Audaxing 2018


In 2017 I participated in my first audax event and grew to love them. 2018 I want to explore new roads and routes, and get the distance out ever longer. Here I'm going to post my audax ride notes and odd photos, check my Strava profile for blow-by-blow rides.

Forth & Tay 200

5th March - Postponed due to snow.

18th March - Cancelled due to snow.

It'll now be run as a DIY event - so I'll pick it up on a free weekend sometime later in the year.

Moffat Toffee 200

14th April

After two false starts (snow cancelled the F&T twice) finally an opportunity to get audaxing in 2018 started. A little close to Sunday’s marathon, but good fatigued training all the same.

Bit of a rush down to Galashiels, always the same heh, but got there at 7:45, however still missed the mass start and hit the road 5 mins past after sorting the kit, collecting the brevet card (and a biscuit).

It was a nice morning, sun out, warmish, light to hardly any wind. I spun my way to Selkirk, and promptly took two wrong turns in the twiddly bit that cut out the climb to the high street, oops. Passed a couple of groups with a cheery “mornin!” and the climbing quickly came. And so did some misty murky stuff that dropped visibility and also the temperature a bit, good job the climbs were keeping me warm.

First control at Roberton an informational, a turn to head west towards the next. The legs felt good, I hit a nice rhythm, and was really enjoying the run on these sleepy roads. A few more “mornin!” as I continued at my cadence. I’d noted the HR was a little high, probably regret later, but enjoying it so kept on plugging away.

Somewhere on this stretch I pulled alongside some familiar audax faces (helmets?), “mornin!” then continued. A few minutes later I was aware of someone on my wheel, turned to see a train of half a dozen or so :) Prompt the pointing of potholes - and there were a tonne of them. Probably another 5 miles or just over and we pulled into Eskdalemuir and again exchanged pleasantries - I assured them I’d want the wheel repaid later in the ride :)

A quick egg roll and tea - 10:40 so second breakfast was due - and back out on the road. Destination: Langholm. I’d done this road in the other direction on one of my audax detours last year and remember it being a climb then long drag. Well it felt like a decent drag (then little descent) in this direction too - my legs definitely not feeling like they had in the first 50 miles. I spun on, mostly solo.

Langholm and Pelosis Cafe. I didn’t want to stay long in Langholm, only 20km after Eskdalemuir so collected a couple of cookies, nattered to a couple of familiar faces and hit the road again.

Ooff it felt tough. I can see why now though, heading south westish in a south wettish wind - in my head I’d thought Langholm was the turn northish and cursed this wind (I say wind, it wasn’t much more than keeping me honest, but it felt much more just now).

There was a blue jersey just ahead. Mile. Just ahead. Another mile. Still just ahead. Finally I closed the gap and it was a familiar face Jeremy who I’d bumped into on my very first audax last year! He couldn’t have come along at a better time, we nattered all the way to Moffat and it took my mind off my fatigue. Oh, the misty murk had gone, sun was out and it was suitably warm, very nice.

Moffat, Rumblin Tum cafe control, I spied a pie (and sticky toffee pudding with custard and ice cream!) a perfect(!?) pick-me-up for the run home. While at the cafe I googled if Moffat Toffee was a thing or just one of those things you tell tourists about, but no indeed it was. So with the in-laws visiting I thought I’d chalk a couple of brownie points and collect some to take home.

A packet of Moffat Toffee on the handlebars of a bike during the Moffat Toffee audax event 2018

Suitably toffeed up I hit the road again, again in duo with Jeremy. The day was perfect at this point, light tailwind, warm, (mostly) fantastic road, superb scenery - daffodils out, lambs in the fields, an absolute peach. Legs, not so much, but we ploughed on and worked well together sharing wheels, or nattering and taking my mind of fatigue.

The 30 miles seemed to pass quickly albeit not so much in speed and we were soon back at Galashiels. Cue brevet validation, brew, sandwich, shower and in the car on the way home.

Another good audax session in the borders, and great to open the 2018 account. Now the marathon is done focus is definitely back on the bike, a 300 audax in a couple of weeks preparing for Tour of the Highlands at the end of May, and onwards after then…

Merse & Moors 300

28th April

3:25am the alarm went off, it must be audax related. Still dark, breakfast and a quick double check of the kit and I hit the road. Immediately rain. Huh, I don’t remember that in the forecast, it’ll just be a rouge shower. Nope more and heavier round the Edinburgh bypass - cue second guessing all my kit decisions.

At the start and the rain had stopped - it was going to be alright. Got everything together and went for a loop of the car park - oof the bike was fully loaded and it felt every bit of it. I was running full kit for the possibility of a darkness finish, and get a feel for everything for some of the rides planned later in the year.

At 6 we got under way, and immediately my Garmin crashed. Good stuff. I stopped and got it loaded and going again. I caught up with a couple of groups as we headed over the bypass and onto the A7. Then the rain started, definitely a shower, I pedalled on. Nope, getting increasingly damp I stopped under a bridge and dug out the waterproof jacket.

There was a fair amount of rain as we headed for the hills. Climb was good I found a decent rhythm. At the top and started the run down to Innerleithen, and I was doubly glad of the jacket - it was freezing up there. To think I nearly set out with fingerless gloves!

