July 21-25, 2001

A ride report by Kent Peterson

I've never ridden through a castle before. Actually I'm not riding through the castle proper, but rather through the grounds of Castle Howard, a sprawling 18th century estate in Yorkshire, England. As I roll up to the massive outer wall, I have to stop and take pictures and gawk like a tourist. In England, history isn't just locked away in museums or musty books, it's right here, right now, beneath my wheels and all around me.

I'm riding London-Edinburgh-London, a 1400 kilometer brevet held once every four years under the auspices of Audax UK and the Randonneurs Mondiaux organizations. It's early in morning of the second day and I'm getting my first taste of what Mark Brooking had cheerily called the "lumpy bits" of the ride. I'm beginning to understand the British talent for understatement. Back home, we'd call these things hills.

Of course, back home we wouldn't have called yesterday's 296 kilometers "flat" either. While there certainly were some flat places, especially in the peat lands around Thorne, there also were some definite climbs and descents mixed in as well. But yesterday's ride had gone extremely well. A hundred and fifty of us had signed up for the Harlow start and somewhere close to that number had actually started at 10:00 AM on a day that featured welcome cloud cover, no rain and an actual tail-wind. At the same time we started out, a slightly smaller group of riders began at the Thorne Rugby Club, headed out along the same course, but offset 296 kilometers. That group would ride north to Dalkeith just outside Edinburgh before returning south. Later, back at Thorne some of those riders would stop, having chosen the shorter 800 kilometer option while the rest would venture down to Harlow before looping back up again to Thorne for the full 1400 kilometer circuit.

In taking the Harlow start, I was in the group containing most of the foreigners. Harlow, just north of London, is only 20 kilometers from Stansted airport, so it afforded the easiest access for those of us flying in from overseas. I'd had the great fortune to connect up with an other American, a fellow named Greg Zaborac via the internet and we'd coordinated our travel plans. Greg had contacted Mark Brooking, a member of the Willesden Cycle Club, and Mark had generously opened his home in Waltham Abbey to serve as our pre-ride and post-ride staging area. Mark, a genuine legend in audax circles for his various exploits including riding all four Raid Alpines and setting numerous trike and tandem-trike records, picked us up at the airport on Wednesday and his family had made us feel right at home. Mark's wife Alison had proven that, contrary to the stereotype, the English can cook and made us tea and scones and lovely breakfasts and dinners and generally made us feel like royal guests. Mark's parents and Alison also proudly filled us in on various rides that Mark had done but that he was too modest to mention. Mark and Alison's lovely three year old daughter Wendy had cheerfully accepted these two American's into her home, making sure we played lots of games of balloon bounce with her, read all the Thunderbirds comics and gotten to know the little frogs that lived in the garden in the back of their flat. The Brookings also took us on a walking tour of Waltham Abbey and instructed us on the ways of the buses and the train so that on Thursday Greg and I were able to venture into London, tour the Tower of London and see the Crown Jewels.

Greg and I met up in real life in the airport in Amsterdam where we'd both changed planes for the final hop over to Stansted. I was leaned back in a chair with my feet on my duffel bag when this tall fellow with close cropped hair and a lean Lance Armstrong-esque look about him comes up to me and says, "You wouldn't happen to have any Payday bars in that bag now would you?" Greg proved to be the perfect travel companion: laid back, not too chatty but thoughtful with interesting things to say and a genuine curiosity about this strange old part of world we were both exploring for the first time.

The Brookings answered all our questions with patience and good humor, although I could tell some of our inquiries provided them with a good deal of amusement. Early on we learned that you go clockwise through the roundabouts, that pubs stop serving food just about the time you are getting hungry, that Toad-in-Hole is some kind of sausage dish and that there isn't a border check-point between England and Scotland.

On Friday, Greg and I bicycled from Waltham Abbey to Harlow, a small journey that allowed us to accomplish many things. First, it provided us with a chance to check out our bikes, to make certain that we'd reassembled them correctly and that everything was working properly. Second, it gave us our first chance at navigating British roads, understanding the signs and remembering to ride on the left. Third, it let us find the starting control point and test ride the first section of the course, verifying that we did in fact understand the notations on the cue sheets. Finally, this trip let me deliver a lamp to my friend Mark Thomas, who was also riding LEL but whose head lamp had been crushed in transit. Mark had been vacationing in Italy prior to LEL but he'd called me prior to my departure once he'd discovered his problem and now I was serving as an international courier.

