I managed them all, eventually) and rolled down the hill and across the river back into Manningtree station to a bored reception in the café at 18:45 facepalm  All done, now I could go home to figure out what I did wrong.

That was not my quickest 300, nor my slowest, but in many ways my most disappointing performance to date: I had promised myself a steady-Eddie ride with minimal faffing at controls and always moving forwards to try to find an endurance balance to my planning/riding.  That's not how it turned out: I had a fast (for me) and self-indulgent first 3 hours and then blew up for the other 13.  I also wish I had been able to enjoy the scenery more and take more pictures.

The ride itself comes thoroughly recommended:  it's most unusual going out for a curry and then riding into the night, a bit Dunwich Dynamo without the mahoosive crowds on Pashleys. The night section is fast and easy up to Burnham Deepdale.  The day section is quick in places and very scenic.  The controls (apart from the garage in Mildenhall) are accommodating and well spaced.  And the fields are very green*.

For the pain in my posterior I am going to try a Brooks, although at 90-something days to go to LEL, I wonder whether I haven't left it too late to change.  And for the pain in my hands I am going to explore alternative bars/ends for more positional options, because the pain kills me in the second half of any ride, and that would be everywhere north of StIves come July.

  • Self-declared lurker in this parish, but too blonde to post [Edit: her words!]. * I very-much-later discovered the main-tube bolt had come a quarter-turn loose, only happened once before  Edit: Except that the squeak-clack is still there today when the bolt's tight, so it's back to a loose pedal or crank or BB shell or possibly a fractured crank, boo! ** But not yellow.

Nick Wilkinson

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