Friday, 21 December 2012

What Happened in 2012?

Kicking off 2012 saw the arrival of a new bike for a very specific purpose. The Scott Scale 29er cruises effortlessly along the bridleways of the North and South Downs.

Completing the South Downs Triple was the major achievement of the year, being the only person insane enough to take on the 300 mile challenge. Backed by a fantastic support crew I arrived in Winchester for the second time, 37 hours after originally setting out from Eastbourne.

Prior to the Triple in June I enjoyed an enlightening coaching week in Portugal with AQR Coaching. Packing the oversized bike to take on the plane was an interesting process.

Most of the second half of the year was spent off the bike recovering from the extreme ride in June. Helping out at Bog Dog near Brighton was a very rewarding experience enabling others to enjoy the trails and the thrill of the race.

Watching live athletics for the first time in the Paralympics was awesome. We shouted loudly as Jonny Peacock won his 100m Gold on the Thrilling Thursday. At the Olympic Museum it was interesting seeing my Great Grandmother’s sporting achievements as she was the first woman to win a Gold medal in 1904.

Surprising my wife for her birthday, we saw further sporting achievements in the form of Europe’s Strongest Man, it made us feel rather skinny.

What a year 2012 has been. Riding the South Downs Triple was such a lifetime experience I’m preparing a detailed account of the ride for a short book.

If 2012 was this good, how much better can we make 2013?

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Triple Recovery


If you want to know how it feels to have the stuffing completely knocked out of you, ride the South Downs Triple.  It was an immense 300 mile ride, yet an awesome experience.

Simon Catmur's 50th Birthday ride on the South Downs
Pic by  Tim Burden
The nerve damage to my left hand kept me off the bike for a frustrating 3 months.  I’m now back out riding and loving every minute.  It is so refreshing to ride with no agenda or stringent training schedule.   There’s no requirement to get up at 5:30am to train before work, or pack my evenings with further training and event preparation.  My goal at present is to focus on the enjoyment of riding and see what takes my fancy for next year.

The journey of the Triple lasted about a year, from when I first had that crazy idea.  The friendships formed along the way and the adventure of riding the Triple was an amazing lifetime experience.  When it was all over and I’d recovered from the sleep deprivation and exhaustion, a huge chasm remained.  Compiling my thoughts, I began to write about the adventure.  The more I wrote, the more I realized what and adventure it had all been.  At present it’s around 16k words and could later be turned into a book.

After climbing a mountain, there can be a tricky descent.  I’m pleased to have safely descended the mountain and look forward to exploring the new land.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Dog Handling at the Big Dog


The heavily laden van stood alone in the field surrounded by the damp grass of the early morning.  The air was quiet but filled with a sense of expectancy.  In a few hours time over 500 riders would be racing around Stanmer Park fighting it out to be the Big Dog of 2012.

Wandering over, two figures could be seen in the form of Rory Hitchens and Simon Catmur.  As we set to work we were soon joined by others and the big inflatable Start/Finish arch was erected.  Following the photocopied plans, posts linked with the Big Dog tape dictated the course route while I was marking out the car parking areas.  Without thinking I found myself ensuring the posts were colour coordinated, equally spaced and perfectly aligned.

Giant pegs were hammered into the ground for the two marquees while various vehicles arrived with gazebos for the trade stands.  The once empty field was now buzzing with a harmony to get the Big Dog in motion.

Cars with bikes, vans with bikes, and people on bikes all started appearing.  Excited participants and some rather confused locals wanting a quiet morning were arriving in mass.  Sometimes it was not obvious as to who should be directed where.  Identifying some of the soloists, I did try to point them a place near the track as this is so important for them.

Filling up the field with vehicles, we opened up the next part of the park for the overflow parking.  The cars just kept on coming.  One rather smart car arrived with just a few characters on its number plate.  Establishing they were here for the Big Dog and directing them to the gate, I received the response “You mean you want me to park in a field?!”

Big Dog start
The hustle and bustle in the centre of the arena increased as the race prepared to start.  Setting off with squeals of delight to the thumping PA system, it was a complete contrast to the docile field just 6 hours earlier.