Greg and I completed all our Friday missions and made it safely back to Waltham Abbey for our final pre-ride feed and briefing. At dinner we met Mark's friend Simon Doughty, the guy who has literally written the book on long distance cycling. Last month, Simon had been a member of Cassie Lowe's RAAM support crew and he entertained us with many tales from RAAM, including sharing with us the psyche-out tidbit that whenever Cassie would pass someone in RAAM the crew would make sure that the support van's stereo was blaring out Z.Z. Top's "She's Got Legs!"

Early on Saturday Mark, Simon, Greg and I piled the bikes on top of Mark's car and drove over to the Harlow control. Mark and Simon were handling check-in duty and Greg and I headed over to the Greyhound Pub for the pre-ride breakfast. In general the food was pretty good but the sausage had a suspiciously toad-like taste. I filled up on toast and scrambled eggs.

At 10:00 AM we launched out into the English countryside. The day passed in a blur of colored jerseys and good spirits. Knots of riders formed loosely affiliated packs and I was seeing old friends. Sharon and Chip Bole, Americans who I'd first met in Paris at PBP, were riding strong. Jack Eason was there with a bunch of his fellow Willesden Cycle Club riders. I know Jack always finishes these things, so I knew as long as I was seeing him, I couldn't really be off track. But I also figured that since Jack must be at least thirty years my senior, at some point I should be able to finally leave him behind. But Jack is a relentless rider and even though I'd make it to each control ahead of him, he'd inevitably pull in just a few minutes later.

The first control was the Longstowe Village Hall, about 62 kilometers into the ride. The Italian group was ahead of me and the most notable member of that crew was Mateo Luzzana, a tall fellow riding a tiny three-speed Brompton. I'd first met Mateo and his father Luigi last year on BMB when Luigi had been riding a Moulton and Mateo had been piloting a gorgeous custom titanium Moulton replica. Most of the Italians didn't speak English, so they rode together and counted on Mateo to be their main translator. They tended to ride quickly but the dynamics of the group slowed them down at the controls. On the other hand, I rode slower but was mostly on my own so I didn't have to wait for anyone. The net result was that I saw a lot of the Italians.

While Mateo probably had the smallest bike on the ride, there were a few other unusual machines as well. At least three folks were riding fixed gear bikes including Alan "Pedals" Pedliham with his amazing psyche-out 64-tooth front sprocket. As a sometimes fixer myself, I knew that it's the overall ratio that counts and Pedals had a fairly rational rear cog to match that monstrous front ring. Still, his bike did cause more than a few double-takes. There were a couple of recumbents as well; an Optima Baron with a neat custom tailbox made from foam camp mats and the light and lovely Mike Burrow's designed RatCatcher 9 with it's funky monoblade front fork, stub-mounted rear wheel and a custom fiber-glass tailbox. And one of Mark Brooking's buddies was riding an upright trike. There was even one other fellow besides me riding a Bike Friday NWT.

I was riding my green Bike Friday New World Tourist, the bike I'd ridden on PBP back in 1999. I'd been planning on taking my newer NWT, a blue one I'd picked up last fall but two weeks before LEL, I'd cracked the rear triangle pivot on Cannonball, a 275 mile race across Washington State. I couldn't quite figure out why my first half time on Cannonball had been fairly fast and my second half time had been rather dismal. Of course, that troubling creaking sound from the rear triangle should have tipped me off. When I went to fold up the bike, it came apart in a way it's not supposed to and the mystery was solved. The Bike Friday folks would fix the bike, of course, but there wasn't time to get the work done before LEL, so I'd transfered my lights and other rando gear to my tried and true older bike.

The feature of my Friday that caused the most interest were the mudguards. Over the course of several years of riding in the damp Pacific Northwest, I've evolved some pretty sophisticated mudguards that are made entirely of coroplast and zip-ties. These are light and rugged and the Brits seemed to think that my mudguards were the greatest thing since beans on toast. Apparently mudguards are a religious issue here in the UK and various people stopped me to take pictures of the mud-guards and ask if I had a patent on the design.

The food at the controls was variable and it'd been one of my concerns in doing this ride. Along with my doubts about riding on the left side of the road and navigating a ride with no on-the-road markers, the food issue was weighing heavy on my mind. It was also weighing heavy on my bike, since I was carrying my standard stockpile of PayDay candy bars along with some granola bars and a small flask of honey. The honey was my second-to-last anti-bonk ration. The ace up my sleeve was a small pile of chocolate-covered espresso beans. With these foodstuffs, I figured I could survive in this savage land.

