A fast day for the ones who got along with the heat …

Traditionally the Shaftsbury E2/50 is taking place on the hottest Saturday of the year, and this year is probably no exception. The usual 27 degrees might not have been reached, but we were not much below that. Still, this year there we had more or less no wind according to the forecast – it didn’t always feel like this out on the road, but even a wimp like me could handle an Enve 8.9 front wheel – so it must have been very calm.

Ever since starting to TT three years ago I wanted to go sub 2 h for 50 miles, ideally sub 1:58 to get on the All Times Fastest list. So far the heat on the E2/50 and me often being unable to ride the few other fast 50 courses for a variety of reasons has left me stuck with a 2 h 2 minutes PB for a long time, and seeing today’s heat made me wonder if I could gather the willpower to break that time. Plus seeing that until last weekend my legs were just not doing as told, I was not quite sure what to expect. Yes, I felt a lot better during the week, and hoped to have finally recovered from the 12 h Championship – but you never know until you are out on the road, do you? At least I know the course ‘inside out’, seeing that the E2 was the first dual carriageway course I ever rode, and I just love the E2 courses. I feel you can get into a proper rhythm there, not being interrupted by roundabouts and turns like you are on Etwall, but you just stay on the inside lane and pedal on.

Chris Melia had the great idea to meet up on Friday night and stay close to the course – her drive from Sheffield was a bit longer than mine, so that made sense and was a perfect excuse to have some fun. We drove the course and I tried to pass on my ‘expert knowledge’ where to expect things to be hard just due to the tarmac of a false flat which actually is an incline etc – and I was glad to hear that I did not overload her with information, but that it actually helped her not to be discouraged when it felt especially hard exactly at the predicted spots. Combining fun times and TTs is just the perfect way – thanks a lot, Chris!!!

The supersized cooked breakfast I had must have been digested by the time we raced, even though Chris’ option for porridge made for a faster ride (but to be honest, I don’t think it was down to the breakfast – Chris is just amazingly fast and way faster than I am. My conclusion is that it must be the age – speed comes with age right? At least I am getting faster every year, so that MUST be true 🙂 ). For the first time ever I did not get into any stomach problems when riding in the heat – those OTE products do honestly agree with me very much, and helped to make this ride much more comfortable than any E2/50 I did before (and those are usually the hottest rides I do …).

The true muppet moment came when looking for my skinsuit at the HQ – and realising that I left the bag with my most aero skinsuit in Chris’ car at the B&B. Luckily I had already decided to not bother with trip socks and overshoes due to the temperature (also in that bag), and had a spare pair of gloves in the car. And thanks to the amazing generosity of Nopinz I do actually have a ‘spare’ BtB skinsuit – so disaster was prevented, but I think I am keeping the mug for being the team’s biggest muppet for a while longer …

So all was well and not eventful before the start, pouring water over ourselves made the heat bearable for a few minutes. For BtB, Clare was off as number 1, then Chris number 11 and me the lucky number 13. I spotted Clare when she was coming back from Four Wentways, with Hayley Simmonds and Clarice Chuang already being close. Chris was also well on her way past the roundabout before I got to the turn, but that was not expected any other way. The start felt good, but I did already see the power not being as high as hoped and aimed for. But seeing my recent performances I rather kept to the lower power and hoped to keep it going – which I didn’t, but at least I was mentally able to push right until the end. I realised once more how comfortable I feel on this course, knowing my way around. Closing in to my minute woman Jody when getting to the Red Lodge turn was satisfying, as our times have usually been very close, with either of us being faster at different events. I lost her again due to more traffic at the roundabouts, and because I once more struggled at the dog leg. Going slower there allowed me to refuel on two gels, which gave me much needed energy. Karen Ledger passed me for 2 minutes around 25 miles, which I felt wasn’t too bad seeing her recent performances. Chris was doing an amazing approximately 53 minutes at the 25 miles split, and I was only hoping to keep myself together at that point. 56 minutes for me at the 25 mile mark, but from experience I know that I always have a negative split and slower second half in this race. Still – the sub 1:58 to get on the All Times Fastest list was not out of reach, even if I slowed down a bit, and that was a big motivation. More motivation was gathered by the fact that I kept both Karen and Jody in sight after rejoining the A11 and the A14. It took me a long time to finally pass Jody – and once more I managed to pass someone on ‘a climb’ – OK, a drag. Maybe I am not that bad at going up the drags? And as a positive surprise going up the drag didn’t feel as hard as it did sometimes before (certainly going up it for the 3rd time in the E2/100 was painful), so another piece in the puzzle of keeping me motivated was found, despite seeing a continuous drop in power. I had a mental blank trying to remember the average speed to get on the list, but 25.9 mph still sounded like I am on target. Another slow stretch of road going from the A14 onto the A11 allowed for another gel – weight reduction, right? The road until the start of the final 10 miles stretched itself, as usual – but I was pleased to feel that the legs did take some encouragement to keep on pushing. I never had to tell them to shut up, as they never complained. They were just utter silent, and refused to put out more power, but worked on an OK level. Strange …

