RBLR 2022 - My first Iron Butt SaddleSore 1000

red_by_night

RBL1000 '22 Finisher
IBA Member
#1
Hi all

I've taken part in the RBLR Saddlesore 1000 ride this year. It was my first proper IBA ride, and really enjoyed it. I thought I'd share my writeup for anyone else that might benefit from reading this. I have this stored on my personal blog as well (here) but it feels like cheating to not include it in the actual post ;)

Friday, 09:00 — Worcestershire
We start the day around 09:00 on Friday. Day off work so I did not have to rush. The plan is to head to Leeds from Worcestershire and arrive at Squires around 14:00 for registration to the rally. With a bit of procrastination, I’d easily make it to 15:00, which was the check-in time for my hotel.

Friday, 14:00 — Squires Café, Leeds
Fairly straightforward trip up to Leeds and everything goes to plan, timewise. Squires was alive with Iron Butt people and regular patrons. I park the bike and head to the outside benches to confirm that my details (name, bike, reg, route) were correct and to also get my route receipt checklist. I then carry on to pick a start time — you get to pick a 10-minute slot between 05:00 and 06:00 so I went for the earliest available at the time, which was 05:20. And while at it, buy a t-shirt on a whim. A couple of pictures and a cold drink later, I find myself back on the bike and heading to the hotel to check in. By 19:30 I was ready to head to the 20:00 briefing back at Squires. I got some fuel on the way to avoid needing it in the morning (I’d only put 16 miles on the tank after the fillup, so hey ho). Due to some roadworks around Squires — as in literally around it, with multiple roads shut — I arrived five minutes late despite leaving plenty of time to get there. By the time I find the briefing room, the briefing was essentially over. At that point, weird as it sounds, I ran back to the bike and dashed to the hotel. For some reason, the Premier Inn I was staying at was rammed, and there were a few bikers staying at the hotel.. So I was now in damage control mode and was trying to at least get some parking to have peace of mind overnight. Don’t you worry, karma would come to bite me in the ass later, don’t you worry.

Friday, 20:30 — Premier Inn, Leeds
Back at the hotel, I re-organised my bags and checked the route one last time (on the integrated sat nav for the bike, on the mobile, the backup mobile and hard paper copy of the Basecamp route stops). The integrated sat nav would hold the integral route and overview; the mobile would be used for point-to-point navigation. I would also do a sense check against the hard copy at every major checkpoint. The alarm clock was set for 04:00, planning to dash out of the hotel by 04:30 to get into Squires before 05:00, with plenty of time to start at 05:20.
Except that, due to a combination of badly timed caffeine, inconsiderate knobs slamming doors at 02:00, a double glazed window that insulated against no noise whatsoever, a car park and a train line about 20 metres from me, I was basically woken up every single time I nearly dozed off. I even experimented with ear plugs and relying on my smart watch to wake me up by vibrating. End result: I had one hour of actual sleep before this 24 hour rally. Yay.

Saturday, 04:00 — Premier Inn, Leeds
But one soldiers on. Up we get at 04:00; one part of preparing for an event like this is knowing your limits. I know for a fact that I can still operate in those conditions. Perhaps not at peak capacity, but I knew what adjustments to make to operate under those conditions. Besides, there was enough padding in my plan to include cat naps where required. Once again, you have to know yourself. When required, I can fall asleep almost anywhere and anytime — if only I could do that at night in bed!! My plan accounted for an extra fuel stop and an extra leg stretcher between the four checkpoints with two hours of spare time in the plan to use for whatever eventuality.

Saturday, 04:50 — Squires Café, Leeds
I arrive at Squires around 05:00 and get marshalled somewhere out of the way, waiting for my slot. At 05:10, the 05:20 group is called forward and we roll into our start boxes. Here, the ever-upbeat marshals do the final checks and take a few pictures. We even get handed lollies… I mean, come on, getting up that early was worth it just for the sweets!
At 05:20 we set off, the group composed of people heading down various routes to, I imagine, avoid clustering us together all in the same direction. People soon fall in their paces and we all ride our own rides.

Saturday, 07:50 — Rivington Services (Checkpoint 1/5)
The first checkpoint is only 69 miles away; we had the option of just getting a signature from staff waiting for us there if we did not need/want fuel. However, I thought I may as well use the time to fuel up and keep my safety margins thicker — besides, my plan dictated it, and I would not want to upset my plan… Fuel and sweet pencils bought. I made a conscious choice to avoid any caffeine — given the lack of sleep, I wanted the ability to quickly shut down on command if there was the opportunity for a nap, and caffeine would just get in the way. I’d keep that in the back pocket for the final stretch of the ride when I needed that extra boost (Hindsight Note: Oh, it paid off, it really paid off). As a result, each stop consisted of some water/squash, some sweet treats and a savoury snack (200kcal ish) each. Little and often, little and often.
Back on the bike and what I had ahead of myself was — to me at the time — the least enjoyable part of the trip (Hindsight Note: I was wrong). In my head, the trip up to Fort William defied our understanding of time-space continuum… I knew it would take waaaay longer than I thought. But actually, with my regime of stops, I had broken down the 300mi stretch in 100mi, 50mi and 145mi.

