Failure & the art of self-reflection

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts

Winston Churchill

2 years ago this week I was part of team who tried to #RunThePeaks – a 450 mile non-stop relay between the three highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales. After 200 miles, just before ascending the second peak, Scafell Pike, we ended the challenge.

It was a challenge that brought me close to breaking point, to quitting it all.

The pain of failure

The hours of planning, the thousands of pounds of my own money I put in to it, the stress and agonising over a dream and a challenge I created. For it to collapse and not go how I had planned it crushed me and it left a deep scar – even looking back on it now it makes me want to cry. All of that for nothing.

It made me question everything, whether I was capable of being the endurance athlete I thought I was, whether my body could actually cope with the toll I was putting on it – my IBS flared up during the challenge to the point where I could barely run through the pain. But the most important question I was asking myself was whether mentally I could take any more of these defeats.

Rewind further to 2018, the 5 Cities Challenge – an ambitious bike packing adventure to cycle a 1,000mi loop around Europe in just 5 days. Much like that future challenge, it ended early in equally depressing fashion, as I vomited my way through dark Parisian back streets. 3 days and just 1250mi after setting off from London, I was finished – a mixture of exhaustion, a stomach bug and my IBS meant I was in no condition to continue.

The lesson

After 5 Cities I spoke to some coaches and in early 2019 Pav Bryan and we started working together as Coach and Client – I haven’t looked back since. I’m a stronger, more powerful and more mindful athlete for working with him and having his experience to help me.

After #RunThePeaks we worked together with a Nutritionist and we changed my diet. We got a grip of my IBS and began the process of giving my body the best possible chance of withstanding the pressures endurance sport will put on the muscles and stomach.

Scars run deep, but, with time they heal and make us stronger for the experience. But, this doesn’t happen by magic – learning requires the ability to reflect, learn and grow.

Self-Reflection

The point of this blog is to share the importance of self-reflection for athletes – it is one of the most important tools in an athletes toolbox to improving their performance.

That’s not to say it’s easy, it takes a strong character to take an honest, unbiased look back at what has gone before in order to inform what comes next. In simple terms this is being able to understand the reasons for any issue and instead of only asking why, the real question becomes how can the situation be corrected for future?

It’s common for us to focus and work hard on the things we are strong at. However, we aren’t all perfect, sadly, and as I said above focusing on our weaknesses isn’t all that easy or natural. So how do we do it? Here’s three things that have worked for me;

  • Write it down – This blog, the process of writing my thoughts down has become a great tool for self-reflection on both my personal and sporting life. The writing process for me is very therapeutic and reflective exercise because it forces me recollect my thoughts and feelings in a manner that is more logical. You don’t need a blog, you can use a note taking app on your phone, a voice note or a pen and paper – use whatever works for you.
  • Talk it out – Having a honest conversation with someone you trust, such as a coach or mentor, is a great way to pick someone’s brains or get feedback from someone who has been there before or felt the same. Having Pav there to tell me honestly what’s happened from a data perspective or to offer advise to help has been invaluable for me – sometimes he’s said things that’s been hard to hear in the moment and I’ve been close to telling him to F@*k off. But it has always been needed and actioned.
  • Wait – following on from that last point, for me the most effective self-reflection happens when the immediate high emotions have subsided and I can think more rationally.

In conclusion, even though it is an uncomfortable process, self reflection requires honesty, time, input from others and willingness to be uncomfortable in order to progress.

Indoors vs Outdoors – a 24hr Challenge

I like to ask the really pointless questions, by and large it’s how all of my challenges start life, with the question  “Could I [insert ridiculousness]?”

This time, with the countdown well and truly ticking for Race Across America next year, the question that struck me was “Could I go further indoors or outdoors?”…and so this challenge was born. As I rebuild my mileage and time in the saddle, it seemed like a sensible idea to start to push myself in this way, to build up to multi-day test rides later on in the year.

So what exactly am I doing?

RIDES

I’ll be setting up two 24hr rides in July;

Friday 2 July – 24hrs Indoors – I’ll be using the vWTTC course at Borrego Springs via FulGaz. I’ve chosen FulGaz over Zwift, for example, because FulGaz is closer to real world conditions, as it considers CDA, Rider and Bike Weight and Gradients etc. Similarly there is no interference from other riders, in Zwift you get the benefit of drag from other riders. Most 24hr TT’s are non-draft so again, I wanted to ensure I won’t get that benefit, even if unintended.

Thursday 29 July – 24hrs Outdoors – I’ve created a loop on some local roads that replicates the vWTTC course as closely as possible.

Course Stats

CourseBorrego SpringsAylesbury Vale loop
Distance (mi)1818.2
Elevation Gain (ft)367431

In both scenarios I’ll be riding based miles, aiming for a consistent power output throughout the 24hrs.

The aim being to answer one question – can I go further over 24hrs Indoors or Outdoors?

TRAINING

I’m lucky to be supported by one of the best endurance coaches out there – Pav Bryan – who’s been coaching me for the last 2 and a half years and I’m grateful for all his help and advice as we push towards RAAM next year.

EQUIPMENT

To keep the ‘science’ of this challenge in check I’ll be using the same kit and equipment across both rides.

I’m riding my Specialised Tarmac, which for the indoor ride will be parked on my Elite Direto X smart trainer. To ensure the virtual and real world effects are the same I’ll be weighting the bike, clothing, shoes, helmet and a full 500ml bottle – so that FulGaz accounts for that.

Guy with his indoor set up

In terms of kit I’ll use all dhb kit, as always – I’m going have a few different kit options to try – my ‘go to’ Aeron Ultra bib shorts and jersey and an Aeron LAB Raceline long sleeve speedsuit. Just looking at what the best options for me will be really, having a play with some awesome kit!

Want to have a look, check them out here – https://dhbsport.com/ – always happy to answer questions about what I wear and why.

I wouldn’t do any kind of long distance riding without a healthy application of the excellent chamois cream from the good people at VeloSkin – no one wants or needs chaffing or saddle sores, so this is a great, natural product to keep you comfortable.

FUELLING

Fuelling for me starts 72hrs before an event. So for both rides I’ll be upping my carbohydrate intake to ensure my glycogen stores are packed full. The evening before I will preload with electrolytes,  to ensure I start hydrated and to reduce fatigue through sweat adn sodium loss during the ride.

My general rule of thumb is to try and break a 24hr ride in to 4 hr windows, fuelling while on the bike and then stopping for real food, comfort breaks and changing clothing, as necessary.

Indoor riding makes snack access pretty easy

Whatever I eat has to be simple to digest, easy to prepare (or already prepared) and most importantly, something that I look forward to eating. Typically in a 4hr block I’ll eat a range of foods, mixing homemade bars, gluten free pizza rolls, waffles, PBJ on white bread with sports nutrition products such as the bars from KMC. KMC’s Wholesome Superfood Bar packs a decent 40g of carbs per 70g bar, so is a key piece of fuel on any ride over 90 minutes for me. I tend not to use gels, I know they work for a lot of people, as someone with IBS I don’t want to risk the GI issues they can often trigger.

