Isle of Man Lighthouse Challenge 2011 and an Audax 200km

Its time I upgraded my Audax riding, and none better than including it with a local Sportive – The Isle of Man Lighthouse Challenge, organised by Isle of Man Cycling.

Route of my 200km, together with the coastal route followed by the Isle of Man Lighthouse Challenge Sportive.

Enid on the top of Douglas Head before Marine Drive (Camera fogged with condensation – sorry)

I have this year 15 x 100km Audax rides under my belt, and have amounted a nice number of AAA (Altitude Awarded Audax) rides along the way. Each year I enter the AAARTY Award (A nice badge, for AAA Round the Year) ie I have to ride a hilly verified route each calendar month to get my points.

But, in real Audax terms, I am a mere beginner, a novice Audaxer. The TRUE Audax rider gets many more km’s than I have so far achieved. The 100km ride is for the novice as they learn the art of map reading, how the controls and information controls work allowing cyclists to find their away along an unknown route, and how to get the necessary prove such as a timed receipt as proof of passage – all unsupported as well. The next Audax distance is the 200km and for this you start to get awarded for your distances and if that 200km has more than 2500m of climbing you also start to gain AAA points for that too.

I have been putting off the 200km for a bit, and there was one i could do in the UK, that is the Arnside/North Yorkshire Dales ride organised by Mike Hutchinson. But sadly for me this year, I have run out of finances, coupled with the fact that daughter no. 1 goes off to University for the first time, in early October, so I really didnt want to face the costs of travel and accommodation, plus the need for another valuable day off work. A fello cyclist friend of mine, forwarded me the details for the Isle of Man Lighthouse Challenge and I hoped to do that ride, it’s a circular route right around the island, starting and finishing at the National Sports Centre in Douglas.

An idea….

If I cycled a wee bit first, before the official start, I could do the sportive AND get a 200km run done both on the same day! So I used BIKEHIKE and my SATMAP GPS unit to sort out a route. The Sportive works out at about 92 miles in total according to my SATMAP, and as you NEVER want to be a single km below the 200, its best to err on the side of caution and do a bit more. So I worked out a 35 mile route from my home, up to the North via Sulby, then along the TT course back to Douglas, where I would join in with the Sportive route. Bingo – 205km in total.

THe Sportive was organised so one registered on the morning of the ride at the NSC and collected a ‘dibber’ This is an electronic device worn on the wrist/bike and is punched into electronic boxes along the route namely at the Lighthouse controls, therefore giving the rider proof of passage and their time. The registration time was open at 7am, and the ride was to start at 8am. But as I was not really interested in my time, I emailed the organisers and told them I would not be registering and taking the dibber, but completing the route as a distance challenge instead. They promised to save me the Tee Shirt given to those who complete, and as I am recording my route, I will pass this onto Rob as proof of completion.

It takes a lot of effort and time for volunteers to sort out such a route and I wanted to support this ride financially even though I could just ride the route on the open roads.

As it happened, there were 200 entries for the 100 and the 40 mile sportive routes available.

My starting time was early. Very early, I left the cottage in total darkness at 4.50am. This was to get the ride over and done with so I could be home in time to cook Sunday dinner (A meal rarely missed). I cycled off into the darkness and silence of an early Sunday morning with not even bird voice for company, it was strange to be riding again with full lights on, no traffic and the stars shining brilliantly above. I thought about the many Audax cyclists out there, who do this time and time again for their very long rides where night time cycling is all part of the fun.

I arrived at Douglas after my first 35 miles, for 7.30am and set off along the proper Lighthouse Challenge course, it took me along many of my favourite Audax routes. The day turned out to be the best day of the week weather wise, sunshine almost all day long and no wind. Perfect conditions. The very early start had seen a bit of ground frost in the valley towards Sulby, so it had been a cold morning. As usual when I Audax, I had a bumper bag of stuff. 1 litre of fluid (Orange squash) 3 x horrible Mars Bars, 1 x not very ripe banana and some chocolate peanuts, plus all my wet weather gear, cos I live in the North on an island with a micro climate and you just never know….

Enid at Hangmans Hill, Castletown

I was over taken by one of the real Sportive riders as I climbed the Sloc. He must of thought I had nothing to do with the ride, as my bike has full mudguards, with full lights on it (turned off as it was mid morning by now), and of course my rear bag was full to bursting, whereas he was in full colourful lycra, no mudguards, no bike bag, no metal on his bike at all – carbon…. and he was a bloke, there was no way I was leading the field! (They set off from Douglas at 8am). 

The Sound at the tail end of the Island

I plugged along doing my own thing. Once I had clocked up about 70 miles the rest of the field of bionically super-fast lycra clad, non metal bicycles steamed passed me, moving like one big white,red,black sheet of plastic,… whoosh…. Machine like, backs arched, they were taking today seriously… Obviously I was just a woman out and about on a similar route…. 

When we cycled our super Yorkshire ride in July, I rode my personal best for distance 108 miles. Looking down at the bike computer it suddenly read 98 miles, just outside Ramsey… I had about 30 still to go, and my body suddenly thought…. nope… 100 is as far as Im going….

I didn’t hit the wall or anything like that… I just suddenly ran out of diesel, legs felt heavy and unyeilding. I had some hills still to do. Hills I dont usually think of as hills anymore, but suddenly they were grinding, exhausting monsters needing to be conquered. Each half mile on the bike computer clicked so slowly. Out of Maughold I had to walk a hill, I usually have no bother cycling. I was very pleased to finally get onto the Ramsey to Douglas coast road, and as this road passes my home, I promised my self the very thing I knew I was lacking – thus why I was slowing up so much…. TEA

I hadn’t had a cup since breakfast. THAT’S why I was slowing down…. Laxey, then Baldrine hill, then home… I sat in my kitchen and made a proper brew. Strong, dark and hot… LOvely. 2 pots later half an hour had passed and I was gingerly lowing my bum (ouch those sit bones) onto my Brooks saddle for the final 12 miles.

Once on the Groudel Road, Enid and I both knew the end was in view. I brought her back up to our usual cruising speed of about 14 mph and we had a gentle tail wind along the prom in Douglas. Passed the Quarterbridge and Enid turned home again towards Baldrine – our final GPS control for Audax UK

We did it! My first 200km ride, and Rich from Audax UK has OKed it for me….

What a day!

Enid was chucked into the shed, I didn’t even give her a second glance. (Making up for this with a nice shiny new chain later this week) I staggered into the house and sat down trying not to fall asleep. Home by 3.30pm and time left to cook that Sunday Roast chook.

I keep trying to imagine what riding a 300km or a 400km must feel like… Standing was ok, sitting was ok, everything else in the middle was slow and achy. Sitting down – needed a cushion. 

Keep reminding myself, I felt like this once after a 20 mile ride.. I felt like this after my very first 100km Audax ride, especially walking downstairs and at this this time, my quads didn’t hurt that badly. And yes, I commuted to work today, and it wasnt that bad either. One day, perhaps I can feel this way after a 300km one!

And tired? I could sleep for a week! Great cure for insomnia!