When I started the final 10 miles I saw Hayley coming towards the finish, and did actually take the time to consider whether she got the competition record, and was fairly certain she did before telling myself off for not focussing on my own ride … So on I went, round and round. Time and average speed looked good at the final turn, a final gel was gulped and the legs were finally told to shut up, even though they still didn’t really complain … They were told that they can fall off after the finish and shall finally work hard to earn that status … If they would not hurt properly after the ride I might just hit them until they hurt – I wanted that list, and wanted it badly. Maybe I should have started to work for it earlier? Easier said than done, but maybe I could have given the legs a serious telling off earlier? Then again, they did not let me down as they did in the last races, so one ought to be nice to ones legs, right? And they honestly did work hard for those final miles.

It all still looked good going past the penultimate sliproad, and the legs continued to help, and even though I don’t trust my Garmin time to be accurate, if it’s showing a 1 h 56 minutes finish, I should be on the list

A cool down spin was necessary before joining Chris at the car and finding her as happy as myself, or probably even happier. She finished in 1:52:24 – which not only was a PB by 5 minutes, 5 seconds, but also got her the National Age Group Record. Luckily my legs were OK at that point, as some Tiggerish bouncing by the two of us had to happen – we were both just over the moon with happiness J Clare suffered more from the heat than we did and finished in 2:06:25 – still clearly well done for finishing in the heat.

For the riders who coped with the heat it was clearly a fast day – Hayley Simmonds broke the competition record by over 4 minutes with a 1:42:20, and plenty of women managed to get onto the All Times Fastest list. And I was pleased to hear that Chris shares my love for this course – I see more joint mischief coming up.

So I think we can clearly call this race another success for BtB – racing in a team is just fabulous!!! And my amazement goes to the BtB’ers who started racing today earlier than I did, and will go on until tomorrow afternoon. You 24 h girls are the real stars!!!

 

 

 

 

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National Champion and more

National 12 h Championship

 

 

In brief: I am amazed with my first 12: 258 miles, 4 gold, 1 bronze medal (being a vet helps …), National Age Group record and new course record. It was a very close race with Crystal, and I can’t believe I did it. Lynne did a great ride with 242 miles, to get Born to Bike Gold and Bronze overall and gold and silver in the Vet’s Championship. Such a shame that Jasmijn and Helen couldn’t ride – we would have probably smashed the Women’s Team Competition Record …

A new chapter for me – I never ventured into the territory of a 12 h race before, but after deliberately joining a Club with a lot of strong long distance riders I think I was destined to give it a go. Loads and loads of miles on the TT bike were done in preparation for this event, enough to ask people ‘Why don’t you drive if you want to get from Milton Keynes to Sheffield or Didcot?’ Recent power PBs in the National 50 and the E2/100 made me confident that I was in form, a recce of the parts of the course I did not know from last years 100 made me confident that I do like the course, and a lot of planning got into what food my body could take (I thought), and I had so many option available … And a perfect support team of two – one keeping an eye on the competition and riders, one who I knew would always be ready with a sharp comment to make me smile again, and both in the desire to deliver the shortest pit stops possible …

 

The course in Abergavenny was considered to be pretty fast and possible to deliver 300+ miles for the guys (which is just missed …). I decided to put my head in the sand and not even check the weather forecast beforehand, as I had to ride anyway. But I had a second TT bike ready with aluminium rims, offering better breaking power. In the end I didn’t want to lose time changing, and the course was OK on the carbon rims when ridden carefully – so two spare bikes travelled to Wales in a ‘better prepared than sorry’ (as did most of the kit we packed – we were somewhat over-prepared …).