Alongside that I’ll be drinking plain water or KMC ISO Mix, which is a carbohydrate drink with electrolytes and either Mission Green Tea or a cold brew coffee as my caffeine source towards the end of the 24hrs (depending on how big a lift I need).

www.kendalmint.co.uk/?atid=60

WHY?

This challenge asks a question that I think we all know the answer to, but that’s not really the point – the question is a bit of fun.

With one year to go until I head to California to take on the 3,000 mile non stop Race Across America I need to start building my mileage up again, honing my ability to suffer and making sure I understand my body and my fuelling strategy. 24hrs riding is a great way to do that and to start building the base again, so I can push on to more multi day, RAAM style training.

So, the question remains – which one do you think I’ll ride more miles on, Indoors or Outdoors? Will I beat my distance PB of 653km?

The Lucky Pilgrim Ride

The challenge was simple –

THREE PINTS, THREE PUBS, ONE DAY.

As some who loves a good beer and a challenge, the #PintPilgrimage from Lucky Saint was right up my street. With a 200km training ride in the diary from Coach Pav it seemed like this was the perfect opportunity to enjoy some of the best of the Chilterns and surrounding areas. I roped in ride buddy Rob, who’s training for a London to Paris ride later in the year, and got to planning a route.

The Route

The first place to start with planning this route was to find out some pubs that have Lucky Saint on tap (find your local here – https://luckysaint.co/pages/lucky-saint-on-draught), which there are surprisingly quite a few outside of London which made my life pretty easy. I created an out and back loop on Komoot, going from High Wycombe, up to Oxford, down in to Reading and hitting the third pub in Windsor, before looping back to our start point.

The planned route in Komoot

Here’s how we got on.

The Ride

From Wooburn Green we climbed out of Marlow to Freith and then climbed again up on to Bledlow Ridge, three punchy climbs within the first 20 miles made for a rude awakening to the ride. If the climbing wasn’t enough the weather decided to close in, with a thick mist and drizzlely rain damping our early eagerness. Still nothing like a fast descent to lift the mood, and going down Chinnor Hill certainly did that particularly as we coasted down on to drier clearer roads at the bottom.

After Thame we joined the hugely overgrown cycle path running along the main road, getting our hands and leg whipped by long grass and nettles. Sadly for Rob he managed to find a large piece grit to bury itself in his tyre as well. A quick tube change and we were off again, taking the back roads in to Oxford to drop in to Headingly from the North. You can’t go this way without stopping at the incredibly random and impressive Headington Shark. Escaping with limbs still in tact we made a few turns before arriving at pub number 1 – The Rusty Bicycle – around 9am. Sadly a little too early to get even an alcohol free beer.

Onwards, we headed South past the Kassam Stadium – home of Oxford United – and joined the A4074 towards Reading and our next pub. This section would probably be the one I’d change if I were to ride this route again – a fast, busy main road that gave us a few close passes at speed.

That said, we were able to zip along, taking stints pushing the pace while the other rested in the draft. While taking one of my stints, I heard a loud ping followed by a regular ticking noise. We pulled over on to a bridge to assess what the hell had happened and sadly I’ll broken a spoke on my rear wheel. I’d luckily got a bit of electrical tape holding my tube top bag on, so I was able to rip that off and tape the broken spoke to another to stop it rubbing or catching.

Well, no one needs that on a ride

We gladly came off the A road just before Benson and roughly followed the Thames down from Wallingford, to Streatly and then making our last big climb of the day up to Whitchurch before gently rolled down in to Reading. Pub 2 – The Market House – was in the centre of town so pretty easy to find and we settled in for a well earned food break. 

From Reading we headed out towards Wokingham, only to be caught out by a road closure in Emmsbrook – I normally carry on, you figure at least the pavement will be open for you to walk around, but no, not in this case. After doubling back we pushed on to Maidenhead via the pretty villages of Bray and Dorney Common, from which we could see Windsor Castle and know another pub and rest stop were within touching distance.

Navigating the inevitable weekend traffic in Windsor we made our way up past the Castle to pub 3 and our final stop – The Corner House. We couldn’t stop in Windsor and not get a bun from the Cinnamon Cafe…cycling fuel like no other they are.

From Windsor we headed south looping up through Wraysbury. Panic set in as we started hitting dual carriageways and signs for the M25, but thankfully we just skirted the junction and took a B road around the lakes – I wasn’t feeling being that cyclist on the news!! Tiredness and cramp were beginning to set in, a reminder how important eating and drinking enough is – we both had to make stops to give out calves a stretch and keep the legs turning. At Iver, we stopped for a quick photo and peak at Pinewood Studios – the scale of the place is mind blowing, but sadly you can’t see a lot other than some hangers and signs for what the studios are – like the 007 Stage.

From here it was easy riding back as we skirted Burnham Beeches, with a final short but fast descent down in to Wooburn Green, on which I figured I’d give it a bit of beans. I quickly regretted that, with all the rain of the past few days washing grit and crap all over the road making descending at speed pretty sketchy.

A cracking loop, a distance PB for Rob and a sense of satisfaction for me in that I was now beginning to build the endurance mileage back up again.

Lucky Saint

Lucky Saint is a 0.5% beer that gives you all the satisfaction of a truly great full strength beer, with none of the sacrifices that comes with alcohol. It’s a fairly new beer on the market, but in my opinion it’s punching hard and making a huge impact. Lucky Saint is made with a few but high quality ingredients with no additives, adjuncts or flavourings. They say it’s the brewing process that makes them so different and why it doesn’t taste like other alcohol-free beers – leaving the beer unfiltered, with that 0.5% is what gives it the body and great flavour.

You can grab a bottle from your local high street supermarket or get it on draught in a growing number of pubs around the UK.

As someone who trains hard, being able to relax with a cold beer after a session on the bike without sacrificing my performance the next day is frankly the best of both worlds!

Dean Regan – Coast to Coast in a Day

I’ve not had the inspiration to write any new blogs since finishing my #PACE140 challenge in March – so I figured I would share someone else’s incredible achievement. So, this is Dean’s story – enjoy!

Coast to Coast in a Day

The challenge was to get from Whitehaven to Roker, covering 130 miles across the North of the England, crossing the Lake District and North Pennines along the way.

Why?

I attempted the Coast to Coast from Whitehaven to Roker (known as the C2C) for the first time on the 5th July 2020. This was organised to raise money for the PKD charity and was done with a cycling club which I was then part of, four of us took on the challenge.

I was riding to work every day but hadn’t really done any ‘big’ rides. My kit choice wasn’t great either giving the weather we would face that day. Rain, hail and 60mph winds at the top of Hartside pass made for very difficult cycling conditions. A very long story and loads of excuses later, I failed. I only made it through 87.8 miles of the 130 we had planned.

Dean during his first attempt at C2C

This was a huge lesson for me in cycling and my own mental strength. I was already making excuses before my legs had given up. My knee hurt from an old injury, my kit wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t good enough. I could never do this!

