Thursday 31 December 2009

Into the Dark Valley

What does someone do after achieving the awesome goal of the South Downs Double? It took a while for the reality of the achievement to sink in and the realisation that I had accomplished something so magnificent. I was never good at sport when I was young, and only took up cycling 7 years ago. This makes it all the more remarkable.

When you reach the peak of a mountain, the usual way back is down. Some people walk down while others jump off, I tumbled into a valley that was so deep I wondered how I would ever be able to climb back up to ground level. Everything went downhill from my physical fitness to my health and my emotional state. At the end of October, I seriously doubted whether I would be able to race at all in 2010.

In late July the South Downs Way beckoned again for the second BHF ride. It was only one way and just 100 miles, I didn’t really prepare for it and sailed along the first 50 miles with ease. The next 50 miles were more difficult. Repairing a second puncture and having to mix my own drinks caused delays in the sweltering heat. The sun blazed down on the white chalk and I had no support crew to hand out my sunglasses. Finishing the ride in a reasonable time, I was able to recover relatively quickly.

The next race on the calendar was the Brighton Big Dog. To cut a long story short, I was all syked up for a great race, fighting off most of the other 300 riders on the start line making excellent progress on the first lap. Part way round the course laid a wasp’s nest. At some stage it got disturbed where a swarm of angry bullets attacked anything or anyone in sight. I was one of the many casualties getting stung 3 times with one strike to the head. Knowing I react badly to stings, I completed the lap, arriving 5th in my category, and headed for the medical tent. The paramedics were brilliant with a doctor on site who injected me with piriton to reduce the swelling. Half of my face ballooned up creating a numbness that was both physical and mental. It was game over for me as I resided on the side lines watching the other riders go by. One of the advantages of not riding was that I could meet some of the other South Downs Doublers and introduce myself as the outsider who has entered their elite arena.

In early September a glass cereal jar shattered in my right hand, cutting deeply into the base of my thumb and forefinger. Gripping the handlebars was difficult if not risky as it could open up the wounds. Two weeks were therefore spent off the bike.

With my fitness depleting and recovering from a cold, I muster my energy for the MaXx Exposure night ride along the SDW. Passing a few words with Rory Hitchens (Exposure Lights) and meeting Matt Page (Wiggle) were the highlights of the weekend. The first two hours of the ride went well making excellent progress. Then disaster stuck and my stomach felt as though it had been opened up and hung out to dry. I felt very sick and very weak. Mustering on a bit further, I then paused for a break to see if the situation improved. The eerie silence in the pitch dark on the top of the hill with no one around, provided no sympathy for my situation. I push on a bit, and then I puncture. It takes a very long 15 minutes to change the tube were I barely have the energy to inflate the tyre. Descending to Saddlescombe, I grab some water from a tap (it pays to know where the taps are on the SDW). A few moments later I was sick but nothing came out. This made all the difference as now I had the energy to move on. Overtaking riders, I reach Truleigh Hill for the second check point. Despite feeling better, I’d made my decision to bail out grabbing a lift back to the QE2 Park.

Arriving at the QE2 Park, it was really cold (5) where I grabbed some sleep in the car. In the morning I collected my bike to return home. Frustratingly I forgot to collect my Mid-Point bag. The bag was not recovered were I lost the Specialized top I'd printed for my South Downs Double ride and the battery pack for my lights, amongst other odds & ends.

This is where I hit rock bottom. The success of the Double had evaporated, subsequent races were disasters, I’d lost some kit, work was really boring, and my left arm was in a sling with a frozen shoulder so I couldn’t ride.
Gradually over the summer, extreme movements in my left shoulder became more restricted. I think this was triggered by a fall many months ago where the joint was aggravated. Moving the arm caused it to inflame internally, resting it created adhesions. I could no longer reach my back left pocket on my cycling jersey and my rucksack had to go on my left arm first. I underwent an operation at the end of October to release the frozen shoulder.