The main part of my work was done, time now to drink tea, eat cake and catch up with friends.  This process was repeated many times during the afternoon.  My daughter had kindly made some cakes for the occasion and I later found myself handing out endless refills of tea for the thirsty riders and spectators.

Lorna's cakes
The atmosphere of the Big Dog is one of the best in the racing calendar.  Still not able to ride from my South Downs Triple, I needed an excuse to get to the Big Dog.  Having received so much from others on my Triple ride, giving something back here seemed most appropriate.  It was also a nice opportunity to see and thank all those who came out to meet me when I was on my ride.

As the race was drawing to an end and the tea urn was running out of water, the focus turned to the prize giving.  With so many categories and some prizes going down to 5th place, the numerous boxes of goodies were overwhelming.  The challenge was to get the right prizes to the right people.  Working together we found a process that ran smoothly.  

With the Big Dog raced and won and with everything said and done, the crowds dispersed.  Marquees came down, the big arch was deflated, rubbish bags filled up and everything was stuffed into the cars and vans.

Leaving the empty field little remained of the excitement and fun of the Big Dog, except for the lasting memories and the will to come back again next year.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Triple Recovery - 1 Month On

'Put on these 3 T shirts and this hoodie' said Dan in a very authoritative manner as he filled the bath with cold water.  I was in no position to argue with my son, as thinking for myself was just not possible.  I carefully eased myself into the chilling water where Dan proceeded to open 2 large bags of ice that he pored in around my legs.  There was no energy left in me to scream, I just sat and shivered in a dazed state.

Finished
To read about the South Downs Triple ride click here

Riding the South Downs Triple was a huge undertaking, the 300 miles with 34,700 feet of hill climbing in 37 hours was a mighty long ride.  My body struggled just after the 200 mile turnaround at Eastbourne, then it completely collapsed 40 miles later.  Somehow Dr Jerry Hill and Anne Dickens got me back on the bike after ensuring I was not in any immediate medical danger, then I cycled another 60 miles to Winchester.  So determined was I to complete the Triple, only a major medical complication would have stopped me.

Reaching Winchester and completing the South Downs Triple was a mighty achievement, but I simply didn't have the energy to get excited.  I was pleased that I had achieved my goal, but I couldn't find the strength to show any emotion.

The support crew were brilliant, they continued to look after me once I'd finished the ride.  They even sorted out all my kit and cleaned my bike.  This was such a luxury compared to my usual solo-solo rides.

My legs were surprisingly not too bad.  They hurt a couple of days later and are still weak from muscle damage a month later.  My hands were in a worse state, gripping the handlebars for 37 hours took its toll.  Despite extra padding inserted into my gloves, I damaged the nerves causing numbness and pins & needles in my left arm and both hands.  There was also a lot of muscle damage in my left arm, leaving it very weak.  Many Physio sessions and rest are helping them to improve.

The tiredness was immense.  Previously after a 24 hour event it took about a week to catch up on sleep. This time with 8 to 10 hours sleep a night and an afternoon kip, it took 2 to 3 weeks to get to some form of normality.  I was so tired that I couldn't think straight, but I wasn't tired enough to sleep.  The longer it dragged on, the more frustrated I got.  I sill get tired very quickly and need to be careful not to over do it.

KatePotter, my training coach, had prescribed a cocktail of vitamins to boost my immune system before the ride.  Catching a cold just before an event can be disastrous.   After the ride my immune system was shot to bits, making the risk of getting an infection very high.  Keeping away from public places and continuing with the vitamins enabled me to survive without catching a cold.

Getting back on the bike is out of the question at the moment, my body is still too weak to ride or do any other form of exercise.  In my mind I want to ride because I know that it is something I enjoy, but physically it is just not possible.

Post Event Depression (PED) is very real and the bigger the event, the bigger the possibility of a huge downturn.  I suffered from this big time after my South Downs Double where the lowest point was lying in a hospital bed waiting for an operation.  You can read about this in my post Into theDark Valley

Racing during the rest of the season is out of the question.  Instead I will turn up to Big Dog and Torq12:12 to provide pit support.  This should enable me to soak up the atmosphere of the races without the physical exertion of doing the pedalling.

