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Wonderful Wessex: My 1st 300km Audax

Wonderful Wessex Audax

I’ve done 200 miles before and vowed never to do that kind of mileage in one day again, then the 300km Wonderful Wessex Audax came along and I thought why not. Time does dull pain, it must do otherwise people wouldn’t even contemplate having a second child.

This Audax started at Rowlands Castle, about 10 miles from my home, so it seemed silly not to cycle there but that meant a 04:30 alarm call. I was going to be doing it with Tim (my Caramel Hot Chocolate drinking friend) but as someone who drinks Caramel Hot Chocolate would, he pulled out. The night before I felt like I wasn’t going to do it; I went through the motions of bike setup/prep and went to bed telling myself I wouldn’t go it if was raining when I woke.

I woke, and much to my dismay it wasn’t raining, I lay in bed thinking how easy it was to stay laying in bed. Twenty minutes later I somehow found myself up and eating jam on toast. Maybe it was the prospect of the ride, or maybe the thought of the achievement when finished, or maybe it was my 16 month old daughter next door making noises to remind me of what I was in for if I didn’t cycle.

I arrived at the hall with just enough time to collect my Brevet Card and have a cup of tea before time was called at 06:00 and I set off with most of the others.

The first 20 miles were on roads I knew well and from Alfresford to Whitchurch I recognised a few bits from the Whitchurch Winter Wind Down Audax. From Whitchurch (35 miles) onwards the route was all new to me. Whitchurch was our first control point and it was into Tesco Express for food and drink. As I tucked into my Southern Fried Chicken wrap I was disappointed to find I had picked up a Caesar Salad one instead.

I don’t recall much until I hit the next control at Malmesbury. I tagged along with a few groups, dropping off and picking up as their pace varied. At one point I was chatting to a chap who had cycled over to Rowlands Castle and camped just outside Finchdean, he was there to meetup with an old cycling friend (Ricky??) who he used to do a lot of miles with, he told me stories and offered anecdotes – I felt he should have been handing me Werther’s (which I would have gratefully accepted).

At Malmesbury I stopped at a bakery and had a sausage bap (brown sauce), Belgian bun, and a chocolate milkshake (Yazoo I think). Two others stopped with me, one headed off shortly after, the other wanted a toasted sandwich. They didn’t sell toasted sandwiches, I don’t remember what he settled for.

I set off with the toasted sandwich man, who was wearing blue/purple ‘normal’ trousers and a nice pair of mustard socks. It turns out his trousers were Prada. We stayed together ’til Bath, he would pull away on the flats but I would catch on the climbs and decent; it worked out ok. The GPS did me proud as we navigated through Bath and we picked up another chap who I seem to remember looked like a cross between Bill Bailey and Yanto from Stella. We stopped at the County Hotel as a control, for some coffee, and a quick charge of our gizmos.

We exited Bath by the Two Tunnels cycle path, it was a pleasure to cycle this path. The wind seemed to suck us through the cool, smooth, dimly lit tunnels and blew us out at Midford, it gave us about 4 delightful traffic free miles.

We had become a group of 6 and we progressed with speed for a good 5-10 miles, but somewhere in that distance we lost 1, and 3 were too fast for me. That left just me and man who I later found out was called John. John had admitted he had already done a few extra miles due to misnavigation and as we approached Warminster, John carried on when I thought we should turn left. By the time I had made sure, John was a while away and having realised I didn’t know his name I decided the best thing I could do was shout everything I knew about him at the time: “OLD MAN!”. Whether it was because he didn’t hear me or out of offence, he didn’t turn round.

It had been raining on and off from about lunch time and I was constant state of rain jacket limbo, I stopped outside of Sherrington to pack my jacket away and as I set off Old Man John caught me up – I didn’t tell him what I shouted, he didn’t mention it if he heard. I ate the last of my Belgian bun (pictured on my saddle pack above) from Malmesbury.

From there we took various lanes that ran parallel to the A36 into our last control in Salisbury. The city centre was littered with Audaxer’s bikes (you can tell by the Carradice saddle packs), there was a particularly large batch outside Burger King. We opted for Caffe Nero.

The showers were getting harder and somewhere around Colden Common near Marwell Zoo, a car went past and absolutely drenched me.

I’d eaten well all day (contrary to my usual habit of bonking) but with 20 miles to go I lapsed, John gave me half a marmalade sandwich with did me well but with 3 miles to go I was struggling, wobbling all over the place. I had some Clif Shot Bloks that I shoved in and it gave me a pretty instant lift, whether it was psychological or not I don’t know, but it worked.

I got back to the hall and was slightly confused why a small boy was asking about my hot drink preferences but when he returned with a polystyrene cup full of tea I was eternally grateful though I’m still not sure if he actually existed. I followed the tea with a long sit and some delicious butternut squash soup. A few mini Swiss Rolls later I hauled my shivering mass back onto the bike and knocked out the last 10 miles home.

I arrived home about 23:45, cold, wet but happy. Everyone was in bed, I could hear Kitty in her cot reminding me what I was in for the next day.

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Matt

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