Hello Everyone, been a while since I wrote you anything….. so here goes.
As I write this blog entry it is a few days since I (Dermott) and my 3 teammates, The Four Cogs, completed a challenge called RIDE 24. Now that the legs and butt have recovered from the soreness and I have begun to catch up on my sleep I would like to tell you a little bit about an absolutely brilliantly organised and seriously difficult event.
At the start of 2009 one of my Personal Training clients, Graham ‘Major’ Collins, suggested an event to me and said how about getting a team together and quite simply it all snowballed from there. After a couple of strategy meetings, which involved meeting in the pub and eating burgers, sinking a few pints and watching whatever sport was on the telly, we believed we were ready. The team was to consist of myself, Major, Steve ‘Billy’ Brightman and Angus McWhinney. It was also decided that myself and Angus would be doing most of the cycling, while Billy took care of bringing the tent and Major looked after the BBQ. I’m not quite sure how that was worked out but it seemed a fair plan.
RIDE 24 is a new type of endurance challenge brought about by the charity, Action Medical Research, quite simply it involves a team of 4 riders forming a relay team to ride as many laps as possible of a 2.8mile circuit in a 24hr period. To make it more interesting it was done on the same circuit that you see on ‘Top Gear’ when ‘The Stig’ tests all of the supercars.
So we turned up on Saturday 27th June and began setting up camp not really knowing what to expect, apart from the fact that we were going to be severely sleep deprived in 24hrs time. There was already a good, jovial atmosphere in the camp and as other teams turned up we began to wonder how we would compare. One thing was for sure, we would be one of the best turned out teams, all sporting the fabulous RG Active cycle kit. The race was to begin at 12pm and after a competitor briefing the first riders in each team would start the race. We had decided on a rotational order of Angus leading off, followed by Billy, then Major and with myself bringing up the rear. One thing that has to be mentioned is that the weather was not entirely conducive to good fast riding, it was incredibly hot on the track and even hotter off the track, in particular in the tent.
The gun sounded at 12pm and off went Angus trying to settle into a pace that was sustainable not just for this stint but for the rest of the race. Our initial strategy was to ride 6 laps each and see how we felt. What was noticeable straight away was that the course was in 2 parts, a slightly twisting back section with a definite headwind and then a 1mile finishing straight that was pancake flat and a slight tail-wind. On average the first 6 laps was taking 8min 20secs, a speed of approx. 20mph and so we decided to continue with this until the night time shifts, meaning that you rode for approx. 50mins and then had 2hrs 30mins to rest and recover. After the first 6 lap stint we were lying in 14th position, and after the second 6 lap stint we had climbed up to 9th position. By this time we were all still feeling ok but not really looking forward to the night-time shifts, a feeling that was spreading through all of the racers. To make matters worse it was proving difficult to rest as the heat was so unbearable in the tent you could not lie down to try and sleep.
We got through 3 rotations of 6 laps each, staying in 9th place and this took us up until 10:15pm and this was when we knew we had to begin longer shifts through the night to enable us to get some actual sleep. It was decided that we would ride for 90mins each through the night to take us up until sunrise. It would be and definitely proved to be seriously hard to keep going but it gave us all the time to get a couple of hours sleep, personally I got 2 hrs from midnight through ‘til 2am and then it was time to wake up, get kitted up and begin my 2:45am shift. I had lost my sense of humour at this point!!!!!
Riding in the dark is something I have never really experienced before and riding in the middle of the night is simply ridiculous, I had to ride 5 or 6 laps with no drafting at all but then managed to get in a group of 4 and got some quicker laps in the legs again, albeit having a ‘polite’ discussion with a chap who accused me of not doing my turn on the front. We decided that I was right and got on with the riding. It is quite an odd sensation to follow another rider’s wheel in the dark using their rear lights as guidance as to where to position yourself in the road. What was handy was that by now we had all done enough laps to know the course very well. So I rode through ‘til about 4:15am and was lucky enough to ride through sunrise, which was a definite highlight of the weekend.
By now the team had all got through what we thought would be the hardest shift of the whole event and began to focus on our strategy to get us through the rest of the day. At this point we came up against our biggest hurdle, telling the time!! It suddenly became impossible to figure out the time, how long we would be on the bike for and what time we would go back on the bike to do our next shift. So mental tiredness was really kicking in and it could only get worse. Not only were we getting properly tired but the heat was starting to return as daytime kicked in and so trying to sleep again in the tent was not really an option, this meant we would be awake for the rest of the event from here on in. Another difficult point was proving to be how your body starts to rebel against all of the sugary, high calorie foods. You struggle between needing to eat but having no desire to eat. Trying to find some foods that will tick all the boxes is very difficult, however the organisers provided food for 24hrs and this was a welcome break from all of the rubbishy foods.
Getting back to the actual riding we opted to 5 laps each followed by another 5 laps each to take us through until approx 10:15am, at this point the positions at the top of the race were getting quite exciting with 3 teams chasing 3rd place and the top 2 also undecided. As for ‘The Four Cogs’ we were holding our own in 9th and it was going to take something special to get us closer to 8th. Billy was really digging quite deep into his reserves now and while Major has experienced a lot of injuries in the past he was showing some very good form, while myself and Angus continued to do our best to knock our consistent lap times and keep us in good spirits. With 1hr 45mins to go we were trying to calculate exactly how many laps we could do in the time remaining and figured that we could each do another 2 laps followed by possibly 3 more laps between the team. It actually turned out that after our 2 lap shift we could each just about sneak 1 last glory lap in. Unfortunately this was not good news for Billy who had kind of switched off thinking his work was done for the day, but when told he had to get back on the bike he did exactly that and blasted out one of his quickest laps, great effort. So as the minutes ticked away it was left to myself to have the honours of completing the last lap of the 24hrs for ‘The Four Cogs’. So with every last drop of energy I banged out my fastest solo lap since 6pm the previous day.
The Four Cogs had done it, ridden as a team for 24hrs, covering a total of 470miles at an average speed of 19.6mph. We finished 9th out of 23 teams and were pretty happy with ourselves. No-one shirked their responsibility, we all did the amount of laps that had been decided upon and most importantly were all still talking to each other at the end.
If you would like to see our results then click here. It was definitely one of the hardest endurance events that I have ever competed in, definitely harder than a marathon, harder than a 130mile bike race in the Italian Dolomites and not far off being harder than an Ironman (I did the easy one in Florida!!). So if you fancy it, get yourself a team together for next year and maybe see you there.
Take care and happy training