To hear about the South Downs Triple from a different perspective, Anne Dickens has written about the moment I first told her of my idea to ride 300 miles.  Also Judy (BeerBabe) who stepped in at the last minute to provide fantastic support for the ride has written up her memoirs.

There were many lessons learned in preparing and riding the South Downs Triple where I'm very happy to use the experience to help others achieve their goals.  Recovery is going to take a long time, several months.  I will be back next summer, but I won't be taking on another mighty challenge for a while.

I'd like to say a really big thank you to everyone who has posted comments and tweets about my ride.  The enormity of the Triple has not yet sunk in and I appreciate the huge support  from so many people.  Thanks.

It would be great if two charities can benefit from my efforts, the St Marys ReigateCommunity Building Project and the BHF.  Please make a donation if you are able.  Thank you.


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The South Downs Triple – There and back again, and then there once more!

“You do realise that the best weather window starts tomorrow…”
Support Crew T Shirts

Tomorrow?!!!  We were due to start our 36 hour “journey” on Sunday and it was now Thursday morning. But I’m not ready, how can we possibly reorganise all the logistics and support crew at this short notice?  We had talked about needing to be flexible, but is it possible to bring it forward by 2 days at this late notice?

“Have a think about it and let me know” said the calm voice of Simon Usher, who was managing the support.  “We can sort out the logistics if you are mentally ready to ride”

I paused for a moment. This was going to be the ride of my life, where I only had one chance to do the South Downs Triple.  I noted all the important things that needed to be done in the next few hours before the ride, then made my decision.

He was right and I was ready - PANIC!

South Downs Way Route
Everything was a whir, there was so much to do and I had to scrounge an extra day and a half off work.  Getting home with my mind in a spin I ran about pulling everything together.  Looking at the weather forecast and the wind direction – strong easterlies expected on Saturday – we also made the decision to switch the start from Winchester to Eastbourne.  This added significantly to the logistical challenge.  The whole of my spreadsheet prep and the logistics had been planned based on a WEWE (Winchester-Eastbourne-Winchester-Eastbourne) and now we were going to need to re-plan for EWEW.

The Black Pig with all the gear
Kate Potter, from AQR Coaching, had been brilliant with my training and her final prep instructions included a complete rest and a good night sleep before the big day.  Sorry Kate, I got no rest and only about 4 hours sleep…

6am, Friday morning, heading down to Eastbourne in Simon’s van (the Black Pig) with Judy “Beer Babe”, who had dropped everything to help out with the Friday switch, we altered the comprehensive check point schedule with all my requirements for certain times.  I like to be organised well in advance - all these changes were not helping me to relax!

There

South Downs Way Start at Eastbourne
The new SDW start/finish at Eastbourne
We reached Eastbourne in good time.  I got myself ready while the minutes ticked forward to 8am - what was I was letting myself in for?  Then it happened. Judy counted down, the camera clicked and the pedals started turning – This was it – 15 months in the making - there was no going back now – “look forward and go for it”, I told myself.

The new bridleway start for the South Downs Way at Eastbourne is now aligned with the footpath route.  It extends the route by a mile, which was to be an extra 3 miles for me.  Added to this, the first half mile is a 300 foot climb. With 34,000 feet of climbing to complete it doesn’t sound much, but from a standing start it was hard.

Just as I reached the top of the climb I heard a fateful hiss from the rear tyre.  A puncture within the first mile, this wasn’t going well!  Particularly as this time while changing the tube, the tyre had one of those moments where you needed 6 hands to fit it back on to the rim.  Back on the bike I felt I had to try to make up the lost time.  My mind was all over the place and I couldn’t get my heart rate down.

Climbing up to Bury
Firle was the first check point where Simon and Judy gave me a new spare tube, checked I was OK and sent me on my way.  It was then that I started to enjoy myself – Why do the South Downs Way three times? Well actually I love the views from the South Downs Way, especially those overlooking Lewes, you can see for miles. In enduro races you spend all that time going round the same course – and mainly in trees.  Out here you can see for miles and miles.