From the moment I got picked up I instantly regretted not carrying on. I vowed to one day put it right. Every time I logged into Strava and saw that unfinished line, or had a joke mentioned about getting picked up, it brought back the sense of failure I felt on that day. It only got worse, I would sit and look at the plan and try to work out why I failed. I felt like I had let everyone down, the people that had sponsored me, the company I worked for and my family. It really niggled at me.

I was given some excellent advice and assistance from a very experienced cyclist shortly after the failed C2C. I was informed that it was my mind that gave in not my body. Just 6 weeks after failing the C2C I set off to conquer my first century ride. Having someone so experienced to ride with and support me, was excellent. Someone to push, motivate and encourage me along the way. This broke a huge mental barrier for me, along with the advice and how the day progressed, it brought my confidence back up and got me back believing that I could complete the C2C in just one day. I learnt that it was about pacing, planning and preparing myself properly. Most importantly is was about having a positive mind-set from the start. 

With the events of COVID (lockdown 2) it meant the planned second attempt at the C2C was postponed with restrictions in the UK. This meant yet another 6 months to a year of feeling that sense of failure, looking at the plan for attempt two at least once a day and wondering when I would I do it again, if ever…

A change of mind-set

During winter I rode through all-weathers, I used the COVID restrictions to my advantage. I cycled solo for over 4 months working on my mental strength and pushing my limits. No headphones no distractions, just me and my thoughts, remaining focused on that end goal of putting the wrongs right.

I worked on my climbing, riding up bigger hills than I’d ever done before, pushing my legs harder and encouraging my mind to keep the legs going. I took new routes and roads I’d never rode to get out of my comfort zone and explore that sense of being remote. I planned and then I planned again. I read stories and took inspiration from others who were doing their own challenges. I ASKED for advice on things like nutrition and kit (I’m very grateful for those that took the time to answer).

I got more involved in social media and saw this as a big positive. It was a big lift talking to new people, seeing and learning from their challenges and experiences (especially given COVID). I dropped comparing myself to others and just tracked my own development. This felt like a huge weight was lifted, I wasn’t bothered about mph, who rode the most, how much elevation people had done. I worked against myself no one else, every ride gave me a positive. Sometimes it would be the fact that I’d rode my bike, sometimes it would be the mileage, sometimes the climbs, sometimes even a good photo I’d taken, and sometimes I would just feel good about what I was doing. I got some great messages from others that I had been able to help along the way too.   

I felt in the best place mentally I ever had, I was confident in my abilities. I had pushed myself and felt the support of all of those around me. I felt like I really could do this!

I had more training rides planned (ideally another 6 weeks’ worth), Saturday was planned to be a very flat 100 miles, but talking it through with my wife and watching the weather we agreed that this weekend could be the one…

Let’s Do This!

The night before I looked back on the previous ride hoping to never have to see that half-finished line ever again. I re-read my plan (I don’t know how many times) ate well, checked my bike and got ready for the day ahead.

The morning was amazing, blue skies as far as the eye could see. I’d checked the weather every 10 minutes praying that the easterly wind would somehow magically change to a westerly, it never happened. I took on the advice I’d been given and lessons I’d learnt from previous rides, I had a good breakfast and enjoyed the journey the west coast. I was nervously excited but never fearful, this was for me. This was to a settle a score with myself and put those negative thoughts to bed once and for all. The fact I had taken donations on a challenge I didn’t personally succeed in, the half-finished route, the one who couldn’t do it and the regret of letting all those around me down.

I got out of the car at Whitehaven, set up the bike, saw the sea and felt the freezing cold for the first time, the temperature was a chilled 1 degree. I walked my bike (very carefully!) down the slip way towards the C2C sign. I dipped the rear wheel in the Irish Sea pointing the bike east. After a few issues with sorting the route it was time to ride. I’d been here before and knew at least half of what was ahead…

The last thing I heard before I hit the road was ‘You’ve got this!’ from my amazing wife who’d been up since 3am, helped me prepare and drove me to the other side of the country for my adventure and to wave me off. She’d also be around during the day should I need anything, should the worst happen.

This time I was doing the ride solo, as with my training rides there would be no headphones and no distractions. I felt free, just riding my bike enjoying the views of the mountains ahead (they were a little daunting if I’m honest). I had been told to always ride within yourself, that I focused on. I stayed settled and steady throughout the first part of the plan. The plan was key here! I wasn’t riding 130 miles; I hadn’t ridden 100 miles in over 7 months. I was riding 28 miles to Keswick and going to enjoy it!

That first climb up Whinlatter I could hear my heart beating in my ears, the sun was up and I was starting to get warm, this was it I was really doing it! I heard 2 cyclists behind me chatting away, they breezed past me saying hello (as you always should), as if I was on stationary rollers. They then slowed at the fist ‘steep bit’ and wished me luck on my challenge as we got closer together, this was the only company I’d have during this ride. 

I stopped on the descent and took in the view over Bassenthwaite Lake. I was going to make the most of the amazing blue skies and soak it all in. That was the first ride and climb of the day done. I was feeling positive, I think there may even have been a very small wave of confidence.

My route showed the ride from Keswick to Langwathby (25 miles) as having no major climbs – that was a lie! The climb out of Keswick felt awful. This was when I had my first thought about how much today really was going to hurt. I again stopped for a minute took in the view and thought about what I was doing and why. I hadn’t stopped in Keswick as planned as it was so busy, plus I had already stopped for longer than planned on the descent and was conscious of sticking to plan.

I was back on the road and heading for Penrith, I took a wrong turn on the lanes and ended up following the C2C signs. I‘d looked on street view at nearly every turn on a couple of different routes so I had some idea of what I was looking at and where I was going. I focused on key junctions and things to spot. I’d punished myself into planning to make sure I didn’t fail again. My eyes were darting from sign to sign looking for something I’d seen before. I then saw a point, then a pub and a gate that I’d seen before. I was back on track! The route issue was finally sorted with my Wahoo and all was now good. I’d had issues syncing the route I had planned at Whitehaven.

Then I hit Penrith, the climb out was much worse than I remembered, maybe as I hadn’t stopped this time (this had been a stopping place on attempt 1). I could see people walking down the bank shaking their heads I as tried to pedal up. The climbs were constant. I see the left turn on to more backlanes and I remembered the descent ahead, once you climb for another 10 minutes that is. I think I was close to quitting at this point on the first attempt, I remember talking to one of my friends. As I was heading up this lane he’d asked how I was, and was everything all right as we had to up the pace due to earlier issues (punctures etc) and longer than planned stops. My knee was hurting, the bike felt double the weight and I was already weaving across the road. Today was different, I was bang on plan, the sun was shining and even though that climb had felt way worse, I now felt great. The confidence wave from Whinlatter was starting to swell, this was a big one, not the biggest I felt on the day but it was definitely up there.

I took a breath at the top and had a little snack and smiled to myself, I was really doing this and it was feeling good!

