Flash Says…

Archive for May 2012

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!

 

I have been through a marathon of my own… in order to buy Olympic tickets. Hooray, I’ll be able to enjoy the celebrations. But why does this matter so much to me?

You are probably not aware of my backstory. Well, I live about 2 miles from the Olympic Park. I’ve been so excited since the Olympics were awarded to London. Such a great event, on my doorstep! Amazing! So I was keen to buy tickets, to give my support and share in the experience.

The initial ticket phase was open for a few weeks. I had a quick look and realised I would have to spend quite a long time analysing the events, the session codes, the price ranges, and so on. It would take me a while to sort out. So I allocated the last week of the sale period for working all this out and taking time to make a coherent application. The sale dates were put onto my wall planner so I would be sure to make time for it.

My dad died on the weekend I had set aside. I spent days in a hotel with poor network access, sleeping whenever I got the chance, visiting my dad until he died and then planning a funeral immediately afterwards.

It goes without saying that I missed the deadline to apply for any Olympic tickets.

I was worried. As a wheelchair user, I didn’t think there would be any tickets I could use appearing on ticket exchanges. And all the packages (i.e. hotel plus ticket) would be for those who could use a normal seat. This excluded me.

At this point I wrote to Seb Coe. I explained my excitement about the Olympics being on my doorstep, and my sadness at not having been able to apply for tickets due to my dad’s death – and also my concern that wheelchair user tickets would not be available later on at ticket exchanges. I said I was willing to buy tickets for anything, so long as it was at the Olympic Park in Stratford – I just wanted to be there! To his credit, Lord Coe did reply – but it took him several weeks. The response when it arrived was brief and merely suggested that I go out onto the streets to watch the marathon. Not only was this missing the point (the fact that I live near Stratford) but it was inappropriate – it is difficult to get a wheelchair through crowds and the chances of getting near enough to see the runners, from my low vantage point, would be incredibly slim. Thanks for nothing, Lord Coe!

This really felt unfair. My home is in a zone which will have permit-only parking imposed upon it for the duration of the games. For eleven weeks, we will have restrictions on parking from 8am until 9pm, and it will be difficult if we need to arrange for visits, be it from friends or tradesmen. There will be other issues – not least traffic jams and crowded public transport – and it began to feel to me as if I would have to deal with problems caused by the Olympics, without being able to appreciate the Games in any way.

I was then frustrated as second and third waves of ticket sales were limited to those who had previously applied but been unsuccessful. These were closed to me, as I hadn’t made an initial ticket application. I watched as others excitedly tweeted about their ticket buying success. I saw my dream of attending the Olympics slipping away.

I looked into ticket sales held in other EU countries, but none of these had wheelchair user tickets available, only normal seats. Again, I was excluded. I began to despair.

Today, at last, tickets were on sale to the public. This was my chance! I was frustrated to see that wheelchair users could only purchase through the phonelines – yet we had to call the same phone number as everyone else. Due to disability I usually sleep through the morning, so I set an alarm in order to wake just before phonelines opened. I tried to get through and was told “we are experiencing high call volumes… this call will disconnect shortly”. Why on earth were wheelchair users, who could only buy by phone, forced to compete with the world and its donkey on the main telephone line? The recorded message suggested that you try to buy online instead, a kick in the teeth when I was excluded from doing so!

After an hour manning my phone, I finally managed to get through, following an hour of redial at a cost of goodness-knows-what! Eventually I reached an assistant. I had done my research and knew that the only sports at the Olympic Park which had any ticket availability would be diving, handball, the early basketball heats, and hockey. To my relief, the telephonist told me that there was good availability for wheelchair users across all four events. Wow! I was spoilt for choice – glossing over the fact that my original preferences, for athletics and cycling, were long gone.

I was initially reluctant to consider diving – I enjoy it on TV, but I have a phobia of open water. However, photos of the venue persuaded me that the spectators wouldn’t be too close! I have never been keen on hockey, and only the earliest basketball heats would be at Stratford – and I really wanted to see a medal ceremony. I got thinking. Maybe I could learn to love handball…?

To my delight I was able to buy tickets for the men’s diving (10m platform final). I should be able to see Tom Daley dive for England! Only the more expensive ticket options remained, but surely that was worth paying for a once in a lifetime event? Having secured this, I also bought cheaper tickets for handball earlier in the same day – the bronze medal match. Time to learn about a new sport!

Next, the telephonist asked me if there was anything else I would like. I thought quickly – after all, this was probably my only chance to buy tickets and I didn’t want to let it slip through my fingers. I had previously managed to get a general pass for the Paralympics on one day (providing access to five sports, space permitting) so I had a quick search to see what else would be held on the same day, and found that the evening athletics session had finals in lots of disciplines, and lots of medal ceremonies. Amazingly I could snap up a ticket for that athletics session for just £30!

So at last I have my Olympic and Paralympic tickets. I feel like I deserve a medal just for jumping the hurdles that LOCOG put in front of me to get them! And of course my wallet is much lighter. But does any of that matter? I’m going to the 2012 Olympics, ready to support my country and to enjoy a wonderful spectacle near my home. What a fantastic thing to look forward to.