The operation was a complete success where I felt as though I had reached and crossed the river at the bottom of the valley. I now had the steady climb on the other side to conquer the crest of the next mountain where ever it may be. My left arm was so weak it could not hold its own weight when outstretched. Derren, my Physioterrorist put me through immense pain that really helped me gain the full range of movement back into my left arm. Extensive exercises progressively built up its strength to attain my target of 20 press-ups by Christmas day.

Tuesday 30 June 2009

The Big Day - The South Downs Double

The plan was to set out on the Friday evening from Eastbourne, ride 100 miles through the night to Winchester, then use the motivation from the BHF Randonnee riders to help me back to Eastbourne. The few other Doublers started from Winchester, where several have done it Alpine style (unsupported). My admiration goes to those who can ride for hours on end, self motivated and self supported. I needed all the help I could get from my support crew.

At 6pm on Friday 26th June 2009, I set off from Paradise Drive in Eastbourne. Taking the 350 foot climb during the first mile carefully, I looked out towards the downs. The day had finally arrived where I was hoping that all my training and planning would pay off.

On the top of the downs there was quite a head wind. Reaching Firle, I received my first and only puncture. With a quick change of the tube I was soon on my way.

The descent to Pycombe was fast and enjoyable where I reached the A23 ahead of schedule. Here was my first longer stop after 30 miles where I tucked into a tub of pasta and the crew sorted out the night riding gear. Rory Hitchens from Exposure Lights came to meet us and it was a real boost to have his support. The climb up to Devil’s Dyke paled into insignificance compared to the fantastic sunset around me.

Climbing up to Steyning Bowl in the dark there is a large field to cross. I saw what I thought was a tractor with lights about 500 metres away. I also heard some gunshots. It turned out to be a 4x4 with flood lights shooting at anything that moved. They came within 100 metres aiming their search light right at me. I glared back at them with my Joystick head torch and fortunately they moved on.

Catching up with my support crew I then headed up to Chanctonbury Ring. The mist was really thick here with visibility down to just 20 metres. Suddenly I saw a whole series of small white lights in front of me. Getting closer, it was a flock of sheep with my bright lights reflecting off their eyes. Making appropriate noises they quickly scarpered so I could continue along the trail. The Exposure Lights were fantastic, anything less would have made it very difficult.

At Washington, Neil Newell (South Downs Doubler) caught up with the support crew and me. He kindly rode with me for a few miles, which was quite comforting given the previous two incidents.

At Glatting Beacon the trail runs along the edge of a field where a number of sheep were grazing. Verbally announcing my arrival the few sheep with the brain cells moved to the centre of the field, where some others started running away from me along the trail. They carried on running for a while where I was slowly catching them up. All of a sudden they turned and charged straight towards me! I let out an almighty ‘Roar’ as they crashed into my bike with quite some force. Somehow I managed to stay upright and sped off checking that I was not being followed. I was certainly glad to leave that field.

The climb up from Cocking was tedious. Visibility due to the mist was around 10 metres and the climb is long and uneven. My target here was Harting as I knew the hills afterwards got easier with the exception of Butser Hill by the A3.

Reaching the foot of Butser Hill the trail is hardly marked, except for the slightly shorter grass. With visibility still at just 10 metres and knowing the trail goes straight up, I head up the steepest section. With some wading through the longer grass, I eventually found the gate half way up the hill. Trying hard to stay on the shorter grass, I came across a trig point. I was clearly off course and visibility was now even worse. Using the GPS, which isn’t very good for off road navigation, I finally find a road and got back on track.

The trails approaching Winchester were wet due to the recent rain. Mud was flicking everywhere and I was soaked through. The halfway stop was at Cheesefoot Head on the A272 where it was getting light. I freshened up with a clean top and dry gloves. I tried to eat some cereal but started to gag.

It was a relief to reach Winchester for the turnaround at 05:17 matching my personal best time for the SDW.