The ride to Langwathby (a place I planned to stop on the village green) was amazing, 4 miles of flowing lanes and descents. I was feeling good and optimistic if not a little nervous of Hartside and those killer climbs to come. I basked in the sun and lay on the village green, I could smell the coffee from the nearby coffee stall which was set up outside the village green. I tucked in to my Greggs sausage rolls and stretched my legs out. I didn’t question myself, I genuinely felt relaxed, I ‘made’ it up Hartside last time and I was feeling better this time. There was no fear, it’s a long climb but I said to myself ‘you’ve just got to keep turning those pedals’. I was happy and set off smiling, I passed a couple of scarecrows if you’ve been this way before you’ll know what I mean. Just as I left Renwick and passed the red sign of doom stating ‘A686 To Alston via Hartside summit altitude 1900ft’. This was a point I remembered from last year, I was in bits back then. I had attempted to stop here and re-charge, I tipped over when trying to get clipped in, I bashed the knee that I had hurt some weeks before. Today I had a plan and stopping there definitely wasn’t a part of it.

The beginning is lots of shorter steeper bits until you round the bend, past the gated house with the barking dogs, is when you see Hartside properly. The memories came flooding back as I seen the house, just after there is a small right bend. I remembered watching my friends ease out the saddle and disappear round the bend whilst I felt like my legs were like lead and the agony as the thudding pain going through my knee with each push of the pedals fired it up my leg. This was one of my lowest points in cycling, I knew I had to push myself but my confidence was shot, I wasn’t good enough I was going to let everyone down. I also knew the weather would be awful up there and they couldn’t wait for me. I was alone and not in a good place. I spun my way round the bends and I eventually made it to the main road.  As I hit the main road I could just see in the distance someone on a bike, so small but I knew I was so far behind. When I hit the top of Hartside I collapsed in joy, flat out on my back on the wet grass and felt amazing. Then the problems hit, as I had took so long the others I was riding with were already very cold and wanting to ride on. The weather was worse than ever and I never got to that savour moment. No time to re charge, a quick drink and it was back on the bike, after a blurry photo with the summit sign it was time to push on. I thought about this a lot this time round (you may have noticed!). Why go back to this? As I said, it’s one of the worst moments I’ve felt on a bike but also one of the best, it held a profound place in my mind.

This time was different, I can do this and would do this! I didn’t feel pressured, the sky was a perfectly blue and it made it much more enjoyable. I took in the view eased back on the pedals and relaxed. I concentrated on my breathing and keeping things steady. I hit the top and god it felt it good! I had planned to stop here for a little bit, taking plenty of snaps of course. That is exactly what I did, I was half way done now with 65 miles in the bag (It had taken 6 hours). There’s a lovely descent into Alston but as I found out the first time and learnt even more this time, it wasn’t all downhill to the finish just yet.

I left on a real high feeling strong and saying to myself this time it’s on. I passed the garage in Alston and again the memories came back, this is when attempt 1 really ended for me. Although I rode for another 20 miles or so I’d given up here. The group split and we agreed an easier route to Stanhope. I made ‘the call’ just after the last climb I was done!

This time round I hit the cobbles and started the climb out of Alston towards Black Hill (the highest part of the C2C) this was something I never thought I’d get up. From the high of Hartside to the low was so dramatic. My right hamstring went tight, the constant spinning was starting to hit. I reached for another honey sachet, this gave me a little perk before I hit the second climb to Nenthead seeing the sign for 17% and my heart sank, my legs felt like jelly but I had to make the top. I was staring at the wahoo waiting to see the left turn for Black Hill, it seemed to take an eternity but I was beginning to settle into a rhythm and my legs were coming back. I see the turn and this time I was taking it! Someone had said this was the hardest part of C2C and this time I was going to find out!!

Making the border crossing

I stopped at the Welcome to Northumberland sign and felt another wave of confidence although this time I felt a hint of nerves about what was ahead. I’d done it, I’d got further than the last time. I zoomed out on the wahoo and checked the climbs ahead, stupidly I said to myself that they didn’t look too bad. Oh how wrong I was… The rolling hills and hairpins out of Allenheads had my legs burning. I got a text off my wife saying she was waiting at Crawleyside, and not to rush…. I actually laughed out loud, don’t bloody rush! Around the next climb I was finally in County Durham the third of the four Counties I’d pass through today. I knew I only had that one tough climb left to do. I was again wrong, the little bump on the wahoo turned out to be an awful climb out of Rookhope!

With a 100 miles in my legs it was time for Crawleyside, just what you want at this point. A 2 mile climb with a 21% gradient in the middle. I’d climbed this one before so approached it with a smile, it was going to be tough but god I couldn’t wait to hit the top. I settled into a nice pedal stroke and again concentrated on my breathing. I rounded the steepest part and the confidence wave at this point became a tsunami, it came over me that quickly It felt amazing. No pressure just pure joy, legs what legs? I couldn’t feel a thing I was so happy. I somehow even bettered the time up this climb, hitting the famous cattlegrid at the top and feeling like Rocky Balboa running up them steps in Philly.

There waiting in the car park was my wife, I don’t know whose smile was bigger. I couldn’t eat at the point; I just couldn’t take in solid food, was it nerves, adrenaline or had I had my fill? I downed a can of Coke, filled my bottles and checked what gels and snacks I left in my bag for the last slog to the beach. I crawled up the last small climb and onto Waskerly Way. I’d left a sticker here some months before on the very weathered C2C sign, I had rode to Parkhead Station that day and placed that sticker thinking, knowing the next time I see that I’d be doing the Coast to Coast. I’d be on the home stretch, it simply said #behappyfornoreason.

The roll to the coast was on, I was now racing the light as the sunset was looming. I had originally planned to undertake this ride in June so light wouldn’t have been an issue. I cut out some of the tracks and used the roads in places to speed things up. I re-joined the tracks just outside of Stanley. I had to ride past the JCB cows at Beamish. This was the first place I had ridden a bike when I got on one in July 2019, a massive 21 miles and I couldn’t walk for 2 days after, but that day the dream of the C2C was born.

A JCB cow at Beamish

There were two diversions well marked by Sustrans, I rounded a bend, went under the motorway bridge and there it was; my first sight of the River Wear and the Spire Bridge. I’d never been so happy to see Sunderland and don’t think I ever will be again. From this point on it’s a bit of blur, the thoughts of failure and disappoint disappearing faster than the light. I raced along the river under the Stadium of Light and saw The Glass Centre. I could smell the sea, I got a text that simply said ‘I’m on the beach x’. My legs all of a sudden went heavy, I freewheeled through the Marina. I hit the beach front seeing the lighthouse. I was here! My wife was waiting by the marked finishing point. I almost crashed as I forgot to unclip, I was so happy to see the finish line all other thoughts left my mind.

What a day!! There was still one last thing to do, keeping with tradition I walked my bike over the beach and dipped the front wheel in the North Sea. If I could bottle what I felt at the moment I’d be a billionaire. There wasn’t one negative thought remaining, I’d done it! Wrongs had been re-written and demons put firmly to bed.