 

The morning was nice, not too cold, and the start was really chilled. Checking to bike over, yes, but no real warm-up needed. Setting out I really struggled with keeping my power target of 175 W (I wanted to be conservative and do 170 W), and for the first 90 miles I actually rode on 183 W. Having the number on your bum always helps to forget about the niggles and anxieties you have in other rides, so descending to Monmouth was no problem at all, and I only told myself off for passing other riders and going too hard. I tried to keep the power down but couldn’t really … The first rest stop did shock my supporters a bit, I think, as I was gone way quicker than they expected. I only thought if this is a close race, one way to make up for usually being the slower rider is to stop less. So off I shot again up to Hereford, and that leg was clearly easier than it was during the recce. Again, a number on your bum makes you forget about rough road surfaces, and the biggest worry was not to overcook the inclines … The traffic light was red both ways, but it was a welcome moment to put the feet down and eat a gel whilst standing. Getting close to Hereford was the first time I came passed Lynne and waved a hello, having missed her at the start. Other than passing other riders I cannot say that I had a clue what was going on around me. Crystal seemed awfully close at the Hereford turn, but I couldn’t remember hat number she was off at, so that didn’t mean much. I expected my supporters at 91 miles, before the Abergavenny roundabout, but they had not yet passed me since I last saw them keeping an eye out on the field and timing riders. Drinks needed rationing and I was pleased that they would be stationary for the main loops – and to find them at the agreed place when coming to Raglan for the first time at around 100 miles. I still didn’t fancy solid food, but only protein shakes and gels … And off I went again, hearing that I am ahead of Crystal. After that I never heard a lot about the positioning, but got the gist that I am doing well from the way Steve and Dave were constantly cheering me on when I was passing them. Steve might have said that I was in the lead, but to be honest: I can’t remember.

 

It was getting quite warm at some point, and cross winds came up on the A40 bit from Monmouth to the Ragnar turn, making me slightly uncomfortable on the bike. The I thought I am bonking and losing power when doing the A40 from Ragnar to Abergavenny for the first time, and was so pleased to find out that it wasn’t me bonking but it strong headwind, as things suddenly were extremely easy after turning at the Abergavenny roundabout. And I was pleased that this leg, which was part of the finishing circuit was my preferred leg. The second time on the mid-day circuit the rain started to settle in, and even though it intermittently stopped, it was pretty much there till the end of the ride. It stopped long enough to dry out in-between, only to be soaked again half an hour later. And to wonder with 3 h to go whether the body spending a lot of energy on heating me up might give me hypothermia? More gels was the solution, but by then I also had to concentrate on eating and drinking was clearly becoming less frequent … And all that thought out solid food was not used. Not even the tested almond butter bacon sandwiches – the body could not take anything solid. So protein shakes and gels it was – I think about 20 😮 And opening them became more and more difficult, probably a sign of exhaustion. At times my right leg must have looked like that of an extreme body builder, with 6 empty gel wrapped stuffed in. That cannot have been aero, but where else to put them? Fresh gels in the left leg, waste disposal in the right, and more gels in the top tube bag …

 

