London Edinburgh London 2013

1400km – July 28th to August 2nd 2013 – Ride Report

Cycle to Edinburgh? And back? In less than 5 days? Surely a worthy challenge in itself – but what a great training ride for Race Around Ireland!

And so I found myself entering the 1400km London-Edinburgh-London Audax event the moment the website opened. Audax UK is a club which co-ordinates long distance cycling in the UK. I’ve been doing Audax events for a while, mainly 100km and 200km, but this season I had been after the Super Randonneur award for completing 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km rides in one season. Whilst looking at the awards page of their site, I spotted the PBP/LEL finishers section. I’d heard of PBP, the 1200km Paris-Brest-Paris, before – it’s been running since 1891 – but I didn’t know we had an equivalent “brevet” (a self-sufficient cyclosportive) in the UK. I was immediately interested!

LEL Sign

Another ride, another complete bike re-fit. I thought I’d spent enough on kit for the Enduroman, but of course what is suitable for a double Iron distance triathlon versus a trip up the country to the capital of Scotland, and back, with a measly 5kg of drop bags on the way, I was back to square one. Tamara Posh-Trek would be the bike of choice (very different from the typical Audax rider’s steel steed) but I would have to rethink accessories. The idea was to be as lightweight as possible but to have onboard electrical power for lighting and gadget charging. I figured that generating my own electricity would weigh less than carrying surplus battery packs and heavy duty lights. A SON 28 dynamo hub was duly purchased, along with a sturdy rim – and helpfully wired up into an appropriate wheel for me by Evans Cycles in Canary Wharf in less than 24 hours. Dynamo chargeable lights were acquired from a site in Germany.

I also treated myself to a Tout Terrain Plug III – an amazing piece of kit which fits into the top of the steerer tube, connects to the dynamo hub and allows for USB charging of “most” devices. OK – so that didn’t quite go to plan… yes it fitted into the top of the steerer tube, but alas the Trek Domane 5.2 forks don’t have an exit hole at the bottom to allow the wires to feed down to the dynamo. Rather than drilling a hole myself (as suggested by my former engineering supervision partner) and risking the wrath of Trek MK I opted for storing the charging device in my top tube bento box and wiring it down the outside of the forks, attached with the ubiquitous cable ties. Several visits to Maplins later, and I had about 40 spade connectors of various sizes which were eventually attached to the right wires in the right combination, sealing the rubber sleeves with my newly acquired hairdryer (….it was an expensive month for the hairdryer to also blow up).

I spent quite a few evenings whiling away time until darkness to head out into the lanes around home to test various gadgets being charged. My Garmin could be charged at the same time as recording – perfect. The phone (a Samsung Galaxy Mini) didn’t charge at all – not so perfect. And I couldn’t get my Tecknet battery packs to charge off the dynamo. Lights worked a treat, albeit the front one generating a weird shadow of my wheel due to its attachment to the brake calliper, rather than the handlebars – but at least I’d be able to make out the shape of badgers in the beam. So 2 out of 4 for the Plug III. Probably a huge over indulgence, but I’m looking forward to having chargeable lights and Garmin on the winter commutes (and Greg, my LeMond has a hole at the bottom of his fork!).

As for luggage – lightweight was key. Minimal repair kit in a small bag under the top tube, electronics and cards (credit, id and donor) in the bento box, and toiletries, spares and medical kit in the under-saddle bag. I could fit my rain jacket in my back pocket and my arm/leg warmers around my seat post when not in use. I was astounded by the amount being carried by some riders: paniers, rucksacks, extra bottle cages and huge boxes on the front. Once a triathlete, always a triathlete?

With Tamara ready, and everything tested… it was just a matter of holding back from doing anything too intense until the start day – Sunday 28th July. I tapered for a good week, just popping out to test kit, but resisting my normal commute to work. Registration was in Loughton on the Saturday, where I handed in changes of kit to meet me in Market Rasen (just for the way back) and Brampton (up and back). My rider number, R2, was collected and attached to Tamara. Alas, I wasn’t riding with D2 (much to the amusement of many of the control points)… but R3.