I totally underestimated the power of my mind to push the body further than I ever thought it could. My longest ride in preparation for this ride had only been 80 miles (I’d done 4 weeks of preparation rides, I can’t really call it training), but my approach was so positive that I felt ready. Reality is from the moment I quit last year, my preparation to go again was there. I knew there would be times on the day that I may want to quit, I had been warned about these moments, I’d even had some on previous rides (mainly when climbing for some reason?) and developed my ways of getting over them. I would focus on my breathing, simply smile to myself, thinking of the feeling at the top, focusing on the numbers like heart rate or cadence as a distraction to the pain in the legs and to distract the mind from wanting to give up. Distraction of the mind and remaining positive was the biggest challenge of the day given the length of some of the climbs and the rolling nature of the route.

My adventure was now over. I felt proud not only of the achievement of completing the ride itself, all 130 miles with over 10,000ft of climbing and a riding time of just over 10 hours. The sense of how far I’d come as a person and as a cyclist, the positive mind-set I had developed and challenges I had overcome along the way left me emotional. I drank a beer and raised a silent toast to myself.

That feeling at the end, the indescribable mixture of pride, passion, love, and relief, is now burnt to the forefront of my mind. It will stand as a constant reminder that I can, and I will achieve my goals.

The completed ride – if it isn’t on Strava…

The only question I have left is, what’s next?

Thanks for sharing this Dean and I hope you (the readers) enjoyed the blog, you can find Dean on Instagram @the.smiling.cyclist – go check him out and find out what he’s got planned next after this epic ride!

Guy

#PACE140 – Getting involved

The challenge

Through out March I’ll be cycling 140km (87 miles) every single day.

Why? 140 represents the number of children born every month with cerebal palsy, a lifelong condition that affects children’s mobility, muscle control, posture and balance. I wanted to find a way to celebrate these amazing children and the work that The Pace Centre do to support them through therapy, school and outreach services. Pace help these children fulfil their potential in life and that is something I want to support.

140km will be around 6-7hrs of cycling per day, which I’ll fit around my day job in Housing, my kids and my other commitments. Parents and carers don’t get a break so why should I?

I’ll split my rides up, largely in to two, to help my better manage my day. If you want to get involved in the challenge then you can find out more below!

Get involved and Week 1 Giveaway

I might be cycling everyday, but don’t worry, to take on your own #PACE140 challenge you don’t need to!

All you need to do is come up an activity based around the numbers 1 and 4. Something that suits you and also that challenges you, and then get out and complete it any time between 1 and 30 of March.

This can be as simple as walking or running 4.1 miles, cycling 14km or holding a plank for 1min 40secs. There are no rules really, just challenge yourself, have fun and stick within the government guidelines.

When you’ve completed your challenge, submit it at www.milesforwishes.com/pace140/ and share a picture on social media to be in with a chance to win some goodies. Complete and share your activity in Week 1 to be in with a chance of winning an Action Pack from Kendal Mint Co.

Read the FAQs here if you want to find out more.

Virtual Group Rides

If you’d like to ride with me (virtually for now) then I’ll be organising some Group Rides on Zwift, the virtual cycling app. The first 3 rides for Week 1 of the #PACE140 challenge are as follows;

Thursday 4th – 19:45 (GMT) – 40km / Tempus Fugit

Saturday 6th – 05:00 (GMT) – 140km / Tempus Fugit

Sunday 7th – 19:30 (GMT) – 40km / Tempus Fugit

There are two ways to join me. The easiest is to follow me on Zwift and DM me for an invite, then just join at the ride a few minutes before the start time.

Just search for my profile on Zwift via the Companion App

If you can’t make the start time (5am isn’t for everyone, I get that), then make sure you are already following me and then, when you log in to Zwift you will be able to find me in the ‘Join another Zwifter’ list on the home screen. Select me and hit the ‘Ride with’ button.

The game will automatically place you next to me and until you have a chance to match my speed. This tether effect only last a couple of seconds, so don’t wait too long to start pedalling.

In both cases you can leave the ride as and when suits you, so whether you want to ride 10km, 40km or the whole 140km you can!

Magnesium & Recovery

It doesn’t really mater what kind of athlete you are, casual gym goer or endurance – there’s no getting away from the post workout ache, feeling like you’ve suddenly aged 40 years or the sideways walking up an down the stairs after an intense leg session.

With my #PACE140 challenge underway and the increasing training load as I work towards the Race Across America in 2022, I’m keen to make sure I manage the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) as best I can. I’ll be honest, I’m not the best at always taking time to focus on proper recovery – life is busy and often I’m off the bike straight on to something else.

Prevention

DOMS is not always avoidable, but it can certainly be managed by taking the time to warm up before and cool down after exercise and by ensuring you make gradual increases in the amount of exercise you do, basically not trying to do too much too soon. I love to (try to) include regular 20min yoga sessions in to my week, but any form of static stretching and foam rolling can be a real help to ease and release muscle tension and soreness.

But what else can we do? Surely there must be a short cut to recovering quicker?

Diet

The food we eat has a massive impact on how our bodies respond to exercise. If you’re undertaking any kind of intense session, something of an hour or more then you should eat a snack or a meal after exercise that includes carbohydrates, to replenish lost glycogen stores, and protein, as this will help to repair your damages muscle fibres. Despite what the industry says, it’s not all about protein!

So, to the point of this blog…

Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a critical role in the human body, at a basic level it helps turn the food we eat in to energy.

The NHS gives us an Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of 300mg for men and 270mg for women, per day. However research has shown that endurance athletes may have higher requirements as they produce more energy, use their muscles more, put a greater stress on their bones and sweat more, therefore losing higher amounts of magnesium (through sweat) as they do so.

Back to diet – magnesium is easily obtained through a balanced diet and is rich in certain foods including nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. So we can quite easily get everything we need from our diets, providing we ‘eat the rainbow’.

Supplementing

Supplementing your diet can be necessary or desired, if you are deficient or as mentioned previously where you have additional needs. Magnesium supplements can be found in most supermarkets and specialist retailers, but not all supplements are the same!

Not all supplements are the same, so choose wisely

If you do decide to supplement with magnesium, choose a form that is well absorbed like magnesium citrate, magnesium malate or magnesium glycinate. It’s really important, if you are going to supplement, that you chose well because if they are not absorbed in to your system (their Bioavailability) then they are a great way to waste money! I use the supplements from Reflex Nutrition because they have 80% bioavailability and use chelated minerals, both of which mean your body is taking in more of the nutrients from the tablet. If it’s not bioavailable, your not getting the benefit!

The second important point on supplementing is to know how much you are taking. The NHS (in the UK) and nutritionists suggest you should avoid taking any more than 400mg of magnesium per day (remembering to consider both your dietary intake as well as supplements) as over supplementing could result in some undesirable consequences, think loose stools or short term diarrhoea which are not exactly an athletes best friend.

Absorption through the skin

If you experience muscle soreness after exercise and find it hard to recover quickly enough, it may be worth trying a form of magnesium that can apply directly to the affected areas, like your legs, as it is quickly absorbed through the skin.