Richard Sanderson in Innerleithen during the Merse and Moors Auadax 2018

Quick ATM receipt, and bite out of the front bag (a peanut butter bagel) as a few others rolled in - the chill was providing all the chat. But the rain was gone and it looked distinctly brighter.

Hands cold I set out solo and tried to raise the heart rate and warm up. It took a good few miles but eventually temperature was restored. I caught up with a familiar voice - Robert who I’ve met on a number of these rides now - we had a chat through to Selkirk.

We parted and I pressed on - all new roads - I was looking out for Carter Bar, my next mental target. Just before I went through a village, Chesters I think, and a friendly golden retriever jumped up to watch me roll past. Distracted by this four-legged friend I nearly went right through the crossroads immediately ahead - oops :)

It was a long climb up to Carter Bar, thankfully only the last bit on the A68. I was both looking forward to the descent from there, and cursing the second control being at mile 82 - usually I like to have a food stop a bit earlier than that.

I stopped briefly at the border for a photo opportunity. Enough time to fill the bingo card, tourist bus - check, tourists + selfie sticks - check, chap in a kilt playing the bagpipes - check. Heh.

Ok, descent time. It was good. But then it stopped. Admittedly it’s a few years since I drove this road but in my head I had it downhill all the way to Otterburn. Ah well. The road was good and fast in most part though. There wasn’t too much traffic, but there was one - there’s always one isn’t there? 50mph, inches from my elbow, I have to admit the air may have been blue for a minute or two following.

I watched the miles tick over on the Garmin, and grew ever closer to the bottom of (this page of) the route sheet, and finally 82.5 came and the village of Elsdon.

Fooood :) What a gem of a cafe - a complete switch into another world. Cafe the front room of the old school house, run by a friendly couple, in no time at all I had an omelette, toast and tea in front of me. Polished off with a piece of Gibbet cake - fruit cake named after the big climb the other side of the village (number 61 on Simon Warren’s list I later found out). Apparently cyclists would come to the cafe and ask for a piece of the fruit cake in order to be able to get up the Gibbet climb, over the years it became Gibbet cake.

A little natter to a couple of other cyclists at the cafe, a couple heading for Rothbury, and a couple of fellow audaxers. There were three of us that headed out separately but at similar times, all hitting Gibbet climb within a couple of minutes of each other. It was a good climb too - broken up with a few false summits, but actually that made it quite varied and it was quite enjoyable (even with the fully laden bike) in the lunchtime sun.

I peddled on, today I was much happier with my pacing than other rides. I pushed on a bit early to keep warm, but then kept things ticking over and albeit empty by the end it felt much more even than it has previously. I also noticed I was much happier later on in the aero position, something I’ve found uncomfortable after long hours. I note this now as I remember having a good spell heading east in the aero bars. It seemed when I checked the Garmin my speed would be a good few mph higher than I would have ordinarily expected - I’m not sure if thats down to comfort, aero, pacing or what. Welcome nonetheless.

Acklington was an info control, and a rain shower put in an appearance. I snapped a photo of the relevant piece of information and pressed on to get out of the dampness. I soon spotted an orange jersey ahead and caught up with Russell. I’d spoken to him at the cafe in Elson and heard about his exploding wheel just before the start - he was now on a DIY 200 albeit some of the similar route. We chatted and he lead me in to Alnwick.

Greggs. Nothing fancy, but it hit the spot - we stood outside consuming our haul. Robert rolled in and joined us not long after. Russell and Robert rolled out before me, and I stopped a short way up the road for a photo next to the castle. Nice, first time in Alnwick, it’s on my list to revisit.

Ok, next target the border at Coldstream. Well, no, actually a farm at Doddington - we love the milk bar at Wooler so much and Doddington Dairy needed a photo to send to Gemma. Ha.

Giant bike next to Welcome to Scotland sign at Coldstream during the 2018 Merse and Moors Audax

A696 and Coldstream. A bit more familiar as I’d ridden this section in the other direction last summer. Obligatory “Welcome to Scotland” photo taken and I put my head down for the run in to Duns.

Duns was the last control. I’d had a head cold all week, but in the last hour or two my throat was like sandpaper. I’d even apologised to Robert, there was no chat to be had. Passing the dairy the idea of ice-cream had entered my head, it consumed me now :) So I pulled into the Co-op and headed for ice-cream, a reduced section sandwich, and a big bottle of water. Robert pulled in and somewhat soothed we nattered a bit - mostly about the big climb coming up ahead.

He set out before me again. I’d opted that despite the climb I’d don some more clothing as the temperature was dropping and there was a chill on the wind.

Setting sun just north of Longformacus during the 2018 Merse and Moors Audax

This last section over Redstone Rig was utterly sublime. The evening sun, breathtaking scenery, just wow. Climb was tough, and unrelenting, but I didn’t care. Over the top and the descent was fast and technical, 170 miles in the legs, 15 hours of so after my alarm clock, it did cross my mind of my incident this time last year, I double checked every upcoming turn and ensured I was getting to the end of this ride in one piece.

Somewhere I was reunited with Robert, and we shared wheels to the finish. The final mile or two took some concentration too, with a hare that fancied darting in front of my wheels and an excited spaniel that thought the road was a better place to be than the pavement with his owner - these kept me alert.

8:10pm and we rolled in to the arrivee. What a day.


Mille Pennines 1000 - July

Comments? Tweet me @mealybar, smoke signals, or homing pigeon, or something :)