It took a while for me to properly calm myself and it probably wasn’t until Bury, 58 miles in, where I really felt settled into the ride.  The trails were dry and fast – one of the reasons to pull the ride ahead of the storm - and with the bonus of very few people around I made good progress.  As I reached the QE2 Country Park, my average speed was steadily increasing.

Support Crew resting at QE2 Country Park
The support crew were amazing, Anne Dickins and Roy (Beer Biker) had now joined the team – so now I had both the AQR endurance team and the Dark Star Brewery endurance team supporting me!

On such a long ride I only monitor a few things. I set my Garmin to display my heart rate, the overall average speed and my average speed since the last checkpoint.  Most of the effort for completing such a challenge is mental and I really didn’t want to be reminded how far in I was.  Using this simple information I could pace myself without thinking about how many miles I had covered and how many were left to go.  I only focused ahead to the next checkpoint, taking each section at a time.  For the first leg to Winchester I needed an overall average speed of 9.2mph – so that’s what I focused on and that’s what kept me going.

Turn point in Winchester
A quick leg massage
The descent into Winchester felt great.  I was riding fast and my legs were feeling strong.  I have blogged previously about the dynamic core work I had done with Anne Dickins and the coaching from Kate Potter.  I had ridden this faster, but never felt this strong.  Outside one house stood a family who asked my name then cheered me on.  They had been following my progress on the Endomondo live GPS trail and came out to greet me.  This was such a nice surprise!

I was carrying a Samsung Galaxy Ace phone running the Endomondo App where anyone could see my progress.  I had also fitted an external battery charging pack but I actually hadn’t intended it to go this public – it was mainly for my support crew and close friends – so I was initially unaware of the impact of my ride; people were apparently glued to the blue line slowly moving across their screen. With someone even checking up on me during a meeting at work.  My crew reported some of the comments on the Singletrack forum, which eventually ran into 8 pages as the word spread.  This virtual support was amazing and uplifting.

And back again

Turning around in Winchester at 18:08 was just 20 minutes slower than my personal best for the South Downs Way.  One leg down, let’s go back to Eastbourne!

Exposure Lights
As the daylight disappeared I flicked on my Exposure 6 PackUSE had kindly loaned me 6 Pack and JoyStick lights for the event – one of many kind gestures, but when the mist came down and the trail was indistinct, it became invaluable.  I have no idea how I would have coped without their brightest product - it was almost like riding in daylight.

Setting off from Bury around midnight, there were a couple of bike lights twinkling down the trail.  It was a pleasure to see Rory Hitchens and Frazer Clifford who had come out to find me.  We rode for a while then JP also joined us.  Long solo rides have their challenges and it was nice to have some company.  In true tradition, though, they left me to set the pace and open all the gates.

They peeled off around 2am and still feeling strong, I powered into the night, cresting more hills and clocking up miles.  That core stability training was clearly paying off.  I was starting to have a few pains – particularly in my hands – but my legs just kept going.

Fog
Focused
The batteries on my iPod packed up and my spare for some reason was not working.  The wildlife had to put up with my terrible singing as I sped past disturbing the tranquillity of their sleep.

It wasn’t long before the silhouettes of the trees could be seen and the dawn chorus filled the air.  Had I really been riding all night?

Flying
Finished the Double
Climbing the long ascent after the A27, thick fog appeared.  Visibility dropped to just 20 metres, flicking the 6 Pack onto full beam extended my vision to an essential 50 metres.  Navigation in these open areas is very difficult in thick fog.  During the last minute panic I had forgotten to load the SDW route into my GPS.  Resorting to memory and looking carefully at the grass, I stayed on the trail.  I discovered that the yellow buttercups don’t grow on the trial, therefore staying away from the buttercups kept me on track.

Time was ticking on and I needed to be in Eastbourne.  With a sub 23 hour South Downs Double in mind, I pushed on hard.  Remembering to go to the new start/end point, I raced down the hill to the SDW marker.