It turned out that I found many recognizable and edible things at the controls. Bananas, rice pudding, milk, eggs on toast all went down easily. At the third control in Lincoln, there was a Burger King and I had some lovely chicken nuggets and at Thorne I got brave enough to try something called Custard and Sponge which proved to be wonderful.

I'd pulled into the Thorne Rugby Club at 10:54 PM on Saturday and I figured that that was a good day's riding, so I took a break and slept for three hours. The official sleeping area wasn't very comfy, so I wandered back to the main area and found a nice padded bench. One of the things I'd learned from Jack Eason was that if you cover your eyes, it's easier to sleep and on BMB I'd realized the wisdom of packing ear-plugs. With my black fleece earband pulled over my eyes and my plugs in place, I had a virtual private room and slept very peacefully.

I'd hit the road at 2:45 this morning and that meant I had good light for taking pictures at Castle Howard. Now I'm rolling on toward Hovingham.

While yesterday had gone very well, today was showing what LEL is really all about. It's about the lumpy bits. I'm still making pretty decent time when I pull into Hovingham at 7:06 AM, especially considering I'd had to stop to fix a rear puncture just outside of Stamford Bridge. I have some vegetable lasagna and a thing called triffle (a mix of fruit, jello and a creamy pudding-like topping) but neither of these things really seems right as a breakfast. I head out at 7:50 AM.

Now things are definitely getting lumpy. My average speed is dropping and the wind is picking up. It's not a favorable wind. I'm continuing to ride on my own, although I do wind up riding with people for brief sections when our paces happen to match up. I ride some with a couple of Americans that I knew previously via email, Larry Midura and Ed Felker.

I miss a turn in Middleton Tyas and waste about twenty minutes getting back on course. I pull into the Barton Truckstop at 11:50 AM and order a decent breakfast, a double order of eggs on toast and two pints of milk. It turns out I couldn't down quite all that toast and eggs, but Ed Felker helps me out. At 12:40 I'm back on the road.

Now I feel like a slug. The hills definitely a major feature of the landscape now and the wind is brutal. It's lovely scenery and I get to appreciate it at an average speed of 16.1 kilometers per hour. I decide to stop looking at my average speed. I also rethink my optimistic thoughts of making Dalkeith my next sleep break. Heck, that Tibetan temple at Eskadalemuir sounds interesting, maybe I'll stop there!

I'm not feeling great when I pull into the Youth Hostel at Langdon Beck. When they stamp my control card I notice that the stamp mentions that this is "the highest youth hostel in England". Well, that would explain why it felt like the uphills far outnumbered the downhills today!

Langdon Beck is an absolutely lovely control. I have some orange juice and coffee and rice pudding and peaches and a couple of choco things and I feel like a new man. At the start of the ride we'd been issued a pear-carob energy bar and while I thought at the time the thing sounded revolting, once I'd eaten it, I felt like I had more energy. They had these things for sale here and I bought a couple.

The Langdon Beck control workers briefed me on what lay ahead, an 11 kilometer climb up Yad Moss followed by a descent into Alston. Alston features a 16% descent on rough cobbles. Thinking ahead, I realize that tomorrow this will mean a 16% climb up those same cobbles.

The climb up Yad Moss is fabulous. There are loads of sheep everywhere: beside the road, on the road, everywhere. I've never seen so many sheep. The hills are wind-swept and the grass and heather are sheep cropped. While the climb is definitely up, it has a rolling, up and down nature that for some reason reminds me of the climb up to Windy Ridge on Mount Saint Helens back home.

Alston is beautiful and I roll out of the Pennines, down the cobbles and through the center of this 17th century town. Now I turn onto an A road, roll through Brampton and on to the truckstop at Carlisle.

At Carlisle I scarf down a jacket potato with cheese and then press on to Eskdalemuir. I'm feeling good and it's dark now. I've crossed over into Scotland. I really only see the road ahead of me, but the cool air off to my right lets me know I'm passing by a river and even in the dim light I can see the hulking curves of the hills. I pull into the Tibetan temple at one minute before midnight.

The temple at Eskdalemuir is called the Samye Ling Tibetan Centre. "Samye" is Tibetan for "the inconceivable place" and indeed the idea of a Tibetan temple nestled in a valley in southern Scotland is somewhat inconceivable. Founded in 1967 by two refugee Tibetan abbots, this place is the first Tibetan Centre in the west and it's now an international centre of Buddhist training. And tonight, it's serving as a control point for Audax UK's LEL ride!

