Flash Says…

Managing the Dunwich Dynamo

Posted on: 2012-05-31

Recently, my husband said “I’d like to cycle the Dunwich Dynamo”. This is an overnight ride of 120 miles from London to the coast, taking place on the July weekend nearest to a full moon. In 2012, so as to avoid a clash with the Olympics, it takes place on 30 June into 1 July.

 

“Ok” I said tentatively “If you are really sure you’re prepared, then I will be happy for you to go”. But as I’m someone who tends to worry (as opposed to my beloved, who is generally pretty confident) I spent time searching the internet on how one should prepare for the Dunwich Dynamo, or DD, or Dun Run.

 

I couldn’t find all the information in one place, so I thought I would document it. Here, then, is a list of all the info I’ve found about the Dun Run, which I hope is useful for my beloved – as well as a useful reference for other cyclists. I’ll be passing this info on to my husband, but I’d love to know what I should amend, in order to make it more useful. Also, if you have anything to add to this list please leave a comment.

 

I should start by saying, it was generally suggested that anyone in good health and used to regular cycling (e.g. commuting) can manage the Dun Run without any particular training. After all, it’s not a race, not a sprint, but a stamina challenge. I’ve learned that the main challenge as you cycle through the night will be mental, not the physical effort.

 

I’m not physically able to undertake this kind of trip so I am posting this blog from a mental point of view, hoping it will help my husband. It’s not something I could ever consider, but I hope to provide information so that my hubby – and others – will be able to do the trip. Here, then, are all the tips I have learned.

 

  • Wear proper padded cycling shorts – even if they go under tracksuit trousers. And don’t wear pants under your shorts – that’s not how they are meant to be worn! Get decent padded shorts, and go commando. This is the way to manage cycling for several hours!

  • Use cream on your private parts, and the seams of your shorts too! Assos Chamois Cream is recommended but sudocrem (nappy cream) will do just as well. And if it was me I’d try E45 cream. These will all do the job, but make sure you’ve planned it so there is no chafing!

  • Have a good solid meal the night before. For example, a good pasta meal, or a steak. On the day of the run, have porridge for breakfast. Make sure you’re boosting your carbs!

  • Don’t drink alcohol or over-do things in the days immediately before the run. A few people suggest having beer at the pub before you set out, and that may well be a fun thing to do, but sensible people seem to recommend taking it easy and not drinking too much for a few days beforehand. You can always have beer to celebrate once you are home. Take it easy in advance.

  • Take food with you. Although there is food laid on at the halfway stage, the queues are long and not everyone will get fed, or you may get cold waiting. Don’t rely on it, or expect it. No matter what you take to eat, but you must take enough food and drink to replace the energy you are using – several thousand calories. This is one way to avoid the “bonk” of hitting the wall a few miles from the end. Pasta meals are good. Sandwiches are also popular. High energy foods like sunflower seeds make excellent snacks. Take a range of foods so that you don’t get bored with what you’ve brought; a stash of buttered Malt Loaf will be useful but get boring after a while. Include sweets for a sugar rush. Plan to be self-sufficient and to have enough food to eat regularly. Eat every hour even if it’s just a snack, and stop to eat properly on a regular basis (although be careful not to get too cold when you stop).

  • Drink lots. You should drink 500-1000ml an hour and should urinate every 2-3 hours (men have it easy – women might like to carry a ‘she-pee’ for calls of nature in the countryside). You can drink squash, but dehydration causes cramp (as does a loss of salts). Ideally carry Lucozade Sport powder and reconstitute it with water to make up drinks for the journey. Otherwise drink lots of water and bring salty foods such as crisps and marmite sandwiches! But don’t simply think “you will manage” or that you know best – it’s important to replace what you sweat, and to plan to have energy for the journey. It will be a long run of stamina, and it’s important to have planned appropriately. So if nothing else take Marmite sandwiches!

  • Carry some caffeine based drinks to revive you for the last push at about 20 miles out.

  • Take layers to wear. Lots of layers. You need to ensure that you are prepared for the chill at 3am. Even if you’re warm while cycling, have something ready to slip on while you are taking a break, so you don’t get cold. You may also need layers to wear while you’re waiting to go home, particularly if you are waiting for the coach, or for a train which can accommodate your bike – both can take several hours. And this is before you consider the chance of rain… you may get wet and miserable!

  • Make sure you have waterproofs. Don’t forget caring for your map – bring a waterproof bag to keep it dry. Don’t just think you will manage, it will be miserable to get wet through and you will want to know where you’re going.

  • Do some training runs. Although regular cyclists should be able to manage the DunRun if they take it slow and steady, it is still good to do at least two types of preparatory run:

    1) Around 60 miles – because that way you will know you can cope. If you find things rubbing, or other issues, at least you discovered this on a shorter run rather than the DD! And it will give you experience of finding a way to force your legs to keep moving when you feel that you have already hit your limit. After all, why commit to 120 miles when you don’t know how you will feel after 40 or 60? So make sure you are confident on a 60 mile run before committing to the Dun Run.

    2) Overnight – not necessarily a long run, but it is important experience in order to find out how cold you will feel at 3am and to learn how many layers you need to carry – even if you think you will already know! You may think summer will be easy. I know from festivals that it’s possible to shiver at night just a few hours after you were sweating and applying suncream. Southwark Cyclists have an overnight run on the summer Solstice which may be useful experience: http://southwarkcyclists.org.uk/events/midsummer-madness-summer-solstice-wednesday-20-june-2012 – There is no harm in being over-prepared!