22:55 hours for a South Downs Double.  This was fantastic; it put me 3rd on the leader board for the fastest supported Double.  I was elated! And that could have been where it all ended… but I was going to get back on the bike and ride all the way back to Winchester.  I had no idea just how hard that was going to be…

And there once more

Setting off back to Winchester is where a new chapter of the history book starts.  No one had ever tried going beyond the Double.  For my safety, the support crew insisted someone was with me on this last leg back to Winchester.  Riding beyond 24 hours is a bit unknown, so extra precautions were taken.  Jerry Hill, an experienced sports doctor, also joined us at Eastbourne and gave me a medical check up before letting me back on the bike. 
Firle

I climbed the tough hill out of Eastbourne for the final time – it was torture.  My stomach was all over the place. I felt drained and my sanity fought with my determination.  Firle seemed a million miles away and I needed to see the support crew sooner.  Simon Usher, now in riding gear, was to be my first support rider and called ahead to made the necessary arrangements.

Finding a bench at Jevlington, I lay down for a rest.  I had pushed to get that sub 23 hour double and it was clearly taking its toll.  Turning back was already playing with my mind.  Jerry was brilliant and confirmation that I was medically OK was what I needed and soon I was back on the bike.

After Firle I was curious to see someone taking photos of me.  It turned out to be Simon Catmur – a local who had also been tracking my progress on Endomondo and the Singletrack forum.  The crew had invited friends to join in and keep an eye on me.  He kindly rode with us for a while, which helped from the safety point of view. Steve Golding also appeared from nowhere, taking photos.  There seemed to be a big interest in what I was doing… which I must admit baffled me… I still consider myself as a bit of a novice on the bike and had previously only ridden two 24 hour events. You will know if you have read my other blogs that only 5 years ago a long ride for me was 30 miles. I knew little about heart rates and training regimes. I set the South Downs Triple challenge not just to see if it was possible, but to see if an ordinary bloke can do it. 

Meeting Josh while Anne tapes up my knee
My hands were really suffering so extra padding was put in my gloves.  My left knee also started to twinge and Anne decided to tape it early, just to be on the safe side. Otherwise my legs were still strong and kept moving.

Roy “BeerBiker” was incredible.  Using his knowledge of the South Downs he guided the support crew to the check points and found time to pop up in odd places to meet me.  When passing him at Ditchling, he kindly handed me a 99 ice cream, it was just what I needed on the hot day.  Thanks Roy.

Reaching Saddlescombe, it was a real pleasure to meet Josh Ibbett, the South Downs Double record holder.  He kindly produced some much needed Torq Energy drink – I had discovered I no longer liked my normal favourite and decided that the only one I could stomach was vanilla Torq! 

More surprises came in the form of Mark Raffield from Redhill CC popping up to say hello, then Jo Burt and friends rode with me for a while.  Jim Russell also rode with me at some point.  It was so uplifting to see these people want to help me on my journey.

Descending down to Steyning, I felt completely knackered.  I had covered 240 miles with 60 more to go.  At this point it was clear the 36 hour target was more than unlikely.  My fuelling wasn’t going well and I was getting wobbly on the bike.  I decided to take a ten minute rest. Lying down at the checkpoint, my body temperature quickly dropped and dark thoughts were trying to enter my mind.  Jerry and Anne were superb.  I can’t remember what they did, but hot tea, cake, space blankets and the combined expertise of two professionals and I was soon back on the bike.

Dave, Ant & Rachel join in to help
Setting short goals, I made it to Bury where Dave Brothers was waiting to ride with me to the finish.  Also Ant Jordan and Rachel Sokal (the rest of the AQR endurance team) arrived to provide fresh energy for the support crew.

What happened next is a bit of a blur.  My legs kept going round, I followed the trail and I opened gates, but my mental capacity was dwindling. Somewhere along the way Lydia Gould joined us, which was another surprise, but it was only when I reached the QE2 Country Park I knew that a Winchester finish would be possible. 

Just before Winchester I received an amazing surprise.  My family had come down to see me at the last check point.  This was lovely as normally they are rather sceptical of my cycling adventures ;-)  It was also arranged that my son Dan would ride the last mile with me into Winchester, which was wonderful.

