Whenever you want to attempt something pretty epic, it’s generally a good idea to have some kind of plan. And like a good Cub Scout it helps to always be prepared.
Something like a cycling world record, for most people isn’t going to come about without a lot of training and an almost equal amount of planning. But admin aside, the recent timescale imposed by Guinness has given me cause to reflect on the preparation already in place.
Even when I was considering that I would take 10-12 days, I had started to pay a lot of attention to what was going to be required to even complete the journey.
I’ve spoken in other posts about my rather sporadic (and slow) track record. I was reasonable at completing events, but not so good at doing so in time. As a 50 something year old woman, who has reached a different season of life, the body changes. We are prone to losing muscle (permanently), and gaining fat. If you don’t have much muscle to begin with, it’s highly unlikely at our age that you are going to suddenly get some – our bodies just don’t work like that. And so it was reasonable to think that I wasn’t likely to get much stronger or faster now than I had been when I was younger.
But, for some reason, middle aged women do develop an interesting ability to compete in endurance events very successfully, and armed with this knowledge I was keen to understand if, with a different approach, I could indeed get stronger and faster.
Clearly continuing to ride the way I had been for the last 10 years, wasn’t going to make a huge amount of difference in the long run. I needed to review everything that I had done that had gone well, and also the things that had caused me issues in the past and needed to change. Some were physical, some were mindset and others related to equipment.
So here’s my list…..
|Lighting||Reliability is key, as well as back up capability. My lights had failed me on PBP||Dynamo lighting on bike, has been replaced with new as previous was old and unreliable. Back up USB and battery lights also available|
|Bike||Weight of bike, an issue, and constant hand numbness on multistage events with trouble changing gear||New carbon bike, hydraulic discs and D2i electronic gears. I should have made this change years ago.|
|Saddle||I have been riding with Brooks leather saddles for years, and have found them incredible comfortable, but the more time I spent in the aero position the more issues I was having down below with chaffing and worse||A new saddle was required, complete with a cut out or significant dip at the front to allow me to ride both in the upright and aero positions.|
|Luggage||Needs to be roomy, but haven’t got to grips with bikepacking bags. As a notorious faffer, especially when tired, I can always guarantee that what I need is at the bottom of a bikepacking bag, adding to faffage time||Invested in a Tail Fin – best bikepacking set up EVER|
In addition, 2 x foodbags on the front of the bike take care of needs whilst still moving.
|Faffing||I’m a terrible faffer, and it gets worse the more tired I get||The luggage set up helps reduce faffing.|
Mental discipline needs to be deployed
|Strength||Slow up hills.|
If pushing for speed, energy levels would peak and fade quickly.
|Much more strength training was required|
|Speed||I was built for distance not speed||In Jan 2020 I got very excited if I had managed 40-50 miles in excess of 13.5 mph.|
But I had added Aero bars to my bike which was improving things. I really needed to work on my speed
|Discipline & mindset||My training had always mixed up social riding and coffee stops||I did not have an athletes discipline, or any real idea what it meant to train properly|
|Navigation||As long as I avoided ‘adventure’ (read accidental off road) routes, all was good||Navigation and route planning is one of my stronger skills|
|Nutrition||I had discovered that I was good at fueling the first day of an event, but then didn’t continue to fuel adequately for subsequent days, this is why I usual peaked on day 1, then dropped to the back on day 2||I need a whole new approach to fuelling my ride|
|Sleep Deprivation||When I start to get tired it’s sudden. I can quite literally fall asleep on the bike. Sleep deprivation has been the final nail in the coffin on pretty much all my long distance multi day events to date||I need to be able to ride fast enough that I get time to sleep. AND, when I try to sleep, it needs to be quality sleep and immediate|
My equipment issues were mostly resolved before I considered LEJOGLE. These were conditional for me before I considered the Race Around the Netherlands. I love my new bike, replacing my dynamo lights has given me reliable lights again, and my luggage arrangement just works perfectly. Everything I need when I’m riding is easily accessible, and there’s never any worry about having to unpack everything from my main bikepacking bag, as everything is easy access from the Tailfin.
The issue however with my saddle took a lot more work. I tried several different saddle types, but kept going back to my leather brooks for the longer rides. The saddle that came with my bike was very comfortable and didn’t create any saddle sores, but it was not quite right. When riding longer distances I would end the ride with a discomfort that can only be described as akin to period pain. Women, you know exactly what I mean, but guys, it’s a bit like being punched very low in the stomach.
I visited my friends at local bike shop Bike-U-Like and started the process of testing different types of saddle until I found one that was right for me. It turns out that although I’m not a big person, my sit bones are actually quite wide apart, certainly too wide for most standard saddles. This is probably why I always got on with Brooks so well. They are quite wide where you sit. Eventually we found a saddle that worked for me, and I’ve been riding well on it ever since.
I’ll talk more about my equipment in another post where I’ll provide all the details
When it came to strength and speed, I have been most surprised about just how much improved this 50 something year old woman has become. I won’t lie to you, my training plan has been tough. I set Trevor, my coach the challenge of getting me to be able to ride between 15-16 mph in 5 months. In a million years I never thought we would even get close, but here I am, slightly ahead of time, knocking out 100 mile bikes rides with a 15 mph average speed. I ride often. During lockdown there were hill reps, up and down the same hill 8 – 10 times. We couldn’t ride for far at the time, and so up and down a local hill I rode. I would sprint along the seafront into the wind, and then there were endless turbo sessions. I don’t think I knew what suffering was until I embarked on this level of training. But along the way, it started to get easier…..and I started to get faster, and stronger. I can now ride up a hill that’s almost a mile long, standing up all the way. This was a whole new world for me. It’s a very long way from social rides with friends, for lunch and coffee, even long social rides.