Sunday started at 4am. A quick breakfast of nothing much – I couldn’t eat my usual porridge but managed a banana. We cycled 10km from South London, past all the clubbers queuing in Brixton, and drunks stumbling around Victoria, over to Buckingham Palace to join the throng for the Prologue. Just as dawn was breaking we paused for photos at the start, and then set off for Loughton. The route didn’t quite go as smoothly as we’d hoped. Roadworks around Bank meant several hundred cyclists, with many international “first visit to London” riders having to mount the pavement and negotiate holes in the ground and blocked off sections to get through. However the 30km potter to the London / Essex borders was completed in no time after that – and it was fantastic riding with little traffic (not something I’m used to in my usual cross-London commute). I’m glad we did the Prologue – it wouldn’t be the same starting London to Edinburgh in Essex! We arrived with plenty of time for another breakfast before our allotted 9:15 start wave. A bit of tinkering, some admiring of the chosen bikes / vehicles (?) of other randonneurs and a documentary interview for me (more of that later).

Start Line

From this point onwards, this is going to be a tough ride report to write (and possibly as epic as the event itself). As time passed it became increasingly difficult to remember from which control I’d just cycled and where I’d ended up. Revisiting the same controls on the return journey brought repeated episodes of déjà vu, although the routes in between seemed far from familiar. I will be ably assisted by my record of riding on Strava – helpfully documenting my route and timings. I hope this will jog my memory (or more, my fried brain cells, still suffering from lack of sleep and trying to recover from the stresses of the event).

N1 – Loughton to St Ives (99.6km) (elapsed distance 129.6km).

What a start – this is my territory: North London, Essex and into Cambridgeshire. A plucky average speed, aided by the fantastic tail wind. First we had to negotiate Nazeing – the village which had tortured us on an attempt to circumnavigate London (outside of the M25, without phones or fully functioning GPS, stupidly) – all roads lead to Nazeing, but we struggled for hours to get past and on our way out of Essex. This time – I didn’t even see it. Later, we were met by Mum and Dad just outside Harlton and plied with bananas and Lucozade. So many bananas that we gave some away to other surprised riders. At the junction with the A603 I picked up a bunch of cable ties. I apologise if they were yours – I tried to find an owner – but now they are in my toolbox, having been carried all the way to Edinburgh and back! In Cambridgeshire, a few miles from St Ives, I had my first puncture… but no problem – I was riding my Bontrager tubeless ready tyres with Super Juice. It sealed almost immediately and I carried on going (for about 1350km!)

N2 – St Ives to Kirton (81.0km) (elapsed distance 210.6km).

I’ve taken part in a cyclosportive near here 3 times – Flat Out in the Fens – on a time trial bike. Not once did I come close to the average speed achieved this time on a heavy road bike, weighed down with luggage and draggy dynamo! Apparently the guys at Kirton were expecting a deluge of riders several hours later, until we all rocked up early – thank heavens for the tailwind. We managed to latch onto the back of a pack of German riders (who we would later hear were charging towards to finish at a phenomenal rate) and made good time for the section. Lincolnshire was pretty flat…

N3 – Kirton to Market Rasen (68.4km) (elapsed distance 279km).

Late Sunday afternoon and still with the wind behind us, the terrain started to rise. No more flat out in the fens and no more fast groups to cling onto. We were still clocking a good time – with the aim of doing at least 400km in the first 24 hours a distinct possibility. Before we started, I’m collated an email to myself of random (and interesting in my mind) facts about places we passed through. I figured I would tell these to Dave at points through the ride. He’d insisted that I had to suffix a remark with the statement “- FACT” (in capital letters, with appropriate verbal emphasis). I’d taken much pleasure in recounting that the bridge in St Ives had once had a chapel built into it – which was later used as a drinking establishment – to which he’d told me “I know”. Somehow I’d missed telling him my random facts about this section – that the wind turbines power the McCains oven chips factory and reduce their electricity bill by 60% (what did we do before wikipedia?).

Wind Turbines

N4 – Market Rasen to Pocklington (84.9km) (elapsed distance 363.9km).

We were aiming to take our first break in Pocklington. But first we had to cross counties over the Humber Bridge. I remember the light fading as we first spotted sight of the red lights on top of the bridge – way off in the distance. We always seemed to be to the left of the bridge but we knew that’s where we were headed. I don’t think I’d ever been across the Humber Bridge before now so I was quite excited. I’d been recounting my FACT about the bridge – how in 2004, motorcyclists upset by having to pay £1.50 to cross the Humber, staged a slow protest, pausing to take their helmets and gloves off before attempting to pay with large denomination banknotes – when we were suddenly underneath it. We had a few photos taken in the dark, before descending into Yorkshire. I can’t believe we cycled to Yorkshire in a day!

