This weekend was “the big one” and I’m happy to say that I did better than I feared I would do – though there’s still a lot of room for improvement. I first want to thank everyone who helped out on the day, particularly my pit crew, and everyone who sponsored me in the middle of the night – you guys literally forced me back out on track!
The whole weekend went pretty well, and hopefully an overview will help anyone else out there thinking of taking up a similar challenge.
I struggled to sleep a bit the night before, but decided that I didn’t need to be so meticulous with my night equipment layout in the pits the next day as I wouldn’t need it for the first 4 hours of the ride. This meant I allowed myself a bit more of a lie-in, and got a much more reasonable 6 hours sleep.
All the prep went well, but the practice laps round the race circuit were terrifying. I simply hadn’t realised how steep and sudden the hills on the track were going to be, and how little of the track was actually 100% flat. In addition to this, some of the flat sections were on a steep camber, which I’d only had limited experience of riding. I came back into the pits after 2 laps and had to completely re-evaluate my target distance and expectations for the race.
I had hoped to get to 200 miles and then decide how many more to ride, to comfortably do this in around 12 hours of time in the saddle and have half at least a couple of hours to either aim for 250 or another milestone around time in the saddle or elevation gain. After the sighting laps though I knew 200 was going to be very tricky to get to, and so set that to be my goal. I also realised the level of concentration I was going to need and the scant time for relaxing/eating while riding meant I was going to need longer breaks and to get a substantial amount of sleep during the night – no more “trying to push through if I can”.
With all that pushed out of my mind by the race briefing, and the fun we all had chatting on the start lineup, the first 3 hours flew by. I rode well in two 90 minute stints, but I was getting very tired legs. Longer breaks sorted that though, and so I continued to do 6 laps between 15 gaps and loving it.
This went very well through dusk, and into the night so that by 1030 at night I’d ridden 130 miles, and was bought a celebratory KFC!
This powered me through the last hour of the day, and sent me to bed with a pleasantly full stomach. Sleep was deep and sudden – despite being on the back seat of a family hatchback that was quickly filled with my overpowering stench of exhaustion.
Waking up at 4am meant I got in some spooky, but ultimately badly planned laps. While I was fine while on track, the mist and temperatures meant that as soon as I took a break I was freezing cold, and the duvet/sleeping bag wasn’t helping much. If I did it all again I’d make sure to use one of those silver space blanket things in the pits, as well as everything else, as it’s just a faster way of keeping your heat. I went back to bed a bit dejected at 6am, but woke up at 8 feeling great.
I managed to then ride 30 minutes on and 15 minutes off for the rest of the 24 hours, and came through the finish line elated having ridden 175 miles. I later realised that because of the painfully undulating course, I’d actually ridden the equivalent height change of a full ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro – the highest volcano in the world. Something to bear in mind when planning next year’s challenge!