Mersey Roads 24 hour TT - 21-22 July 2012

Discussion in 'Sportives' started by frank9755, 18 Aug 2012.

  1. frank9755

    frank9755 Cyclist

    Location:
    West London
    “You can stop now” said the timekeeper at the top of the hill. Although I could not have believed it two hours previously, I actually didn’t want to. I’d just had my best hour and a half of the whole 24, tearing round the hilly lanes of the finishing circuit in the sunshine, storming up the climbs, overtaking lots of the faster riders and trying to pass 390 miles before I ran out of time.

    I’d started, a day earlier, hoping for a longer distance. Based on my time in the National 100 on the same roads two weeks before, I thought that I should be aiming for 420-430 as a good but achievable result. I would be happy with 400 but disappointed with less than 600km / 375 miles. Some distractions the previous week had meant that my planning and preparation had suffered and several things combined to leave me chasing the lower targets.
    At the start
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    My clubmate, Roly - who managed 425 miles when he did a 24 a good few years ago - had kindly offered to help me and we drove up on the Saturday morning. We drove most of the course and identified good places where he could wait for me and then went to the HQ. There was a great atmosphere; lots of camper vans with many people having stayed there the night before. I signed on, wandered round and caught up with a few friends who were riding but time was slightly tight so I didn’t test the bike before riding to the start.

    When I set off I was dismayed to hear a rattling from my front wheel. It sounded like the hub was dying, but there was no time to change it and Roly drove off to be able to give me a swap a few miles down the road. I started and the bike felt ok – but very noisy.
    The ride out to the main circuits had a few climbs and some headwind so I pushed fairly hard to average just 18-19mph in the initial stages. But with my spare front wheel in, things were quieter and I found a rhythm.

    The 24 course has its finishing circuit up by the HQ but most of the action takes place 15 miles further south where there are two circuits – a flat, part-DC 40-mile out and back to the outskirts of Telford and a rolling 12-mile country lane loop with a fair old hill on it and which reminded me of the Fifield circuit – which meet at Prees Island, a large roundabout which has cafes and car parks and is the main hub for spectators.

    I started with a couple of rounds of the big circuit. Keeping the pressure on, my average speed gradually ratcheted up to 20mph – which was a bit higher than my schedule. There was a comedy moment when, at my first drink stop, I picked up a frozen bottle which I’d put in the cool box in lieu of an ice pack – but not said that I wasn’t intending to drink it - or lick it, for that matter, as I realised before I’d gone a hundred yards that it was frozen solid!

    I then noticed my bike wasn’t handling well on the corners and felt the front rim grounding through the tyre when I stood up on a climb. The tyre was obviously going soft. Luckily, Roly had managed to fix my best front wheel (not the hub, only a rattling valve), and he gave me it to swap back when I next passed – but with another bottle of ice!

    But eventually the drinks and the food hand-ups started working. I enjoyed my time on the main circuit and was almost at 100 miles when I got moved over for five laps of the small, hillier one. For some reason, I became a bit too attached to getting to 100 miles in five hours, which I did, but immediately suffered from pushing too hard and my speed dropped on my first circuit.
    On the road, stopping to pick up a drink
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    About this time, I realised that I hadn’t worked out when, and how much, to eat and to drink. I was conscious that I was probably overdoing it, but just wasn’t sure.

    One thing that did work well was carrying a phone. When I then got switched back to the main circuit for the night, I was able to call Roly – who was expecting me elsewhere, so that he could join me.

    Back on the main circuit for the night section, my average speed notched back up to begin with. My second hundred took about five and a half hours but, as night fell, I found myself slowing. Partly this was because I realised that I had over-drunk as I had to stop to pee not fewer a dozen times through night.

    I was pleased to get to 220 at 12 hours and thought that, if I could get some speed back, 400 might still be on. I've done a lot of night riding so I had expected things to be hard. Discussing it with people beforehand I had said that I was expecting to have a few hours where I was plodding along at 15mph. But it was tougher than I had bargained for. I found myself down to 12-14 miles per hour for much of the night and by dawn – around 3am – it felt out of reach.

    At this point I was starting to think abandoning thoughts. One thing that inspired me at that point was to think about friends and what they would do, would they give up? There was only one answer to the question: 'no!', and it helped me to keep going. But at the next pass, I stopped at the car and, with perfect timing, Roly handed me a plate of sausage and baked beans! That gave me further encouragement and I set off again, going faster in the daylight. But I was tired and almost nodded off at one point on my next circuit, but a bottle full of strong coffee did the trick.
    Back on the bike after early morning coffee
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    My third hundred through night had taken just over seven and a half hours, leaving me with a shade under six hours to do a fourth one. I was now going well and it felt as if I could almost manage that, but not quite. For several hours, I kept running the calculations over in my head, based on my speed and time, and I kept getting to 398 or 399, never 400.