Greg Zaborac and Mark Thomas are at Samye Ling and they great me like the prodigal son, "where have you been, we've been worried about you!" "Uhh, I've been riding my bike...," I'd been feeling pretty good until now. "We'd heard you'd gone through Barton at 4:00 AM, so we figured you were ahead of us, but nobody at any of the other controls had seen you." "No," I reply, "I slept in Thorne," I check my notes, "I didn't get to Barton until 11:50 this morning." We eventually figure out that the info they got must have been for Ken Bonner or some similarly speedy fellow.

It turns out Mark and Greg had connected up back at Thorne and have been riding together ever since. "Your buddy here doesn't sleep," Mark informs me. For guys running on virtually no sleep, they're still looking pretty good. "Well, I'm sleeping," I declare. I grab a couple of pieces of delicious ginger bread and settle in for a great four hour sleep. Of course Mark and Greg are gone when I get up but I have a breakfast of gingerbread and coffee and at 5:00 AM, I'm back on the road.

Around 9:00 AM I roll into Dalkeith and I see Mark and Greg heading south. Mark recommends the omlette and when I get to the control I follow up on his recommendation by having a big cheese omlette. I also have some rice pudding, juice and coffee. It's nice to be half done with the ride. At 9:50 AM, I head south.

It's windy now and it's not a favorable wind. At 3:17 PM I'm back at Samye Ling. I have one of the control workers snap my picture in front of the temple and I buy a postcard that gives a large overview of the temple. I dine on some fabulous mushroom pasta, a banana and some more of that wonderful gingerbread. At 4:00 PM, I'm back on the road.

I'm feeling good and I blast on to Carlisle. Well, at 19.8 kph I'm not exactly blasting but I am moving and that's the important thing. I pull into the Carlisle truckstop at 6:45 PM and feast on a jacket potato with cheese. I wash this down with a half liter of milk and a half liter of chocolate milk. I head back out on the road at 7:25 PM.

My goal for tonight is Langdon Beck but twelve miles out from Carlisle as I'm climbing yet another of the approximately seventeen billion hills that make up this ride, my handlebars swing sickenly toward me. I have just an instant to think "that's not right..." and I quickly pull to the side of the road.

This is not good. A Bike Friday has a very small frame and to get the bars and seat up high enough the bikes feature a long seat mast and a riser stem. On some Fridays this riser stem is a single piece and on others it's a straight section of tubing with a conventional stem placed in the top. My green Friday is set up with the straight tube and a conventional stem. Actually, the riser section isn't standard Bike Friday issue. I'd gotten the bike used and since I needed I higher stem, I'd fabricated my own riser. And it had been fine for several years, including a full brevet series and PBP. It had been fine until now. Now, the cumulative effects of lots of miles and lots of climbs has fatigued the steel to the point of failure right where the riser clamps into the head tube.

The good news is that I didn't crash, the riser didn't cut loose on one of the many 50 kph descents and I've got at least an hour of daylight left. I get to work.

I quickly realize that this isn't really too bad. A section of the riser about three inches long is still embedded in the headtube, but I loosen the stem from the rest of the riser tube and I extract the riser stub by using the stem wedge as a lever. While I'm repairing things, a couple of my fellow randonneurs ask if I'm OK as they roll by. I assure them that I have everything under control.

I undo my light assembly and invert the remaining piece of stem riser. Even though it's three inches shorter, it's still long enough to work as a riser. I just have to insert less of the tube into the headset and put less of the stem quill into the tube and I can get my bars into a close approximation of their original configuration. By inverting the tube, I figure I've moved the most stressed section of the pipe up to where it's re-enforced by the stem. I reconnect my light and I'm ready to go. The whole operation took about 20 minutes.

I'm cautious for the first few kilometers, but I gradually become convinced that my roadside repair will probably hold up for the rest of the ride. I think back to the failure of my other Bike Friday and I realize that in both cases the areas that failed were at points where a lot of force is concentrated via a long lever. I begin to contemplate my next bike and it won't have any folding pivots. Yes, a folding bike is convenient for travel but I need something that can take lots of abuse. Prior to this ride I'd been thinking that maybe Sandiway Fong was onto something -- go with a little light titanium bike. I'd even priced and speced out an Airborne Carpe Diem. But, something still didn't seem quite right. Then it occurred to me what had seemed wrong: I'm not a Ti-guy. I'm a bodge-together-a-bike-out-of-spare-parts kind of guy. I'm the guy who makes mud-guards out of coroplast. Buying a brand-spanking new bike isn't exactly my style. Having a bike I know and the tools I need to keep it going, now that's my style.