  • Break the journey into manageable chunks. For example, view it as four trips of 30m each. That way you only have to look forward to the end of each section rather than seeing the whole journey as a seemingly unending trip. It makes things much more realistic and bearable.

  • Plan for regular rests. Some people suggest that you stop for no longer than 5 minutes at a time (so you don’t get cold) – others suggest that you stop halfway through and kip in a hedge! Although how you break will be a matter of personal choice, be careful not to get cold when you stop, and not to lose momentum or to let yourself stiffen up.

  • Lights – at a minimum, make sure you have new batteries in your lights and you have spare batteries in your pocket. Ideally, get a decent and powerful beam so that you can see where you’re going on dark, potholed country roads. Although you can tuck in behind someone with a good light, it’s best if you have a decent beam yourself. If you’re used to commuting in a well lit environment, you should now buy a decent beam so you can see your way on quiet country lanes.

  • Give each other space – ride slowly and steadily in groups. Don’t get too close.

  • Don’t set off too fast! If you find you are going too quickly, hang back a bit and wait until a slower group catches you up. Pace yourself – so that you can take it easy and have enough energy to make it to the end. Use an easy gear and a speed you are comfortable with. This is not a race. You want to be in one piece at the end. Chat to those around you, to keep yourself sane and awake.

  • Take spares – a couple of inner tubes, a chain tool, and so on. Be prepared to do repairs as necessary. Look out for your fellow cyclists (although be aware that you probably won’t have time to stop for others who might need assistance). Be independent – there is no support vehicle!

  • Carry ibuprofen. If you become sore or stiff this will be a godsend. Change position regularly as you ride (for example, how you hold the handlebars) to avoid stiffening up. Take ibuprofen during the journey to make things easier.

  • Take a couple of wet facial wipes, ready to freshen up and if necessary, wake yourself up.

  • Finally “do not see not finishing as an option” – this will get you through.

 

I’m told the trip should be beautiful as you pass candles in jam jars early on, and as the sun rises later on in the journey. Work with it and appreciate your beautiful surroundings.

 

Once you’ve completed the trip and made it to the beach, if you are still awake, go for a splash in the sea. This requires a bit of advance planning – a change of shorts and a towel so that you can enjoy the water when you get there. You never know if you will fancy it so give yourself the option. Be protected with some suncream in case you need to sleep on the beach, too.

 

Good luck! I hope that everyone undertaking the Dun Run will have a fantastic experience – including my husband, of course!

 

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6 Responses to "Managing the Dunwich Dynamo"

Just off for an early morning 50 miles, tell mike he’s welcome to join for a ride anytime – maybe a 50 – 80 one weekend… great research flash!!

I’ve been sent some comments which I am pleased to share:

***

Cotton kills! Don’t wear a cotton base layer – when it gets wet and sweaty it gets cold…

Food – things like flapjack are better, oats and honey/sugar you will burn a lot of energy. Sarnies will not cut it. Marmite I love but I don’t think I would ever use for energy replenishment.

Drinks – you can get tablets that provide an isotonic mix of electrolytes, probably cheaper than lucazade sport stuff. Might even be better.

Energy gel is a good way to get energy in quickly, carry a handful in your back pocket.

Not sure I would wear tracksuit bottoms to go cycling.

How do you carry all this stuff ? Handlebar or Saddle bag are better than a rucksack.

+1 on the Chamois cream – but there are lots of perfectly good other brands.

***

I’ve also since read that carbs are the best food source as these are the only type which will be converted into energy quickly enough to sustain you on a long run – a friend told me that banana chips are good, for example. I also agree with the suggestion of having energy gels to hand.

Please let me know any other information you may have, to make this a really useful blog!

as a dunrun survivor is it is my 5 in 7 or 8 years . I loved compressed date blocks, top up at ate night garage in epping . plus take these few
Words from the 24 hours of Moab dirt bike race in the USA but they fit ok here….

“Somewhere during the night you will hear a voice say, “Why am I doing this? I am never doing this again!” Look forward to this voice. Welcome it. Laugh at it. Embrace it. Look forward to hearing it again next year. Just know that it will come and that you will ride past it and be stronger when it fades into the shadows.”

— Chris Tirpak, 4x Sufferer of Canaan and Moab

the Dynamo will hook you every time I take a turn to up short section of A140 at great blakenham a mere 8 miles from home at about 90 odd miles and go the other way north to Dunwich.

My advice on the Dynamo just do it you will love it !!

Thanks, that is a great comment. Hope you have fun this evening!

Bring food. Eat it often. My first Dunwich Dynamo I was unprepared and ran out of food 85% of the way. I remember looking at fields if sugar beet in desperation wondering if they would make a good snack in a raw state. This is now my fourth time. Dried fruit and some malted rye bread should keep me going. Just taking a doze before the evening’s ride. Will try to meet up with Mike.

I’ve made 4 rounds of sarnies for Mike (2 cheese & pickle, 2 nutella & banana), I’ve also given him my lucozade sport powder for his water bottles, 2 packs of glucose tablets, and a pack of wasabi peas (carbs with a kick!)

I think he’s also stuffed his pockets with cereal bars and bananas. I’m assuming there will also be 24 hr petrol stations en route?

Hope that’s enough, if he eats a fried brekkie on arrival. We shall see!

Anyway, have fun – you and anyone else who’s going. I’ll follow you all on twitter :-)

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