Saturday, 08:10 — Leg Stretcher Stop 1/4
I decided to make a small amendment to the plan (EEEEEK!!) and used the leg stretcher to fuel up just because it was there while stretching. I then used the interim fuel stop 50 miles later to have a power nap. And oh boy did the cat nap pay off. Unfortunately, not sticking to the fuel plan brings heartburn and my trip up to Fort William turned into a careful staring contest with the fuel reserve light. It was never going to be an issue — the numbers checked out before I made the decision. It’s just that the reserve light makes me nervous, even if I know there is still plenty of mileage left. Just a personal quirk.

Saturday, 09:20 — On the way to Fort William
The way up to Fort William was…… interesting. I had envisaged the whole trip being motorways and dual carriageways, but the A82 turned out to be a treat. Let’s just say it gave me a chance to rub off the chicken strips on the bike after the motorway haul. The wind, however, was something fierce. There were a few squeaky bum moments, especially when you have to heavily lean the bike to the side just to go straight. Add some rain to all that and you have a memorable ride in the making. A few riders had clustered on this road, as everyone started riding to the new conditions and adopted a rather conservative pace.

Saturday, 12:30 — Fort William (Checkpoint 2/5)
By the time we get to Fort William, we are all glad to get some shelter under the forecourt roof, share a few insights and fuel ourselves. I inhale an orange juice and tuna and mayo sandwich and get back on the bike.
The remainder of the A82 up to Drumnadrochit was a beauty. You get to ride on the side of Loch Ness which, if you’ve never done before, it’s pretty cool. The route from there would either carry on via the A82 and finish skirting Loch Ness, cross Inverness and hang a left up to Wick, or it branched off at Strone towards the A838, which was my route.

Saturday, 14:30 — Morrisons Leg Stretcher Stop 2/4
I had an extra stop at a Morrisons on the A9 before crossing over Dornoch Firth where further leg stretching and chilling took place. Back on the bike and up towards Wick. This section, you will either love or hate. I just have an inbuilt nervousness with roads at altitude and I just can’t get in the flow with a sheer drop down to the North Sea on my side. I gritted my teeth for this section and got on with it. I’m not saying it’s bad; it’s just not something I enjoy terribly.

Saturday, 15:28 — Power Nap
I spotted a really nice and comfortable layby. Even though I was not feeling tired, I pulled over for a quick 10–15 power nap before feeling the need for it.

Saturday, 16:40 — Wick Tesco (Checkpoint 3/5)
By the time we get to Wick, it turns out I have been conservative enough with my stop times, clawing back time from my plan at each stop without and delays on the moving time. By the time I get to Wick, even if I took my full allocated stop time, I was 40 minutes ahead of schedule. I was planning to have some shut eye but it was way too crowded and there was nowhere in the car park where I could snooze without being disturbed or attracting attention. Fuel, a quick chat and a ham sandwich later, I am back on the road. This next section was a repeat of the previous, just in reverse. I will say it again — lovely road. If you are into that sort of thing.

Saturday, 18:40 — Fuel Stop and Leg Stretcher
Another stop at the Morrisons I had used earlier to refuel once more before the 180mi run to Edinburgh. Quick shut eye and yoghurt only to get the first warning shot of things to come….. it was getting late, shops were shutting down, and finding a roof over your head was becoming increasingly problematic. Once back down at sea level (ish), the route diverged at Duncanston and carried on down the A9 towards Edinburgh. The less said about the A9 and its horrendous blanket average speed sections meant to murder you via boredom-induced sleep the better. Fortunately I had the right music for it and enough traffic to keep me engaged. As an aside, not far after the last stop, I came across another Iron Butt rider at a layby that was clearly signalling for help. His ZZR1400 had a dead battery; as a previous ZZR1400 owner, I was all too accustomed to its foibles. We tried bump starting but I knew it was not going to help. I soon pulled out my lithium jump starter and got him going again. We were going in opposite directions, but I did check up on his progress after the event (yes, he finished the event, woohoo).

Saturday, 20:30 — A layby by the A9 with a convenient fence for leg stretches
I made full use of the next leg stretcher stop to actually do some stretching. By now we are hitting the half way point in terms of mileage, checkpoints and time. So it was a good time to do some self-maintenance. Another quick snack, some stretching, a quick distraction on the phone and a power nap later, I am back on the road and happy with life.

Saturday, 22:00 — Edinburgh Service Station (Checkpoint 4/5)
The next section is always the eeriest, with sunlight fading. The way down to Edinburgh was probably the most picturesque. I also bumped into another Iron Butt rider which rode at a pace similar to mine. We finished the leg to Edinburgh in formation (whether intentional or not) and got to our third checkpoint.
The next leg was ok. I was expecting a death march. I was expecting tiredness to take over. I was expecting fatigue to slow me down. I had plans for all those eventualities and kept running numbers within the plan; they told me I had plenty of margin should I want to stop somewhere for a proper nap. However, the consistent pace I had used was paying off. Now was time to break out the caffeine.