I was surprised how few riders were on the course, compared to last years 100. Round and round you go, singing along in my head and constantly telling myself not to overcook it. The power had settled on 177 W, and stayed at that. I couldn’t believe that I was still keeping 21.5 – 21.7 mph – I thought I wouldn’t be able to even achieve 21. And was certain that it would drop on the finishing circuit, which it didn’t. 6 h was a high- and low point, half time but still sooo long to go. 8 h felt good, but surprisingly at 9 h I was almost ready to pack. I hated everything, even though the body ached not worse than anticipated. Rotating the shoulders at every roundabout and doing the neck stretches clearly helped. But I did see why people say they are relieved when getting on the finishing circuit, and I was longing to sit up a bit more. On the other hand I clearly wanted a 4th round on the mid-day circuit as it was faster, and I was chuffed that I got it. With the rain settling in I saw even less of other riders around me, and spotted Lynne less frequently. It’s amazing how you can be in your own little world for 12 hours … A pain cave, but a world of focus and concentration. The knowledge that I can go for a ‘real’ medal, not ‘just an age group win’. That was worth fighting for, right? So I did, and didn’t let go. Yes, the roads were monotonous, the highpoints was coming past Steve who was always so cheerful and gave me the impression that I was doing well. Dave told me every time that I shall ‘dip deep’ and I never had enough breath to yell back ‘what do you think I am doing?’. Plus Kerry always cheering me on – and off course Burti and Geoff, my own supporters. The sign language of what I needed was getting better and better, chamois cream was frequently asked for seeing the sogging wet clothes, and an easier to do up zip on the skin suit would have clearly saved another 10 s and got me more miles. As would the Di2 batteries not running out and making me ride the last 7 miles or so in the small front chainring. By then I was told ‘Go for the win’ and I so hoped that this misfortune would not cost me the win …

 

Seeing others finish over the last hour (the first rider finished approximately 52 minutes before me) was easier than I thought, by then I was digging in for the win and found extra energy to keep me going strong. I was chuffed when passing a timekeeper 1.5 minutes after the 12 hours, and not having to go even further, and when my supporters passed me I could not believe how far it was to the next layby. I was tempted to just stop and ask them to come back, but knew a cool down would be good. Getting off the bike? Only by laying the bike on the floor and me being held up. A change of clothes, then lying down in the car. On the drive back to the HQ my legs were shaking, and I was never ever as exhausted in my whole life. Waiting for the final results took ages, and even though I was fairly certain I won (Crystal thought she did 256, I 257) I felt it was too close to not see if as an official result before really believing it.

 

I am sorry I can’t say more about the whole race – I guess it was a fast course but with elevations, and I surprised myself that the lumpy back road of the finishing didn’t slow my speed down. Thanks to all people encouraging me riding to constant power and telling me it can be done. You are right! And overcooking it a bit at the beginning was not detrimental. I still much rather ride a 12 than support it, I have to say. The rain didn’t help in general, but I think it did actually helped me as I was not overheating. And I was glad that the Trip Socks were keeping my calves warm.

 

I am still amazed with the mileage, and think the list of achievements is as follows (it pays out to be over 40), but I might be wrong:

 

Women’s Gold medal (English National Championship)

Women’s Gold medal (WelshNational Championship)

Women’s Age Group Gold

Vet’s Women Gold on standard

Vet’s Bronze on standard

 

New National Age Group record

 

New course record (by almost ten miles)

 

4th on the Women’s All-Times Fastest (or Furthest) list

 

Not bad for a first go at a 12. Yes – I played high risk, and went for all or nothing. But I won and am just chuffed and happy and thankful to all the people who supported me in this journey!!!!

 

Provisional results:

Men:

  1. Danny Grieves (GS Metro) 294.142 miles
  2. Tejvan Pettinger (Sri Chinmoy CT)            283.995
  3. Gregory Woodford (Reading CC) 279.074

 

Women:

  1. Katja Rietdorf (Born to Bike-Bridgetown Cycles)            258.036
  2. Crystal Spearman (No Pinz)           255.901
  3. Lynne Biddulph (Born to Bike-Bridgetown Cycles)         242.780

Flying on ‘the list’ at the ECCA100

ECCA100 – 12 minute, 17 Watt PB and 4:04:26 get me well on the women’s All Times Fastest list

The winding up to next week’s 12 h Nationals continues. A proper power PB at last week’s National 50, and today a massive PB over 100 miles. I am very pleased about those results, and having two power PBs in a row make me think more positive about achieving my power goal for the 12 …

My strategy of shifting my rhythm seems to pay off – recently bed time was 8 pm to get up again at 4 am. Maybe the biggest advantage was that I can fall asleep very early before those early morning races. The 2:30 am start today wasn’t too bad, meeting Helen Reynolds at the HQ to hand over bottles and discuss how to to the refill of my Speedfill bottle. Suddenly I ran out of time and needed to ride to the start a bit faster than intended. Oh well, a good warm up it was 🙂 Not being 100% sure where the start is didn’t help, and seeing the riders at the start line was a relief. 4 minutes to go – time for a gel and focussing. And adjusting the tape with my target times for the roundabouts so I could actually see it whilst riding.

