24 Hour TT 21/22 June 2014
This is a bit of a long report because I have included additional detail for all of those who may consider having a go at the team prize next time.
Having done three 12 hours and a few other TTs it was time to complete the set. I never had any intention of doing an ironman, too much running, but as a pointy head belonging to a Tri Club it was time to see what was possible. Usually the 24hr national championship is held in Liverpool (where it is flat) but this year it was coming to the south east, near Eastbourne. Organised by the wonderful Esther Carpenter and the East Sussex cycling association.
How do you train for 24 hrs on a bike. Ask a man who has done it before. Peter Moon from Eastbourne Rovers CC did 471 miles with only two 10 minute naps! His method was to train tired. Back to back 100 mile rides, night rides, just miles.
Neil Colvin has been coaching me for the last 12 months and in his usual style he developed a plan that was achievable bearing in mind the constraints of work and home life. He slowly increased the hours and mileage, ignoring all the fast stuff required for my usual 10's and 25's.
Saturday night shed sets on the rollers would start the weekend and then up early for 6 hours at a very steady 28km/h. No efforts on ANY inclines, difficult to do at the beginning but when you realised you were burning biscuits that were going to be needed at the end, it was an easy discipline to learn, the thought of blowing before the end was unimaginable! I didn't have many volunteers for some of the 4.00am starts but Richard Bryant managed a couple and we had some great rides.
After a few long weekends, 6hr 100 mile rides seemed to be the norm as long as you were prepared to see the sun rise (highly recommended around the Yalding area). A few inter club 10s added variety and was the only time I went anywhere near threshold HR. Times weren't affected by my long distance training state, which was a surprise.
The logistics required help from friends. This was not something you really wanted to do on your own. Simon Truett, Richard Bryant, Neil McInerney and Neil Colvin all volunteered to do a relay of support. This would cover all the hours bar 23:00 to 06:00 and get me and all the kit to, and most importantly back home from the race.
The Bike Warehouse did a deal on 60 SIS gels, a mix of apple and caffeine berry, Naked bars (after much sampling of the healthy bar aisle in Waitrose) and SIS Go. Peter Moon advised proper food as well so a box full of ham (Lidl’s is extra salty) baguettes and peanut butter and honey rolls, tuna pasta and muesli. There was a lot of food but I had no idea what was going to work but I knew running out wasn't an option.
I took two bikes; the Look was going to be the bail out option if the TT bike was too painful to ride the whole race. It was set up with lights, tri bars, bottle cages, pump; an endless list where I had to go out and borrow kit to make sure I could do a quick bike swap if necessary.
The event HQ was in a classic village hall and there were the usual faces behind the organisation and more supporters than riders getting ready. Simon and I overheard one mean looking rider say he was planning the first 100 in 4.5 hours ....I was hoping for 6, ho hum.
The course is a series of laps of three different circuits all linked together with the A22. The first circuit was hilly, the second was rolling and the third the 24 mile night circuit had a mix of super fast dual carriageway and pitch black country lanes going up hill and full of pot holes. How many laps you do of each depends on your speed and the organisers managing the spread of riders across the route.
75 starters including 1 tandem and a few tricycles. I was off at 12.52 and they still insist on a push start for a 24 hr! Simon waved me off and then drove to our first lay by rendezvous.
You don't need a pedal by pedal report but here are the highs and lows. First 100 in about 5.5 hrs, averaging over 32kmh, clearly too fast but within target HR so notched it back and dropped HR another 5/10 beats. Tuna pasta in a lay by with Richard and the start of the night circuit, a low. A super fast ride on the dual carriageway and then turn left into the country lanes and a steady bumpy ride to the night HQ in Herstmonceux (complete with massage table and catering). It was so dark, hardly any moon light and no street lights anywhere. At 23:00 Richard did the swap to clinchers and filling the night box full of food and drink, again enough supplies to feed an army. He returned home and I carried on. From the HQ you descended at over 50kmh. Luckily I couldn't see the speed because I was running the Garmin in economy mode (lasted 17.5hrs).
Stopped two more times in the middle of the night at the HQ. Not many sleeping, most riders had a camper van to kip in. I couldn't sleep, just had a couple of instant coffees (one made by the organiser, the lovely Esther) and got back on. It was pretty creepy riding alone with just a quick shout of your number to the few marshals at the main junctions.
Dawn, hurrah! everyone said it would make a difference to ones mental state and for me it was a very welcome return of the Brown support crew. Neil Mc arrived and we swapped back to my disc and aero front with tubs, ditched all the inner tubes, pump, arm and leg warmers and with 485 km done the target was first 600k and then 400 miles and anything over would be a bonus.
I was stopping at regular intervals to refuel with drink and food. Neil kept telling me to take a seat, he said I was tottering all over the place and wasn't capable of standing still. Some of the other riders looked completely done in so I thought I was doing alright.
Neil Colvin took over around 10 and then I was down to the last 3 hours. My average speed was still OK but everything was starting to creak, butt, neck, arms (I was in the TT position for maybe 85/90% of the time).
The next two hours were the toughest mentally, seems so long and the kms seemed to be going by very slowly. However hour 23 and suddenly everything was achievable, a finish and a 400+ ride. Fantastic support from the crowd of rider supporters, the marshals and time keepers on the finishing circuit really helped. Neil spraying deep heat on my neck and liberal applications of Assos butt cream (I did this bit) made it bearable I just had to keep pedalling. Legs were on auto pilot and suddenly it was over. I managed to pass the time keeper at 24:0:10 so I didn't have to ride to the next one 2 miles away, what a fantastic relief. I parked up and Neil came to collect me.
First treat was sitting down while Neil packed everything away. Next was a kg of my favourite muesli and then back to event HQ. Hand over the numbers, (I didn't have the energy to remove the special double sided tape I had used to stick them on, more aero) and then home, and bed for a few hours.
Now Thursday and I have had to travel up and down the country for work. Thankfully by train and I love escalators. Sleep not brilliant, wake up with legs that need to move. Back on the bike Friday for a very steady commute.
The ride distance was 664km according to the Garmins and Strava but subject to official confirmation. The winner did 512miles, but he had just finished riding around the world, apparently he didn’t feel at all tired after his effort, surprise! J
My average moving speed was 31.1 km/h, ride time 21.5 hrs (so 2.5 hrs to play with next time…..arghh stop!) and 3.9k of climbing. All a bit irrelevant, what really mattered was finishing in one piece and going over 400 miles.
Without Neil Colvin’s direction this wouldn’t have been possible, and the support crew of Simon, Richard and Neil made it all work on the day and kept me sane.
The regular Sunday ride crew provided the necessary encouragement during the winter and the Strava community gave me the Kudos during the training.
The response from Facebook, SMS, Twitter, Strava when I finished was overwhelming. It was only a bike ride, just a long bike ride!
PS I also won a Gold Card from the Velo House for most miles ridden over the mid summer weekend so coffees are on me.