The Pocklington control was in Adrian Edmonson’s old school. The gym was set up with endless rows of inflatable mattresses and recycled thread blankets – giving the look of a humanitarian incident. Beds were being rationed to just 3 hours – fine as we didn’t really have more time in the plan – and allocated on first come, first serve basis. We went to ours and quickly realised that sleep would be disturbed by the cacophony of snoring – all kinds, loud rumbling, squeaky breathers, all rhythmical but none in time. After three hours someone shook my foot to tell me it was time to get up. Considering the lack of sleep, I felt reasonably good to go again. After a big breakfast of course.

N5 – Pocklington to Thirsk (66.2km) (elapsed distance 430.1km in 22h).

At this point we skirted York – I think it would have been nice to pop into the city (I think some of the tourists did), but I loved the long straight road to Castle Howard. If you’d asked me where Castle Howard (famous for Brideshead Revisited) was before this, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you, but it was fantastic. A series of straight sections between more and more elaborate monuments – some stone dedication to the 7th Earl of Carlisle, an archway, an obelisk and then a truly fantastic stately home. Seeing all this just as the morning started made it all the more impressive. But what was this – a crevasse on my Garmin profile? Turns out it was a hideous 17% down gully and immediate 17% up. That got the thighs working. The control at Thirsk was being powered by Raspberry Pi – pretty exciting… if you’re a geek.

N6 – Thirsk to Barnard Castle (67.2km) (elapsed distance 497.3km).

We knew we’d have to rest in Barnard Castle for a little bit, before tackling the hardest stage, so we took this easy, and the country lanes were conducive to this. Just outside Barnard Castle we crossed into County Durham. I don’t think Dave was interested in my fact about the silver robotic swan housed in the museum in Barnard Castle (you couldn’t make this stuff up, although in retrospect, it felt like I had…). Maybe I was starting to lose it earlier than I thought. I’d not been to Barnard Castle before – it seemed to be a nice town.

N7 – Barnard Castle to Brampton (4.8km – abandoned) (elapsed distance 502.1km).

After yet another jacket potato, we were having a pep talk. We’d been dropping each other on the way and both getting frustrated with the lack of teamwork. Some decisions were made about how we were going to work together better. A mile and a bit outside of Barnard Castle, Dave’s chain broke. Dilemma – we were about to embark on one of the hardest and hilliest sections. Fix by the side of the road by removing a link or two, or head back to the control and try to find a magic link to repair it? I cycled back, with the chain tucked in my back pocket. I’d not been to Barnard Castle since about 30 mins ago – it seemed to be a nice town. Dave free-wheeled back down the offending hill and ran/walked with his bike back to base. By the time he arrived, I had luckily happened upon the Dutch photographer Ivo Miesen (a LEL vet), who was carrying a spare parts bag which would have made any cycle shop happy. He kindly donated a 9spd magic link to repair the chain. I’d also just persuaded one of the motorcycle support riders to take the link to Dave, when he showed up. The volunteer mechanic was superb, piecing the bike back together. Half an hour later and we were back on our way.

N7 – Barnard Castle to Brampton (81.8km) (elapsed distance 583.9km).

Starting again, we needed to get back into it, so a gentle start to warm up. That afternoon we would be climbing over the North Pennines including Yad Moss. This was such a windy, hilly exposed section. The climb just went on and I have to admit I pushed my bike for about 200m to get some different muscles working. Everyone battled this section. I’ve since learnt that Yad Moss is a ski resort – that explains a few things. As we dropped down into Alston – the highest market town in the UK – we had to negotiate the cobbles… just what you need after continued cycling. They were a little slippery so I got off and walked down. Pretty glad I did, as I watched someone stack it. We briefly nipped in and out of Cumbria and Northumberland before returning to Cumbria. The descents were starting to get cold – it was early evening by now. I topped off a hard day by shattering my phone on a concrete floor at the control in Brampton – but I valiantly continued my Facebook updates through the cracked, barely readable, screen.

View

N8 – Brampton to Moffat (74.4km) (elapsed distance 658.3km).

After the hard crossing of Teeside, we weren’t quite where we’d expected to be by now. The mildly humorous plan had us making it to Edinburgh by the end of the day. It wasn’t going to happen but we could get another stage under our belts, so we carried on into the evening, fueled by coffee sweets. Passing through Longtown – a long town, FACT – we soon reached Gretna and crossed the border into Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. And then a very tedious section alongside the A74(M) which I’d done before in reverse on Ride Across Britain and didn’t like it much then either. However time passed with some good chat from a couple of South Africans we’d bumped into, reminding me of my first 100km+ ride – the Cape Town Argus. We settled for a few hours sleep in Moffat, which was much quieter… maybe I was becoming de-sensitised to the snoring?