It was a strange feeling to ride with target times – them being to finish in 4:08 to get on ‘the list’ with a bit of time to spare. The agreed power was 205 W, but that was forgotten quickly. I told myself not to overcook it, and felt somewhat bad when lapping my minute women, who has faster 100 times than me, but on other times I was in the lead. Still, I felt good and wasn’t going THAT hard, only 15-20 W above target 😉 Getting to the northern end, the Red Lodge turn, was quick and nice – neither traffic nor wind. But the turn immediately reminded me of the bad road surface on that stretch, and soon after that I was reminded of the painful long incline after the start of the E2/25 course … Trying not to overcook it, but frequently going to 246 W on the climb made me ride on a 217 W power by then. But it felt good and I got to see Helen at the Four Wentways roundabout exactly on target time. I wasn’t sure if I could keep up that power, but so far it felt good so I tried to stick to keeping to this power. And make use of the fact that the northward journey always seems easier, but the song’s ‘Keep on pushing, you’re pushing real good’ and ‘Spinning right round, round round, like a record baby’ started to play in my head. I was pleased to see the average speed up to 24.7 at the Red Lodge turn, and was sorry to see it constantly drop going to Four Wentways, riding into a proper headwind. And I am sure the roadsurface was even slower and the upholds were longer. At least I knew the course again properly … I dropped down to 24.3 by the time I reached Helen for a quick bottle fill up, the stop and roundabout making it drop to 24.2. Still well on target, in fact I was so ahead of target time that I had to shout at Helen that I am coming up the slip road. She was ready but don’t quite expect me. Anything just over 24 mph was necessary to stay under 4:10, but again there was the nagging doubt whether I can keep up the power for another 38 miles? I was utterly pleased to see the average speed increase by 0.1 mph between the turn and the finish – so there is hope for it not being spoiled at the end. I thought again to make use of the tailwind and me liking the northward leg, so I tried to increase the average speed as much as possible – 24.6 mph at the turn. Thinking back I am no longer sure about the tailwind, as during the return leg I think I had a tailwind there, so the wind must have turned at some point. Great for my ride, but I heard many others complain about it … At this point I thought I just go for it, and whenever I looked at the power metre I saw them down at 180 – so why the average power did not drop I still don’t know. But inclines now meant sitting up to use other muscles (unless I thought there was a head wind and being aero paid off), and there were plenty of clusters of tired riders not really separating, and plenty of passing back and forth. This was stressful as I tried to keep to a rhythm and couldn’t quite do it. And I did hurt. A lot. And even more. But seeing the speed so high meant I really wanted to keep it going and collected every ounce of energy I could muster. Lots of yelling at myself, lots of telling myself I don’t have a PB until I am over the finishing line, too much can happen. Seeing the second last exit was good – it can’t be far. One more incline, sit up and push up it … Push it real good. Glad to see the timekeepers right after the turn – hurray! And having the Garmin show 4:04:20 meant even if that’s not accurate, it will be under 4:10 🙂

Pedalling on to the HQ was tough and painful, but the cool down was needed. Much needed.

A superb ride by Alice Lethbridge got her the win in 3:57:35, and I am very pleased with my second place in 4:04:26. Eleanor Haresign came third in a 4:11. Overall winner Richard Bideau did not seem to be affected by the wind when doing his 3:22 …

Lots of people liked this new version of the E2/100, being completely on dual carriageways. I certainly do, and three laps work well for me … The wind was a bit all over the place, so you never knew what the next lap will bring. A huge thanks goes to Helen Reynolds for a new bottle refilling record, reducing the time for two refills from 30 sec to 22 sec. It really helped to have you there!

Overall a great event, and having two strong power PBs makes me more confident for next week’s National 12! Recovery now 🙂

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