Still, I'm thinking this is going to be my last big ride on a Friday. I begin mentally reviewing my stock of bike parts back at home. Maybe something based around a mountain bike frame. Something really tough...

My reverie is interrupted by Alston, that lovely market town with the cobbles and the 16 percent grade. It's dark now but there are still villagers in the square as I make the right hand turn up the hill and charge the cobbled grade. I can hear them yelling something as I pound up the hill, something like "go you crazy American" and when I look up I see the lights of a descending lorry bearing down on me. I think something like "what's that idiot doing driving on the wrong side of the road?" and in an instant I realize that I'm the idiot and that's what the townspeople had been yelling. At the last second I dive left. The lorry misses me by inches.

It's cold now, with a bitter wind whipping across the Pennines. The sheep are all sleeping now and most of them are off the road. The rabbits are out in force, however. It's not hard to avoid them while I climb slowly, but I'm nervous about the descent.

At the summit of Yad Moss it's astoundingly windy. I stop to pull on my rain jacket and long-fingered gloves for warmth. With the cold wind snapping at the fabric and my numb fingers I'm terrified that I'll drop my jacket. The wind speed must be around 30 mph and I know if I drop the jacket, I'll never see it again. Very carefully, I manage to pull on my jacket and gloves.

I try to flip on my Cateye high-beam for the descent but it's decided not to work. I'd foolishly tempted fate a couple of days earlier when Greg had asked me about the light. He and I run a similar set-up, a SON hub pushing a Lumotec for our main light with a small AA-powered Cateye serving as a back-up light and high beam. Greg had asked if I'd ever had any trouble with the Cateye and I'd foolishly said, "no, it's always been super-reliable." I should know to never say such foolish things and now my Cateye was misbehaving. I'm not about to try any major surgery in the dark, but I do give the light a few good whacks to try to coax it back to life. The light doesn't respond to my persuasion. I descend as quickly as my low beam and the local rabbit population will allow. It isn't one of my fastest descents.

At 12:40 AM, I reach the Langdon Beck Youth Hostel. I find a comfy bench, cover my eyes and ears and go to sleep. I wake up at 2:30 AM and have a wonderful breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast and hot rice pudding. While I'm drinking my coffee and juice, Jack Eason and some of his Willesden companions roll in. "Is it still cold up on Yad Moss?" I ask. "It's bitter," Jack tells me as he sips his tea.

I'm working on my Cateye light now. The human tongue can work as a crude volt meter and it tells me I've got juice in the cells. I futz with the battery holder and notice that one of the contacts had slid out of its channel. Probably got shaken up on the cobbles. I set things right and reassemble power unit. The light shines out beautifully. I finish up my coffee, buy a couple of Snickers and three pear-carob bars for the road and head out. It's 3:00 AM.

It's raining lightly as I leave, but it's a light Seattle-style rain and it stops after half an hour. Soon the sun rises and at 6:10 AM I take a quick break at the Barton Truckstop (by the way, why don't they call them Lorrystops here?). My Langdon Beck breakfast and Snickers bars have done a good job of keeping my fueled so I only stop long enough to get my card stamped and swig down a pint of chocolate milk here. I press on to Hovingham.

Of course there are hills but I'm in Hovingham a bit before 11:00 AM and I have a great lunch of pasta and cheese, some lovely cream of chicken soup, coffee and orange juice. At noon I'm rolling again, climbing up and over the grounds of Castle Howard and finally leaving the worst of the lumpy bits behind me. Now the land really is flatter. I roll by the big power plant and through swarms of tiny little midges. The last section into Thorne seems to take forever and I'm pretty darn tired when I pull in.

It's hot in the control and I have a sponge custard and a banana. I chat for a bit with Ian Humphries, an Australian recumbent triker who I'd first met back on PBP. Ian's one of those wise fellows who'd chosen to ride the 800K northern option and he's done and happy. I still have kilometers to ride, so I indulge in one of my luxuries and switch to my spare pair of socks. At 5:55 PM, I head out for the Lincoln control.

