Leisure Orienteering Events Log

Dunwich Dynamo 2009

This is an annual 180km self-supported ride from London Fields in Hackney, to the beach at Dunwich in Suffolk. As it’s a free turn-up-and-go event, it’s all quite informal – people just turn up at the Pub in the Park and then start to head off. The catch – it’s a night time event. I started at 8:50pm…

I was riding with Jenn and Michal, also trying out various new accessories I’d bought in the day – a fell-runners’ bag, saddle bag, frame bag, padded shorts, a proper cycling top, cleats and a couple of bike lights (which proved to be woefully underpowered.)

There most have been close to a thousand cyclists in this year’s Dynamo, taking advantage of the calm, dry and clear weather, although it got surprisingly chilly quite quickly.

The pace was far faster than I was expecting – once we had passed the highest point of the route (Epping Forest) the pace really went up and we pushed hard until the food stop at 100km, arriving at around 1:15am. The pace then on was also quite fast, at one point a wonderful 10km with the Dulwich cycling club peloton. Then, as dawn broke properly, we started to tire a lot.


We finally made it to Dunwich at 6:10am (ride time 7h 23, + 2 hours of breaks) where the cooked breakfast in the cafe was very welcome – the rain shower, the first of the night, wasn’t. We took a risk, cycling 8km through the second rain shower to get the first local train of the day. 20 others had the same idea, but the guard let us on, and three hours later we were back in London. An extra 50km to cycle to Ipswich for the main-line trains was thanfully avoided.

img_0404The high point was tearing down the Suffolk Coastal District part in the back of a fast-moving (~35km/h) peloton. The low point was definitely waiting for the rain to clear at Dunwich and dreading the cycle to Ipswich. The most memorable sight was seeing a long stream of flashing red lights in front of me, sweeping around invisible corners.

Despite the pain near the end, it was great fun and good training for when I set off to cycle the length of Britain (Thurso to London) in a couple of weeks time.

We spent a couple of hours taking breaks, including nearly an hour at the 100km feed station. The first 100km was virtually without stopping, but the latter section had more frequent stops, as Michal’s bike started to make strange mechanical sounds and so he limited his speed. We also took a couple of wrong turns later on, although we found straightforward shortcuts back onto the main route. At one point, Michal and I thought Jenn, who was generally the fastest of us three and was ahead most of the time, had missed a sharp turn and headed off to the coast 10km south of Dunwich. However, after a bit of worrying, it turned out she had made the turn after all.

On the back of a disturbed night the night before, and obviously no sleep at all last night, I don’t feel too bad right now. However I did nod off numerous times on the packed train back from Ipswich to London.

Drinks-wise I got through 1 litre of Lucozade and around 1 litre of water, + coffee at the feed station and at the cafe at the end. Food I ate included some chewy sweets, three Power-bars and few Clif Shot Bloks. At the half-way point a had a pasta salad plate and a couple of bananas. At the end I had an SIS sport bar and a Clif bar, as well as the cooked breakfast. As a consequence I didn’t bonk at all and feel fine now!

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Two Weeks

…until I step on a series of trains up to the far north of Scotland, before cycling back home. If all goes to plan, I should be back in London 11 days later, after 9 days of cycling, a day of travelling and a prologue.

Training has been going reasonably well, with a series of day rides radiating out of London, to Oxford, Brighton, Eastbourne, Rye and Canterbury, as well as an unplanned ascent of Leith Hill. The Kent hills are typically small, but numerous and steep – perhaps not the best practice for the longer, but generally gentler hills in Scotland.

It has been exceptionally hot here in London over the last few days. It isn’t forecast to stay this way, but I hope that we will get some sunshine in Scotland, and that we can cycle faster than the midges can fly! Nine days of rain would be a great shame. The long-range forecasts at the moment are unclear.

I would love to be able to push my location live to a map on this blog, but the iPhone can’t do this (unless I had an application open all the time, which would quickly eat the battery.) So I’ll probably aim just to stick up a blog post each day.

I should pass Gregory cycling in the other direction, somewhere just north of Inverness on the 19th.


London to Oxford

[Updated] I cycled from London to Oxford yesterday, initially taking quite a southerly route out of London, before heading north-west. This was to ensure that the Thames was followed for as long as possible, minimising climb, and because the more direct routes, via High Wycombe or Amersham, are in deep valleys with only major roads (e.g. the A40) – or very steep roads – going up them. As well as being beside the Thames at both the start and the finish, I crossed it three times – at Teddington, Chertsey and Henley.

The route was 118km from London Bridge to the centre of Oxford, and had only one big hill – the 200m concave climb out of Henley up onto Christmas Common at the top of the Chilterns. Following the Thames here would mean taking a very long detour down to Reading and back up through Didcot. The Henley to Oxford road is a B-road but is actually very quiet, and was very pleasant to follow. It goes through the legendary hamlet of “Pishill”.

There were two large drops – one on the immediate approach to Henley which is a 10% gradient down around 80m – I hit around 50km/h here. This was however beaten by the 60km/h descent on another 10% gradient drop, at the top of the climb up into the Chilterns.

I was aiming to get to Oxford for around 4pm, to gatecrash the end of the Pembroke College Garden Party and then hopefully watch the end of the summer VIIIs regatta on the river. As I was on my own, I pushed the pace all the way, and only took brief stops. I completed the 118km route in 4h50, plus around 50 minutes of stops and breaks, an average of around 25km/h including hills, which is far above my planned pace for my Thurso to London trip later this summer.

I’m pleased to have completed this ride, in good time and without much effort, as my previous attempt, cycling from Oxford to London around five years ago, ended at Reading. I was on a very old hybrid bike and had optimistically started at 3pm in the afternoon, following National Cycle Route 5, which takes a very meandering route with lots of climb through the Chilterns, rather than following the river as I had hoped.

The route: This is the “idealised” route, routed using OpenStreetMap and Google Maps routing data, rather than my actual route, which included a couple of wrong turns and unplanned detours, largely due to quirks in the routing. I took no map, trusting completely in my Garmin Forerunner 305 turn-based directions, created using Bike Route Toaster, which also creates and loads onto the GPS a profile map – useful for counting down to the top of the climbs.

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[Update – GPX file here]



London to Brighton – Again

I’ve already cycled from London to Brighton, but my new housemate suggested it on Saturday morning as it was such a nice day, so off we went.

The route and profile were pretty much the same time, so I won’t repeat them again here. The only variations were starting a couple of miles further back (as I’ve moved house), taking a pleasant detour through Tooting Park as Clapham High Street was closed, and not doing the kilometre-lengthening bit along Madeira Drive in Brighton itself. We also started earlier (just before midday) so the sun set this time when I was on the top of Ditchling Beacon, not at the bottom of it.

The traffic was noticeably busier, both in London and along the country lanes, which was a shame really – but using smaller roads would probably result in an even longer and hillier route. The cars going up and down the narrow road that climbs up Ditchling Beacon were particularly unpleasant.

Moving time was 5h 10 – slightly disappointingly taking 7 minutes longer than last year. However I was in considerably less pain this time and felt a lot fresher at the end – and didn’t get lost on the way from the sea-front to the station. Was too tired to get up early the following day though, so yet another weekend without orienteering.