Setting out on the return leg the smallest of hills caused a problem. I felt sick and gagged a couple of times. Picking myself up, I aimed for the QE2 Park. Descending Butser Hill with a mist was a challenge. It was such a relief to see the support crew as I felt pretty low. Eating a tin of Spag Bol tasted and felt good.

Just after leaving the QE2 Park my rear gear cable snapped. Finding a tree to hang my bike on, I replaced the cable and roughly set the gears so I could use most of them. Two BHF riders passed me so I caught them up where we stayed together until Harting. It was so much more motivating to ride with company.

At Cocking I was feeling very tired and the sun was now very hot. Being up all night and riding for 15 hours was taking its toll on my body both physically and mentally. John Twitchen from Sauce Consultancy on my support crew rode with me to Amberley. I was bored with my iPod music and it was great to have some alternative company. Returning to the field of sheep at Glatting Beacon, two of them faced me with broad shoulders and stern looks either side of the trail. As they stepped sideways I slipped past with no incident.

I’ve never been able to ride the climb up Amberley Rise and today was no exception. From the top I set a good speed to Washington, then up the steep chalk climb to Chanctonbury Ring.

After 160 miles near the bridge for Steyning, I saw Alex Bottomley from Redhill Cycling Club riding towards me. He turned around to ride with me. Following the steep climb from Steyning and with the heat of the sun roasting anything in sight, I stopped beside the road. Sitting down I felt as though I couldn’t move a limb. I wanted to lie down and rest, forget the Double I just wanted to go home. Alex was superb, he made me get up and we rode carefully to Truleigh Youth Hostel. I longed for him to give me a push, but the rules of the Double say that it must be my own effort. Putting my head under a tap at the hostel and soaking my arms and legs, I cooled myself down.

Passing Devil’s Dyke I head down to Saddlescombe to meet the support crew who provided just what I need without me asking. A couple of other Redhill Cycling Club members had kindly driven down to see me, and the text messages of support from friends were read out. This was a real boost. I felt if I could set myself small milestones I would be able to complete the Double. I had serious doubts on the sub 24 hour time, so I just focussed on finishing.

Climbing through Pyecombe golf course I aimed for Ditchling Beacon in the scorching heat. Looking forward to the descents after the beacon to the A27, I gather speed to cover the ground quickly.

Neil Newell met me at the A27 and accompanied me up the very long hill near Kingston Hollow. It’s a tough climb and the company was really appreciated.

Descending to Itford Farm on the A26 I was greeted by a BHF team who were very enthusiastic about my Double ride. Posing for a photo or two, I then tackled the climb up Beddingham Hill. My check point was deliberately at the top near Firle. The support crew were again fantastic, but drew the line at applying my chamois cream.

Jon Linscott from my support crew took a turn in riding with me. His freshness uplifted my spirits as we passed Alfriston. It wasn’t until I reached Jevington where I realised that a sub 24 hour time was possible. Passing the trig point on the top of the last major hill, I gave it all that I had to make it to the finish. The descent down to Paradise Drive was fantastic where my crew were poised with cameras to record the finish time of 17:31 The total time was sub 24 hours at 23:31.

I feel really honoured to have touched the league of the elite. The other South Downs Doublers have my full admiration for riding 200 miles unsupported, where some of them have ridden the double more than once. It was a privilege to ride with Neil Newell and have the support from Rory Hutchens from Exposure Lights.

The rock on the support crew was my brother Dave Sterry. He provided just what I needed at the right times. Jon Linscott and John Twitchen kept my bike in tip top condition accompanied by their superb sense of humour. Other members of Redhill Cycling Club were very supportive with their messages. Steve Young my fitness trainer described my fitness as ‘Pants’ in December. His gruelling training programme did the trick.

The 200 mile ride with 20,000 feet of hill climbing pushed me to my limits, then further still. The South Downs Double is certainly awesome and ridiculous, but if you don’t try, you won’t succeed.
Thanks to Rory Hitchens, Neil Newell and John Twitchen for the photos.

Monday 15 June 2009

The Final Countdown

The past few weeks have been full on with training and all the other preparations for the big ride.

