The most recent long distance BAR event was the Southern Counties 100 mile time trial. As is customary the event was held at a time on a Sunday morning when most normal people would be in a restful state of slumber and dreaming of a slow transition to partial wakefulness, Sunday papers and a fry up. Instead 4 foolhardy MSTC athletes coaxed their aged and reluctant minds and bodies into a daring challenge of endurance and bike handling. David Jones, Jim Graham, Rupert Robinson and I were these brave cyclists.
The course is rather peculiar in the number of roundabouts you encounter with 52 roundabout junctions in the first 56 miles. It is also unusual in having a major intersection with traffic lights at 60 miles. If you get stopped by the lights you have to stop (obviously) or be dq'ed or run over. If you are unlucky enough (and I was) to just get the lights going red you can wait for up to 2 minutes 40 seconds (I am sad enough to go back and time it). The course continues to be a typical in that it then does 2½ laps of a circuit that incorporates some very rolling and poorly surfaced single carriageway. This makes for a proper test of man and bike (I say this as no women entered the event because they have a good deal more sense).
The 100 mile TT was a reality check for me. I plodded along for 50 miles at 20mph (quite decent by my standards) but got overtaken by dozens of riders doing 25mph. I overtook nobody. I then took a wrong turn and did 25 miles of the previous section of the course. When I eventually started the second half of the course I appeared to be right at the back of the pack and felt rather fed up so I retired. At about half-way the finish was sign-posted and I thought it best to attend to domestic commitments rather than get home a couple of hours later than promised.
Cycling on busy A-roads was a bit scary but it was a good training session. I hadn't appreciated how many great amateur cyclists there are out there. Shame I'm not one of them.
If I did it again, I would taper training properly to have fresh legs and use my best bike with a disc. I would also have the route properly mapped out on my garmin as route is a bit complicated and easy to take a wrong turn.
May I add that Jim was going quite well and underestimates his athletic prowess? However, he also underestimates his navigational abilities and puts himself as a frontrunner in theForestGump prize category for end of season awards. Had he not attended to "domestic duties" he would have completed 137 miles!
For me I was aiming for Sub 4.10, wanting to beat my time from
last year. I uploaded the ghost rider from last year to race my
Garmin. I was seven minutes from the scratch man (for those
not familiar with this term it refers to the fastest rider on
previous performances not someone who provides a rough post race
massage) & I wondered how long I would keep him off my
The first two laps of the usual Crawley 25 mile course went well with my average speed staying around 25 mph despite the headwind.
As I was approaching the Shell Garage towards the 52 mile mark the heavens opened - it was like being on a boat, making riding up the hill increasingly difficult.
I was pleased to pass the 56 mile mark at Southwater feeling like I was at the half way point. It was just after this that Rob caught me for 7 mins. I tried to hang on & we both got stopped at the traffic lights. I was off like a bullet out of a gun only to be passed by Rob again on that long drag up towards Washington.
This was when I had my first signs of cramp. Going too hard from the traffic lights suddenly made me pay, when will I learn! The two laps through Ashington and Patridge green were lumpy but the tailwind helped the miles pass by.
My average speed had dropped to 24.1 in the remaining two laps but I knew I was on for a PB especially when I saw Dave Jones ahead.
Dave had started 19 minutes in front of me and this spurred me on so that I could finish in the time I wanted.
9th - a PB- 5th year on the bounce- 4.09.43!
Man my undercarriage was sore!
I spoke to the Mr Stealth (after all he is near silent and deadly fast) about his ride. He was as enigmatic as ever and looking as fresh as if he had just gone for a Sunday morning amble.
Dave told me that he enjoyed the last 40 miles as he was tucking into the ample post race refreshments. Clearly he had been riding a different race - I suspect that he was using this race as training for something much more substantial. It would not surprise me if we saw our training guru going for something ironlike in the near future and that will be very interesting.
I really was using this race as training in my build up for the night time Half Ironman I will be doing in glamorous Dartford. As usual I had decided to rebuild my bike late the evening before the race and was pleased with the loan from Jon Webster of his speedfill drinking system. This ingenious device is a large flat triangle shaped bottle that fits on the downtube of the bike with a long straw that you zip tie so that it dangles from the tribars near your face meaning you are reminded to drink regularly and can remain aero whilst doing so.
I was riding without any support (Rupert and Dave were getting drinks handed up by Doug) and was testing my theory that 1.25 litres of High 10 (twice as strong as High 5) would be enough to rehydrate and fuel me. I had read an interesting article on taking the minimum amount of liquid you need in long distance events to prevent gastrointestinal shutdown (and consequently bonk) when entering the run of a long distance triathlon.
My prerace routine (no warm up, visit loo, accidentally let air out of tyres with track pump, visit loo, pour sticky energy drink over my bike and legs, visit loo) had gone seamlessly. As I rushed to the start I was aware of an unpleasant feeling between my legs. I ignored it as I headed to the start keeper with 20 seconds to spare.
It did not take me long to work out this annoying pain. The filler cap of the speedfil was catching my knee on every revolution. I spent the next couple of miles working out that if I averaged 80 rpm and was going to be cycling for about 250 minutes I would be slowly eroding my knee 20,000 times. I really should try these things before a race.
Still the rough road surface at 5 miles meant I could refocus on the job of keeping my disintegrating tribars (didn't quite tighten the bolts properly) from falling into my front wheel.
The next 95 miles were a case of ignoring which bits hurt most - my undercarriage, my knee, my legs or my head.
Rupert was going like a train and ahead of me at 50 miles and I was pleased that my legs didn't fail me on the last circuit to finish just over a minute in front of him. It was probably my increasing power to weight ratio as I decreased my weight through skin erosion and dehydration.
There was then a pleasant tailwind for the 4 mile ride back to the HQ where I quickly donned my trainers to see if I could run for an hour after the bike. I could - with the thoughts of post race cake delights urging me on.
So I have learnt that:
- I should build and test my bike and hydration kit before race day.
- You can do 5 hours of exercise on 1.25 litres of drink but preferably if there is a very well catered tea and cake venue where you finish.
- Riding on a dual carriageway in the rain is no sensible way to spend Sunday morning.
- It's great when it is over.