Whilst the challenge is fresh in my mind I thought I’d write some hints & tips which may be helpful to others who are planning to tackle the LEJOG.
The challenge is so much more than the distance …
A 100 mile Sportive is a tough challenge and many people, I think, took on the AMR LEJOG as a challenge to string together 9 of these … I probably did that …
But … on a one day event you turn up; you have a good view of the conditions bash out 100 miles; eat well then return to your nice warm house; and probably don’t ride the next day.
The LEJOG is a tough multi-day event with uncomfortable living conditions and unpredictable weather; and regardless of the weather (or your condition) the schedule remains the same so if the weather turns nasty you just have to get on with it.
120 miles in the sun with a favourable tail winds is easy … 146 miles with rain, sleet, hail & 30mph headwinds is a tough day in the saddle. That was our Day 7 which included a fair bit of climbing too.
So … tip #1 is to prepare yourself by training in all weathers; skipping a session because it’s tipping down with rain isn’t going to help because on the event nothing stops for the weather. Most people on this year’s ride were under dressed (ie. They got cold) on many days. I wished I had taken a full set of Gore-Tex touring waterproofs; my slinky racey waterproof cape was not man enough and in the end I resorted to riding for 3 days in the coat I had brought for the evenings. Also training in the rain will soon teach you what kit you need/want.
So; get some good waterproofs and get a decent sized saddle bag and carry them all the way; the extra 500g and the ugly look to your bike is well worth it when the weather turns.
Tip 2; train and ride in groups so you get back in good time. This is very much a personal issue but the faster riders had an easier trip. Our group was typically one of the first back so we had hot showers, massages, early dinner & more time to get the camping sorted which meant more rest. Often this was all done before some of the slower riders got in … and often they had cold showers. The slower riders have a tougher challenge.; because on top of all the other points they get less rest before the start of the next day.
Tip 3; take your own meds … the event medic was excellent but they can’t carry a full pharmacy for 150 riders; I caught “the bug” on day 6 and had to beg/borrow Imodium; bring plenty of your own and anything else you may need. Lots of other riders were consuming anti-inflammatory and pain killers for various issues; Achilles and knee problems seemed to be the top of the list; see you doctor before the event if need be but take what you think you may need.
Tip 4; avoid the bugs … with all those people eating, sleeping, washing and the other body movements in one small camp means bugs spread. Be extra careful about washing hands etc to try and keep the spread of bugs to a minimum. I did all this and still caught the bug … refer to tip 3
Tip 5; mudguards; with so many slick carbon road bikes around it is no surprise that probably only a handful of people had mudguards. You can get mudguards that fit race bikes such as SKS race blades and Crud Road Racers; I wish I had taken mine and I wished others had done so too … as we grovelled into Moffat in strong headwinds and rain in our chaingang of 4 we were each getting a complete hosing off the wheel in front … we’d have been far smarter to fit these lightweight guards. They weigh nothing but look a bit crap which is probably why no-one uses them on these events … vanity is a high price to pay when it’s lashing it down. http://www.crudproducts.com/products/roadracer/image
Tip 5; make sure your kit bag and day sack are waterproof. Bags get left around in piles at camps and lunch stops and if it’s wet they will get wet and so your dry evening clothes get wet. I used Harken sailing bags which were excellent. http://www.harkenuk.co.uk/wetdry-bag-145-p.asp
Tip 6; Bike computers; I used a Garmin 705 and it was excellent for following the route; the route was very well marked but this was a helpful aid. Make sure you know how to use your gadgets before the first day, the Garmins are good but not perhaps as user friendly as you may hope.
Tip 7; keep in touch whilst on the road; with all the various social media options it’s easy to keep in touch with those at home during the event and you may find it an inspiration in those dark moments. At 4am on day 7 whilst pearched on the bog with the squits I feared I wouldn’t be able to move 100m from a bog let alone ride 146 miles starting at 6am … but the thought of having to report to my sponsors on this blog that I had quit due to the squits drove me on … AMR layed of a full bank of plug sockets each day so charging up your phone and GPS was not a problem.
Tip 8; Make sure your bike is sorted and you have plenty of spares tubes. I was lucky I had no punctures (I rode on Veloflex Masters); others had many punctures and some went through a couple of tyres; luck of the draw really but bring spares.
Tip 9; Don’t bother taking much clothing for the evenings … pack all you cycling kit and a few evening bits.
Tip 10; Have a GOOD sleeping bag; many people got very cold during the nights; I was OK but I still slept with clothes on inside the bag.
Tip 11; Look after your backside … Assos chamois cream by day Sudocream by night …
Tip 12; don’t plan much the week you get back; you will be tired; I had entered a time trial on the Thursday evening on our return; I did it but I was slow … plus the planned 3 day sailing championship that started on the Friday didn’t happen … you will need a bit of recovery time.
So in summary I wished I had prepared better for the bad weather and had taken winter kit as well; I guess with a early season “heatwave” in the south east perhaps I had been lulled into a false outlook for the weather; we were pretty unlucky in Scotland but then perhaps some of those conditions were typical. If you prepare for bad weather and it’s sunny then you have a result.
All in all and excellent event; tougher than I anticipated mainly due to my naivety over the weather, usually if the weather is bad at home I defer the ride to another day … what I needed was more experience of riding in bad weather; then I would have known exactly what kit I needed for riding 100 miles in heavy rain …
Hopefully these tips will be useful to others; if you have any tips of your own that I have not covered please leave them a comments below ….