24 hour time trial (ESCA 24 National Championships)

This was my big goal for the year.  And I knew it was going to be much harder than anything I had done previously, I wasn't sure I fully comprehended how much harder. My build up to the 24 has been okay, I'd maybe not got enough miles in (do you ever?), but I was riding generally faster than I've done before.

The final few days before the 24, disaster - sore throat, cold.  Damn.  By the Friday, it wasn't too bad.  My theory was to go to the start and see what happens.  24s are not a regular event, this year is unusual in that there are two (the ESCA and Mersey Roads).  I am away for the Mersey Roads, so if I didn't ride at least a bit of this, I wouldn't ride until next year.  Even if I only put in a few hours, I would learn something of what riding a 24 is and be able to apply those lessons in the future.

So, Saturday morning, I found myself in a position I have very rarely been in - I had a number on my back.

It was a hot day - really hot.  This wasn't ideal.  I don't like hot conditions.  Ah well - night would come soon enough.

Things went well until nightfall - I reached the night HQ to put lights and extra clothing on at about 9:30 - I had around 170 miles on the clock in that first 9 hours.  My main target of 375 miles looked good, I might even stretch to my upper target of 400 miles.

Highlight of the daytime was a fly past by the Red Arrows.  I know it was the National Championships, but it seemed a little extravagant of the organisers to arrange such a thing.

Night-time went well - it was great riding past parked up cars and vans with little clusters of activity and having a voice calling out encouragement as you went passed.

After a couple of laps of the night circuit, I had to stop for a bit more clothing - it was colder than I expected on a couple of bits of the circuit.

I went through 12 hours at 210 miles - all feeling good.

As the night progressed, I was noticing some soreness in my right leg - around the knee or calf.  Unusual.

18 hours - 293 miles - I'd slowed dramatically.  375 was still well within my grasp - but 400 was gone.

Leg was getting worse - I was struggling to walk off the bike (good excuse to not get off the bike really!) and pedalling out of the saddle was no longer an option.

Interesting part of day 2 - watching a truck pass me and hit a pigeon that had been in the middle of the road - the pigeon survived the initial impact in that it still was flying up to the tree.  Riding through a cloud of feathers wasn't particularly nice though.

Leg was really bad now.  The last two hours.  The closest I had ever come to jacking anything in.  Though I didn't really know what the rules are - I always thought even if you only rode a few hours, you would still get a result.  But you see people with DNF on the results.  So, I didn't.

I could also just about see than 375 was still possible, even though I was moving very slowly indeed.

I've endured serious pain - lung surgery being the most pain I have ever suffered.  At least I was off my head on morphine.

The last hour was so difficult.  I know I could have slowed right down and pootled my way around and still got 365 miles or whatever.  But, no.  I am a stubborn idiot.  I wanted 375 miles.

I don't know if the official results will have that distance.  My Garmin trace is around 378 miles.  I'll be upset if my official distance is less than 372.823 miles (600km) - but I know I have ridden 600km in 24 hours now.

Stepping off the bike after 24 hours is weird.  You're suddenly transported out of this highly focussed zone where nothing matters other than pedalling and eating/drinking.  Working out how to navigate back to HQ and other such demanding tasks had to be dealt with.  Talking to someone behind the counter at the garage where I stopped for an ice cream was hard.

It was an amazing weekend.  I enjoyed it a lot, however it was so, so much harder than I expected.  Partly because of the injury of course.  But just the focus required is phenomenal - you can not slip into coasting mode, you have to stay on pace all the time and really do not get off your bike for any longer than strictly required.

I've learnt a lot.  I may have another crack at the 24.  I now know I am good for 400 miles if I do a few things better - and avoid injury.  For now, my cold has worsened to the point of having no voice, and my leg had swollen up like a (hard) balloon.

But the sense of achievement is enormous!

Blurry dusk photo from my friend Mark:


Edited to add some Strava goodness - http://www.strava.com/activities/157060257

Note that I truncated it to under 24 hours - because I am vain and wanted the ride to qualify for the Strava Grand Fondo competition!  The cropping on Strava is a bit hit and miss with really long rides - so I cropped out 10 minutes at the end by accident - as I was moving at not more than walking pace by then - it doesn't make much difference!

Edited 9/7/14 - my official distance was 374.88 miles, so I am pleased to have reached over 600km and above my VTTA standard.