There’s plenty of options in the market, from creams to sprays – I’ve used a Magnesium Oil Spray from Holland & Barrett before. This is essentially a pure, supersatured form of magnesium which you spray on to wet or dry skin and massage in. This can produce a tingly effect on the skin, but can be highly effective in quickly boosting mineral levels.

Magnesium can also be found in shower gels and bath salts too, meaning you start the recovery process straight off the bike or after a run or gym session. I’ve used the Body Recovery Shower Gel from FitKit (https://www.fitkitbodycare.com/product-page/body-recovery-shower-gel) before (as well as the others in the range) and found it to be excellent, it’s a super easy way to start the recovery process, massaging the gel in to your legs and shoulders while showering. FitKit is also British made, vegan friendly and cruelty free all of which make it a great choice irrespective of the benefits to your exercise regime.

In summary

In summary, magnesium is a nutrient that you need to be aware of as an endurance athlete and to support your recovery. Of course, it is just one piece of a wider puzzle of recovery and general health & fitness.

Share your recovery tips below, I’d love to hear what you use or do to keep your body going!

Commission

Let’s talk about commission and making money through ‘influencing’.

I’m lucky enough to be able to work with some incredible UK brands, as part of my Road to RAAM, and some of those brands pay me a small commission when you use my link or discount code.

I don’t do any of this for personal gain (and I’m certainly not criticising anyone that does) – each of the brands I work with support my goal of qualifying and then racing in the Race Across America in 2022. They are brands I’ve used through out this journey – they make high quality products that I use, trust and would have no hesitation in recommending to you. I pick my partnerships carefully and I’ve always pitched them as being mutually beneficial relationships for the partner and I. Nearly everything I use I pay for and some I am lucky enough to get either discounted or for free.

Find out who I work with here.

At the start of this journey, I said I would be honest about my relationships and commission. Not just that, but that I would declare how much commission I earn annually and that I would pledge to donate this to my chosen Charities – Pace and Action4Youth.

The reality is that I don’t earn a lot of commission. I don’t want my feed to be about selling and therefore detracting from the journey and the why, so I try to find a balance between talking honestly about the products and showing you how I use them in my races and challenges. Maybe that doesn’t drive a lot of sales, I don’t know. Anyway, in 20201 I have been paid £45.66 in commission payments.

Since September 2020, when I announced that I’d chosen Pace and ActionYouth as my Charities for my Road to RAAM ’22, you’ve helped me to raise around £590 – I am so very grateful for your support.

Gofundme take a small fee from the money we fundraise, so the actual amount we’ve raised is £567.36. I will add in the £45 commission and I’ll top this up to make sure we end the year on a round figure of £650 (that’s £325 for each Charity so far).

Covid has made life tough in different ways for all of us and that is why fundraising for causes that are close to our hearts is arguably more important than ever – but that’s not easy when people are worried about their jobs and the future. So, I am humbled that you continue to be so generous and support me the way you do – so I just want to say a heartfelt thank you.

www.gofundme.com/guyroadtoraam

If you can’t support me through a donation, why not speak to me about the products I use and give them a try, because your purchases make sure a little extra goes to helping these amazing Charities support children and you adults across Buckinghamshire reach their potential in life.


…and now a shameless plug for my sponsors and affiliate links;

vWTTC 24hr on FulGaz

In my pursuit to qualify for the world’s toughest bicycle race – the 3,000 mile Race Across America – I took on the 24hr virtual World Time Trial Championships on the 16th & 17th of January. Thanks to Covid, the event normally held on an 18 mile flat course in Borrego Springs, California, was being held virtually on the app FulGaz.

400 miles was the target, all I needed to do was to get out (in) and push myself to ride the furthest I’d ever done in a single ride.

Race preparations

I wasn’t sure how the start of the race would play out for me – you sort of get used to starting races in the morning, but because the vWTTC is a US event the time difference meant that in the UK we’d be kicking off at 5pm on the Saturday.

My prep has become pretty much routine now, a big bowl of Power Porridge (courtesy of the Cycling Chef), a mix of oats, caoco powder, peanut butter, chia seeds and chopped nuts. I normally eat this with an electrolyte drink about 90 minutes before the start…the kids couldn’t believe I finished it.

The race

I’ve discussed this before, while I called this part of the blog the race – because it is – these challenges aren’t really about racing the other guys and girls on the course. I had one goal in mind, getting over the 400mi distance required to qualify for RAAM, placing on a leaderboard is a very secondary thought for me and only something I tend to worry about in the last quarter of the race. With more experience behind me (so I am actually in any way competitive) I guess I might start to think differently.

The ride countdown ticked down and on 00:00:00 (or 5pm) we were off down the dusty California road. My plan was to ride somewhere on the cusp between Zone 1 and 2, around 2w/kg, so I could just tap out the mileage. That said, I wanted to try and get a good, strong 6-12hrs ridden while I still felt fresh and hopefully awake, so I pushed a fraction harder off the start. 

I thought I went out strong, but seeing some of the numbers being pumped out by the front guys – riding at or above 3w/kg – I was frankly amazed. I guess this is one of the differences with this kind of virtual event, its harder to get sucked out of your own game plan, feeling the need to keep up or chase someone down.

I rode the first 3 laps at around 55mins each, averaging between 18 and 19mph, feeling good and strong. I’ve found the first 6hrs is where you ride in to these kind of events, settling the nerves and bedding in to your rhythm. It helped that Matt, who was also riding the 24hrs, and I could chat as we rode using Discord. We were joined for an hour by a friend and fellow Spokes athlete Stewart, who rode around the course (in sympathy). These early chats are a good way to keep the first few hours light and hopefully pass quicker.

8hrs and a 1/3 of the time ridden, I had no idea where I was on the track but the inevitable slump starting but I was trying to keep my focus on the halfway mark. The challenge with indoors, the miles and the hours tick by but often nothing changes – I’d watched 3089 Miles Across America (a documentary about RAAM) and Terminator Salvation and had some music on.

I popped my first Pro Plus around 12 – 1am, which was earlier than I had hoped – even Matt was surprised when I shared that fact with him a bit later – but in my mind I was preparing early in order to minimise any crashes like I had at vRevolve24.

I was feeling generally, pretty sick by this point, my stomach hurt and I just didn’t feel like eating even though I knew I needed to. I’d bought a couple of bottles of Chocolate breakfast drinks and spent the next few hours sipping them slowly. It did the trick, I was just left wishing I’d bought more!

You think going over the halfway mark makes it all that much easier, because now every pedal stroke takes you closer to the finish than the start. I’ll admit, I was struggling, I was tired and my left foot was on fire. 5am arrived and I pushed on to finish the current lap before jumping off the bike and changed my bib shorts (my go to are the dhb Aeron Ultra bib shorts because the pad is excellent and their are lightweight) and socks,. I just wanted to feel as fresh as I could and avoid too much salt build up and the risk of chaffing. A quick application of Veloskin chamois cream on the clean pad and a refill of a few bottles (a challenge with riding solo, having to do all the support work myself) and I was good to go again.