The training has involved several back to back long rides, many on the South Downs Way to familiarise myself with the route. Thanks to my detailed documentation compiled from loads of photographs, I can now ride the whole route from memory without referring to the signs, a map or a GPS. Eating on the go is second nature after finding the right foods to give me energy without upsetting my stomach. Paying close attention to my heart rate monitor I can pace myself for endurance rides whilst maintaining a planned average speed.

John Twitchen from Sauce Consultancy has worked wonders with Louise Poynton from the Surrey Mirror. They produced a full page article about my preparations for the South Downs Double. Page 49 on 11th June 2009. The fundraising is over £800 where we would love to raise more money for the British Heart Foundation. Please visit to help us in the success.

The bikes will have a full service this week so they are in tip top condition for the 26th. Hopefully I will just need one bike where the other is a spare. The remaining items of equipment are coming together for the support crew and me. The car will be quite full with all the food, drinks, clothing, bike bits and other items required for the 24 hours. The next week or so will be spent finalising the details and easing off on the training.

Thank you to everyone who has stumped up the cash to sponsor me or who have provided support and encouragement. Roll on the 26th so I can get out there and do it!

Monday 25 May 2009

Set2Rise - 12 Hour Enduro

Getting stuck in the Holiday traffic on the A303, we made our way to the Set2Rise event just north of Stonehenge. Arriving in a field with a burger van and some portaloos, we found others erecting tents and assembling bikes.

Set2Rise involved a mass start of 120 riders at 6pm. The idea was to complete as many 8 mile laps as possible before 6am the following morning. Gareth, Marcus and Matt formed a team of 3 to ride in relay style, where I tackled it as a solo rider.

The well marked out course involved many wooded sections of single-track linked together by grassy fields. In places the single-track was very twisty, weaving between the trees with some gaps barely 3 foot wide. Sometimes it was only possible to see about 15 feet in front and when travelling at 10mph, this is only 1 second ahead. There were also some steep 10-15 foot drops with one having a sharp left at the bottom. Full on concentration was essential. There were two major climbs, one of 200 feet and the other a lengthy 400 feet. During the solitary dark hours I tried to find another rider to talk to, easing the pain of the climb.

My fist lap was rather exploratory has I hadn’t pre ridden the route. I reckoned that I would see enough of the course as the night wore on. The second lap was much better as I knew a bit more on what to expect, this emotionally was my best lap. There were many riders jostling for position as they were in a team taking turns. Knowing that I would be in the saddle for 12 hours, I tried to pace myself. There was a smooth grassy section just over half way round where I grabbed the opportunity for a gel on each lap. I need to take in energy if I was to maintain riding all night.

Stopping briefly after my second lap, I set out on lap 3 where the sun was starting to set. I had to come in after lap 3 as my drink bladder ran dry, I was expecting it to last 4 laps. I swallowed some pasta and clipped the lights on the bike.

During lap 4 it was getting dark in the woods, so the lights went on. There were a couple of occasions where the trees jumped out causing me to loose my balance. A slight laps of concentration can have a disastrous effect. It was getting cold so another quick stop before lap 5 to grab an extra layer.

It was now pitch dark. There were no street lights or a glow from the clouds, just a few tiny stars to show you which way was up. I use Max Exposure lights; a Joystick on the helmet with a battery pack and the Max Daddy on the bars. They were fantastic as they illuminated the way ahead. All around the course there were trails of lights as the riders were now quite spread out.

Continuing straight onto lap 6 at 10:30pm, I start to feel the pressure. On reaching the top of a climb, Gareth caught up with me. His team were on lap 7. We had a brief chat as we raced along the single-track which lifted my spirits. Finishing the lap, I took a break where Matt and Gareth helped me to top up my supplies and lube the bike. Sipping a cup of tea, I heard that I was in 15th place out of 32 in the solo category.

During the next two laps (7 & 8) I focused on sustainability. I therefore took my time to climb the hills bringing my average heart rate down.

