Lessons Learnt from The Poor Student 200k Permanent

My last audax was some four weeks ago. Since then I’ve done very little cycling, only the 2.5km to the station and back every day. I’ve intentionally taken a break from longer rides and the only other exercise I’ve done has been one badminton match and a half-hour swim.
Tomorrow I’m setting off on a 200k DIY by GPS, so now seems like a good time to review my lessons learnt from the previous ride. It seems that audaxing is as much about planning and strategy as it is about increasing fitness.

What went well?

  • Very few wrong turns. I didn’t stray more than 100m from the route and paid attention when the GPS zapped me. I guess I lost less than 5 mins due to “navos”.
  • Drank more water. Bought refills in Chipping Norton and Oxford. With the extra 18km each way to/from Malmesbury I needed this.
  • Got the clothing right. Was comfortable in Ronhill trousers all day. Waterproof jacket helped combat the cold when riding into the wind.

What went badly?

  • Rear light batteries faded. As the first and last hours were in the dark I had the light on full-power steady mode, which apparently makes it easier for drivers to judge the distance you are away from them, even if they can’t see anything besides the light. Once it was daylight I switched to flashing mode to get me noticed and save some battery. However, as I arrived home in the dark the light looked very dim, so not as effective as I’d like.
  • Saddle height. For some reason, perhaps when re-fitting my Carradice Bagman rack, I had put my saddle a fraction higher. I noticed this after about 120km when the front of my knees started to hurt. I didn’t really twig what the problem was, but I had the tools to fix it, so probably should’ve stopped for 5 mins and sorted it out. On getting home the problem was obvious and I set it straight back to the bike-sizing number (707mm from crank-centre to saddle-top).
  • Pacing. In the cold and dark I tend to go a little faster than I should to keep warm. I unintentionally set Strava personal records on a couple of segments at the start on the way to Malmesbury. I think that usually means I’m going too fast.
  • Food. I packed 3 Clif and 2 Trek bars, 1 60ml SIS gel and a caramel and pumpkin seed flapjack.I bought some bananas from the Co-Op in Chipping Camden where I also scoffed a couple of pecan pastries, which were a bit dry and disappointing.  The plan was to avoid the sugar until I really needed it. I knew I had a long day ahead, so I wanted to keep moving, even if I was a bit slow while eating. I’d tear open a chewy bar with my teeth and eat as I rode. I tried to do this on flatter sections, so that I wouldn’t be breathing too hard and spray crumbs over the handlebars.Normally I enjoy the chewy bars. However, despite washing them down with water, the bars didn’t go down well. Somewhere between Oxford and Malmesbury I had a pretty bad bonk. I felt lacking in energy, but too bloated to eat. After struggling for an hour or so, I reached for the single gel I had which seemed to be a near instant fix. The energy it gave me lasted maybe half an hour, but even after that I felt better. My rather unscientific guess is that I needed energy and oxygen to digest the food I was taking in. While I was riding, even at what I thought was a gentle pace, my stomach couldn’t do its job. So the food wasn’t getting processed and I felt bloated and weak.

My hope is that by writing up the mistakes of last time immediately before my next big ride, I’ll avoid making the same mistakes again. I intend to continue to do this with all my rides and maybe other things.

So tomorrow, the food I’ve packed is:

  • 4 gels
  • 2 Clif bars
  • 1 Trek bar
  • 1 Clif shot block packet
  • A small resealable bag of walnuts, apricots and raisins (just what we had in the cupboard)
  • 1 apple
  • 2 bananas

I hope that this combination will allow me to eat whatever I’m craving rather than feel I have to force down the stodge because that’s all I’ve got. I’m also planning to stop for larger meals and have a gel in advance of a meal, just to give me the energy to digest it.

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