N9 – Moffat to Edinburgh (80.8km) (elapsed distance 739.1km).

We set off for Edinburgh at 4:15am. Dave’s knee was giving him trouble and I was feeling a little uncomfortable in the saddle. But the climb out of Moffat was stunning as the dawn was breaking over the hills.Crossing into the Scottish Borders we faced a gently undulating route with a descent into Edinburgh. We reached Edinburgh at 8:30am some 47 hours after we left London, and tucked into a second breakfast of the day. Another documentary interview with the team, keen to find out what I felt about getting to Edinburgh, which I may have accidentally implied was the end point rather than the reality of it only being half way! I’d promised mum I’d send a postcard from Edinburgh so some urgent hunting around for somewhere that sold postcards – I already had the stamp and pen with me to save time!

S1 – Edinburgh to Traquair (43.4km) (elapsed distance 782.5km).

By 9:30am we were already heading south, having posted the postcard and been given some magic Coca Cola by the shop owner who thought what we were doing was worth a free drink. Now we were racing the postcard home. I’d originally looked at the route and though this section and the next would pass very quickly since they were so short and they didn’t look very hilly. I was wrong. They were a lot hillier than expected. And funnily enough, we were now heading into the headwind that plagues any journey south in this country. The first long climb was broken up by some fantastic views back over Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat and the port at Leith. Traquair control point had excelled themselves. A selection of cakes, decorated with handy messages like “only 653km to go”, plus whisky samples. I passed on the whisky – guaranteed to put me to sleep, and I didn’t need help there… but the cake(s) went down well.

Looking over Edinburgh

S2 – Traquair to Eskdalemuir (46.0km) (elapsed distance 828.5km).

Carrying on down Scotland we had to ride over 3 big climbs. These seemed never-ending, once one was conquered, there was another one. Here we encountered some terrible aggression from drivers. We were in the middle of nowhere, with little traffic so were riding two abreast, much to the annoyance of one driver, who honked his horn at me from behind (fair enough) but instead of giving me a chance to then move, decided he would just barge past anyway and cut back in, applying the brakes, meaning I had to take evasive action and narrowly missed catching Dave’s front wheel. I just find this so annoying. What can possibly have been so important as to necessitate immediate passing with such force?

S3 – Eskdalemuir to Brampton (58.0km) (elapsed distance 886.5km).

And award for the most surreal moment goes to spotting a large gold Buddha in the middle of a pond, just outside Eskdalemuir. Continuing to battle to headwind that I remembered so well from JoGLE, we were behind schedule to recross the Pennines. We didn’t want to be hitting Teesdale too late into the evening, so we tried to keep the pace up a bit.

S4 – Brampton to Barnard Castle (84.0km) (elapsed distance 970.5km).

Interesting moment when I launched route N8 on the Garmin and tried to exit the wrong way out of the control. A quick rethink on that one. We left Brampton at 7:13pm in rain showers. The rain was pretty heavy in places, but we were rewarded with a stunning double rainbow as the last rays of evening sun shone through the moisture. A stop in Alston (again) – still the highest market town in the UK – meant we could buy provisions for the dreaded Yad Moss pass. Having discovered how brutal it was on the way up, we were expecting worse on the way back, in the dark and with the headwind. Townfoot Garage Spar was full of bedraggled cyclists. We stocked up on chocolate (Snickers being the energy bar of choice) and a roll of bin bags. I asked for 2 carrier bags (I don’t usually, but this was a “wet feet” emergency). Outside, I fashioned some lovely green feet covers (inside my shoes) and also a particularly fetching bin bag gilet to wear inside my jacket. [Obviously the film crew loved the ensemble when they saw it].

Rainbow

There was a point to this – to try and keep as dry as possible – and even though I was reasonably warm climbing for an hour (and it wasn’t as bad as we recalled from a day ago), the longer hour and a half of descending quickly brought on the onset of hypothermia as the wind chilled my wet clothes. I was shivering a lot. Earlier in the year I’d DNF’d the Fred Whitton Challenge after not being in control of my bike through shaking so much. I knew the signs and so did Dave having had to look after me last time. He removed 3 spare bin bags from his pocket, scrunched them loosely and stuffed them down my jacket to try to trap warm air. It worked to a degree, but I needed to get off this mountain quickly and back to a control to warm up. It was now after 11pm and drowsiness was also setting in. I was drifting off to sleep, whilst trying think warm thoughts and keep my speed up. We tried lots of things to try and stay awake – Dave trying to teach me the words to Jerusalem springs to mind. I was seeing strange things out of the corners of my eyes – some fire flies were following me. Great hallucinations to add to the mix. It took us another to get back.