At 1:40am I stopped for a break. I couldn’t think what I wanted a part from going to bed. It was really difficult to eat anything as my stomach was all over the place. A cup of tea helped a bit and I topped up my drinks bladder with some extra strong energy drink. Swapping my top for a warmer, dryer coat, I forced myself out onto the course just after 2am.

On lap 9, I realised that my attempt for the South Downs Double would be a tough nut to crack. I couldn’t eat or drink anything and the course was pretty deserted. Occasionally a rider would race by as I let them past on the single-track. These riders were doing 40 minute sprints sharing the laps with their other 3 team mates.

Without stopping, I went straight into lap 10. I knew that if I did stop, I wouldn’t start again. Concentration was really hard on the single-track. I hit a tree, badly jarring my shoulder. I really felt like stopping after this lap.

Taking a break at 4:14am, Matt joined me saying that I was now in 11th place. This was a real boost. It was also just starting to get light. I therefore prepared for the final two laps. Diluting my energy drink as I could only sip small amounts of water, I hit the course.

It was official, morning was here as I saw the sunrise. I was surprised how cold it got in the valleys where mist appeared. The coldness tore through my wet clothes, but this didn’t matter as the new day had dawned. Throughout the course there were marshals keeping an eye on us and marking dangerous areas. Saying ‘Good Morning’ to them also gave me a boost.

Completing lap 11, I went straight into my 12th and final lap. I was relieved to climb each hill for the last time and counted down the wooded sections to the finish. Changing into some dry clothes was refreshing. As I hadn’t eaten since 2am, the food from the burger van was most welcome.

The 12 laps totalled 99 miles with 10,200 feet of climbing. My final position was 11th out of 32, which for my first ever race is pretty good.

Monday 18 May 2009

Painstaking Preparation

Contemplating a 200 mile ride requires far more organisation than a quick jaunt around the hills with your mates. Even a 100k enduro can seem straightforward in comparison. Here are some of the things that I have been doing over the past few months whilst off the bike.

The Route
Before taking on the Double, I had ridden the SDW route from Winchester to Eastbourne about 3 times. Riding it the opposite way at night needed careful planning. I don’t have much confidence in GPS units in off road conditions so I decided to memorise the whole route.

Several training rides were spent on the South Downs where I photographed every junction. Creating and studying the detailed journey from Eastbourne to Winchester, I am able to visualise each section of the route. Therefore when riding I can anticipate each turn from memory. During the event I will probably have the GPS programmed up and a paper map in my pocket, but they will be secondary to my personal knowledge.

Familiarity with the route will enable me to set short term goals as I divide the route into 20-30 mile sections. I have not considered this as a 200 mile ride, instead it is a series of 20-30 mile rides linked together. Much easier to mentally digest.

When setting out for a morning’s ride, it is usually possible to stuff a few bits in the rucksack to get by. A 24 hour ride is quite different. I decided to travel light and depend on my support crew for supplies, I’m not ready for Alpine style (yet). Compiling a kit list and where each item will be located was quite a task. Here is a summary;

On the bike: GPS, food larder, small tools, spare tube, pump, walkie talkie, small rucksack
with hydration pack, ID card, very basic 1st Aid kit
Check Point box: Spare rucksack for swapping over, food and drinks, lights, additional clothing,
sun cream, lubes, wet wipes, 1st Aid kit
Turnaround Box: Complete change of clothes including helmet and shoes, breakfast

Support vehicle: Spare bike with wheels that can be swapped over, tool kit, spare batteries
Crew Box: Maps, Check Point locations & instructions, food and drinks, camera, walkie
talkie, mobile phone
Finish Bag: Wash things, change of clothes, recovery drinks, more food.

MaXx Exposure has kindly provided a set of lights, a Joystick and a Daddy. The fantastic illumination enables me to achieve near daylight speeds even on technical sections.

