Crazy to attempt a 400km ride before completing a 300km?

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cameronp
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Crazy to attempt a 400km ride before completing a 300km?

Postby cameronp » Mon Nov 09, 2015 11:34 pm

Calling on the collective wisdom of Audaxers and other long-distance cyclists here...

There's a 400km brevet coming up soon (Midsummer Madness - Warrnambool to St Kilda) that is really appealing to me. The route looks great and unlike most of the longer Audaxes, the timing and logistics of the event look like they'd be compatible with the rest of my life. It's even an afternoon start, fitting in nicely with my dislike of early mornings :D

Only thing is, the longest I've ridden previously in a day is 250km, and that was dead flat. I've done a few 200s and pulled up okay afterwards, but not to the extent that I'd want to ride another 200km any time soon. I know the "traditional" process in Audax is to start with a 200, then move up to 300 and then 400 and a 600 and so on. Doing a 300k ride has been on my list for the last few months but I haven't managed to fit one in.

Is the jump from 200(ish) km to 400km likely to go horribly wrong or result in injury? Any tips for surviving, or even enjoying, the experience?

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Re: Crazy to attempt a 400km ride before completing a 300km?

Postby just4tehhalibut » Tue Nov 10, 2015 12:22 am

At one point it was in the Australian rules that riders needed to do the 200, 300, 400 then 600 in that order, not so these days. As long as you understand that what is being tested isn't your ability to ride 200km x 2 but your ability to ride through the night and at the edge of your endurance having already done 200+km to get to nightfall. Think of the 200km rides as basic long distance training, the 300 as pushing your endurance, the 400 as taking it into the darkness, the 600 as learning to budget for a rest stop. Of course, in Australia we get the added entertainment of trying to manage our food and water reserves out in the boondocks. What you can get away with not carrying on a 200 is a bit dangerous for a 400.

So if you adjust for the sleep issue and extra food/water it isn't much harder than a 200km.

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Re: Crazy to attempt a 400km ride before completing a 300km?

Postby HappyHumber » Tue Nov 10, 2015 1:23 am

+1 to me ol' mucka's comments.

It comes more down to mental fatigue and personal body clock rhythmn past a certain point.

It was my experience in the distances you're talking about. Remember it's not about speed, it's about staying power. If you find yourself micro-sleeping or wafting off a bit gaga; DO NOT be afraid to pull over and lay down somewhere. You'll be less danger to yourself or others. Even a very shallow, ~30-40 minute nap is amazingly rejuvenating for the mind.

Don't be scared off by tales of multiple 600, 1200 km ride veterans soldiering on. Learn to listen to your own body first & foremost as you tackle these things. Be humble.

Time cut offs are based on modest average speeds. Leave the go fast wallies to their own madness. Think of them tuning their own performance since they have already acheived the goal you're about to go for.
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cameronp
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Re: Crazy to attempt a 400km ride before completing a 300km?

Postby cameronp » Tue Nov 10, 2015 3:22 pm

Thanks for the tips.

Sounds like mental preparation/fatigue is the biggest thing to worry about, then.

Good point on the availability of food and water. Looks like there'll be a couple of 90km stretches through the night between towns with 24 hour services. Might be worth getting a top tube bag or handlebar bag to carry extra snacks (I'm not a fan of overstuffed jersey pockets).

I'm not too worried about making the speed cut off. It's a flattish route (2600m climbing in 400km). There's a ferry at the 310km point and the first ferry doesn't come until 17 hours after the ride starts. Extrapolating from my 200km speeds that's slightly slower than I'd normally ride, so no point racing. Then an hour on the ferry, a 90km cruise along the beach to the end of the route and a 10km ride home from St Kilda.

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Re: Crazy to attempt a 400km ride before completing a 300km?

Postby HappyHumber » Tue Nov 10, 2015 3:33 pm

Research your route... talk to riders familiar with it, verify shop opening hours, carry small contingencies etc.
Everyone develops and refines their approach as they go and learn.


Also I'm a great believer in the concept of the 'sleep bank' and not being (too) over-drawn on your account as it is from the get-go. Getting good nights sleep leading up a ride certainly helps. I admit sometimes if it's an early start or even earlier departure to the start, and sometimes then from a strange bed - all of the nights leading up to that all count. Just the anticipation sometimes has kept me awake unecessarily the evening before a big rides starting only 10km from my house!

Being pre-hydrated from the evening & day before I find helps too. I have it on my checklist ;)
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Re: Crazy to attempt a 400km ride before completing a 300km?

Postby Gassy » Tue Nov 10, 2015 9:27 pm

I did the first one of these, in midwinter. Bitterly cold after Colac, but it was a relatively easy 400. Importantly it is mentally quite manageable, 250ish to Geelong, then a few hours rest there until it's time to head off for the first ferry (6am I think), 310 to the ferry, another short rest then 90 odd kms back around the bay. With longer daylight hours, it should be pretty good going to Colac, and hopefully warm. Go for it I say!
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Re: Crazy to attempt a 400km ride before completing a 300km?