Saturday, 23:30 — Berwick-Upon-Tweed (Checkpoint 5/5)
On my way into Berwick Upon Tweed, I bumped into another group of riders heading in the same direction. We had met earlier in the day but as the day carried on, it seems everyone’s pace normalised. Five of us pull into Berwick for the final check point.
The other four offered me to ride with their group back to Leeds to look after one another. I had a different plan however; I wanted to head into a nearby McDonald’s to sit down, have a coffee somewhere warm, put my head in my hands and nap before the final leg.

Sunday, 00:20 — Some Layby in the Dark!!
However, guess what. Drive-through only. So never mind that. I did however find a layby on the A1 for a break, some sugar, some caffeine, a squash and more stretching. I was not feeling the usual signs of fatigue; not riding in a group, even in hindsight, was a good shout for me. I know how I operate, and riding in a group draws me into a trance, so it is more likely to cause my mind to wander.

Sunday, 02:00 — Costa Coffee
As soon as I spotted a service station however, I pulled in for a Costa, a power nap and a mental inventory of how the day was going. I had eaten into my margin, but I was still very relaxed with the progress. I did not feel I was taking any chances nor pushing any limits. The multiple preparatory rides and conditioning were paying off.

Sunday, 02:30 — Leaving Costa
The final leg to Leeds was a steady and careful one. Whatever you are doing — riding, walking, driving, anything — for me the last leg home is always the most dangerous as you are likely to let your guard down. Conscious of that, I treated it as the most tricky. It started being a bit emotional however when a number of us started gathering on the A1(M) around the on/off-ramps into Junction 42. You go from being alone to riding with a group of five other riders all joining at different points. Even though it is nothing of note to anyone else, it really felt like a small victory parade that follows any good adventure.

Sunday, 03:00 — Squires Café, Leeds
The arrival was smooth and well organised. A marshal outside was directing us towards the entrance of Squires, clapping as we went in. The first stop station was checking our odometer and just making sure we were fine. Another marshal directed us to a u-turn and a holding box where we’d leave the bikes. We would then take the paperwork for a final validation. This was the emotional part for me; I am 32 at the time of writing this and I have been reading Iron Butt reports since when I was 13 or so. Reading those reports became almost iconic to me and here I was, finally doing my own Iron Butt ride. A few minutes later I was walking away with my own certificate and an invite to keep an eye out for further rides.
This is where everything started unravelling. I went for a coffee and started relaxing. I needed a good while before being happy to get back on the bike and head to the hotel, but once I was happy, I had a slow and leisurely ride back. It’s weird… having done 1,000 miles in a day, it really changes your scale of what is a long or a short ride.

Sunday, 04:00 — Premier Inn, Leeds
In any case, by the time I got back to the hotel, this is where the karma came back to bite me. A bunch of other riders who were staying at the hotel had finished before me and nabbed all the spaces. So off I go, hunting for a safe and secluded little spot where the bike would not be in the way of anything.
Back in the hotel room I slowly took stock of my kit and went to sleep. I got back to the hotel room around 04:00 and was asleep by 04:30. I don’t think I woke up until 10:00.

Surprisingly, after 24 hours on the bike, I had no real pains or aches. The K1600 Bagger, ergonomically, is amazing. You can sit upright, you can use the highway pegs, you can lean further back and rest the small of your back into the raised pillion seat or use the wide seat to shift the weight around to keep blood flowing. The recurring stretches also helped, I think. The recurring snacking also meant no post-food groggyness and avoiding caffeine for the first half of the day really helped me to nap when needed. I had not kept up with hydration, in hindsight, which contributed to a headache when I woke up.
In the morning, I took my time to fully wake up and pack. Let’s just say the 200 miles back home felt like nothing!
All in all, I will be doing this again. I thought the Iron Butt ride would be a challenge and rough. Not because it is unpleasant, but because I thought I’d have to dig deep with my resilience levels to accomplish the ride. However, I am pleased that my preparation, progressive build-up and mental conditioning really worked to my advantage. Doing an Iron Butt ride really is a Mind Vs Matter deal. Given that there were people completing the ride on monkey bikes, Yamaha R1s and even a Gen III S1000RR, it’s mostly down to one’s attitude.
So here’s to more Iron Butt rides. Maybe even one on my S1000RR, although it may require a different level of planning and preparation.
My final thought. I have been in many clubs and groups and this is one club I am proud of being a member of… And I’ve earned that membership; you can’t buy it. Unlike other groups I may have been in, I have an automatic respect for anyone else that is a member of this club for exactly that reason.
 
#3
Congratulations on the ride and welcome to the madness!
Good write up and very honest. You obviously know how to manage yourself and keep safe.
Look forward to meeting you on a ride to eat or perhaps the Brit Butt Rally?
Regards
 

Firstpeke

Well-Known Member
#5
Nice write up, well done on finishing and joining the rest of the unhinged.....

My wife always said I should be certified, well I now have a number of certificates so she can't complain.