Cheers Alfred
It's official, I've finished
Downing a For Goodness Shake at the final checkpoint, my recovery process started early – it was so good to taste something normal! Then with emotions running high I set off.  The last 3 miles dragged on and on and on.  The heavy rain that had prompted the rushed start had finally arrived.  I wanted to push it, but I kept hearing Ant saying, “Be careful, don’t over do it!” I was so close, but I had to take his advice.

Reaching the King Alfred Statue in Winchester was fantastic. 300 miles, 34,700 feet of climbing and 37:04 hours from when I first left Eastbourne was an amazing experience.  The whole support crew and my family were there to welcome me in and the South Downs Triple had been conquered.  Yes - the Triple is possible.  Yes – even for an ordinary bloke.

The end

But that’s not quite true.  It is only possible for an ordinary bloke when he is blessed with an incredibly strong support crew.  They had a mighty challenge just to get to all the check points throughout the 37 hours, let alone to keep me going.  All the additional riders and supporters where also a real boost, and the huge interest from virtual onlookers was overwhelming.

It would be great for a couple of charities to benefit from my efforts;
The BritishHeart Foundation who inspired me to ride the SDW in a day, back in 2007.
St MarysChurch, who are building a new Community Centre in Reigate.

A massive thanks to everyone involved.  I am sure this won’t be the last South Downs Triple. The bar has been set at 37 hours and 4 minutes – go for it!



The Team

Thanks to Anne Dickins, Roy McNeill and Steve Golding for the photos.

Monday, 21 May 2012

The South Downs Triple - Why?


Why? This is a question I've been asked many times recently.  Its a massive 300 miles and I'll be riding for around 36 hours - Why?

The short answer is, why not? Everyone else seems to stop at 24 hours, why not go further?

The longer answer is, if you have a limit you will work to that limit.  However if you remove the limiting factor, how much further can you go?  I did a similar thing when I succeeded on the South Downs Double.  Previously I only rode about 30 miles each weekend and had never ridden more than 100 miles in one go.  At the time of planning, only 4 top riders had managed a sub 24 hour South Downs Double, with a 50% failure rate.  To do a 200 mile ride appeared ridiculous, but it was awesome!

Very few people have ridden for more than 24 hours and I've not been able to reach the podium in any major race, my highest placing is 6th at Exposure 24 last year.  I therefore set out to create my own podium on a course that I love to ride.

Yes, there are extra risks with riding into the unknown, so I sought the expertise of top 24 hour athletes to coach me and incorporated a medical team into the support crew.

The South Downs Triple has never been attempted before.  Many have tried the South Downs Double where only 13 have achieved a sub 24 hour time.  Last year there was only a 25% success rate for the Double, it's a tough cookie.  As Rory Hitchins once said, "It's not the ride there that counts, but the ride back."

To conquer the South Downs Triple will set a new league for the history of the South Downs Way.  Let's make history!


Other Updates

I am delighted that ForGoodness Shakes are supplying their recovery drinks, as I will need a number  for the ride and to recover afterwards.  Recovering from a 24 hour ride takes a few weeks, so it will be longer for this 36 hour challenge.

Please do take a moment to sponsor me.  It is wonderful that two charities can benefit from my ride; the British HeartFoundation and St Marys Community Building Project in Reigate.


Over the last few weeks physio Anne Dickins has been working on my dynamic core stability. This strengthens and balances all the muscles which work specifically for cycling. The purpose of me doing dynamic core for cycling is to make me more efficient and comfortable on my bike. It will also make sure all the power I produce goes to the pedals. 

In endurance events, it is really important to have a body which works properly as a small problem or pain will just get amplified over time. It will also prevent wasting energy on muscles working when they shouldn't. With Anne's assistance, I should be able to keep going for the 300 miles without 'too much' pain.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

South Downs Triple - Preparation Update




A 24 hour race takes some organising to get everything ready, the South Downs Double was quite a challenge as the support crew needed to travel between each of the arranged check points.   The South Downs Triple is another ball game in a different league. 