Postby cameronp » Thu Nov 12, 2015 7:50 pm

Thanks again everyone. I've entered the event.

HappyHumber, your sleep bank suggestion is a great idea. As you say, being well-rested can be easier said than done the night before a big event.

Gassy, I doubt I'll be fast enough to have "a few hours' rest" at Geelong before leaving for the ferry! Maintaining a steady pace that gets me to Queenscliff in time to board the first ferry will be the plan.

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Re: Crazy to attempt a 400km ride before completing a 300km?

Postby ausrandoman » Mon Nov 16, 2015 6:47 am

Not crazy at all.

There will be a few people on the ride who will complete in the nick of time. They will be riding at the easiest pace that will get them to each checkpoint before the cut-off. They will enjoy the ride. Find them, ride with them, chat with them and emulate them. Not only will you have the enormous satisfaction of completing the ride, you will likely enjoy it.

Good luck!
Nobody younger than <del>27</del> 28 has experienced a month cooler than the 20th century average.

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Re: Crazy to attempt a 400km ride before completing a 300km?

Postby cameronp » Mon Nov 23, 2015 10:28 pm

Well, I did it. 400km in just over 23 hours. Here's a quick ride report:

Eight of us set off from Warrnambool on Saturday afternoon. All except me were well-seasoned Audaxers (I think all had completed 1200s before) and apart from my bike and a recumbent, the bikes looked more "touring" than "road". No carbon fibre in sight.

The first 70km to Port Campbell flew by with the help of a tailwind. I actually arrived in the lead group and stopped for a while to have a burger and chips. While I was waiting for my meal, the rest of the group arrived. While I was relaxing and eating, everybody else left! I'm still not used to the Audax in-and-out approach to checkpoints. I gobbled down the rest of my meal and left, maybe five minutes later than the rest of the group.

After the experience at the first checkpoint, I was a bit concerned that I might not see anybody else for the rest of the ride. The next 40km to Simpson was mostly uphill, the first of four sections with significant climbing in the ride. Arriving in town, I saw a couple of bikes parked outside the takeaway place: Steel frames, Brooks saddles, Carradice tail packs, handlebar bags... must be Audax. Inside were Mark and Ian, who were drinking cups of tea and had just ordered dinner. I grabbed a coffee and joined them. I ended up riding with them for the rest of the way, glad for some company. Ian apologised in advance for being slow up hills, although the steel bike with significant luggage probably had a bit to do with that: he mentioned he was carrying a tent, amongst other things. Their pace was a bit slower than I would naturally ride, which was actually quite nice - meant that I didn't have to worry about accidentally pushing myself too hard and burning out too early.

It was another 50km to the next checkpoint at Colac. Darkness fell, dynamo lights were deployed, and there was another significant hill to climb in the last few kilometres before Colac. We arrived just as La Porchetta was closing, but they were willing to make us all pizzas before they closed up shop. Two other Audax riders, Sarah and Leigh, were leaving as we arrived. Minor crisis: my USB battery pack was refusing to recharge my Garmin! There was no way the GPS would make it through all 400km without any additional juice, and if a ride isn't uploaded to Strava, did it really happen?! Nothing I could do about it at this point - just keep moving.

The next checkpoint wasn't until Geelong, a long 90km stretch with no shops in between. At around 1am, my body was quite insistent that it was time to sleep. The road at that point was dead flat with nothing to see on either side and it felt as if I was just riding the same kilometer of road on repeat, again and again. And then it was a brief stop for snacks and stretching our legs at Moriac - nothing open at this hour - before tackling the hills to Barrabool and then Geelong. We caught up with Sarah and Leigh once again at Kardinia Cafe in Geelong, where they were just finishing their food. I would love to say that some food and a strong coffee perked me up but in reality I was feeling pretty wrecked with 250km ridden and another 150km to go.

We got going again at 3:45am, ready to tackle the undulating coastal route to Queenscliff via Portarlington. I remember the first part of this road in the past as being an unpleasant slog through hills and strong winds, but this time the air was still and the hills didn't seem so bad. We got to Portarlington at 5:30 as the sun was starting to sneak over the horizon. We assessed our chances of making the 7am ferry: it had taken us 1hr 45min to rid the last 31km from Geelong, so we'd have to up the pace a bit to cover 33km in under 1.5 hrs (under normal circumstances not such a difficult ask!) or face a long wait for the next ferry. None of us really felt like pushing any harder, but somehow it got to 6:45 with just 6km to go. We made it to the Queenscliff ferry terminal with a minute to spare and were allowed to board. The ferry departed as we were securing our bikes and removing our helmets.

We found Sarah and Leigh again on the ferry - happily sleeping on couches. Paul and Ian joined them in catching some shut-eye, and I lay down for a while, but never drifted off to the land of nod. Instead I gave up, ate a sandwich and had another coffee. My Garmin was down to 9% battery and clearly wasn't going to make it all the way home. I switched it off and got ready for plan B: use the Strava app on my phone to record the final part of the ride. Once the ferry arrived at Sorrento, we had another 89km to go to St Kilda beach. All five of us set off together, but Sarah and Leigh quickly became dots on the horizon.