Check Points
During my training rides I formulated a stoppage strategy that works for me. It basically consists of a 2 minute stop each hour with a 10 minute stop every 3 hours. I have therefore set out a series of Check Points roughly every 30 miles interspersed with Pit Stops every 10 miles. Working with detailed notes from my previous SDW and training rides, I have estimated timings for each check point to attain a sub 24 hour Double.

As most of the main roads cross the SDW in the valleys, I wanted to have some stops on top of the hills so I was not immediately faced with a long climb when leaving the support vehicle. There are also probably better photo opportunities away from the main roads. The support crew are not familiar with the SDW so I am preparing detailed maps, Google Earth pictures and photos to pinpoint the exact meeting locations. It is important that they are in the right place at the right time.

To enable quick stops, I will have 2 rucksacks that will be swapped over at the Check Points. The spare one can then be refilled at leisure between stops. Likewise I will have 2 small boxes for food that fit in a pouch by the stem that will be swapped out.

Back in December I logged everything I ate onto a website along with details of any exercise. This enabled me to see how many calories I was consuming and burning during training. The mix of foods that I was eating in terms of proteins, carbohydrates and fats gave me an indication to the balance of my diet.

As a result I was able to loose a few excess pounds. This was really hard over Christmas, especially when we visited my parents with Mum’s home cooking! I adopted a rule of no seconds, it was tough but it worked. The calories in alcohol often took me over my daily target, so this had to be moderated. As I focused more on achieving the Double, my desire for a pint diminished. Sweet puddings also gave way to protein and carbohydrates. Apparently during training it is important to stock up well on protein, otherwise the body starts to cannibalise its own muscles, which defeats the objective.

One of the reasons for doing the Double is for a sense of personal achievement. Raising money for a worthy charity enables others to get involved to help a common cause. As the British Heart Foundation organise the SDW Randonnée that I have ridden in the past, they are the benefactor of my challenge.

If you are reading this and have not yet sponsored me, please do visit and donate what you can. I have set a tough target and with your help we should be able to reach it.

The physical training for such an event is a section in its own right. I covered some of this in the Blog on 1st May – From Fat to Fit.

This is just a summary of my preparation, if you are interested in any specific details please get in touch.

Monday 11 May 2009

Two Enduros in Two Days

The 100k Trail Break ride on the South Downs fitted neatly into my training schedule for last Saturday. Another well organised event is the Bucks Off Road Sportive last Sunday, where they had a 121k route. Wanting to build up my endurance, I entered both events for a full weekend of riding.

Setting out on the South Downs we initially hit a 600 foot climb. Conserving energy I took my time to reach the top. Working with my heart rate monitor and speedo, I slowed myself down to maintain an average speed of 9mph. This enabled me to preserve energy for later in the ride.

The well marked route followed several sections of the South Downs Way. This was useful for me as later I will be riding these parts at night on the Double. Riding up all the hills, where they were plentiful, I took it easy maintaining a relaxed state of mind.

After 3 hours, the feed station was a welcome sight where I consumed my prepared tub of pasta. The effects of the pasta would not be felt for a couple of hours, which is when it will be most needed. During the rides I constantly nibble chocolate flapjacks and jelly babies whist drinking about 750ml per hour.

Taking my time round the course and enjoying the beautiful scenery, the end was nearly in sight. Finishing after 6:46 hours gave me an average speed of 9.3mph that qualifies for the Trail Break Gold award.

Following a quick turnaround on Saturday evening, I was back out on the trails on Sunday morning for the Bucks Off Road Sportive.

The first 3 miles were awful. My legs were like jelly and I wanted to go home.

Once I got into a rhythm, I latched onto some other riders who had a good pace going. Keeping my heart rate down, I found that I could maintain an average speed of 10-11mph.

Eating my tub of pasta 3 hours into the ride along with all my nibbles, the miles were flying by. At the 60 miles stage, I felt as though I could have gone on forever.

Once past the 70 mile stage I ignored the heart rate, switched into race mode and powered the last 6 miles to the finish.

Completing the 121k in 7 hours gave me an average speed of 10.7mph with a very low average heart rate of 128bpm.

