August – 12 Hours is a Long Time

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

I had two main targets coming into August – both season goals.

Club 50 Championship

The Seamons Club 50 mile championship (and also the final race in our TT Champion competition) took place as part of the Congleton CC 50 mile open around the J4/16 course.

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It was a warm and sunny day again and I was trialling a new bottle carrier that clamps onto the saddle rails – made by Topeak.  It’s a modular system that allows one or two of their Ninja bottle cage range to attach to it.  I have two – one that holds a pouch for an inner tube underneath, and one that holds CO2 canisters (as shown).  If you look closely, tyre levers are integrated into the side of the main spine of the cage.

These were in preparation for the 12 hour and I have to say they are really good – very easy to get the bottles in and out, plus supposedly more aero than a non-aero bottle on the downtube.

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Picture courtesy of and © Richard Howes Photography

On another warm but breezy day I was very pleased with my ride, recording my second best time on J4/16 despite encountering the cows crossing the road for the first time in a good few years.  It was good enough to win the club championship and retain the trophy for another year.  50M in 01:52:45, 5th from 82 riders (£40 – 1st vet on standard, £20 1st team) 

Weekend Off

No racing so spent the weekend in the lakes – mainly eating!

Carb Loading isn’t as fun as it sounds…

As I began my taper down to the 12 hour on the 19th, I also started to increase my food intake from about 72 hours out, notably lots of carbs.  The goal was to hit about 8-10g/kg of body weight, so in my case between 500 – 600g of carbs.  During the Giro D’Italia earlier in the year, Team Sky had made much about Chris Froome’s long solo breakaway win, and the fact that they had calculated his nutrition needs as if it was some magical marginal gain.  The fact is testers have been doing that for years on longer rides such as a 12 hour.  My own nutrition spreadsheet has evolved since 2016 and now delivers me 90g of carb per hour during the race, with stops calculated to change bottles and pick up extra food.  90g per hour is considered the maximum the body can absorb, which is why trying to “fill up” the fuel (glycogen) stores with carb loading makes sense.

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Project Management 101 for testers!

Perhaps not surprisingly, by the end of the week I was sick of it, but it did pay off in the end.

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This is what fuelling for a 12hr looks like!

Combined Associations 12 Hour

The weather forecasts were pretty mixed – some were showing persistent rain, most were showing high humidity and decent temperatures but all were showing a very windy day.

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The HQ (and start) was at the finishing circuit on an industrial estate in Wrexham, which sounds glamorous but really isn’t.

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It’s all glamour…


I was up at 3:45am and I had two cartons of Instant Oats porridge.  Then, immediatly prior to and during the event I consumed the following, timed to give me approx 90g of carbs per hour (as per spreadsheet above)

Item g Carb Kcals Count
SIS BetaFuel drink mix (700ml) 80 320 8
Zipvit ZV7c Caffiene Gel 51 204 2
PowerBar PowerGel Shots 48 210 1
Cliff ShotBlok 48 192 2
SIS Go Energy Large Bar 40 227 4
Honey Stinger Energy Bar 26 173 2
Stoats Porridge Bar 26 226 3

As mentioned I carried two bottles behind my saddle and I tucked 2 or 3 items of food inside my skinsuit at the neck opening.  In total, I consumed around 6,000kcals if you include the early breakfast, and I was still in deficit at the end.  I planned four stops to change bottles and get more food – these were at intervals of around 74 miles, 57 miles, 46 miles and 48 miles.  I also knew I’d need a few ad-hoc nature breaks too – one of the many problems with being over 50!  The fantastic support team I had made these stops really quick and efficient so this year there were only just over 6 minutes where I wasn’t moving, and that included 3 unscheduled stops at temporary traffic lights on the course.  That’s 5 minutes fewer stops than last year.

The weather

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It was windy at the start, but dry and reasonably warm.  I opted to wear a baselayer but because of the wind I also cut a small square of emergency space blanket (the tinfoil ones*) and wore that across my chest inside my skinsuit.  That would allow me to ditch it later on when it got warmer.  I’d also wiped the inside of my visor with washing-up liquid the day before as it helps stop it steaming up – I find the Aerohead is very prone to this in damp or humid conditions.