A few of my social media followers began to question my sanity, noting that the pictures I was sharing had my bib shorts on the wrong way. I was developing a hot spot on my bum and double shorting (a pairs, worn inside out over the top of the normal pair) was a trick I’d been told about. I did this for a couple of hours just to try and take some weight off that area for a while. Looking after the race, my saddle had turned slightly – another thing I need to remember to check pre race.

Figured I’d try and push harder for the final two hours, so off I set – using the map and my fellow riders positions as motivation. I began pushing, back up to the pace I had at the start of the race, chasing people down and pushing harder on what little elevation there was. I managed a lap and a half before I realised my mistake…in my haze of tiredness what I though was two hours left was actually three. Idiot.

I always try to manage a smile, not matter how much I’m hurting

We were finally in to the last stages of the race, a battle between head and legs to just keep the pedals turning. I was hammering it as best I could with the very welcome distraction of chatting to Tom (who was riding the 6hr), Matt and Pav (who now coaches all three of us) as we rode through the afternoon. It was nice because we talked about what we were going to do when the race was over – for me, it was a beer and a takeaway and so to keep myself motivated for that reward I jumped on the JustEat app and ordered it to arrive after the finish.

5pm and 24 long hours later and we were done. That was physically and mentally so much harder than vRevolve24. The flat course gave you no respite, that and pushing to get over 400 miles had all taken it’s toll. I was done!

Fueling to endure

Endurance rides, anything over three hours you should be looking to take in a minimum of 60g of carbohydrates per hour – the key is little and often. Why, because you can keep topping up those glycogen stores without overloading your stomach, affecting digestion and causing unwanted gastric issues.

My diet and fuelling has been a huge part of my learning and every ride is different at the moment. I suffered during the vWTTC’s – my stomach was sore, eating became painful and I was struggling at points to stave off bonking.

I make a habit of keeping wrappers and packaging after an event, so I can check what I’ve eaten and if overall I was hitting the required intake. From the devastation, I’m estimating I took in between 750g and 800g of carbohydrates during the 24hr event, through a mix of food and fluids. Now, based on the guide intake from earlier, that’s really a little over half of where I should have been pitching. This is something I need to keep working on.

After the party comes the clean up operation

I try and mix homemade with pre-packaged products and get a good balance between sweet and savoury if I can, I find it works well most of the time. For the vWTTC I was eating;

  • Homemade Egg & Rice soufflés, Chia Seed Flapjacks and Pizza Rolls (I’ve found the book Feedzone Portables to be an excellent resource for easy to make, on-bike food).
  • I tend to buy products that are as natural and have as few ingredients in as possible, KMC are a great choice because its high carb and packed with electrolytes too,
  • Sweets – now I don’t advocate fuelling adventures on sweets, my go to Jelly Babies serve two useful purposes. 6 babies will give you the same carbohydrate hit as a Gel and allow you to spread out the intake, avoiding any sugar spikes, but also, mentally they are a treat and when you are in a dark place a treat is a good thing.

For drinks I tend to stick to a mix of water and KMC Iso Mix as my main source of carbohydrates and electrolytes, alternating between the two. I really like the KMC products, it tastes good and its natural and kind to my stomach, which I need.

Early in to the event, normally around 10-12hrs I will have some Green Tea (from Mission) – it’s gentle on the stomach and gives a more sustained (albeit lower) caffeine boost than coffee. If I need coffee, which I did in this event, I’ve found using cold brew cans to be a convenient choice – I can drink it straight or empty it in to a bidon with a splash of oat milk.

The results

As it stands I believe I rode 405mi which is over the RAAM Qualifying distance, I’m just waiting for official word now – keep your fingers crossed.

If you’d like to support me and the two amazing Charities I’m fundraising for, you can donate using the link below. Alternatively, some of my partners pay me a small commission – all of which I declare and donate annually – so any purchases you make using my links and codes goes towards the fundraising total.

www.gofundme.com/guyroadtoraam


Second half of 2020 – year in review

Well, there we have it…finally 2020 is done and we are underway with our 2021 journey, full of hope for a better and brighter year. Ahead of my first event of the 2021- the vWTTC 24hr – I wanted to recap the second half of 2020, much like I did in July for the first half of it. You can read that first part here.

2020 has been tough for all of us, but maybe if we take the time to reflect we’ll see it hasn’t all been bad?


JULY

Deflated from how vRAW had ended July saw a return to riding on the 1st of the month and a gradual start back to formal training for future challenges. On a personal note I tried Stand Up Paddle boarding for the first time – loved it, if cycling wasn’t such an expensive hobby I could get in to this.

I managed to get in a few 100km night rides over the course of July, while the weather was nice. I’m a big believer in the need to train outside of your normal hours, to get used to riding at night and when fatigued, especially if you want to be a good endurance racer. Short rides, but I made the effort to push myself a little bit and get out places I wouldn’t normally see at night. I’m sure you’ll agree, Oxford is stunning anyway but at night it’s something else.

The end of the month saw some welcomed downtime (and sun) on a family holiday to Norfolk – nothing like recharging the batteries.

Beautiful beaches, sun and I even managed a few runs while I was there

AUGUST

Holidays over, it was time to crack on with the training and build up to a big end of year push. On the 14th I made for Everest base camp – ok not the real one, a virtual ride with an elevation of 4,424 metres which is half the height of Everest. For anyone considering an Everesting, taking on a few laps on the Alpe is a great way to test yourself and prepare in the comfort of your own home / pain cave.

From the mountains it was back to the real roads of the UK and a DIY Audax. Cancelled from July, I set out to ride this event myself and not lose the training and learning opportunity. The goal was to ride the 550 miles from London to Land’s End and back to London in just under 4 days. Day 1, I set off at 8pm Sunday night from home and rode through the night and Monday to get to St Austell in Cornwall. Riding this solo was tough, but once I’d got through the night to Taunton and breakfast, I knew I could make it. Day 2 was something else entirely, overnight Storm Alex hit the UK and made progress challenging – it was easily the worst conditions I’ve ever ridden in for the strength of the wind and the sheer volume of rain water. From Land’s End the intention was to loop back to Exeter, but by 6pm I was 50 or so short of the hotel and completely shattered. I hoped on a train for the last part, hoping to recover some strength for the final 170 miles back home. Day 3 was a different day again, brighter with only a slight headwind. I think the prospect of heading towards home always makes the last bit easier. I was home in the last of the daylight with a beer in hand and a smile on my face. While I skipped a bit, I was extremely happy with how the challenge went, I rode my single longest day as well as pushing myself mentally and physically harder than I ever had.


SEPTEMBER

September was to be Everesting Month – an attempt to tick off 4 of the ways in which you can Everest – Virtual, Everesting, Everesting 10k and Everesting 10k Roam.

First up was the virtual Everesting of the Alpe de Zwift. Having completed the base camp previously I had a really good plan for riding this, knowing the fuel and time required to complete it. 8.5 reps of the hill took me just over 16hrs and 130 miles to complete…this was however, nothing compared to what would come next.