I’d not been to Barnard Castle before – it seemed to be a nice town. Or had I? It seemed overly familiar but we were definitely taking a scenic route in, via the Castle. I was just desperate to get warmed up and didn’t really appreciate the non-direct route. I was wrapped up in a blanket as soon as we got there, trying to dry out. We decided to catch a bit of sleep here.

S5 – Barnard Castle to Thirsk (67.8km) (elapsed distance 1038.3km).

Up and out by 5:15am with the joy of getting back in the saddle after a little break. You forget what it felt like, but the pressure points remember pretty quickly. To be honest I’m not sure I remember much of this section, except that it wasn’t very hilly. We were past the worst. Revisiting controls we’d already seen was becoming very disorientating. The set-up was familiar but confusing. You’d come out of the canteen, spend a moment rethinking where you came into the building, try to locate your shoes and helmet (but references to other people’s kit nearby had changed) and head to where you thought you’d put your bike, to find that was where you put it last time, not this time. We faffed quite a bit.

S6 – Thirsk to Pocklington (66.4km) (elapsed distance 1104.7km).

Reversing our way across North Yorkshire (not literally, but you know what I mean) we kind of knew what was coming, but a few tweaks to the route surprised us and made us wonder what happened to sections we’d seen before. Or perhaps we hadn’t paid attention on the way up. Or perhaps just everything was getting a bit strange. At some point during this leg I decided, in my narcoleptic state, to do some comedy sleep-cycling over a verge. Excellent bike handling skills brought me safely back onto the road. I didn’t get away with it – Dave had spotted – “you just fell asleep didn’t you?”. I was wide awake… now. More coffee sweets then! We stopped a few times to address various ailments and aches. By now I was wearing my blue kinesiology tape in some kind of “honest, I know what I’m doing” fashion around my lower limbs in the vague hope of supporting my tender Achilles tendons. My sunglasses decided to leave themselves on a grassy embankment somewhere. I think they’d had enough of constantly having lenses swapped around (sunny / overcast / sunny / rainy / overcast). We found out at Pocklington that the lead man had finished at 22:55 the night before in a time of 65h, with no sleep.

S7 – Pocklington to Market Rasen (84.5km) (elapsed distance 1189.2km).

I thought we were done with hills. Progress was slow due to the weather (more rain) and the hills someone had thoughtfully left in our way. By the time we reached the Humber bridge is was raining hard and I was getting cold again. Sheltering under the colossal bridge we contemplated a plan of attack to stay warm. 10 minutes later I found myself clip-clopping in drenched cycling gear through the aisles of Lidl, Barton-upon-Humber, inspecting the bargain bins of the latest women’s fashions. Kit purchase of the day – a £9.99, dark pink, wool, roll-neck, below the knee, jersey dress. With it rolled up around my waist, under my rain jacket I was soon toasty warm. Arriving in Market Rasen (where I had a drop bag with change of kit), I took off my jacket, unrolled my jersey and headed to the food. I have no idea what people thought seeing me “dressed for dinner”.

S8 – Market Rasen to Kirton (68.4km) (elapsed distance 1257.6km).

The general consensus on the weather was that the rain was going to clear at about 10pm and then be fantastic for the whole way home. There was talk of the hottest day of the year, as I stood there in a woolly dress. We headed back out again into the night and were getting the bikes ready for the next section when I was approached by Patrick, a french cyclist: “mon Garmin est kaput”. No problem, he could join us. However, rather than following, Patrick was keen to take the lead, which meant that I had to shout instructions at junctions. I would like to think that I embraced the randonneur culture here – all of my conversation was carried out in basic GCSE French. “Tournez a gauche”, “tout droit”, “il y a beaucoup d’escargots!”. I could just about cope with the language difficulties – it was keeping me awake, but I was traumatised by the sheer volume of snails that had crawled across the wet roads after the rain. Thousands of shells were flickering in our bike lights and I was doing my best to dodge them, only to hear crunching behind me from other cyclists’ wheels.

Our group expanded during the night to include two Germans. The five of us made a good little group, eating away at the miles and stopping when anyone needed. I had to shout ahead to tell Patrick that “je cherche une salle de bains” which was met with some humour – as apparently you don’t call it that. Having insisted that I wasn’t going to knock on someone’s door at 1 in the morning to use their “bathroom”, the boys helped me locate a suitable place and one lent me a head torch to head off into the undergrowth. The group were going to sleep at Kirton, we were planning a quick snooze and then moving on.