Completing 300 miles in one hit is a monumental challenge, where I am aiming for a sub 36 hour time.  Riding for 36 hours puts far more strain on your body than a 24 hour event.  I am privileged to have a top support crew from the AQR racing team where they have raced at European and World class events.  I also have an Olympic level sports doctor and physiotherapist who are working at the 2012 Games.

Having ridden the SDW many times raising money for charity, it is only appropriate that there are some beneficiaries from my ride.  This time there are two charities;

The British Heart Foundation who provide research and support for those with heart disease.  They also regularly organise the SDW 100 mile Randonnee, which I have ridden many times.

St Mary's Church in Reigate who are building a new community centre to serve the Church and the local community. Click here to donate to St Marys Community Building Project
  
Many thanks to USE for providing the Exposure Lights to see me through the night.  In a race environment the course is checked in advance and other riders help to keep it clear, on the SDW there are often hidden obstacles and wildlife to contend with during the night.  The Exposure 6 Pack with its 1800 Lumens will bring some daylight to the darkness, and hopefully disperse the sheep.

Training is going well with some long rides on the SDW to refresh myself of the route.  A few gates have been replaced where the SDW markers are missing, this preparation will reduce any navigational errors.  There has also been a change to the route at the Eastbourne end.   It is now and extra mile, or an extra 3 miles for me, where the bridleway and footpath sections finish at the same place.  Previously there was a nice ring to finishing at Paradise Drive.  Dukes Drive doesn't sound quite the same.

Everything else is sorting it self out, while I wait for a decent weather window in June.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Beyond the South Downs Double


Where do you go after the South Downs Double?  Why does everyone stop at 24 hours?  These questions have been in my mind for a while.  To quench my appetite for more, I'm going to go that extra mile, well actually an extra 100 miles.  I'm taking on the South Downs Triple.

3 lengths non stop of the South Downs Way encompassing 300 miles and over 30,000 feet of climbing.  All this in a target time of just 36 hours.  Oh yes, I mustn't forget the 288 gates to negotiate.

The months of training are nearly at an end where currently I'm finalising all the logistical details required for such a feat.  Support has been fantastic from AQR coach Kate Potter and physio Anne Dickins.  The planned date is sometime in June 2012.

More information will be published here on this blog and updates will appear on Twitter @Hillburner
Follow me on Twitter

Monday, 19 March 2012

Sun, Slopes and Single-track



His voice sill echoes in my head ‘Heels down Richard’ as I descent the rocky trail.  Ian Potter taught me so much last week with AQR in Portugal.


Climbing Hard
It was quite a revelation realising that my established beliefs and habits are the very things that are holding me back.  I’ve learnt to ride and train over the years through varied research coupled with trial and error.  To have world class athletes and coaches guide me in person and teach a better way forward, was an eye opening experience. 

Joining an AQR (A Quick Release) coaching week, at first was daunting with the high credentials of the other guests.  We very soon gelled as a group sharing experiences along with a friendly banter. 

Top of the mountain
Its not just about riding the bike, the morning classrooms sessions covered essential areas pertaining to peak performance, these included; nutrition, core stability, stretching, bike setup, tyre choice, and training programmes.  Kate, Ian and Anne are clearly experts in their fields where they shared with us a summary in simple English that we could all understand.

Anne Dickins, a physiotherapist specialising in sports performance, conducted an assessment discovering that my body is not as perfect as I thought; in fact my left leg is a bit wonky. This imbalance is affecting my riding and once corrected through her prescribed exercises should enable me to perform better.

The VO2 Max test with the breathing tubes to measure lung capacity and breathing effectiveness was interesting.  I was pleasantly surprised by my high score.

The bike fit was entertaining; with Ian looking for the perfect riding position, and Anne understanding my body’s limitations.  Combining their blend of skills, adjustments were made to the bike to enhance performance.  As my body improves, further adjustments can be made on the bike.

Kate Potter explained how to get the most power out of my body using a combined programme of nutrition and training.  It’s not all about eating as much as I can whilst riding as fast as I can.

