All Points North. A self-supported cycling event from Sheffield, starting this Friday (tomorrow!) at 8pm. The event looks to give riders a taste of the self-supported ‘race’ scene, on a smaller scale. Covering around a quarter of the distance of the Trans Continental and neatly timed over a bank holiday weekend, (UK) riders won’t need to spend days travelling or take lots of annual leave for those of us tied in to a certain number of days off per year. You’ve got to visit 9 checkpoints across England, north of Sheffield, scattered between national parks and coasts and ridden in an order of your choosing (see map below) and get back to HQ in Sheffield for number 10. I’ve signed up, and it will be my first a lot of things.
Long story short, I’m a little under-prepared and should probably have L plates affixed. I’ll be testing my bivvy kit en-route, with my bivvy experience to date amounting to two occasions: one overnighter which ended on a little island off the coast of Ireland in a bit of a storm, being rescued by a local and sleeping in a boat cabin instead, and one ridiculously scenic bivvy in the Sierra Nevada in January with equally ridiculously cosy kit borrowed from The Adventure Syndicate. I’ve picked the brains around me and think I’ve acquired the necessary items but I’m still a little concerned about all the things that could happen whilst I’m bedded down in a waterproof sausage in a field somewhere. So far my mind’s picturing all sorts of farm animals trying to snack on me. Helpful.
I made my All Points North application at some point on a Monday afternoon in November (I checked back). I was in my office, wistfully thinking about the days when there was daylight for riding around office hours, and craving some decent miles. I saw an instagram post about All Points North (Yes, very millenial). I looked at the website and read as far as plotting your own route between the checkpoints. In a surreptitious tab I thought I’d have a crack and see how far it would be, the description on the site being 900-1000km. The route I managed to plot was 725km. I thought I’d nailed the dot to dot game, and that 725 might be doable. In January, I got a place. I realised past Alice had been a wally – not zooming out of the map enough to see most northerly checkpoint at Kielder. The distance turned out to be as described by the organisers – more towards the 1000km end of things, and incredibly hilly. I’m not really sure what to expect at the weekend, and I may have bitten off more than I can chew. If that’s the case then I’m happy trying to push myself to the limit and see how far I get. After an uncomfortable experience with some chafing shorts on the Brevet Cymru 400km, and a reduced amount of skin on my bottom afterwards I know that unexpected things can happen which might stop me finishing.
This week, I’ve been oscillating between two positions. Sometimes I just need to egg myself on that I can do this and I should give it a go – knowing it will be the hardest thing I’ve tackled to date and with some serious nerves about even trying. Occasionally, the competitive side of me makes an appearance, working on persuading me that I should do it as fast as I can knowing that my endurance is pretty good at the minute. I’m not sure who’s winning and there’s little time left for me to stew over it. It will be the furthest I’ve ridden in one trip, it will be the furthest I’ve ridden by myself, the first time I’ve bivvied alone and probably the first of many other things too. But I’m excited. The choice of checkpoints means the route should be incredibly scenic and take in some great climbs along the way – I’ve just got to hope I’ve got the legs for them when they come.
The event should be easy to follow. I promise to provide an honest account of how I’m getting on and will be at a minimum posting my checkpoint photos to prove my passage – @alicethomso on instagram, with hashtag #APNrider05. I’ve opted to be GPS tracked for the event too and those of us who have trackers can be watched here. Then there are the All Points North media accounts who will be trying to keep up with the 70 cyclists taking on the inaugral event – @allpointsnorth.cc . If I’m in one piece at the end I’ll likely write something about the experience too. Last minute words of wisdom and encouragement are much appreciated and to the fellow All Points North riders – See you on the start line.
“It’s just a bike ride” but
Links again just incase:
My hashtag: #APNrider05
My instagram: @alicethomso
Ps. Thanks to those who have helped me get as far as the start line – time to see what happens next.