Witham Westerley

Startup
Specialties Tea Room
Garden Party
Finished

My legs are just beginning to ease up again, it’s been a while since I’ve pulled out that many miles but the Witham Westerley Audax was a blast and a great way to get back on the bike. For those cyclists; or even those who or not, an Audax is an event like no other in the world of cycling. There is no clock to race against, no points for first place (just bragging rights) but an enormous level of social cycling. Basically a course is set out and you must follow instructions and make it to set check points along the course to have your log book stamped, it’s a bit like an orienteering treasure hunt but on bikes. Audax come in different shapes and sizes to suit all needs but fellow rider Viv had made a promise to complete a 200k event. The Witham Westerley was the one to beat. So he collared me into joining him and taking part. There were a few other ‘local’ riders taking part but only three of us mad enough to enter the 200km, most settled for the 150km. Brian was our third and being a seasoned Audaxer we decided to ride with him as he knows how to read those instructions. Given the fact that Lucy had left for the States on Sunday morning I was up a eager to get going. First off was a drive to Viv’s house to load up his car for the journey down to Woodham Mortimer and the start HQ. We met with Brian there and signed on. The start shout; no such thing as guns or whistles here, was at 8:00 and we were off. The first few km were a busy time as the pack try to find their place and pace. Soon there was a break away with the infamous 'Bakers’ at the front. On my previous Audax; the local CCS Summer Audax I had rode with them and finished first but today I decided to stay with my team mates and make a day of it. The weather was planned for sun but at this time in the morning the shade was cold and it took a while to find my 'groove’ and get going. Eventually we found ourselves in a pack of about 5 enjoying the ride and counting down the k’s. Riding in the group was Audax virgin Johno from the big smoke, having spoken to him and realising he did not sound like a Londoner it turned out he was Slovakian born but Australian raised, having been in the UK for 2 years he wanted to try an Audax and signed up for a 200km as his first; brave man. We kept on winding through the countryside and soon arrived at the first control point; Specialties Tea Room in Stistead, a regular stop on our club runs. In there we meet up with fellow CCS members Colin and Mac who were taking part in the 150km version. Looking at each others route cards it turned out we followed the same route to the next control point so we opted to ride together. The next section took us out and around some familiar roads, some were from previous club runs and others from my own training routes. This really helped lift the spirits as after 80km my system was showing the signs of a lack of cycling. To be fair my last serious ride was probably the Wild Wales Challenge and I have not been putting any effort in over the winter months, this was going to be a challenge in my mind just to finish. Control point number two was at Wally’s Cafe, the cafe at the end of the road were I work. Better yet we would pass the parents house so I made the offer of a 'free’ cup of tea. Viv, Brian and Johno took me up on the gesture and thanks to a caring mother and father we were supplied food drink and a seat in the shade of the garden. Very appreciated. From this stop the route was know roads and the rest stop had really done the legs the world of good. The average speed slowly increased as we clocked up the miles, the sun was warm hot and the views of the spring fields were awesome. Eventually we realised that the route was finally heading back south and towards the finish line, still had 60km to go but least now we were heading in the right direction. There was one more control point but it was decided to make our own stop at Viv’s for some light refreshment; ok I had a tub of ice cream but it WAS refreshing. With my core temperature lowered and the sun’s rays subduing I was able to reflect on the days ride and noticed that I was still feeling confident and my legs were still going strong. After an un-planned stop to fix Johno’s puncture I decided to see what I still had left in the tank. I upped the pace and Viv came with me, soon without noticing it we were hitting some decent speeds and given the distance we had already travelled it was pleasing to know it was possible. After a quick map check and making sure we were still heading in the right direction we were off again. The last 500 meters was something special and it felt great to return to where we started over 8 hours ago. The total for the day was 124.5miles and whilst we were no where near the top of the finishing list I think the trade off for the enjoyment factor was well worth it. My thanks to Viv and Brian for riding with me, also to Johno; hopefully see you on the eTape later this year. Also many thanks to Ed for organising the event and all the marshals who made the effort to sit in the sun and sign my card! In the car on the way home Viv and I made a promise to give another 200 another go and this time train for speed as we now know we have the distance. Viv took his camera and the photos are from his set over at Flickr