I pull into the Lincoln control at 9:50 PM and this proves to be a fortunate thing as the control worker there tells me that the Burger King will close in ten minutes. I hustle over there and get some chicken nuggets, a large fries and and orange drink. I eat the nuggets and half the fries, saving the rest and part of the orange drink for breakfast. I inquire about the sleeping arrangements here and I'm told that I can share a room with the Germans and Austrians and they'll be getting up around 4:00 AM. This is perfect. If there hadn't been any room at the inn, I was perfectly willing to camp out in my thermolite bivy but having a room with a real bed was a welcome luxury.

I got up at 4:00 and breakfasted on the cold french fries and orange drink. I see Mark and Greg's bikes and deduce that they pulled in sometime after I had. I think I'd slipped past them by taking a short sleep break at Langdon Beck and I'd been running slightly ahead of them all yesterday. At 4:30 AM I roll out.

Cold french fries don't make much of a breakfast and I'm dragging. All along the trip I've been fueling en route with PayDay bars, the pear-carob bars, granola bars and the occasional shot from my flask of honey but now I could really use some coffee. Britain isn't known for its coffee shops and our rural route, while scenic is a little short on the accoutrements of civilization. Then I remember that I have a stash of chocolate-covered espresso beans buried somewhere in my pack. I dig them out and down a handful. Now it feels like morning!

I'm not to far from Thurlby when I see a rider stopped at a corner. He's looking down at his fender and when I stop to see if he needs anything and he looks up at me I see he's scraped up and bleeding. "I don't know what happened," he says in German or Austrian-accented English and I can see he's looking kind of dazed. I look at the gravel in the corner and piece it together. "You must've slipped on the gravel and crashed. Are you OK?" He's more concerned about his rear fender which has gotten knocked out of place and is rubbing on his rear tire. We get that fixed and while we're working on it, he looks at me and says "Kent Peterson?" "Yeah..." I say not sure where this is going. "I've been to your website!" Somehow knowing me through the web seems to make this fellow feel better, or maybe it's just having anybody around. "Will you ride with me to the next control?" "Sure," I reply, "no problem." Mark and Greg pull up while we're still working on getting the fender right and my German-or-Austrian friend cleans his wounds. The four of us ride off together and make our way to Thurlby.

At Thurlby the control workers take care of our injured companion and the rest of us dig into the food. I have more eggs on toast and a couple of helpings of rice pudding and two cups of coffee. I also buy four more of the carob-pear bars which Greg declares to be "disgusting". "Yeah," I agree, "but the damn things work. They've really grown on me!"

It's warm now and getting warmer. At 10:00 AM I blast off toward Longstowe, the penultimate control. I manage to hit heavy traffic in St. Neots and I get a bit lost but I get things sorted out and I make it to Longstowe at 3:28 PM, a bit ahead of Greg and Mark. They come in with a fellow named David and we're all looking a little ragged at this point. The bearings are going in Mark's front wheel and he's doing way too much work now. One of the control workers helps him out by loaning him a wheel. Since Mark's front wheel is one of those famous (and expensive) SON generator hubs this means his main light is now gone, but we're going to finish up in daylight so this isn't a problem.

As usual, I don't wait around and blast out of the control a bit ahead of the others. I get a little off course, miss the turn to Much Hadham and wind up in the village of Little Hadham. I realize my error and navigate my way back to the course. I think to myself "Little Hadham, Much Hadham, heck, I've had 'em all!" After nearly 1400 kilometers this strikes me as amazingly funny. When you spend this much time on the bike, you take your amusement where you find it. David and I connect up for the very last bit of navigation into Harlow.

We pull into the Harlow control at 7:35 PM on Wednesday July 25, 2001. According to the route sheet, I've covered 1416.7 kilometers in the past 105 hours 35 minutes. The time limit for the ride is 115 hours. My odometer lists the ride I made, including a few episodes of getting lost, at 1440 kilometers. As all the Brits will tell you the time doesn't matter, just finishing within the limit is the name of the game. Mark Brooking is there at the end and he stamps my control card for the last time and gives me my finisher's patch. I let him know that Greg and Mark aren't far behind me and sure enough a few minutes later they roll in.

LEL is an amazing ride. The terrain is beautiful but brutal. It's not just longer than PBP or BMB, it's tougher. In fact I'd say that the northern 800K of LEL is about as hard as doing the 1200K of BMB. But it's definitely a ride worth doing. I'll probably be back in 2005.

Post ride note: Mark Thomas is more observant than I am and he informs me that I'm no good at identifying foreign accents. The injured rider was Jukka Salonen of Finland. Jukka recovered nicely. I was only a few kilometers past the Thurlby control when I saw him blast by me on his way to a strong finish at Harlow.