The next Friday I set off for Whiteleaf Hill in Buckinghamshire to complete a real life Everesting – 70 ascents of the hill would be required. Sadly on ascent 18 or 19 my rear derailleur hanger snapped, spinning up and taking a chunk out of the seat stay. With no option to repair, we reluctantly called it a day and headed off to get some breakfast. With a new bike in the pipeline, makeshift repairs were needed – without a hanger I removed it and shortened the chain so it sat on the smallest gear ratio. So a week later, on the 25th, with one gear (and the inability to stand-up, because doing so would cause the chain to come off) I set off and completed the 70 repeats in a fraction under 20hrs to achieve the required 8,848 meters of elevation. The chain was a constant source of frustration but it wouldn’t have been the challenge it was without it.


OCTOBER

A week after Everesting came the next challenge, an Everesting 10k Roam – 10,000 meters of elevation and a minimum distance of 400km. I based myself in Minehead to take in the best of the hills in and around North Devon. This was however a challenge that did not go to plan – after just 112km and nearly and 2,000m of climbing – I stopped the challenge. I was burnt out, I’d gone out too hard and that combined with the atrocious weather I had very little left in the legs. No excuses, just another humbling learning experience.

Picking myself up again, once home, was hard – all the confidence from LDN-LE-LDN had gone. However, having the all new Zwift Racing League starting provided a welcome distraction. Spokes Racing Team was born and our two teams began racing with thousands of other racers from across the world. I’m not a racer by nature, I don’t have that short range power, but boy was it fun. Racing is tough on Zwift, it’s max effort for the first 5 mins before the bunch calm and then it’s hanging on to what you’ve got left. On the plus I got some decent results and saw my FTP increase week on week.


NOVEMBER

November brought an early Christmas with many welcoming the distraction from the ever present virus and impending tighter restrictions on movement.

My early Christmas present would be qualification for RAAM through the first virtual Revolve24. To qualify I’d need to ride 600km over the 24hr race, which was hosted on FulGaz across 6 iconic motor circuits. While I was agonisingly close – just 15km short of the target – I finished 4th and with a feeling of rare satisfaction. No the primary goal was achieved but I learnt a lot and gained a lot of confidence in my abilities as an ultra distance cyclist. A week off beckoned as reward for my efforts.

At the end of November we kicked off the Spokes Monday Social Spin on FulGaz – a platform I was becoming to know well and love. These rides are open to all and I host a 45min recovery ride where we chat with a special guest about all things cycling, training, nutrition and mental health. Why not come and join us one week? So far we’ve discussed goal setting, the importance of being lazy and kit for performance and selfishly I’ve been able to hear from rider Het, a RAAM veteran who’s been sharing his knowledge and experiences.


DECEMBER

December carried a lot of hope – hope of spending time with our families and hope of a better year to come.

I rode my first outdoor century in what felt like a very long time in December, as part of the Restrap Winter Solstice Century challenge. I plotted a route down towards Reading and then looping back through Abingdon and Oxford to home. I like to make the most of these challenges, by trying to plot my route with roads I’ve not ridden before, to keep it interesting and to help me explore more of where I live. I spotted Anthony Gormley’s Another Time II while I was in Oxford, a nice surprise as, as many times as I’ve been there I’ve not seen it before.

Anthony Gormley’s Another Time II watching over Oxford

On the 20th I joined team dhb for a very different type of virtual event – CrankedUp – which billed as a party in your pain cave. The team of 4 of us each put in a 90min stint over the course of the event, I was up after Brand Manager Rob, who stayed on and we had good chat while we listened to the music. A well put together event and I know they’ve got more planned, so expect it to get bigger and better from here!!

The second challenge of the month and a big one to end the year on was the annual Rapha Festive500 – a challenge to keep you riding (ideally outdoors) between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. I made a decent start with a 125km turbo session on Christmas eve, dressed as Santa no less. However, it never really got going after that. The new lockdown rules in the UK took a toll on my mental health, I felt like the Santa suit might help lift my mood and help carry me through. But, sadly it did not. I lacked the motivation or desire to get out and do the longer rides and I was happy to let the challenge go and not beat myself up about it.


What’s my takeaway from 2020?

A tough year in so many ways, personally and on the bike. Specifically on the bike though, with a little creativity lockdown and a lack of formal events doesn’t have to be the ‘end of your season’. I’ve still managed to take on some incredible challenges, ride over double the distance i did in 2019 and raised over £1,000 for Charity. For me, that’s a win.

Virtual World Time Trial Championships

In my pursuit to qualify for the world’s toughest bicycle race – the 3,000 mile Race Across America – I’ll be taking on the 24hr virtual World Time Trial Championships on the 16th & 17th of January.

What is it?

The 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championships (WTTC) are held every November in Borrego Springs, a quiet Southern California resort community.  Racers from around the world gather to determine who is the fastest in the world, to set personal records, and to spend time with friends in the bicycle racing community.

The course is flat and fast, featuring a main loop of 18.0 miles with 347’ of elevation change and a finishing loop of 4.8 miles with 63’ of elevation change. The riders set out to complete many miles as possible in 6, 12 or 24 hours.

Now, you’ll notice it’s neither November nor am I travelling to California, so how am I riding the WTTC?

Covid has pushed this event, like many others, to be hosted virtually and the team at FulGaz are once again taking on the mammoth task of hosting a 24hr challenge. The course has been filmed, so we’ll be riding around the 18 mile loop just from the relative comfort of our own homes.

What do I need to do?

Much like the vRevolve24 last year, I’ll be hoping to qualify for the Race Across America with this event. To qualify I’ll need to cycle over 400 miles (643km) in the 24hr period.

The event starts at 17:00pm GMT Saturday and runs through to Sunday 17:00pm. I’ll share Leaderboard links when they are published, so you can see how I’m getting on over the course of the weekend.

Can I do it?

At the end of the 24hr vRevolve event I’d cycled 363 miles (585km), which was an agonising 15km short of the qualifying distance. This event requires a further 37 miles on top of what I achieved there, so yes “can I do it” it would be a fair question to ask.

What’s different? As I said above Borrego Springs is a flat, lapped course. vRevovle had a significant amount of elevation gain and comprised laps of 6 different courses, which added a few minutes to switch from one to the next.

I learnt a lot from vRevolve so I hope to bring that in to this event – I have confidence in my training (thanks to Coach Pav Bryan at Spokes), my kit (from dhb) and nutrition (I use KMC and Reflex among others). I know what I’ve got to do to meet this challenge.

Donate

While this is my goal, my dream I want it to mean something. So I suffer so someone else doesn’t have to – these challenges are all to raise money and awareness for two amazing Charities here in Aylesbury. I hope to raise at least £2,022 for each organisation on my Road to RAAM in 2022;

The Pace Centre is a ground-breaking children’s charity that transforms the lives of children and young people with motor disorders, such as cerebral palsy.

Action4Youth is a youth charity providing positive and transformational experiences, activities, programmes and courses which help and inspire young people.

www.gofundme.com/guyroadtoraam


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