The two rides were great, and to finish them both with very respectable times is quite an achievement.

Friday 1 May 2009

From Fat to Fit

Back in September when I started thinking about the Double, I realised that my fitness needed to severely improve. I didn’t know anything about my heart rate except that it ticked a bit faster when doing exercise, and I had no idea about warming up or stretching. I just liked to get on my bike and ride.

Extending my weekly rides from 30 to 40 miles was the first step, but I was aware that a lot more needed to be done. Why I even contemplated riding 200 miles still puzzles me. Realising that I needed a lot of help, I contacted Steve Young from Forever Young Fitness. Steve is a member of Redhill Cycling Club who had recently coached and cycled with a team 3000 miles across America (RAAM) in just 6½ days. Following a lively evening we found that we were both as mad as each other in taking on these outrageous challenges. His first task was to give me a fitness test where I think he used the adjective ‘pants’ to describe my core strength. We both had our work cut out to get me into shape.

During the following months we devised a training schedule with 4 sessions a week on a 5 week rotation. The 5th week was for resting with a reduced training target. Developing my core on a Gym Ball, cross training in the pool and paying close attention to my diet in reducing a few unnecessary pounds, my body went from strength to strength. Regular fitness tests supported the improvements along with the meticulous details I recorded after each ride.

Finding the time to cram in all the training can have a big impact on family life. Fortunately I am able to do most of my training at home on the turbo trainer or find times when the rest of the family are busy elsewhere. I was also eating like a horse, now with the right types of food, and sleeping very well.

One of my recent successes was completing the HONC (Hell Of the North Cotswolds) 100k hilly ride in just over 5 hours. This knocked at least an hour off my best 100k distance providing a massive psychological boost. This week I repeated a fitness test I did back in December. The turbo trainer was set to simulate going up a hill that gets steeper nearer the top. In December I managed ¾ of the hill before my heart rate peaked and I ran out of juice. This week I cruised up the hill, along the simulated ridge at the top and up the next section. The power output had increased by a massive 64%.

The next area to focus on is my endurance. I have therefore planned a series of 70 to 100+ mile rides each week that should stretch out my stamina. I need to slow myself down to an overall speed between 9 and 10 mph so I can stick out the distance. All my rides feature an average of 100 feet of climbing per mile to replicate the hills on the South Downs (10,000 feet over 100 miles). Box Hill is a favourite where I would often climb it 3 – 4 times on a single ride.

Friday 24 April 2009

Setting out for the South Downs Double

In previous years I have increased the stakes moderately for my cycling challenges, where this year I am going for something truly amazing. Steve McDermott said in his book ‘How to be a Complete and Utter Failure’ When setting SMART goals, instead of using the A and the R to mean Achievable and Realistic, have one or two goals that are Awesome and Ridiculous!

The South Downs Way stretches 100 miles from Eastbourne to Winchester incorporating 10,000 feet of hill climbing. Many keen cyclists have ridden the off road route over 2 or 3 days with the extremely fit managing it all in just one day. For the last 2 years I have completed it in just 1 day.

My goal is to do the Double where I will ride non stop from Eastbourne to Winchester and back. The 200 mile epic journey has only ever been completed by 8 riders with just 4 top athletes finishing within 24 hours. Following intensive training since October and buckets of determination, I want to see if I can achieve something truly outstanding. The date will be sometime in June or July depending on an appropriate weather window.

Riding solo all through the night and most of the following day has its challenges. Concentrating for 24 hours whilst pedalling up the relentless hills and going through nearly 200 gates will be extremely mentally and physically tough. Exposure Lights have provided a set of powerful lights to help me during the long dark hours. A Forever Young fitness trainer, specialising in endurance cycling events has prepared my tough training programme. The work for the support crew is being planned with military precision, and Sauce Consultancy is providing publicity and equipment.

I am raising money for the British Heart Foundation and this is where we need your assistance. This ambitious challenge deserves all the support you can give for such a worthy cause. Please visit to be part of the success.