There was plenty of time during the week to spend on the bike enjoying the sunny weather.  We rode many rocky trails up and down the rolling hills, often stopping to receive technical riding tips from Ian Potter or to practice difficult sections.  Several videos were taken to demonstrate our riding posture and note areas for improvement. 

Throughout the day, frequent challenges were presented to us involving long technical or steep climbs.  Body positioning on the bike, even pedal strokes and appropriate pacing was essential to reach the top.

The rocky single track tested and improved the bike handling skills to clear the numerous obstacles.  With some fast descents, the grin factor was in abundance.

All too soon the week came to an end and we returned back to the cold and wet UK.  The skills and lessons learned will enable me to reach another level with my fitness and bike performance, so perhaps one day I will reach the podium.  


Thanks AQR.



Sunday, 19 February 2012

It's All New

The new 29er bike is wonderful.  The carbon frame of the Scott Scale makes it super light and the big wheels just keep on rolling.  Thanks to Petra Cycles in Oxted for their friendly service.

Slime
Discovering that it is not possible to get 29er Slime tubes in the UK, Slime very kindly sent me a couple of their tubes.  For me, using Slime is very reassuring as it has saved many punctures.  On a few of occasions I’ve heard the hiss of air as a thorn penetrates the tyre.  Within a couple of revolutions, the hole is plugged as I continue riding.  This is a real tube and time saver, especially in race conditions.

Nectar Fuel
Always on the look out for new things, I was delighted to be contacted by the For Goodness Shakes people to try their Nectar Fuel.  It comes in a liquid format pumped from a container or in a sachet, making it very easy to mix.  The sweet taste is fine for short races where I would need something containing protein during a longer event.  In the couple of times I’ve used it so far, it has given me the extra burst I needed.

http://www.ride7ds.com/filmsbooks.htmlEndurance Within
Last week I read a book for the first time since 2003.  It was an enjoyable and moving experience on a subject that is close to my heart.  Rob Lee wrote ‘Endurance Within’ where I had the opportunity, with others, to help him get it to print.  Rob outlines his cycling career and describes some of his epic rides.  His South Downs Double was of particular interest where our preparation techniques in organising our own SDD rides were at opposite ends of the spectrum.  He describes his emotions during the epic rides in an honest way, that for me put some of my feelings into words.  There are not many athletes that have the courage to be so open where it gave me more of an insight into myself.  Thanks Rob.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

New Year's Resolutions

It’s early January and I’m sure most people have given up or forgotten about their New Year’s Resolutions.  Out of principle, I don’t make any resolutions in January, instead I tend to review things once a quarter with an annual reflection in the autumn.

The highlight for 2010 was the 24 hours of Exposure race in Newcastelton.  Racing alongside many blog authors who I follow, it was inspirational and humbling to be a part of their world.  Receiving track side support from the Cotic / AQR race team was overwhelming as they rapidly cared for me and my bike before cheering me back out onto the course.  Attaining a worthy 6th position in the dire conditions was a personal achievement. It was a privilege in August to be able to return the honour of pit crew for the Torq 12:12 race.

Seriously considering the 24 hour Solo World Championships in Italy, I started training back in October.  Due to a number of logistical reasons, I’ve decided to leave the Worlds until 2013 and go for the Exposure race again in April.  

Following JoeFriel’s model of periodisation, training is going well, placing me slightly ahead of this time last year.  I’m also exploring some deeper fitness aspects to improve overall performance, which hopefully will help me reach that elusive podium.

Having received so much from my cycling, I’ve decided to give something back in the form of an alternative blog.  Preparations for my events are meticulous, involving a huge amount of research in many diverse areas.  Some of this nerdy stuff is being collated so it can be made available for others to use.  Current items include; how to make a simple cadence meter for your turbo trainer, and how to graphically compare the gear ratios for 2 bikes with different sized wheels.  More items will follow later covering an analysis of sports food types, and effective charging times for lights.  Further details about this nerdy stuff will be released in due course.

2012 has the potential to be a fantastic year.  All I need to do is to make sure that it happens.