Throwback Thursday: Mosstrooper Audax 2015
Set the clock back to 2015, The start of what, in all honestly was the worst start to a year in my life, things had been thrown upside down, i’d been cycling for 18 months to 2 years and all was good and I’d started a fantastic thing with Blaydon Cycle Club. Personal issues really made the first few months of 2015 hard.
I then got talking to Jason, otherwise known in some cycling communities as ‘BoyOnHisBike‘ Now, Jason is a top lad and I have a lot of time for him but as i’ll tell him to his face I think he’s mad. you’re talking about a bikepacking, round the world, Trans-Am (think coast to coast but in america) lap of Ireland machine. Oh and did I say this is all unsupported, carrying your own gear, you’re your own support van, your own chef, your own mechanic and navigator and home is wherever the sleeping bag comes out? You’re talking crossing deserts, mountains, the valleys the nice places, the places possibly twinned with hell… But who better to have with you?
Anyways one day early in 2015 Jason teaches me about this thing called Audax, it’s basically long distance riding with checkpoints to keep it in it’s simple terms, again with no support asides maybe the odd catered control.
I’m signing up for the Mosstrooper or he’s doing it for me… Not a threat, but a promise.
I’ve ridden 100 miles in a day, I’d done the Virgin Money Cyclone, So I mean doubling the distance and a few additional ft of climbing is nothing, right?
Doing little to no training and a chicken kebab and chips the night before, I felt I was ready! Neither myself or Jason had a car so it was a case of a 4am alarm to meet him at 5am at his then ride up for the 6am start in Ponteland, so add 10-12 miles ‘commute’ on top of an already long ride.
We set off, in a large group but I was feeling dodgy by control one at Muggleswick barely a stones-throw from home. I forced a breakfast down at about 0730 and we plodded on…
(ignore the straight line at the top, the GPS tracking went a little awry)
We rode on for what seemed forever, I do remember some Scottish lads complimenting the BCC kit then speeding off in the distance, Jason was off there somewhere but I knew he’d be waiting ahead, I plodded on and after me hating the climb just after Killhope Lead Mine it was a relatively easy ride into Alston… At least I’d made Cumbria.. A quick caffeine fix, check of route and we were on our way.
The next challenge was at around half way (~100 miles) climbing Hartside, no cafe stop! Luckily what goes up has to go down, So I revelled in the glorious downhill and opened up the camera as it was the first time i’d done this climb and descent…
I remember little more than heading for Carlisle way and close to the airport next and into Scotland! This was the best part of the route especially around Kielder and into the Scottish Borders.
Some very up and down roads, some hairpins, some nasty hills and a few ‘information controls later’ I was heading for Newcastleton the penultimate control, The Copshaw Kitchen was very kindly acting as a stamp point for our brevet cards as well as a feed stop, I can’t remember what I had exactly but have a vague recollection is was something with chips washed down with a nice cold Irn Bru.
Time was getting on, it was about 1800-1900 and we still had to get back into England, Through Kielder, Bellingham, Otterburn, Elsdon and back to HQ.
In the back yard of the cafe I just remember the cramp hitting me like a huge hammer, my legs had no more, I had bought this crazy ‘pre workout’ mix that was laced with caffeine and all sorts from a ‘gym shop’ a few weeks back and opened it and had it in all it’s disgusting artificially flavoured goodness, that and a motivational speech from Jason and the ‘No Service’ of doom on my phone… I had to crack on! Off we go!! (I also had music blaring out of my back pocket controlled from my ‘Pebble’ smartwatch)
The next part of the route took us towards Kielder, and was we passed the reservoir itself it was starting to get darker, I think about 2000 on the day so getting the light miles in was essential. We plodded on as best we could to Bellingham where we ran into the local co-op to stock up on last minute water and snacks for the final push, as we climbed out of the village that’s when the dusk set in as we head for Otterburn, you’ll see in the attached video that’s when the dark started and that’s when proper physical exhaustion kicked in, this was when I was tempted to launch the contingency option of getting a lift home, but why? I said to myself you’ve only got a ‘short club run’ to go I did club runs and then some every week!
We finally climbed out of Otterburn and began the decent into Elsdon where Alan & Marion Stay up late (til about 2300 cut off) to stamp our brevet cards, I had a quick coca-cola there for last minute sugar, and a lad who was ahead of us was phoning his wife to pick him up… bad move, she pretty much told him he signed up for the ride so ‘no chance’ of a lift! He left before us and we caught up with him pushing his bike up the ‘Winters Gibbet’ climb, after a quick welfare check we left him be and got to the top ourselves, as rode the straight road out of there towards Cambo and the like it was properly dark, sleep deprived night riding, the most dangerous part… You can’t see potholes, you can’t see in front of you, you want to sleep, and you’re wondering if a deer or suchlike is about to run in front of you..I can’t imagine them predicting two absolute madmen on bikes at stupid o’clock at night!
After that, the rest of the trip was a blur, I only remember getting close to HQ and near Ogle (Northumberland) I knew I was almost done,I was doing these rides in aid of charity and i’d raised a respectable £150, I’ll admit I actually got a little emotional as i’d done it and it was for a charity that was all to close to me, especially at that time!
A short time later we were back in Kirkley Cycles and the organiser Aidan and the other riders and crew gave us a warm welcome.. I was then offered a beer, it would have been rude to decline! It was the most refreshing beer I have had to date! We sat at the table exchanging war stories over a beer, toast and cake, when suddenly the motion sensor alarm went off, it was only the lad we seen at the cafe finishing a short time after us! He was the last in, still within the time limits (0200 cut off).
After a bit of a motivation I got myself ready for the hardest part the 10-15 miles home! Up from 4am we trundled home at a steady speed, McDonalds (24/7) even got bypassed I just wanted to get home! eventually at about 0200-0300 that day… I put my key into the lock and was home, almost 24 hours later!
Little did I know next year I’d be doing a 200,this 300 again and eventually a 600km ride! Bug had bitten!
In 2017 I’ve done none of those but fully intend on an Audax return in 2018! Just reading my posts, videos and things like that in the last few weeks prompted this post and got me wanting to get back into it!