There were spots of rain on the way out to the first circuit but it wasn’t until the Espley – Shawbirch leg that it started raining.  It was cold and wet at Espley and I was glad of my extra layer, and then a few miles down the road it was warm and dry and I was less glad.  Then I’d go back up to Espley and it was cold and damp again!  However, that was really the last of the rain and it brightened up and got warmer as we rode the day circuit.  The wind remained most of the day only really tailing off towards the end – it was unpleasant riding into it and unpleasant battling for stability when it was coming across from the side.  I’d say it was pleasant when it was a tailwind but it never feels totally equitable!

Towards the end of the day it seemed to get warmer and warmer.  The last two years I’ve been freezing at the end but not this year

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Bit hot! Photo courtesy of Johnny Pardoe

*note to self in future – there is a reason that conspiracy theorists wear hats made of tinfoil – it definitely blocks the data signal from your HR strap to your bike computer!

The course

I quite enjoyed the first section of the course which was a rolling ride over to the A41 and then down through Prees Heath to Ternhill to Espley – which is familiar to anyone who has ridden WCTTCA events.  We then had two out-and-back loops to Shawbirch roundabout via the dreaded Peplow “pave”!  On the plus side that was much better than the three and five times in previous years.  However, it is still a teeth-chattering surface that is at best irritating and at worst can shake bits off your bike.  Luckily the only thing I lost this year was an emergency nurofen I’d taped to my bars!

The day circuit was the same as last year – a 22 mile loop around Redbrook, Welshampton, Quina Brook and Tilstock.  It was a headwind on the first part into Welshampton, with temporary traffic lights for non-existent roadworks, and then rolling country lanes for the rest.  Apart from near Quina Brook the surface is reasonable and it’s a lovely route.  However, after my 5th time around I was well and truly fed up with it.  The temporary traffic lights stopped me dead twice, made me slow down significantly twice and sprint like an idiot once, which is not a good idea with over 100 miles left.

It was a bit of a drag back to the finishing circuit – after 200 odd miles it felt VERY rolling and there was also a quite steep descent, which was interesting in a very tired state on a very windy day.  There was also a set of traffic lights at a junction, preceded by temporary lights on a hill just before them.  I got stopped at the temporary lights and it was a >400W effort to get the bike going again up the hill – definitely not something I needed at that stage, it hurt a lot.  Other riders later reported the lights were showing green in both directions resulting in problems for them as traffic blocked the lane.

The finish circuit was a 9-ish mile loop around the HQ.  Past the HQ felt fast, downhill and possibly a tailwind. Then a left turn onto what was quite a rough surface section with a cow crossing point, which held up a lot of riders (not me luckily).  Another left turn onto an ascending drag into the wind, then back down onto the industrial estate via a short section of fast dual-carriageway.

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Passing the HQ – photo courtesy of Johnny Pardoe

Man and machine

For the first twenty miles I felt good.  I knew what I could do for 12 hours and I rode that pace.  I also knew that I wasn’t very good at eating and drinking so I forced myself to do it.  I had a list of things to eat and the times I would eat them taped to my bars.  I set my auto-lap on the Wahoo to lap every hour and when it went off I ate something off my list. Towards the end I felt a bit sick – I’d eaten a lot of sugary carbs and couldn’t face any more, but between that and the carb loading I never felt like I was going to bonk.

I did have some problems though.  My left knee became increasingly sore during the ride.  It had started a couple of weeks before – just the odd twinge here and there but it wasn’t going.  Walking up a big hill in the Lake District the week before didn’t really help either – it was worse after that.  So after about 50 miles I was riding with knee pain.  Luckily for me (!), the pain in my elbow completely distracted me away from my knee.  I’ve fitted the very high reversed USE aerobars and I’d noticed that my elbow was a bit sore at the end of the 50’s I’d used as test runs.  Many people seem to have the same problem and angle the pads so that pressure is spread along the forearm rather than on one bony point on the elbow.  I didn’t have time to do that and therefore it became more and more of a problem.  Any bit of poor road surface sent a shooting pain up my elbow and I was left with two large bruises on my elbows by the time I had finished.  Added to that was the general pain in my shoulders and neck and I was struggling to hold position for more than 20 minutes at a time before I needed a break.  I tried to ride in position into the wind and then take a break when it felt like a tailwind.

