I’d been worried about this for a quite a while and when the alarm went off at 3-15am and we drove towards Prees Heath in the dark, the pouring rain and swirling wind did nothing to ease my concerns. By the time the sun had come up the rain had stopped but the wind remained, and would do so for the entire day. More on that later.
Clubmates Pauline and Jeanette were also doing their first 12 hours with support from John and Paul. Both kindly offered to provide me with some support on the Anfield loop as Liz and Kate would be stuck at Prees island, an offer gratefully received.
The route had three sections. Three times round a 20 mile circuit between Prees and Espley, the only part I was familiar with. Then up to six times round a 17.5 mile circuit from Espley (the Anfield loop) and then back to Prees and as many times round the 12.5 miles finishing loop as time allowed. The link below shows the route I took
I’d prepared a whole set of instructions for Liz and Kate about what I’d need at each stop. On the first 3 loops I was okay because I’d be back every 20 miles. I’d then be on my own for 125 miles or so with the limited supplies I’d given John. Fairly early into the ride the plans went out of the window because my needs were changing as the rode wore on. Next time I do one of these I’ll have a much better idea of what to do.
The first three loops were okay – the wind was pretty tough coming back – but energy levels were high. I changed my helmet after the third one because the first one was steaming up and hurting my neck a bit. Then it was off to the Anfield Loop. I was worried about this bit because forums were talking about the “Peplow Pave” – a very rough section of road. The worst bit however was the first stretch from Espley which was slightly uphill into a fierce head/crosswind. I stupidly took a bottle from John on the move on this section and nearly ended up in the road due to the wind – suffice it to say I stopped the next time! The Peplow bit was bad but not really worse than Cheshire courses – it was just the cumulative effect of it. As I was travelling reasonably quickly I was treated to the full six laps. After three hours my neck and shoulders were quite sore. After five or so hours my knee was hurting. Undercarriage, forearms and wrist were also starting to protest. The only way to get through this sort of thing is to break it down into smaller and smaller chunks, so I’d worked out the bits of the course were I got some respite and counted the laps down to those sections. I was spending more and more time off the aero bars and on the drops because it was more comfortable, which cost me speed. Interestingly, from a fitness point of view, I never felt troubled, and probably could have gone faster were I not in pain. Finally, I was directed back to Prees for the finishing circuit. I stopped for a re-application of chamois cream (Elite Ozone Endurance – the best chamois cream I’ve used bar none) and for some deep heat on my neck and shoulders.
The finish circuit consisted of a short stint up the A41 before turning off down the backroads through Tilstock and down to Quina Brook. This first bit of country road was horrible. The surface-dressed road and headwind made it purgatory. It was more aero-efficient to go into a tuck on this section but the surface and the nature of the road just made it agony. There were some sections after this that were really nice and quite quick and then we turned left and back towards Prees, up a short incline. By the end this incline felt a bit like an Alp but at least there was a 30mph+ downhill on the other side! Back at Prees a crowd of supporters had gathered and it was fantastic to receive support as we went past – it’s a real boost before the horrible bit of the finish circuit! After 10 hours I had a bit of a surge which lasted for half an hour – then I was just surviving – especially when it started chucking it down for the last hour or so.
In fact I probably could have got a few more miles in but I was cold and in pain so I timed my ride to end at the timing point nearest the car park! My official distance was 263.64 miles and I came eighth. Thank you to Liz and Kate for their support, and to John and Paul. And congratulations to Pauline and Jeanette for also finishing their first 12’s. And a massive thanks to all the organisers, volunteers and marshalls – an incredibly well run event.
I told Liz she could slap me if I ever said I’d do another but I reckon on a good day (i.e. less wind) I could seriously beat that distance. Here’s the lessons I’ve learned
- I spent over 10 minutes stopped. Doesn’t seem a lot but that’s 3 to 4 miles. I think I could reduce that
- I’d reduced my tyre pressures to provide a bit more comfort – probably should have reduced them further
- My whole nutrition approach would change – I overestimated what I’d need
- A bit more mobile support team would have made life a lot easier
- A bit more training in aero position to help the neck and shoulders and using my more comfortable TT helmet from the start