S9 – Kirton to St Ives (82.3km) (elapsed distance 1339.9km).

I like cycling before dawn and seeing the sun come up. We left Kirton at 3:25am and battled our demons in the dark – Dave with some injuries and me with my desperation to stay awake. I needed noise and chatter, Dave the opposite. We weren’t having a particular good time. The light was coming up and I hoped this would help, until we passed a field of sheep where one was making a lot of noise. I could see a metal animal feeder – a sort of box with bars – a sheep’s head and the rear end of a sheep. I insisted to Dave that they belonged to the same animal, somehow trapped in its feeder. He insisted that they were two different animals. We argued. I reluctantly cycled on under the promise that the farmer would be out soon, much better than me traipsing across a field in cycle shoes to try to rescue it. At one point we pulled into a farm driveway for a lie down. Amazingly, just closing your eyes for a few minutes seemed to help. But I don’t think you can fool the human body for too long!

Dawn over Cambridgeshire

S10 – St Ives to Great Easton (73.7km) (elapsed distance 1413.6km).

It was indeed turning out to be the hottest day of the year. I had to ditch my jersey dress before we set off. I haven’t been to St Ives since my school friend and I used to come here to shop after sleep-overs at hers. It’s prettier than I remember. We only had 120km to do – two thirds of an Ironman cycle… So at least somebody made this a brutal, unrelenting, hilly penultimate stage on a very hot day. Barrington village shop was doing a roaring trade though, from the look of the over-flowing bin of ice-cream wrappers and empty drinks cans. We added to it. Coming into Debden I punctured again. Once again the tyre sealed and I carried on. We needed a little rest at Great Easton and some more fuel (as always). Lying with my legs up a wall was easing my Achilles pain.

S11 – Great Easton to Loughton (45.8km) (elapsed distance 1459.4km).

The temperature had tipped over 30 degrees and the sun was blazing. Lucky I’d lost my sunglasses several hundred kilometres back then. There were still some biggish hills to go too, but the end was in sight (even with my squinting). I enjoyed ticking the miles off, and we caught a group at one point, until I realised that holding a wheel was making me drowsy. Better to be putting in all the effort yourself than being carried along and losing concentration. Toot Hill is a bit cheeky outside of the M25 – just what you need after 1400km+. But dropping down the other side I was amused by the number of stationary cars on the motorway – this is why I cycle. We arrived at the Loughton control just after 6pm on Thursday (quite some time outside my original plan), but in one piece and pleased to be back!

Completed Brevet Card

So how did I fare on my 1459km ride in terms of injuries? I only really had one sore patch on my undercarriage – but my lovely Nike Ironman shorts kept me reasonably comfy. My Achilles tendons we were very sore and developed a nasty crunchy texture to them within a few hours of finishing. Elevating my legs during stops had helped but I was in need of ice and ibuprofen. At the time of writing – some 2 weeks after LEL, I still have pins and needles in my fingertips – some nerve damage which I hope will repair. It’s not painful, rather annoying as I can’t type as well, or feel water temperature until I get my whole hand in. The strangest phenomenon is that it feels like someone has amputated my little toes. They are just not there. Sometimes I touch them just to check, and am surprised when I find them. Balancing on one foot is a little odd – you don’t realise how much you use them until they aren’t there. But no knee pain, no neck pain, no back pain, no hip pain and no palm pain. All a bonus.

Mentally I am drained. I’d experienced a confused state on reaching Paris in 25 hours last year, but this is different. I am still struggling to make decisions and find myself forgetting words and being unable to string sentences together. I’ve caught myself making mistakes, like missing words whilst typing (which I never do) and pressing the button for the floor I’m already on in the lift at work. Catching up on sleep is a priority now, to make sure I’m fully recovered and functioning for Race Around Ireland.

LEL was a fantastically well organised ride, with great volunteers and plenty of food! The GPS route was impeccable and all for considerably less cost than your average long distance triathlon.

Thanks to mum, for waiting at Loughton all afternoon and giving us a lift home at the end!

Total distance: 1470km (including the pre-Prologue and Prologue)

Total moving time: 66h51

Total elapsed time: 105h06 (which implies some 38 hours of stuffing our faces in Controls, or resting on hills; it wasn’t sleeping – we only had 3h, 3h, 1.5h and 15m)

Badger count: 1 (dead)