It takes a fair bit of mental strength to ride for 12 hours.  I can only do it by breaking it down into smaller chunks.  So I focused on each hour.  I forced myself to do calculations in my head to keep track of the pace I needed to do, and I set myself little goals like “ride the next section at this power”.   When I reached a milestone you can have a bit of a celebration in your head, things like 25% of the time through, first 100 miles done etc.  Then you start to count down after halfway which is always a boost.  All are mental tricks to keep you pushing through the pain and discomfort.  I also tried to say thank you to each marshal I passed, although at some fraught times I know I missed a couple.  The event was organised and marshaled superbly well and they all provided great support as riders went past.  The final surging morale boost came when I entered the finish circuit.  Even though there were still a couple of hours left it was quite emotional and a massive lift going past everyone at the HQ.  In fact, looking at the data, my power and speed picked up noticeably and I finished very strongly despite the pain and fatigue.

The bike functioned perfectly well.  There were a few creaks and groans from the headset by the end, after the battering from the road surface, but other than that it was great.  I used a waxed chain which felt very smooth and didn’t miss a beat all day.  The last two years I’d suffered from chafing after a few hours and had used a LOT of chamois cream to get me through.  This season I’m running a Specialized Sitero saddle and it wasn’t until around 11 hours that I felt any chafing or discomfort, which is a big improvement.

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What a superb support crew! Photo courtesy of Johnny Pardoe

None of it would have been possible without the fantastic support I received.  Dave and Neil out on the course, Liz and Kate in the lead up to the event and on the finish circuit, and Carol and JP at the HQ.  Thank you all.

Things that went well
  • My target was 270 miles and a Seamons club record.  My official distance was 272.21 miles.  That should also get me the Club BAR again
  • Superb organisation and marshaling.  Indeed, the provisional results were out the same evening which is incredibly fast for a 12 hour
  • Fantastic support!  Thank you all again
  • Overall nutrition planning and stops
  • Honey Stinger bars – very nice, easy to chew and get down
  • My power/pacing was pretty consistent all the way through
  • Bottle cages behind the saddle
  • Specialized Sitero saddle
  • Wahoo Elemnt Bolt battery life
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Still > 15% battery left!

Things a bit so-so
  • SIS Go Large Energy Bars – nice enough but a bit hard and very difficult to chew on the move
  • Stoats porridge bars – the opposite – easy to eat but crumbly, so bits were flying everywhere
  • SIS Betafuel – seems to work well but a bit of an insipid taste (lemon/lime – should’ve tried orange as well)
Things that didn’t work
  • Horizontal armrests with “praying mantis” aerobars
  • Armrests probably too narrow for 12 hours – a bit uncomfortable
  • My left knee
  • HR monitor data signal through tinfoil
Facts and Figures
  • 272.21 miles at just under 22.7mph
  • Approx. 7,000ft of ascent
  • Average power 194W, normalised 199W, peak 5s 463W (uphill traffic lights!)
  • Average HR 136bpm (approx), average cadence 79rpm
  • Work expended 8,287KJ, 543TSS
  • Temperature went from 13.9C to 22.8C

In summary, it was a really well organised day and very enjoyable.  If you are undecided about having a crack at a 12 hour I’d recommend it, and hopefully there is some useful information for you here.  272.21M in 12 hours, 4th from 60 riders (£40, 4th actual)

Back to a short one

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I spent the next week trying to properly (and actively recover).  The pain in my shoulders and neck went quite quickly but then came back after a couple of days.  The pain in my knee and legs more gradually subsided.  The Withington Wheelers 10 on the J2/1 was a bit cool and breezy and I didn’t know how I’d feel.  Five minutes in and I thought it would be a disaster but I felt better as the time went on.  It was a headwind out so I convinced myself I only had to try really hard to the turn.  Of course I was lying but by then I felt okay.  However, J2/1 involved two trips across Chelford roundabout.  On the outbound leg I got lucky and sailed through.  No such luck on the way back.  A line of cars meant I just had to unclip and wait. Looking at the file afterwards, including the slowing down it cost nearly 30 seconds which is absolutely gutting.  10M in 22:27, 5th from 90 riders (£30 2nd vet on standard, £10 1st team)

20˚C Colder – WTF?

On the 23rd July I rode one of my regular training routes and the temperature hit 26˚C.  On the 26th August I rode the same route where the temperature dropped to 6˚C.  On the 28th it was 20˚C again.  Only in this country.

I rode 714 miles outdoors with 28,118ft ascent at around 19.5mph average, which used up around 24,557kcals. I also spent 23 hours 5 mins on the turbo using a further 15,402kcals. Total for the month was 3,167TSS

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