Monday, March 16, 2009

The First Audax of my Year. The Last of TSK's Year

In terms of days, this was one of my better ones on a bike. I have completed Audaxes a lot faster with much less enjoyment.

Departure was at 8am from Ashton Keynes - only 8 miles from our house but we took the Vanu along to avoid regrets at the end of the night.

I decided quickly at the start that keeping up with the faster riders at the front was not going to help me to last the day so I slowed down to an enjoyable pace before leaving the village, settling in with TSK, a man in blue, a guy on a trike and the occasional group of late starters who passed us by. We rode through our village, passing the end of the road that leads to our house and I was happy that the day was still early - no temptation to pop home for a brew and settle into the sofa.

Climbing out of the village we passed the first White Horse of the day and climbed on up the hill, soon to be followed by Hackpen Hill, the site of the second and most prominent White Horse of the day. Each time trike man stopped to take a picture and each time we worried momentarily about his mechanical condition before realising he was geting his camera out.

Blue jacket dropped us and we were caught by a man named Ed who had been 20 minutes late starting and had spent all morning trying to catch someone (it was now about 10:30). He climbed hills stronger than me so moved ahead with every uphill. However, he waited at each junction to make sure his direction was correct, indeed we corrected him on a tee-junction which, I have to admit, I misread three times before turning left - not right.

The third white horse came on the approach to Calne. It's bordered somehow by walls or undergrowth so that it looks like a postage stamp on the hillside. Hills which, themselves are an impressive recreation of the Yorkshire Howgills in miniature. The presence of the White Horse is made more impressive by the existence of a giant stone monolith needle at the end of the ridge of hills.

By the first stop in Calne, blue coat and trike guy were already eating their toast and drinking tea and Ed arrived just behind us - a young and sprightly man with navigational dyslexia. There weren't any tea cakes on offer, just big fatty breakfasts so we settled for toast and a bacon butty for TSK and headed out on our way in true hobbit second-breakfast style. After Calne we headed up onto the Salisbury plain which is an eerie place at the weekend covered with military signs, fences, directions and paraphenalia but not a squaddie in sight. We skirted around Stonehenge belittled by the sun shining behind it and the large volume of cars in the carpark. Now I understand why they want to make it a car-free zone.

The ride over the plains was hard. An intense wind blew solidly into our face and whilst it wasn't an icy wind it wasn't a warm summer breeze either. Ed caught us up (again) and he joined on the back of the train that was being led by TSK but when he stopped to offer help to another rider, Ed was gone from my back wheel and TSK and I continued on our way together into Pewsey.

Lunch happened at 1.45pm at 111km into our day. In that kind of cafe there's nothing else for it but to eat a third-breakfast and I started to think I was doing an Audax in Manchester, not in the south west. I knew it wasn't Manchester because there was no black pudding as part of the all-day-breakfast menu. We washed lunch down with tea and cake and advised the checkpoint personnel that Ed was on his way, though possibly lost. He arrived as we were due to leave, reporting that the couple he'd been riding with all day, "just dropped him" on the moors. I was flattered that I had "dropped" someone.

Back out into the headwind, I took my turn to do some leading. With the increasing presence of high verges and hedgerows the wind was less sustained though I found myself attempting to turn too early a number of times in a fit of wishing for the elusive tail-wind. Finally, the directions found us our tail and with glee we discovered the sun on our backs as well as the wind. For an hour or so before the sun set we had warmth and weather on our side, heading back into the Calne cafe for cold cross buns and coffee to get us home. We were a little disapointed to find the checkpoint charlies had gone home early, leaving the unsuspecting cafe owner to cater for us and await the arrival of Ed (who by now was nowhere to be seen on our radar). Hopefully he was only behind time and not lost and hungry somewhere.

It was time for lights and TSK, with his new batteries, gave me no choice but to stay ahead of the game since I could not otherwise see due to the glow of his rear light. In the last 3okm of the ride, I felt all of the pain that had thus far evaded me. Pleasantly surprised by my progress (efficient, if slow), suddenly all the usual aches and pains started to kick in - twingeing knees, stabbing shoulders, acheing bingo-wings, cold feet (eased by shoe covers), quite frankly - sore fanny. I apeased myself with thoughts of cotton knickers and baggy tracksuits waiting for me in the vanu.

Finally we were back in our village and riding past the end of the road. Surprisingly I was not at all tempted to go home. 9 miles was a small price to pay for getting to the end of this, my first 200 of 2009.

TSK, on the other hand was full of dreams of tea and sofas and never giving up the combination of the two. This conviction intensified as we left the village and found ourselves in the next village, hunting desperately for the infocontrol - the name of a small sportscar garage - in the dark. In the end we found a tiny sign between two plantpots in some long grass.

However, TSK's achievement was greater than mine this weekend, for every month since April 2008 he has completed a 200km ride and this weekend means he has achieved the "All year round" award - 12 months of 200km rides. It has included highs like completing his first 300km ride, summer days in the peak district and riding along with a very expensive Brompton in Leicestershire. He has experienced the lows of failing a 400km ride with an attack of narcolepsy (excusible given the over-night ride) and having to complete another 200km ride in the same month to make up for it. He's riden solo "Primes" in icy weather then come back a month later and riden the same route in reverse in a rainstorm. He's nursed me through events just for the sake of being together, finishing together and experiencing together (and I make an excellent wind break). Due credit and wonderment to him. He's now planning this years 300, 400 and 600 routes. I'll be there, by his side - but mostly in the Vanu.


Just a Girl said...

You two rock.

Silver Lining said...

Blimey, TSK. You're even more mad than she is, and she's been bonkers for an awfully long time!

Well done, both of you!

TSK said...

SL, there is nothing more noble than the pursuit of cloth badges and obtuse internet glory.