Posted by: audaxing | July 28, 2010

Mille Cymru: Letter to John Hughes

I’d been in a email conversation with John Hughes on tapering methods for long rides. I was also interested in his upcoming book “Going the Distance” on long distance riding.
Here’s what I emailed him on the Mille Cymru

On 27 July 2010 17:31, John Hughes wrote:


How did the 1000 go?


It went fine.

The organisation of the event was really efficient and well thought out. With brevet rides there are various time constraints and sometimes these seem to work against you. But with this ride the organiser had arranged it so we could sleep at a good hour and food was always available. In a sense, on these long rides, riding is the easy bit. It’s staying hydrated, fed and getting sleep that is the difficult bit. But the organisers did everything possible to help out.

That said, it was a tough route with 13,500m of ascent.
It was made up of a route from the start near Shrewsbury to Llanwrtyd Wells, then two loops from there, then a shorter route back to the start at Shrewsbury. Shrewsbury is in the midlands of England, west of Birmingham

Day one was 356km from Shrewsbury to Llanwrtyd Wells in central Wales via the highest road in Wales, skirting Mount Snowdon. Mount Snowdon is the highest peak in England or Wales. Initially it was flattish and I drafted with a group for a while. When the climbing began, up to the highest road in Wales, I didn’t find it as difficult as last time I did this climb. I lost some time that day due to a strange puncture which took out two tubes, I think there is a sharp spot on the rim. The tyre hadn’t picked up a sharp, it had got hot and the tube had failed against something inside the rim. From then on I was paranoid about braking too hard. Despite this mechanical issue I made reasonable time. On day one I wasn’t going to be riding as hard as possible but even so I was doing fine. I got to the control at Llanwrtyd Wells at 2:30am, ate, had a shower and got to sleep.

We each had a drop bag and I had new shorts for each day, a couple of jerseys, a spare base layer. One little trick I was using was putting the barrier cream for each day smeared in a small plastic bag. The bags are in the shorts. When I came to put on the shorts I’d turn the bag inside out and have a special one use glove to stop my hands getting covered in barrier cream.

Physically, after two and a half hours sleep and a bit of breakfast I felt pretty good. The day coming up was due to be the toughest. It was going to the far west of Wales but the route seemed to have a lot of small hills going up and then down. I don’t know this part of Wales for bike riding either, although I had been on holiday there a couple of times

The first bit of the route to Pendine Sands was pretty easy and fast however. You might have heard of Pendine Sands, they used to do land speed records there and that sort of thing. When I phoned my wife to let her know how I was getting on she asked if we were riding at high speed on the long flat beach.

We ate at Pendine and left the seafront up a 25% hill. This was pretty much what the route for the next 77km was, a load of steep hills. About 5km from the next control I got the knock. I stopped and ate a chocolate bar. At the next control I ate again and teamed up with a couple of people that I knew. I was expecting more hills but they had a better idea thanks to their little print out of the profiles for each stage. I spent the next 30km drafting the stronger guy of the pair. It started raining properly for the first time during this section. In the next town we stopped for a chinese takeaway meal. I sat with the two guys in the door way of a closed shop eating mushroom fried rice. Then we cracked on into the gloom and rain. Soon we got to the really big climb of the day, which went up 400m and had a rutted track across a moor at the top. On the descent I lost the pair of blokes because I stopped, concerned that my front wheel rim was getting too hot.
I had a bad attack of the dosies before getting back to the base at Llanwrtyd Wells at 1:50am

I was looking forward to the next day. It went to Aberystwyth and then back via the Elan valley. The mountain road to Aberystwyth was marvellous. Although I did have a bit of a scare on a descent when the previously fairly good road developed a rash of potholes while I was doing 35mph. Physically, when I got to Aberystwyth, I was feeling a bit ropey. But I pushed myself to make good time up away from the coast. This stage wasn’t as long as the others but…we had to leave the control at Llanwrtyd Wells in time to finish at 9am the following morning. So I got back to the control at 10:30pm, had 90 minutes sleep and then left on the final leg.

Even at this stage of the event I found I could maintain a reasonable speed and do little accelerations to catch riders I’d seen ahead. I had to stop for a 10 minute sleep at the side of the road and then found a 24 hour McDonalds. I don’t think I have been in a McDonalds since about 1985. The coffee has improved since then.

I was still on the road at 7:45am so I phoned my wife who leaves for work at that time to say I had just a few km to go and lots of time. I finally finished about 8am. 54 other riders made it and all the finishers were within BRM time

When I finished my legs were very stiff, I had bruises on my big toes, was very tired but otherwise ok. I had two hours sleep and then drove a car 200 miles back to where I live.

If I did this sort of event again I would
1) give up coffee the week before and do anything else possible to get some sleep debt reduction
2) do a 100km test ride on the bike the weekend before to iron out mechanical problems
3) stop more to eat proper food



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