Preparations

randonneur
/ran-don-neur/
noun

someone who goes on an extended trip (for pleasure); a participant in an audax


The month of May came, and with it a key ride in my physical and mental preparation. It was suggested to me by Stuart McLean that I cycle a 400km audax as an organiser’s ride, checking the route and road conditions for the riders who would tackle it a few weeks later.

North to the South 400

North to the South 400

The route took me from Belfast through the Sperrins to Derry, then round Inishowen and back to Derry, before heading up to Coleraine and returning to Belfast down the Bann valley. I was away from the house for 26 hours, and in that time had forty minutes kip in a 24-hour McDonalds in Coleraine. I completed this ride on my own well within the time limit of 27 hours, and for the first time began to think that I could tackle the WAWA with a realistic chance of finishing.

The last key ride prior to the event was the EoinMcLove 600 audax at the start of June. This event would imitate what I would have to do on the WAWA, namely ride 300km or so, sleep and then do the same again. I took with me most of the kit that I intended to carry on the WAWA. When I looked round at the start line, I was definitely carrying more than anyone else! I was given some wise advice, albeit in a fairly blunt manner, to leave most of what I was carrying at home!

Photo control on the EoinMcLove 600

Photo control on the EoinMcLove 600

Once again, the event went well, and I finished strongly. Many of the other competitors did not do what I did, which was to stay in a B&B overnight. I was shocked to hear stories of riders sleeping in ditches, under hedges, anywhere they could. It didn’t make sense to me: Why not choose to get some quality sleep in a proper bed?

I have mentioned the wise advice that I received on this ride. Throughout the year I had sought out and chatted with more experienced Randonneurs (which was basically most people!) and had pumped them for advice and pearls of wisdom that I didn’t have time to find out for myself. I am hugely grateful to them for their willingness to answer my newbie questions, since their answers kept me from making many mistakes of my own along the way.

After the 600km ride there was nothing else I could do physically other than relax, let the body recover and try and put on a few pounds which, I felt certain, would come off during the week long ride. One practical thing that I did, again based on talking with other riders, was to get myself set up with a dynamo and lights. A far cry from the hub or friction dynamos of my youth, the modern setup allows lights to continue to shine when stopped, and additionally provides a powered USB port to enable the charging of cycle computer, phone or backup battery whilst cycling.

Dynamo and lights finally arrived. Just needed to build the wheel now…

Dynamo and lights finally arrived. Just needed to build the wheel now…

There was a certain amount of stress involved in acheiving this, since the parts did not arrive, as I had hoped they would, in time for the EoinMcLove 600, so I only got to try the setup for a short afternoon ride in the sunshine. At least the front wheel that I had built on the dynamo hub was still round when I got back home!

Having taken the advice to slim down my kit list, I was now ready to travel with just a bag on my pannier rack that had two integral small drop-down panniers, plus my toolkit under the saddle and a small frame bag at the front for battery and various charging cables. As the day approached, I could feel the pre-event nerves building, but unlike the negative ones in April, these were simply in anticipation of finally getting this epic adventure underway.

Next: Getting there