We were now in Serious Road Bike territory: athletic-looking people wearing pristine jerseys (no daggy high-viz vests) riding carbon bikes, often with TT bars and aerodynamic everything, whizzing past us at 40+ km/h. Meanwhile, the three of us were absolutely knackered. I had pain in my knees (very unusual for me on a bike), elbows, bum, hands, shoulders, back, legs... everywhere, really. I wasn't sleepy so much now the sun was up, but feeling seriously fatigued and everything just seemed so difficult. Keeping the pedals turning was the only option to bring this insanity to an end.

The stretch from Dromana to Mount Eliza was the only remaining uphill bit, and also included a few kilometers of unpleasant, busy highway. Mt Eliza was the last checkpoint before the end of the ride. Just a brief stop for coffee and cake. Then the brief descent into Frankston. The flat monotony of Nepean Highway and Station Street. A brief rest at Mordialloc, stretching stiff muscles, then lying down on the grass. A complete stranger in a club jersey called out "why are you looking so tired? you've only ridden 380km". We did a double-take. It turned out that he was also an Audax member and aware of the ride happening this weekend. I guess the fluoro safety vests and steel bikes gave us away. While we were stopped, Leigh and Sarah rode past us. We must have overtaken them while they were stopped at some point.

Back on the road again. Not moving very fast, but putting in some effort to get the final 23km of Beach Road behind us. We caught up with Sarah. She wasn't feeling very well. I rode off ahead on my own for a strong sprint finish (ahaha) and made it to St Kilda a good 15 seconds ahead of the others. My first 400km brevet completed, slightly anti-climactic and seriously exhausted. Time for a celebratory choc milk. I had originally planned to ride all the way home but instead opted to ride to Flinders St station with Leigh and Sarah. The less pedalling required to get home, the better. Looking forward to a couple of days of not riding my bike!

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Re: Crazy to attempt a 400km ride before completing a 300km?

Postby find_bruce » Mon Nov 23, 2015 10:43 pm

Nice!!! Congratulations Cameron

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Re: Crazy to attempt a 400km ride before completing a 300km?

Postby HappyHumber » Tue Nov 24, 2015 12:18 am

Well done! Thanks for the follow up report as well.

Now, there's your new high water mark! :twisted:

Loved the quote
Keeping the pedals turning was the only option to bring this insanity to an end.


I've known that feeling. It's just a resignation knowing that any bailing out would mean all the more inconvenience & cost. Barring a major mechanical, injury or health issue - the only way to get it over with any dignity is merely to keep chipping away. But then at the end, the sheer elated exhausation just washes that away.
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Re: Crazy to attempt a 400km ride before completing a 300km?

Postby Gassy » Tue Nov 24, 2015 9:09 am

Well Done! Now onwards and upwards... I think 400's are the hardest distance, 600 & 1200's seem easier, it's amazing what a bit I sleep can do.
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Re: Crazy to attempt a 400km ride before completing a 300km?

Postby kb » Tue Nov 24, 2015 9:29 am

Well done, that's awesome! I did my first 300km on Sunday. I felt worst around the 240km mark and started to rally. Not sure how I'd cope with 400 as my legs were just ok but I suffered a fair bit of chafing.
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Re: Crazy to attempt a 400km ride before completing a 300km?

Postby Gassy » Tue Nov 24, 2015 9:51 am

Massive Ride KB! I saw you a couple of times Sunday, you passed me up reefton spur & passed you later on the gravel section- that jersey stood out! .( i was wearing a fitzs challenge jersey BTW) Noticed you had lights on and must have ridden via Warby trail but didn't realise you were crazy enough to ride home via Don Rd and Toolangi/Kinglake :shock:
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Re: Crazy to attempt a 400km ride before completing a 300km?

Postby grantw » Tue Nov 24, 2015 11:39 am

Nice work!
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Re: Crazy to attempt a 400km ride before completing a 300km?

Postby cameronp » Tue Nov 24, 2015 1:03 pm

HappyHumber wrote:Now, there's your new high water mark! :twisted:

Gassy wrote:Well Done! Now onwards and upwards... I think 400's are the hardest distance, 600 & 1200's seem easier, it's amazing what a bit I sleep can do.

Cheers! I've already had a couple of people ask when I'm doing a 600 - "might as well do a super series now". (No doubt if I do a 600 I'll have someone talk me into signing up for the Great Southern Randonnee...)

kb wrote:Not sure how I'd cope with 400 as my legs were just ok but I suffered a fair bit of chafing.

Well done kb, that's a long way with a lot more climbing than I'd want to tackle! It's definitely the contact points and joints that were giving me the most grief. Need to figure out what to do about numb hands, hurty knees and sore bum before another really long ride.

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Re: Crazy to attempt a 400km ride before completing a 300km?

Postby biker jk » Tue Nov 24, 2015 1:30 pm

Well done cameronp! It's widely acknowledged that the 400 is the hardest ride you can do on account of no sleep. Keeping the concentration up when mentally and physically exhausted is no easy feat.

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