    After a couple more laps of the smaller circuit, I was waved on to the finishing circuit. My heart sank as, while I’d not driven the finishing circuit, I knew it was hilly. Also I was fearful of the ride over, having found it hard on the way out. But the wind had got up and it was behind me! Being blown up the hills, I averaged over 20 mph on this stretch so that when I reached the finishing circuit, for the first time in 10 hours, 400 miles was back on.

    But not to be! Once on the finishing circuit I ate something that was a bit too spicy and started to feel sick. And to compound matters, I realised that it had become a warm day and I was still wearing my overnight layers and was too hot. With two and a half hours to go, I was down to plodding along at 10 mph.

    It did strike me that the twisting, hilly lanes of the finishing circuit were the sort of roads that would be fun to ride around when feeling good but, feeling as I was, I was unable to get the phrase ‘This is Purgatory!’ out of my head. I expect I shouted it out loud a few times within earshot of bemused marshalls.

    After an hour of this, I got rid of the layers, stopped feeling sick, and really enjoyed the chance to tear into my revised target of 390 which, after a bit of searching for missing laps, I managed to exceed by almost a mile.

    As I reflected on it over the following few days, I felt that the atmosphere of the event, with people cheering through the night at Prees Island and other roundabouts on the course, the chance to catch up with many cycling friends, even if just via a series of waves across the road, more than made the hard times worthwhile.

    One question that a couple of people asked afterwards was how it compared in difficulty to long audax rides. The 24-hour is ridden by many audax riders, qualifies for audax points and was the original UK audax event - being deemed the only ride suitable to be a PBP qualifier. Obviously, it depends how hard you pedal. But, for me, I have to say that I didn't find it as hard, mostly due to the amount of climbing involved. 600km audaxes, such as Bryan Chapman and Kernow & South-West, have around 8,500 metres of climbing, while my 24 had about 2,000, and that made a big difference both in the amount of power left in my legs at the end and in wear on contact points: saddle sores, numb hands and sore feet.

    Still standing at the end: maybe I'd not tried hard enough!
    DSC07425+(1024x768).jpg
    Finally, many thanks to Roly for coming along. He must have used up as much energy as I did running around and cycling back and forward across the course. Throughout, he was a source of enthusiasm, encouragement and inspiration! Thanks also for the pictures.


    What went well
    1. The bike. My Cannondale is very comfortable, and with the bars set high, was a pleasure to ride for 24 hours. No back or shoulder pain.
    2. Course preparation. Doing the National 100 over much of the same roads two weeks before gave me a big boost as I knew most of the course and could picture it in my head to aid mental preparation. I would have been far more apprehensive had I not done this
    3. Coffee. Getting a bottle of strong coffee in the morning banished the sleepy feeling. Having given up caffeine for a fortnight beforehand made it more effective. Perhaps if I’d thought to have some a bit earlier in the night I might have speeded up a bit sooner.
    What could have gone better
    1. Eating and drinking: I simply hadn’t thought it through beforehand. Ate the wrong things and drank too much.
    2. Bike preparation. I didn’t test my bike when I got there, hence did not pick up the front wheel problem. One of my rear light brackets wasn’t tested, and it didn’t stay in place. I had a solution for powering my Garmin but hadn’t tested it and it didn’t work as I hoped, so I lost my computer after 17 hours.
    3. Pacing. I’d worked out a schedule, but then ignored it when I found myself going well to begin with and pushed on too hard. Would I have had more to give during the night if I’d held back a bit on the first afternoon?

    Someone else who had given it everything, crashed out after finishing
    DSC07426+(1024x768).jpg
     
    ColinJ and palinurus like this.
  2. palinurus

    palinurus Legendary Member

    Location:
    Watford
    Someone from my club rode it and the helpers were posting updates during the event- I was more interested in those than following the Tour.

    Thanks for the report.
     
  3. Ian H

    Ian H Ancient randonneur

    Location:
    East Devon
    Results booklet arrived in the post today. Nice to see I got a 30th placing out of 81 finishers, and that no one older than me got more miles.
     
    ColinJ likes this.
  4. ianrauk

    ianrauk Tattooed Beat Messiah

    Location:
    Atop a Ti
    As always Frank great writing and a great effort. I am in awe Sir.
     
  5. fossyant

    fossyant Ride It Like You Stole It!

    Location:
    South Manchester
    Well done. Nothing I've ever contemplated - had a club mate do it before, and it was very hard for those that supported him. Not for me I am afraid !!! Nut case you are ! :tongue:

    Congrats.
     
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