For some of you the images used in my last blog post hinting at my cycling dreams for 2016/17 may have been enough to grasp the enormity of the challenge I have set myself. Covering 843 miles solo, without sleeping or stopping, all within 52 hours, is probably more than any ‘normal’ person would want to do in a car, let alone on a bicycle. But as per the cliché quote:
‘Don’t limit your challenges … challenge your limits’.
Having done well at 12-hour and 24-hour solo events, I am curious to see how my body will react when I stretch my limits yet a little further. So a ‘logical’ step – at least so it feels to me – is to up the stakes and have a go at the solo women’s Land’s End John O’Groats (LEJOG) record, which currently stands at 2 days, 4 hours, 45 minutes and 11 seconds.
Ha-ha along with 277.25 mile (12-hour competition record held by Beryl Burton) and 461.45 mile (24-hour competition record held by Christine Roberts) those numbers are probably even more firmly etched into my mind than my own mobile phone number 😉
I am told that whilst I am at it, I may as well continue to try and beat the 1,000 miles record, which current stands at 2 days, 16 hours and 38 minutes… Co-incidentally (or perhaps not so co-incidentally) the current holder of both the LEJOG and 1,000 miles record is my Born to Bike team mate Lynne Biddulph (nee Taylor)!
Importantly I am not just dreaming about these records; they are very real goals. But I certainly don’t underestimate what it takes to achieve these goals and what action I have to take in pursuing my goals. It may not be on my first attempt, but I really hope that with the right preparation and a bit of luck, a good support team and a nice tail-wind I will indeed break both the solo women’s LEJOG and the 1,000 miles record.
You may ask, ‘WHY’ I want to do this? What inspires me? I guess to some extent curiosity to see how far those inbuilt ‘Duracell Bunny’ batteries can take me. But the biggest influence was an event I went to in November 2013 where Eileen Sheridan spoke about her amazing long-distance challenges, including her LEJOG and 1,000 miles records. Talking about dreaming big… how amazing would it be if I could manage to break those records being a team mate of the current record holder and whilst Eileen Sheridan is still alive?! Call me emotional or nostalgic, but part of my drive to break these records is a longing for achievements that are not only reflective of my own efforts, but also form part a broader history. It certainly felt that way having my name etched into the 12-Hour and Best British All-Rounder Trophies.
So, what makes me think I can break these records? I am well aware that ‘success is an iceberg’ and how much effort goes into achieving success, which is often less visible to outsiders… I have huge esteem for Lynne and the record. The fact the record has been standing for more than 10 years, speaks volumes. She broke the record not just once, but came back the next year to break her own record. It’s not just a major physical challenge, but also an enormous mental and organisational challenge. Plenty of talented and even very high-profile cyclists (such as Rebecca Romero and James Cracknell) have tried their hands (or rather legs) at a LEJOG record attempt, only to find themselves unable to realise that dream because of a combination of bad luck, bad planning and/or other barriers.
I am aware that a huge dose of determination and ‘positive thinking’ alone won’t cut it. Whereas I approached my first 12-hour without much preparation and left my fate to a good deal of luck (and the kind support from the organising club), this time I am approaching things a bit more seriously.
Any big goal is easier to achieve when you break it down into smaller steps. Although I have done well at an 24-hour solo event (LeMans24hr), the first step is to have a go at the Mersey RC 24-hour TT this July. 24-hours on the road is quite a different challenge (both for me and my support crew) to prepare for than 24-hours on a floodlit track, with a DJ playing through the night to keep you spirits up, dedicated pit-stop areas for refuelling and the Redbull team on hand to keep your support crew going through the night…
The Mersey24hr will largely be held on the same roads as last year’s National 12-hour. Knowing the roads gives me some confidence at least. But how will I cope when riding the ‘Peplow pave’ for the umptieth time in the dark? Will my Exposure Strada be bright enough and burn for long enough? How will I attach an external battery pack to keep my Garmin Edge 500 going for 24-hours without risking it falling off on that rough section and what is the best setting for the backlight? Wouldn’t a Garmin Edge 520 or 810 be better and the ‘live tracking’ be useful also with the LEJOG record attempt in mind? What additional lights and reflectives am I going to use to make sure I am both clearly visible to cars in the night and stand out from other competitors so my support team can recognise me? How many calories should I take on over the course of 24 hours? Will a KASK Bambino be comfortable for 24 hours, especially if it is a hot day? …So many things to consider. On a positive note, so many family members and friends have already offered their support for the event. It looks like I will have an army of supporters (some even willing to dress up as a banana!).
Aside from the 24-hour I will also ride a number of 12-hour time trials this year and hope to complete a full Audax Randonneur Series (of 200, 300, 400 and 600km events) as part of my training.
My mini spring ‘training camp’ will be to cycle to and from my mum who lives in Brittany and during the May Bank Holiday I hope to explore the LEJOG route at a leisurely pace, taking 6 days to familiarise myself with the route and discover which towns to avoid or what times are best to avoid being on certain stretches of the route. The RRA (Road Records Association), and Lynne’s dad John Taylor in particular have been very helpful with advice on route etc. Fingers crossed I can do their support justice.
Finally, I will be attending a RAAM (Race Across America) workshop in London this spring. RAAM is certainly on my list of ‘big dreams’, but I will have to work hard on securing sponsorship or sell up everything I own first. Meanwhile, I hope that the workshop will give me some good insight into how to prepare for ultra-distance cycling events and it will be nice to meet some fellow ‘nutters’ with big dreams…