I do long for more social coffee stop kind of rides, but I now know the difference between those rides, and ‘training’. Training needs to be either alone, or with others that are also training with the same outcome in mind. The two should not be mixed up. Now that I’ve got this into my head, my whole attitude has changed as well. I’m unlikely to have any more social rides until after LEJOGLE now, but I don’t always train alone, so it’s not so bad.
The Nutrition aspect has been an interesting development. For a ride of 150-200 miles in a day, especially if it’s to be repeated the next day, you need to eat enough calories to fuel the ride + enough calories to have you ready for the next day’s ride. So, for me this is around 5000 calories. I tried once in the run up to PBP to eat 5000 calories a day over a weekend and I didn’t even get close. It’s easy to put away a lot of calories if you think of eating entirely bad or unhealthy foods, but in reality if food is more normal, that’s a serious amount of food.
On the bike it’s also quite difficult to eat lots. Flapjacks, nuts, chocolate bars, bananas are all common riding foods, but even then there’s a knack to being able to eat enough, and regularly. After many hours on the bike, especially if you’ve not had much rest, it can simply be hard to eat. What do I mean by that? It’s not unusual to take a bite of flapjack for example and be unable to swallow it. I’ve had a mouthful of food before just go round and round and round in my mouth, but have developed an inability to swallow. It’s a very bizarre scenario, when you are hungry but cannot eat!
So I’ve had to change my approach to nutrition. I have found a liquid carb drink (32Gi – now one of my supporters) that my stomach can tolerate well. You simply make it up, much like a milkshake, and 1 bottle can fuel for up to 4 hours. When your body gets a regular doze of carbs, it doesnt tend to shut down in the same way as I’ve experienced before. This means that my stomach is always ready to accept solid food when it’s available and it becomes easier to keep the calorie and carb intake up. And a body that is getting the right amount of fuel should keep on going. It’s a bit like running a car, without fuel it will eventually stop moving. My choices where available are mixed. A cheese sandwich, jacket potato, new potatoes, cous cous, something rice based, mashed potato, thick veg based soups. Food that is carb rich and quick to digest is always a favourite. Quick digestion is really important, as the last thing you need sitting in your gut is a lump of meat that just wont break down. Luckily I am pescatarian, so that’s rarely an issue for me
Since The Hubster is also going to be supporting some days of the ride, we have a stack of ‘Expedition Foods’ ready to be warmed up for my rest breaks. With each meal being between 800 & 1000 calories each, it helps to ensure that I am fuelling both for ride of the day, and giving me a little extra for the next day.
My training recently is being broken into the equivalent on 4 hour blocks, thats 3.5 hrs riding with a 30 minute break. In training, each block equates to around 50+ miles, and I’m currently meeting both the time and mileage targets on most rides. If I can replicate this across the duration of the event, then it’s likely that I will be on the road for between 16 & 17 hours a day. That still leaves around 8 hours a day where I can shower and sleep. If I can get at least 5 hours sleep a night I’m pretty certain I’ll avoid too much sleep deprivation, but it may still impact on my energy. We’ll see how that actually works out in practice
Before the event I also intend to try to bank sleep. As long as you go into an event without any sleep deficit, you can go for longer before you feel sleep deprived
Practice makes perfect
Over the next month, its my final chance to just practice, practice and practice some more. My training has now moved to the stage of riding a decent distance every day, although this can be tricky when working full time as well. Riding every day will get my legs used to having to get up and ride each day, during the event. Hopefully this will help avoid the usual energy drop that often occurs in the early parts of stage events. This drop needs to happen before the event not during it.
Training milestones are being hit, which has helped remove a lot of the anxiety I had about the reduction in the time limit. Now every ride I do, I consider it to be race conditions, even the easy rides to some extent. Race conditions means….
- No faffing
- To ride for 3.5 hour blocks without stopping
- To find food on the route (takeaway)
- Quick turnaround if stopping in cafes at rest break
- Head down, consistent effort
- Eat while on the bike
- Carb meal in water bottle
- Electrolytes in 2nd bottle
- No faffing (yes that’s so important it’s worth adding twice)
Navigation & routes
I’m not going to dwell on this in this post, as I’ll shortly be posting about my routes so that followers can track me and maybe ride with me for a little. But it’s important to note that I have been checking out routes that have been done before, especially by current and past record holders. In training it’s become clear that I reach my desired speeds when I’m on good, straight roads. Country roads may be safer, and many may go in the right direction, but they necessitate going slower around bends, hills may be more brutal, they may have lots of potholes, horses, and cars. Average speed drops considerably on country roads, and so in my route planning I’ve chosen the straightest and least lumpy roads I could find. By their very nature that means lots of A roads. It’s not ideal, but if I want set the record, it’s necessary
I’ve mentioned here a few businesses that have been helping me along the way, and who have been supporting me on my quest. Without their help the journey to this point would have been impossible. When you take on a challenge like this, it’s important to find people who can work with you to sort out problems and issues. Yes, you can do it alone, but it’s so much better to call on the expertise of those whose business it is to know better.
So I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight my supporters in this journey.
Coaching and Training support – Trevor Payne – Zone6 Concept
Bike Maintenance & Advice – Ingrid and Arunus – Bike-U-Like
Nutrition – 32Gi